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A blog on 40 years of gaming and Sandbox Fantasy.Rob Conleyhttps://plus.google.com/116753362008267799901noreply@blogger.comBlogger1353125
Updated: 4 days 2 hours ago

Keyed City State of the Invincible Overlord PDF

Sun, 02/03/2019 - 22:42
Since the fall of 2018 Steve Wachs of Red Pub Games has been working on a new version of the City State of the Invincible Overlord PDF. This version has the text of original entries formatted as notes on the map. Just hover or click over a named location and the text will appear. This will be useful a quick reference if you use a laptop, tablet, or mobile device as a referee aid during a session.



Steve put a lot of work into this. The original CSIO has several hundred entries of different location. In addition Steve spearheaded a community project to come up with description of previously undescribed locations.

For example the Misty Passage Saloon in the village outside of CSIO.

Cronyn Wildhair MU, NG, LVL:4, HTK:9, AC:9, SL:5, STR:13, INT:7, WIS:15, CON:14, DEX:10, CHA:13, WPN: Dagger

Dolmay the Mouser, bartender, FTR, N, 3 LVL, 16 HTK, AC 9, Dagger; Zahra Brighteyed, cook, TH, NE, 3 LVL, 12 HTK, AC 9, Dagger; help Cronyn.  They may all (20%) be off adventuring for 1-4 weeks.   Skeleton crew runs in their absence.  Frequented by Caravan Drivers, Fighters, Merchants, and Sailors, NA 4-24, 1-4 LVL.  Specialty is fried fish and ale, 2 gp.  425gp, 687sp, and 2 Ioun Stones in Catoblepas Head mounted above bar.  Disturbing it causes it to fall, 2d6 crush damage. 

Rumor: The ship The Briny Beholder, laden with golden treasure, ran aground south of River Torn and north of Sea Rune.  All attempts at recovery have been thwarted by Giant Crabs.

Everybody who has gotten a copy of the PDF of the CSIO map will have their file download updated.

All that Steve asked for are physical copies of the CSIO and Wilderlands material I produced and that it be released free to the backers of the CSIO project.

For those who haven't gotten the map or the PDF use the following link.

City State of the Invincible Overlord, Color Map
remember the PDF option for print is  free so pick Print+PDF not just print.

Wilderlands of the Magic Realms
This should be coming out in late February/early March. I will be including some of the underwater and sailing rules and encounters found scattered throughout various Judges Guild supplements. The Wilderlands of the Magic Realms and Wilderlands of the Fantastic Reaches have maps that are dominated by oceans and seas.

In addition there will be an extensive list of open content monsters as the last two Wilderlands booklets incorporated creatures from the later supplements of the original rules. And many of these creatures don't have open content equivalents or are found in less well known sources.


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

What is the best OSR system for RPG novices?

Thu, 01/31/2019 - 13:22

One forum I frequent is the RPGPub. Recently a question was asked,

What is the best OSR system for RPG novices?

I gave some system recommendations and then I realize I been looking at the answer to this question wrong.

Given that nearly all of the various editions of  classic DnD and OSR retro clones are of comparable complexity. Especially in what you have to do get a campaign going. The answer is all of them and none of them.

Why?

Because system doesn't matter, it all depends on the referee being a good teacher and a good coach. So use whatever system that works with the way you think and operate and focus on learning to teach and coach.

I throw in coaching because in sports the athlete is expected to execute strategies and procedures that are mostly in real time. A good coach not only explains those strategies and procedures i.e. teach, but guide the athlete through them the first few time until the athlete is able to do them. Afterward the coach will help the athlete practice to improve their skills in regards to whose strategies and procedures. Much of this occurring in real time with the athlete doing whatever their particular sport requires them to do.

While not as physical, the interplay of the players describing what their characters and the referee making a ruling often by using a printed system of rules means there some overlap what you do to teach a beginning athlete and a novice to RPGs.

So hence, focus on being a good teacher and coach. As for the rules use whatever works for you as a teacher and coach.

The OSR logo is by Dyson Logos
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Keeping track of the OSR and Old School Gaming

Tue, 01/29/2019 - 15:32
The popularity of Google+ for the OSR meant that blogs took a back seat for many. Now that Google+ is ending, blogs are making a come back. One things that developed for blogs in the last couple of years is a type of software called a Planet. Planet software aggregates the feeds of the member blogs to allow people to track many related blogs at once.

Alex Schroeder has an interesting website that been around a long time and combines elements of a blog and a wiki. Recently he setup a planet called Old School RPG Planet that now has several dozen OSR and Old School related blogs feeding into it.

The site has links to explain how to add your blogs to the feed and the purpose of the site.

One of the nice things about the OSR and the current state of independent publisher that the Do it Yourself attitude often lead somebody somewhere to come up with a decent solution to a problem that the community faces. So kudos to Alex for taking the initiative on this and hope that it continues to be a useful tool keeping the connections within the OSR and Old School gaming in general alive.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Those pesky D&D Saving Throws

Mon, 01/28/2019 - 14:27
Take a look at this chart

This chart continued in one form or another up into the release of DnD 3rd edition when it was replaced with Fortitude, Reflex, and Will saves.

I apologize for not rememberin= where I first read this, but it was pointed out that if you look at the original saving throw chart a pattern emerges.

You will see see that for all classes save versus death ray/poison are clearly better than save versus staves/spells. It not unreasonable to suggest that given the severity of save or die that Gygax opted to give his player a significant (10% to 20%) break at lower levels.

It appears that Flesh to Stone occupied a middle ground between the two. An effect that takes a character out of play but there is a way to restore them to full functionality (Stone to Flesh).

That wands were considered an advantage compared to memorized spells and thus easier to save against  And finally that a dragon's breath was more easily resisted by a fighter than a magic-user/cleric.

Looking at the original saving throws categories this way lead to a straightforward procedure on determining what category to use.


  1. Use Staves/Spells
  2. Unless it is something more easily resisted by a fighter than a cleric or magic user then use Dragon Breath. 
  3. Unless it is a Save or Die effect or something similar then use Desth Ray/Poison. 
  4. If it is a incapacitating effect that is reversible then use Stone.
  5. If it anything but a Save or Die effect and it comes from a wand use the All Wands save.


I still prefer Swords and Wizardry single save with specific bonuses but I appreciate the original saving throw system better now that I took another look.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Let's talk maps!

Fri, 01/25/2019 - 14:38
The Baseline
How much time and money are you willing to devote to this?

Cartography isn't just about finding the right software but also about obtaining the right equipment. For example for myself I use CorelDRAW ($500), a Canon scanner ($70), and a Wacom Bamboo ($60) tablet. 

To do what myself and others do with cartography you need the scanner and tablet especially if you plan to integrate hand drawn artistry. 

Going free and using alternatives will mean that you will have to compromise in some manner in your capacity to produce maps.

The Adobe in the room.
Adobe Creative Suite is a $56.17 a month subscription and give access to all of the Adobe software. Back in the day I felt software subscription was for the birds. And still do when it comes to some applications like CorelDRAW (which I buy the upgrades for rather than subscribe) or Microsoft Office (which I only upgrade every other version). 

However Adobe Creative suite is so extensive compared to the price it is too good of a deal to pass up given the fact that Adobe software is THE standard. That most of the pro tips and aides are written for adobe in mind. I use it mainly for Indesign and Acrobat. Which is vital for me to publish with print on demand because it far easier to get the files into the correct format required by the printer.

But... but.. it is subscription, you will get shut out of your own files. Yeah but like most things reality is more complex when it comes to media rich documents like maps, layouts, etc. It doesn't matter if the software is free, licensed, or subscribed because whatever software you choose the final document will be locked into its format. A format that all but impossible to transfer to another comparable software.

What more important in this situation is to build of a library of graphic elementrs, fonts, clip art, symbols, fills, and keep those in easily transferable formats like text, svg, jpg, pngs, or tiff.  This way it doesn't matter what software you are using, you "library" comes along for the ride.


Drawn using CorelDRAWProfantasy
By far the best dedicated RPG mapping software is Profantasy. It not free and rather pricey if you get the full suite. But it is capable and packed to the gill with numerous features does not only help you make RPG maps but RPG maps in different many styles, including handdrawn. Including styles that allow you to replicate the style of popular cartographers like Mark Schley.

The major downside of Profantasy is the fact it is built on top of CAD sofware which give a higher learning curve than equivalent mapping programs or graphics programs. Fundamentally CAD software operates on the idea is that you give a command and then select the objects that the command will work on. While Adobe, Inkscape, and most of the other operate on the idea that you select the object first and then pick the command. 

Both methods are equally capable but going the CAD route means there is a learning curve because of that difference along. 


Drawn using Profantasy
Paid versus free​
The major things I know of that impact cartography are

Most art or symbol purchases come with the common sense provision you can't the sell the art yourself as part of a package. I.e. competing directly with the source where you bought the art in the first place. 

Software like Microsoft Office often come with a student/home edition that restrict commercial use that is cheaper. The only solution is to use something else and compromise or pay for the commercial unrestricted version. 

Stock art library, like Adobe, have specific license that one needs to read. The good news those stock art libraries are not that critical for RPG cartography or publications. 

What what is good and free
If you not going to go with Adobe or a mainstream package then what the next best alternative? There is Inkscape and GIMP.

Inkscape is a vector drawing program that duplicate much of what Adobe Illustrator and CorelDRAW does. It is more than capable of drawing the kind of maps I draw and with work can draw maps in other styles as well.

GIMP is a bitmap drawing program that duplicate much of what Adobe Photoshop does. It interface is known to be quirky but it is backed by add-ons and utilities written by thousands of users over decades.

The above two in combination with a scanner and a tablet are able to do 80% to 90% of what Adobe, Corel, and other paid software can do.

And the rest
Most of the other mapping software out there are useful but tend to focus on a particular styles. There is a wealth of options if all one needs is to make something for their hobby. But for those who want to take the next step they are all compromised one way or another.

Doing by hand
Keep in mind many cartographers draw by hand, scan in the image, and then maybe do a few steps on the computer like placing a key or border. It can be quite effect like the work done by my friend Tim Shorts over on Gothridge Manor.

Graphic Library, Graphic Library, Graphic Library
The key to making cartography fun and not a chore is building up a decent graphic library. A collection of graphic elements,  one can use for fills, borders, text, symbols, etc. For example the Vintyri Project has many free to use (in both sense of the world) graphic elements.

The Cartographer's Guild
The Cartographer's Guild is the by far the best resource to learn about mapping using software on the internet. By people who use a variety of software and styles. 

Wrapping it up
There is no right answer to work best for one's situation. However thru hard won experience, I concluded that to do professional work you need professional tools. You may get away with using less capable tools if you have a particularly style and focus for your cartography. But if you want o be able to any type of map then there is no real substitute for program like CorelDRAW or Adobe Creative Suite,

However for the hobbyist who is really into maps, then Inkscape, GIMP, a scanner, and a tablet along with browsing through the Cartographer's Guild  will be more than enough without taking a huge chunk out of your wallet.


Drawn in Inkscape
Link to all my mapping posts.(including some inkscape tips)

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Future that was promised

Fri, 01/11/2019 - 18:27
Look like we are going to get part of the future that science fiction said we would get. It not a rendering but an actual test article that will do VTOL tests in SpaceX's Texas launch facility.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Baseline D&D Combat Simulator

Mon, 12/31/2018 - 19:41
For my final post of 2018, I am posting a link to a DnD combat simulator.

DnD Combat Simulator

While having two combatant whack at each other until one of them is dead is not very realistic in terms what goes on in a campaign. It is a useful baseline to have while designing a combat system.

The source code for this can be downloaded from.

DnD Combat Simulator Source Code

I developed a similar utility to use with a Majestic Wilderlands RPG based on Fudge and confirmed the feedback I got from my players that a +1 advantage seems to tilt the odds by a lot. No matter how I tweaked the combat procedure the steepness of the bell curve of 4DF dominates how bonuses work.

Ironically it wasn't until two years later I found d6-d6 fixes the issue as the bell curve is now the same as rolling 2d6.

With this utility one get a rough idea of how the changes over various DnD editions effected combat by plugging the various numbers as they existed in ODnD, ODnD+Greyhawk, ADnD and so on.

Hope this proves useful for your campaigns and I wish everybody a Happy New Year!



Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

OSR Survey

Mon, 12/03/2018 - 19:19
Brendan S and Ben Milton are two hobbyists with a long history of participating in discussion related to the OSR and classic DnD. They have constructed a detailed survey that looks to be comprehensive.

The link to the survey.

Ben Milton (G-Plus)
Brendan S (G-Plus)

At the conclusion of the survey one can leave additional comments unfortunately I forgot to copy and paste my answer. But the following is the gist of what I wrote.

Irregardless of how people used the label OSR, think of the label OSR, or want the label OSR to represent there are several salient points.

1) There is a group of hobbyists who are interested in playing, promoting, and publishing for classic editions of DnD.

2) To ensure that no one vision or ideal stifles a hobbyist's creative vision the promotion and spread of legal open content is vital.

3) #2 pertains not just to classic DnD but to any system that hobbyists are interested in provided there is legal open content to use as a foundation for sharing.

4) Hobbyists interested in #1 are interested in other things as well. So hobbyists sharing or selling will often have a variety of works in addition to classic DnD including hybrids.

Open Content coupled with the low barriers of distribution enabled by the internet and digital technology ensures that anybody with the desire will be able to get their vision out there either commercially or just to share.

Keep in in mind that the consequences of creative freedom will be messy. Resulting in a confusing kaleidoscope of works along with conflicting visions of the source material. The key to remember irregardless of the results of the survey, that you are free to do what you think is best with the material in the form you think will work for your project. That thanks to the internet and other forms of digital technology you can't be stopped from sharing what you created.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Support OSR News

Tue, 11/27/2018 - 14:02

Collecting news and information about the OSR is often a thankless job. There is a ever-growing kaleidoscope of OSR publishers with new products being released every day either commercially or non-commercially on a variety of platforms and formats.

James A. Smith of Dreams of Mythic Fantasy has dedicated considerable time and effort into collecting various bits of information and news about what going on around the OSR. Now he would like your support to keep on doing this. He has established a Patreon page where you can contribute a few bucks every month to keep his OSR News continuing. I hope you will join me in supporting James.

Support OSR News and Dreams of Mythic Fantasy

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

PDF Piracy

Tue, 11/20/2018 - 19:34
Busy News day. So I logged on my publisher's page on RPGNow and found a warning from OBS about a pirate website with hundreds of RPG PDFs.

A couple of things

  • Don't lose your cool
  • See above
  • Don't use the DMCA link on that site. In the words of Admiral Ackbar. "It's a trap!"
  • Do a search for your products on Google and Bing. If a link appears to the fore mention pirate. Send them a DMCA request. I done it and it works relatively quickly. 
This is the link for the Google DMCA linkThis is the link for Microsoft Bing DMCA
Understand software, video, and PDF piracy is semi-organized. The new pirate site is especially slick which is probably why OBS reacted the way it did. However it existed at least a year prior. In addition there are various underground directories floating around that are updated regularly. The links are coded so that they don't show up on the search engines text functions. So the key is to keep those links off of the first handful of pages of search results. And that is not so hard to do thanks to the above links.
It sucks but it not as bad as it could be. 


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

RPGNow folding into DriveThruRPG

Tue, 11/20/2018 - 13:13
OBS just sent a newsletter to all publishers that due to little growth RPGNow is folding into DriveThruRPG in February 2019. That RPGNow links will redirect to their DriveThruRPG equivalent.

Also metal rankings will merge which frankly is a good thing overall as the separate counts were always a pain.

The full text

Dear publisher,

Starting in February 2019, all elements of the RPGNow tool pages and storefront will redirect to similar pages on DriveThruRPG.

You most likely know this, but since RPGNow and DriveThruRPG first merged as businesses back in 2006, they have shared all the same tools and digital inventory. On the front end, they looked and behaved like two separate sites, but essentially they have just been two faces of the same site for many years. The only real differences were the color schemes and logos.

You might have some questions about the coming change, so we’ve done our best to anticipate and answer them below.

How will this affect me?

In most ways, you’ll be unaffected. Your entire catalog of titles from RPGNow is already listed on DriveThruRPG (as it always has been), and you can log in to DriveThruRPG using the same account(s) you’ve always used on RPGNow, just as you could before.

Even your old bookmarks to pages on RPGNow.com will still work: They’ll automatically be redirected to the same page on DriveThruRPG.

What about sales reporting? Will my past sales be combined?

Yes, as far as sales records and your titles’ metal rankings, we will be merging those together.

Starting in February, your sales records will show combined sales of each title across both the deprecated RPGNow site and DriveThruRPG, together. The number of unit sales will also be combined, so if you had metal rankings for titles on one or both sites, there’s a good chance you’ll find that your rankings on some titles will have increased on DriveThruRPG.

What about my Publisher Promotion Points and marketing impressions?

No worries. Your Publisher Promotion Points (PPP) are already shared across sister sites. They are compiled by publisher, not by site.

If you have used your PPP to purchase site impressions for banners or featured product messages on RPGNow, you will also be reimbursed, commensurately, for those expenditures on DriveThruRPG.

Why is this happening?

Here’s the big picture: In the 12 years since RPGNow and DriveThruRPG merged, the growth of RPGNow has tapered off constantly, while DriveThruRPG has continued to grow strongly, year over year, since it launched in 2004. We’ve reached the point where RPGNow rarely draws new customers or publishers and sells less than one-tenth the volume of titles purchased on DriveThruRPG.

To be honest, we have known this moment would come for years now. We’ve just finally decided it’s time to put the RPGNow brand out to pasture.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Blackmarsh Updated

Sun, 11/18/2018 - 23:24
Several years ago, I added the option of using the Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license to Blackmarsh to make it easier for people to use it for RPGs that don't have open content. This was done with version 3.0. Since then Creative Commons updated to version 4.0. One of the major difference is an explicit waiver of moral rights.

In copyright over the past couple of decades there is the idea that in addition to rights to profit and control how the work is copied that there is a set of moral rights that protects the following.

1) the right of credit or association
2) the right of integrity
3) the right of anonymity or context

The grant or transfer of economic rights (i.e. the right to copy and use) is separate than a waiver of moral rights. To make it clear that my intent is for anybody to be able to use Blackmarsh for whatever purpose they see fit I updated the Creative Common license to version 4.0 which waives my moral rights in the text and maps for Blackmarsh.

In addition several publishers have introduced third party publishing programs that don't use open content licenses. Since my intent to share Blackmarsh as widely as possible and to make it easy to use for one's own work. I removed the Non-Commercial and Share-alike requirements. Now only attribution is required.

To be clear dual license means you can choose to use either license. Either as open content under the Open Game License or the Creative Commons BY Version 4.0. Use whatever one works best for your project.

You can download version 11 either from my website. Or from RPGNow if you obtained Blackmarsh there. If you bought a print copy there is no need to get a new one as the text remains the same.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Medieval Demographics Made Easy new host

Mon, 11/05/2018 - 13:41
In the mid 1990, S John Ross created an article about how to calculate the demographics of a medieval realms and the numbers and types of shops in a town.

The math behind the article was straight forward and didn't involve a lot of  table lookup. Although it didn't stop people like this one on the Donjon site, or this one on the d20SRD site from making automated tools using S. John Ross' math.

Medieval Demographics was hosted on S. John Ross' Blue Room for a long time. Recently he made changes to his website resulting in the original links becoming broken. As outlined in this blog post, he decided to run an experiment, to release the file to multiple hosts and let it wander on its own. He asked for volunteers and I was one of the people who stepped up.

So today I am pleased to announce that I am hosting a copy of Medieval Demographics for everybody to download. You can use the sidebar or this link.

To be clear this file is only free to download. It has not been made public domain nor has it been released under an open content license. The details are explained at the bottom of page 6 of the PDF

Fantasy Demographics
Several years ago, I dug into the data and math used by S John Ross and found the original source of the data he used to generate shops for his town portion of his article. From the that I generated my own take that fits better with the fantasy medieval setting used by various editions of DnD. You can download that file from the sidebar or from here. Note is only for the types and quantity in a town.

To see this in action look at my How to make Fantasy Sandbox articles starting at post XVIII

Accuracy
Keep in mind both Medieval Demographics and my own Fantasy Demographics are not meant to definitive treatments of historical circumstances. While neither sits on home plate, so to speak, instead they are meant to get you within the ballpark. Keep in mind the algorithm i.e. the process that S. John Ross uses is highly modifiable to fit your assumptions of medieval or fantasy life. For an example see my Fantasy Demographics article mentioned above.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs