Archive for the ‘OD&D’ Category

Wizards Releases OD&D PDFs

January 26, 2016

od&dWizards recently released the 3 Little Brown Books from Original D&D as PDFs.  I take it these are the versions from the premium reprint they did a couple of years ago.  You can get them here, if you’re interested.

Presumably, the other supplements will also be released, in due course.  Personally, I hope this means they’ll release a PDF for Chainmail, as well.


Caves of Chaos – old school one-shot

December 22, 2015

Sunday I had the opportunity to run a one-shot session of the Caves of Chaos for a few friends.  I used no particular rule book or system, instead employing a hodge-podge of rules from OD&D, 3rd Edition and 5th Edition.

To jump-start the action, I printed out a bunch of 0-level DCC ‘funnel’ characters (using Purple Sorcerer’s character generator).  Each player controlled three 0-level peasants.  As you can imagine, the body count was quite high, but I let them replace losses right away so nobody was out of the action for long.

Bring out 'yer dead!

Bring out ‘yer dead!

By zerging the caves, they managed to clean out the goblin area, and most of the hobgoblin caves.  However, there were two near TPK’s (with lucky survivors running away when the situation was clearly hopeless).  One of the players also managed to antagonize a patrol from the keep, so you can chalk up 5 more keep guards (and a clever cover-up to avert suspicion, aided by most of the conspirators perishing the next day in one of those aforementioned near TPKs).

The amazing thing was, once the funnel characters managed to scavenge some decent weapons and armor, and the players employed some basic old school tactics, they did fairly well.  There was, of course, a dreadful sort of natural selection going on, with weak characters dying (or deliberately sacrificed) quickly, and hardier characters getting the better equipment.

I wouldn’t run a normal campaign like this, but for a one-off it was fine, and everyone said they had a good time.  What’s more, I may have gained a couple more converts for old school gaming goodness.  Cheers.

Castle Greyhawk Webcomic

August 29, 2015

I recently discovered a webcomic based on Castle Greyhawk, featuring some of the iconic OD&D characters such as Tenser, Mordenkainen, Yrag and others.  If you’re a fan of old school D&D, you owe it to yourself to check it out.  Aside from being an interesting take on the “old days,” it’s given me plenty of ideas for my own games.

Eviscera of the Cyborg Sorcerers

September 19, 2014


Need to jazz up your cyborg space sorcerers?  Here’s a quick reference for some funky implants and transplants, inspired by Space-Age Sorcery:

Eviscera of the Cyborg Sorcerers


  • Cranial implants
  • Cyber-tentacles
  • Hover torso
  • Beholder eyestalk transplantation
  • And the horrific consequences of transplant rejection!

It’s just a quick little guide to hopefully jumpstart your own twisted imagination.  With insane cybernetic space sorcerers, anything’s possible!


Legendary Monsters for Swords & Wizardry (or other old school games)

September 5, 2014

Inspired by legendary monsters from 5th Edition D&D:



A “legendary” monster has a number of Legend points equal to its Hit Dice.  One Legend point may be spent to take one discreet action immediately after a PC has completed his/her actions.  Specific examples include (but are not limited to):

  • Move
  • Attack
  • Cast a spell
  • Use a special ability
  • Use a magic item
  • Retrieve an item
  • Activate a device
  • Yell out for help/summon reinforcements

Note that not every big monster is a ‘legendary’ monster.  Such status should be reserved for special monsters, such as ancient dragons, vampire masters, named demons and devils and the like.

Exertion Points

August 7, 2014

knightsfightingSo, another rambling idea I just had, so I’m kind of thinking out loud here (so to speak).  I recently finished Bernard Cornwell’s  excellent book Agincourt, which prompted some thoughts about the reality of medieval(ish) melee combat and, more to the point, exhaustion in combat (especially on the muddy fields of Agincourt) and how such applies to D&D.

Most editions of D&D have one or more rules about exertion, exhaustion and what not.  OD&D, for example, requires a party to rest 1 turn for every 5 turns spent exploring, or suffer a -1 penalty to all checks.  I vaguely recall AD&D having a rule about being able to sustain melee combat for a number of rounds equal to a character’s Constitution score before suffering penalties for exhaustion (a rule we never really used, I should add).

Most of the time I simply ignore these kind of rules and just play the game.  However, I can see a style of game that is very much focused on the details and minutia of dungeon exploration:  resource management, time management, mapping, lighting, etc. and, of course, exhaustion.

So, as a simple way to track exhaustion, each character is given a number of tokens equal to their Constitution score, representing the character’s stamina.  Players surrender one of their character’s exertion tokens every turn spent exploring.  Worse, they surrender a token every round of combat.  Resting for a short period (1 turn?  1 hour?  not sure on this) restores the character’s tokens.

A character unable to surrender a token is exhausted and suffers a significant penalty:  at least -2, but maybe even -4, to stress the importance of resting and recovering one’s strength, especially after battle.  Of course, resting eats up time, bringing more wandering monster checks and the possibility of sudden death with little reward.

You can also play around with the mechanic a bit, for example fighting in mud costs 2 tokens per round of combat.  Also, spells could drain or restore tokens, or special attacks could reduce exertion tokens instead of hit points, etc.

I wouldn’t use such a system in every campaign, but it could play an interesting role in a gritty game of lethal dungeon exploration where mapping, lighting and tracking every resource is vitally important to survival.

Thoughts, idea, suggestions, questions all welcome.  Cheers.

Action Initiative

July 20, 2014

So, this is just  a musing I’ve had for an alternative initiative system.  This system would probably work best using OD&D or Swords & Wizardry:

Roll 1d6 for initiative, without DEX modifiers.  Players roll separately for their characters; the GM rolls for monsters/NPCs in groups.

High result goes first.  Ties default to the PCs; ties amongst the PCs are resolved as desired between players.  Note that a character’s actions are never resolved simultaneously with another character’s actions.

The result of the initiative roll is also the number of Action Points a character has to spend for the round.  Action Points must be spent the round they’re generated; they cannot be carried over to the next combat round.  Also, a character must use all their AP when it is their turn to act in the initiative sequence; they cannot, for example, spend an AP, wait for another PC to spend an AP, and then spend another AP.

Under certain circumstances, the GM may apply a -1 penalty to the initiative roll, typically when a group is caught unawares (such as the first round of an ambush, though could also be applied to characters who are stunned or dazed).  If this results in an initiative score of 0, the character is too surprised or dazed to act that round.  This is the only modifier that should ever be applied to an initiative roll.

Every action costs 1 Action Point:

  • Move – Fast characters move 10′ (2 spaces), slow characters (heavily armored) move 5′ (1 space) per move action
  • Attack – A quick, unmodified attack; character does not apply their Attack or Ability bonuses to the roll (though penalties may still apply); I’m inclined to not place a limit on attack actions each round
  • Aim – Each sequential Aim action grants a cumulative +1 bonus to one attack roll; aim bonus is lost if the character takes another action before taking an attack action; not yet decided if there should be an aim bonus cap or not
  • Defense – Each sequential Defense action grants a cumulative +1 bonus to AC until you act again on the following combat round
  • Draw – Draw a weapon or item from inventory
  • Use – Using a device or item drawn from inventory; pushing a button, pulling a level, quaffing a potion
  • Cast – Casting a spell requires a number of sequential casting actions equal to the spell’s level (i.e. Magic Missile only requires 1 casting action; Fireball requires 3 casting actions)
  • Hold – Hold an action until a specified trigger event occurs; holding effectively ends a character’s actions for the round

The idea is that most actions should only require 1 AP, so as to avoid creating a long laundry list of actions and associated AP costs.  Also, avoid adding lots of initiative modifiers, to keep the numbers of AP per round manageable.

So, this system provides greater granularity, and allows players to do some interesting things.  For example, they could opt to make several swift, unmodified attacks, or opt to aim for a few seconds and make one well-timed attack.  They can also opt to go full defensive for a round, granting a nice bonus to their AC until the next time they act.

I haven’t quite figured out how to handle a few details yet.  For example, is attacking with a bow 1 attack action, or would drawing an arrow to fire the bow again also count as an action?  In which case, how long should it take to reload a crossbow in this system?

Also, how do each class’ inherent Attack Bonus tie in?  Maybe change Attack Bonus to an Aim Bonus:  All classes start with a +1 Aim Bonus for each aim action, but maybe as Fighter’s progress their Aim Bonus improves to +2, then +3, and so on?

Finally, this system roughly doubles the average number of actions monsters can take each round.  Even the lowliest goblin could potentially get 6 basic, unmodified attack rolls per combat round; that would be absolutely devastating to a poorly defended low-level character (such as a magic-user).  A couple of options:  the GM can cheese things a bit and just assume monsters use the bulk of their AP on aim or defense actions; alternatively, the GM can halve the number of monsters encountered to account for each monster taking, on average, twice as many actions.

Thoughts, ideas and suggestions are appreciated.  Cheers.

Outdoor Survival Map

July 16, 2014

I’ve (re)created a version of the old school Outdoor Survival map using Hexographer.  Here’s a .png version:


And here’s the Hexographer file, for those who have the program and want to play around with the map: outdoorsurvivalmap (not sure if this file works with the free version of Hexographer).

The crossed swords can represent special encounters, monster lairs or mini-dungeons.

My intention is to modify the basic Outdoor Survival map for different settings/genres, but I wanted to have a ‘pure’ version of the map to work off of.

Also, please note the map is not perfect.  My counting was off and the last column of hexes is missing on the eastern-most edge of the map.  From what I can tell, Hexographer doesn’t have a way to add rows or columns to an existing map, and I didn’t feel like starting over from scratch for a single column.  I can live with it; I hope you can, too.


5 things you can borrow from 5th Edition for your game of choice

July 5, 2014

cavesofchaosAssuming, of course, that your game of choice is a previous iteration of D&D, Pathfinder or one of the many OSR clones.

1) Advantage/Disadvantage (pg 57) – In short, if you have advantage you roll two d20s and use the higher result; if you are disadvantaged you roll two d20s and use the lower result.  By far the best idea to come out of 5th Edition (in my view, at least).  Using Advantage/Disadvantage virtually eliminates fiddly lists of situational modifiers, or the need for additional dice rolls against concealment or what naught.  For example, an invisible attacker has advantage against targets, while anyone attacking an invisible person is disadvantaged (assuming they attack the right area in the first place).

2) Simple Crafting (pg 68) – Pathfinder Beginner Box, and most OSR clones, don’t have crafting systems.  5th Edition provides a simple crafting mechanic that can easily be transplanted into your game.  In 5th Edition, as long as you are proficient with the appropriate types of tools, and have access to proper equipment, you can craft anything within your field.  No need for special crafting skills or feats.  Each day you spend crafting, you contribute 5 GP towards the market value of a non-magical item (though you only spend 1/2 the market value on material costs – essentially trading time for money).  For example, crafting a 15 gp Longsword would take 3 days, but only cost 7.5 GP in material costs.  Simple and elegant, and no dice rolls required.

3) Equipment Packs (pg 46) – A variety of different equipment packs, complete with pricing and itemized inventory.  Very easy to drop into your game, and could be incorporated into a simplified encumbrance system (for example, allowing each PC to carry only one or two equipment packs on them, plus their armor, weapons and treasure).

4) Armor Differentiation (pg 43) – PFBB and most clones don’t differentiate much between armors, aside from saying heavier armor slows you down.  In PFBB, for example, you get your full Dexterity modifier wearing heavy armor.  If you’d like to introduce a bit more complexity, without resorting to Pathfinder Core armor rules, the 5th Edition rules would be a good compromise.  In short, you get your full Dex modifier in Light Armor, up to +2 Dex modifier in medium armor, and no Dex modifier (even negative modifiers) in heavy armor.  And if you’re using Advantage/Disadvantage, the rules further stipulate that you’re disadvantaged when trying to sneak in medium and heavy armor – no need to long lists of modifiers based on various armor types.

5) Trinkets (pg 54-55) – Okay, not a major contribution, but still very easy to pluck out of 5th Edition and plop down into just about any fantasy RPG.

Three other things  you can borrow from 5th Edition for your game of choice (because a list of ‘5’ for 5th Edition was too good to pass up):

6) Lifestyles (pg 51-52) – As written Lifestyles provide no mechanical benefit, but there’s rich ground here for adventure and role-playing opportunity.  A wretched lifestyle might but you in contact with a city’s underworld more readily, but maintaining a wealthy lifestyle could lead to more lucrative jobs or better social contacts.  And because there’s no mechanics related to lifestyles, it’d be easy to introduce to your own game and then tinker with it to suit your tastes.  For example, maybe you heal faster when you have a wealthy lifestyle, or you can get a slightly better price for your loot.

7) Tool Proficiency (pg 49-50) – I like the concept of tool proficiency because it allows players, so inclined, to use tools (including musical instruments) during their downtime without the need for extensive skill lists, specialized feats or abundant dice rolls.  Depending on your system, however, you might need to create a new mechanic to grant players tool proficiencies.  Maybe you get them based on race or class, maybe you just hire a trainer and spend some downtime to learn them, or maybe the GM just grants them based on level.

8) Passive Skill Checks (pg 59) – Passive skill checks are perhaps introduced most easily to PFBB games.  It’s essentially ‘taking 10’ all the time, and a great way to handle when a character passively notices a trap, secret door or hidden enemy without having to stop for a dice roll (and then alerting the player that something is up).  Of course, players who actively use the skill still roll d20.

Well, these are the ideas I came up with on just a quick review of the rules.   I’d love to hear what you’ve plucked out of 5th Edition for your own games.  Cheers.

Wandering Monsters Checks

May 13, 2014

So, now that I’m done with classes I’ve got a bit more free time…at least for a few weeks.  I’ve been thinking about running a one-off OD&D game using Chainmail’s man-to-man combat rules.  Towards that end, I’ve been reading up on Chainmail, OD&D and reviewing Philotomy’s OD&D Musings.

As I read up on exploration movement, the need for careful time-keeping in the dungeon once again crossed my mind and, by extension, the frequency of making wandering monster checks.  Modern versions of  D&D tend to do away with wandering monsters, at least in dungeon environments.  And I must admit, growing up we tended to ignore the rules for wandering monsters as well (along with most of the record-keeping aspects of dungeon exploration).

However, in OD&D wandering monsters are an important strategic aspect to the game.  Given OD&D’s lethality, and the fact that wandering monsters have little treasure, they serve as a sort of timing mechanism, keeping the players from futzing about in the dungeon all day long, giving them powerful incentive to stay focused on the job at hand (usually finding big hoards of treasure).

Despite my best intentions, I find that I usually fall back on old habits, and stray from faithful implementation of such record keeping rules of the game, particularly regular and systematic wandering monster checks.  Some versions call for a check every 3 turns (30 minutes); others every 6 turns.  Sometimes it varies from module-to-module.  But in the end, I lose track of the exact number of turns spent in a dungeon, and thus fail to make the requisite number of wandering monster checks.

Setting this guy off would probably attract some unwanted attention.

Setting this guy off would probably attract some unwanted attention.

I think a happy compromise (well, happy for me, at least) is to make a wandering monster check during “dramatic” moments, usually when the party makes a lot of noise.  Battles are noisy, as are fireballs and lightning bolts, or bashing in doors, not to mention setting off alarm traps.  Or when the party argues over their next course of action…yelling tends to attract attention.  Such a system plays better to my laissez faire style of GMing and makes a certain amount of sense.

However, this method does imply a few things.  First, I suppose technically they wouldn’t be ‘wandering’ monsters really…the mechanic would be more like a kind of perception check to see if a wandering patrol hears the commotion.  Also, it implies that the ‘wandering’ monsters automatically could not be surprised…only the PCs might be surprised.  Surprise is quite powerful in OD&D, so the danger level increases appreciably for the party, especially low-level parties.

Despite that, I kind of like this way of handling wandering monster checks.  Aside from the decreased bookkeeping, it requires the players to really step up and make smart, strategic decisions.  It gives them an even greater incentive to avoid unnecessary battles, to employ lighter armor so they can move through the dungeon faster and more stealthily, not bash down every door they come across and not nuke everything in sight with fireballs and lightning bolts.

We’ll see how it goes, if/when I get the chance to run another ‘old school’ D&D game.  Cheers.

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