Posts Tagged ‘OD&D’

Chainmail Available in PDF

January 10, 2017


The Chainmail miniatures wargame, grandaddy to D&D, is once again available in PDF format at One Book Shelf for $4.99.  Apparently this is the 7th printing of the 3rd Edition, so many (or all?) of the Tolkien references have been omitted or changed.  But still worth the price if you’d like to look at a piece of gaming history.  Cheers!

Edit:  I can confirm that hobbits have been changed to halflings, and balrogs have been removed entirely.  There may be other changes as well, but those are the two big ones I noticed right away.

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.


The Revenant – Wilderness Campaign Inspiration

January 18, 2016

untitledI saw The Revenant today, which is a great film.  However, this post isn’t really a review of the movie.  Rather, the whole time I was watching the movie, I kept thinking “this is what a D&D wilderness hex crawl should be like.”

Replace the natives with orcs and goblins.  Replace beaver trapping with treasure hunting.  Replace bear attacks with owlbear attacks.  Place everything in the howling wilderness, weeks or even months away from anything remotely resembling civilization.  And give the players actual wilderness hazards to contend with: blizzards, rain storms, floods and the like.

I’m sure the old school grognards have probably been doing this all along, but I noticed in the hexcrawl games I’ve played (particularly Pathfinder), the grit of the wilderness seems to be missing.  Certainly, high level play takes a great deal of the sting out of the wilderness, what with teleportation and instantly summoned magic huts, and all that.  But even at lower levels, one rarely gets the sense of the isolation and majesty of the wide open wilderness.  Anyways, it’s something to think about for the next campaign.

If you’re looking for good inspiration for subjecting your PCs to starvation and exposure, The Revenant is a good place to start.  Cheers.

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!


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.

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.


March 8, 2014

The Smoldering Wizard blog turned me onto an old D&D sandbox campaign from the mid-70’s called Rythlondar.  It was first covered over at Risus Monkey back in 2011, but I’d missed that post (actually, there were a series of them).  And other blogs have commented on the campaign as well.

When the campaign started there were about a dozen players and two co-DM’s (Len Scensny and John VanDeGraaf), each running their own mega-dungeons.  At the campaign’s height there were 6 GM’s and about 50 players (including the GM’s).  A periodic fanzine covering the campaign was published every few months, detailing the adventurer’s exploits and foibles.

Play was organized around expeditions to one of the various dungeons in the world.  I assume that expeditions where completed in a single game session (from leaving town, travelling to the dungeon, exploring and returning to town) though the chronicles aren’t explicit in that regard.  A typical expedition comprised about a dozen players, though later in the campaign, as characters increased in power, smaller expeditions were mounted (so that the XP wasn’t spread around as much).

So, just some random thoughts and observations as I read through the 90+ pages of the Ryth Chronicles:

  • The initial dungeons seemed very, well, hodge-podge, with little attempt to create any kind of dungeon ecology or theme.  One room contained a couple of dragons, the next some hell-hounds and then maybe a couple of hill giants would come ambling down a corridor.  As the campaign progressed dungeon design evolved, with more of a specific theme or purpose, such as the garden-dungeon atop a magical beanstalk or the prison-tomb of a life-draining alien intelligence.
  • They really, really liked hydras.  And balrogs.
  • Magic items were relatively rare.  Most of the highest-level characters had around 6 to 8 items each, including potions and scrolls.
  • It seems the intelligent magic swords had specific names, which is a nice touch.
  • In contrast to magic treasure, gold and gems approached Monty Haul-ish proportions later on.  There was more than one expedition that brought home in excess of 100,000 GP of treasure; most netted many tens of thousands of GP in treasure.
  • And related to that, I’m not really sure what all that treasure was spent on.  PCs were required to pay a city tax based on a percentage of their accumulated XP, and there was some castle building later on (in part to escape the city tax).  But otherwise it appears there was no provision for buying magic items, not even consumable items like potions and scrolls.  I actually find this quite appealing and did something similar in the B/X game I ran last year.  Though you still need something to spend all that treasure on…otherwise, what’s the point?
  • Death was fairly common (as you would expect in old school D&D), as were curses, petrification, charm, polymorph and sometimes just being rubbed out of existence.  I suppose a good portion of early treasure was spent on resurrections.  But as party clerics gained the resurrection spell death became more of an inconvenience, with the primary concern being making sure at least one party member survived to either retrieve the bodies of the fallen, or bringing another cleric back to the dungeon to rez the dead.
  • The PCs had access to a surprising number of wishes, though oft times great risks were associated with their use (like being rubbed out of existence by mercurial faeries).  I suppose early on playing around with wishes was probably quite novel.  It just struck me as a bit unusual, as I cannot recall many wishes being employed in the campaigns I’ve played over the past 25-30 years.
  • Spells could be cast once per expedition, as opposed to once per day.  This may have helped to discourage the “15-minute adventuring day” phenomena as there would be no advantage to retiring from the dungeon as soon as the spellcaster shot their wad (so to speak).  Likewise, there appeared to be no camping inside of dungeons, nor camping outdoors near dungeons.  It may also be that such details were simply glossed over in the chronicles.
  • Miniatures were employed early on in the campaign to help clarify positioning and distance.  They used 1″ grids, with each grid representing 3 feet by 3 feet, rounded to the nearest 3′ (so a 7×7 grid represents a 20’x20′ room).  I find the early use of miniatures for detailed tactical gameplay interesting as I’d thought it was more a development of ‘new school’ play styles(i.e. 3E/4E/Pathfinder).

On sort of a side note, I wonder how they managed to attract 40+ players for an ongoing campaign?  Maybe everyone just wanted to try out the new hawtness back then?  Or maybe people just had more time on their hands (there being no Internet for pr0n or cute cat videos).  These days we have trouble getting six players to the table, much less a dozen or more.  Still, I think it would be interesting to try such an expedition based campaign and chronicle it using a dedicated blog, provided I could ever find enough players.

The Chronicles of Ryth provides a fascinating insight into how D&D was played in its infancy, outside of the Gygax/Arneson circles.  If you’re a fan of old-school play you should give them a read (it’ll probably take a few days, unless you’ve got a day to kill; yes, killing time on the Internet instead of playing D&D).

If you’re interested, here’s the first 9 issues, and the final 10th installment.  Enjoy.

World of Dungeons

September 18, 2013

First off, sorry for being so blog-lazy this month.   School started, plus some real-life stuff came up…plus, I’ve just been lazy.  You know it’s bad when even the spammers don’t bother with your blog anymore. 🙂

Well, after doing my homework, I spent most of the past couple of days reading up on Dungeon World (here, if you’re interested).  For those unfamiliar, it’s a story-telling rpg that’s heavy on narrative, and less so (much less so) on mechanics and the tactical details of combat.  It’s based on Apocalypse World, but borrows heavily from D&D (particularly Basic D&D and 1st Edition AD&D).  DW emphasizes minimal preparation, as the GM and players sort of create the world, and it’s details, as they play.  This has a certain appeal to me, as I’ve never really like world-building, and I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t even want to spend too much time preparing for a game of even old-school D&D anymore.  DW sounded like just the ticket for me.

But in my reading I started seeing references for World of Dungeons, with mechanics that seemed similar to Dungeon World, though even simpler.  “What the heck is this?,” I wondered.  Well, turns out World of Dungeons is sort of a gag, the joke being it is the “precursor” to Dungeon World, printed in 1979 on someone’s mimeograph machine in their garage.  You can download a PDF copy here, either in color (complete with scanned-in soda-stain) or in black-and-white (down towards the bottom of the page).

So, World of Dungeons is a super-minimalist hack of the already rules-light Dungeon World (sort of like Searchers of the Unknown is for 0E D&D).  Now that really sounds like it’s right up my alley.  Simple mechanics, minimal prep-time, plenty of room to tinker and houserule, plus if there’s anything I really like from Dungeon World I can go ahead and drag that in, too.  Not to mention all the other hacks people have done based on WoD, like World of Mutants (Gamma World), World of Shadows (Shadowrun), World of Stars (Star Wars) or World of Marienberg (Warhammer FRPG).  Here’s a great thread on World of Dungeons where you can find all of these hacks, and much, much more.

Now I’m more excited to play a game of World of Dungeons than I ever was to play Dungeon World.  I love it when I find a cool game.

%d bloggers like this: