Sunday, May 31, 2009

A bit about the games I run

Here's a list of the games I'm currently D/GMing:
  • Allakee Playtest: This is my current RPOL (an online service that allows Play-by-Post games) game. I'm playtesting Allakee, the module I'm writing for OSRIC. It's a bit like Hommlet, except it doesn't fit into a certain storyline (like the Temple of Elemental Evil does). The characters are currently investigating an abandoned tower (play-by-post moves very slowly).

  • Morgansfort: This is a one player, one DM BFRPG game with one of my friend's children (a fourth grader). We're playing through the Old Island Fortress at the moment, and it's about half cleared out. Recently, the player collected some giant bee honey and sold it in Slateholm, which I thought was a great opportunity to introduce a merchant that plays a part in the Cave of the Unknown.

  • The Chaotic Caves: This was originally a one-off of the BFRPG homage to Keep on the Borderlands, but I've introduced it whenever I have some D&D players over my way.

Also, here are a few that I have DMed before:

  • White Plume Mountain: Our group (middle school) played through this recently, and it was a blast! They got all three weapons, and... killed the owners. What an anticlimax. Of course, I made a mistake and allowed the Plaldin to play Lawful Stupid...
  • The City of Kobolds: An entire villiage was captured and taken into the Underdark by kobolds! The players fouught their way out in a gladitorial exacution, taming a Learnan Hydra along the way, and were about to regin the surface world with what was left of the village, when the game died out.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Why I like BFRPG

Second in my series on my favorite Retro Clones, I've decided to review BFRPG. Here's why I like it:


Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game

Ease of Use- BFRPG is one of the simplest yet functional RPGs I've seen in a long time. The easy mechanics and basic options are quite easy to use, yet they give a very firm base to the game. There are only 4 classes - Fighter, Cleric, Magic User, and Thief - and yet you can create almost any archetype imaginable. The rules for combat are short and orderly as well, yet they cover almost any possible situation. A quick section on optional rules allows the GM to make his or her preferred changes to the game through a "canon" base, and gives newer GMs an opportunity to experiment with changing the rules. These flexible yet solid rules provide an excellent base to work from.

Modern Ideas- While taking cues from the original (before Advanced) version of D&D, BFRPG is based in part on the 3.5 SRD. Some grognards will laugh at me for saying this, but there are actually a lot of new, good ideas out there. BFRPG takes the best of these (such as ascending armor class) and incorporates them into its system flawlessly. These new ideas make the game attractive to players of third and fourth edition who are looking for something different, as well as making it distinct from games that directly clone OD&D.

Community- BFRPG was based on Chris Gonnerman's ideas, but was shaped immeasurably by the Dragonsfoot community. The rules have thus gone through countless revisions, so many that I can not find an error in the core rules yet! Also, the community is devoted to churning out countless modules and supplements (see next reason).

Resources- There are, I believe, 21 free, fan-created rules supplements (counting the articles in the Old Dungeoneer's Almanack) on the BFRPG downloads page. There are also 11 modules (three of which include several separate adventures and one which includes a sketch of a campaign world and a "home base"). Finally, there are 9 character sheets (one of which comes in 5 different languages) and four DM sheets (including a spreadsheet of all the monsters available so far). BFRPG is also compatible with great, old school modules like Keep on the Borderlands (of which a homage version is also available on the site).

Art- The art in the BFRPG core book is as good as any I have seen so far (in a RPG book, at least). The giants (by Luigi Castellani) and the Stirge and Shrieker (by Andy "ATOM" Tailor) are especially great.

Well, those are my high points of BFRPG! What do you think?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Why I like OSRIC

To start off my blog, I've decided to go through my favorite retro clones and explain what's so great about them. Without further ado, here's the review for OSRIC.


Old School Referencing and Indexing Compendium

  • Style- OSRIC is meant to simulate the first incarnation of AD&D, and it does so incredibly well. The writing style, while not copied from either the SRD or AD&D 1e, manages to be incredibly old-school while simultaneously explaining everything well.

  • Organization- OSRIC manages, amazingly, to bring the best of AD&D with it while making it easy to learn. There are 6 chapters with a few appendices (which, amazingly enough, do not contain vital information). The chapter list is as follows:

  • Creating a character- This gives the standard information on abilities, races, classes, alignment, and equipment (which actually gives the encumbrance amounts).

  • Spells- The standard AD&D spells are contained here, as are a few notes concerning their use. I was impressed by the hyperlinks and inclusion of all the spells, but was disappointed to still see the "hole" in Prismatic Spray.

  • How to Play- This chapter is where OSRIC really starts to shine. All the information for encumbrance and movement, XP charts, adventuring rules (like light and falling), combat and related rules, morale, hirelings and henchmen (which were left out by an error that will be corrected in the print version), and even a sample dungeon, just like the one in the DMG.

  • Dungeons, Towns, and Wildernesses- This is probably the best (somewhat new) part of OSRIC. It only contains two parts, but they're amazing. The dungeon generator is quite similar to the one found in Appendix A of the DMG, but contains excellent drawings of new starting areas. The other highlight of this chapter, which was not noticed by me until recently, is the encounter tables, and they are simply amazing. Not only does it incorporate most of the monsters from the original Monster Manual, Fiend Folio, and Monster Manual II, it contains amazingly creative tables to fit any DM (or OSRIC GM)'s needs. The dungeon and town encounter tables are good, but even better are the wilderness tables, which cover a host of situations (Graveyard and Lost World) and monsters (there is a one in one thousand chance of meeting a Xorn in a forest). If I were to only keep one chapter from OSRIC to use in my regular AD&D game, I would pick this one.

  • Monsters- This chapter is probably second best to #4. It collects most of the monsters from the Fiend Folio (especially important for me as I don't have a copy) and Monster Manuals. There are a few new options and ideas presented that sound intriguing (an Effective Level for monsters and giant shamans getting Illusionist spells), but the meat is in the monsters. They're organised by type, which is an improvement over anything I've seen so far, and have excellent illustrations (look at the Demons and Devils if you don't believe me).

  • Magic Items- This chapter isn't really much, as it collected some of the appropriate items from the SRD and dumped them here. There was one idea I liked from d20, though... organising artifacts into "Major" and "Minor" categories, and dumping some of the more powerful items like the Staff of the Magi into the Minor category. Overall, though, I was expecting more.

  • The Appendices are also useful, though nothing to write home about. There are some Collected Charts and Tables, and a (rather boring) character sheet.Overall, though, OSRIC is incredibly organised, and I like it that way.

  • Formatting- OSRIC is very well made and easy to read. The page numbers are watermarked, and the green shading makes the tables particularly nice, as well as setting the tone. However, it comes out quite well when printed in black and white.

  • Art- OSRIC attracted several incredible artists, and the vast number of nice pieces attests to this, as well as giving the work a great old-school feel. The cover art sets the mood nicely, and the "spread" pieces covering one or two pages provide a great way to divide chapters.

  • Support- OSRIC was originally built to be a framework for publishers to publish AD&D compatible modules and supplements. There is a huge number of modules out there, including nine (and counting) in the Advanced Adventures series by Expedious Retreat Press. Also published are several supplements, including Monsters of Myth by some of the game's authors.

Well, those are the main reasons why I like OSRIC. What are yours?