A quick update

I know its been awhile since I posted last but I was dealing with some personal stuff and trying to figure out what I wanted to post next. The problem with a hyper-focused blog like this, is that it limits what you can post about. But I have at least two small projects, with a possible third coming after it.

The first project that I’ll be posting about first here and then at Ruins of Murkhill is my take on the default OD&D setting. Unlike Wayne Rossi’s wonderful run down on the implied setting mine will not be tied to Avalon Hill’s Outdoor Survival map. I also think that Wayne also used supplemental material in his write up (I could be wrong). If you haven’t checked out Wayne Rossi’s Semper Initiativus Unum Blog you really should and download his PDF while you are at it.

Another blog that I’ve gained inspiration for this project is 42 Rolls of Duck Tape blog especially the series of posts on The Religion of the Cleric found at the above link. Like Lance Duncan I’ll be  taking the Cleric Spell lists from only the 3LBBs to inform the character of the Lawful Cleric but also the Evil Anti-Cleric of Chaos.

There is one other thing I will ignore beyond just the Avalon Hill Outdoor Survival map, these include any reference to Edger Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom races and creatures. The reasoning is 1) another company has published a RPG based on the John Carter Barsoom series – so I don’t want to get in trouble for using races & creatures from that series & 2) I have zero interest in including them. Again it is simply my take on the default setting.

The second project is creating a OD&D setting inspired by the implied Gamma World setting, but I’ll also pull inspiration from other Post-Apocalyptic RPGs, art and even Fallout. The core setting implied elements such as the mutations, cryptic alliances & some rules that can be converted to OD&D will play into this project, as I do want it to feel like Gamma World not just another P-A setting.

The third potential project will be a setting inspired by Elder Scrolls Skyrim, the Artesia comic series & Dragon Age video games. I am still debating on this, I am not sure I’ll use OD&D for it or B/X D&D instead – if I use the latter rules I’ll post this project on my ‘Musings of a Maverick Referee’ blog instead. If I do choose to do the above project & do it instead on my other blog using the B/X D&D rules to power it, I’ll post about another project here instead.

But first things first, is that the previous two projects are coming next before I even contemplate the above project. My take on the default OD&D setting will be coming soon, while the OD&D/GW setting will come afterwards.

My play-by-post game at Ruins of Murkhill has hit a snag but hopefully restart once one of the health issues improve enough to play we’ll get going again. It is based in the Ruins of Dorgand mini-setting I posted prior on this blog. It is the only setting project that is being used and will likely be organically developed as the PbP campaigns goes on. My other setting ideas have fallen into the Pit of Unused Ideas – they sounded awesome when I first began developing them but I hit a creative block with them. If I get inspired again I’ll pull them out of the pit and post about them here.

Lastly, depending on how the default OD&D setting project goes I might build upon it using the other OD&D supplements as a basis for the expansion but if I do it’ll likely focus on spells, some classes and monsters not the alternative combat & other rules that might not fit the tone and flavor of the setting. Well I’ll end this update so I can go run some errands today and put some thought on the projects while I am out. Take care, Fin.

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Musings about ‘The Big Brown Book’ by Justen Brown

Greeting, I know it’s been quite awhile but life comes at you and you must deal with it – you understand, right? I found out about The Big Brown Book by Justen Brown via a search of OSR games. But the linked PDF was a weird combo of two exact copies of the same file. So I went and tried to find out more about TBBB and found this site. It has an rtf file that you can convert to a proper PDF to use.

The Big Brown Book for those not in the know is an emulation of a combined OD&D and Chainmail rules as the author envisioned it being. As with most clones it uses the d20 OGL and makes slight changes to the source material as to not infringe upon copyrights. Justen chose to use a mechanic based solely on the use of d6’s instead of the default d6 & d20 based mechanic if you used the source material straight by the book.

This seems to be for ease of use and to avoid potential legal action once published, which is understandable. The d6 based mechanic is easy to pick up in general, though the d66 Saving Throw mechanic was confusing at first and should’ve had a bit more clarification. Justen created the d66 mechanic to emulate the math of a d20 roll used in saving throws. That said, in an appendix there are Alternate d20 based optional rules for both combat & saving throws but tweaked for legal reasons.

The layout & rules themselves are well done, making things far easier to find and understand than in OD&D and Chainmail; which is a plus. Lets face it OD&D’s layout and readability is one of its biggest criticisms, in fact a fan of the rules combined and edited OD&D into a better organized single volume version back earlier this decade. With TBBB the only issue I have with its layout & presentation is it is unfinished.  There is zero art but there seems to be room set aside for art & there are no covers. I had to create my own just so it looked like a proper manual.

Justen completed TBBB in 2011, so the likelihood of him finishing it & publishing it are likely null. Justen is the mind behind the 2e AD&D retro-clone ‘For Gold & Glory’ in which he actually did complete it. I can only assume there was no interest in his TBBB and his passion for his first RPG and a greater audience for it is the reason ‘For Gold & Glory’ was finished and published; while TBBB was not.

I’d love for Justen to resurrect the TBBB project, make a few clarifications & fix a few typos, get some art and actually publish it or allow someone else do so with his blessing and guidance. The Big Brown Book really deserves to be finished and published if only as a free PDF.

Here is a brief breakdown of the TBBB so you understand what you’ll be getting in it. First the book has a table of contents & it is well written for ease of use. Next you have a one page forward and a two page description of the core mechanic and terminology used in the TBBB. Chapter 1: Of Men & Magic covers character creation and rules for both magic and NPCs. Chapter 2: Adventures Above & Below, covers XP, movement and various rules for exploration and other hazards not related directly to combat. Chapter 3: Monsters & Treasures is just that monster & treasure rules focusing on encounters and treasure placement in a dungeon. The first three chapters emulate the first three OD&D books in their overall content with a few omissions.

In Chapter 4: Small Scale Combat, you get the man-to-man combat omitted from Chapter 2 if it was a true copy of that book, but it incorporates Chainmail combat elements that are implied in both OD&D. Chapter 5: Mass Combat, is a distillation of Chainmail’s core systems with tweaks for legality and greater ease of use and clarity.

Next up is the first of the appendices, Appendix 1: Spells; which begins with complete Spell listings for Magic-Users & Clerics. This is then followed by the actual spells that have their own flavor so not to be ripped straight out of OD&D. In Appendix 2: Monsters, you start with the actual encounter charts alluded to in the Monsters & Treasure chapter, which is then followed by the actual monster descriptions.

Appendix 3: Treasure begins with random treasure tables common to most Fantasy RPGs out on the market; which is then followed by sections on the various types of treasure found. The descriptions are brief and the associated rules are concise & easy to understand. Appendix 4: Optional Rules covers just that, optional rules for everything, from alternate combat rules I mentioned before, to added options for Mass Combat, Gary Gygax’s House rules, the Mythic Underground, weather, researching magic & spell concentration. Lastly, you have Appendix 5: The afterword & FAQ. This discusses Justen’s design philosophy for this project and even hinted at a second non-existent (to my knowledge) ‘The Big White Book’ that would’ve included demons and other not mentioned topics.

I hope that this might goad you into checking out The Big Brown Book if only to read a very interesting take on a fusion of OD&D & Chainmail. I plan to run this game eventually; especially in campaigns I know that I want to incorporate mass combat with (Greyhawk maybe?). Well I got things to do, so I’ll let you go for now. Fin.

Musing about Inspiration and Oe D&D

Greetings, it has been awhile – thanks to some personal drama shaking up my life I haven’t felt the urge to post or do anything creative. Though I’ll eventually post about my World of Xôðûn again on this blog, I wanted to post something in the mean time. Over the last several years I’ve spent a lot of time working on various campaign settings of which both Worlds of Xôðûn &  Skârn are the most recent (though  Skârn has the longest history of development actual in game use). Like a lot of creative people my interest in a projects lasts only as long as my passion for it burns.

This personal drama effected my passion in a major way – I still want to develop both  Skârn & Xôðûn, I just cannot do so at the moment. If I push myself to do so I’ll just burn out on the projects fully. So I am taking a break from both so I can reorder my creativity and get the passion for these settings rekindled.

To help in this I wanted to explore things that I brought up in my last post – inspiration. In a post at Ruins of Murkhill (found  here the 11th post by Ebon Hearted Soul – me) I discussed how Metal music made a huge impact initially on the World of Skârn. But like everything in this blog this post with need to tie it into Original Edition D&D.

As anyone with a decent grasp of D&D history Gary included Appendix N in his AD&D DM’s Guide, which lists Gary (and potentially Arneson’s) influences. Even in 5e there was a version of this list – though it might have been expanded upon (I no longer own 5e so i cannot check for sure). We can make an educated assumption that those influences impacted Oe D&D by default.

Let’s be honest I’ve read a mere fraction of the books listed in Appendix N, though some have become inspirations (such as H.P. Lovecraft, Fritz Leiber, R.E. Howard & Michael Moorcock) – most of my inspirations are not found on that list. In my last post & the forum post I linked to above my inspirations draw mostly from art (be it fantasy or sci-fi art or comics) or Metal music.

I’ve had other influences on my creativity – such as from other Campaign Settings I’ve owned, like: Eberron, Iron Kingdoms & Talislanta; to video games, like: Fable, Dragon’s Dogma and Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. Outside Metal music the initial inspiration for Skârn was both Skyrim & Talislanta, with a bit of Eberron tossed in. You take the more alien races/cultures from Talislanta and the whole ‘Orcs are not default evil’ trope, as seen in both Skyrim & Eberron – had made a huge impact on my design on Skârn.

I’ll not touch on the influences concerning World of Xôðûn as I covered that in detail in my last post; but I do want to touch on common tropes drawn from my inspirations and how they impact my designs. Where as both Worlds of Skârn & Xôðûn are currently on development hiatus, it doesn’t mean I am not being creative – the Multiverse of Akar is a vast & diverse campaign universe; so I am still cooking up potential worlds for my future players to explore.

I wanted to get away from developing whole worlds for awhile and focus on a small local region or regions, that might evolve into a larger world or be fused into either Skârn or Xôðûn at some later date. I have three seeds for campaigns that I hope that will eventually sprout & grow into something lasting.

In my development of campaign worlds I often start with something that inspires my creativity – from a song to a piece of art or a comic to video game I played or I seen screen shots of. What then follows is I usually pick a name from a listing in ‘Gary Gygax’s Extraordinary Book of Names’ by Malcom Bowers. The said name has to fit the evolving picture in my mind of the seed of an idea for the setting and evoke it when I read ans speak it – sort of an occult exercise.

I have three ideas that might grow into whole new settings of their own or may become part of either Skârn or Xôðûn – only time will tell. The first is ‘Ruins of Dorgand’ – a nod to the ‘Ruins of Murkhill’ forums; it is inspired by images from a computer adventure game called ‘Darkest Dungeon’. I’ve never played it but would like to do so eventually, but I love the art for it and the dark premise it puts forth. Here is some examples of the art that is inspiring this idea:

Darkest dungeon01 DarkestDungeon02

darkest dungeon 03

The art is clearly inspired by Mike Mignola (of Hellboy fame) and the Cthulhu Mythos by H.P. Lovecraft – two of my biggest inspirations, so yeah I’ll love Darkest Dungeon for sure. That said, I do not want the ‘Ruins of Dorgand’ be a mere generic fantasy clone of it. Luckily for me, I won’t be playing ‘Darkest Dungeon’ for a while – so I’ll be keeping it from being too large an influence.

One of the other seeds of an idea is based around the art team used on the Swedish RPG called Trudvang Chronicles by RiotMinds. Since I’ve flirted over the last decade or so with Heathenry, I’ve always been drawn to games or settings that draw from Nordic , Anglo-Saxon or Celtic mythology. The art of both Paul Bonner & Justin Sweet is epic. Another influence upon this germ of an setting Viking and Folk Metal (Amon Amarth, Primordial, Otyg among others); plus the Anglo-Saxon Dictionary I own. Here are some examples of art by Paul Bonner & Justin Sweet:

Justin Sweet Trudvang Art

Justin Sweet Trudvang art – I loved it so much I used part of it as my Blog Icon.

Paul Bonner Trudvang art

Paul Bonner Trudvang art – I so love his Trolls; they will be inspiration for mine.

This campaign seed is currently being called Wælfāgland – the blood-stained land. It will be a very primal based setting rooted in Anglo-Saxon language. The main campaign area is a Troll and Spirit haunted land where numerous battles have been fought; a place where local tribes settle disputes in an attempt to lay dominion over it, laying claim the lost Elfin relics and magic of the fallen Ælfgeard – the land of Elves (in this region at least).

Lastly, is the least likely to see the light of day but is an intriguing notion that I decided to play with anyway. Like the ‘Ruins of Dorgand’ I decided to use ‘Ruins of’ in honor of the ‘Ruins of Murkhill’ forums which I am a member & have grown to love – it is called ‘Ruins of Grimhold’. This setting is inspired by the art of Ralph Bakshi’s ‘Wizards’ care of Mike Ploog, the art of Vaughn Bodē, early Bill Willingham and Barry Blair’s art. This setting will be a bit more campy & gonzo because of these influences, yet not the same way the World of Xôðûn is gonzo – minus the campiness. Here is some art that is inspiring it:

Ralph Bakshi Wizard art Wizards Film art01

Mike Ploog’s art for the Wizards film.

bode08   Vaughn Bode - Centaur Poster  Vaughn Bode AmazonsVaughn Bodē art.

Jim Roslof D&D Bill wilingham

Bill Willingham D&D art.

Elflord Covers

Covers of Barry Blair’s Elflord comics that I loved growing up. 

As I said above I am not sure where this seed will go but I’ll have fun exploring the possibilities for it. That all said and to wrap up this long ass post, I did say I wanted to tie this all to Original Edition D&D. No matter the influences I draw from, be it music, art or comics, each of these mini-regional projects all have the same thing in common, the desire to use Oe D&D as they framework to build these campaigns upon.

The common Oe D&D tropes of Wilderness & Dungeon Exploration and quick and brutal combat that are hallmarks of the game will be the touchstones that these campaigns will develop from. One thing overlooked that should be reinstated is unlike a lot of OSR retro-clones who derive from Oe D&D who either omit the following or simply overlooked it –

” Other Character Types:

There is no reason that players cannot be allowed to
play as virtually anything, provided they begin relatively weak and work up to
the top, i.e., a player wishing to be a Dragon would have to begin as, let us say,
a “young” one and progress upwards in the usual manner, steps being predetermined
by the campaign referee.

From Dungeons & Dragons Book One: Men & Magic.

The above will inform all three of the campaign setting if they reach fruition and join with Worlds of Xôðûn &  Skârn as part of the Multiverse of Akar. Though players being Dragons, Giants or Demons would be a stretch in my worlds, the concept is still valid as their are numerous options that players will be able to choose from. The idea that Oe D&D lacked options is patently false, they just were not included in the core books; it was up to the Referee to come up with rulings for them if needed and if they fit the setting. If you can dream of it & sell it to your Referee you should be able to make it work.

Well I’ll end this post & publish it so that I can go do other things today – like watch my ill nephew. I’ll post more soon, fin.

 

The World of Xôðûn: The Introduction

Greetings, today I’ll be introducing you to my new campaign setting for my future Original Edition Adventures: The World of Xôðûn (pr. Zō•thūn or Zoh-Thoon). It will be part of my ‘Multiverse of Akar’ series of campaigns, which will also include my old (slightly revised) ‘World of Skârn’ and potentially my  Sword & Sorcery setting the ‘World of Mu’. What follow is a modified version of my initial post at the ‘Ruins of Murkhill’ found here.

I’ll be posting more in depth setting info there, while I’ll be posting various development oriented progress reports, as well as snippets of the world with commentary on them here. But I’ll get to the setting intro plus I’ll post some art to illustrate what some of my inspiration is art-wise.

The World of Xôðûn is my new setting that is inspired by my new found love of Original Edition of Dungeons & Dragons (OeD&D/OD&D). It’ll take elements from my old ‘World of Skârn’ setting that I used for my Rolemaster United play-test campaign. There are certain elements that never came into play & they really don’t fit into the ‘more vanilla flavored’ setting that ‘Skârn’ evolved into. I decided to take those more fantastic elements out of ‘Skârn’ & add them to ‘Xôðûn’ instead, so they can be important again and not just be forgotten window dressing that they had became.

Red Monika010

Red Monika of Battle Chasers: Night War by Joe Madureira

I’ve been reading about Dave Hargrave’s Arduin & it struck a cord with me, though I am not sure that I want to run his system in total, I might include some of the elements from it in my OD&D campaigns. The core reason I doubt I’ll ever run it is that it is a bit too crunchy for me; but that said it did plant a few seeds that helped give birth to inspiration from which ‘Xôðûn’ bloomed.

arduin_trilogy

The classic Arduin Grimiore Trilogy by David Hargrave [image from DMDavid Blog]

I’ve always been a fan of mixing science fiction with my fantasy, which might explain my love manga, anime, European comics & RIFTS. It has also fed my growing interest in Blackmoor & even the Gamma World setting. I pull inspiration from these sources, as well as the fantastic art of Vaughn Bodē, Frank Frazetta, Russ Nicholson, Dave Trampier, Jim Roslof, Simon Bisley, the comics Battle Chasers & the films ‘Fire & Ice’ and ‘Wizard’ by Ralph Bakshi. Toss in music like Metal, Punk & Hip Hop and you get an eclectic cauldron frothing with potent inspiration.

bode08Frazetta art01Russ Nicholson art

Art by Vaughn Bodē.                        Art by Frank Frazetta.           Art by Russ Nicholson.

Though the above inspire me creatively, that doesn’t mean those influences will bleed through in total, just certain elements gleaned from them. Be it a vibe from one to flying sky sharks (Battle Chasers & the Seven Deadly Sins) to cyborgs, robots and or androids (Anduin, Blackmoor & Made in Abyss); sky islands and flying airships.

Dave Trampier incineration-3aJim Roslof D&D

Art by Dave Trampier.              Art by Jim Roslof from Basic Dungeons & Dragons.

If I ever publish this setting with House-Rules for OD&D at some future date, I know it won’t have anime/manga style art in it – I’d rather have art inspired by European sci-fi comic art or if I would even consider a cartoon-y style it would be more in the Bakshi & Bodē style. I am a very visual guy so I tend to see things in pictures than in prose. I want the ‘World of Xôðûn’ to have that gonzo feel that disappeared from Skârn as I continued to develop it. Skârn will be part of the growing Multiverse I’ll be developing for my campaigns – of which Xôðûn will be the core of as I move forward for my future campaigns.

Simon Bisley artRalph Bakshi Fire & Ice

Art by Simon Bisley.                               Frame from Fire & Ice by Bakshi & Frazetta.

Ralph Bakshi Wizard art

Background frame from Wizard by Ralph Bakshi.

Well I hope this post shines a bit of insight into what inspires the World of Xôðûn. As soon as I decided to take the more fantastic elements out of the ‘World of Skârn’ and incorporate them into the World of Xôðûn – my creative engines have been on fire. I finally feel excited about digging deep & writing up a fantasy setting and do some preliminary art to help be better visualize it, so I can get it onto paper & on screen.

In my next post about the World of Xôðûn I’ll post some inspirational images that helped me figure out what I wanted for this setting & ultimately will inform my future maps for it. Beyond that I’ll post about some of the inhuman races who dwell in  the World of Xôðûn with basic stats for them. See you then, fin.

Original Edition Role Playing Appreciation Day + Dieselpunk OD&D Style

OREAD1

Greetings, I wanted to take a moment to give a shout out to Dave Arneson & Gary Gygax (may their spirits rest in peace) – thank you both for creating this game that gave birth to a vast & wonderful hobby that I love. Though I never played Original Edition D&D until recently, it has become my preferred Role Playing Game to run. Though I can use it by-the-book and enjoy it immensely but I love how easily I can tweak it to fit the style of campaign I want to run.

 

Though some OD&D fans hate it when someone says it is a “Toolbox”; but it is. That said you should run it By-the-Book first and frankly I’ll likely do it when I want to run a grim & gritty campaign. With Original Edition D&D you are given a frame work to build upon in the 3LBBs & can take elements from the various OD&D supplements or house rules to tweak the core to become something you want for a specific style of campaign. Sure you can do that with other editions (especially the old TSR editions), but things become increasingly harder with the WotC editions as you have more subsystems baked into them to deal with to do so, where as that is not the case in OD&D.

 

In my last post I gave an example how you can use OD&D to run a Cyberpunk game within the common tropes baked into it. I plan to eventually run such a game once I figure out the house rules needed to tweak it to do so & find a new group to do interested in this kind of campaign. In this post I’ll give you another style of campaign that interests me that I’d love to run via OD&D – Dieselpunk.

 

Like in my Cyberpunk post I’ll discuss how you can run a Dieselpunk campaign based on the common tropes of OD&D: Dungeoneering, Wilderness Exploration, and Domain Play, though Magic, Races & Monsters won’t play much of role in a ‘straight’ dieselpunk campaign; but can in one that mixes supernatural elements such as in Mummy & similar pulpy films.

 

  • Dungeoneering: Unlike in cyberpunk, dungeoneering is actually fairly easy to do, especially if you use films like Indiana Jones as an inspiration. Delving into lost tombs is a common trope, as would be sneaking into guarded lair of some villain and either defeating them or stealing something of great import from them.

 

  • Wilderness Exploring:  Is likewise easy in Dieselpunk, searching out lost tombs within a tropical jungle or vast desert is a common trope. If you add more sci-fi elements you can even have them visit the Moon or Mars and explore them.

 

  • Classes & Races: This is one of the difficult parts of OD&D to convert to a Dieselpunk campaign, as the Magic-User, Cleric, Elf, Dwarf & Halfling are not applicable unless you are including supernatural aspects to the campaign – the same goes for monsters, outside the human’s mentioned in the lists. Adding a Thief class is advisable as they can fill the role of a Tomb Raider type character. It’d be easy to house-rule other iconic roles into classes to fill the holes left by the above classes and races.

 

  • Magic: Again, like the above – unless you are running a Dieselpunk campaign with supernatural or fantasy elements, magic will not play a role.

 

  • Domain Play: Is another OD&D trope hard to implement unless you choose to run businesses or criminal or even secret political organizations at higher level. But this can be interesting & fun style of play, especially if you can mesh it with high level adventures. You can play espionage based campaigns as well at this level emulating a Dieselpunk version of James Bond.

 

  • Combat: This like the Class trope above will take work, as you need rules for more modern weaponry & transportation. An easy fix is stealing from WWII Operation White Box by Pete Spahn, you can get the PDf  here from DriveThruRPG. I am using it as inspiration for my 1940s based Dieselpunk Post-Apocalyptic supernatural campaign; which will allow me to use all the traditional OD&D tropes. But you need not buy the above if you are willing to house rule what you need.

 

Lastly with Dieselpunk you can do the straight pulpy adventure games to sci-fi heavy games with Cyber-Nazis, Robots & even alien invaders or supernatural campaigns populated with Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster & other classic monsters of Gothic literature & the classic films based upon them or their remakes (I love the pre-Tom Cruise Mummy films).

 

As I’ve said above you can do this with other editions of D&D, hell you can easily do this with other rules but I like how using Original Edition D&D creates a wonderful and simple framework to build any campaign I want to run. With OD&D I don’t need (for ease) D20 Modern, Future & Apocalypse to run my OD&D powered Post-Apocalyptic, Supernatural/Fantasy fused Dieselpunk gonzo campaign. Though I do suggest Pete Spahn’s WWII White Box game you don’t need it – just use your imagination & home-brew the mechanics you need.

 

Well I’ll end this post by thanking the people within the OSR community that have lit the fire of love for Original edition D&D within me. If it wasn’t for Labyrinth Lord, Basic Fantasy RPG and Swords & Sorcery, I’d never have been inspired to look into OD&D, and thus fall for it. Sure I like B/X D&D, but OD&D is my preferred flavor of Dungeons & Dragons. I’ll play in other editions of D&D, but I’ll only run OD&D, B/X D&D or a few other rules-light games, but OD&D will be my game of choice. Let’s celebrate Original Edition Appreciation Day every May 5th, with plenty of OD&D games, blog & Vlog-posts from now on; which is what I’ll be doing from now on. Original Edition Adventures forever! Fin.

 

Malîk-Rešef Tenebrous

 

Original Edition Cyberpunk Style

Greetings, this will be the last post prior to Original Edition Appreciation Day of May 5th. I posted a thread in one of my favorite gaming forums a few posts on this subject & figured that it’d make an interesting blog post as well. I have been a fan of Cyberpunk media & games since I first saw the classic Blade Runner in the 80s. I used to run games using Ironcrown Enterprises’ Cyberspace (still a favorite of mine) and played in a Cyberpunk 2020 campaign briefly in the early 2000s.

If any of you have played Cyberspace or Cyberpunk 2013/2020 you will know the common tropes of Cyberpunk – at least in context of gaming. In the Cyberpunk literary milieu you have a Dystopian near future Earth, it’ll either be set in a nation under tyrannical government rule that oppresses it’s citizens, where the protagonists are revolutionaries – something it shares with general Dystopian literature. Where it differs though is that how machine and man interfaces and how this plays in the rebellion. The more common Dystopian setting in Cyberpunk is where the government is either wholly corrupt and ineffectual or have collapsed and running cities has fell to Corporate councils.

Cyberpunk city-scape by Dennis Chang

Cyberpunk Cityscape by Dennis Chang

Whereas in the first example players would be revolutionaries in the second and most common setting, the players can be corporate agents, freelancers, police, media personalities, criminals, mercenaries or revolutionaries of some sort – depending on the campaign.

Now how does this apply to Original Edition Dungeons & Dragons? Good question, since OD&D/OeD&D is ultimately a toolbox it can be used to construct any type of game, from Sword & Planet campaigns inspired by the Barsoom tales to Space Opera like Starwars to Dieselpunk style campaigns. The thing you need to do is use OD&D tropes as the basis to build upon to create the campaign you desire.

Since this is a Cyberpunk themed post I decided to break down how I’d do things by taking key tropes of OD&D and using them as a framework; such as: Dungeoneering, Wilderness Exploring, The Endgame or Dominion Play; Magic, Classes & Races.

  • Dungeoneering: This kind of trope could be emulated via raiding Corporate R&D complexes, Criminal Headquarters & the like. Toss in defeating or bypassing Guards or Mercenaries and gathering things like Intel, technology or other needed experiments, “freeing” prized employees from a patron’s rival to actual sabotage or theft. Accumulating “loot” as in gear/prizes from heists, to stock interests, credits, drugs, property or info you can sell, can lead to advancement.

 

  • Wilderness Exploration: This is harder to emulate in a cyberpunk campaign, but not impossible. Take finding a hidden installation in a wilderness cloaked by some high tech means or even a low tech façade. The Intel you received for a job says the hidden complex is on an isolated piece of land between 20-120 square miles or acres owned by the target. You land at the edge of the land & sneak through the region exploring until you locate the hidden complex. Or you leave the installation & your vehicle get’s disabled and you are forced to explore the wilderness evading pursuers in order to escape with your “loot”; acquiring a vehicle to get to a local town & find your way home with your “package” intact. Thus it can be done.

 

  • The Domain Campaigning: In a cyberpunk campaign domain play is a far more intriguing option as you are not actually ruling a domain in the OD&D sense, but instead you could be running a business or organization of some sort. It adds a different flavor to what is typical in OD&D. In fact the players can run separate elements of an organization if they so choose, managing their turf or business interests;  yet you can then go on high level side jobs that have great rewards but huge risks both locally and internationally.

 

  • Magic: Now magic & magical items will not play a traditional role unless you are running a Cyber-Fantasy campaign based on Shadowrun. Instead of magic spells would be specialized programs in which a hacker can utilize to combat black ICE (anti-intrusion programs) that protect a target’s computer data system. Sleep or Slow (?) can stop a number of Black ICE programs or counter Hackers employed by the target from attacking you. At lower levels you have limited ICE Cracker “Spell” programs and need to utilize thief like subterfuge skills to bypass them. Depending on your hacking subsystem or if you have a pilot/driver character not doing things at the time, instead of being bored with nothing to do they could run the hacker through the prepared hacking session while the main referee can run the rest of group via the on site situation. Instead of healing spells you can have injections of nano-surgeons fixing internal damage turning lethal damage to temporary exhaustion. Magical items will either be specialized hacking Ice Cracker programs or high tech weaponry or armor that make you harder to hit & deadlier.

 

  • Classes & Races: These can be home-brewed based on traditional classes & races. Fighting-Men can be ex-soldiers turned mercenaries, organized crime enforcers or hit-men or even corporate black ops security members. Magic-Users become high tech hackers on a net run with some thief skills for use while in the net. A Thief is a spy, a saboteur, a thief or street level goon for a local organized crime family, then you’d have a pilot/driver/tech person, who also pilots drones and vehicles, plus can do minimal hacking – more focused on defense than intrusion. With Races – you’d have androids, bio-engineered beings & cyborgs – not quite androids but not quite human. Cyborgs are often highly specialized towards combat, so rarely are hackers or pilots.

When it comes to equipment this is where you either steal from your favorite Cyberpunk system or construct your own lists how ever you desire to fit the needs of your setting. One thing that will also need to be figured out is modern combat, including vehicle combat and movement rules. Such things can be ripped from Modern or Sci-Fi based OSR games and tweaked for your needs.

Another trope I didn’t cover above is monsters – this can be dealt with in two ways. Take monsters from the ‘Monsters & Treasures’ book then reskin them as potential  bioengineered or robotic threats, into elite mercenaries or cyborgs. The other way is use them as fantasy themed Black ICE programs that the Hacker needs to bypass or defeat to achieve their missions goals.

Something fun as a side game would be having your players run a  group of hackers do hacking runs (using what ever system you devise to run such a game). Each player chooses a net avatar to use & go on hacking runs on a target either for themselves or a patron. Then the game can be run smoothly without need for solo sessions or dual referees. You could also run a campaign inspired by Sword Art Online or Log Horizon for something more fantastic. Though this wouldn’t be a strictly Cyberpunk campaign but might add a twist without trying to emulate Shadowrun if you want to mix Fantasy in your Cyberpunk indirectly.

Well this is all have for this post, I’ll be back on the 5th of May for my Original Edition Appreciation Day post, until then I’ll see you later, Fin.

[Edited: For clarification & accuracy.]

More musings about Original Edition D&D

Greetings, I wanted to cover a few topics concerning Original Edition D&D in this week’s post; one being stats and more pertinent to my future campaigns – races. In my previous post I had mentioned I’ll be using default OD&D races and adding a few of my own as well. This is still the plan but I wanted to cover a few assumptions that I glossed over & give you a better idea why  I am going with those By-the-Book (BtB) assumptions and not just ignoring them.

In my mind and frankly most fantasy fiction inspired by Tolkien no matter the setting, Elves, Dwarfs & Halflings are rare. Sure you’ll have a few of those races living in some bigger human communities but they are not really explained why; especially since their kindred live in often isolated communities away from humans. So that got me thinking, why would a non-human live in or be found in a human community?

The biggest reason is trade, the second biggest would be they are either refugees, slaves or exiles dwelling in those communities. Of the three demi-human races only Halflings would dwell in close proximity to humans to be seen in them on a regular basis. This is likely based on the fact they seem closely related and often share similar cultures. Plus it is far safer to dwell near a friendly human community than away from its protection.

In the ‘World of Skârn’ this general assumption will hold true, but the Elfin & Dwarven communities will be far more isolated from the Human communities with very little interaction between them. Both Elves & Dwarfs will not the “traditional” animosity that is common in most Tolkien derivatives, instead they simply rarely interact with one or another.

Elves are the nobility & defenders of the fey lands which dominate most larger ancient forests & jungles in the world. They are guardians of the Fey creatures dwelling in these forest/jungle realms and of these forests sacred Heart Trees. As such High Elves rarely if ever leave these forest realms & their Wood Elf kin only leave on quests for their rulers or to chase down enemies to their realms. So Elfin adventurers are extremely rare & this are limited in their advancement as such.

The same holds true for Dwarves as well, they keep to their mountainous homes & only leave on the rare quests for their king, to trade with a nearby human community or are exiled. Thus they two are limited in their class & level advancement.

True to Tolkien’s influence Halflings rarely leave their quiet shires except to trade; those to do, will like Elves & Dwarves return to their home community to take up a craft, get married and raise a family among their own kind.

Since this is the case these races will rarely be seen in human communities unless their is a very good reason for it. Unless they have been enslaved or are refugees, only the rare adventurer or trader will be ever encountered outside their home communities. There are three exceptions concerning Elves:

  • Half-Elves, that are are found in Arkhonia; that are the product of breeding programs by the vile Witch-King between his Elfin & Human slaves.
  • The D’Jôlî, one of the ‘Forsaken’ – a nomadic races of formerly Elfin peoples that wander the world either by ship or clan based wagon caravans. All D’Jôlî-Human parings produce pure stock D’Jôlî children for some unknown reason.
  • The Varôsî, another of the ‘Forsaken’ – they live in refugee enclaves through out the Khalidûran continent, they produce a number of Half-Elves.

Both the D’Jôlî and the Varôsî have lost their homelands and have been ‘Forsaken’ by their Elfin kin – thus the class restrictions & most level limits do not apply to them. Though the D’Jôlî are most prone to abide by level limits as they eventually chose to return to their roaming clans – bringing back both wealth and stories.

I’ll discuss other races in my next blog post but now I’ll turn to discussing stats in my future campaigns. In OD&D stats in the three Little Brown Books (3LBB) go from 3-18, with very little in the way of direct impact. Since I’ll be using the standard roll 3d6 down the line character generation – I wanted to discuss the assumptions in my own personal campaigns will be.

These assumptions are simple – a stat of 3 is the very lowest one can have in a given stat to be effective as an adventurer & at ones class. A 3-10 in Intelligence means you are smart enough to do tasks related to your class and you only know the languages allowed by your race – often just your local native tongue. For tasks that require a roll under a stat not directly related to your class abilities (such as casting a spell, using Int as the continued example) – you need to roll under a three or fail at that task.

So a Magic-User with a 3 intelligence will know their native tongue (unless a Elf) & be able to cast spells, but have a rough time remembering deep lore. A Fighting-Man with a Strength  & Constitution of 3 with be able to do his or her class required tasks but will be hard pressed to complete strength or constitution checks, such as force up a portcullis or survive a system shock check, plus would have 1 less HP a given level.

Where as characters with a stat of 18 will be masters of the various tasks required by their stat, such as remembering some obscure lore needed for an adventure or to be able to lift as old and rusty portcullis with little effort.

Having low or below a 9 in a Prime Stat for a character’s chosen class the XP penalty will range from a -10% (7-8) to -20% (3-6) so advancing to a higher level will be markedly slower with a very low Prime Stat; where as a character with a high number in their Prime Stat will advance quicker. But no matter how low your stat is you can be competent in your core class abilities and make those rare task successes even more sweet that if you have an average or high stat during those checks.

Though playing a character with very low stats will not be ideal and often be much more difficult, in the end it’ll give you something to overcome and thus a fun story to tell; such as Stromgar the Weak won the day by overcoming his weakness and lifting up the old and rusty portcullis so his comrades could escape. Where as Athelwin the Mighty with a strength of 18 doing the same deed won’t be as memorable.

Though playing with average or higher stats is ideal, one needs to look at the fact at in the cased of OD&D 3LBBs you can play a character with low stats without being overly burdened by the situation. But also remember your average starting HPs are 2-8 if you are a Fighting-Man depending on your Con stat & 1-7 for all other classes – so you may not be stuck with that potentially sub-par character for very long. Give such a character a chance & you might end up create some wonderful memories if you do. Well I’ll end this post so I can go cook dinner, see you next week. Fin.