Thursday, February 14, 2019

Heh, I've got a better pun now

I need to republish Engines & Empires and World of Gaia.

Yes, I feel the need to kick the OSR logo off the back covers of both. (It has no right to be there now regardless, since Stuart Robertson rescinded it for everybody.) But there are also a few minor corrections to make—tweaks to the character sheets, the usual spate of minor typo corrections, and two bigger deals.

First, I'd like to tack the boxer and scholar classes that I wrote up (and presently have in their own little file on my sidebar over yonder to the left of the ol' blog) onto the end of the book in another appendix; and second, I feel a desperate need to update the melee weapon list, which (as it turns out) has some glaring inaccuracies that I just can't stomach anymore.

Corrections to things like the relative sizes of daggers, long-knives, short swords, arming swords, bastard swords, long swords (long swords are BIGGER than bastard swords; and even bastard swords are practically always used two-handed, never with a shield), and zweihänders. Or the fact that "great axes" and giant fantasy two-handed war-hammers are basically not a thing and never were, and that the largest historical axe and hammer weapons were pole-arms (namely pollaxes, bardiches, Lucerne hammers, and halberds) with long hafts, but relatively small heads.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Concerning Zak S.

Over the course of the past couple of days, the role-playing community at large, and the old-school gaming community in particular, has been rocked by revelations from multiple women that noted OSR artist, author, and blogger, Zak S./Smith/Sabbath (however it goes), is a reprehensible liar, manipulator, and sexual abuser.

Let me open by stating clearly that I believe Mandy, Hannah, Jennifer, and Vivka. They have my unequivocal support. Their accusations are credible beyond reasonable doubt, and also sufficiently rage-inducing that I would caution anyone against clicking those links unprepared for a gut-punch or three.

Zak's behavior, as described, is truly vile. He is a miscreant and a reprobate, and he has forfeited any claim to belonging in this community, online or otherwise.

The rest of my discussion on this matter is of considerably less relevance than the suffering of the victims, and their bravery in coming forward; therefore I relegate it to the remainder of the post, below the fold.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Retro Rundown #1: Chainmail

"I am waiting for you, Vizzini. You told me to go back to the beginning. So I have. This is where I am, and this is where I’ll stay. I will not be moved."
—Inigo Montoya

I. Introduction and Welcome

Welcome, one and all, to the first installment in my new blog series, the "Retro Rundown," wherein I'm going to read and analyze… pretty much everything old and D&D.

It struck me yesterday that if I'm going to stand up and declare myself a post-Old-School-Renaissance old-school gamer, it would be helpful to figure out what that means.

Like what Eddie Izzard said about Queen Elizabeth I and the Church of England:
The Protestant faith was different. That started, um, uh, well, probably around a similar time, but that was about Martin Luther, this German guy who pinned a note on a church door saying, “Hang on a minute!” But in German, so, “Ein Minuten, bitte! Ich habe einen kleinen Problemo avec dieser Religiones.” (He was from everywhere.) So yeah. So, and, uh, so the Protestant faith was sort of tacked, you know, on by Queen Elizabeth I a bit later. “Oh, principles! Thank God! We’ve got some principles.”
It's good to have some principles. Formulating them can be tricky, though. There's a lot of nonsense floating around, particularly within the OSR. It's no secret that I despise the Finch Primer and the whole notion of "rulings, not rules." It's just so incredibly, wrongheadedly ahistorical—or so my intuition tells me. Maybe I'll discover otherwise by actually going back to the texts.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Aloha 'Oe to the OSR

I know, I know. Overly provocative title. I'll explain below.

*          *          *

I have three concurrent gaming-related projects going on in my life right now. Surprise, surprise, it's the same three as ever.

1) Dungeons & Dragons. Despite losing a few weekends here and there to school and holidays (including this upcoming weekend, naturally), my Saturday D&D campaign has continued to be fairly steady and consistently enjoyable. The player roster has changed as players come and go, but we're only just now reaching the one year mark, and still no player has surpassed 6th level, and still they continue their slow crawl through the Barrowmaze. (They've explored maybe 20% of it, tops.) 

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Hit Dice, Reloaded

In my last post, I described a somewhat radical house rule for hit points—one that I would inevitably become leery about actually implementing, once I'd thought through the many implications of how it would change player behavior.

At the same time, though, I'd also been pondering the best method for rolling up old-fashioned, static hit points. And I think I've settled on a system I can live with.

Just rolling them straight always has the potential to cripple a character. If a fighter rolls a couple of 1s, 2s, or 3s on gaining his 2nd, 3rd, and 4th experience levels, that's an unrecoverable handicap. So some form of re-rolling is a must if one demands that dice be rolled (and I do). Re-rolling all the hit dice at each level is a pretty good way of keeping the characters just above average; but there also has to be some recourse if the re-roll is low (characters should always gain at least one hit point with a new level). So, taking all that into account, the ideal method would have to be:

• Max hit points at first level (bog standard house rule)
• At levels 2 through 9, when a character gains a level, their hit points go up by +1 (clerics, thieves, and magic-users) or +2 (fighters). Then they re-roll a number of hit dice equal to their new level (adjusting each for Constitution, as normal), and they keep this roll if it's greater than the old, just-incremented hit point total.

I wrote a bit of code to test this method out, and it seems to produce results that put characters where I want them to be, while still being variable. 9th level characters wind up with hp totals ranging from a couple of points below average, to upwards of ten points above (for very lucky fighters), with the smaller hit dice being proportionally less swingy (to be expected).

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

I've been thinking. Thinking about hit points.

The standard way to do hit points in classic D&D is to simply roll your hit die and adjust it for Constitution at every experience level, 1st through 9th. What you roll is what you get, and if you keep getting bad rolls, tough noogies. Some or even most DMs will amend this to allow player characters maximum hit points at level one, but otherwise there isn't much call (or need) in old-school games for different procedures like you see in WotC editions—taking the average or a roll if it's higher, re-rolling 1s or 2s, etc.

The thing is, though, no player ever finds it fun getting stuck with a low hit die roll, just as no player ever particularly enjoys getting level-drained by a spectre. That shit ain't fun, and I'm not some kind of macho old-school dogmatist here to tell you that you must implement harsh rules or else you're doing it wrong.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Annual Reminder RE: this thing we call "OSR"

Every once in a while, the OSR ties itself into an existential knot. "What are we? Who are we? What are we doing here? And what is it all for?" These questions burp up to the surface of the inter-blog-o-socio-media-sphere-i-web from time to time.

I'd like to take just a moment of your time to address a few of them.

1. What is the OSR?

The OSR, or "Old School Renaissance," is a movement within the tabletop role-playing hobby centered on playing, and publishing new material for, the TSR editions of D&D.