Sunday, December 4, 2022

The Dungeon that Ate Itself

Ochre Jelly, CC0 image
by Marianna Villarreal Ruiz
 I would like to relay I'm interesting development that occurred while I was running Greg Gillespie's Highfell last night.

If you are not familiar, Highfell: the Drifting Dungeon is the second of Greg Gillespie's old- school mega-dungeons. These are huge, sprawling environments with hundreds of rooms, peppered with puzzles, traps, both classic and weird monsters, and bizarre, over-the-top factions. Highfell is a floating island that was once a college of wizards. It's made up of a collection of towers, many of which have single-floor dungeons beneath them, with the dungeon's "level" set more by the towers' distance from the center of the island then by its depth underground.

I am running as vanilla an AD&D1e game as I can; 50% of the play time has been dedicated to traditional dungeon crawling, complete with regular wandering monster rolls. My only house rules are that I'm using the B/X versions of morale and NPC reactions because they are just quicker for me to use from memory.

During their exploration of the Crumbling Collegium of Kalguumer, a sprawling 55 room dungeon filled with secret doors and pit traps, the player characters literally kicked off s bizarre chain-reaction.

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Easter Egg Guide to Deathtrap Lite


I know it's a bit cornball, but I put a lot of Easter Eggs regarding indie RPGs in my adventure game Deathtrap Lite. In places, they get to a stupid level per page. I thought I might list them out for anyone who wants to see how many they caught.

Consider each a love letter of sorts to someone I admire in indie gaming or pop culture.

Friday, November 25, 2022

3 Quirks of Player Psychology

 There are three interesting quirks of player psychology in Dungeons & Dragons (and I would say most similar role-playing games) that I have both observed for myself and have heard verified by other GMs that I wanted to share with you. 

Partially because it is worth a laugh: you will see yourself in them. And partially because a GM ought to be prepared for them. And also because they are very exploitable to increase impact in your game.

Death Before Disarmament (or Taxes...)

Despite it just being a few words written on a sheet of paper, players get really attached to their characters' treasures and equipment. Once they have it, they will fight to keep it 

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Great Resources Idea Mining

Sometimes,  when planning for a game, you look at the blank sheet of note paper and your brain just freezes. I had that problem last night when planning to start up something new with my wife. I'm lucky, insofar as I have amassed a pretty impressive library of game books.

In the name of sharing the awesome, I want to share my favorite idea mining resources with you today.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

The Relationship Between Rule Complexity & Rule Opacity

"This pitiless reptile had killed his poor companions"
Virginia Frances Sterrett (1900-1931)
 Since I've started to try to reorganize Advanced Dungeons & Dragons for my Ruins & Redcaps project, it has been really interesting taking note of what Gygax chose to share with players in the PHB, and what got moved to the DMG.

In fact, one of my big complaints when I made the shift from Mentzer Basic to AD&D in 1987 was that some things I was used to seeing in the player's book, like attack matrices and saving throws were nowhere to be found. 

It was equally aggravating a year and a half later when I finally got the AD&D2e DMG to complete my set and discovered that it didn't have saving throws, either. They had been put back in the PHB. At eight years old, running my first campaigns that moved above third level, I found myself doing extrapolations of mathematical algorithms in order to figure out what the saving throws ought to be at higher levels.

(Yes, I was one of those, kids.)

There was definitely some complicated and clashing ideas between different TSR designers about exactly how transparent Dungeons & Dragons ought to be.

Friday, November 11, 2022

Cloning AD&D to Avoid Zero Days


I have been having a rough month! Both of my sons developed croup a while back, and no sooner did my oldest recover from that, but he and my wife each brought another virus home. So, I've been intending with croup, the flu, and a Norovirus all at the same time. Amazingly, in spite of all the bedclothes I've changed, baths I've given, and laundry I've done, I have managed to avoid getting infected with any of it myself.

With a lot of long nights spent sitting vigil over my family, my creative energy has been next to zero. I have had neither the creativity to continue working on The Depths of the Eternal Ocean, or to continue editing and refining the presentation of Deathtrap Lite. Valkyrie remains a slow movie side project intended to catch my thoughts while working on Eternal Ocean.

Needless to say, I haven't really wanted to lose my writing time. In fact, I have been aggressively grabbing time for myself whenever I can. So, I started yet another project. A much less demanding one. This one is for dipping into when I have the time, and probably won't be ready for a very long time. 

The project is intended to be a faithful reproduction of AD&D's rules.

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

In Case You Missed It, volume 1

 I am a relative latecomer to the OSR, and it means that I have missed a lot.

Blissful Ignorance

For decades, I enjoyed my gaming hobby in relative isolation. I have never been to a convention.  I only read Dragon for a brief stretch from 1992-1995, I have only played a few sessions of Shadowrun Missions at my FLGS. And while I was pretty active on the official D&D forum for about three years, I didn't pay much mind to hobby news, and didn't stay with it when they migrated the servers in 2005. 

In general I have been content to play Dungeons & DragonsRIFTS, GURPS, Mage, and Shadowrun  (with the odd game of HōL) with close friends and family, and be done with it. You can be very happy in this hobby ignoring what is going on behind the scenes.

When Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition came out, WotC let slip on a podcast that two years worth of D&D3.5e products: the second round of Complete X, Races of X, the PHB II, and The Book of Nine Swords had all been just playtest material for 4th edition; they had used the culture of heavy rules chatter they'd fostered in the forums to turn them into a test lab, and had never really intended to support the material in those books after the edition rollover. I was incensed, and started looking for alternatives to D&D. I opted for Patfinder because it was familiar and compatible with my 3e collection. 

I didn't discover the OSR until I had two small children, and couldn't get very much gaming in. I found that 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons was simply too cumbersome a system, and you couldn't actually accomplish a lot in the little time that I had for gaming. I wanted a game where you could get a lot more done in the time I had. And I remembered how quickly things moved back when I was a kid playing AD&D I'd remembered hearing about Labyrinth Lord,  and started looking for mire info. And so it was just a few weeks before I started this blog that I got interested in the OSR. But this means that I have missed over a decade of cool stuff.