Blood & Treasure 2e is out!

The immensely  prolific  John M. Stater  has released the first book of the latest edition  of Blood & Treasure. While it has elements  of a 1e retroclone, the game has some of the better features from 3e, namely Feats, as an optional set of rules.

There are 13 basic classes, with something  close to forty variant sub-classes; a slight modification to duelist gives you archer, the bard can be a jester, and a monk can be adjusted to be a ninja or a ronin.  Clerics  can be specialty priests, with simple equitable alterationd, magic users can specialize by college, and Sorcerers may have one of several  bloodlines.

Best of all, humans don’t  seem to be lacking when stacked  against the other races, because they get a sizeable xp bonus, and the GM (called Treasure Keeper)’s choice  of either an extra feat, if they are being used, or a bonus to Saves. To me, this feels like template  balancing, and I like it far more than level limits, which this game has none of.

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The system flows smoothly, the presentation  is great, and there are seven pieces of my art in this book, with more to follow with the companion pieces.

You can get it here. Now hop to it!

 

 

Dark Albion: Cults of Chaos, a quick review

As a heavy user of the Cultist  template from  DF15, I find this gaming supplement  wery useful. It is chock-full  of thematic woodcuts, and even has art by my friend Jack Badashski   (see his other products  here). The setting is  specific to a darkly fantastic  15th century England, but the cults, varied in membership by social strata, aim and practice are sufficiently  generic as to apply to most  stettings. Get it in print for fifteen bucks, or in pdf for half that.

Adapting this for GURPS is fairly easy, as many of the chaos born mutations that active cultists suffer from translate easily to assorted advantages and disadvantages, from unnatural  features  to winged flight to monstrous appearance, and in many cases, Social Stigma: Monster. Excommunicated  is probably a given for most of them, along with Secret (Death or imprisonment).

Getting a little farther along …

Moving along with this project… statted out two more classes… only three to go before I   get down to the nitty-gritty  of the adventure itself.  My little writing project has take quite a bit of inspiration  from the tower of Zenopus  from the Holmes book,and a little from one of the  illustrations  in my stock art.

 

Update: finished off the two race as class distillations from Sean Punch’s  Pyramid article, facing the harsh reality that 75 points  gets you less and less once you start with mandatory pricey advantages. The adventurer class is underway, and seems to fare better in build than either elf or dwarf, despite having Jack of All Trades and Luck as mandatory  items. Perhaps my recent Appendix N reading has helped with that.

A Low level adventure in the works

I haven’t  been able to post properly of late, as my house, game books, and computer has been packed up while my landlord takes care of something , and will remain so for a few weeks. This has not kept me from maddly scribbling away in a few small notebooks.

I have been asked by a number  of my S&W friends how GURPS  DF plays when compared  to an OSR product, and I think I  may have found a way to let them try. I am currently  statting up an introductory  game using both 1st level S&W characters and rules together with 75 point GURPS  characters and GURPS  Lite.

Why 75 points? I think that point level runs closest to 1st level, and besides, the 62pt 0 level characters fromPeter Dell’Orto’s  DF15: Henchmen  are lacking things like power investiture and magery, but they do form the basis for the characters, along with Sean Punch’s  article Races as Professions in Pyramid 3/50.

Hopefully, I   can get this written up as a downloadable pdf in a week or two.

Borderland Provinces: a Review

About a month ago, I entered a contest for Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day by writing a blog entry, and recently I received a free PDF copy of Frog God Games Borderland Provinces. Currently, I am about seventy pages into its two hundred and fifty two pages, but there is enough good stuff already that I have to share.

This was a great win, and one that became more poignant to me when I found out that the Art Director and Layout Artist for the project was Chuck Wright.  He has recently been going through a lot, and the link connects to his gofundme pages, set up by his work family at FRog God Games. They are selling a product to help support him. I was minimally involved, as were a great many, through Erik Tenkar, whjo heavily promoted the charity, encouraging many publishers to contribute incentives to donate to Chuck’s cause.As soon as I get contact info from Erik, I will be sending out someveral of my Stock Art PDF’s.

borderland Provinces is one of the most detailed Gazetteers I have ever run into, and I had both of the boxed sets of Greyhawk and Forgotten Realms.  The layout and use of font sizes flows smoothly and the charts are well placed and readable. While being highly detailed, it is not overly restricting, and has tons of customizable territory.

The two features that are most appealing to me are the use of Tech Levels and the format of the Stat blocks for the territories and Cities.  Those of you who follow my blog know that I primarily play GURPS Dungeon Fantasy, and while I love S&W, my interest is largely larcenous.  Rarely do I find a feature that translates so neatly into GURPS.  Tech Levels have been with GURPS for a very long time. They both indicate the availability of specific types of gear, and also describe a little of the world of the setting.  The tech levels in Borderland provinces are a little bit finer that the general TL3 to early TL4 that is the default for Gurps Dungeon Fantasy, and I think it helps.

The Stat blocks for Cities seem to be a good fit for GURPS City Stats, which I do not own, but have seen previews of.  These stat blocks, which while expanded into specifics in the body of text, give quick insight into the degree of lawlessness, civic corruption, population demographics and monthly purchasing power of the area. The last is significant, as it indicates how much of the dungeon spoils can be sold in the area without having to travel.

The flavor text is useful, and had me thinking a little of Sprague De Camp, who I am reading concurrently.  There are cities where you cannot engage in commerce without a hat of the right sort, and hamlets where they only trade in chickens because any other barter is sinful. The heraldry has literal significance also; don’t attack the town with the dragon on its flag if you know what’s good for you.

For conversions, I make a lot of use of Peter Dell’Orto‘s DF 15:Henchmen in populating my gameworld, using the five tiers of fighter type: Men at arms grade 62 point guard,  3rd to 5th level equivalent 125 point Squire or brute, 5th to 7th level equivalent 187point Veteran Guard,  7th to 8th level equivalent PC grade 250 point knight,  and Name level equivalent 375 point veteran knight.

There are one or two other areas that need addressing in this way, such as 1st-3 level fighter types, who I build by adding the following 30point template to Guards:

Battle Hardened [30pts]

combat reflexes [15] 8 points to primary weapon skill, 4 points to secondary weapon skill or shield, 2 points to background skills( probably tactics) and 1 point toward guard perks like teamwork, shieldwall training and sacrificial block.

The listed leaders (Overlords, high Sheriffs, Barons) would also tend to have 50-125 points worth of IQ+1 [20], Born War leader [5/+1], Status [5/+1], Rank [5/+1] Wealth [10-30], Allies [in groups of 10+ at 62 point or greater level] and skills in Diplomacy, heraldry, Politics, Leadership and Strategy.

One thing that Borderland Provinces does is slip in non combatant classes indicative of personal power, like HD in Aristocrat or commoner. These are a fairly easy conversion.

Most of the 4-6 HD aristocrats would be built on the Agent Template, with Politics, Heraldry and Diplomacy as the primary skills, and Merchant, law and leadership as  secondary, adding in Riding and falconry into background skills.

Overall this a worthwhile sandbox to own, whether you are looking for a broader world to embed Rappan Athuk into (it’s on the map) or even B2.

 

 

The material presented here is my original creation, intended for use with the GURPS system from Steve Jackson Games. This material is not official and is not endorsed by Steve Jackson Games.

 

Things I am grateful for about S&W

GURPS  is my home, and has been ever since 1989, but half of what I steal in tone and content come from the byproducts  of the OSR.  The game I run is Dungeon  Fantasy, which was essentially  Steve Jackson  Games attempt to recreate the feel of mid to late eighties  dungeon delving. This came about around the same time as the reaction against D&D 4e, and in aroundabout way, makes it a relation, if a very distant one, to some of the OSR, if only tonaly and not mechanically.

In addition to Swords & Wizardry  based content in my game and my pdf library, there is S&W based money in my wallet. Not only have I been making a small, but appreciable  amount of pocket change selling my OSR friendly  stock art, but a much larger collection of coinage has come my way because of one member of the S&W community  has been buying it directly. John Stater has been my primary  patron, and in addition to being extremely prolific, he has directly comissioned dozens of illustrations  from me; check out these two that are boing to be in Nod 29:

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Go out and buy it as soon as it hits drivethrurpg. And save your pennies for the second edition of Blood and Treasure, which is out inthe very near future, believe me I will blitz it, for while I gain nothing financial from any of his sales, they do spread my work around.

I am also working on a largish stock project, for the S&W Whitebox derived WhiteStar.  Here is some of that work:

Look for  it in the months ahead, in a more refined form.

Traffic Patterns and Art Sales

I have been reviewing  my blog traffic. While I owe a lot of views from Peter Dell’Orto’s mention of Northport  over on his blog, I have also gotten a lot of visitors as a result of my inclusion  in Douglas Coĺe’s GURPSDAY  listings on his blog, and I had a great  mention on Benjamin  Guaronskas’ blog. I also just became a patron of Erik Tankar, and am listed there also, and there should be a serious uptick from that.

Tenkar also introduced  a feature on his blog that allowa reviewing and promotion by OSR producers, publishers, artist and bloggers. I have several listings there.

Despite a blitz on G+, my most recent sales report from drivethrurpg  was not very hopeful. I could see a slight boost in sales from the GM’s day sale, but only one person bought my Wizard stock art. I happen to know who it was, and it was John M. Stater, the hyper-prolific game designer behind Blood & Treasure, Bloody Basic,and Grit & Vigor, and my primary patron for whom I have produced many commissions. As one of the characters in Wizards was featured in one of those commissions, in a different  pose (being snatched up by a stone golem)stone golem0001

it suits perfectly that his other pose wind up in B&T for continuity.

The robe pattern, by the way, came from Alastair, one of my muses.

 

Blueholme

I have played some form of role playing games since 1980 when the Magenta box Basic Rules and the AD&D player’s handbook found their way under the Christmas tree.  I played through second edition AD&&D, along with a cluster of games and systems; Palladium, Arcanum, Gamma World, Paranoia, Star Frontiers, Cyberpunk 2020, Shadowrun, MSH, DC Heroes, Toon, WoD, CoC and GURPS. That last became a fast favorite, until my circle of friends drifted apart, and I stopped playing games, somewhere between having small children, and the advent of RPOL.net. I began again, a few years after the OSR began, and have spent a few years gearing up with the latest edition of GURPS Dungeon Fantasy.

I have also been spending the same time reading through the wonderful OSR offerings found on Lulu, Drivethrurpg.com and various home pages of assorted authors using the OGL to try and recreate what they felt to be a faithful and nostalgic version of the games we grew up rolling dice for.  I have been through dozens and dozens of these, from Dark Dungeons to Darker Dungeons, Swords & Wizardry, OSRIC, Labyrinth Lord and many more excellent products, but one particular one caught my attention.

Long ago, a friend had given me a copy of the Holmes Bluebook that they had found in a thrift shop. It was delightful, but awkward in places, having played through a few editions by that point. In my later occasions of nostalgia, I found more beauty within it. Then one day, cruising through the “Free” section of Drivethrurpg, I found the Blueholme Prentice Rules.Even better, was a suggestion on the page that I pick up the accompanying starter adventure, The Maze of Nuromen. Both of these gaming products are edited by +Michael Thomas.  His Blog is Dreamscape Designs.

Why Blueholme, out of the entire trove of OSR goodness? It has a certain elegance of mechanics not found in a few earlier versions (and many later versions) of the game.  There are three aspects to the simplicity and clarity of the rules that struck me, and of which I heartily approve.

Firstly, initiative flows based not from a derived modifier, but from a simple base statistic; Dexterity, with further ties resolved by a quick contest of D6. Making one roll for each encounter still happens, but the likelihood of the problem of simultaneous action is minimized, smoothing combat.

Secondly, basic, and simple attribute modifiers are given for most humanoid races, opening the field for the possibility of playing almost any race.  The proposed Compleat rules will address this further. Additionally, the simple suggestion of scaling monster Hit Dice, Hit points and Armor Class to meet the level of the party guarantees that the players will never find their encounters predictable or pushovers. The GM is effectively recommended to give the monsters class levels. I love it.

The third thing I like ifs that multiclassing is open to all races, and the rules are simple: the level advancement cost is a flat total of each class: no half class advancement; Hit dice rolled and averaged once per level. No fractions.

This collective set of modifications, and the fluid way in which they are presented echo after what I like about GURPS, and it makes me like the system more. These are streamlined, simplified rules, not complications.

In addition to these aspects of the  ruleset, there are two other major reasons I like this game; the Art style and the tone.

The artwork, at the moment, excepting the great cover by Jean-Francis Beaulieu is open source, and assembled by John-Calvin Smith.  The Prentice rules feature artwork by Henry J. Ford and Victor R. Lambdin, and what really transfixed me was the art used in Justin Becker’s The Maze of Nuromen is by Harry Clarke. This made me an instant fan. There is a lot of accessible art out there, but the particular selections Mr. Smith made have an awesome tonality to them. Harry Clarke designed a lot of stained glass windows in his time, and his bold and convoluted engravings reflect this, and also seem to have been an inspiration for the work of Russ Nicholson. The work by Clarke included was mostly from a series of illustrations he did for a collected work of Edgar Allen Poe, and has a pre-pulp weird fantasy look to it.

There is a tone in the writing that I am going to have to refer to as Old School.  When I played 2e AD&D, there was a tendency to explain away everything with in game mechanics. If there were undead around someone interested in necromancy, they had to be level 5+ and equipped with Animate Dead. This is much less mechanistic; Gladiatorial skeletons in the Maze of Nuromen are there because the place is cursed, and they will keep on reanimating independent to the current intentions of the Big Bad Evil Guy. Boom. Things are because they are, without fiddly bits of how they came to be. That is weird, that is the flavor I used to find looking through Gygaxian writing, and more importantly, in Dr. John Holmes own writing.  Not too long after picking up Blueholme, I ordered a copy of The Maze of Peril from the publisher, and was absolutely delighted. That book was full of weird things without in-game explanations, things that felt fluid and right in their context, without need of exposition.

The bronze speaking masks, the clever traps, the flow and feel of the details of the Maze of Nuromen are perfectly on point in this way, and brought me back to a place of nostalgia I hadn’t quite been at since I first cracked open the Basic book with the Errol Otus illustration.  Similar to both of the Basic books I own, the sample combats and encounters are presented in a way that is engaging and easily understood. the Prentice rules work well as an introduction to the hobby, and handles the feel of appendix N work more than adequately.

The other important thing this game did for me, as I saw the development of the Compleat rules, was a request for contributing artists. Now, that project is on hold, but it jumpstarted my artwork. Since I started trying to draw Old School Fantasy art, I have had four commissions. One pro-bono, two paid and one for barter. My interaction with this game has led to my becoming a better and more productive artist. I even ended up with art in Tim Short’s OSR fanzine The Manor. I would love to work on the project if it resumes, but even if it doesn’t, The Prentice rules still stand, and are worth playing.