Guide to the OSR for the Perplexed

Currently making the rounds is a questionnaire from Zak S. Not someone I follow personally, but someone known to make a good random table.

1. One article or blog entry that exemplifies the best of the Old School Renaissance for me:

Pricipia Apocrypha
2. My favorite piece of OSR wisdom/advice/snark:

Not every encounter is going to be your level
3. Best OSR module/supplement:

Kabuki Kaiser’s Ruins of the Undercity The very first OSR item I purchased.
4. My favorite house rule (by someone else):

I cannot remember who wrote it, but there was a great ruling for choosing to let shields  break to absorb the damage of a hit that would otherwise  bypass the armor class. It Jives well with The Thirteenth Warrior.
5. How I found out about the OSR:

W.J.Walton’s RPG Advocate @the Escapist.com where I encountered links to my first retroclone: Dark Dungeons
6. My favorite OSR online resource/toy:

OBS
7. Best place to talk to other OSR gamers:

G+ for the longest
8. Other places I might be found hanging out talking games:

MeWe, This blog, Facebook, Discord, anywhere you find me in meatspace.
9. My awesome, pithy OSR take nobody appreciates enough: 

Henchmen make awesome backup characters
10. My favorite non-OSR RPG:

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy. OSR sensibilities, built on an engine I like better.
11. Why I like OSR stuff:

I get work from it. I love the feel of games that remind me of the early eighties, when I had the magenta box and the phb, and I have always wanted to draw like Tramp, Sutherland and Russ. Now I do, and my work is featured in quite a few product lines, B&T, Blueholme, S&WCL and a number of zines.
12. Two other cool OSR things you should know about that I haven’t named yet:

James Garrison’s truly weird gaming blog, Hereticwerks and John Stater. He is insanely prolific, writing for Swords & Wizardry, and Blood & Treasure and dozens of Bloody Basic Variants, including Grit & Vigor. I love his stuff, and that is not just because he is my primary art patron. Buy his stuff, I am all over it.
13. If I could read but one other RPG blog but my own it would be:

Peter Dell’Orto’s Dungeon Fantastic. It is what got me gaming again.
14. A game thing I made that I like quite a lot is: 

Beneath the Fallen Tower. It is published for S&WCL, and I blog a bunch about it, including actual play and conversion notes to my prefered system.
15. I’m currently running/playing:

I run a GURPS Dungeon Fantasy game play by post here, and have since 2013. I am always taking on new players.
16. I don’t care whether you use ascending or descending AC because:

I grew up on THAC0. I prefered to use Len Lokafka’s 5% tables, because  THAC10 was better at describing how low HD critters were; most of them hit AC3 on a 20. I can do the math, it goes either way.
17. The OSRest picture I could post on short notice: 

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This one is exclusively to be found here, I got paid double for exclusivity, but I can draw you one a lot like this one if you want.

I can be reached for commissions at Gwythaint.ny@gmail.com

you can support my patreon here

and get a quick prospectus of my work here

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Blood & Treasure Monster Book II is now available!

I have been contributing illustrations to John Starter Stater’s Zine Nod and to the second edition of his excellent Swords & Wizardry variant, Blood & Treasure.

After two years of work, he has finally released the Blood & Treasure Monster Book II.

I have 16 illustrations in the volume, 14 of which were commissioned specially for it, but there is so much more than my work to recommend it. Over a dozen artists have their work here, and as good as their work is, it is the text they are illustrating that is the star.

The volume of mythological resources mined for this are staggering, and the content ranges the gamuunt from oozes, to extraplanar creatures, undead, dragons, mutant dinosaurs and fey creatures.

The pdf can be got at OBS for $9.99.

The rest of B&T can be found here digitally, and here in print.

You can get the art seen above here.

As always, you can support my work on patreon!

Hall of Judgement, The Nun and progress on Heritage Mini’s

My kickstarter rewards for backing Douglas Cole‘s DFRPG supplement The Hall of  have arrived: Dungeon Grappling (which had its genesis in an article he wrote with Peter Dell’Orto for Tim Shorts‘ zine The Manor) I got these not only because I am a GURPS DF completist, and because I want to support 3rd party GURPS products, so that there will be more of them, but also because of the art. Doug had reached out to me at the beginning of the DG project, but I wasn’t able to work for him because I only digify black and white; I am not proficient enough in illustrator and its ilk to do digital color. (I will paint in acrylics for you (with very little editing possible), but give me specific proportions. I messed up a commission for Charlie Mason by painting it 8×10, and he needed 6×9) The art he chose to use is pretty damn good. He got Gennifer Bone, Michael Clarke, Juan Ochoa, Rick Troula, and Christian Villacis and also John Blaszscyk, Gerasimos Kolokas, Rick Toula, Roland Warzecha, Cornelia Yoder, and Dan Roy. Both books have a nice polished, high end feel to them.

Being largely norse in theme, here is not a lot I would use directly in my faux 14th century France clone game, but there a quite a lot of nice critters in the bestiary that  I do intend to use, and a very thoughtful implementation of humanoids as Fay creatures rather than rival hominids that makes me think of  Alan Gardner’s handling of the svart-alfar in The Weirdstone of Brisingamen.  I also have to implement the Damage Resistance trait from DFRPG for my creatures that are resistant to non-magical weapons, instead of making them all unkillable… like these.

Now, I just blew a couple of Black Tickets to see The Nun, which is Super-Catholic B-Movie Schlock in JamesWan’s shared universe of The Conjuring and Annabelle. Every haunted castle trope was used, but the set! The set was the thing that kept you from imagining that this was an old Hammer Film. It was a terrific castle with dungeons and a backstory that screams for gamification.  Scooby doo style splitting of the party at the worst possible times, innovative use of  (limited number of uses) Artifact, good boss monster, heavy Ravenloft atmosphere, and a bullshit excuse of why their Romanian guide spoke English. If you plan on running a game with these elements, it is worth watching for that alone.

The Miniatures that I deeply indebted myself to obtain are now primed. These are the 8 minis from the Crypt of the Sorcerer on the left ( fighter, wizard, dwarf, hobbit vs orc, skeleton, troll and sorcerer in the back row) and Caverns of Doom on the right (Back row: imp, vampire, skeletons, spider, rats, Dragon, ooze, Hobgoblin vs cleric, barbarian, elf, a different wizard, that same fighter and a thief).  I will update (infrequently I am sure) as I continue painting them.  What I wouldn’t give for the paints that came with the old heritage sets, their chainmail color was great, one of the closest matches I have found is Aquatec’s  pewter paint, but the consistency is different. I may have to use silver ish craft paint and use an ink wash to get the right effect.

Return of the Blue Baron

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I recently contributed a puzzle room to a collaborative Dungeon project, grab it here for free!

Also keep in mind that I have demonic stock art for sale here

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I recently git a chance to play some tabletop GURPS, in an Infinite Workds game, where I played a Technomancer.

Here is my character:

Milton was an employee of Necrotech, and had served as a handler for Z company during the war in Viet Nam. In 1987 he was involved in an experimental dimensional gate project that ended up opening a rift, a catastrophe  that eventually led to him being recruited by ITWAS.

 

Milton Collins

Attributes: 140 Adv: 135 Dis: -100 q:-5 Skills: 35 Spells: 45 Total: 250

ST: 11 [10] DX: 12 [40] IQ:14 [80] HT:11 [10]

HP: 11 [0] Per: 14*[0] Will: 14 [0] FP: 11 [0]

T/S: 1d-1/1d+1 BL:24 lbs

BS: 6.75 MV: 6 Dodge:10 brawl parry: 10 knife parry:10

Advantages: [135]

[50] Gadgeteer

[5] Gizmo

[25] Magery 2

[5] Resistant to Metabolic Hazards

[15] Unfazeable

[15] Combat Reflexes

[15] ISWAT law enforcement Powers

[1] good with undead

[1] Cultural Familiarity: Vietnamese

[3] Vietn3 spoken: Accented /written:broken

 

Disadvantages: [-100]

[-20] Constant Hazardous Duty to ISWAT

[-15] Weirdness Magnet

[-5] Sense of Duty, Companions

[-10] Lifebane (exposure to excess necromantic radiation)

[-10] Nearsightedness,  mitigated by glasses

[-10] Clueless

[-5] Flashbacks

[-5] Light Sleeper

[-10] Addict, Marijuana

 

Quirks:[-5]

Really into Vietnamese food, noisy eater, creepily comfortable around dead things, claustriphillic, bites his nails

 

SKILLS: [35]

Soldier IQ/E [1] 14

Parachuting DX/A [1] 11

Survival, Jungle Per/A [1] 13*

First Aid TL7+1 IQ/E [1] 14

Guns TL7+1 DX/E [2] 13

Brawling DX/E [1] 12

Knife DX/E [1] 12

Throw knife DX/E [1] 12

Beam Weapons TL7+1 [1] 12

Innate Attack (lightning) DX/E [1] 12

Hazmat NBC TL7+1 IQ/A [1] 13

Computer Programming TL 7+1 IQ/H [1] 12

Research TL 7+1 IQ/A [2] 14

Speed Reading IQ/A [1] 13

Mathematics IQ/H [1] 12

Physics IQ/H [1] 12

Weird Science! IQ/VH [4] 13

Occultism IQ/A [1] 13

Thaumatology IQ/VH [1] 13’

Thanatology IQ/H [1] 12

Engineering, Electronics TL7+1 [4] 14

Electronics op, Sensors TL7+1 [1] 13

                       Necrotech TL 7+1 [2] 14

                        Parachronic TL 8 [1] 13

 

Spells [45]

Knowledge:   Detect Magic [1] 14

                     Seek Magic [1] 14

                     Identify Spell [1] 14

                     Analyze Magic [1] 14

Light & Dark: Light [1] 14

                     Continual Light [1] 14

                     Magelight [1] 14

Movement:    Apportation [1] 14

                     Locksmith [1] 14

P&W :            Missile Shield [2] 15

                     Magelock [1] 14

Healing:         Lend Energy [1] 14

                      Recover Energy [2] 15

                      Lend Vitality [1] 14

M&B               Find Weakness [1] 14

Fire                 Ignite Fire [1] 14

Water              Seek Water [1] 14

Earth               Seek Earth [1] 14

Air                   Purify Air [1] 14

                       Create Air [1] 14

                       Odor [1] 14

                        No-Smell [1] 14

                         Stench [1] 14

                         Lightning [1] 14

                         Resist Lightning [2] 15

E&C                  Sense Life [1] 14

                         Sense Foes [2] 15

Necromantic      Death Vision [1] 14

                          Sense Spirit [1] 14

                           Summon Spirit [1] 14

                           Zombie [1] 14

                           Control Zombie [1] 14

                           Skull Spirit [2] 15

Technology          Seek Machine [1] 14

                            Reveal Function [1] 14

                            Glitch [1] 14

                             Malfunction [1] 14

                             Machine Summoning [1] 14

                              Machine Speech [2] 15

Gate                       Beacon [1] 14

                              Seek Gate [1] 14

                              Scry Gate [1] 14

                              Control Gate [1] 14

Equipment

Electronics toolkit $200

Military fatigue jacket,

Cargo pants, tie dye shirt

Combat boots $80

Dufflebag $40

Re-cased Mac with roll-up keyboard, box of magelocked floppies,$1200

Human skull                    

Assorted electronic components

Hazmat suit $200

Additional equipment acquired in game were a 10pt manastone, a bong made iut of Trinitite that boosted the mana kevel, and a lead jar containing 5 .38 rounds of SPDN. We had a great time, and I want to play again, but am not sure when I can.

 

Support my Patreon!

Seven of the Best Things

cawptrueharp

I have to start with Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain.

My first brush with an epic fantasy series, This was initially read to me, and I finished the series myself at a young age. Enchanters, Oracular Pigs,  the first undead I had heard of that were not Universal Monsters like Dracula or the Mummy, this series had the Cauldron Born and a Lich. Seriously, someone takes ego damage from a sword in this series, and the Ranger has an Animal Companion.  Awesome character arc, from assistant pig keeper to the High King. I later got hold of the rare children’s books that provide backstory to the tales, The Foundling, Coll and his White Pig, and The Truthful Harp, definitely the tale of how hard it is to become an old school bard. Also worth recommending from Alexander are The First Two Lives of Lukas Kasha, The Wizard in the Tree, and The Westmark Series.

The War Eagles of Arawn, King of Anwyn in The Chronicles of Prydain are also where I drew my moniker Gwythaint from.

ghbow.jpg

A book we had knocking around the house, which a recent conversation with Zeb Cook informed me was actually inspirational to the Monster Manual, is Barbara Ninde Byfield’s The Glass Harmonica, A Lexicon of the Fantastical. Since republished as Book of the Weird, it can be got used from Amazon with some difficulty, as all kinds of gamers are trying to snatch this baby up.  It is an Encyclopedia of weird and witty entries of all kinds of things medieval and really fits with the style of gaming I like. I loved the art and the complexity of the entries.

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The 1978 Dawn of the Dead, with everyone trying to survive zombies in a shopping mall got me on the Zombie train early. I had always loved horror, but I saw this one with my Dad, and it resonated as gaming inspiration immediately. I could not get enough of this genre, much to the disgust of my wife. I even tried to incorporate some of it into B2, keep on the Borderlands, and have been statting out every building I worked in in a variety of systems for Zpoc survivability.

 

My Dad’s Pulp Collection

Most of Appendix N was on that set of shelves, from Fritz Leiber to Michael Moorcock, Lin Carter, Sprague De Camp, Robert E Howard, A. Merrit, and H.P Lovecraft. When my folks split, I swallowed these things whole, embarking on a multi-library quest to read through the list in the back of the DMG. The Goblin Tower, The Unbeheaded King, The Clocks of Iraz, The Tritonian Ring, all of it awesome stuff. And then there was this.

wsb

Elidor, the Owl Service,  and the Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Gardner.

The Owl Service was more Welsh Mythology, Like the Chronicles of Prydain, and Elidor was pretty Narnia-esque. Brisingamen on the other hand, gave me the willies. I have very mild claustrophobia, but this like few other things (The Descent and As Above, So Below) gave me heart palpitations.Such a visceral read for a piece of YA Fantasy. A really great depiction of both Dwarves and Goblins in this thing.

 

The Magenta Box

magenta box

Originally intended as a gift for my Fantasy loving older sister, I claimed the Moldvay Basic set with the Erol Otus cover as my own, along with the Trampier covered PHB that we got at the same time as my own. That shit made ideas explode in my head, and I just loved all of the art. I wanted to be Tramp! I love the Willingham dragonstrike, and the Erol Otus giant snake. What really flipped me out though, was

fiendfolio

The Fiend Folio.

Man, I love me some Russ.. My whole drawing style is cribbed from him. I won a costume contest back in college dressed as a Githyanki, and I am going out on a limb here, and saying that that dude on the cover is wearing a helmet, the line pattern that Russ uses for hair is hella tight compared to that thing. I loved the weirdness, the warty, age spotted creep factor of Nicholson’s art in that book, and when I made the mistake fifteen years ago of giving my stuff away, the Fiend Folio was one of the first that I bought.to back to rebuild my collection. Absolutely one of those times when the PDF does not cut it..

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 15 – Henchmen.

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Peter Dell’orto wrote a blog that got me back into gaming, called Dungeon Fantastic. Since then I have gone whole hog into this game system, which is now a standalone game . I played a lot of 3e GURPS in the eighties and early nineties, mostly playing horror games using the Chaosium Call of Cthulhu sourcebooks and the GURPS ruleset, but this is something different, Old school feel with what I think of a better mechanics. The henchmen book is full of templates for building lower power characters, and Peter wrote that too. Regular DF runs at 250 points, roughly equivalent to characters who are 6-th to 8th level in AD&D, and the lower point templates bring back the feel of the kind of games I was always starting with my friends. We rarely made it past 5th level, and only once did I make it to 8th. A while back I put out a supplement for it.

 

Honorable Mentions:

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Steven Brust’s The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars

This book, by the same author who brought us the D&D inspired Vlad Taltos series, is a frame story about a group of artists in a shared studio, wrapped around a Hungarian folk tale told by one of them about a fantastic quest,. The fairy tale is interesting, the description of the process of painting was really striking to me, having read the book while studying fine art, and the chapter headings are all titles of paintings that establish a third layer of story.  There is a lot of other good work by Brust, including Brokedown Palace, and To Reign in Hell, The Phoenix Guard, to say nothing of Agyar, one of the best stories in its genre that manages not to tell you what genre that is until three quarters of the way through the book.

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Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Cycle, featuring Kvothe the…bard?

Not only is it superior to both Harry Potter and The Magicians for describing life in a magical university, and mind you I love both Rowling and Grossman, but it is the most epic telling of the building of a multiclassed character. Kvothe is introduced as an innkeeper, and was a travelling performer, a professional musician, skilled alchemical artificer, magician, swordsman, and he knows the secret name of the wind. None of these accomplishments came to him easily, and his attitude keeps him from getting things his way.  There are elements of Patricia McKillip’s Riddlemaster series here, but unlike the protagonist of that series, Rothfuss’s character drives his own fate instead of having it written in the stars.

 

 

 

Session Recap of Beneath the Fallen Tower Playtest at Manhattan Minicon 3

The Swords & Wizardry Continual Light game I just released, Beneath the Fallen Tower had a warm reception when I ran it two weeks ago at the Manhattan Gamer’s Guild event. Players included Erik Tenkar and his wife Rachel, Noah Green, Miguel and Patrick. Miguel rolled a spectacularly average halfling thief, even though we were playing with all three suggested house rules (max hp at first level, bonus clerical spell for high wisdom, and humans swap their lowest stat for 15). Because there aren’t really ability checks, or ability based skills like GURPS, and no penalties for low stats, the character, a ratcatcher working for Keela at the Wayside Inn, was very successful.

Patrick played a swashbuckler. Swashbucklers are usually a prestige class, with an extra cost for experience, but are no different in ability from thieves at first level, as everyone has the same basic hit bonus of 0 when starting. Nevertheless, his play style made the Dashing Swordsman very effective. We opted in a quick ruling from SW Complete for dual weapon use of giving the attack +1, and he made full use of it.

Rachel played an elf ranger with 15 Strength, and stacked her anti goblin bonuses effectively.  Her character was our tank, but unfortunately was cut down by the goblin chief.  I allowed a save vs death, and her character lived but was out of commission until magically healed on the way out of the dungeon.

Noah, having read the blurb about a necromancer, played a cleric of Nodens. The route they took did not end up giving him an opportunity to use his turn undead ability. A few more hours of play certainly would have done so, and his one cure wounds spell gained from a high wisdom score was very important.

Erik played a magic user, armed with the “Death spell”, sleep. He also rolled the highest stats, and being human snared an additional 15, which left him a combat monster with 15 Strength, 15 Dexterity, and 14 Intelligence. pretty much everyone took Charisma as a dump stat. When I used to play AD&D, I used Len Lakofka’s 5% tables from The Dragon, that disadvantaged sedentary types at low levels, and made fighters more effective, and the DF lite stats I worked up pretty much echoed that frame of mind. Erik’s character would not be a 75 pointer, but something closer to 150 points, and far more effective in combat because of the flatly even attack rolls everyone had.

I was calling the group the Champion Wiffle Ball Team because of the sheer amount of low die rolls going on. Erik disarmed himself at least twice during the game, and the only advantage was that their opponents were largely in the same boat.

Due to low charisma, very few rumors of use surfaced, and the group was focused on rescuing Wyatt.Wyatt0001.png Wyatt Ferris is a gamer who left us far too soon, and in this game, he was a merchant and 1st level bard, who attempted to take his four retainers and 3 mules laden with goods through the long abandoned north road through the forest, instead of taking the long way around. The group had a lot of fun flashing his wanted poster while holding their hands over the part that spelled out a reward.

Their trip up the road led them to encounter the Duke’s men, who were only satisfied that they weren’t bandits when they partially displayed the poster. They ran into the deer being chased by the wolves, and lost a mule to them. Then they encountered the pilgrims, who were going to “hasten the arrival of the god who comes” but avoided hostilities with them, even though they suspected them of being evil cultists, partly because they also ran into the fleeing peasants and some elves who gave them elven rations. both groups had suspicions about the shrine, and a little interaction between Noah’s character and the pilgrims confirmed the bias.

One thing about SWCL that I really liked, is that there is no alignment. While this certainly promotes conflict free murder hobo behavior, it also promotes a lot more parlaying, and makes things like wholesale slaughter more morally ambiguous.

They also encountered the young ogre, who they fed and added to their party.  He proved himself useful punching out wolves in the dungeon, and successfully returned him to mama on the way back.

The route by which they entered the dungeon proved very fortuitous; out of the three possible entrances, they took the covered well used by the bugbears. Now there were multiple ways in and out, but I had them all drawn fairly close to each other, so I cannot say that the dungeon was well Jacquayed. Janelle Jacquays does a lot in her designs to avoid railroading and creating quantum ogres, and my dungeon pretty much led directly to the goblins no matter which way you entered, but there was a certain advantage to sneaking in the back way; it put them two doors away from the prisoners and let them achieve their objective with minimal combat.  On the other hand, they used their one sleep spell to get rid of the Bugbears who were attacking them in the secret tunnels and their one healing spell immediately afterward, and had to rely on their wits from that point.

Naturally, there was an immediate plan to use a keg of oil to attack the goblins, but they used it to block their pursuers instead of risking catching the ogre in the flames.

They suspected Wyatt of having colluded with the goblins, until they realized he had just charmed the jailor in order to hold out until the ransom was paid.  I had included other prisoners Keep of the Borderlands style as potential replacement characters, but with only one near fatality, and a short time to play, they weren’t needed.

On the way back, they met with Mama ogre, the tinker, and a bunch of bandits wearing the soldier’s gear, who they promptly Slept, and took back to town as prisoners for a reward. All totaled their main loot came from the reward money, with only a few coins pocketed along the way; a good thing I wasn’t calculating out experience based on GP.

This adventure was set up with 4 different boss level fights, but the group only dealt with one, the bugbears, and avoided conflict with the ogress by returning her son safely. As to Aurelia and Melchior, they never met them.

As an added note, I really have to thank Mike Badolato for helping me with the vast amount of editing that had to be done after my initial passes through spellcheck. the late stages of the manuscript for the adventure had oodles of GURPS references in them ( like 1d-1 instead of 1d6-1) and all kinds of formatting issues that came about because I had used google docs on phone, tablet, chromebook and Word on PC to edit. I don’t recommend that to anyone. There were some issues I could not repair, like the unfortunate placement of a 2d6 table in location 12, that made location 13 conform to the formatting from that section… Word whatever are we going to do with you?

Grab the game, and enjoy it!

A New Year and a Round Number

One BookShelf isn’t showing it right now, but I have 50 titles that contain my work.

The problem has to do with the most recent product featuring my stock art, the RPG Pundit’s Lion & Dragon

Despite not currently having an artist’s listing due to OBS `accidentally ` deleting the listing for this entry and then reinstating it incompletely, you can see that the book has quite a bit of my art.

There is some other lovely stock art as well, some by Jack Badashi, and several nice pieces by Henry Justice Ford. Production quality is as good as found in Dark Albion and Chaos Cults.

The system itself is very OSR, although the magic system is supposed to conform to magical traditions of the fourteenth century. There is a serious nod to DCC in the startup at 0 level with extra characters.

I was approached last year to do some work on this project, but either my rates were too high or my politics too far to the left for the Pundit’s taste, and he settled on buying a few stock bundles instead.

My family set me up with some excellent gaming and drawing things for Yule, from a light board and steel ruler, and a microphone for Discord, to a stack of gaming books for 5E, GURPS and SWCL. I love my Family!

I am looking to run a tabletop game at a minicon this month, using SWCL and Beneath the Fallen Tower. I have to get writing it…

And I have some commissions for John Stater’s monster book 2 for Blood & Treasure.