Halberds and Helmets Podcast

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This is all about Halberds and Helmets and the Old School, the Sandbox, and related things.

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2019-01-14 Episode 14

Today I used the Remove Clicks and the Compressor plugins in Audacity with the default values to attempt and improve the sound quality. And I edit the file, once again, shortening pauses and removing some uuuhms.

The topic of the day is combat: surprise, initiative, d30 rule, not using variable weapon damage, shields shall be splintered, formations, protection, targeting, retreating, fleeing. And as soon as I stopped talking I remembered a thing or two I would have wanted to add. Oh well!


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Comments on 2019-01-14 Episode 14

Things I wanted to mention:

  • covering the retreat is simply some people retreating and others staying behind, blocking the passage
  • in the open field, disengaging is harder: in the first round some people retreat and others stay behind; if the opposition then moves around the people that stayed behind in order to stay in melee with the ones retreating, then it didn’t work: the people retreating might have to resort to fleeing (and thuse to a parting shot)

I really should double check the weapons and their space requirements. See 2018-12-25 Episode 07.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-01-15 09:29 UTC

danke fuer die podcasts! habe (noch) nicht alle gehoert, die bisherigen haben mir sehr gefallen. inhaltlich und auch “sprachlich”. gut finde ich immer eigene erlebnisse, wie “bei dem und dem spiel haben wir das erlebt, ich so gehandelt.”

– Chris 2019-01-15 14:45 UTC

Heh. Und Intro Jingles mit Pocket Operators selber gemacht. :)

– Alex Schroeder 2019-01-15 16:20 UTC

ja, super, PO!

– Chris 2019-01-15 16:23 UTC

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2019-01-11 Episode 13

Skills: class abilities, the roll to open doors and bend bars, the lucky die of fate, and thieves’ skills, they can all be mapped to a 1d6 roll.


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2019-01-11 Episode 12

Retainers: make sure you agree on how many characters you all bring along. As always, just use pregens. When to make the loyalty checks.


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Comments on 2019-01-11 Episode 12

I started reworking it and got some super helpful suggestions on GitHub and now the entire section about retainers looks very different! Thanks, Björn.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-01-13 14:17 UTC

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2019-01-05 Episode 11

Basic terms, hopefully in the right order for a newbie to read: I want to make sure they understand the difference between player and player character because that can help defuse difficult situations at the table; experience points, level, hit points, saving throw, the usual stuff, nothing new; circle is what I’m trying to use instead of spell level! We use the word “level” for dungeon level, character level, and spell level. This is my attempt to talk about “spells from the first circle” instead of “first level spells.” Do you think this is going to work? I have my doubts but I’m not yet ready to give up. And finally, the two most important terms: reaction roll and morale check. Important stuff if you don’t want your game to be about combat all the time.

I didn’t talk too much about it. There’s still time to talk about it when we talk about combat rules. But combat is just one of the ways to enforce consequences. For me, it is not the core experience at the table.


  • 2010-01-25 One Page Notes: “I looked at old school dungeons, and started to like what I saw: a lot less text! At first I thought these dungeons were boring hack-n-slay expeditions, but I started to realize that this doesn’t have to be true. The most important points were the monster reaction table where you roll 2d6 and add a Charisma modifier, and morale checks where you roll 2d6 at appropriate times to see whether the enemies retreat or flee. That changes many combat situation into social situations!” I’m starting to realize the importance of reaction rolls and morale checks.
  • 2011-08-10 Darkness Beneath: “A few sessions ago, however, the party decided to investigate some more and found an entrance to the warrens. There, they started talking and got a superb reaction roll. In the end, one of the characters did some cave paintings for the troglodytes. Then they heard about the king’s treasure and wanted to see him. They started realizing how big the dungeon was with pits, unsafe areas, guards, patrols, lizards, toad knights, and more. They spoke with the king and promised to take care of the crab-men.” I love these surprises!
  • 2014-08-21 No Dice: adding more entries to the reaction table, and realizing that in the end, the reaction roll is the one thing you will keep rolling up into high level play
  • Riffing on 2d6: Reaction Rolls by Peter Fröhlich compares the 2d6 roll to other ways of doing it
  • Why B/X Is My Favorite #10: The Reaction Roll subsytem and Why B/X Is My Favorite #16: The BEST morale system EVER!, both by P Armstrong, with with the best blog post series on B/X!
  • 2012-03-20 Not Smart Enough: reaction role and morale checks help me be an impartial referee
  • 2016-12-22 Mass Combat, Again: morale is important for mass combat, too
  • 2017-04-27 Rulings: we talk about many things, including appropriate moments to check morale
  • Halberds and Helmets: my homebrew rule set with links to the PDF files

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2019-01-04 Episode 10

Gods, demon lords, and alignment. Why do we keep the priests of demon lords around? They must useful to somebody! I like the ambiguity of the old gods. They are not all good or all evil. And I like the old threefold alignment: Law, Neutrality, and Chaos. I think alignment languages and thieves cant are just signs and the use of particular words in particular ways. If you say something and I answer “Amen!” then I’m not just saying “Yes!” I’m also saying that I’m a Christian. That’s how I understand them.

But most of all, I just love the statements of the priests of Chaos and the priests of Law. I still do.


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2019-01-01 Episode 09

All the fireworks in the background turns my solo podcasting into a report from a war zone, I think. Stop it, firework people! I feel sorry for all the animals out there.

On a more positive note, I decided to use my tinkering on the PO33 K.O. for a jingle. Surprise!

But back on topic. Buildings are a great way to spend money for XP and to let players add to the world. And buildings require servants and guards, and these require wages. And when you take mercenaries along on an adventure, then that also costs money. This is perfect. Players will also have to equip their mercenaries because when they call for volunteers, they’ll only get the local peasants.


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Comments on 2019-01-01 Episode 09

Hm, looks like the MP3 players on my phone can’t play it! I tried to simply concatenation the jingle MP3 and the episode MP3 which worked well enough on my laptop (I think?) – anyway, fixed that and uploaded a new file, changed the publishing date and you should be seeing a working file, now! And if it worked well enough the first time around, I’m sorry you had to download it twice.

For my future self:

  1. send recording to myself via mail
  2. on the laptop, save the M4A file
  3. use Audacity to trim the file and export as WAV
  4. use the following command:
ffmpeg -i jingle-1.mp3 -i recording.wav \
       -filter_complex [0:a][1:a]concat=n=2:v=0:a=1 \
       -codec:v copy -codec:a libmp3lame -q:a 7 \

If there’s no need for editing and trimming, use the M4A file instead of the WAV file and it’ll work just fine.

Based on an answer I saw online. Note that the simpler ffmpeg -f concat -i list.txt -c copy out.mp3 works as advertised and you can play it using mpg321 but when you try to play it from Firefox, it doesn’t work, and it also doesn’t work when I try to play it from iCatcher on the iPhone. I guess testing it from Firefox is a good idea. :)

– Alex Schroeder 2019-01-03 14:14 UTC

Don’t worry about the artillery fire in the background. That’s the fireworks at midnight. 🙄

– Alex Schroeder 2019-01-03 15:49 UTC

Listening to this episode, I find that I am rambling quite a bit. I got confused listening to it myself! I should not record episodes after midnight!

– Alex Schroeder 2019-01-03 17:19 UTC

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2018-12-26 Episode 08

Second half of the Christmas episode! We’re still on the page with the equipment. This time we’re talking about items: items to fight monsters and oil in particular. How do we use flaming oil? How much can you carry? Encumbrance and the rule of cool. Also: why is plate armour so cheap?


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Comments on 2018-12-26 Episode 08

I’m really enjoying these, Alex. Which is why I’m telling that I think you linked episode 7 on your episode 8 post.

Michael Julius 2018-12-28 03:57 UTC

Whoops! Fixed. :)

– Alex Schroeder 2018-12-28 22:50 UTC

Oh, and I noticed that the first seconds of the fixed episode were garbled: basically my new intro was simply overlapping the beginning of the episode instead of getting prepended. 🙄 Well, should be fixed now (but without a new publishing date because I think it works well enough as is so no need to download again).

– Alex Schroeder 2019-01-03 14:12 UTC

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2018-12-25 Episode 07

We came from another Christmas dinner and I wasn’t feeling like going to bed. So I recorded an episode, realised that it was too long and split it in two. Audacity for the win!

We’re talking about rolling starting gold and thinking of your parent’s background. Is this social standing, like in Traveller? We have never used it. And I’m talking about the benefits of a character generator, again. I have a little note on how to buy equipment for a new character. I need this description to tell my character generator how to buy starting equipment!

And then I go through the list of weapons. Polearms leads me to talking about fighting from the second rank, again.


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Comments on 2018-12-25 Episode 07

I am listening to my own podcast and my past self is convincing my present self to make changes to the books! So now I removed the parent background table and put the rule of thumb (since this is a list, do I call it a rule of thumbs? Or the rules of thumb?) at the enter of it.

New bottom of page 6

– Alex Schroeder 2019-01-02 09:05 UTC

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2018-12-23 Episode 06

I was making apple pie and had to wait for 14min or thereabouts and spontaneously decided to record an episode! And it worked. I like that my episodes are short because then I can listen to myself talk while I do the cooking. Now I like that I can make them while I do the cooking, too. :)

This episode if about demihumans: elves, halflings, dwarves. It’s boring standard stuff but the benefit is that new players know exactly what they are getting. Elves are basically fighters and magic users. Halflings and dwarves have better saves and some abilities here and there. Small size means that there are limits on the weapons you can wield but since all the weapons do 1d6 damage anyway, it’s not big deal. We’ll talk about “fighting from the second rank” in another episode. What about armour size? I just rule that you have to rework armour in order for it to fit. Humans can wear armour worn by a dwarf if they can get somebody to refit it. No problem. The old games used to have level limits for non-humans, but I don’t care about level limits since all my games end before we get to level ten.


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Comments on 2018-12-23 Episode 06

Actually I thought about making my own theme music but then I decided that I’d rather the making of an episode was even faster.

– Alex Schroeder 2018-12-23 18:47 UTC

But then again, I started with some self-made jingles a few episodes later. :)

– Alex Schroeder 2019-01-02 08:59 UTC

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2018-12-22 Episode 05

I think I will podcast like I run my games: don’t save good ideas for later. Use them now. you will have new good ideas. I mean, I don’t see myself podcasting in five years, so I just need to get it out of the system, experience the podcasting life, and if there’s nothing to talk about in the end, then the rest is silence. Wittgenstein was a podcaster!

Today I’m looking at thieves and normal humans. That leads me to how skill checks work (1 in 6), how thieves have better skills (2 in six, but getting better as you gain levels), how does surprise work (2 in six, or do something surprising), substituting a d30 for a d20 once a day (to increase your chances of a critical hit), max damage on critical hits, +4 to hit, and two handed swords again (think Iaido, or Ninjas); and normal humans brings me to torch bearers and porters, and what to do with magic users wielding weapons, or thieves and magic users wearing armour. They just fight like normal humans, problem solved.


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Really enjoyed this first episode. And your comment on ’the fear’ in dungeon crawling/adventuring ring true for me too. James Holloway did a special episode of Monster Man on The Pathetic Aesthetic a while back that crystallized a lot of what I’m looking for in fantasy adventure games. Probably worth a listen if you haven’t already. Cheers!


– Daniel Lofton 2018-12-21 15:57 UTC

Thanks for the recommendation!

– Alex Schroeder 2018-12-21 18:02 UTC

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