Old School

Old School Renaissance This page collects the my latest posts on the topic of old school D&D gaming. I follow the Old School Revisited and Why OD&D line of thought presented by Sham’s Grog ’n Blog:

  1. Decision of the referee is final – no rules lawyers
  2. A game of making the most of what you get
  3. Not about the power of the character
  4. Sandbox gaming (players decide how the campaign develops)

2015-03-12 How To Create A Large Dungeon

I’m not yet ready to provide a procedure to write a megadungeon. What I can say, however, is based on my experience using Gridmapper and trying to create The Sewer Prison, a little dungeon of 30×32 (I actually wanted to keep it within 30×30) – six levels deep.

What I did was this: I started with the entrance, drew some rooms and corridors, started placing pillars, altars, statues, secret doors, rooms nearby, beds, chests, and so on. Sometimes stairs down. And I kept going through the dungeon, looking for dead ends, doors that didn’t lead anywhere, and I just kept on adding. Sometimes there was a local significance. An area hidden from the rest via secret doors. But if I went on for long enough, I’d forget and what started as a secret segment of rooms on level two would end up going down for a few levels, and then connect to the rest of the dungeon – without a secret door! Oops?

At the same time, I know that I connected all the stuff because I always began drawing stuff starting from an existing corridor, an existing door. And yet, now that I start keying the dungeon, I realize that I have two main problems:

  • Which areas go together, form a segment?
  • How to get from A to B – as in: “what is the main road from the entrance to the big temple on level five?”

In a traditional dungeon with few stairs connecting the levels, these problems don’t arise as quickly, I guess. But I was really trying to use the third dimension. And now it’s a big mess and I’m realizing that I’m slightly overwhelmed by my own dungeon map. Gridmapper has allowed me to jaquay the dungeon beyond my ability to handle it!

So, what would I do differently?

  1. Start with the main roads from the entrance to the deepest important destination.
  2. Label those areas that belong to a larger segment spanning multiple levels. Don’t just think in rooms.


Comments on 2015-03-12 How To Create A Large Dungeon

I had a similar experience while playing around and “We dig deeper” grow. Mostly I got confused whit the question if this stair is now going up or down or both and how far does it go. I was thinking about writing labels (UP and DOWN) for that but in the end didn’t to.

– Sam 2015-03-16 16:40 UTC

Alex Schroeder
Hah, I am not alone!

The stairs never bothered me much. I just add them on both levels and the direction seems to work well for me. With six full levels, my laptop sometimes takes too long to switch levels. It annoys me sometimes. Specially if I have to switch jump many levels, for example. Some speedup might be in order.

– Alex Schroeder 2015-03-16 22:31 UTC

Add Comment

2015-03-02 RPG Blogs

With blog rolls decreasing in importance and a lot of the RPG talk having moved to Google+, what are the blogs people recommend? I asked on Google+: If you were to recommend five RPG blogs to others, what would those be? If you want to recommend your own blog, please recommend five other RPG blogs, first! That’s how I did it. :)

Here are my favorites, in no particular order:

You’re welcome to the .ch top level domain Blogspot feels like adding because I live in Switzerland. No idea what this is used for.

Anyway. So many of my old favorites have fallen silent! I basically went through my blog subscription list, looking for names I recognized and checking whether the latest post was less than 100 days old.

Suggetions from the comments on Goole+


Add Comment

2015-02-07 Megadungeon Prep


When preparing bought adventures, there are a few things that usually need highlighting:

  1. Monsters need highlighting such that I can quickly answer questions such as “who would join the fight upon hearing the noise of combat?” and such that I can quickly resolve random encounters such as “pick a monster from a nearby room” and such that prisoners can provide can answer questions such as “who else lives here?”
  2. Entries and exits need highlighting such that I can quickly give answers if player characters interrogate prisoners.
  3. Treasure needs highlighting in case the characters get the ability to detect gold or gems, and also for prisoners to possibly provide answers to such questions.

Highlighting also keeps me busy as I read the text. After all, these texts are usually boring compared to people talking on the Internet. Highlighting helps me stay focused.

The wilderness map in the background has little stickers identifying ruins (other dungeons), lairs (sources of monters), resources (land to fight over), and settlements (the main city and a few towns) – as indicated by the An Echo Resounding procedure.

Tags. Colors. Use it.

Also note this post: 2013-12-13 Session Preparation Process.


Comments on 2015-02-07 Megadungeon Prep

Just a note to let you know, I saved this as a .pdf in my Megadungeon Folder to keep in mind when laying out Numenhalla.

-C 2015-02-09 09:04 UTC

Add Comment

2015-02-06 New Campaign

Harald is leaving and his two Mystara campaigns are closing down. I’ll be taking up referee duties and I’ll be running the Castle of the Mad Archmage. I want to run a real megadungeon! All my campaigns go through the classic Basic/Expert phases: The first few levels my players explore the nearby dungeons but soon enough they start exploring the wilderness, meddle in local government, find portals and powerful planejumping magic and end up doing Planescape stuff. This time I announced that I’d be interested in running a megadungeon (one player to another player: “like Diablo!”) and so I started looking at my collection:

  • Stonehell was deemed too simple
  • Rappan Athuk had beautiful illustrations and was well liked
  • Darkness Beneath got people interested because multiple authors means a lot of variation; I think it lost out in the end because I said I liked the upper levels very much but couldn’t say much about the lower levels
  • Castle Whiterock was looking good except I said I would have to “convert” stuff from D&D 3.5 to classic D&D; people didn’t want to add to my workload, I think
  • Castle of the Mad Archmage was picked because I said it was going to be a funhouse dungeon

I recommend the author’s blog, Greyhawk Grognard, and his megadungeon posts in particular.

So, the megadungeon as a campaign tent-pole is what I’ll be using. And, as Joseph says, players are “just as free to poke around in the local town or city, hie off into the wilderness, or explore smaller dungeons”.

I quickly whipped up a random wilderness using my Text Mapper using the Gnomeyland Map Icons by Gregory B. MacKenzie. This is what it looks like:

My Regional Map.

I posted it on a new campaign wiki called Greyheim.

I spent a bit more time detailing the city:

The surroundings of Greyheim.

I used An Echo Resounding to add some extra ruins, lairs, towns and resources in the map. Who knows, maybe these will come in handy—here I’m hoping that this kind of preparation will allow me to improvise. Elves acting like jerks? They must be in league with Aredhel. That kind of thing.

I printed the map out and used little color stickers to mark the locations in questions. I don’t need to add it all to the map just yet.

I also printed twenty random level 1 characters using my Halberds n’ Helmets Character Generator. My plan is to run this a bit like a funnel: These are the twenty characters available, pick some, go. Your replacement characters and henchmen will all come from the same pile.


Comments on 2015-02-06 New Campaign

If it’s of interest Barrowmaze Complete will be available shortly.

– greg 2015-02-06 20:04 UTC

Add Comment

2015-01-16 Underwater Adventures

Related: Mazirian's Garden: Simple Underwater Rules.

For my campaign, I’ll be using the following rules under water:

  • Movement: everybody swims at half speed
  • Swimming: wearing armor makes you sink; getting back up will require ropes, air-filled wineskins or the like
  • Drowning: save vs. death every round or faint; reviving is possible within the next 10 rounds
  • Speaking: depends on the secondary abilities granted by your water breathing spell (see blow); if none indicated, no speaking; you can cry at-will
  • Magic: water breathing spells have language specific side effects
    • breath of whales by Lady Gerdana changes your speech to whale songs and allows you to understand whale songs
    • grows of gills as granted by Tsathoggua changes your speech to the silent speech of fishes and allows you to understand fish
  • Elements: magic involving elemental enegies have the obvious effects:
    • water elementals can effectively fly and move at full speed
    • air elementals helplessly rise to the surface; no problem outside the water
    • earth elementals helplessly sink to the bottom; no problem when on the floor
    • fire elementals are quenched (and disappear); fireball, flaming hands and the like affect the area around the caster including the caster for full damage
    • electricity spreads like fire in air; lightning bolt, shocking grasp and the like affect the area around the caster including the caster for full damage
  • Weapons: only weapons that can be used when stabbing are effective under water
    • obvious weapons are spears, tridents
    • this includes daggers, swords, halberds, and the staff
    • this excludes axes, hammers, picks, maces, morningstars, whips
    • this excludes all ranged weapons
    • the only exception is a modern speargun (range 10 ft.)
  • Items: no potions, scrolls, books, maps
  • Light: no torches, lanterns – it will have to be light (rarely) and continual light (probably the standard?)


Add Comment

2015-01-06 B⧸X D&D

I posted this before, on Google+, but in the long term, keeping a copy on the blog makes better sense.

If you ever wanted to print B/X D&D in a single volume hardcover, this is how you would do it. As always, the expensive part will be shipping (to Switzerland at least). Here are the numbers for two hardcover copies, sent to Switzerland, including the discount for creators.

2 × $14.61
Subtotal $29.22
Discounts $5.84
Shipping $10.78
Tax $0.00
Total $34.16

How To

You get the two PDFs and merge them, deleting the pages you don’t want, rearranging some, etc. I did this using Preview on a Mac, but CutePDF might do this for Windows, for example. Mine had 132 pages in the end. Don’t forget to replace the index with the combined index. I forgot this, unfortunately. Then you create a private Lulu project and upload both this PDF and the cover image, and order a copy for yourself. Copyright law prevents you from making this project available to others, unfortunately.

If Lulu says it can’t work with the PDF, then you need to remove the protection (curse you, DRM!). I found the simplest solution to be a “print to PDF” step. Just make sure you get the paper size right. I used “US Letter” size and no scaling. This resulted in some area along the edge of the page being cut. This included the watermark, which I thought was great. 😊




Comments on 2015-01-06 B⧸X D&D

joseph browning on G+: “Just got a message that through January 8, you can get 25% off all Lulu print books and calendars with code FLASHY15.”

– Alex Schroeder 2015-01-06 14:47 UTC

Add Comment

2014-11-30 SVG Charactersheet

I’ve been using the character tool for Halberds and Helmets to maintain character sheets on Campaign Wiki. Some examples?


Labyrinth Lord:

How does it work?

You need a SVG character sheet. The easiest way to create these would be Inkscape. Example: Charactersheet.svg

Any text element with a particular id can be replaced with a parameter. But which ids are in that SVG file? The tool will show them to you:

Note how you can provide the URL to any SVG file on the web!

You can now provide values using parameters.

The tool actually has an editor, where you can edit the parameters:

The format used by the editor is the same format used on the Campaign Wiki pages containing a character sheet.

The code will compute various things for you, if it knows how to do it. It will compute the strength bonus if you provide the strength parameter, for example. See the documentation for more information. As you can see, the tool knows of various rule sets and computes parameters depending on the rule set in use.

If you have a character sheet that you would like to use with the Halberds and Helmets tool, talk to me. Inkscape allows you to embed ordinary images into the SVG file and it can convert PDF files to SVG.


Add Comment

2014-10-29 Skills

A recent discussion on Google+ prompted me to explain how I use skills:

I usually don’t use skills and backgrounds explicitly in my B/X game but rather I ask the player: do you think your character would know this? Is this something they have done in the past? If so, auto success and write it on you character sheet. So if a player says they know the weather because they grew up as fishers, fine. But next time I ask about finding water in a desert, it is more difficult to explain. That works very well. It is suitably broad (few skills), situational (make ‘m up), just in time (no need to tell me at chargen). Just add dice rolling if you think it adds to your game.

Risky situations sometimes involve rolling a d6 and getting a 1 or something similar. In these cases, having a skill would let me grant players better odds up to 5 in 6.

I probably wrote about this before. But then again it’s good to sometimes note that this is still how you do it.

How far I have come since this post I wrote in 2007. 😊


Add Comment

2014-09-10 OSR Adventures Wiki

I’m trying to improve the Campaign:Adventures Wiki and added a “submit a link” button to the front page. It’s the same code I’m using for the Campaign:LinksToWisdom Wiki.


Add Comment

2014-09-10 Das Schwarze Auge

I learned to play role-playing games when I was a teenager. At the time, we used Das Schwarze Auge. There are two retroclones for the game!


Add Comment