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)

2015-02-07 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

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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

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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?)


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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

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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.


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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. 😊


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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.


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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!


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2014-09-03 Stone Giants

For our Tuesday session, I had prepared Sanctum of the Stone Giant Lord by RC Pinnell. I had read a review by Johnathan Bingham and decided I wanted to give it a try. Also, remember my thoughts on running D&D for mid-level play (my players have main characters on levels 7 or 8) where I noticed that I was rolling practically no dice and I wasn’t sure whether that’s how I was supposed to run things. Well, I felt that stone giants in the range from 9 hit dice up to 16 hit dice (I just gave stone giant clerics more hit dice) would be a nice challenge for my players. With up to six main player characters and up to twelve henchmen I needed a setup that would provide a tactical challenge for nearly twenty characters. Stone giants would do just fine, I thought.

Once the players sat at the table, however, and once they realized that there were more than fifty stone giants inside the sanctum, they had second thoughts. A quick change of plan, the players come knocking at the front door, want to learn about Rockfist Rockyheart, spend a total of 3000 gold pieces over three days to talk to one of their elders, learn about stone giant religion, and so on. The stone giants want to use them against the badger folk down in the jungles, talk to them about their religion, and I start improvising about fighting fire demons in the pits, the sun lion, and other things, based on the few throw away lines in the module.

Before long, and very specific to the campaign world, they started working on the giants, attacking them with a fire elemental at night, blaming a settlers of a gate to hell, sowing more suspicion, getting a good result on the reaction roll table, and so on. In the end, I decided that the stone giants would fall for it and hand them 180’000 gold pieces to equip three ships for the Astral Sea and the voyage to the hell gate of Banaqqum, to plant the stone seed that would allow them to gate there and start their new stone giant invasion project. The stone giant lama then used a commune spell to verify that the party did in fact intend to do all the things they promised and since the players were sincere, next session will see them plant the stone seed in a hellscape.

It is very easy, apparently, to talk me into crazy and outlandish social solutions to problems, even when I intend them to be tactical challenges. Just as low level players avoid fighting by scouting ahead and sneaking, mid level players avoid fighting by using diplomacy and trickery.

Perhaps this is what I had coming, since I’ve said in the past that I prefer not to replace social interactions with dice rolling. Now that there is a lot of social interaction, there is very little dice rolling. What did I expect?

I still hope that my non-player characters react to quantifiable issues such as the needs of the religious community in the stone giant sanctum. I still hope that my players have choice in how they approach the problems in the game world. When I asked the players after the game, they said they liked how the game was being run.

Strangely enough, I don’t remember where I got the PDF from. These days, the only link I can find is the collection of giant adventures by RC Pinnell on DriveThruRPG.


Comments on 2014-09-03 Stone Giants

Ynas Midgard
You may have bought it from Lulu; the author used to release his works there.

Ynas Midgard 2014-09-03 12:14 UTC

Ah, that would be his Lulu page where he says: “I have been a D&D hobbyist since 1980. In 2008 I was encouraged to make my own adventures available to the public. But after years of doing this, it is time to take a break. If and when gamers want more from me, future products might appear. To all those that have been supportive of this site, and others like it, I am profoundly thankful.”

AlexSchroeder 2014-09-03 12:27 UTC

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2014-08-27 Treasure

Johnn Four asked on Google+: “I haven’t run a treasure-based XP game in a long, long time. I have also never designed one. What’s the general process for planning out a treasure-based adventure?”

I said that I find the key to be the following:

  1. distribute treasure and threats such that they correlate roughly; an occasional outlier is great, though: a dragon and no treasure, some lizard men with an incredible fortune, it’s the stuff players talk about; also variable ratio schedule for reinforcement makes players want to come back!
  2. have enough threats for the players to go on and on at their chosen risk level
  3. have enough pointers to more risky and more rewarding stuff (temptation!)

Thus, if players are level 5 and want to keep fighting goblins, they will practically not gain a level anymore. If they want to level up, it’s time to face those trolls or rob that castle…

It’s harder to design the minimum number of rooms per levels for a megadungeon and the mean treasure parcels you want per level. You can do that, sure. I hate this kind of work. That’s why I just design open ended dungeon (if at all): if you explore further, I’ll add further! (Between sessions)


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