Friday, March 20, 2020

Novels to Get You Through the Novel Virus

         A lot of us have more time on our hands these days. We can possibly catch up on some reading and audiobook listening. These are some of my foundational readings that heavily influence my running of all my RPGs. These are not your typical Vance or Lovecraft suggestions, which are great suggestions. Many of these were produced in a post-D&D world, and one directly shows that. I hope maybe you can find a little bit of comfort in these books and I am happy to share them.

Guardians of the Flame

This is my #1 suggestion for a few reasons. This is what would have really happened in the D&D cartoon, if it were not for kids. This is the story of a group of college kids that are placed into their D&D characters and have to survive in that world. The world they are placed into is brutal and harsh, and the combat is deadly. This is not about high adventure, but abject survival. Another advantage is that there are many of these books. If you enjoy them, you will have plenty to read. Lastly, they are cheap nowadays. They have a combined edition of the first 3 books for $9.99. One word of caution though, these books are brutal. Death, torture, sexual assault, and slavery are all in these novels, so please be warned.

You can find The Guardians of the Flame HERE.

Sword-Dancer Series: Books of Tiger and Del

These books were some of my favorite as a kid/teen. They are a different type of fantasy novel and the setting is interesting. Looking back, these books slightly dip into romance novel territory, but the fantasy content is great. Sword-Dancers are hired warriors that solve disputes between rivals without full on war. Both the protagonists, Tiger and Del, are Sword-Dancers, but from different backgrounds and methods. In the beginning, Del is from the North searching for her stolen brother in the sands of the south. She hires Tiger as her guide, as he is a former slave that knows the lands. Then the stories travel all over the world, with magic and adventure.

You can find the Books of Tiger and Del HERE.

The Kingkiller Chronicles

This might be a little better known since the author is a prominent figure in modern D&D. The first book in this series, In the Name of the Wind, was a complete breath of fresh air to me. My father-in-law actually gave it to me the first time I visited them in Maine. The story is told almost in three layers. There is the current day, with the main character telling his story. The past, with the character recalling his life. Then the legend, you keep hearing about legendary feats of the protagonist. It paints the picture of a beautiful world with its own rules and magic. If you have not, you should check it out. 

You can find The Kingkiller Chronicles HERE.

Honorable Mention

Throne of the Crescent Moon

       The only reason this is not a full recommendation is because it says it is book 1. It is a complete story, but leaves room to continue. There does not seem to be a future book coming. This is the story of a Ghul hunter in and fantasy Arabian setting. I think the story and the characters are amazing, and it puts you into a truly foreign culture. No goblins, no elves, but and great story.

To find Throne of the Crescent Moon go HERE.

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Monday, March 16, 2020

Rolling Ability Scores – DMG Delve Part 2

        You would think with all these years into the hobby, and all the characters that have been created we would know a few solid truths. One truth that tends to get circulated is that stats should be 3d6 straight down the line, no exceptions! This is not the case in the AD&D 1e Dungeon Master’s Guide. We come to a section early in the book about “Creating The Player Character” and the first sub-section is “Generation Of Ability Scores”. This section gives you information not only on the generation of PC stats, but NPCs as well. While many in the OSR movement claim that modern D&D has a tendency towards super heroes, it seems clear from Gary’s writing that the PCs in Dungeons & Dragons should be “a viable character of the race and profession which he or she desires”. 

Gary admits that it is possible to generate playable characters by rolling 3d6, but only after “an extended period of attempts at finding a suitable one due to the quirks of the dice”. This shows too that rolling over and over again to get a character’s stats at least was a thing. He also discusses how creating lower quality characters can often lean to characters having a short life and this in turn discourages new players. I think this is a great insight and I have argued this for a while online, people (in general) don’t like their characters dying. This can drive people from the game before they ever really try it. One of the best parts of the game is the ability to create a character that is “yours” and getting to play that character. This is not to say that characters should be immune to death, which is going too far. Without a solid threat of consequences, you are robbed of a sense of danger and accomplishment. We should though strive to have characters that are viable for their profession. Thus the rolling system used to create them must tilt slightly in the PCs favor. This should create adventuring folk, not monster bait. With this in mind Gary discusses four methods for rolling attributes for your PCs.

Method I: 

All  scores  are  recorded  and  arranged  in  the  order  the  player  desires.  4d6 are rolled, and the lowest die (or one of the lower) is discarded.

Method II:

All  scores  are  recorded  and  arranged  as  in  Method  I.  3d6 are rolled 12 times and the highest 6 scores are retained.

Method III:

Scores rolled are according to each ability category, in order, STRENGTH, INTELLIGENCE, WISDOM, DEXTERITY, CONSTITUTION, CHARISMA.  3d6  are  rolled  6  times  for  each  ability,  and  the  highest  score  in  each  category  is  retained for that category.

Method IV:

3d6  are  rolled  sufficient  times  to  generate  the  6  ability  scores,  in  order,  for  12  characters. The player then selects the single set of scores which he or she finds most desirable and these scores are noted on the character record sheet.

All of these methods allow you to either arrange your stats, roll more than 6 times, or roll more than 3d6, some of the methods allow for combinations of these. Whichever way you choose to go about it, you are certainly going to get more options than the 3d6 in order. 3d6 in order seems to be the method for generating commoners and people of little renown. Gary mentions making NPCs (which he seems to mean powerful NPCs), which he seems to recommend them getting high scores because, “how else could these figures have risen so high?” General characters need to be average, so he recommends considering and 1s rolled are treated as 3s, and any 6s rolled are considered 4s. For special characters, not high NPCs, but not commoners (like henchmen) he recommends using the same system as the PCs, or doing the 3d6 method, but adding 1 to each dice rolled.

It seems clear that the idea behind the rolling systems is to have characters that are decent at their profession. This seems reasonable to me. I want competent characters and that can accomplish their goals like professionals. I do not want characters that are sickly and gross with little reason to be in the field. This seems to be the appeal of DCC, which is not exactly my cup of tea. There is nothing wrong with it, but it does not suit my style. What do you think? What method of rolling do you use? 

      This is some of the interesting stuff in the 1e Dungeon Master's Guide. I will continue the series Delving into the original DMG. If you are interested in the purchase of the book, please see the links below.

If you are interested in getting a copy of the AD&D 1st Edition Dungeon Master's Guide you can get a PDF or Print on Demand HERE.

If you are interested in an original copy try HERE.

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Monday, March 9, 2020

The Greatest RPG Product Ever Made - DMG Delve Part 1

         I do not think I am the first blogger to make a claim to having the Greatest RPG Product ever. But even if you disagree with my choice, you cannot deny this book's influence.  The 1st Edition AD&D Dungeon Master’s Handbook is iconic. Whether it is its advice, copious amount of tables, the informative Appendix sections, or even its art, it is a tried and true classic for any edition of D&D. The materials inside can actually stretch beyond its fantasy roots and act, in general, as an amazing tool for world building. I really cannot say enough good things about this book and all the guidance it gives you. My plan is to do a deep delve into this book pulling out different sections and discussing what they mean for the game as a whole, or how we can use the information in our own home games regardless of edition.

The image I most associate with D&D

         I wanted to start out today with something that is often overlooked, the Foreword and the Preface. Most people want to quickly get to “the good stuff” and never actually read the beginning parts of this book, or any book for that matter. I believe these opening statements give us, the readers, and an insight into the founders of the hobby and expose us to their intentions with the creation of the game. This lays a groundwork for not just D&D, but the RPG industry as a whole due to the influence D&D held, and still holds to this day. 

The Foreword

This is the only bit of content really in the book that is not written by Gary Gygax (unless you include the comics). The Foreward was written by then TSR Editor Mike Carr of In Search of the Unknown fame. Beyond other projects, Carr was the editor of AD&D’s core three books at the time the Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and Monster’s Manual. This gives him a wonderful insight into the thought process around the entire D&D world, at that time. He begins his letter to the player’s with an important question, “Is Dungeon Mastering an art or a science?” A question we can still ask ourselves today.

Carr makes the case that being a Dungeon Master is a little bit of both. It is an art, in that it is a creative endeavor that has each DM’s own “personal touches”. It is a science in the way that it requires both preparation and a keen attention to detail. While moving somewhat quickly away from the more “esoteric questions” he establishes that being a Dungeon Master is a “labor of love”. I want to pick that apart for a minute. You do have to love what you are doing to be a good DM. Have you ever played with a DM that obviously wasn’t feeling the game they were running? It is bad for everyone, not just the DM. It is the enthusiasm that you have for your game, as a DM, that will be infectious to the others that are playing. Stan Lee talked about how enthusiasm was the best sales pitch. If you want players to be interested in your game, you need to be excited for the game. 

        The second part of Carr’s quote is the concept of labor. Being a DM is work, and they are certainly the busiest person at the session. Any labor, whether for work or for love, has value. That value needs to be respected because the DM’s opportunity cost is generally larger than anyone else at the table. As a player be respectful of the DM’s time, effort, and energy. Allow basic etiquette to apply, pay attention to the game, act in the best interest of the game as a whole, don’t argue with the DM at the table, etc. 

This beginning section is a great section and at only five short paragraphs it has a lot crammed in for DMs and players alike. Carr discusses the boons and busts of being a DM that can resonate with anyone that has stepped behind the screen regardless of edition or even RPG. I think I will leave this section with a quote from the text, “Dungeon Mastering itself is no easy undertaking, to be sure. But Dungeon Mastering well is doubly difficult.” 

The Preface

This was a letter from Gary Gygax to his fellow campaign referees (Dungeon Masters) about the book they just purchased. Beyond that, it really discusses some of what he saw as the job of a “referee” in running a campaign. He stresses that this books is solely for the Dungeon Masters and is not for the players. He goes so far as to state that players should not own this book, and those that do are “less than worthy of an honorable death.” This seems like such a foreign concept these days as it is eliminating a portion of the market. I think a significant portion of the people who play D&D own the core, three books of the PHB, DMG, and MM. You are just throwing sales out the window, for the sake of keeping the core game mechanics a secret. Remember at this point the DMG, not the PHB, has most of the rules for play. Combat is not covered in the PBH, because that was not for players to know. 

Art from the DMG.

        I am not sure how tongue in cheek the statement above is, but it seems serious in the passage. He also suggests charging PCs who own the DMG, more money from sages for information. If meta-knowledge is used from the DMG, it is suggested that the player should lose several magic items and apparently that is letting them off easy. One thing this shows us is the value knowledge had in older (A)D&D. My players have come to realize this more recently. They would much rather get a useful piece of intel then a magic item, because knowledge often keeps you alive. This could have disastrous consequences for the tournament scene, which he mentions as a reason for the standardization of the rules. 

        Gary says that this work is “written as one Dungeon Master equal to another.” The DM is the “creator and ultimate authority in your respective game”. Regardless of that power, this book was about taking the rules and trying to create a “degree of uniformity” so that players could travel from one game to another and not, in essence, be playing a different game. He admits to the fact that no two games will be 100% the same, but hopefully the core will remain the same. Races will be the same, spells will work more or less the same way, magic items might vary, but will have a common resonance. Thus in some ways this book is about putting some limitations on the game and set up a group of boundaries. These boundaries are important, because at some point you run the risk of drifting out of what is D&D. He warns players, “Similarly, you must avoid the tendency to drift into areas foreign to the games as a whole. Such campaigns become so strange as to be no longer “AD&D”. They are isolated and will usually wither.” The trick seems to be to create something new and unique to yourself, while maintaining the viability of the rules i.e. the systems and “laws”.

        Other bits of advice from the letter involve getting the most out of being a referee. He discusses how you will spend hours making, creating, and running your game. The best reward a DM can hope for is that people (players) use what you created. Isn’t that what we all want? So that are effort wasn’t for nothing? We just want someone to play with our toy. I think this is a great insight, and he discusses some pitfalls. He mentions how player, in general, want their characters to succeed. There is nothing wrong with that, but if left to their own devices they will often want to succeed quickly and with as little struggle as possible. Players with a strong personality can manipulate a DM into ideas that might be good for them and their PC, but bad for the group or game world in general. Players that do not have as strong a personality will drift from the game as they will want something more egalitarian and possibly challenging. The opposite is a problem too. Games that have too high a difficulty might feel unfair, or that the DM is just out to “get” the players. This can lead to resentment and players ditching the game in order to avoid a weekly beat down. 

       This article is wonderful and shows players of any edition the thoughts that went behind some of the earliest years of the game. The book was released in 1979, but he does mention in this letter he had been working on it for at least 2 years. So the construction of this mammoth tome was started about 3 years after the hobby was created. We see some of the intentions of the creators in that the DM is the ultimate authority of his game, the rules need to be grounded, but flexible, and that knowledge should be a commodity in D&D games. 

        I plan on continuing this series and delving more into the AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide to see what it can teach us about today’s gaming. If you would like to see more, please comment here or on social media to let me know. Overall this has been one of my favorite articles to write as I have always had an affinity for this book, though 1st Edition AD&D is the edition I have played the least. I think all editions can benefit from this book, and I plan to show it.

If you are interested in getting a copy of the AD&D 1st Edition Dungeon Master's Guide you can get a PDF or Print on Demand HERE.

If you are interested in an original copy try HERE.

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Saturday, March 7, 2020

Happy Birthday to the Blog

               I cannot believe that it has been one year already. With cliché styling it seems like only yesterday I was writing my first post about breaking my D&D group. This initially started as an attempt to combat some personal demons and try and connect with the outside world a little bit. I was recommended to start blogging by my therapist as part of the process. I was literally paralyzed by the thought. It actually took me a month to write my first article due to massive fear. I am not exactly sure what the fear was attached, but it was there. Nowadays, I cannot wait to produce another article and truly enjoy the feedback that I get from them. With that I had about 75,000 hits in my first year, that is outstanding. In general the community is amazing and people are supportive and wonderful. Thanks to everyone that has made my small corner of the internet a great one for me.

                I wanted to write something a bit more grandiose due to the occasion, but currently my house is suffering from the flu. Due to the nature of my job I received a flu shot this year, but my wife and son did not. They are both currently suffering through it and I am doing a lot of nursing. I you wanted to get me a gift, though there isn’t a need, please just find your favorite post of mine, and share it in whatever way you choose. That does more for the blog then you would ever know. Once again thanks for everything, and I am hoping for an even better second year. Starting next week I am going to have a new series that I think everyone will love, more to come.

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Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Why I Finally Decided to Purchase Barrowmaze

         I get a few people asking me questions about my old Keep on the Borderlands game and what became of it. It went on for quite some time, but I had some medical issues then ran some Star Wars D6 for a while. I brought the characters from the Keep on the Borderlands adventure back, and started them in a modern classic Barrowmaze. I will admit that in the past I was hesitant on Barrowmaze due to the significant monetary investment that is involved. I can generally buy five to ten other OSR products for the cost of the hardback POD. I am here to recant my criticism though, the product does live up to the hype. I have now been running it since December on a weekly basis with my group of students at school and we all love it. The students really do like it more than Keep on the Borderlands, which to me states volumes. This article is going to cover what exactly Barrowmaze is, for those that are not familiar, and what I like about it.

What is Barrowmaze?

I think when you ask most people, “What is Barrowmaze,” the most common response would be a Megadungeon. If it was just that, it would have succeeded quite nicely, but it is actually a lot more. To me, Barrowmaze is something better than a singular Megadungeon, Barrowmaze is a skeleton. What do I mean by that? Barrowmaze outlines and entire mini-RPG ecosystem. The campaign takes place in the Duchy of Aerik which has an amazing framework for not only the Megadungeon, but the ability to build and expand into other adventures. The book comes with the areas other locations, gods, backgrounds, and threats. You are not buying a Megadungeon, you are buying a mini-setting that is easily expandable. The village and Barrowmaze itself are the focus of the book and have a lot of meat invested in them, but the surrounding area is fleshed out just enough that you can add to it quite readily. Your PCs can easily become influential with the local government, build up status and reputation, and eventually even settle and build permanent structures. You can also slip other modules into the areas around Aerik, if the PCs want a change of pace.  

The Megadungeon itself is structure a bit differently than the norm. Most dungeons get more dangerous and rewarding the lower you travel. Barrowmaze is a series of burial mounds that act as mini-dungeons. These are great for short, punchy play. You can run sessions in only a few hours and still feel accomplished by knocking out a few mounds. As the PCs travel from left to right on the map, the mounds get more difficult and more rewarding. Below the mounds is a single level that qualifies as a Megadungeon. With close to 400 rooms it is the titular Barrowmaze. The maze will challenge the players and is divided up into different sections with factions in each section to deal with and negotiate. Combine this with the 70 burial mound min-dungeons, for the price, you are getting a product that will provide a huge amount of content. In a dollar to content ratio, this is one of the cheapest products on the market. 

There is an overall plot, but it is as relevant as the DM wishes to make it. If they want to lean into the plot, they easily can. If they would rather use this as a boot-it and loot-it game, you can easily do this as well. I personally am running with the plot as I find it interesting and I like to tie other adventures into that plot.  

A Great Questing Beast Review of Barrowmaze.

Using the Book

These days I am running an open table for anywhere between 4-6 players on average, though it has been as high as 9. The group’s foundation is that they are a mercenary company, like many of the others in town and they are seeking their riches while the "getting is good." I wanted to add to the overall feel of the area and I used other supplements to spice up the duchy. As an example without too many spoilers, the duchy map mentions a “Secret Shrine”. In the setting background the plot is tied up with a serpent god as well. I replaced the “Secret Shrine” with Skerples module Tomb of the Serpent Kings, and dropped just a few ties to the main Megadungeon. Also, there are rumors of tribes, froglings in the base book, running around the swamps in the game. I kept the froglings, but I have an Old School supplement with amazonian warrior clans and I added them to the swamps. They fight each other, and everyone else who is not them. The players can attempt to negotiate with them, or go to war. Maybe put one against the other? The tribes are related to a witch located in swamps of Bogtown and their local Thieves Guild.

I am trying to get my PCs as tied to the town as possible in order to get them to want to spend money on the town and watch it grow. They seem to like investing in things and have that investment pay off. This setting seems to lend itself to that style of play. Some players are trying to form businesses, some are trying to make fortifications for the town, and others are making a reputation as party animals and carousing experts. Making the environment a living thing is important. Players are spying on rival companies and finding out information on the locations of possible good treasure, then swiping it out from underneath them. Sometimes they go into the mounds expecting to open a mound with a treasure haul, only to find out that a different group was already there. I added a touch to the main bar in town where each of the adventuring parties have their names with numbers by it on a board. These are the number of trips to the Barrowmaze the parties have made and come back with significant treasure. I imagine this kind of like Top Gun with the different pilots competing for who is best. 

        Beyond expansion, it is a great resource to steal from. The village of Helix is wonderfully detailed with enough information to hang your hat on, but is not too detailed to not allow for customization. You could just use a few pages from the Helix section and drop this as a home base in any of your campaigns with little difficulty. The town is big enough that it has some meat to it, but it is not a major metropolis with all the needs of the characters catered to by the NPCs. Barrowmaze also comes with loads of new monsters, rival NPC parties, spells, and magic items. All of these are great for any DM looking to throw something new and different at the party that is not in the core books.

Lastly, it is incredibly useful to a diverse audience. It was originally released for Advanced Labyrinth Lord, which makes it compatible with just about any Old-School System. I personally use Old-School Essentials with the Advanced Fantasy Genre Rules added into the mix. It was also converted and is available to for 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons and all of the systems that radiate off its core mechanics. This selection covers a huge swath of the fantasy RPG industry with players from all sorts of editions able to access this awesome product. 


This is a great product, and with all my hesitations before about it, I was proven thoroughly wrong. It is worth the price, and it is a great piece of modern game design. It deserves all the accolades it has acquired, and if you have not checked it out you should. Right now is GM’s Day(s) at DriveThruRPG and you can get Barrowmaze quite a bit cheaper than usual. If you want to check it out, click the link that I provide below.

Barrowmaze for Old School Games can be found HERE.

Barrowmaze for 5th Edition D&D can be found HERE.

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Monday, March 2, 2020

Dear WotC, Where Are My Smaller Scale Settings?

               With the announcement of Mythic Odysseys of Theros, the soon-to-be released of Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount, the previous releases of Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica and Eberron: Rising from the Last War, we are seen a pattern in releases of what appear to be ever expanding magical worlds from WotC. My question is where are my smaller scale settings? According to Mythic Odyssey’s promo The Gathering world of Theros where players can wield god-weapons and select new races to indulge in a challenge fit for the gods.” So we are battling gods now on the regular at this point? I am not saying there is not a place in D&D for all of these magic-rich, god-slaying settings, but could we maybe get a change of pace and have something a little lower down the powerscale? A setting that reigns in the power a bit and allows for smaller more personal adventures? I am also not opining for the “good ole days” and "please give me every setting from my youth". It just seems like the writers are always trying to top one another with the next release. To be clear though, I am not taking about low level adventures, this is more about lower scale. Settings grounded in reality than in epic fantasy.

                I would love to see something like Thunder Rift from D&D Basic. This was a valley that had tons of interesting encounters, none of which were in the god-tier of encounter rankings. It had a great detailed background with fun little hooks that the players could get involved with and some factions that they could deal with in different manners. It was designed to be a beginner’s area that could be expanded by the GM or plunked into any setting you would like. It was sort of genius at the time, and is still kind of a great design. I think this style was done somewhat well with the Curse of Strahd. The setting was limited in scope and focus. This made for what many consider the best supplement to date for 5e. You could easily expand the valley in CoS, and one of my friends did just that with an adventure that we went on beyond the borders of Barovia. For the most part, CoS was grounded and not heavily steeped in magic and over-the-top fantasy.

                When Forgotten Realms was created it was really considered by myself and my friends to be the highest of High Fantasy with all the gods, magic, and items scattered throughout it. Nowadays it seems like it is the base-level fantasy adventures, possibly even on the low end of the fantasy spectrum. This seems to show how the paradigm has shifted. I am not upset by the paradigm shift, but I would like for some products that are on a more grounded level. Are the days of smaller fantasy gone? I would like to think they are not, but I could be wrong.

Will it be Epic Fantasy all day every day from this point on?

If you are interesting in Thunder Rift click HERE.

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Old-School Essentials Gems #1

         There is a growing number of materials that are being produced with the Old-School Essentials label upon them. Many in fact are slipping by the wayside and people are not aware of their existence, which is the point of this series. I am going to try and let the growing Old-School Essentials crowd know about products that were released, or are going to be released soon. These reviews will hearken back to the preview articles I wrote a few months ago previewing the OSE material while still in the production end of the Kickstarter. For those that do not know, OSE is my go to system, because it is both amazing in its depth, but easy in in application. If you have not checked out the core product, you cannot get a better game for the money. This fact has become more evident in the amount of game producers that are now choosing to make products for the system. 

Appendix N Entertainment  

This publisher is made up of Ryan Thompson and his products. You might recognize his name in that my first review on my blog was for you Hidden Hand of the Horla. I was very positive on the product and since then he has had two other Kickstarters that were both Old-School Essentials based. The first, which we will go into more depth today, was Lost Classes and Cannibal Corpses. This was a combination of a zine full of classes to use with OSE, and another zine for an adventure. I will go into much more depth about these products, but I wanted to mention them here. Next, Appendix N Entertainment created a Kickstarter to revamp Hidden Hand of the Horla for OSE and revamp the presentation at the same time. I have seen some of the preview art for the new version and I think it looks wonderful. All of this is to say that this is a publisher worth watching and he has delivered on promised content with each project he has undertaken. 

Hidden Hand of the Horla preview art

The Lost Classes: The Arnesonian Classes

The theory behind this supplement is that back in the day there was a large zine culture and many creations were lost because of time. This supplement is an attempt to revive some of the lost classes that were created back then specifically ones created by Dave Arneson. For years we have heard about classes that were created for the original game that Dave ran, but never made it into any edition of D&D. Thompson admits up front that there are sparse details on these classes that exist in the world, but he attempted to piece together what he found, and fill in the blank spot with compatible mechanics. This is sort of like making dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, we have some of the DNA, we have to fill in the gaps were they appear. Overall he did a wonderful job, the classes appear to be both fun and on par with the other classes in the OSE/BX sphere of influence. 

The first two classes are the Merchant and Sage. Hit up the blogosphere or old message boards to see that the mystery around these two classes are great. The Merchant’s closest relative is the Thief, but they are much more social characters. They have a large amount of social and knowledge based skills, but also are not the absolute worst in a fight. While lacking the stealth abilities of the thief they still have great amounts of use in a campaign that values social interaction. You could say that the Sage is a variant of the Magic-User, but that really isn’t the best fit. The Sage really stands alone as something completely different. The Sage, as the name would suggest, is the master of knowing information. The Sage has areas of expertise and this allows them, with money, to research topics and glean information that would be useful to a party. Sages have little in the way of offensive ability, but can use magical items and scrolls. In the game I currently run there is no Magic-User, but if it came down to them getting a Magic-User or a Sage, they would pick a Sage hands-down. Knowledge is often a better commodity in OSR games than magic.

The next two classes do have their roots in the early games as well, but are even more mysterious than the Merchant and Sage. These next two race-as-class characters are the Chimpanzee Folk and Duck Folk. The Chimpanzee folk is a lot like the Sage and share several of their knowledge based abilities. These guys are much more Dr. Zaius and less King Kong. They do have some abilities that you would associate with a chimp like climbing and movement based abilities. They look like they would be a great variant for people wanting to play a Sage, but also not play a human. Next are the Duck Folk, and I must admit that I am a bit of a duck fan. I am actually purchasing a new house at the moment and a strong factor in my purchase was the duck pond in the back. These Duck Folk are heroes of the people are known for their martial prowess and ability to combat the undead. They remind me of a Paladin in many ways, but also a Cleric in many ways too. They basically split the difference with some duck-like attributes sprinkled in and by the way they worship the god of death. Their holy anger and wrath is fun and can make some neat characters. I know that beast folk might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but there is no reason you cannot file the fluff off these characters and make a new race or class out of the creation. The duck and a more classic Minotaur could be a cool switch with some minor modifications. It could even be a dwarven paladin, which would be cool.

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Solar Sanctuary of the Cannibal Corpse

This adventure is a solid entry into the world of OSE, especially if you are looking for something a bit more grounded. The story revolves around a mysterious plague that is infecting the land and an ancient temple to the god of the sun. The adventure is for characters between 1st – 3rd levels, but does warn that encounters are not balanced for these level characters and cautious PCs will avoid unnecessary fights. This product is extremely plug-n-play and can be put into any campaign with ease. The module provides a base of operations city, St. Clara’s Bridges, which provides enough detail to be useful, while allowing the DM to work other plot threads and information into it. The town though is completely optional and can be ignored, if your players are already operating in a sandbox locale, you can just add in a plague and rumors of the temple and you are off. 

The adventure, like Hidden Hand of the Horla, has some decent replay ability due to the amount of random charts provided. These can change the adventure in interesting ways and make for different experiences. This adventure is a bit longer than Hidden Hand and it might be possible to run this as a one shot at a convention, but you might be pushing it. To me, to let this adventure and the plot breathe a little is the best option. This screams to me for two or three sessions, ramping up the tension each session and emphasizing the spreading of the disease. The adventure contains a full listing of monsters, new magic items, interesting information of plague doctors, and an Appendix N for further inspiration. It is a great product and if you have not checked it out, you should.

If you would like to find this product please click HERE.

Currently Appendix N Entertainment is running an OSE based Kickstarter. Please check my sidebar for the link.

Do you have an Old-School Essentials product you would like me to review? Let me know which ones in the comments or send me a direct message. I am always on the lookout for new material to plug into my games. 

Want to read my review of Hidden Hand of the Horla? Click HERE.

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