Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Lessons On Using Roll20 - Tokens & Websites

           After I posted the first video on setting up a Roll20 game and using the character sheet, I had plenty of people wanting to know how I created tokens in my games. This video goes over token creation and implementation on Roll20. The video also covers some of the websites I use in my Barrowmaze/Stonehell game. These cover the Barrowmaze random tables page and the Old School Essentials SRD website. I hope people are enjoying and getting use out of the videos and if they have something they want to know about, please let me know in the comments.

If you are having problems viewing the video (happens with mobile users) here is a direct link to the YouTube channel. Click HERE.

Lesson #1 on Basics in Roll20 and the Character Sheet is HERE.

My Twitch channel for live videos is HERE.

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Monday, September 28, 2020

Why Rolling to Cast is a Bad Idea

               This article is really in response to Professor Dungeon Master and his video(s) where he professes to like random results for casting spells. Let me be clear here first, I love the Dungeon Craft YouTube videos and I love the FB group. I have stolen many of the Professor’s ideas and agree with him about 90% of the time, but I must break from him on this subject. This video also runs in complete opposition to the magic system that is used in Dungeon Crawl Classics. I love DCC’s style and I think their approach is wild. I like many of their adventures, but I will not be running any straight DCC anytime soon. The game, for me, is a bit too random. Though if that is your thing, more power to you.

DCCs art is rad.

                I brief synopsis of what I call “random” casting (or rolling to cast) is when a wizard/cleric casts a spell the player rolls a d20 to see if it is successful or not. Spells in this type of setting are not automatic (though I would argue that they are not automatic in classic D&D either). Depending on the d20 roll you can have about four outcomes. The spell goes off normally, the spell fails, the spell critically succeeds, the spell critically fails. The other bonus to this system is that spells can be cast an unlimited amount of times, but there is always a chance that the spell will backfire. I am sure that I am underselling the system a bit, but I think this is an accurate rough outline of how this system works.

Here is the video with his house rules. I agree with many, but not "Roll to Cast".

                Here are some of the reasons that I think this is not the best system to use. These opinions are coming from a classic D&D OSE/OSR perspective, so please keep that in mind.

1 – It is already tough being a low-level caster

                I have been running OSE/OSR now hardcore for about the last years and the biggest pile of dead heroes that I have is wizards. In my opinion they have the highest bar to cross as far as gaining levels, with the least going for them. They have bad ACs, they cannot use weapons, they have low hit points, and the list keeps going. The one thing they do have is a spell that possibly can turn the tide of battle once a day. Clerics are similar in that they have earn an entire level before even getting a spell and (odds are) that spell will be crucial in keeping another character alive. I just do not see the reason for having the one thing that makes both the classes unique fail or go catastrophically horrible. Why would people then really want to play these classes? The wizard sits back biding his moment and does little in the combats of the night. The Ogre rounds the corner, the party looks at towards the wizard and the wizard grins. He chants his magic as his eyes glow and casts Sleep. He then rolls a 1 and puts his entire party to Sleep and gets his head caved in by the Ogre. Fun times. They get one thing, let that thing be reliable.

2 – Unlimited casting is not a good option either

                I can hear the comments now, just allow the casters to cast unlimited spells with a risk and that solves everything. I am currently playing in a Microlite20 game where my character can cast not unlimited, but quite a few spells compared to his OSE counterpart. I can drop Sleep like it is nobody’s business. This makes fights boring for the other party members. Since I can cast it roughly 10 times, we can navigate most of a dungeon without many combats. I go out of my way to not cast it because I want other party members have a chance to shine. When you can cast that many spells at low level, even with the chance of failure, it can reduce the dramatic tension of a session a lot. Combat, Sleep, Bash, Next, Combat, Sleep, Bash, Next, Etc. Spells as a limited resource is a good thing and even plays into the fiction well. The wizard is tiring and cannot produce more magic, the cleric is desperate, and their faith is wavering. While I believe low-level casters, especially wizards, need a few more spells, unlimited spell casting just does not seem to fix this problem.


This supplement does have a critical system for magic if people are interested.


                As I said in the beginning, I do not want this to come off as an attack on Dungeon Craft. I love the channel and respect the Professor. This is just one professor sharing his opinion on the subject as well. I would highly encourage you to check out Dungeon Craft as a YouTube station and a FB book group, you will not regret it. I also want to state that I like DCC and Goodman games. I own several products. I encourage people to buy DCC, because even though I do not run it, I have farmed it for many ideas and their adventure modules are some of the best in print now.

This is one of my favorite of his videos and rings so true.

I have previous blog posts on my thoughts on Wizards and possible ways to improve them at low levels. Check them out HERE and HERE.

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Monday, September 21, 2020

Lessons On Using Roll20 - Character Sheet

          With Covid playing such a large part in the world today and D&D groups not being able able to get together, Roll20 is becoming more of a utility. I had plenty of people ask after watching my videos about Roll20 and some of the ways that I use it. I decided to make a video explaining some of the basics of Roll20 and things I have learned so far. This video focuses mainly on setting up a game for Old School Essentials (or any of the games in the BX umbrella) and how to use the character sheet. The sheet that was built for Roll20 is amazing and really does do a lot of the heavy lifting for both players and the DM. I hope you enjoy the video and learn a thing or two along the way.

Some are reporting not being able to see the videos above, if so, here is a direct link to the YouTube channel. Click HERE.

My Twitch channel for live videos is HERE.

Like my work? Follow me on Facebook here.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Stonehell - A Megadungeon for the DM on a Budget


       Stonehell is one of the neo-classic OSR megadungeons that I am currently running on Roll20. This has given me ample time to study the book(s) and see how I am planning on implementing it into my current shared universe. I am trying to weave both Stonehell and Barrowmaze together into one grand cohesive area and it think it will go over well. I have already reviewed Barrowmaze and I gave it quite the kudos for its quality and abundance of play material. Stonehell and Barrowmaze are similar and vastly different in many ways. I believe with both games you are getting some amazing products, but the devil is in the details on both.

What is Stonehell?

Stonehell is a megadungeon that has been constructed in a clever manner. It was designed for Labyrinth Lord Revised, so that means it is easily compatible with all TSR/OSR products, like Old School Essentials. All dungeon levels are made up of four separate smaller dungeons that when combined make a super level. Each of the areas has its own flavor and its own unique traps and denizens, but the game has some lovely theme going on here. The full dungeon is separated into two books, basically the first 5 levels, and the last 5 levels. As the dungeons go deeper, they get not only more dangerous, but more and more unusual. There are some gonzo things that can be thrust upon the players, and the survivability of the dungeon is grueling. 

        Stonehell in the fiction was a social experiment gone wrong. It was designed to be a prison that the prisoners dug for themselves. Eventually the prison became filled with so many people, it took on a life of its own. The prisoners dug deeper to escape the prying eye of guards and rules and set up mini-domains in the dungeon’s depths. Eventually the prison was liberated, but many decided to stay, and many were driven so mad by their time they had no choice but to stay. Time has passed and it is now the gathering place for many a strange group of people and humanoids. If I had to give it a feel from a video game, I might suggest Bioshock.

        There is an overall thread/plot happening in the dungeon, in fact, besides the main plot there are a bunch of mini-plots that can be latched onto as well. The players can slowly over time see the danger Stonehell presents and choose to stop it, or just steal its riches and run far away. I find the plot to be interesting and quite fun, but I am not going to spoil it here, buy the books and find out. 

This section would be 1/4th of a level in a dungeon.

Good and the Bad

I think the biggest feature you receive with Stonehell is a lot of bang for your buck. For people that were turned off at the price tag of Barrowmaze, this is a much easier pill to swallow. The first book, Down Night-Haunted Halls, is $13 for a printed copy. The second book, Into the Heart of Hell, will run you $18 for a printed copy. You get roughly 40 dungeons for $31 which is an amazing deal. The print quality is good for the price and comes in a black and white paperback format. I love the fact that I can just take a small chunk out of these books and make my own dungeon out of it. In fact, you do not need to run Stonehell itself for this to be useful. Want to throw your players into a snake cults ancient temple? There is a dungeon for that. Want to have a dungeon out-of-time? There is a dungeon for that. Want to have a lair of trolls? There is a dungeon for that. It is a grab bag full of goodness.

The thing people might not like about this dungeon is that there are not a lot of bells and whistles as far as production value. The book is straight forward and does not have a lot of amazing art or a town with which to venture from into Stonehell. You get a basic background and a plot thread, then it is straight into the meat of the project. Not a lot of frills to go with it, but in general it is not needed for many DMs. I connected this adventure to Barrowmaze and now Bogtown is the base of operations for going into Stonehell, simple and effective. We all have a “base camp town” in our back pocket we can use for an adventure like this. Whether is a Keep on the Borderlands or a Village named Hommlet, it is easy to get around this perceived negative. 


Overall, you are not going to get a much better dungeon for the price. This product is for the thrifty DM, that does not want a lot of extras, but a lot of meat. I think comparing it to Barrowmaze is fair and to say they are similar products. Some people will want the car with a lot of extras and a shiny coat of paint. Some people will want an affordable car that certainly gets the job done. Let’s face it, many of us will want them both! 

Are you lacking a town to run Stonehell out of? Try Niklas Wistedt's free town HERE.

You can check out my full review of Barrowmaze by clicking HERE.

You can purchase Stonehell HERE.

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Thursday, September 10, 2020

Old School Essentials (OSE) - Barrowmaze #3 and Stonehell #1 on YouTube


               This week I am dropping two more videos for my Old School Essentials campaigns. Yes, the plural is correct. I went ahead and added a second game to my OSE list, this time it is the also infamous Stonehell. I am actually setting the two games in the same area and allowing them to effect one another. I am hoping to base one game out of Helix for Barrowmaze and I am setting up the other to be out of Bogtown for Stonehell. This way, down the line, I might have some crossover in the games and allow players to jump between them. We will see how it goes.

Barrowmaze #3

               This week the Magic-User was not able to show, but the group did manage to make it to the Barrowmoors and open another mound. They were waylaid by a set of zombies and almost did not make it out alive. I did have a GM mess up that I remembered after the game, Zombies always go last in combat. This could have changed things greatly for the party, so I plan to retcon a bit next week and give a special bonus to the group. I hope you enjoy it.

Stonehell #1

                This is an interesting situation. I was running a game for this group for about 6 months before the pandemic hit. We have not played since, because honestly I was a bit overwhelmed and also not comfortable with Roll20. This group consists of a Dwarf, a Half-Orc, and a Cleric. All of them are 3rd level and the only "new" character is the Cleric. The Cleric rolled AMAZING stats and was watched by all of us. I use 4d6, drop the lowest, in order and it was something amazing to be seen. I allowed him to carry over half his XP from a previous character that was eaten by goblins. 

               We had some technical issues and some learning curve with the players that are new to Roll20, but I think the game went smoothly. We got a late start due to having to get are ducks in a row and transferring characters into the Roll20 platform, but that is all before the recording. I am really excited about the Stonehell campaign and I want to see how it compares to Barrowmaze.

Some are reporting not being able to see the videos above, if so, here is a direct link to the channel. Click HERE.

You can check out my full review of Barrowmaze by clicking HERE.

My Twitch channel for live videos is HERE.

 Like my work? Follow me on Facebook here.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Old School Essentials - Barrowmaze on YouTube

     I have started a Twitch/YouTube with my current games. I am running OSE as the rules and Barrowmaze as the setting. The games are being conducted via Roll20 and they are nothing fancy. You see them from my perspective as the DM and you can see many of the resources I use throughout the games. Also, I play in a 5e game with my longtime friends that got me into AD&D when I was about 10. That game I am not running, but I am playing with my friend Mike as the DM. 

Here is episode #1, it was a little bit of a technical mess. We were getting use to the new technology. I have played on Roll20 a decent amount, but running games was a new proposition. We got into the story a bit, but if you want to skip to #2 you will not be too lost.

Here is episode #2 and I feel much better about this one. We get into some real action in the game and you can see how OSE and Barrowmaze really play out. I have run Barrowmaze in person before for about a year and have been running D&D most of my life. I hope I have a least some skill in the area. 

    As many know, I am a college professor and advisor. I also run a gaming club at the college for students. They were playing in my Barrowmaze campaign and we are going to try and pick up the game after a 6 month hiatus due to the virus. I plan to merge the games and have what happens in one, effect what happens in the other. We'll see how that works. I plan to let my group in the videos above have a bit more time in the Barrow Mounds before the other group comes back. My students will therefore be on a separate adventure for awhile before heading back to Helix.

Some are reporting not being able to see the videos above, if so, here is a direct link to the channel. Click HERE.

You can check out my full review of Barrowmaze by clicking HERE.

My Twitch channel for live videos is HERE.

 Like my work? Follow me on Facebook here.