Saturday, August 6, 2022

Counting the Days... New OSE Character Class for a New Campaign

The counter says 86 days until the OSE books I backed are shipped. I have no special knowledge of the workings of this Kickstarter, I simply set the countdown to October 31st. I hope they start shipping October first, but that is just whistling in the wind. Kickerstarter merely lists an October date as a due date. They could ship on November 1st for all I know and it would still be close enough for me.  

Anyway, I am targeting Thanksgiving weekend for the kick-off of a new wacky campaign. This one uses several new character classes I have in mind: Unicorn, Veteran, Hood or Hoodlum, Kobolds of three kinds, and Monomachus. Of these half dozen or so classes, the most brain power and testing have gone into the Veteran. 

I visualize this character as a Vietnam-era U.S. soldier. The reason I picked this archetype is their depiction in the media is a rather well-documented reality breaker. This type of character often appears with standard-non-standard equipment, anything from WWII to the Aliens franchise, all based on what the prop department had at the time. Oddly, there are records of soldiers of all kinds using anything from spears to Thompson machine guns and everything in between. What is uniformly absent is the host of high-tech gizmos that modern troops need batteries and electricity to operate. 

Then there are the magic numbers. While researching soldiers, I got two numbers: 70 lbs and 210 bullets. This is the number of things soldiers can have. The gist of these two numbers is, that soldiers have to weigh protection vs. lethality vs. mobility. Soldiers pick underwear or bullets or food. It's really simple and apparently, soldiers have been doing it for more than 2000 years. So, while I am picturing a U.S. soldier, it could apply anywhere. That's actually nice. 

I have already posted about guns and bullets. I'll talk about what playtesting showed me about guns another day. 

In this post, I'll share what I noticed about soldiers in general, which allows me to set some standards for abilities and capabilities. Since I know soldiers can carry a lot of stuff, their prime requisite is Consitution. Not only do soldiers use it every day they also are immunized against all manner of things. They start their career through a vetting process which means they are on the higher end of the stamina scale. 


Next, soldiers are trained for combat. They receive both a small historical curriculum of knowledge paired with modern tactics. They are adaptable and wily. For this reason, I can pair physical equipment with knowledge to give them a bonus of 2 on their AC without getting tied up in actual equipment and what stats they should have. A modern soldier has better protection and training to avoid or capitalize on specific historical styles of combat. At least better than any pseudo-medieval type character. This is everything from physical protection like a helmet and body armor to situations one should avoid. Plus 2 sounds reasonable.  

Soldiers have a lot of physical training so they are amenable to using virtually any weapon. They have proficiency but do not have any bonuses for their training. Where they do get a bonus of 1 is in the case of avoiding surprise, which is a combat-non-combat skill. They are always on the lookout for ambushes. 

The other part of their training is time management. This skill allows the soldier and his party to move 5% to 20% faster than typical over a day. They aren't running or moving faster, they are simply making sure everything moves more efficiently. I.E. a five-minute rest stop doesn't turn into a 15 or 30-minute break. This bonus only applies to walking movement. If animals or wagons are thrown into the mix, the physical limits of those things take precedence. Another piece of this ability is soldiers have watches and compasses which are helpful for travel.  

I had considered a number of other skills but decided against them. In particular, I thought about tracking, detecting, and healing. Not every soldier can perform these tasks beyond what an average person already. If I wanted to do that, I wrote a whole book on that subject - Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners. This book provides professional character types like a healer, a scout, etc. which either extend the normal character classes with some new professional skills or allows the creation of a fully formed non-combat orientated professional character. The other advantage of this is this Veteran class doesn't steal any function from any other class such as tracking from rangers or trap detection from thieves.  

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Ah... August

For some reason, everything slows down on the blog in summer. I have a ton of things going on apparently. The garden is rocking, there are five family birthdays and an anniversary in July and August. 

We worked in a concert or two and wine tasting. 

In the next few weeks, big gaming things are happening. Looking at the countdown, there are only 90 days until my OSE books are shipped. After that, I plan on launching a campaign for the kids. They have never played old-school D&D and OSE is kind of my go-to set to play. 

I've already started writing the scenario. I'm hoping to have 7-12 players for a couple of months as a playtest. There will be at least 6 non-standard classes for them to use plus all of the regular ones available in the OSE books. I can't wait. 

I hope to develop this campaign into a module or three.  

Recently, I decided to open a new social media channel on Locals. I call it The Map Bag, but there is little to nothing about gaming there. It's actually named after the bag I carry around for art supplies and computer junk. It will be a good place for many non-gaming posts, like this one. It's a tip jar of sorts. I don't play on paywalling any posts, but the built-in pay feature is there. 

I do poorly marketing myself and it has been a very long time since I have introduced a new product. I hope that changes because I have some ideas kicking around. I just won't have time for a while. 

So, here are some links to the products I do have. 



Swashbuckler Character
Class for D&D and AD&D


Swashbucklers for D&D and AD&D
Zero to Hero:
Uncommon Heroes

Zero to Hero
Zero to Hero
Character Sheet
for AD&D

Character Sheet
Character Sheet for AD&D



Kobold’s Folly
Mini Setting

Kobold’s Folly
Kobold’s Folly
Compass Rose
Inn Mini Setting

Compass Rose Inn
Compass Rose Inn
The Hex Pack
The Hex Pack
The Hex Pack

I'll see you around at the end of summer. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Return to Brookmere by Rose Estes

Today, I'd like to look at a bit of nostalgia. The title is Return to Brookmere by Rose Estes. This whole series of books was one of my favorites. 

Title: Return to Brookmere
Author: Rose Estes
Year: July 1982
Pages: 153
Rating: ★★★★ 

In this title, you take the role of an Elf named Brion. The story starts with a multi-page character sheet, the description begins with your height, weight, and appearance before moving on to clothing, weapons, armor, and gear. Of note, you seem to be wearing elven chainmail and have a magic necklace. Your mission is to scout your former home of Castle Brookmere. 

Back in 1982, I would have been 10. This style of storytelling made quite an impression on me. It was a merger of Choose Your Own Adventure and classic D&D. Each entry usually ends with 3 choices to pick from to progress the story. It wasn't at all like the open-end D&D sessions but it was pretty close. Often you hit the "The End... go back to the beginning," which usually meant you did something careless. 

I have mapped out whole adventure games like Star Smuggler. It is rather unnecessary for this title as it's so brief. There are 12 endings, good or bad. There are 24 choice pages and 15 or so jump pages that ask the reader to move to a new page without a choice. I like to call these tension pages as the reader will flip through several pages of text before having to hop to another page for a choice. It's a neat trick. 

Jousting Tourney - An Unusual Game

I am tearing through reviews this month, figured I take a break and talk about something else I enjoy. The first game book that I have extensive experience with was Chainmail. My dad was a huge fan of wargaming and back then it was all WRG. It's a 'tich hard to teach a 3 or 4-year-old the ins and outs of morale, light vs. heavy troops, average dice, army point systems, and the like. 

So on the weekends, Chainmail was our go-to game. My personal favorite section is the Jousting Table. If you don't have a lot of time, The Jousting Table is always there. It's a diceless system made up of a simple pair of tables and a shield schematic. Pick a position and target, compare and there are your results. 

Being my dad, we had 25 mm figures for every entrant in the Tourney. Even better, my dad cribbed lines from books and movies like Ivanhoe, The Lone Ranger, and an amazing number of Errol Flynn movies. The results were not simply "kill", "unseated", etcetera. It was a full-on color commentary on the action. More akin to hockey than jousting. 

Every once in a while, I like to throw a wildly different mechanic at my players. The more complex the rule system, the harder it is to integrate a completely new mechanic. I have simply written ruleset for sprinting, I call it the Movement Game. It is less than one page long, has a picture or two to help, and is largely based on AD&D's regular movement system. It is also remarkably non-lethal and covers a range of scenarios. The danger of it is players will try to invoke it when things go to hell in combat. It's relatively harmless when player-invoked. 

I probably came up with it while thinking about the Jousting Table from Chainmail. Instead of a table, every character has a figure or chit and can move an inch, one right after the other. Dirt simple. 

For my next session in November, I am brainstorming a mechanic called "Evil Eye". A character who has the center position on a gameboard can impose a status effect like "freeze", "fall" or "flee" on enemies. The central player can only affect a 30-degree arc of the playing area, so keeping enemies away is difficult because the players are surrounded. Exactly who is giving the orders really depends on the party, who realizes the center of the board is important, etc. So it could be the Super Amadeus Arch-Machiavellian... or the cook he hired. 

It's so much fun to bring something simple to the table. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Thieves World Short Story Review - Sentences of Death By John Brunner

Title: Sentences of Death
Author: John Brunner
Year: 1978
Pages: 23
Rating: ★★★★

Ah, John Brunner. Between 1970 and 1975, Brummer penned 9 novels. Some of the finest works of SF.  In 1978, his short fiction work, Sentences of Death was the first short story of the first book in the Thieves World collection. And what an open piece it is. 

We meet Sanctuary's gritty streets and self-made fortunes through the eyes of scribe Melilot and his young protege Jarveena. Using forgery, blackmail, and mistranslation, Melilot fits right into Thieves World with his stable of scribes for hire. Through Melilot's exploits, the reader is introduced to what makes Sanctuary tick and what those ticks do to the people in the city, young, old, and in the middle. The children are the core of commerce in Sanctuary, much of which is exactly what one with think of trade in children. Jarveena is dragged right along with her master's plots. 

It's grim. 

Jarveena, Melilot's latest scribe has business and vengeance on the mind. A chance encounter pits her against the captain of the guard, Aye-Gophlan and his men who took everything from her. Jarveena craves vengeance and boy, does it work. As if having the criminal mastermind of Melilot at her back wasn't enough, she encounters the mage Enas Yorl who simply seals the deal for her.  

The story revolves around a magic scroll that none can read. This little monkey paw of a device winds a tortured path through the story, running from a street urchin scribe all the way to the Prince of the city. 

As per the typical fare for Thieves World, winning isn't always a good option as Jarveena and Enas Yorl discover. Sentences of Death is artfully crafted and while grim, is an excellent primer for Thieves World. 

In the review of these stories, I'd like to link them back to classic D&D. While scribes don't exactly fit as a class of D&D character, the function could be fulfilled by Magic-Users, Clerics, and of course, Thieves. Enas Yorl is accursed, which is an interesting take on a magic-user. Some of the other magic in the story hints at Dimension Door and Polymorph (large writ) while Aye-Gophlan's behavior and beliefs tend to model closely to poor characters just trying to get a leg up while being deluded as to their station in the story.