Category Archives: News, Rants & Reviews

OSR Retrospective: Dark Dungeons

Back when I was first getting into the OSR, Dark Dungeons was one of the early retroclones that I stumbled upon. Back in those days, I was grabbing up every free or PWYW PDF that I could. I was on a search for a set of rules that spoke to my inner youthful grognard.

Dark Dungeons is a stand alone game and has the usual classes and race-as-class. It draws it’s inspiration from the Rules Cyclopedia and BECMI. Heck the character levels go up to 36. That’s right 36. I don’t know anybody who normally plays at such levels but you can do what you want.

Because there’s so many retroclones, nobody really has the time to play them all. So like some of the others, Dark Dungeons is one of those that sits on hard drive as a reference work. As I said, it’s a complete game. So not only does it have all the rules and stuff that you would expect, it also has rules for some that are missing from other games. like strongholds and domains, aerial combat (including sky ships), naval combat, mass combat (War!), extra-planar adventuring, and having PC’s become “Immortals”. While you may not use all of these components in your game, it is nice to have them readily at hand when you’re designing your campaign and don’t want just another cookie cutter setting that doesn’t have anything odd in it.

You can grab the original edition of Dark Dungeons or the 10th Anniversary Edition on DrivethruRPG for PWYW. You can also find out more about the Dark Dungeons and other of their games at the Gurbintroll Games website.

Forgotten Tales of Sword & Sorcery: Options!

It’s no secret that everybody plays differently especially when it comes to old school games. I love that and embrace it. That’s why I added lots of options for Forgotten Tales of Sword & Sorcery.

I admit that these aren’t as play tested as the core rules and may need a little tweaking to fit your individual tastes but it gives GM’s a starting point and/or some inspiration to tailor the game to their group.

The attached examples don’t have all of the optional rules. I only added the ones that I personally found kind of cool. And if you’ve been following closely, there have been a few minor changes to the core rules since I started sharing previews. Here’s the optional rules used on these characters:

Static HD: Instead of the White Box staggered HP system, these characters us a HD as later editions but still some what faithful to the White Box philosophy. Warriors: d6+1, Wanderers: d6, and Sorcerers: d6-1.

Improved Prime Ability Score Modifiers: This only affects a character’s Prime Ability Score Modifiers based on their class. This makes them a little better at the things that they are supposed to be good at.

Five Saving Throws: I personally like the Single Saving Throw but some people don’t. That’s OK. So I added the option. For the example, I did use the five “new” categories that I created to better emulate the genre. Most are self explanatory except Luck which I’m billing as a When In Doubt/Catch All Save. Who has the bad thing happen? Who steps on the trap trigger? That sort of thing. And the Traditional Five Saves are in the core book.

Checks As Percentages: I was inspired by the original Thief class and its percentage based skills. There are a few places where the math works out differently but I still think that it’s a fun option and offers more granularity than the x in d6 method.

Here’s how it works. Checks begin at 3 x the Ability Score. At first level, increase one Prime Ability Check by 2d6. Each level after that increase one Prime Ability Check and one non-Prime Ability Check by 1d6. Specializations can be either a re-roll at 30% or act as +20% bonus to the Check depending on which option the GM wants to use. If you remember, Ability Checks also have other uses in the game. A character’s score in an Ability Check can be used as modifier in some cases. Under the percentage system, it’s an easy conversion. Divide the tens digit by two. So a 35% Check would mean +2 modifier. (3 dived by 2). There are also cases where the result of a successful Check is the effect. For example, a CON Check is used to bind wounds. Under the X in d6 system, if the Check is successful then the number rolled is how many HP are healed. For the percentage system, a similar mechanic is used. Simply divide the tens digit by two for the effect with one slight exception. For really good rolls like 03% count the 0 as 10 (or 10/2=5).

OSR Retrospective: Fantastic Heroes & Witchery

What can I say about Fantastic Heroes & Witchery? It’s one of those games that’s all over the place but in a good way.

The rules are mixture of inspirations from many editions but still largely compatible with other school games. So from the rules stand point, it stand along side so many others. Where it really proves interesting and valuable IMHO is all the classes, races, and cross genre inspiration.

Fantastic Heroes & Witchery isn’t just a plain old game with elves and dwarves and the usual array of classes. For fantasy, there’ are LOTS of classes and many races that didn’t come out until later editions. So there’s plenty of material there.

But wait there’s more! It even goes into it’s own version of Weird Fantasy. This sticks more to the pulp and Sword & Planet type classes and races rather than the edge lord definition of Weird Fantasy. This is the part that is really inspirational and usable for whatever old-school rules you happen to prefer. As I have said many times, don’t be afraid to color outside the lines and Fantastic Heroes & Witchery is good place to begin.

It’s well worth checking out over on DrivethruRPG or on DOM Publishing’s site.

Majestic Wilderlands Basic Rules

I backed the Kickstarter on this one and glad I did. Not only is it for Swords & Wizardry, it’s just down right pretty cool.

Majestic Fantasy is basically a free standing game that is compatible with Swords & Wizardry. So you’ve got a slew of adventures that you could use with it. But it does have it’s own set of additional rules that add a whole lot of flavor to the game. It uses only the four basic classes but with a skill system added on there isn’t that much need for the other common classes. So yes. It does have a skill system. I know some don’t think it’s very “old-school” to have skills but if done like it is here then it isn’t as much as a burden as it is in 3.x. Races, equipment, monsters, and spells are all pretty much handled the standard way. Now, there are rules for ritual casting of spells which are clean, simple, and a very good addition.

The other area where this game stands out is the Combat chapter. A lot more options are added onto the standard Swords & Wizardry rules as well as some good variations. Like the skills (Abilities as they are called), the new combat rules are simple and still add some flavor to the standard rules. The Crit rules are pretty good allowing for a whole butt load of damage on rolls of multiple Natural 20’s. And rules for Combat Stunts and Grappling are another of those nice additions.

Overall, the game has a clean and easy to read layout. These aged eyes are grateful. This just may be my opinion but more publishers should make rule books more to be reference books to be used at the table rather than a coffee table book to Ooh and Ahh over.

This is a welcome addition to my library and I’ll be really happy when my hard copy hits the mail box. If you didn’t back this and you play Swords & Wizardry then you should grab this one up as quickly as possible. If play another of the old-school game then still grab it up for ideas and inspiration to add to your game. It’s worth the price of admission.

You can grab the Majestic Fantasy Basic Rules on DrivethruRPG. And there’s some nice rules reference cards for the Basic Rules and Swords & Wizardry. Those are going to be so handy at the table. Check those out too.

OSR Retrospective: For Gold & Glory

Most of the games that I’ve written about before were clones of Original, Basic, or Advanced Editions. This makes For Gold & Glory a little different.

For Gold & Glory is clone of the the so-called “2nd Edition”. I know it’s that common and some folks have a love-hate relationship with 2nd Edition. Since it’s (as I would call it) the last of the old-school editions, it has all the races and classes that you would expect. It also has the 2nd Edition skill system which I personally thought was really weird. Since this is a core book, it doesn’t have what I really enjoyed in 2nd Ed, the class kits. In case you don’t know, the kits were sort of like the Prestige Classes in 3.x. The main difference was that for the kits, you started at 1st level as the kit class. You were a specialized version of that class.

Well, what have I done with it? Not really anything. I’m being honest here. I have much more fun messing around with something based on White Box or Basic. That doesn’t mean I haven’t sat back and read For Gold & Glory. It is a good trip down memory lane.

So should you grab it up? Well, sure. Like said, it’s a good trip down memory lane. If you want to play a game based on the 2nd Edition rules? Then here’s chance because the PDF is free on DrivethruRPG.