Tag Archives: OSR

Bill Webb’s Deck of Dirty Tricks


I backed the Indiegogo campaign and I’m glad I did. The Indiegogo had the option for all three decks and right now I can only find what I believe is Volume 1 on the Frog God site. But as you can see, there were three decks. A generic one. One geared for dungeons. And one for wilderness.
So what exactly are these decks? Well, each card has a little bonus or perk for a character. Bonuses, do-overs, confusing an opponent and so on. If you’re familiar with the Savage Worlds Adventure Deck or the Pathfinder Plot Twist Deck then the Dirty Tricks deck is basically the same thing. And yes I have both of those.
The Savage Worlds Deck is perfect for Savage Worlds. And the Pathfinder Deck is great for Pathfinder and 3.x. So if you playing Fifth Edition, or any retroclone then well those decks don’t exactly work. Savage Worlds is a completely different game system (duh). And well Pathfinder is Pathfinder. There’s enough similarity between most retroclones and 5E that the decks will work. So they are pretty edition neutral. Oh and there’s some pretty funny quotes on them too.

Now let’s look at a couple of cards:
Jump Back Kiss Myself: Re-roll a failed Saving Throw
It’s Only A Flesh Wound: Take only half damage
I Know Something You Don’t Know..I Am Left Handed: +2 To-Hit and Damage for 3 Rounds
You’re Going To Shoot Your Eye Out: Missile attack blinds opponent for 2 Rounds.

You get the idea. And what are the rules for using these cards? There are none. It’s up to the GM to decide how they are used at the table. Maybe every player gets a card. Or they only get a card if they do something cool. Or roll a Nat 20. Do NPC get cards? That’s up to the GM too. And that’s when they become real Decks of Dirty Tricks. Personally, I’m still bouncing around ideas how exactly I want to use them. Maybe like I mentioned before. A card for every player at the beginning of a session and then an extra card if they do something cool. And I’ll probably think pull a few for NPC use. Insert evil snicker.
These cards add other layer of randomness that can happen during an adventure. While it put strain on the GM’s well thought plot, it will drive stories into completely different directions. And I think it’s good think. I kind of like when the game reaches out to both the players and GM and throws some crazy out there. You know sort of some of the craziness of Dungeon Crawl Classics.
Heck match these up with the Hireling, Encounter, and Treasure Cards, you can have a crazy session with little prep (but a whole lot of improvisation).

Time to do the end of year navel gazing

It’s that time of year. Most everybody does it and take it as time to get back on track and set some goals and make some plans for next year. So I go into a whole long rant in this week’s episode. You can subscribe on most platforms or just stream it here.

But here’s the highlights:
Cool stuff this year goes to Old Skull Publishing (and his great games Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells, Dark Streets & Darker Secrets, Solar Blades & Cosmic Spells). Also Old Essentials from Necrotic Gnome wonderfully organized and easy to use take on BX D&D. Then there’s Goodman Games. DCC Lankhmar. Hell yeah! And Frog God Games. Great Kickstarters like Tegel Manor and small print run Indiegogo campaigns for some neat adventures. And then there’s Skeeter Green and his new entry into publishing.
And then the misses of the year. Oh Ref Book where art thou? I’m not going to spend a lot of complaining. I just don’t care about it any more.
So now on to what I’m planning. First, expect more of the same here at the old blog but probably with more Swords & Wizardry. For Playing It Wrong, also expect more of the same but with more food and humor because blackjack and Hookers are just too expensive.
I’ve got some minor tweaks to do on the Patreon. That should be done before the end of the year.
I plan on doing about one video a month on the Youtube channel. Some reviews/unboxings and maybe a few little crafty/DIY type things.
Discord. Well. I keeping forgetting about that. I’ve tried to set aside a time for that. So instead, I’ll just be a random encounter there. I’ll show up and see what’s going on.

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Averaging is Your Friend

This is something I’ve done in my other old school games successfully. There aren’t any skills so to speak and most folks go with roll something versus an ability score. But in the past I’ve always what I felt was the best mechanic available. One good stat made a character great at a whole family of things. So I’ve gone to averaging.
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of the games put out by Old Skull Publishing and I’m working on a nice little review of Dark Streets and Darker Secrets, a campaign for it, and some other little goodies. The point of this is that I’m going to be adding that this to my game.
Like I said, instead of making checks against one stat, make a check against the average of two. I’ve thrown these checks into a few broad categories.
Athletics (Strength and Dexterity) or (Physique and Agility: Climbing, Acrobatics, Jumping and all that stuff.
Craft: (Intelligence and Dexterity) or (Agility and Intellect): This is for doing stuff with your hands. Skinning an animal, hot wiring a car, even first Aid.
Wits: (Intelligence and Wisdom) or (Intellect and Will): This isn’t about knowing stuff rote. It’s about understanding information and being able to parse that information.
And, of course< there are more options but use as you will. And you don't even have to add this to character sheets. It's just make check against and list them. My players already know what I mean.
And it works. It makes more than one stat important to preform an action. So min maxing is not your friend. It's easy. And generally works well with the existing system.
Like any rules hack, your mileage may vary. Remember the most important thing isn't the rules your using but the fun you're having.

Magical Aging & Level Drain in Old School Games

I’ve been thinking about these for a while. Let’s face it level drain has been debated to death. No put intended. And I’ve said before that I don’t mind it. But I will admit that it is really harsh. And then there’s magical aging. This is usually due to the old Haste Spell when the target ages a year. I always thought that it was kind of meh. And if the target was an elf, then it’s a who cares. To an elf, what’s another year. With the upcoming Labyrinth Lord game, I decided to think about these two and came up with a couple of ideas that I wanted to simple and still have that old school feel about them and that I could convert on the fly.
Level Drain: Instead of draining levels, monsters with this ability do extra damage (1d6/Level Drained). This damage is special and must tracked separately. It will not heal naturally. Potions will not work. Only a character employing healing spells who also has the Turn ability can attempt to heal the damage. For any healing spells to actually work, the caster must make a turning attempt (for each spell cast) and must successfully “turn” the creature that caused the damage.
Magical Aging: For each year that a character is magically aged, a Saving Throw versus Spells must be attempted. On a failure, the character permanently loses 1 point of Strength, Dexterity or Constitution (determined randomly).
So those are my quick thoughts on that. I’ll give the players the option on the level drain if they want to go hard core old school or something gentler. We shall see.

Even More Variable Weapon Damage for White Box

So yep still playing around getting ready to run a White Box game. We’ve talked some scheduling within the group and it looks like it will be just after the New Year. Yep, we plan that far ahead. Anyway, on to the subject at hand. I’ve been thinking about weapon damage and making a little variable or swingy as some say. My first gut instinct was just port in the variable weapon damage and HD from Supplement 1 or Basic. While it would probably work, it just doesn’t keep with the vibe of White Box (just needing d20’s and d6’s). I thought a bit and then I remembered some bits from Open D6. Hey that might work.
So here’s the low down. Each +3 bonus becomes an additional die. For example:
A fighter with 15 Str (+1) with a +2 Sword (d6+2). Normally, that would be 1d6+3. Under this it becomes 2d6.
Let’s take the same fighter but this time give him a +5 Great Sword. Normally, that be 1d6+7. Under this that become 3d6+1
Now let’s take these two examples and look at averages:
1d6+3: 6.5; 2d6: 7
1d6+7: 10.5; 3d6+1, 11.5
And now damage range:
1d6+3, 4 to 9; 2d6, 2 to 12
1d6+7, 8 to 14; 3d6+1, 4 to 19
Averages are close enough for my tastes. The damage ranges are more variable and have more of a bell curve. Which can put the idea of a crit that does more damage based on the damage roll rather than the to-hit roll. And it let’s the players roll more dice which most enjoy. Of course, the same would go for monsters and NPC’s too. So the PC’s might be on the receiving end of that damage.
Once again, the dice have not yet met the table on this one and YMMV.
I just talked about a Frankengame on the podcast. And this is an example.

Cleric’s With Spell Books?

I did that post last week about stuff I was going to mess around with in White Box (Swords & Wizardry/Fantastic Medieval Adventures type) and an astute reader in Tenkar’s Tavern pointed out something pretty interesting. Something that had totally passed me by. In original White Box D&D, clerics used spell books.
That’s right. It’s right there on page 34 of Volume 1: Men & Magic. “Characters who employ spells are assumed to acquire books containing the spells they can use, one book for each spell level. If a duplicate set of such books is desired the cost will be the same as the initial investment for research…Loss of these books will require replacement at the above expense.”
So note. It doesn’t say Magic-Users. It’s characters who employ spells. There’s only two classes that do that. Magic-Users and Clerics. In the paragraph just above the one I quoted, it talks specifically about Clerics and Magic-Users researching spells to expand their spell list. Additionally, there’s nothing about clerics praying for spells or magic-users memorizing their spells. It does say this, ” The number in each column opposite each applicable character indicates the number of spells of each level that can be used (remembered during any single adventure) by that character…A spell once used may not be reused the same day.” That’s a bit poorly worded but then a lot of stuff in LBB is. There’s another interesting bit. That’s the first sentence in the description of the Clerics. “Clerics gain some of the advantages from of the two other classes (Fighting-Men and Magic-Users)..”
Plus there’s the bit about spell research for clerics with same costs as magic-users. Now I dug out my Holmes and Metzger books. And cleric spells work they way we’ve become accustomed. Hmm. This is all pretty interesting and some good food for thought.

Attack of the Mini-Clones!

Let’s see there’s Swords & Wizardry Light followed up by Swords & Wizardry Continual Light. And now James Spahn of Barrel Rider Games has come out with Untold Adventures.

So all these games are kissing cousins and largely cross compatible. And I’m sure somewhere out there that there is a a game that I missed. But since I’m a Swords & Wizardry fan, these hit my radar screen first. And yes I know Light and Continual Light have been out quite a while. Now that all the disclaimers are done. On to the meat.
These games are important right now more than any (IMHO). Why? Well, they’re cheap or even free. They’re great intro to folks who haven’t messed with any OSR games. Heck, their a great intro for kids and adults who have never picked up an RPG. For the more seasoned, they’re still great. Why? Well, sometimes the regular DM is sick or something and you need a quick pick up game. Or maybe you’re just tired of spending more time checking rules than killing orcs. These make a great change of pace and still have enough crunch to make them viable games.
So I know someone will ask. What are these games like? Well, they’re both based of Swords & Wizardry White Box. That means you only need a d20’s and d6’s. A single saving throw. Easy to read monster entries. And quick play that is very much free form. So what do I mean by free form. There’s checking if your character has the feat or the skill to do something. Just do it.
If you aren’t an OSR type but still like the D&D type games. Check them out. Enjoy.