Saturday, March 31, 2012

JG Wilderlands Hex Sheets

I'm still on my hunt for Judges Guild Wilderlands Blank Hex Sheets (17x22). The sepia colored ones.

Does anybody happen to have one they would part with, or do you have a scan of one?


I wanted to write a quick note that OSRcon (Toronto) registration opens tomorrow.

I couldn't make it last year because my wife and I had already planned a trip away by the time the conference dates were announced. However, I plan on being there this year and intend on running either Barrowmaze (or possibly something else). I'll also try to have a few hard copies with me if you are attending and interested. At least one other person from our gaming group will be coming with.

Also, sorry for the slow blogging recently. Between our aggressive playing schedule, work, and yard duty, there hasn't been as much time as usual.

Speaking of playing, we were at it again last night. I'll post when we have the next session report up.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Barrowmaze Session Report from The Delvers

I'd just like to point out a super awesome session report of Barrowmaze from The Delvers.

How cool to play with your kids! Is Dad DMing?

I have to wait more than a few years before my children will be old enough to play but until then - I'll take great enjoyment from reading these cool reports.

Be sure to poke around their blog - there's no charge for awesomeness.

Poag Interview at The Drunk Umber Hulk

I just noticed an interview with Stefan Poag over at The Drunk Umber Hulk. I really enjoyed it. I like to learn how creative people think and do what they do.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Barrowmaze Session 16 (March 23)

In Session 16 (Northern Reaches 32) the adventurers managed to explore deeper into Barrowmaze. They ran into a bunch of vermin and fled all the cool rooms :)

Blank JG Hex Map Sheets

Does anybody know where you can get large hex map paper like that?

I was reading about it on the Sword +1 blog. I'd email him but I didn't see an address.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Barrowmaze Session Report March 21

The guys are machines right now in terms of gaming sessions. We played again Wednesday and are playing again tonight.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Barrowmaze I and II News and Notes

Just wanted to post an update regarding Barrowmaze and Barrowmaze II.

First, I've just commissioned an artist to redo the Barrowmaze map in both classic blue and black/white. We don't have a date on this yet, but when the time comes I'll let you know here and at In case you are new, I funded Barrowmaze on my own (being Canadian I can't use Kickstarter without a US third party) and there just wasn't enough to do the maps. So, in the spirit of keeping things as reasonable as possible I'll make the maps available as a download via rpgnow on the cheap. The same artist is also going to do the map for BMII to keep them uniform. They will be done at a high resolution so you can print the whole thing as a poster, or print sections, or put it on your tablet, whatever works for you and your game. Sound ok?

In terms of Barrowmaze II, I can confirm the following sections of the dungeon: The Secret Shrine of Set, The Temple of Orcus, and the Vault of the Unholy Relic - the secret (and deadly) resting place of the Tablet of Chaos! There are other sections but I'm keeping those on the down-low for the moment. The first two flesh out the two primary factions in detail. There are some cool new treasure types as well.

In terms of art, the majority of the artists from Barrowmaze will return, but there will be some new faces too. The cover has been commissioned and is in progress. I've also started receiving interior art. I'm totally stoked (already) about the illustrations for this project.

Next question: So when will we see BMII?

The answer is that I have two dates in mind. The preamble is this - August and September are very busy months for me at work. I'm usually swamped with lecture prep in advance of the school year. So either BMII will drop before then (in July), or it will be in the mid-fall. Either way, I'm commited to getting it done.

If you have things you'd like to see or suggestions, I'm all over it. Let me know in the comments.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Red Box Vancouver and B/X Wisdom

One of the things I enjoy about the OSR is hearing the various opinions people have about old school games and how to play them. I particularly enjoy talking D&D with cr0m of Red Box Vancouver. Our first collaboration, Meatshields, has been a success and hopefully saved DMs time preparing for their games. Cr0m, and his fellow DM Johnstone, were both gracious enough to take part in my undergraduate course on the history and culture of role-playing games (and get bombarded with questions from my students on gaming subculture). I also use cr0m as a sounding board for Barrowmaze. This is a great out for me, anything you don't like is his fault. Huzzah! JK.

Cr0m and I were emailing recently with he hit me with with this bit of B/X knowledge neatly distilled into one sentence.

B/X D&D is "a grim deathmarch punctuated by moments of absurdity and improbable heroism." Of course, he means that in the nicest way possible :)

Here's another cr0m-ism I'm fond of:

"You play your character like you play a game of Space Invaders. You know you’re going to die. It’s just a question of how much glory!"

I like to share these with my players, to remind them of how awesome it is to level, and if by chance you make it to third level, you can say you won Dungeons and Dragons!

Red Box Vancouver just had their 91st session. If you've never checked out their site you should.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Barrowmaze and Teletext Art

Zhu, one of the contributing artists to Barrowmaze, entered a teletext art festival using the skull (from the skull and runic tablet) illustration from early in the adventure.

Anyway, I'll let him tell the rest of the story here.

Check it out.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Fuck Enworld

You know what's interesting about shopping malls?

Shopping malls are interesting because they present the illusion of public space. They appear friendly and welcoming. Family activities take place there. But if you decide to hang out in one for any length of time, or if you look or act like riff-raff (in their definition) eventually you'll get asked to leave because "this is private property."

Much the same can be said of the forum En***ld. It gives the appearance of public space devoted to the hegemony of 4e - until you say something that the omnipotent moderators deem trolling.

I've spent part of my late afternoon and early evening emailing with one such touchy moderator who didn't like my tone when I called 4e what it is: a dead system. It's as dead a system as OD&D, or Basic, or 2E, or whathaveyou. I define a dead system as one not currently supported by its property owners. With 5e, the death-knell has been sounded on 4e - it's worse than that, it's dead Jim.

This, I maintain, isn't trolling, this is a statement of the current reality. Whether or not people like it is moot. The only difference is context, I acknowledged it long ago, and the people who foolishly spent their money on that 4e shite aren't ready to let go. That's the only difference.

Remember too, I'm an academic. In my professional context all voices are to be heard. It doesn't mean people will agree with you, and that's totally fine. But you can speak your mind and be heard. There is no marginalization of minority opinions - be they of women, or people of colour, or people who hold an outrageous opinion held by few. So this situation really pisses me off to no end - but having said that I'm not going to get overly mad, I'm just going to vote with my blog and my feet.

So, as a result of the ass-clowns at En***ld, I heretofore submit the following:

1. If all voices can't be heard, I refuse to participate in discussion there.
2. I won't link to that site again.

They've gotten what they want, all I'm left with is civil disobedience.

5e Playtest Leak?

Not sure if folks have read this, but a long thread has developed on Enworld in response to info presented on the early playtest rules. Granted, it's an early version and it's still early in the process, but the spirit looks very min-maxy to my eyes.

Too funny, I'm reading through the comments of the whole post and the feeling seems to be it uses lots of 4e mechanics without actually saying so. To the point that one commentor wrote:

"It's like they're [WotC] willing to sleep with 4e, but not willing to be seen in public with it."

Too fucking funny.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Barrowmaze Session Report

Another session of Barrowmaze is in the books.

No PCs deaths, but we did manage to "misplace" one in the dark halls.

[Edit: Sorry about the broken link. I wasn't quite awake. All good now though).

Dungeon Mappers?

Does anyone out there make sweet dungeon maps or know someone who does?

I can pay but would need to see some sample work.

Lemme know.

kilted dot yaksman at yahoo dot ca

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Barrowmaze in hand!

After an exhausting wait, I now have hardcover and softcover copies of Barrowmaze in my hands.

What a relief.

As you can see, I have illustrations for most of the monsters in BM. When you fund these sorts of projects on your own you have to make decisions. My goal down the road is to produce a volume that has illustrations for them all. That would be cool :)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Turning Undead

So I read Mearls' recent post a couple days ago. My initial reaction was that I hated the ideas presented. But I wanted to give it some time to settle in. Now that I've done that I can say unequivocally - yes, I really do hate his ideas for modifying the turning undead mechanic.

What he presented (and no I'm not going to link to it) wasn't so much "rules" for a D&D rulebook, it was much more about "house rules" the things we add in or around our games. I don't like his suggestions as far as making it into the rulebooks. Why? Because they add bloat. he suggests having undead respond differently depending on the type. That adds to monster descriptions and adds to stat blocks - no fricken thank you. That also adds to the burden of the DM - which is apparently limitless if you listen to Mearls et al.

Why is it always ADD, ADD, ADD rules when it comes to game designers? How about subtracting the bloat? Knock the corners off and return to a streamlined mechanic based firmly in the Gygaxian history of the game.

It's exactly the same thing in the discipline of Economics. How many economics classes do you think you'll take where they actually talk about shrinking the economy?

Anyway, his post led me to think of the house rules we use in my game. I thought I'd explicate those and I'd love to hear what you do in your games.

I use the turning mechanics outlined in Barrowmaze. The turning number is increased by one and increases by one with each turn attempt per day (both are dungeon specific).

In addition to those, the turn attempt lasts for 1d12 rounds (I should change this to 3d4). If the cleric attacks the turned undead, the turn is broken. There are no rules that I am aware for for LL or B/X for the above. Although my memory is crappy at the best of times.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Barrowmaze Lego

My kids decided that they wanted to make a "Lego Barrowmaze."

That these were mega blocks, rather than lego, didn't seem to matter :)

Don't look for any Barrowmaze expansions for Heroica anytime soon.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Barrowmaze: Print Now Available

Believe it or not - it's here!!!

After a long and unexpected wait, Barrowmaze is now available in hardcover and softcover.

I apologize for any hassle this caused and I'd like to thank everyone for hanging in there.

Given the two options, I prefer the hardcover as I find it lays flatter at the table.

Also, Barrowmaze II is well into development and artists are already at work. I'll have more to say about it in the coming weeks. I'm also going to have a post on the ups and downs of RPGnow's print service Lightning Source.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Barrowmaze Session Report

Our most recent session report for Barrowmaze is now available.

Head on over to and check it out!

Alex, one of the players in my game, even managed to create some verse to mark the occasion.

Hey Mearls! Are You Kidding?

For those of you interested in the Wizards Legends and Lore column, Mike Mearls appears to have resumed his narrative duties.

There are a couple of interesting items (minor rant follows).

So he's running an office B/X campaign, the interesting part is at the end, "As I plan the campaign and (eventually) run adventures, I plan on making house rules, adopting rules from other editions, and shifting the rules to match how the game moves along [GG: all that sounds pretty good, who doesn't?]. In some ways, it's a reality check against the ideas I see proposed for the next iteration. Would I want them in my campaign?"

So what exactly does that mean? It's this type of cryptic language that irks people about these articles. Why would you need to run B/X as a baseline unless the Design Team has gone off in a different direction? That's just a strange statement and leaves us guessing.

The article is devoted to the save or die mechanic. Mearls makes TWO big mistakes here.

1) It appears his gut is telling him to leave it alone - but he's not listening to his gut. Instead, guess what, he makes it more complicated! Yes, lets give something else for the DM to track. Let's make save or die kick in at lower hit points! That is completely ridiculous. It doesn't matter at all whether you have 15 total hit points or 5 - save or die is save or die. Don't make the DMs life any more difficult than it already is. Why is the default position of game designers to make life more difficult for us? Just KEEP IT SIMPLE and rejoice in the gameplay freedom that emerges.

2) He overstates the case that save or die ends game nights or campaigns. He writes, "On the other hand, the save or die mechanic can be incredibly boring. With a few dice rolls, the evening could screech to a halt as the vagaries of luck wipe out the party. A save or die situation can also cause a cascade effect. Once the fighter drops, the rest of the party's inferior AC and saving throws can lead to a TPK."

It's this simple Mike, if you have the mechanic in the game (and you'd better) have the intestinal fortitude to stick it out. Don't dilute save or die for all the whiners out there. Also, since we art talking B/X D&D, TPKs are part of the story of the game that develops through play. Go and read The Big Book of the Dead. Hell, I had a player on Sunday night critical miss and kill himself - shit goes down when you play D&D. Don't try to make the game something it isn't (i.e. 4E) - embrace the suspense and dramatic mechanics like Save or Die. These are the things that make the D&D the unique game that it is. Don't reject your inheritance.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Into the Garbage Chute Flyboy...

Those of you wishing 4E a quick painful death might be interested in this article.

I'll jedi mind-trick everybody else: *hand wave* This is not the article you are looking for. Move along.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

GMs Day!

Today is March Forth! DM/GM's day and the fourth anniversary of Gygax's passing.

Be nice to your Dungeon Masters or the heavens will open up and you will be struck by a 20d6 lightning bolt (I prefer Flame Strike myself).

As an aside, I was at GenCon in 2008 (the first after he passed) and the moment of silence was something to behold.

We are playing Barrowmaze tonight. Should be very cool.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Q's and A's

1.Ability scores generation method?

3d6 in order. After you roll, you may switch abilities between the the following two sets (Str, Dex, Con and Int, Wis, Cha) to have some variety. We are currently experimenting with this rule.

2.How are death and dying handled?

At 0 or a negative number you save versus death or die. If you save you revive to 1hp in 1d6 rounds. Monsters love to coup de gras helpless dudes. So you are probably going to die anyway.

3.What about raising the dead?

Nope. You don't want to die then run away or don't put yourself in a bad situation.

4.How are replacement PCs handled?

You can take over a hireling in the short-term, or you can roll a new character.

5.Initiative: individual, group, or something else?

Group: 1d6 highest goes first.

6.Are there critical hits and fumbles? How do they work?

Yes. Double rolled damage on a natural 20. A roll of one results in consulting a 1d8 subtable on my GM screen for hilarity.

7.Do I get any benefits for wearing a helmet?

Not specifically, although there are magic helms with a +1 bonus.

8.Can I hurt my friends if I fire into melee or do something similarly silly?

Yes, if you fire from behind the first rank a low roll (1-3) will indicate you hit a comrade. We have had PCs struck and hirelings outright killed in this manner. You can fire over dwarves and halflings. You can use polearms from the second rank too.

9.Will we need to run from some encounters, or will we be able to kill everything?

You will need to run.

10.Level-draining monsters: yes or no?

Absolutely. Life is rough, get used to it.

11.Are there going to be cases where a failed save results in PC death?

Save or die happens at least once a session, it seems like.

12.How strictly are encumbrance & resources tracked?

Yes, on a simplified movement and encumbrance table.

13.What’s required when my PC gains a level? Training? Do I get new spells automatically? Can it happen in the middle of an adventure, or do I have to wait for down time?

No. Yes when you return to town. Sure. Downtime.

14.What do I get experience for?

Any treasure with a gp value. Treasure comes in many forms (85-90%)

Monsters (10-15%)

Carousing: Spending gold for xp by doing stuff out of game related to your character

First time you join our wiki you get 100xp, you write a session report you get 100/per report. Some players have made a living of the latter.

15.How are traps located? Description, dice rolling, or some combination?

Depends on the trap. Anyone can find a trap. Don't often play with thieves because I believe all the classes are thieves. Having said that I now have TWO thieves in the party lol.

16.Are retainers encouraged and how does morale work?

Strongly. If a PC or hireling is killed a check is made. If they fail they run away. Buy them sweet gear and increase their morale.

17.How do I identify magic items?

Use it, or pay a MU if one is available in town.

18.Can I buy magic items? Oh, come on: how about just potions?

No h-way. Magic items are not for sale. Well at least not to buy. If it fit the needs of the scenario I might consider a low level item but it would have a specific purpose and wouldn't be a long-term thing. Otherwise, if you want something, go research and then adventure for it.

19.Can I create magic items? When and how?

Maybe, but we will never see high enough level to worry about it.

20.What about splitting the party?

Ha. Haha. Hahaha. Muhahaha. Muaahahahahahahaahaha!

Happy Friday.

Lightning Source: A Complete Misnomer

Earlier this week I submitted the revised covers and content files for Barrowmaze via rpgnow to Lightning Source, their printer service.

Because I'm in Canada, I can't get my stuff printed by LS USA it has to be LS UK.

This sucks for me because mail service between Canada and the UK is reliable but painfully, painfully slow.

Also, despite having the files for almost a full week they are still listed on rpgnow in my publisher's page as "In premedia" which translated means they are taking their sweet bloody time. Past experience has demonstrated that it will take 4-5 business days to get to the point where print can be ordered. THEN it will take multiple days to print, THEN it will take 10 days to get it to my mailbox.

I'll be honest, I am so frustrated with it that when I finish Barrowmaze II (which is well underway) I can't see myself using rpgnow again. Granted, there's a fair amount of frustration in the last statement but seriously WTF.

Barrowmaze Review

Dominic from The Gygaxian Bag of Holding took the time to write a review of Barrowmaze using a list of pros and cons. Please take the time to check out his review and help out a new OSR blog.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Barrowmaze at GenCon

Just a quick note today to say that I'm attending GenCon this year. I seem to be on the every-other-year program (2008, 2010, 2012).

I'll be running a session of Barrowmaze (hopefully on the Friday afternoon).

I'm also working to have Barrowmaze on-hand at the OSR booth.

Also, all you delinquent players out there remember that Sunday is March Fo(u)rth. That is GM's Day in addition to the day Gygax died in 2008. So treat your GM's to some Donuts, Skittles, Mountain Dew (or Slurm), and/or Doritos.