RuneQuest and me

So last post was me & D&D, so where do I stand as far as the game that I probably reverer more in the Old School stakes?

RuneQuest 2 is where the story starts for me. In Pavis in Glorantha sometime in the mid 80s. A one on one session with my friend I rolled up a simple character who could just about wield a sword and was a couple of thousand of lunars in debt to the Fighting Guild as a result. His name lost to me know, but I remember he had aspirations to be an initiate of Humkat (the Gloranthan Warrior god of Death and Gloom). So off on a trip to Troll Town, a Troll strong hold established by the Hero Arkat in the Dawn Age. With me so far… don’t worry it was all new to me and a good three quarters of the game was my GM friend explaining the background to Glorantha and all its associated workings (Cults, HeroQuesting, Myths as a way of changing reality). Solid foundations which I’ve built on still, but still a huge learning curve that fortunately I fascinated with.

RuneQuest 3 is where it all took off. The Games Workshop Hard covers (RuneQuest, Advanced RuneQuest and RuneQuest Monsters) at pocket money prices made the game accessible to all in the UK, and when they chucked them in the bargain bin during the Great Betrayal (when they dumped all their RPG support around White Dwarf 100 at the end of the 80s) everybody and his brother had a copy. This time I was in a proper group of about five playing in a generic setting, possibly Griffin Island, fighting off zombies with a young twenty something Civilised Peasant Farmer whose claim to fame was he was OK with a Pike (about 40% from memory). Next session I wanted more so with the GMs OK I rolled up a Sorcerer called Tel-Kar-Nath who new the sum total of one spell, Venom (“I shall turn your blood to poison!”).  Next session I had grabbed the reins of GMing and huge files of notes were produced.

Stormbringer 1st Edition (a slight detour). Also in the same bargain bin as a result of the Great Betrayal. I’ve gone about this game before, but this was a revelation in terms of scope of what the game could do and how you could modify the D100 engine to produce a very different style of game. A very lethal style of game ;)

Then at University having access to a student grant and making a solid investment in the future I got all the Glorantha Boxsets  from the newly opened Travelling Man (up in Headingley Leeds for those who could remember it). Que the 10 years long campaign set there that one day I WILL PUBLISH the setting for. During this time we kept on striping out the crunch until the system resembled what OpenQuest is today. These were my glory years running RQ set in Glorantha – both at home and at at cons. RQ 3 for me was story gaming done right, a post for another day.

The wilderness years came for me in the late 90s when we gradually drifted away from our regular RQ3 Glorantha game due to entering the wacky world of employment. Then there was the case of mistaken identity that was HeroWars (effectively 1st edition HeroQuest), a wonderfully epic narrative game which is nothing like RQ.

Mongoose RuneQuest – The return!  Well sort of. Bad editing and shonky rules take the sheen off what should have been a fine version of the great and glorious game. But the release of a SRD did lead to the following …

OpenQuest is my RuneQuest (with a bit of Stormbringer thrown , which is why its got so many demons). Originally designed to be a small fantasy interpretation of my favourite bits of BRP/RQ with my own common sense house rulings. Its kinda grown into OpenQuest Deluxe (a open tribute to the collected RQ3 Deluxe of the 1990s produced under Ken Rolston’s time as RuneCzar during the so called RQ Renaissance) and then be paired back to the slim and slender version of OpenQuest Basics. Its been a great journey which started at lunch in my office in 2007 and continues to this day.

MRQ2 Lawrence Whitaker’s and Pete Nash’s go at refreshing MRQ, and a damn fine one too.  I never got to play this one because my group at the time would have none of it, and Greg Stafford pulled the license from Mongoose a year or so into the license.

RuneQuest 6  Loz and Pete now working together as the Design Mechanism revised and expanded version of MRQ2 which is the ultimate big book RuneQuest dwarfing all its prediscesors. A fine version of the game and a worthy inherittor of the name RUNEQUEST :)

Posted in Chaosium's Basic Roleplaying System, General, Nostalgia, OpenQuest, RuneQuest | 5 Comments

Too much D&D

So the free version of D&D 5th Edition is out, and I fell strangely underwhelmed. Reason why? Well its probably because in the last four years or so I’ve picked up a small bookshelf worth of D&D Variants.

First D&D in its OSR forms was explored in great detail. Then after that was exhausted I moved onto modern forms; Pathfinder, Dungeon World (a story telling game not 100% mechanically related but definitely in spirit) and recently 13th Age was purchased.  Pedants beware this not an exhaustive list of D&D variants, just one coloured by my personal experience.

The Originals

D&D Cyclopedia: I started off with red box Molday and quickly moved onto blue box expert so this has it all in one book (sans the illustrations, examples and solo tutorial) + the bits from Companion/Masters that I never got round to buying (because I’d moved to AD&D land by then). This is the book I wish Wizards of the Coast had republished even as a limited run, because my copy threatens to disintegrate every time I lovingly touch it.

AD&D 1st Ed: If D&D was my early teens AD&D was my mid-late teens and was still being occasionally played into my early 20s. So lots of memories here, and even though I probably use OSRIC (see below) at the game table, the core three books of AD&D have a lot of nostalgic power.

Straight Retro-clones

OSRIC (=AD&D) I love this big hardcover book. Its the AD&D 2nd ed I wanted back in the day, a simple reorganisation of the rules into one coherent whole. The combat chapter makes sense! Its strangely humble, saying its merely a rules index so modern publishers can put out AD&D compatible adventures under the Open Gaming License (which it is published under in its entirety), but I’d use it any day of the week as my AD&D at the gaming table.

Labyrinth Lord (=B/X).  A very clever clone of Basic/Expert in one slim volume. Made me realise that I’m not interested in that style of play however.  Also available is the Adv. Labyrinth Lord supplement which works on the premise that back in the day we learnt with basic/expert and then simply added the bits (Classes, Monsters, Magic items etc.) we liked from AD&D. Which is certainly how I did it.

Swords and Wizardry (=OD&D).  The premise from this one is that its based of the Original white box D&D  from the 70s with its supplements added, cleaned up and made comprehensible, I love this stripped down back to basics approach presented here. Finally a version of D&D that I can keep in my head! The S&W complete crams in a complete comprehensive version of D&D that is comparable to later big three book versions of D&D in one slim volume.

Basic Fantasy (=B/X with bits of AD&D). Notable for two things. A more straightforward and clear interpretation based on the idea that you use D20 Systems Resource Document (the Open Gaming version of D&D 3rd Ed released by Wizard’s of the Coast) more closely, keeping its clarity of rules but building in the Old School flavour. Secondly if you see OSR rule sets as an almost Linux expression of D&D, Basic Fantasy is a distro that keeps most actively to that idea of it being free and community supported (yes I know S&W does but for me BF does it slightly better).

Retro-clone inspired

These games use one of the above clones as a base and then takes it from there.

Lamentations of the Flame Princess: LotFP is basically a  Horror and Weird take on D&D, using Basic Fantasy as a base. I’ve seen this one grow up from its initial incarnation , with some very dodgy photo shop art, through its Grindhouse box set incarnation, were that art was largely replaced by the cream of OSR Artists old and new and the game was focused to razor sharp proportions, to the current high quality two book format Rules & Magic (available now) and Referee’s book (crowdfunded but still in production).  I think its a classic game that takes the premise of old school D&D and runs out of the park with it, while cunningly never forgetting where it comes from.

Woodland Warriors: Uses the Swords & Wizardry as a base, simplifies it and only uses D6s, and gives it a child friendly setting all in one small slim book. Its genius makes me weep.

Crypts and Things: My own take on OD&D using Swords and Wizardry as a base and putting it in the blender with early White Dwarf D&D, Fighting Fantasy, 80s UK FRP & inspiration from the Howard/Lovecraft/Ashton-Smith/Michael Moorcock. The result a gleefully dark Swords and Sorcery game, where the players get to play Elric, Grey Mouser, Fafhrd and Conan, in a game referred by Clark Ashton Smith :)

Modern D&D

Pathfinder: I love Pathfinder, it does big book D&D and is clear and expressive while it does it. For me it comes packed with a big friendly DM I call “Bob” an impressive bear of a man, with a big bush beard and a deep friendly US accent that calmly guides me through the 1000s of pages. The online PRD was revelation when I sat there GMing it for the best part of the year in 2012 (and the reason I’ll be doing an online SRD for OpenQuest soon).  Its just not the D&D that comes anywhere my preferred playing style (rules lite and pacy) and there’s no way that  I’m memorising all the moving parts. But perhaps one day Bob will quietly persuade me to have another go, and it was certainly a variant of D&D that my players, all self proclaimed Kings of D20, highly respected.

Dungeon World: I accidentally blundered into the Dungeon World Kickstarter one bored hot afternoon at work and a year later ended up with a hardback and a T-shirt. Its a version of D&D completely rewritten from base using the Apocalypse World storytelling game engine. I love it. Once I got my head round its terminology and structure its the fast pacey flexible game of D&D that I want to run and it errs on the side of Mega Gaming Fun for the players ( the sub-classes especially get a big up in the fun stakes).

13th Age: To be honest I’ve not read too far into it, but I like what I see so far. Like DW its a more story orientated game, but its not so much a rewrite from the ground up being based on the existing D&D 3rd edition SRD,  simplified with storygaming mechanics/assumptions.

Torchbearer: Make no mistake about it this is a cleaver and very focused book by the same people who bought you Burning Wheel and Mouse Guard. Presentation wise it reminds me fondly of  AD&D 1st. However its fallen down the cracks because for me it asks me to think about Dungeon Crawling far too hard to be taken seriously. When its designer Thor Olavsrud says “This is a hard game” early on in the first chapter I started loosing interest in this book. Baz King of RPG Treehouse fame kept with it and his read through can be read on UKRoleplayers.com.

If I was to have to keep on from each category (which to be honest given the mess my office has descended into may have to be the case) these would be my winners.

  • Original: D&D Cyclopaedia
  • Retro clone: Swords and Wizardry
  • Retro clone inspired: Lamentations of the Flame Princess (I’m taking it as given I get to keep copies of my own games so C&T survives the cull ;) ).
  • Modern: Dungeon World.
Posted in Crypts & Things, Dungeons And Dragons, General, Labyrinth Lord, Nostalgia, Swords and Wizardry | 2 Comments

Lots of OpenQuest goodness just released!

Satisfied, victorious, warm and cuddly are all terms I would use to describe how I’m feeling at the moment. Why?

Well a big chunk of OpenQuest releases went live on DriveThruRPG.com for you good folk to buy yesterday.

Life and Death:  An expanded version of my post-apocalyptic fantasy setting now with three adventures (The Dust of Eternity, Dead Pot Country and Life & Death), more ready made concepts and details of the Guild of Treasure Hunters. Also completely playable with both OpenQuest Basic Edition or Deluxe Edition.

OpenQuest Basic Edition: A short concise no art version of the game in 6 x 9 inch format, available as a free pdf or low cost book. Ideal as quick reference version, a try before you buy OpenQuest Deluxe, or as a self contained game.

The Savage North (Directors Cut): Back on sale now after a quick spell offline as a missing map was replaced.

PLEASE NOTE: If you bought a printed copy of The Savage North before I took it off line to replace the map, please send me your DriveThruRpg.com receipt to newt@d101games.com and I will send you a replacement free of charge.

So now there’s no reason not to give OpenQuest a whirl.

SPREAD THE WORD!

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Fighting Fanatsy Fest

Strongly tempted by this although with my con attendance already booked up this year, I might have a problem justifying it with the missus.

As well as Steve Jackson & Ian Livingstone, Fighting Fantasy Artists Russ Nicholson, Chris Achilleos and Tony Hough will be there and Arion Games will be running sessions of the Advanced Fighting Fantasy RPG.

More details and sign up here

Oh and if the flyer doesn’t get your blood flowing :)

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The Savage North Director’s Cut now available

Savage North The Director's Cut by Jon Hodgson

Savage North The Director’s Cut by Jon Hodgson

All Hail The Return of the Conquering King of the North,

The Savage North Director’s Cut is available via DriveThru in both pdf and print.

If you bought a pdf via DriveThru in the past, just go to your library and redownload it to get this cleaned up version with 26 new pages of content.

This is our old school swords and sorcery setting/adventure for OpenQuest broadly compatible with other D100 games.

Posted in OpenQuest, Swords and Sorcery | 1 Comment

Off to 7 Hills see ya!

So the day has finally come to bugger off to the new spring con being held in Sheffield this weekend – 7 Hills.

To give it some uniqueness the con’s organisers have given it a Sci-fi theme. I’ll be flying the D101 flag with sci-fi themed games of Crypts and Things (“Zarth Wars“), The Company (“Operation Mud brick” ) as well as giving the River of Heaven a spin.

Plan to have a ton of fun catching up with friends old and new.

Then its back home to the forges to transfer any inspiration I’ve gained from the con back into something tangible.

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Crucible of Dragons now available!

Crucible of the Dragons cover by Jon Hodgson

Crucible of the Dragons cover by Jon Hodgson

The long awaited Crucible of the Dragons for OpenQuest is now available via DrivethruRpg.com

A 260 page sandbox setting/adventure book for OpenQuest, but broadly compatible with other D100 rpgs, inspired by Ancient Greece, Clark Ashton Smith and Ray Harryhausen monster movies!

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The Guild of Adventurers

This is for OpenQuest and is in the upcoming, updated version of Life & Death.

A rag tag group of tomb raiders, thugs for hire, dubious sorcerers and all manner of social misfits who would rather go down a long abandoned underground complex risking danger and death in search of fame and fortune than do an honest days work.  Early on in the days of the profession someone thought it best to create a Guild to manage its members, provide some sort of ethical backbone and curb some of the worst excesses of its members in civilised areas (outright theft, banditry, kidnapping, murder etc).

 The lower ranks of the Guild, affectionately known as the Rabble, are sent on quests alongside more experienced members into long lost ruins of the Lion Empire and other civilisations that came before it. Their rewards are mainly the material: the Gold and Gems that make up the majority of the loot. The more experienced members take their share as the exotic items rumoured to be imbued with ancient magics.

Continue reading

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Fiendish Friday: The Bone Collector

The Tale of the Bone Collector
“You see Ulmak just had to collect them all. Tall ones, short ones, skinny ones and just plain odd ones. Skeletons of all shapes and sizes. Said it helped him in his healing. See Ulmak was a ‘kind’ sort, wouldn’t hurt a fly and gave healing to anyone who came to his hut. That was his undoing. You see one day those bad Bonedancers came, with their wounded leader. Wasn’t Ulmak’s fault that mad dog died right there and then. Even the Kindly Ones have their limits. So the remaining Bonedancers, tie him up, torture him some, and send him just plum crazy. Then bad things start to happen. He made his bones ‘dance’ and turned them Bone Dancers into that sack he carries with him. Then he left Bone Guard, and started stalking the bone fields building up a collection. Some say he’s building an army, but I reckon he’s a shadow of a man whose just following his habit.”

A Sorcerer in a dark black robe, who is busy collecting the bones of the dead, which he places in a bulging sack made of human skin which he carries over his shoulder. Occasionally the bag stirs as if there is a live animal within. He prefers complete undamaged skeletons and will pay handsomely, at 10 GP a complete set of bones. This deranged and insane individual is collecting the bones to make the ultimate skeleton army. He has 3d6 Skeletons in his sack, which is magic and animates the bones of any complete skeleton placed within. The only drawback of this bag of bones is that the skeletons are not under the control of the owner and attack any living thing once released from the bag. The Bone Collector usually tosses the opened bag at any one who physically threatens him

The Bone Collector
Crazy Magician

AC 7 [13] HD 5 HP 20 Attacks: 1 Dam: Bone Wand Dam 1d10 + Save  or suffer Necrosis (additional 1d10 damage from flesh death). Special Rules: Knows Raise Dead, Can animate any skeleton, 1d6 per round, also Cure Moderate Wounds (old healing power that uses if character can touch his buried humanity)   CR/XP 7/600

Posted in Crypts & Things, Fiendish Friday | Leave a comment

Fiendish Friday: Five of the Worst

The latest in my occasional Friday column for Crypts and Things, I present five adventure seeds revolving round five conflicted non-player characters.

The Hunted & The Damned
“Help us, help us please. They are after us.”

Situation: Pale and ghost like a brother and sister couple plead that the characters help them escape a hunting beast that is on their tail.

Twist: The pair are powerful sorcerers from the Other Worlds, and the beast is retribution for them killing an entire world.

Waiting to Wake Up
“I no longer know my name”

Situation: The characters find a sleeping barbarian who if woken up thanks them for waking him from a magical sleep and then pledges to serve them.

Twist: The barbarian is actually a pretender of the throne of some ramshackle Northern kingdom, cursed by a rival’s sorcerer and dumped far away from home. Initially he doesn’t remember and is happy to dumbly follow the characters. Each dawn make a Saving Throw for him. if he makes it  he fully remembers his past, and suddenly demands that the characters follow him as his minions to retake his birth right!

Soul Sucker
“Its so good that you’ll be my friend”
Situation: The characters meet an  defenceless ancient man on some abandoned pathway, each day without fail he gives them each 10 Gold Pieces for them to protect him as they take him somewhere “safe”.

Twist: The man, who can no longer remember his name, was a court sorcerer for one of the Ancient Emperors which he half remembers and babbles on about. In this past he summoned an Other World parasite, a worm like creature that lives within him. It is like a Maggot Master, identical in stats, but with the additional special ability that any character within twenty feet of it looses 1d6 Sanity every hour on a failed Saving Throw. The sanity loss feels like a depression, with thick black clouds coming over the character’s mood. The old man dithers and wants to be stay with his new friends.

Fearless Doomed Hero
“We go Kill Vampire Lord now!”
Situation: An angry young youth, armed and armoured to the teeth, crosses the character’s path and wants them to join his one-man crusade against the evil Vampire Lords!

Twist: The young man is actually a pawn of the Vampires, sent to find new victims by eliciting sympathy for his cause. The youth is completely unaware of this, due to an evil enchantment cast on him when the vampire’s captured him as he tried to rescue his older sister – who may or may not be a Vampire by now.

Dead, Dead and Dead again.
“I’m Igmorogil the Indestructible!”

Situation: A wild eyed berserker, called Igmorogil, runs out of nowhere, attacks the characters and If they kill him he raises from the dead after one to six hours, even if the characters burn his body.

Twist: This tribesman was cursed by a Witch to die a painful bloody death THREE times. On the third time he dies for good. Each time he dies, he comes back a bit more insane and crazed.

Posted in Crypts & Things, Fiendish Friday | Tagged | 4 Comments