These two men have a lot to answer for….

Almost every UK RPGer’s who started in the 70s/80s, have these to men to credit. Steve Jackson (left) and Ian Livingstone (right) where the founders of Games Workshop and brought D&D and many other RPGs to these shores, as well as authoring the original Fighting Fantasy books.

Last UK Games Expo they did a talk called “An Illustrated History of Games Workshop and Fighting Fantasy” which my friend Paul of Cthulhu recorded for yog-sothoth.com recorded for your listening pleasure.

Also worth noting this online interview with the duo, covers pretty much the same territory.

The Gods of Erun

Thinking about the next section that will get some attention in the Kingdom of Erun my mind wonders to the Deities of this imaginary land.

One thing that was common throughout the UK 80s D&D was that we quietly shook our heads at Deities & Demigods, as being a book that was practically useless at the gaming table. The inclusion of stats for the gods contained within seemed only to encourage the worst excesses of power gaming. “If you put them in the game with stats, the players are going to want to kill it” was the sage advice at the time.  So keeping the gods powerful and distant was how they were treated in publications like Imagine and White Dwarf magazine.  Short flavoursome descriptions, to give the gods a bit of variety and background and to give their clerics some basis in believable reality. There was also a tendency to start giving Clerics weapons other than blunt, but still tied to the general theme of the god in question (a Cleric of a soldiering god for example would gain access to swords), that was to become a standard rule in 2nd Edition.  I remember the pantheon described in Tortured Souls magazine going as far to give individual spell lists based upon the Realm of Power, but I felt this was a step too far for D&D which restricted player creativity and smacked of wanting to make the game like RuneQuest.

Those early attempts at Panthenon building, like most of trips into fantasy land at that time, wore their influences on their sleeves.  Norse, Celtic and Greek mythology was liberially raided, and books on the subject where readly available in the children’s section of your local libary. While the obvious Christian influences are hard coded into the implied setting of D&D, it became less in your face in UK games when the majority of the gods became pulled from European Paganism.

So Ladies and Gentlemen with the above in mind, may I introduce you to two of the deities of Erun’s Celestial Court, Voden God of Kings and Forfiegan Lady of Mercy.

Voden, King of the Gods

The grim yet wise chief of the Celestial Court who is renown for his strong leadership  and occasional dalliance with favoured beauties of Erun, which tries the patience of his long suffering wife Forfiegan.  He inherited the power to see into the future from the Cyclops Tian, whose eye of world seeing he gouged out and ate.

He is followed by any hero with aspirations of Leadership and is regularly called upon by chiefs, kings and village elders. His priests are chief advisers to nobles, calling upon Voden’s ability to see into the future.

Realms of Power: Law, Leadership & Divination.

Alignment: Any Lawful.

Priests: Voden has two types of priests, dusty clerics who provide Divination for the Nobles and the Nobles who act as living examples of Voden, ruling through Divine Right.

Holy Weapons: Spear. Voden wields the Spear of the Sky in battle, and his Clerics are expected to do the same.

Holy Symbol: The Eye of Tian.

Forfiegan, Lady of Mercy

She is traditionally depicted as a beautiful but constantly weeping woman surrounded by animals of all types. Forfiegan weeps for the pain of the world and for her own hurts at the hands of the unfaithful Voden. To ease her pain she attempts to heal the world and forgives the villains who cause the pain in their first place. Her Mercy is not toothless as many a tale attests, she gives those who have strayed a second chance which leads to a great redemption and the creation of great heroes. Her tears bring water and life to the world, and she is the Fertility Goddess of the Court. In her presence even the most savage is tame and gentle.

Forfiegan is worshiped by Healers throughout Erun. She is called upon by pregnant women, people in distress and those seeking to redeem themselves.  She is also revered by Farmers who call upon her to protect their crops and lifestock.

Realms of Power: Healing, Fertility & Mercy.

Alignment: Any good.

Priestesses: The Sisters of the Heart are crimson robed priestesses who wander the realm of Erun, providing their healing, husbanding and midwifery skills to all who cross their path.  The order has Nunneries where the travelling Sisters can find lodging.

Holy weapons: Blunt weapons. Forfiegan’s followers are forbidden to draw blood.

Holy symbol: A silver pendant in the form of a single tear.

Old School done New School

In another life I’m a BIG fan of narrative style games like HeroQuest and Wordplay.  While in somerespects they share the same back to basics approach as the OSR, in that they trim out the unneccessary rules clutter and focus on the game, the mechanics are very much more abstract,

However I’ve found through play that the essiential feel of ‘old school’ play can be emulated to a high degree by using these systems.  My home group had a bit of ‘Summer of Old School’ using HeroQuest and Wordplay.

“Ye Little Book of HeroQuest Dungeoneering” was the result of the one shot HeroQuest game, were we deliberatly set out to run an D&D conversion.

HeroQuest Dungeoneering coversThe latest in the “Ye Little Book of HeroQuest Fantasy” Pdf series has now been released.

Grab it from DriveThruRpg.com.

Welcome to the world of Old School done New School! This ‘Genre Pak’ aims to emulate the feel and excitement of those early dungeon based adventures of the 70s/80s. It is designed so you can quickly and easily generate heroes, pick up the small amount of genre specific rules, and then head down the example dungeon. If you are looking to introduce your players       to HeroQuest, in a setting that should be familiar and comfortable to all of them, this is

Ye Little Book of HeroQuest Dungeoneering is split into five sections.

1. Hero generation. Four class keywords and four racial keywords, with guidance on how to create old school heroes of Sword and Sorcery.

2. Magic. Gives Vancian Magic as a magic framework, with example spells and magic items.

3. Monsters. Guidance on how to convert your favourite old school monster to HeroQuest.

4. Dungeon Design. A frame work for quickly creating dungeon based adventures.

5. The Catacombs of Zaz. An example medium level dungeon.

I’ve also got a rewrite of The Road Less Travelled, that is the introductory adventure for OpenQuest, for Wordplay in the works.  this will be a free release, and you can combine it with Wordplay Basics, which is just the system recently released as a free pdf over at Drivethrurpg.com, to have a free go of the system.

The Road Less Travelled

What Old Skool D100 is to me

My soon to be released OpenQuest Adventure/setting book Life and Death, is meant to encapsulate what I think a good D100 adventure should have in it. This is from the introduction ot he book.

Both adventures seek to highlight the defining characteristics of an OpenQuest adventure, based upon the author’s experience of playing D100 games in one form or another for twenty years.
Monsters are characters too, with abilities and magic like the player characters and their own goals and motivations.
Treasure is often culturally significant as well as magically powerful.
Cultural detail is important. The adventure doesn’t take place in a social vacuum, the player characters start out in the fantasy equivalent of a Wild West town, travel to the adventure location and kill things and take their stuff. In OpenQuest those ‘things’ your players have just killed have friends and allies outside of the ‘dungeon’ that may take objection. The friendly town where the adventure starts and the players go to lick their wounds has its own laws and customs which affect how the local residents react.
Magic is an integral part of the world, which shapes and forms it. Even in a low magic world such as Shattered Lands, the existence of magic has profound effect on the everyday inhabitants beyond the local war wizard casting Ball of Fire.
Interaction with the world is not just about based around combat. Player characters have communication, knowledge and stealth skills plus magic spells as well as combat skills. Therefore player characters are better equipped to deal with a variety of situations and this scenario reflects that.

Finally here’s the cover by Jon Hodgson.
Life and Death cover by Jon Hodgson

Where I stand with the OSR

Originally posted over at UKRoleplayers.com where they’ve just discovered the joy of the Old School Renaissance, in this thread
Renaissance / Nostalgia / Whatever

I’ve followed the OSR with joy since Neil Ford introduced me to it a couple of years ago. Heck I even now own copies of the items of love and dedication that are OSRIC, Sword and Wizardry and Labyrinth Lord. The later is my retro-clone of choice and even got run at Furnace recently .

My interest in the OSR was intensified when people from that scene started mentioning my game OpenQuest (OQ)on their blogs, For example Akratisia’s excellent “Akratic Wizardry” blog has a series of posts about OQ. Mainly because not unnaturally people are saying OQ is a bit of a RQ retroclone. Part of me agrees with them, part of me doesn’s (see below)

Things I love about the OSR
The amazing labours of love books that are coming out of it -I’m bought “Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Role-Playing” for the amazing cover and the unique re-imagining of old D&D.
The fanzines – just looking at Fight ON! made me want to do The OpenQuester (originally named ‘Turn left’) for OpenQuest.
The forums/blogs where it’s obvious that people are playing these games with great love and more importantly FUN!

Things I’m not so sure about
The obvious retreading of old ground in some of the modules and really piss poor production values (Dark Dungeons I’m looking at you here – go to the trouble of recreating 300 odd pages of the Cyclopaedia and then fill it with really dank, dark horrible clip art, I’m out of here!)

Things I hate (when they occasionally rear their ugly head)

The obsessive fixation on getting the rules right.
The niggling when creators who are doing well move on from the happy clappy free/low cost model to a slightly higher priced but better for the author financially business model.

Is OQ the OSR RQ?
Part of me likes to think that OQ is a fast, easy to play, modern D100 system and others agree with me. Heck John Ossoway wouldn’t be writing River of Heaven and Rik Kershaw Moore The Company if they didn’t. But there’s also a part of me that says ‘Hell yes!’. The clue’s in the back cover :) One of my design goals for OQ was to make something that I could crack out the Gloranthan Classics and play with my kids (or interested kidults :) ) in my doting old age, with very little modification. If you are using definitions its ‘Tribute’ game to RQ2/3/Stormbringer 1-3, as well as being modern D100. OQ modules will reflect this diversity. The Savage North is very Old Skool, while the upcoming Life and Death is very modern story telling and Empire’s Rising reminds me of the RQ3 renaissance adventures.

The British OSR
What I’m having most fun with is looking back at the old British Roleplaying materials of the 80s; TSR UK modules, WHFRP 1st Ed, old White Dwarf and Imagine Magazines and off course the Fighting Fantasy books. There’s a strong arguement that the British OSR experience was fundamentally different because we were exposed to different influences;

http://fightingfantasist.blogspot.com/2 … -here.html

This is not just rosy nostalgia on my part. There’s a lot of really good practice in those old modules/books that’s worth looking at and bringing into my D101 games fantasy releases.

Inspired by this I’m going to be producing a series of modules under the banner of ‘Albion Adventures’.

You can read about my on going adventures in Old Skool land here on this blog.