A blog about games, gamers, and various and sundry geek culture-related ephemera and paraphernalia.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Finally Ready for Prime Time: Self-filling Expert Dungeons and Dragons Character Sheet

As I promised, here's the self-filling Expert D&D (Cook B/X edition) character sheet. With the push of a button, the sheet will populate itself with a complete character, from all levels and classes available as per the B/X Expert rules - complete with randomized name, description, weapons, armor, spells, and magic items.


(Warning: The file's ~34MB, so prepare yourself...)

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Is D&D Doomed? Is 4E Better? Are You Playing It Wrong? All Questions Answered!

I've been blogging in the old school arena for less than a year now, and it seems as if not a fortnight goes by without someone making a statement or query that stirs up a hornet's nest. Next thing you know, the philosophers start philosophizing and the trolls start flaming. Before long, many of the posts on the blogs in that long list to your right become less about playing and appreciating the games we love, and more about debating their merits and faults, and arguing over their possible ultimate fates.

Well, it's time to put an end to this madness, I say.

In desperation, I turned to the only reliable source I could think of to give us final answers to the questions that so frequently drive the old school blogoshpere into utter chaos: The Great and Wondrous Twenty-Sided Oracle of Matt-El.

Is D&D truly doomed?

Yikes! I wonder what that means for the RPG industry:

Is the RPG industry doomed as well??

Whew! That's a load off my mind... Okay, let's try a really hot question:

Is 4E the greatest version of the game yet made?

Hmmm... I was hoping for something definitive. Let's try a different question:

Am I playing the game wrong?

Okay, now I think this thing is just broken. Maybe I can get some clarification:

Does it really matter if I'm playing it wrong?

Okay, I guess that makes sense. Let's ask it the all-important question:

Should we just get over it and enjoy the game(s) already?

A-ha! There, you see? It is working after all.

Well, there you have it, straight from the horse's mouth: the irrefutable answers to the questions that have been dogging the old school blogosphere. You can thank me later.

[Thanks to Magic 8 Ball Fortune Generator for the images.]
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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Expert Dungeons and Dragons Character Creator

Once again, I find myself totally swamped with work today, but I managed to steal a little time during lunch to work on the continuing upgrade of my Moldvay rules-compatible Basic D&D self-filling character sheet to a full-fledged Expert D&D-compatible sheet.

It's got a ways to go yet, but I've gotten most of the bits working the way they should (including fixes to some of the Basic sheet's code that apparently wasn't working the way it should have been). When the sheet's done, you'll be able to use it to randomly generate characters and parties of all allowable levels, and have them equipped with a variety of magic weapons and items from the B/X rules.

Hopefully, the sheet will be fully functional within the next couple of days. In the meantime, here are a couple of sample characters to whet your appetite:

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Scanning Project: Our First Party

I came across these lurking in my Basic Dungeons & Dragons folder: three player characters from my first-ever D&D experience.

It was only a few days after Christmas, 1981, when I, my friend Brian Z., and my nephew John sat down to attempt our first D&D game (Moldvay Basic). John and I had already made our characters (two each) by the time Brian showed up. (Perhaps if we had rolled them up in front of Brian, our would-be DM, my main character, Moordow, would not have ended up quite so buff. /wink)

Unfortunately, I do not have John's characters, Cedric the Cleric and Armon the Annoying (m-u). (Armon's "annoying" label was added after the fact - after he had repeatedly proved himself to be a totally useless party member.) I do, however, have my second character and the two characters Brian ran in the game (as DM's in our games regularly did back in the day):

(I always envied Brian his cool and exceptionally neat handwriting; it made mine look like chicken scratch.)
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Monday, July 27, 2009

Dark World Campaign Setting: A Sneak Peek

Here's a sneak peek at the map I'm working on for my home-brew Swords & Wizardry campaign setting, Dark World:

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Eighties Flashback Sunday

A 100xp bonus to anyone who can tell me what today's (first) EFB entry and yeserday's SFB entry have in common. (I don't think this could be much simpler...)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Seventies Flashback Saturday

I couldn't find a live video of Rainbow's "Temple of the King," but who cares: that album cover is so cool, it should have graced the cover of an early TSR product:

Friday, July 24, 2009

Who Invited These Guys to the Party??

Construction of our 1st-level Basic Dungeons & Dragons party concludes today with a pair of meat-shields - er, I mean hirelings - Tersu the Violent and Dersa the Different:

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

This Party Ain't Over Yet

So today we have the last two members of the 1st level Basic Dungeons & Dragons party. They also happen to be the only two non-human party members: Shizer the Volatile (dwarf) and Multo the Snotty (elf):

Stay tuned, because tomorrow's post will feature the party's NPC hirelings.
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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Party Continues...

Yesterday, you were introduced to the party's fighter and its cleric. Here are two more of the six 1st-level party members: Penfulin the Filthy (thief) and Fonizan the Mundane (magic-user).

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Let's Get the Party Started!

I was playing around with the new auto-filling Basic D&D sheet and came up with a few, um, colorful characters. I thought it might be fun to use the sheet to create a 1st-level party to share here. Here are the first two (of six) party members: Rophyd the Stingy (fighter) and Undle the Irate (cleric):

(BTW: The portraits are clipart - I unfortunately have not had the time to develop my figure drawing skills to that level.)
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Monday, July 20, 2009

Need a Basic D&D Character? Let the Sheet Do It For You!

I've popped the code from my revised Basic D&D NPC sheet into the newly designed Basic D&D character record sheet so you can use it to quickly throw together characters from levels 1 through 3 as needed. The sheet uses most of the same lists (names, descriptions, etc.) as the revised NPC sheet does, but it only generates standard player character classes (no "normal humans" here). It also computes starting wealth, and deducts from it the cost of any weapons/armor the character possesses.


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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Seventies Flashback Saturday

The first installment of the S.F.B.:

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Friday, July 17, 2009

Did I Hear Someone Say We Need an Updated Basic D&D Sheet?

Oh, wait - that was just the voices in my head again. Shut up, you!

Seriously, I came to the realization recently that I had posted nifty new character sheets for Swords & Wizardry, but the only sheet I'd posted for B/X (Moldvay/Cook Basic/Expert) Dungeons & Dragons was my old sheet from several years ago. I think it's high time I rectified that situation.

Here's a more recent B/X D&D character sheet, similar in style to the aforementioned S&W sheets:

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Happiness Is An Old Set of Polyhedral Dice!

I'm totally beaten and battered today as I attempt to recover from my family "day-cation" yesterday. (Lots o' water, lots o' fun, but waaay too much sun. I feel like a McDonald's french fry.) As a result, I'm a little unfocused today, so don't expect anything amazing here...

Which brings us to the topic at hand: dice. The day before yesterday, Reis over at Geek Othodox put up a post extolling the virtues of his new dice, and describing the joy he derived from them: "Happiness Is A New Set of Polyhedral Dice!" He also questioned whether it was weird to buy dice for a specific character. Well, I don't think I've met a gamer yet who wasn't also a dice whore. It's an affliction from which we all seem to suffer, so I can totally understand where Reis is coming from.

I normally wouldn't post on such a mundane topic, but when I saw Reis' post, I immediatley thought of the title of my post. You see, just a few days ago, I scored a used Dungeons & Dragons Expert Set on eBay. (With a bonus Basic rulebook and copy of B2: Keep on the Borderlands.) Also included: a set of 11 old-school dice! (The listing claimed there were 12, but I'm willing to let the missing die slide...)

Okay, so they're not the Zocchi dice so many old-schoolers seem to love (but for which I never had much liking - the truth's out!). In fact, it seems that many of my fellow "OSR" bloggers seem to revile the dice that were packaged with the Moldvay/Cook sets. Not me, though. I love 'em. Holding a set of these in my hand induces post-traumatic stress-like flashbacks to my younger years. It's a kind of nostalgic rush that can seldom be matched.

(Sadly, I have not been able to locate a set like those I found packaged with my Basic set back in '81. The d20 was solid red, but the others had kind of a pink-and-white marbled effect. Haven't seen another set like them since the early 80's.)

It was a combination of the listed condition of the rulebooks (amazing - no yellowing, no old-paper smell, only a little staple rust in one of the books; aside from some minor edge wear, these books are pristine) and the bonus of the included dice that compelled me to bid on this auction. Truly, happiness - for me - is an old set of polyhedral dice.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Scanning Project: Sacked Monastery (One-page Dungeon)

While digging through my old Dungeons & Dragons folders looking for cool stuff to post, I stumbled across this map: a monastery and repository of knowledge that's been sacked by a Big Bad and his horde of minions.

I recall running this adventure during my first-edition AD&D campaign, circa 1989 or 1990. The map, I think, may be a little bit older - but I'm not sure.

In the adventure, the PC's were on a quest to uncover the location of several artifact swords, and that quest led them to this location: a monastery (built into the side of a mountain) that also served as the oldest library in the land, holding knowledge that extended back in history for hundreds of (human) generations. Unfortunately, the place had recently been attacked by an evil wizard, Eregul, who had set up camp within - accompanied by his pet dragon and his humanoid horde. (The stats for the orc horde are on the map - but you'll have to provide your own evil magic-user and his scaly pet if you want to use this dungeon to maim - er, entertain your players.)

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Scanning Project: Fires of the Gorge

Now, back to our regular posts...

Some time in the early- to mid-80's, I got it in my head that I wanted to create my own home-brew series of modules for my AD&D/Moldvay Basic mash-up. The plan - such as it was - was to have three or four modules based around "The Dungeons of Karr-Cil," a megadungeon. (This term, of course, was not in my vocabulary at that time; I just referred to this as "a really huge dungeon.")

Naturally, this plan never came to fruition. I was daunted by the thought of the undertaking almost immediately. (Back in the day, I was under the impression that people who authored published dungeons were of a special breed, and that some singular quality was required to do what they did. A quality which I obviously did not possess, since I could not define it. Ah, youth...) The farthest I ever got was this: Fires of the Gorge, the bottom level of said Really Huge Dungeon. By the time I'd completed this, my desire to create my own modules had petered out, and I moved on to other things.

For your enjoyment, here is the home-brew "module," Fires of the Gorge, the only completed part of the multi-part series, "Dungeons of Karr-Cil":

(BTW: I haven't read through this thing in about 25 years, so I don't know what sort of weirdness lurks within. Just bear in mind that it was the product of a 16- or 17-year-old mind...)
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Oh Look: A Shameless Plug

If I've been a little light on the posts the last few days, I apologize. I've been extremely busy working with my fiancee to get our new Web site launched; Lili's Lair went live a few minutes ago. If you're interested in horror-genre entertainment (movies, bands, authors, artists, etc.) you should check it out. There's only an intro there at the moment, but we have several weeks worth of daily posts all ready to be rolled out - and freebies ready to be given away. Check out the intro post for details.

It'll definitely be worth your while to keep as many watchful eyes as you can spare on our new site!

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Thursday, July 9, 2009

You May See Some Strange Things - Please Do Not Panic

I've been implementing a few changes to the blog, so if you see any weirdness, it's completely normal. As a couple of readers have already noted, I've added a new background image. Other small changes will be forthcoming, partially as an attempt to upgrade the blog, but also as part of a larger stab at becoming more familiar with Blogger's template structure and how to modify it.

So, please bear with me, and - most importantly: DO NOT PANIC!

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Scanning Project: Map of Aerth

Okay, this map only partially belongs in the scanning project.

Allow me to clarify: Although the map you see here is direct from Photoshop, the basis for the map was hand-drawn on construction paper and scanned. Thus, this map is a hybrid of hand-drawn and digital work.

Long-time readers of the Rust Monster blog (or those who have delved far enough back in the archives) might recognize this map: although created sometime around 2000 or 2001, it was later transformed into the map that became the second post to this blog.

Here's that newer version, reposted here for those who are interested:

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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Coming Soon: A Swords & Wizardry Campaign Setting

The brain cells have been burning lately with my latest obsession: putting together a home-brew campaign setting for Swords & Wizardry, tentatively titled Dark World.

I've been mentally compiling the various bits and pieces that I want to include in my "sandbox" world, with inspiration coming from a wide range of sources (including - but not limited to - Howard, Lovecraft, Smith, Moorcock, Thundarr the Barbarian, The Pirates of Darkwater, etc.). I've dropped these into the cauldron that is my imagination, and am letting them stew there to see what bubbles up. Watch this space for more details.

In the meantime, I've tweaked my Swords & Wizardry character sheet for use in the Dark World. This will probably morph a bit more before settling into its final form, but here's the first pass for your consumption:

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Monday, July 6, 2009

Scanning Project: Nameless Dungeon Number Two

As I mentioned when I posted my last unnamed dungeon, nothing says to the players, "Here's a bunch of monsters waiting for you to kill them and take their stuff," quite like a dungeon that doesn't even have a name.

Here's another such entry into the scanning project, again from the mid-90's. This one's slightly incomplete, however, as it's missing the record sheet detailing the "guardian" to be found on Level 13. (This was probably appropriated for use somewhere else in my campaign, thus my inability to locate it for inclusion with this piece.) You may also notice that there is no map for Level 13 itself - that's because it's not really necessary, as Level 13 is really just the floor 80' below Level 12.

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Friday, July 3, 2009

Scanning Project: Obkdy, Son of Tulu

Who do you talk to when you want to find something that's been lost? Well, if you're a resident of the Young Kingdoms in my mid-90's Stormbringer campaign, you talk to Obkdy.

If you're completely insane or unbelievably desperate, that is.

My adaptation of something found in Chaosium's Stormbringer supplement, White Wolf, Obkdy is a major demon who lives in his own little pocket dimension that is directly connected to the physical world. He has a very small group of followers (a sum total of two: an abnormally pale Death-Priest and an abnormally pale Death-Priest-in-training). This pair of devoted followers are the sole staff at the "Cave of Obkdy" (a great map of which can be found on page 43 of White Wolf), a place where the aforementioned insane and/or desperate few trek to for answers. Those deemed worthy of an audience with the Son of Tulu are bathed and taken unarmed and semi-nude deeper into the Cave to the altar chamber. Here they pray for Obkdy's blessing until they and the Death-Priest are transported to Obkdy's "Drifting Isle." (See the sheet below Obkdy's - the "Eye of Obkdy" - to see how the Death-Priest really accomplishes this feat.)

The Isle is no more than a gigantic cavern, and new arrivals find themselves on a ledge a few yards above the cavern floor. They watch from there - generally in horror - as Obkdy reveals himself from the deep shadows of the cavern.

A somewhat-less-than-typical encounter goes something like this (as well as I can recall it from when my friend Terry's character, Drovis, and his Attractive Red-haired Companion, stood before Obkdy):

Obkdy's Mouth 1: "I -"
Obkdy's Mouth 2: "- am -"
Obkdy's Mouth 3: "- Obkdy."
Obkdy's Mouth 1: "Son -"
Obkdy's Mouth 2: "- of -"
Obkdy's Mouth 3: "- Tulu."
Obkdy's Mouth 1: "Tell me -"
Obkdy's Mouth 2: "- what -"
Obkdy's Mouth 3: "- you seek."

Drovis: "I need to find a magical dagger. It has an obsidian-like blade, and I last saw it diving for the deepest waters of the ocean - stuck in Father Dagon's back." (There's a story for another time... Also, the chain of events that led Drovis to be standing before this demon is a pretty interesting story - for another time...)

[Obkdy's mouths drool; his arms wiggle about menacingly.]

Obkdy's Mouth 1: "I will -"
Obkdy's Mouth 2: "- help you -"
Obkdy's Mouth 3: "- find this dagger."
Obkdy's Mouth 1: "But I -"
Obkdy's Mouth 2: "- require -"
All Obkdy's Mouths at once: "- a sacrifice."

[The demon's eyes drift slowly to the Attractive Red-haired Companion. His mouths open and his tongues roll disgustingly out in perverse motions.]

Drovis thinks for a moment. Then, with a burst of coiled muscle, he grabs the Death-Priest with one gigantic hand and liberates from him his ceremonial knife. Before the confused clergyman even has time to understand what is happening, Drovis drags the knife roughly across his throat and hurls the bleeding, gurgling priest from the ledge - directly into one of the demon's slobbering maws.

[Obkdy's Mouth 1 devours the hapless Death-Priest as he tries to scream but instead manages only to choke on his own blood.]

Obkdy's Mouth 2: "Farewell, my friend -"
Obkdy's Mouth 3: "- you have served me well."

The rest of the encounter is pretty basic, with Obkdy revealing the location of the dagger, and explaining what Drovis can do to get it back. When their business has concluded, the demon regurgitates the Death-Priest's diadem so Drovis and Companion may return to the cave - and pass it on to the newly promoted Death-Priest-in-training.

So, since this post has turned into a minor epic, let's get to the good stuff: the record sheets for Obkdy, Son of Tulu, Hoarder of Lost Secrets, and the Eye of Obkdy.
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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Revised Basic Dungeons and Dragons NPC Sheet

You know, sometimes it occurs to me that I may be way too picky for my own good.

Case in point: the minions sheet I posted yesterday. Although I was generally happy with it when I posted it, upon closer examination I found several things that bothered me about it: It picked names from and array of only 100 values; it didn't determine character alignment; and the 13-year-old scanned sheet - although rich with old-school goodness - didn't please the eye (or the printer, IMHO).

So, here's a revision of that sheet. I apologize for pulling a 3.0-to-3.5-esque switch on you, but this really is a new, improved NPC sheet. It now pulls from a list of 250 names (all from Captcha words!), randomly determines character alignment, and has a more pleasing design. Enjoy!

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This Is How We Used To Roll

Roll up a ton of characters for our dungeons, that is.

Back in the day (circa 1981) I mostly only played Dungeons & Dragons (Moldvay Basic) in head-to-head ("solo"?) games with my nephew. In those days, I played and acted as Dungeon Master at the same time. We each played a primary character that we put more thought and care into, and a few secondary characters that more or less acted as fodder. (Although, occasionally, a secondary character would - via particularly memorable dice rolls and such - distinguish him- or herself and get promoted to a primary position. Mostly, though, they just ended up dead.) Although I had the same primary player character from Day One, my nephew took a while to find his.

As a result of our style of play and my nephew's seeming inability to find a character worthy of becoming his primary PC, we usually needed a lot of characters for our games. To fill this need, I began creating characters on multi-columned sheets (the same ones I generally used at that time for my dungeon maps). This way, we had at any given time a large pool of characters from which to choose.

I found these sheets while digging through my folders looking for items to scan and post. Since posting my minions' sheet yesterday had me thinking about such things, I thought I'd share with you a few samples of this bit of my gaming history:

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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

More Minions Than You Can Shake a 10-foot Pole At

A few weeks ago, I posted a record sheet for tracking NPC's. Since then, I've been stealing time here and there to make the sheet a little more useful - and to expand my knowledge of JavaScripting in Acrobat. Here's the end result: a self-populating hireling record sheet.

This PDF document will allow you to create and print up to four, um, colorful NPC's based on the Moldvay Basic Dungeons & Dragons rules. Specifically, you can generate characters of any class up through experience level 3 (as well as "normal," zero-level humans). Pefect for generating potential retainers for your low-level adventuring party, the PDF even gives each NPC a distinctive epithet and ultra-brief description. Here's a sample:

The sheet makes some assumptions, such as: most retainers being normal humans or fighters, dwarves and elves being fairly uncommon, and retainers generally coming poorly equipped.

Click here to download the PDF (~2.5MB)
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And the Winners Are...

After much wailing and gnashing of teeth (well, maybe not so much), the winners of the One Page Dungeon Design Contest have been announced.

I was really hoping that The Gray Goblin Warrens would sneak into the "Best Old School Dungeon" slot, but I guess it just wasn't in the stars. It did make it into a runner-up slot though ("Best Hack-n-Slash" - heh) which is very cool - and Heron Prior's Cry of the Gravegod is more than deserving of having bested TGGW for the spot, IMHO.

[Edit: Apparently, the Best Old School Dungeon award actually went to Valley of the Necromancer Kings, which is still a worthy opponent. I could swear the initial post listing the winners had these reversed, though. Ah, well. You know what they say about the mind being the first thing to go...]

In the end, any disappointment I could ever feel over not placing as high as I'd hoped is totally overshadowed by the sheer awe of my little dungeon being ranked among such noteworthies. There was some really amazing talent involved in this contest (based on what I saw while browsing the list of 1PD's available online), and I'm happy and honored to have even been a part of it.

Congrats to all of the 1PD Design Contest winners and kudos to everyone else who entered. Can't wait 'til next year's contest. (This is the first annual, right? Right?)
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