Oct 28, 2009

More Martian Ships

More drawings of Martian ships. I can't wait to see what the stats on these ships will be. I hear aerial combat is going to be awesome.

Oct 21, 2009

Soldier of Adventure: the Thief class

As I assured you in the last post, the writing in my first RPG was even worse than the art. As evidence, I've scanned in the pages describing the Thief class.
A wily character indeed! Hey, I was in jr. high, so maybe the bad grammar and juvenile writing is forgivable.

Considering how many times I've seen attempts at making a suitable Thief class for OD&D, I think this one could be as good a contender as any. I kid.

The infrequent postings of late are due to a number of life factors. Last week I went to Montreal Canada to visit the fine art museum there for a showing of my favorite artist J.W. Waterhouse. Second, I've started a new job - well, really an old job, since I worked there before. And third my computer is getting unpredictable. Time to upgrade.

Oct 13, 2009

My First Roleplaying Game Design

Shortly after discovering D&D in Jr. High sometime around 1980 while living in Marana Arizona, my parents moved to Reno Nevada. This was a period where I had no one I knew who played. All I had where a basic set, a few modules, the DMG, PHB, Deities & Demigods, and Fiend Folio (it was sometime before I finally got the Monster Manual). So I took to using the solo rules in the DMG - and found them basically unplayable. AD&D was just too complex a beast to boil down to a few random tables. So I took to making my own simpler version called Soldier of Adventure!
There were 5 hand typed booklets on 3"x5" cards, with plans for an additional 10 booklets!

Characters: this created your Soldier of Adventure character
Soldier of Adventure: this created the solo dungeon crawl adventure with random tables
Treasure Trove: dozens of magic items you could find
Dungeon Denizens: a monster manual of sorts
Princess Captive: an adventure module

Yeah, the art was terrible. I hadn't learned anything about anatomy or composition yet, and didn't have anything to go by other than the art in the D&D books (I'd seen a Frazetta book once, and I may have had a Boris Vallejo book). Rest assured, as bad as the art was, the writing was even worse!

This rules lite "RPG" was an auto-adventure generating game. Characters were based on classes and levels. Advancement was your tried and true XP system for killing stuff and taking its gold. It was all firmly rooted in old school gaming.

The interesting part of this is that Soldier of Adventure, after many, many iterations finally ended up as the game Dungeoneer published by Atlas Games. I've often considered polishing up the last version, before it became a card game, into a bona fide RPG.

About All Those Rules

I've been posting more frequently about the Dungeoneer roleplaying game lately, but there is another product that has been quietly brewing in the background. It is a product that bridges the gap between the Dungeoneer roleplaying game and the Dungeoneer card game. It is called Dungeoneer Scenarios. It is a document that I have long been working on, adding little bits over the months and years as ideas come to me, or as I read interesting things on the interwebs. It is a collection of optional rules, and most importantly pre-constructed scenarios for the card game - which coincidentally are highly useful for the roleplaying game.

One of the major topics are the rules. Nearly half of Dungeoneer Scenarios is devoted to the "crunchy bits" that make up the game. Illuminating how things work and offering alternatives and expansions. My post here today is an excerpt from Dungeoneer Scenarios explaining the different editions of the rules.

About the Different Rules editions
Dungeoneer has gone through 5 versions of rules. The original version was published by Citizen Games in the first ever Dungeoneer set. The final version, called Legendary Dungeoneer Rules version 2.3, was published by Atlas Games in the Legendary Dungeoneer: Wrath of the Serpent Goddess set and represents years of playtesting and feedback by Dungeoneer players from all around the world.
Why so many versions of the rules? The primary reason for multiple editions of the rules is that the game expanded with each set. This meant new cards with new card effects, and these had to be accounted for and explained as the rules developed. Also, there was tremendous feedback from the Dungeoneer community that helped to clarify and correct sections of the rules. These clarifications where added with each version.

Rules v. 1
The original rules were concise and bare-bones. The strength of this rules set was its simplicity and brevity. It cut straight to the point and was designed to fit on a small sheet of paper with minimal graphics. Unfortunately it suffered from being too terse on key points that needed elaboration. It was most criticized for appearing to have 2 contradictory win conditions. The win goal of completing 3 Quests was the correct win goal, but another paragraph seemed to suggest you won by achieving 4th level, which if you complete 3 Quests you probably would be 4th level, however there was a card in the set called a Wraith that could drain levels from your Hero, making it possible that you could complete 3 Quests without achieving 4th level.

Rules v. 2
This rule set benefited from the feedback of many players and elaborated on several fine points in the rules. The release of 2nd edition Dungeoneer by Atlas Games represented increased production values with full color backs and better card stock. Several desirable elements that were missing from the original game were included in this revision of the game, including expanded Monster stats and the ability for Heroes to initiate attacks of their choice. The rules also featured a whole new mode of play called Campaign where one player acted solely as the Dungeonlord while all the other players participated solely as Heroes co-operating to complete their Quests. (These campaign rules are included in a revised and improved format in this book) Unfortunately these improvements also made the 2nd edition cards essentially incompatible with the 1st edition.

Rules v 2.1
In response to increased criticism regarding confused wording on some rules this version 2.1 was a refinement of the v. 2 rules. These rules remained the standard through most of the Dungeoneer releases until the Epic set. Unfortunately by clarifying the length of the rules grew. Campaign play was removed in favor of a section of “best of” optional rules that were in common use by Dungeoneer players.

Rules v. 2.2
The release of an Epic set meant new rules had to be incorporated to account for higher levels and explanation for combining Heroic level sets with the new Epic set. These rules were a complete rewrite and revision of the v. 2.1 rules and expanded on describing common card effects and optional rules. This rule set was greeted with the most positive response from the Dungeoneer community as being the best rules set to date.

Rules v. 2.3
The release of the Legendary set required additional rules to explain combining sets of various levels. Care was taken not to mess up what players liked about the v. 2.2 rules. Only a small section was re-written to accommodate expanded and revised explanations required for using the Legendary and Epic sets with other sets.

Numbered 2.3 Rules
A Dungeoneer player, Dane Barrett, posted a set of rules on Boardgamegeek.com that rearranged the rules into a numbered sequence for ease of reference. This quickly became my favorite set of rules to reference when running a Dungeoneer game. Also, Dane made a Rules Summary that I've since expanded and use for quick reference. (These are linked to on the right for your convenience.)

Oct 12, 2009

What's in a name?

In an embarrassing oversight I made the faux pas of using the term "retro-clone" far too loosely, when I really meant "rules based on old editions of D&D".

How could such an amateurish mistake have happened? Certainly someone who has been playing D&D since 1980 would know better?!

Well, allow me to explain. I'm relatively late to this retro-clone party, and missed out on some critical early syntax development. Now, visiting the old school boards has become a part of my routine. I've been downloading and reading every free old school game I can get a hold of in order to mine for any precious gems usable in my own campaign.

Maybe its not 100% accurate to say I'm late to the party, since this is how I've always played D&D. Since photocopying pages from Dragon magazine in high school, using a mish-mash of D&D and AD&D rules, with heaping teaspoons of my own imagination and friend's ideas into the mix. We had guidelines for your character to achieve deity, dungeons that ran across pages of graph paper with room after room of kobolds, gelatinous cubes, drow, and red dragons.

Maybe now I give a little more consideration to reason and believability as far as that is possible in a fantasy game about wizards and dragons. But the spirit is still the same. Rules lite, improvisation rather than slavishly holding to detailed rules, and all in a spirit of fun. Those are the kind of games I meant.

I looked through a folder on my PC called "retro clones" and noticed the hodgepodge I'd collected and had this idea of updating this here blog with a handy link list of all the free RPG's that have been made by those, like me, who loved and longed for those days of classic gaming. Well I see retro clones was not a good name for that folder after having read Dan's definition. What I really wanted to say were "games similar to all editions of D&D before 4th edition". But that is too much of a mouthful, so I'm just going to call them Free Retro RPG's. Links now posted to the right for your benefit.

Free Retro Clones

I'm compiling a link list of all the available free retro clones of note available on the interwebs. I'm sure I've missed quite a few, so if you can point me to more I'll be happy to add them to the link list.

So far I've got:

Oct 8, 2009

Another Ogre

Here is another illustration that will be accompanying the ogre description in the Dungeoneer RPG Player's Guide.

Oct 6, 2009


Hello, welcome to another Dungeoneer Roleplaying Game update. This week we take a look at the Ogre, one of the 6 races you can choose from in the core rules.

An ogre (feminine: ogress) is a large, cruel and hideous humanoid monster. They are brute creatures who seek only to serve their own pleasures: usually finding shiny stuff, killing things, and eating food. The common mythical perception is that ogres feed on human beings, which is not true, unless they are feral or extremely hungry, or in a particularly bad mood. Ogres have a large head, protruding tusks, abundant hair and beard most often of a reddish or dark brown color, small dark eyes, a voracious appetite, and a large strong body. Their skin is ruddy, leathery, and tough.

Considered the smallest, or runts, of the giant family, ogres are rarely accepted in civilized lands. Indeed, they are also not always welcome by giants in the mountainous regions they inhabit. Most ogres are from rural, savage, or even esoteric cultures. Those from distant or exotic lands may seem to be more intelligent, or refined.

Being ferocious in combat, but generally not smart enough to make good wizards, ogres tend to excel at being warriors or barbarians.

Melee +1
Magic -1
Treasure Limit +1
Boon Limit -1

Special Abilities


Intimidate (pay 1 glory): chosen enemy has -1 Melee for the duration of this combat. Limit once per combat.

Charge (pay 2 glory): one attack can be aimed at up to 3 enemies. You roll attack once, each opponent rolls defense normally. Limit once per combat.

Bullrush (pay 3 glory): +2 Melee against all opponents this combat. Limit once per combat.

I hope you enjoyed this week's update. I've been doing a lot of art and writing, as usual being productive in my studio means being unproductive on this here blog. Hopefully next week's post will be more prompt. Thanks for visiting!

(note I updated this post because it was missing the special abilities previously)

Martian Cities and 9th Ray Ships

Haven't posted here in a while, but I have a really good excuse. I'm beginning work on a major original edition fantasy project: an ERB Mars inspired RPG

I'm working with a fellow writer who is known in the original edition circles, and whose design work I've seen so far is very inspiring.

To kick start this here is a tiny taste of some early concept sketches I've done, which in no way represents what the final art looks like. This is just my way of "getting into" the project.

First some martian city sketches:
Next are some ideas for how the 9th Ray-powered flying ships could look. I wanted to get away from the Return of the Jedi skif look. These are just early sketches, I'll probably explore a variety of shapes, perhaps some sailing ships or galleons:
Here is a quick color treatment on another martian city sketch: