June 2020 Patreon Rewards

Did you know I have a Patreon? Yeah, I know everyone does. Why should you support this one?
Every month I provide behind the scenes material on games being developed for Night Owl Workshop, as well as providing high resolution files of my art that can be used as wallpaper for your computer and phone.

This month the rewards were Skeggold Valkyrie of Axes and new western themed character classes for your favorite OSR game. It is part of a Western mini-RPG inspired by the classic Boothill and meant to work seamlessly with Warriors of the Red Planet as a prelude to the A Princess of Mars adventure.

Just 3 bucks a month gets you this incredible deal, cheaper than a fancy drink at Starbucks and you know you'd buy these on DriveThru RPG for $5 or so anyways! Click on the link below:

APoM Design Diary #17 - Korad

One of the city ruins the green martians take John Carter to is Korad.

The Barsoom Wiki describes it like this:
Korad is a dead Martian city that was once belonged one of Barsoom's greatest nations. It was a center of culture and commerce, built upon a natural harbor surrounded by magnificent hills. When the seas began to dry Korad was abandoned, and as happened to many of the abandoned cities, it was soon taken over by one of the green hordes, in this case, the Tharks. As it is with most dead cities upon Mars it had a population of White Apes.
Bordering its central plaza is a magnificent structure of marble inlaid with gold and brilliant stones, with a canopied entrance one hundred feet in width. Its inner walls decorated with wondrous murals, paintings, and mosaics showcasing scenes of ancient Barsoom.
On my live stream twitch.tv/thomasdenmark I did this painting of Korad. It's still pretty rough and could use a lot more refinements. But it is a start.

I live stream weeknights at 9pm PST, you are welcome to join and watch me draw and talk about D&D.

APoM Design Diary #16 - Dak Kova

Dak Kova
Green Martian, Warhoon, 5th level Fighting Man
Armor Class: 5 [15]
Hit Dice: 6+6
Move: 120'
Attacks: longsword, and shortsword or pistol or tusks
Damage: 1d8, and 1d6 or 1d12 or 2d4
No. Appearing: 1 (unique)
Save: F5
Morale: 7
Treasure Type: A
Alignment: Chaotic Neutral
XP Value: 700
Social Status: 12
Str: 12 (+0), Dex: 12 (+0), Con: 16 (+2), Wis: 15 (+1), Int: 10 (+0), Chr: 8 (-1)
Equipment: longsword, shortsword, pistol (x2).
Dak Kova is a Green Martian from the horde of Warhoon. He was a Jed until he challenged and killed the Jeddak Bar Comas and assumed leadership of the Warhoons. The conflict resulted from a disagreement over the fate of John Carter following his capture by the Warhoons, though Dak Kova had regarded Bar Comas as weak and unfit to rule and needed little excuse to usurp his position.

Bar Comas had much the better of the battle, as he was stronger, quicker, and more intelligent. It soon seemed that the encounter was done, saving only the final death thrust, when Bar Comas slipped in breaking away from a clinch. It was the one little opening that Dak Kova needed, and hurling himself at the body of his adversary he buried his single mighty tusk in Bar Comas's groin and with a last powerful effort ripped the young jeddak wide open the full length of his body, the great tusk finally wedging in the bones of bar Comas's jaw. Victor and vanquished rolled limp and lifeless upon the moss, a huge mass of torn and bloody flesh.
- A Princess of Mars, Chapter 18, Chained in Warhoon

APoM Design Diary #15 - Woola

Armor Class: 6 [13]
Hit Dice: 6/40hp
Move: 120' (360' burst)
Attacks: bite
Damage: 2d10
No. Appearing: 1
Save: F5
Morale: 12
XP Value: 600
Str: 18 (+3), Dex: 18 (+3), Con: 13 (+1), Wis: 9 (+0), Int: 5 (-1), Chr: 12 (0)
Equipment: n/a
Woola is a calot and the loyal hound of John Carter and his family. Calots are about the size of a Shetland pony, with ten short legs and a frog-like head, and a small amount of bristly "hair". They are the fastest creatures on Mars. He can perform bursts of speed for 2-8 rounds of 360' per round, and requires an hour of rest before performing a burst again.

Woola was once a guard-dog for the Tharks at Korad and was assigned by Sola the green martian because she feared for Carter's safety since Korad was infested with white apes. Carter misunderstood Sola's intent and attempted to run away and was startled to find Woola was faster than him. So he leapt to a second story window, but was grabbed by a white ape. In the struggle he was pinned down by the ape and was about to be smashed by another apes cudgel when Woola intercepted and tore at the massive creature. Carter returned the favor by grabbing the cudgel and smashing the monstrous ape's head in and saving Woola.

Carter showed affection to Woola by petting his head, and never before having experienced kindness Woola became his loyal companion. After John Carter was forced to leave Mars, Woola became Carthoris's pet and later that of his younger sister Tara.

Dragonlance the Musical!

Dragonlance seems nearly forgotten in all the recent 80's nostalgia. The original series called The War of the Lance ran from 1984 to 1987. Exactly the years I was in high school. So I was in the prime demographic for the adventure modules and novels.

Margaret Weiss posted an image on her Facebook and mentioned it was from the Russian Dragonlance Musical. That was immediately intriguing. So after hunting down more information about it I came across the entire play on YouTube. And found several images online. The costumes  are clearly recognizable and not too bad. The set though is very minimal and relies on lighting to hide that fact.

Turns out there are several versions of the musical you can find videos of, each with different actors performing the parts. I didn't do an exhaustive review to see which was the best as I enjoyed the first one I stumbled across well enough.

Wizards of the Coast seems to have pretty much forgotten the Dragonlance line and nothing new has really come out since 2010 as far as I can tell. In retrospect the novels aren't necessarily the greatest literature of all time and is highly derivative of Lord of the Rings. At the time the novels were immensely enjoyable, though they come across as a little naive and cliche by today's standards. But I do think the second trilogy, the Time of the Twins is much more original and tells a rip roaring story of a mage and his quest for power. Despite it involving time travel, which is annoying enough especially in a fantasy novel.

Its kind of funny to think that most of the performers probably weren't even born yet when the books came out. That makes me feel old.

The musical is interesting, a Netflix series with high production values would be even better. You can watch the entire musical with subtitles on YouTube. It's not that bad and has some really good moments if you don't mind opera:

APoM Design Diary #14 - Air Plant Keeper

Air Plant Keeper
Red Martian, 1st level Fighting Man
Armor Class: 10 [9]
Hit Dice: 1/6hp
Move: 120'
Attacks: shortsword or pistol
Damage: 1d6 or 1d12
No. Appearing: 1-4
Save: F1
Morale: 12
XP Value: 100
Str: 11 (+0), Dex: 10 (+0), Con: 10 (+0), Wis: 9 (+0), Int: 13 (+1), Chr: 9 (0)
Equipment: shortsword, pistol.
Air plant keepers are skilled in the operations of the great air generators that maintain the breathable atmosphere of Barsoom. They are dedicated to their job and will defend the plant from hostile forces that may harm it.


Some things are switched around in the stat format. This is similar to the classic B/X layout. Still considering what would be the best format. I like the brevity in the Warriors of the Red Planet rulebook, but feel it might be a little too minimalistic.

One of the common criticisms of WotRP is that it mentioned Social Status as an attribute, but doesn't provide much more information. I discussed Social Status a bit in this thread odd74.proboards.com/thread/14144/social-status-lurking-ability-stat

Social Status is a very important part of the Barsoom novels and deserves more extrapolation. So maybe Social Status should be added to these NPC entries?

The Lost Art of Staggered Squares

In Alarums & Excursions issue 15 Gary Gygax notes "...I do not bother to place adventurers on any sort of graph if the group is three or less...more than three persons are in a party, we always require that they align themselves in a march order, the leader be in the front rank...when combat takes place we sometimes use miniatures...my favorite grid for character positions in combat is a large sheet of staggered squares covered with acetate." That is some interesting lore from way back. 

I was curious what the pros and cons of staggered squares might be over a square grid or hexes and not having much luck finding a good one online I made a sheet in Photoshop and printed it out large to test at the gaming table. It has some very interesting properties. Basically it works the same as hexagonal paper, but with the straight edge alignment properties of squares. The play test went really well, and you don't have that weird move effect where you move further relatively per square diagonally on a square grid.

Square grids and hexagons are ubiquitous in games, but when was the last time you saw staggered squares? I first became aware of the staggered squares grid when reading a copy of TSR's first sci-fi game Star Probe and its sequel Star Empires which has a map of the galaxy on a staggered grid.

Here is the grid I made, you are welcome to have and print out to try at home:

APoM Design Diary #13 - NPC Roster

These are the 22 NPC's gleaned from the text of A Princess of Mars to be described in the adventure.
  1. Air Plant Keeper
  2. Bar Comas
  3. Dak Kova
  4. Dejah Thoris
  5. Edgar Rice Burroughs
  6. Gozava
  7. James K Powell
  8. John Carter
  9. Kantos Kan
  10. Lorquas Ptomal
  11. Matai Shang
  12. Mors Kajak
  13. Notan
  14. Sab Than
  15. Sarkoja
  16. Sola
  17. Tal Hajus
  18. Tardos Mors
  19. Tars Tarkas
  20. Than Kosis
  21. Woola (calot)
  22. Zad

APoM Design Diary #12: Bar Comas Jeddak of the Warhoon

I compiled a list of about 22 NPC's for the Princess of Mars Adventure (unless I missed some in my multiple read throughs). I'm thinking of illustrating and designing the stats for each character. So it will be a pretty hefty section of the book. Some might only need a brief stat block, while some of the more important ones will need quite a bit more. Here is the first one on my list:

Bar Comas
Green Martian, Warhoon, 6th level Fighting Man
CR/XP 6/320
Size L (12’6”)
AC: 5 [15]
HD: 6+6
Atk: longsword, and shortsword or pistol or tusks
Dmg: 1d8, and 1d6 or 1d12 or 2d4
Save: F6
Move: 120’
Str: 17 (+2), Dex: 13 (+1), Con: 18 (+3), Wis: 12 (+0), Int: 10 (+0), Chr: 8 (-1)
Equipment: longsword, shortsword, pistol (x2).

Bar Comas was the Jeddak of the Warhoon tribe of Green Martians. He was regarded as weak and not strong enough to rule by his lieutenant, Dak Kova, who killed him over a disagreement about what to do with John Carter after the Warhoons captured him. This resulted in Dak Kova becoming the Jeddak.

"He will die as Bar Comas, your jeddak, sees fit, if at all," replied the young ruler, with emphasis and dignity.
"If at all?" roared Dak Kova. "By the dead hands at my throat but he shall die, Bar Comas. No maudlin weakness on your part shall save him. O, would that Warhoon were ruled by a real jeddak rather than by a water-hearted weakling from whom even old Dak Kova could tear the metal with his bare hands!"

Making Sense of the OD&D Elf

Much has been said about the 1974 OD&D Elf, it is a bit of a strange class. On one adventure it is a Fighter on another it is a Magic-User, but it can't be both at the same time. It is awkward and somewhat unwieldy when running an OD&D game. How can we make a better version that also remains true to the integrity of the system? The core idea is you have a character with good fighting ability and some magic ability. Sounds a lot like a cleric, so perhaps it has similar spell progression. If you give an Elf the combat ability of a fighter and also spells there will need to be a balancing factor, so what if it had the experience progression of a Magic-User, and is limited to the 8th level? With this in mind we can give the Elf attacks and saves like a fighter full time.

How do you give level titles to an Elf? OD&D doesn't even address this. The authors of Basic simply smashed Fighter and Magic-User titles together and ended up with this:

  1. Veteran-Medium
  2. Warrior-Seer
  3. Swordmaster-Conjuror
  4. Hero Magician
  5. Swashbuckler Sorceror
  6. Superhero Necromancer
  7. Lord Wizard
  8. Lord Wizard 8th

These titles sound epic and compelling in a generic fantasy sense, who doesn't want to play a Superhero Necromancer! However, these titles don't really fit an Elf and are a bit strange. What can be done about that? Besides the obvious problem of race-as-class, which is only murkily suggested in OD&D and codified in Basic, level titles are always a bit awkward. And yet they unquestionably add flavor to vanilla fantasy. I don't have an answer yet, I'm still mulling it over. So for now Level Title is: Elf.

With all this in mind I present the 1974 OD&D Elf Class:

Elves are at once Fighting-Men and Magic-Users and thus they gain the benefits of both classes and may use both weaponry and spells. They may use magic armor and weapons usable by either Fighters or Magic-Users. They select spells from the Magic-User list.

Elves with a Dexterity of 14 or more reduce enemies' attack rolls by 1 per point of Dexterity over 14.

Elves are able to locate secret passages  and hidden doors on a roll of 1-4. They sense any secret door they pass, a 1 or a 2 indicating that they become aware that something is there. Elves have the ability of moving silently and are nearly invisible in their gray-green cloaks, reduce in half any chance anyone has of detecting the elf. Elves armed with magical weapons will add +1 to dice rolled to determine damage, i.e. when a hit is scored the possible number of damage points will be 2-7 per die.

Elves on foot may split-move and fire: move half their normal movement, fire an arrow, then move the balance of their normal movement. Mounted Elves may not split-move and fire, for they are not naturally adapted to horseback. Finally, Elves are able to speak the languages of Orcs, Hobgoblins, and Gnolls in addition to their own Elvish and the other usual tongues.

Alternate Combat System:

As for the Level Titles what can be done? I dunno. Adolescent, adult, village elder? Forest Warden. Nature protector? Orc slayer? Low elf, mid elf, high elf? There probably is a good approach. If I hear of one, I'll update this post.


2020 Vision Map

This is an update to current projects in development.

First is my major ongoing Norse Mythology project, currently being called the Book of Valkyries. It has several components to it including a bestiary and maps. The text is largely written, now I am focusing on the artwork and layout. I provide regular in depth updates on my Patreon as well as exclusive content. On the current trajectory it looks like there will be an OSR version, a 5e version, and a literary (non-gaming) version.

Second is a supplement for Warriors of the Red Planet. A Princess of Mars adventure is a translation of the classic pulp novel into an OSR rpg adventure. A design diary of sorts is posted here and on the ODD74 board. Large parts have been written, I am currently working on the maps which are a fun challenge.

Third is the fantasy world of Hawkmoor. This grew out of the flavor text of the Beasties books, and a homebrew campaign I've played off and on now for years. It is a self contained OSR RPG that is also my take on original white box DnD with streamlined rules, better organization, layout, and art. Patrons also get updates and bonus content.

If there are other projects you've heard mentioned here that aren't listed it isn't because they've been forgotten. I am using a technique I learned about from a talk by Warren Buffett called the 5/25 strategy. Where you list 25 things you want to accomplish, choose 5 to focus on. The other 20 are things you must avoid spending time or energy on at all costs, so they do not distract from the 5. As you complete the 5 you can consider adding those (or others) to your current 5 priorities.

So these 3 things (and 2 other personal goals) are my current priority.

It doesn't mean there won't be occasional odds & ends posted here, or made available on DriveThru. I have many interesting tidbits to release here and there. The hard part for me is my head is always exploding with ideas most of them not good or worth wasting time on, but once in a while there is a good one. Like last night I couldn't sleep because my brain was churning through some concept for a grimdark fantasy setting so I had to get up and write it down to get it out of my head and onto paper, because it will become one of those projects I need to avoid. For now.

Thanks for checking this out. Stay tuned for more.

Geiravor the Spear-Bearer

Here at the Denmark household we've been playing a Norse themed campaign with 5e D&D, of course giving it a little OSR flavor. This is in conjunction with a project that has been in development for a couple years; a Book of Valkyries. While some Valkyries are only mentioned by name research reveals a fascinating variety of details beyond just the evocative name for many mentioned in Norse Mythology.

In terms of a D&D campaign there is a lot of room for interpretation and extrapolation by digging deep into the lore. Here is my first attempt at doing a 5e style layout with one of the Valkyries; Geiravor the Spear-Bearer:

This Patreon is a place to get Norse Mythology inspired art as well as related gaming material.

Midnight and Mistborn

16 years ago I painted covers for the Midnight role playing game by Fantasy Flight Games, and even won a Silver Ennie for the core book cover. At the time I didn't appreciate how important it was to the company. To me it was just another commission I was happy to work on. But the feedback kept coming in and the revisions and all the push back got harder and harder to work on and it slowly donned on me this was serious business.

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson is a fantasy book that comes up regularly on recommended reading lists. I finally got around to reading it last year.

What a great book.

What does it have to do with Midnight? As it turns out the premise of both Mistborn and Midnight is essentially the same: what if in The Lord of the Rings the Darklord won? The world is repressed under the might of his forces. The characters are struggling under an oppressive regime.

The details work out quite differently. While I do have a certain fondness for Midnight, I have to hand it to Brandon Sanderson for his excellent authorship of Mistborn. In particular he created one of the most compelling magic systems in a fantasy world.

Still, that is no knock on Midnight. It is a very well realized world, plays with some fantastic dark and evocative themes, and is quite well written, designed, and produced. If you can get a copy I highly recommend it.

These are the three books I did the covers for, and I also drew almost exclusively all the interior illustrations of the first edition core rule book. I didn't know it or appreciate it enough at the time, but it was an honor to get to work on it.

They are available on DriveThru here:

Monastic Knights - Templar

Trained as both monks and knights the Templar Order adheres to a specific code of behavior. Knights are to take their meals in silence, eat meat no more than three times per week, and not have physical contact of any kind with women, even members of their own family. They may own no more than four horses and must dress in a simple manner.

As a monk they are dedicated to serving their deity, as a knight they pledge fealty to their lord.
Templar knights are always noblemen. They are equipped as heavy cavalry, with a horse and a squire. Squires are generally not members of the Order but are instead outsiders who are hired for a set period of time.

Templars are granted spells according to the Cleric spell list starting at 2nd level.

Turn Undead: at 3rd level Templar can turn undead as a 1st level cleric, increasing in ability from there.

Banish Infernals: similar to turning undead, this affects creatures from the lower planes of chaotic (evil) alignment.

Extra Attack: at 7th level the templar gets an additional melee attack each round.

Build Monastery: At 9th level the templar establishes a monastery that may attract sergeants, skilled laborers like blacksmiths, chaplains, servants, and other monks and knights. As the Templars are both knights and monks, their commanderies are both castles and monasteries. Though defensible and strategically located, their castle has all the architectural features of a monastery: church, chapter house, cloister, refectory, dormitory, etc.

Monastic Knights

I've been thinking about replacing clerics with military monks.

The basic cleric class has always been a strange fit in the genre of classic swords & sorcery that spawned the settings of D&D. It seems that the cleric was inspired more by Van Helsing as portrayed in Hammer Horror films than by medieval lore or the pulp fantasy novels that filled the imaginations of Gygax and Arneson. The cleric’s Turn Undead ability made them more like protectors of the living from the dead than military monks. In practice they became walking hospitals with a bit of combat ability.

The cleric seems to come almost out of the blue in the first published DnD rules. Chainmail had Religious Orders of Knighthood, it would have made more sense to have a monastic knight character class, which eventually came in a way with the Paladin in the Greyhawk supplement.

Clerics are often the one character class that a group needs to have but nobody wants to play. Paladins are a better fit in the genre than Clerics, but there is obviously an important place for dedicated healers in any adventuring party. They even got an entire booklet dedicated to them with the Gods, Demigods, & Heroes. Despite these efforts they are still some of the least favored classes to play.

To make the Cleric more appealing what if instead of a Van Helsing type, the Cleric was more akin to the military monks of old. Like the Templars, a group that became so powerful the pope and monarchies conspired to wipe them out. Or the high ideal minded Knights Hospitaller who sponsored hospitals, or the legendary and fearsome Teutonic Knights.

Some changes have to be made to adapt them to a world of swords & sorcery where multiple gods vie for servants among the humans, elves, dwarves, and other races. The largest change is making them serve a deity among a pantheon of deities, rather than the monotheism of the real world. Here is an OSR treatment of monastic knights and military monks making them suitable as player character classes, and a worthy replacement of the common Cleric. There are dozens of Religious Orders of Knighthood, the focus here is on the three most well known and distinctive orders. In game terms these represent a spectrum from compassionate healers to formidable warriors.

Here's a basic idea:

Monastic Knights

Templar Order strikes a balance between being warriors and healers. They use d8 for hit dice. Advance like clerics, but only go up to 4th level in spell casting ability. They can turn undead but not as well as Knights Hospitaller.

Knights Hospitaller are compassionate healers and only fight as necessary. They use d6 for hit dice. Advance like clerics in combat and spell ability. They can turn undead.

Teutonic Knights are formidable warriors. They use d10 for hit dice. Advance like fighting men. They cannot turn undead and get no more than 3 spell levels.

A Princess of Mars Adventure - Chapter 8

Chapter 8  A Fair Captive From the Sky

Now we're getting to the good stuff.

Book Summary
A fleet of Helium airships appear on the horizon. The green martians jump to action to attack the ships. The deadly exchange of gunfire cripples one of the ships and sends the others into retreat. The Tharks board the ship to loot it and they capture a prisoner: a two-legged creature that looks just like an earthling except she has deep red skin and is extraordinarily beautiful. The martians torch the ship and send it away. Captain Carter is startled to find the copper-skinned beauty who is naked and unashamed. She fills with hope upon seeing Carter and makes an enigmatic hand signal he doesn't understand, and when he doesn't respond properly she is disappointing and dejected. The green martians take her away.

Character Actions
This chapter has a lot the characters can do. The characters meet a red martian for the first time and experience one of the most remarkable pieces of technology on Mars; the flying ships. They can help the Tharks, or they can capture a ship, this should be quite difficult, or they can save the red martian who is of course the incomparable Dejah Thoris.

The Helium ship itself could be a whole adventure, or at least several sessions, and will require ship plans.

Boothill Retrospective

Boothill came out in 1975, just one year after the original D&D.

A few things stand out about this 34 page booklet. The first is how much of an improvement the production values and layout are compared to previous TSR books. The margins give more room for the text to breath, the spacing between paragraphs is consistent, the headers use an appropriate flavored font, the tables are well aligned, the index is well presented. It is far better organized. All of these things add up to a much more legible and comprehensible rules book.

Boothill is not an RPG, it is clearly a war game but sits in the space between the two with a focus on one-on-one gunfights. It is so close to being an RPG, it has simple character creation and advancement rules, if it just had a few more options and more robust experience rules it could be played as one. It describes a combat system, NPC stats, creating an old West town, and has two scenarios; the infamous Gunfight at the OK Corral, and the Battle of Coffeyville. Several characters are given brief write-ups that look like this:

Wyatt Earp
Speed: 97
Gun Accuracy: 96
Bravery: 97
Strength: 99
Experience: 9

The game is percentile based. Character stats went from 1 Feeble to 00 Mighty. Speed is how fast the character can draw,  Accuracy is a bonus to hit as is Bravery, Strength is more or less Hit Points, and Experience is gained after each Gunfight which improves the character's To Hit over time.

Weapons are described with Range (short, medium, long), Rate (of fire), Weapon Speed, Ammunition, and Reload time. Rather than specific weapons such as Colt 45 or Winchester rifle the weapons are categorized more generically like (SAR) Single Action Revolver or (LBR) Long Barrel Rifle. This is a good approach as there were hundreds of different models of weapons produced during that time and trying to list them all is nearly impossible. And there are real gun aficionados who will nitpick the differences, regardless how subtle, between different makes and models.

The turn sequence, like in Chainmail, is described as either Simultaneous Movement, or Sequential Movement. Sequential goes like this:

A. Movement: Each player moves (or opts not to move) in turn, as outlined in the movement rule section.
B. Combat: Each player. after his move, has the option to initiate combat immediately after his move. All players wishing to fire do so at this time, and no one may fire again until all players have had the opportunity to move.

  1. Players state which characters are firing at what target and with how many shots.
  2. Order of Firing: Use the FIRST SHOT section to determine the order in which the characters fire. Keep in mind that as players take wounds it will affect their speed if they have not yet fired in the round.
  3. To Hit: When it becomes a player' s turn to fire, compute his chance to hit as in the To Hit section and roll a pair or percentage dice to determine if he hits his target.
  4. Hit Location and Wounds: If the player hits his target, use the HIT LOCATION AND WOUNDS section to determine the location and extent of the damage.

C. Brawls: After each round of combat (or after all players have moved, if no combat has occurred in the turn) use the BRAWLING section to resolve all hand-to-hand fights. Each participant shall have two rounds of brawling per turn.

This describes turn order and combat far better than D&D books did at the time.

First Shot is one of the best mechanics described in the game. It may be one of the best initiative systems designed.
First Shot:
To determine who gets the first shot add and subtract the bonuses and penalties shown on the FIRST SHOT CHART. Do this for each figure firing that turn. The one with the highest positive total fires first, with other figures firing in order thereafter. Note that subsequent firing must be adjusted for any wounds scored upon the firing figure by figures firing previously. In case of ties fire is considered as taking place simultaneously with regard to the figures whose total scores were tied.
The chart it refers to lists bonuses and penalties based on each character's Speed score, the speed of their Weapon, Surprise factor, Movement such as riding a horse, and Wounds the character may have. It is a solid variety of factors without being exhaustive. There is enough information in the chart that the referee could make calls on other factors not listed.

To Hit is simple: you have a base 50% chance to hit. Roll percentile add & subtract all the modifiers, if the total is 50% or better you hit. Then roll Hit Location which could more accurately be called damage which is subtracted from the character's Strength score. Damage is either 3, 7, or Dead. Fast and brutal as a gunfight should be.

Wounds affect a character's To Hit modifiers and their Movement Rate.

There is an advanced hit location chart that still do the same damage to Strength, it just provides more specifics as to what part of the body is wounded.

D&D is notoriously known for not handling unarmed combat well, too bad it didn't use the excellent system from Boothill! Under Brawls is described punches and grappling. Followed by a chart that describes bonuses and penalties for different moves like jabbing, kicking, bear hugs, and so on. It integrates seamlessly into the combat system.

There is an Advanced Combat system that covers shooting while moving. Arching arrows over cover like a wall, and a Morale system. It isn't really much more complicated, I'd probably use it were I to run a game of original Boot Hill. There are also optional rules that complicate the First Shot system and adds a Greased Lightning rule, Sharpshooting which is almost a skill, and some other miscellaneous rules like dynamite, aging, and more.

This is not a game that was common in the groups I gamed with. It wasn't until much later I picked up a copy and played it a few times at game conventions. But by then Deadlands was far more popular and easier to get into a gaming session with.

Boothill is one of TSR's missed opportunities. Why did TSR keep making wargames when it was clear their RPG line was taking off? All focus should have gone into the money maker when you've got the tiger by the tail. There was a time before GURPS that TSR could have owned the universal roleplaying game genre and Boothill could have been the first entry into that by converting D&D into a western, and then into sci-fi with Metamorphosis Alpha using D&D rules, and on into other genres. I know hindsight is 20/20 but it seems it should have been obvious to expand D&D in this way. They even knew it, because in the introduction to of Men & Magic under Scope Gary Gygax states "Actually, the scope need not be restricted to the medieval; it can stretch from the prehistoric to the imagined future". There it is. Instead they let Traveller gobble up the sci-fi genre, Cthulhu took horror, superheroes was taken up with Champions, and of course GURPS owned the universal genre.

In summary, Boothill is excellent for what it is. A fast, simple wargame-like treatment of the western genre. I'd even suggest that some of the mechanics were innovative for its day. It falls short of being great by its lack of depth in character creation and setting information.

A Princess of Mars Adventure - Chapter 7

Chapter 7 Child-Raising on Mars

Book summary
After breakfast in the dead city, John Carter, Sola and Woola the watchdog, accompany a huge caravan of chariots and armed mounted warriors to the hatching ceremony at the isolated tribal incubator. Every five years, the best 500 eggs presented by the females are selected for a five-year incubation process in the solar heated, sealed incubators. The Earthman watches as the green Martians claim their fully-formed, four-feet-tall offspring. Sola claimed a young male to whom she would teach the barbaric skills necessary to survive the cruel existence of dying Mars. Under Sola's tutelage, both Carter and the child soon learned the spoken language and developed the mental powers needed for the universal Martian language of telepathy.

Player actions
Child Raising on Mars
Egg hatching ceremony
Learn barbaric survival skills
Learn spoken language of Barsoom
Learn martian telepathy

A Princess of Mars Adventure - Chapter 6

Chapter 6 A Fight That Won Friends

Book summary:
After Carter escapes his imprisonment and nearly eludes Woola a giant white ape-like creature and its mate attack. They have six limbs like the green men. Woola saves Carter from being smashed by the female's cudgel. Woola is endangered, Carter grabs the cudgel to defeat the female ape. Carter could use this opportunity to elude the male ape, but feels a sense of duty to rescue Woola.  Carter employs earth tactics with the cudgel and finishes off the male ape. The green martians are impressed by Carter's victory over the apes and wins their admiration. He also wins the devotion of Sola by saving Woola from being terminated by Tars Tarkas' gun.

Player actions:
If (when) the characters escape the prison White Apes attack
If the characters befriended a calot it will fight valiantly for them but will be killed if not helped.
Defeating white apes will win the admiration of the Tharks.
Saving the calot wins the devotion of Sola.

Rereading this the white apes were more intelligent than I remembered, for example they are using cudgels as weapons. I realize my impression of them was formed more by Frazetta's art than the text of the book.

HD 5; AC 6[13]; Atk: 1 bite (1d10); Move 12; Save F5; CL/XP 6/400; Special: Speed Burst 360' for up to 6 turns, 1 hour rest to perform again.
Calots are about the size of a Shetland pony, with ten short legs and a frog-like head, and a small amount of bristly "hair". They are the fastest creatures on Mars. Calots were domesticated by the Green Men who use them for multiple purposes such guard animals and fighting for entertainment in their arenas.

Ape, Giant White
HD: 6+6, AC: 4 [16], Atk: 4 fists or club (1d6 each, or 2d10), Move: 15, Save: F6, CL/XP 7/800.
These hideous, enormous apes resemble Earthly gorillas, but they are snow-white, stand nearly fifteen feet tall, and have four powerful arms. They are hairless except for a shock of stiff hair at the top of their heads which only increases their savage appearance, and are cunning predators, capable of scaling nearly any surface with ease. Many are devastatingly proficient with a club. These selfish beasts will try to kill silently if possible, but will not hesitate to howl for friends if seriously over matched. Some larger specimens have 8+8 HD.

A Princess of Mars Adventure - Chapter 5

Chapter 5 I Elude My Watchdog

Book Summary
Sola leaves Carter alone in the prison guarded by Woola. Captain Carter ponders the strange anomalies so far encountered: his guardian Sola, a Martian watchdog, the large plant that provided both food and drink, and the sudden onset of nightfall on Mars. Innately curious and prone to seek adventure, Carter tests the role of his watchdog by leaving the building. The animal stays with him to the edge of the city. Carter realizes that the only means to escaping his loyal, ferocious protector is his unique ability as a jumper. Landing on a sill 30 feet above the ground, Carter's exultation is short-lived when he falls into the grasp of a colossal ape-like creature.

Characters are left alone in the prison guarded by a Calot (Woola)
If they attempt an escape the calot will try to prevent it.
If they do escape they will encounter giant white apes.
Defeating the apes will give them credit with the green martians

Reworked the Ancient City Ruins map a bit, it is likely to continue to be refined further.

5th Edition Character Sheet - Family Friendly II

I listened to your feedback on my previous character sheet post and added Skills and Passive Perception. Many sheets put the skills grouped with their Ability score, but I find it easier to look them up alphabetically.

Here is a full rez printable version:

Social Status

On page 10 of Men & Magic a simple formula for starting Gold Pieces is given:

"Each player notes his appropriate [ability] scores, obtains a similar roll of three dice to determine the number of Gold Pieces (Dice score x10) he starts with,"

It was noted on the OD&D discussion forums that this can be interpreted as your character's Social Status. It has the exact same range 3-18 of all other abilities, is determined the same way, and is in the same step of character creation.

Today I was re-reading issue #70 of Dragon Magazine from February of 1983 and stumbled across an article by Gary Gygax describing a Social Status system for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. He hints that it will be in the forthcoming expansion volume. I assume that became Unearthed Arcana. In his typical Gygaxian way he systematized social status into multiple tiers from Lower Lower Class, to Middle Middle Class, to Upper Upper class and everything in between. Also adding birth tables and corresponding Non-Human races.

So taking off from there here is a proposal for a very "white box" Social Status stat:

Roll 3d6 to determine your character's Social Status score

3-4 Lowest Class
5-9 Lower Class
10-14 Middle Class
15-18 Upper Class
19+ Royalty

Lowest Class: These are the dregs of society. Freed slaves, peasants, tinkers, vagabonds, beggars, criminals, common thieves and assassins
Lower Class: This is most people. Herdsmen, laborers, peddlers, actors, jugglers, men-at-arms, freemen, tradesmen, petty officers, money-changers, tax collectors, mountebanks, fences
Middle Class: Artisans, craftsmen, petty merchants, junior officers, bankers, landless knights, landed gentry, merchants, petty officials, senior officers, landless petty nobles, guild masters, great merchants, military commanders, officials, doctors, priests, landless nobles
Upper Class: Great landed gentry, generals and marshals, greater officials, knights, commanders, bishops, lesser nobles
Royalty: Great nobles, sovereign nobility, royalty

Parent’s Marital State roll 1d12
1-8: married, character is legitimate
9-10: character is an orphan
11+: unmarried, character is a bastard

Birth Order: roll 1d12 twice. The higher number is the number of children in the family. The lower number is the order in birth your character is.

First born generally inherits most or all the wealth, land, and titles. Subsequent born inherits proportionately less. In some cultures the children inherit their parent’s debt as well.

Your character's starting wealth is Social Status x10 in Gold Pieces. (30-180 GP)

Your class could have an effect, so each 2 or 3 levels you could gain +1 to your Social Status. There would be certain perks associated with them, advantages and disadvantages to each tier.

A Princess of Mars Adventure - Chapter 4 Prisoners

Chapter 4 Prisoners

The characters are dragged across a dry sea bed to the crumbling ruins of an ancient city where nearly a thousand green men, women, and children have made their home. Here we learn about the culture of the Tharks. They live 1000 years, this long life has contributed to the shortage of resources. They are warlike and savage. Families are forbidden, there is only the community. It is survival and rule of the strongest. The ruins are the remains of an ancient human-sized city, clearly not made by the 15' tall green men.

The characters should learn martian here fairly quickly. I'm not a huge fan of various languages as a game mechanic, it can be made to work in certain circumstances but mostly gets in the way of fun in my experience. The solution in the movie was drinking martian milk that makes you comprehend. Then there is the whole telepathy thing which I don't think adds much.

Things that happen in the City Ruins:
Put into prison
A calot is put on guard duty, if treated kindly it will take to one of the characters and become a loyal pet
If a character kills a Thark the others will applaud and laugh and be impressed.
Learn green martian culture and religion

A Princess of Mars Adventure - Chapter 3 Advent on Mars

A Princess of Mars Adventure
Chapter 3 Advent on Mars

Ok, our characters have gotten to Mars. Somehow, someway. Whether they were Lawmen chasing an outlaw into a cave, or Apache warriors hiding out in the sacred mountains and being lured by strange lights. Or maybe you don't want to start with a western, perhaps this is an excursion to shake up your fantasy adventure. Your elf magic-user and human paladin stumbled onto a cave or found a strange artifact and ended up on Mars. Some fantasy in your sci-fi. A little like peanut butter in your chocolate. However you've gotten your players there what happens next?

The characters arrive butt-naked. This is an old trope. Anyone who has played [b]A4 In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords[/b] knows what a great challenge it is to take away all of the character's goodies. Apparently this is something Gary Gygax liked doing to his players. At any rate the characters will be at a disadvantage. No gear, the light gravity will make them awkward, they don't understand the language, and they are right by an incubator that is hatching Thark eggs and a dozen green martian warriors mounted on thoats are approaching. They don't take to strangers kindly.

Here we meet Tars Tarkas. He is still very much a thark, just not quite as cold and heartless as the rest of his people. He is intrigued by the characters because they are not like anything he's encountered before. So instead of outright killing them, as the warriors who accompany him are wont to do, he decides to capture them.

The biggest danger will be turning this adventure into a railroad, but the characters end up prisoners of the Tharks and taken back to the ancient city ruins that they have turned into their home.

Thark Fighting Man
Level 12
(HD 12; AC 6[13]; Atk radium pistol (1d6), 1 greatspear (1d10); Move 9; Save 11; CL/XP 12/800)
Str 17, Int 12, Wis 15, Dex 16, Con 15, Chr 16
Tars Tarkas wears the metal of a Thark chieftain. He is a well armed and charismatic leader.

(see Warriors of the Red Planet for green martian stats)

Talindor (Tarniss) Inked Drawing

At some point in the 90's I drew an inked version of Tarniss, which was still being calling Talindor. The idea was a heavily illustrated border with important characters and scenes from the world. It wasn't completed because I didn't like how the illos were dominating the map. Looking back at it now it isn't half bad.

The illustrations are, clockwise from top left:
Princess Perilina: she was a princess with super-powers, inspired a bit by the nameless protagonist in Tanith Lee's novel The Birthgrave.
Draken Lairs: the Shadowhaven mountains are infested with Drakens, basically small dragons.
Fire Pits of Shadar: no specific memories of anything specific about this other than lava pools being a great adventure locale.
Temple of Cholizar: this eventually became the Realm of the Ice Witch expansion for Dungeoneer.
The Kargak: basically like the tarrasque from the first edition Monster Manual 2
Hope, Revelation, Despair: kind of like the Norns from Norse Mythology
Kez the Unwaking: a great hero in stasis who could be reawakened when his sword is put back together.
Dimension: the goddess of 3 dimensional space
Broken Sword of Kez: yeah, Kez's sword was broken in 3 parts.
Palanthion: the capital of Dolmaranthus.
Gwildor: a great paladin who battled the demons back to hell, he was obliterated when the gate to hell was sealed. His holy armor spread into the Sea of Souls.
Gates of Bandimar: a seal on a portal to hell.
Haunted Mistenwoods: this became The Haunted Woods of Malthorin expansion for Dungeoneer.
Lilus Arcana: a magic plant
Arcanuz the God-King: the big bad guy of the world. Part lich part insane eldritch lord.

This map is a photo copy in my Tarniss binder, I don't know if the original drawing still exists or if it's in storage somewhere.

5th Edition Character Sheet - Family Friendly Version

I've been playing the 5th edition with my kids and for the most part we're all enjoying it, but it really feels unnecessarily complicated in many ways. In particular character creation is excruciating. The idea is that most of the calculations and work is upfront so that during play things go much more smoothly.

We found the basic character sheet to be way too busy and hard to read. I made a version that removes much of the clutter and improves legibility. It doesn't have every single thing from 5th edition, but it does have everything you generally need while playing. Making this sheet a much more kid-friendly version. Here is a relatively high rez version you can download and print out for your own games:

Edit: yes, skills are missing. I'm an advocate for players solving problems through clever game play rather than relying on a die roll and a solution on their character sheet. There is room for indicating important skills in the abilities section. It says Ancestry instead of Race because we've been exploring genres other than fantasy. It says Life Saves rather than Death Saves because not only is it a more kid friendly term but it is more accurate as to what the game mechanic does; it saves your character's Life.

My High School D&D Campaign

Tarniss is the background world setting for the Dungeoneer card game. It appears in the flavor text, character names, and monster you encounter while playing. Tarniss was based on my middle school D&D campaign world that I developed all throughout high school, and into my early 20's as well. It went by many names, originally called Talindor. Fortunately I kept many of the notes, drawings, and maps in a binder. One of the few things I still have from back then.

This is the very earliest map drawing I have in my binder.

It has been a long time since I looked at this. It's surprising how many of the original names and much of the original contour survived through multiple revisions and development of the world. In the late 80's I got my first IBM computer, I don't know when I first drew a digital version of this map but I found this printout.

You can see it's called The Empire of the Domains. A title that represented this was just one of many domains in the solar system. It was a little influenced by Spelljammer there were multiple planets, or domains, you could visit. Some had pretty wild geography and the planets were crazy shapes that look a bit like polyhedral dice. Maybe I'll post some drawings of that when they get scanned in.

As a fantasy world made by a middle-schooler it doesn't exactly have an amazing high concept. Eldritch Lords long ago stole the secret of magic from the elves, turned against them, tore the world apart with their dark arts until they were overthrown by the free peoples. At one point a demon lord created a portal into Tarniss and spread a plague of demons who were beaten back through the portal which was sealed with an eternal lightning storm. It's essentially a Tolkienesque-D&Dish-vanilla fantasy world. But we sure had a lot of fun exploring it.

TSR Comic Page Ads

Bill Willingham has become a legend in the comic book industry. Creator of the much lauded Fables series, he continues to work in comics mostly writing. He still draws, but more for private commissions than for published work. To D&D fans he was a notable artist on early D&D books including being the first to draw dark elves for the Drow series. Many remember his iconic frontispiece drawing for Red Box D&D of the adventurers fighting a red dragon.

On his YouTube channel Bill Willingham recently talked about his experiences as a young artist in the early days of TSR. He drew all but the first 2 D&D comic page ads.


I barely remember seeing these as a kid, and I didn't even realize they had a continuing story that left on a cliff hanger. This compelled me to look them up so I could read the story. Apparently it had developed a bit of a fan base who were disappointed the stories were never finished. But ending the ads was a marketing decision as they decided to spend their advertising budget elsewhere. Of particular fascination is the restrictions the Lady of Pain inflicted on the ads. They could show no violence and no greed. So no fighting or getting treasures, pretty much the heart of a D&D adventure!

The characters are:

Grimslade the magic-user
Indel the elf
Valerius fighter
Saren the cleric

Interestingly in an issue of Dungeon magazine the characters were given stats for 4th edition D&D. One of the harder editions to convert back into classic D&D, but it can be done with a little effort.

When I was poking around trying to get more information I found the Kuronons blog that has some additional interesting details.

The Gunslinger

As mentioned I am indeed making a Wild West RPG to accompany the Princess of Mars adventure. I didn't want to do it, but the adventure demanded it. I started playtesting it last week and have a handful of character classes and a rough plan for how it will be structured. The thing about the old west is there are hundreds of colorful characters! When you start brainstorming classes the list quickly explodes. Cowboys, outlaws, gunslingers, gamblers, mountain men, Braves, lawmen, Vaqueros, Cavalrymen, and on and on.

What to collapse into archetypes and what to break out into their own classes? This has always been the problem with class based games. I like the ultra minimalism of the original LBB with 3 classes. Knights, Vikings, Samurai? all Fighting Men. Wizards, witches, and sorcerers? All Magic Users. Priests, mystics, and shaman? All Clerics. Easy peezy lemon squeezy.

The MOMENT you add a Thief class it all goes to hell.

Don't get me wrong, I love thieves, and paladins, and druids, and assassins, and ninjas, and dragon spell dancer sword mistresses! Give me all the classes, I eat them up like candy. Yum.

To get back to the Wild West, lets start with the most iconic, the most cool character possible. The Man with No Name: The Gunslinger. And build on that with specialties called Paths that can be taken to customize the character a bit to taste. The class is definitely OSR in spirit, but a little bit d20, a little bit 5th edition. Not all the details are worked out yet.

Primary Ability: Dexterity 13+ gets a 5% XP bonus each level.
Weapon proficiencies: revolver, rifle, bowie knife

Gunslinging: at 1st level a gunslinger excels with a revolver. They get +1 AB and +1 Initiative to draw.
Horsemanship: at 3rd  level a gunslinger is attuned to riding in the saddle. They nearly cannot be thrown off, and have a +1 to all ranged and melee attacks and have +1 AC while on a saddled horse.
Deadeye: at 5th level a gunslinger is a master with a revolver. They get +2 AB and +2 Initiative to draw.
Getaway: at 7th level a gunslinger is nearly impossible to catch when they are fleeing a scene.
Extra Attack: at 9th level a gunslinger gains 1 additional attack per round.

Gunslinger Paths
Gambler: anyone can play poker, gamblers are just damn good at it. Bluff. Read Opponent. Luck.

Outlaw: An outlaw is one who stole horses, robbed banks, and lived outside of civil society. They were proficient with a lasso, riding a horse, and at aiming their rifle or revolver. Sometimes they’d take a legitimate job working on a ranch, but would just as soon rustle some cattle or rob a stagecoach. Lasso proficiency. Wrangling: outlaws can herd cattle and are skilled with a lariat getting +2 AB to entangle a target up to 25’ away. Pick Locks: +2 to attempts (Dex check)

Mountain Man: some settlers leave civilized life and “go native”. They are the hardiest of men, usually friends with natives and attuned to nature. They know all the best hunting grounds, watering holes, and the plants that are good for eating. Hunting: +2. Tracking: +2 to Wisdom (Perception) checks. Fortitude: +2 to Constitution checks.

Ft. Grant Area

Continuing the adaptation of A Princess of Mars into an OSR adventure. Here is a map I drew of the Fort Grant area. More detail will be added, but this is a start.

Fort Grant Area

Fort Grant is where the "Bloody" 7th Cavalry was stationed. It was built in 1872 and commanded by Lt. Col George Crook. ERB was stationed there from 1896-1897.
The Cave: this is where Captain Carter flees to from the Apaches, and somehow teleports to Mars.
Safford: the town where Captain Carter goes to get supplies.
Apache Camp: where Carter's friend is captured and taken to.

The opening chapter of A Princess of Mars actually takes place in the White Mountains, which are a bit north of Fort Grant. Of course GM's could have the adventure take place from there instead. I found Fort Grant to be a more fascinating location to start a western in since there is a lot of recorded history such as Billy the Kid who killed a man for coughing or spitting on him in Bonita which started off his criminal career.

Cottonwood will be turned into a hive of scum and villainy for the adventure locale.

I'm working out a western character class like a Gunslinger or a Cavalryman or something to go with the adventure, but this tempts me to make a mini western RPG.