May 25, 2021

Clip Art - OSR Cover Template

 Of all the requests for art I get one of the most frequent is for the page texture and layout I do for my OSR roleplaying game books.

I will say, they look simple but I put quite a bit of time and effort in fonts kerning, leading, and layout and have refined the format over the years. So for those interested here is a ready made template you can use for your own OSR games. It has all you need including font information (you'll have to get those separately), background page texture, and I even made a fun little wizard logo you are free to use to show that your game is OSR friendly. Which to me means it is basically compatible with all the popular retro-clones that emulate the original fantasy roleplaying game.

As a special offer this is half price from what I've sold this template for on my website.

May 24, 2021

Bookmark Dungeon: Monument of Culetol the Raving Guardian

 When Culetol stopped moving the Priests who worshipped him built a great monument as a resting place. Prophecies say that one day we will awaken again.

May 22, 2021

Bookmark Dungeon: Dread Cottage of Farbor the Misty Dog

 Farbor is a reclusive wizard who can transform into a hell hound once per night.

May 20, 2021

Bookmark Beastie: Electric Eel Mermaid 2

 A revised layout for putting a beastie onto a bookmark. This one uses the icongraphy I've been developing to use with a deck of beasties.

For my discussion on creating an ideal "OSR" stat block click here:

May 19, 2021

Bookmark Dungeon: Obscene Pits of Ekis the Dark

Ekis the cleric of light was tricked by a devil to open pits to the infernal realms. He is now enslaved by the dark powers until the pits can be closed.

May 18, 2021

Clip Art: Elf Wizard II

It has been a while since I uploaded clip art. You know the story, been busy yada yada. Aren't we all?

This is a fun little one I did a while ago, and included it with the OSR Elf Class posted here a while back. Comes in both color and b&w versions.

Let me know if there is something else you'd like to see and I'll consider making new clip art, or pull more stuff from my archives. 

May 17, 2021

Bookmark Dungeon: Deceitful Canyon of Tevil the Deathless Witch


AD&D 1.5 Edition

 A favorite past time among the OSR is criticizing TSR's business practices and elucidating how they would have run the company so much better if they'd been in charge. Yeah, that's me guilty as charged. I mean, it is really fun to do. TSR is such an easy target because they did make colossal blunders, did some really dumb things, and had little idea how to manage the successful properties they had. It was only the wild success of D&D that kept them in business as long as it did. But of course that all ended as soon as a smarter, scrappier, better organized competitor stepped into the space. To be fair this is the history of many businesses.

The criticisms usually come in one of two forms. There is backseat driving which if the backseat driver had been in the seat they'd probably make the same, or different mistakes that would have been just as bad. And there is the 20/20 Hindsight criticisms which can look back and say what they should have done with the nearly 50 years of history to inform. Which of course would have been impossible because no one can predict the future with certainty.

I prefer a more reasoned approach. What did they know, or should have known, at the time given the state of things. And what should TSR have done based on that?

Imagine if a really savvy businessperson had been in charge? With the leverage TSR had they'd own the tabletop gaming market to this day, and be unstoppable. I don't know why I enjoy speculating on this, I just do. It is probably not healthy to imagine the "What If I time travelled to 1970. knowing what I know now?" fantasy. But then isn't that what all the retro-clones really are? So here is my short list.

Some mistakes TSR made they should have known better:

  • Ceding the miniatures market to Games Workshop.
  • Reskinning the AD&D covers without updating the interiors
  • Letting GURPS take the universal RPG mantle
  • AD&D 2.0 as a safe mushy collection of optional rules
  • Not keeping the eye on the ball
  • Marketing driven instead of product driven

Games Workshop (Citadel) took over the fantasy miniatures market because TSR didn't see what a gold mine making high quality miniatures was. Have you really looked at a Grenadier Official AD&D miniature next to a Games Workshop miniature? Grenadier looks like a melted wax glob in comparison. Later Reaper miniatures realized they could make fantastic miniatures for AD&D without the AD&D license and took what was left of the market. You may or may not appreciate the GW aesthetic, but their quality was top notch.

Lumpy Grenadier Model

Games Workshop was in it to win it

AD&D didn't go far enough in revising the original game, but it was undeniably successful. So I'll keep my critique to a minimum. One major issue is they let the books get stale. There should have been more significant updates and revisions to the books but still keep it "1st edition". At the very least when they reskinned the covers with new Jeff Easley covers the interiors should also have been updated. A sort of 1.5 edition. As an example the Monster Manual was painfully out of date and missing necessary information like XP values. One look at the Monster Cards that were published in 1982 shows they had the work essentially done. They had the means to print full color editions by then.

The art and text were done! Just update the MM interior.

It is baffling they didn't make D&D a universal RPG. Why did they keep making all new (unsuccessful in comparison) RPG's with all new systems instead of making the D&D system in multiple genres? A waste of time, energy, and design efforts. (I love FASERIP, so it pains me to make this point) The idea was certainly there, even in the original 1974 D&D it talks about how you could play anything, but they never developed it further from there. Instead they let GURPS take that mantle.

GURPS 1e was published in 1986

AD&D 2e turned off a whole generation of players and eventually led to the bankruptcy of TSR (yes, I know there was a lot of other mismanagement going on). I'm not even saying 2e was bad, just misguided. The one thing that is most touted about 2e is all the optional rules. This is in fact its greatest flaw. The responsibility of a designer is to playtest the heck out of their game. Refine and refine until the very best collection of game mechanics is assembled. Then publish that version. Optional rules are a way for designers to shirk their duties and pass that off to the customer. It is waffling, indecisive, and lazy. You might disagree and love optional rules, in that case an accessory book that offers interesting unofficial rules options is fine. But don't pollute the main stream. It is confusing.

AD&D 2e, at least it wasn't as bad as 4e

This point may sound strange coming from a designer who likes to tinker and create, but this philosophy of delivering a clear finished product does not conflict with fostering tinkering and creativity. RPG's have endless potential because they can be anything. But having a cornerstone to measure from improves everything.

In the 90's TSR lost track of the ball and got distracted by all sorts of things. Magic: the Gathering kind of blew their minds and they didn't know what to do about it. By then it was already too late. The writing was on the wall. TSR thought they just needed better marketing, what they needed was better products.

So let's jump in a time machine. Travel to 1970 knowing what we know now, and see if we can do a better job. Whose with me? 

May 12, 2021

Bookmark Dungeon: Uncovering The Marauder

Something a little different and experimental this time.

1. A weathered and brush covered entrance leads to this cave that was carved out with strange tools. Scraps of metal litter the ground, and the remains of a few corpses. One wall is entirely made out of metal with strange markings and shapes. Two holes in the center and a smaller one off to the left lead into metallic rooms (areas 2 & 5).

2. This cramped corridor has several metal closets each with a strange circular door on them that can be opened by turning what appears to be a small wheel and latch. Each contains an alien specimen, some very hostile if allowed to escape.

3. This little corridor has 3 locked doors that make an audible whoosh when opened or closed. The floor is sterile cold metal. Strange magical white lights illuminate the area with a subtle flicker.

4. strange metal staves are arrayed with odd clothing (laser rifles and space suits). Double airlocks lead to the launch bays (areas 5).

5. This long cylindrical hallway has magic bluish blinking lights that emit no heat. Three small wheel-less carts are lined up that have a seat for one person inside them.

6. Several beds in pods fill this area (crew quarters).

7. Large metal boxes, blinking lights, strange smooth ropes, and all manner of odd gear line the walls and fills this large room. There are metallic men that are hostile to intruders that may be alerted and attack.

8. A giant black window covers the forward facing wall. There are seats in front of a table that is like a metal box with what appear to be glowing gems, metal handles, strange glyphs, and all manner of blinking lights (control room and piloting stations)

May 10, 2021

Bookmark Beastie: Electric Eel Mermaid

 I was experimenting with the bookmark layout I use for Bookmark Dungeons and seeing if I could fit a beastie on there. This is the result. This would work well for most monsters, though I think many of the more interesting ones would get a bit crowded or not fit at all.

May 9, 2021

Beasties: Electric Eel Mermaid

 Electric Eel Mermaid

Medium humanoid (merfolk), neutral Evil

Ecology: subtropical, aquatic freshwater
# App: 2-8 (2d4)
Move: 3”/12”
HD: 6 (36hp)
BHB:  +6
AC: 15 [4]
# of Attacks: 2
Damage: bite 2-7 (1d6+1), claw 1-4 (1d4)
Save: [F1] 16
Treasure: A (water)
Challenge/XP: 8/700

Special: electric shock 30’ radius 2-12 (2d6) damage save for half, electricity immunity, breathe water 

The electric eel mermaid is a highly territorial and aggressive creature. They can emit an electrical charge in the water that affects anyone within a 30’ radius. They require 2-7 (1d6+1) rounds to recharge. This ability only works by touch out of water.

Electric eel mermaids inhabit freshwater river basins, floodplains, swamps, creeks, small rivers, and coastal plains.

May 7, 2021

Bookmark Dungeon: Shady Bastion of Teutbert the Deadly

 Shady Bastion of Teutbert the Deadly

Once the king's most trusted soldier, Teutbert has turned against the order of holy paladins he once belonged to. Now he rules an armed rebellion from a fortified bastion on the edge of the kingdom.

May 5, 2021

Bookmark Dungeon: Baneful Cavern of Landina of the Berserk Skull

 Baneful Cavern of Landina of the Berserk Skull

Deep in the raven black woods where the foothills meet the great mountains is rumored to be a small cavern that is home to werewolves.

May 3, 2021

Al Williamson Strange World Adventures

 Al Williamson's portrayal of the sword & planet genre, mostly through his work on Flash Gordon has long been my favorite. While Frazetta rightfully gets credit for his fantastic interpretations of the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Williamson is the artist I would mostly liked to have seen do adaptations of the John Carter of Mars books into graphic format. Particularly his portrayal of fantastic cities on alien worlds.

Recently Flesk Publishing put together an amazing retrospective of Al Williamson's work that I highly recommend for any fan of pulp science fiction and adventure.

Clocking in at 128 pages it features a lot of behind the scenes, photos, unpublished work, as well as large full resolution reproductions of completed pages some inked by Frazetta.

An added bonus is this little page done on spec of what a Pellucidar graphic story could look like with the craftsmanship of Al Williamson. In a more fair universe we could have seen many of ERB's works illustrated by Al. But he achieved fame and recognition through his Star Wars comics which sort of took the mantle of sword and planet adventures, and left Barsoom, Flash Gordon, and Buck Rogers in the rearview mirror.

Bookmark Dungeon: Vile Necropolis

 Vile Necropolis of Hildebold and the Reborn Prince