My return to RPGs in 2012 started w/ Dungeon Crawl Classics, struck out into the OSR frontier, explored three little brown books, revisited “blue box”, and have generally been rambling around the DIY indie scene. All this I’ve done as both a DM & a PC. There have been successes and failures on both sides of the screen.
I recently joined an Old School Essential (OSE) campaign run by Jason Hobbs. Part of the introduction to the campaign was a review of Jason’s house rules, those variants & rulings Jason uses in his game. This reminded of a similar compilation of my own.
I’ve re-organized my own house rules, which I consider a living document. Sharing those here as an example of the concepts that I find interesting or helpful in a game like Dungeons & Dragons.
Last year I was inspired by some one page adventure work going on in one of the OSR fragments. There was much talk about ‘zines, booklets, and pamphlets. One of the best ideas from Cody M. was a single sheet pamphlet folded into thirds, that kind of thing you might find at a county park.
I had been pondering a ‘zine and settled on this 1 page pamphlet format as a focused delivery. My friends Peter & Nils coined this pamphlet an “adventure trail-head”. Perfect! Gather you paper, pencils, and dice – set a course for adventure.
The concept here is to provide a jumping off point for the GM of any table top role-playing game. The setting itself is cribbed from some AD&D 1e adventures notes I compiled in the early 90s – distilled down to a few key ideas, with some loaded questions for the GM or PCs to drive the fiction forward.
One final bit of graphic design shenanigans is a game board for some tavern gambling. A game within a game!
In my hobby today I use so much tech, it’s like I was born and raised in Silicon Valley or something. Desktop publishing was the boon of the 90s while teetering on the edge of the always connected internet age. Now digital is everywhere, it is everything, it is the tools I use daily – you probably do too.
One of my favorite aspects of RPGs are deeply nested random tables which create a staggering array of combinations while yielding unexpected results. The best of these can take a good deal of dice rolling, note taking, and inspired interpretation. Not really a tool that can be used “in game”, but that all changes when we go digital.
Behold the power of: =index(Lookup!Y3:Y32,match(RANDBETWEEN(1,30),Lookup!$K3:$K32,0))
What is this strange gibberish you say? Simply the logical power of a digital array (spread sheet) that provides instantaneous lookup against random entry (dice rolls) from a given table.
Want to know something special about a city – push a button:
Maybe you need an NPC for that city – push a button:
Or maybe you have favorite tables you’d like to convert to a digital solution, for instant generation from nearly anywhere. Here’s a Google Sheet sample that you can study and build your own thing. Doesn’t make sense? Ping me and I’ll walk you through it, we’ll record a video of that and post it here.
My cousin Christopher taught me how to play D&D, he gave me the context to digest the text. Without that starting point I would have been lost. I imagine that today this is still the case for new comers to the hobby.
Last year (?) in my exploration of the OSR RPGs of today I stumbled on the concept of solo RPGs. This looked like a good way to explore the roots of my hobby without the complexity of organizing a face-to-face game.
Selecting Ruins of the Undercity for my first effort I was surprised to read that I would use whatever core rules I desired to play this game. As I wanted an experience as closely aligned with how the game was original played, I selected the 3 little brown books that started it all.
So I set about drafting a summary of these rules that would allow me to better understand the core mechanics and refer to easily during play. 12 little pages that I should now print on brown paper (which I’m very proud of) you can find them here.
I haven’t yet returned to Ruins of the Undercity, or my exploration of solo RPGs, perhaps one day.
Fitting that my first post touches on the game that started it all. Why at age 9 in 1980 this was at the top of my Christmas list I have no idea, but there it was and it was wonderful. In fact, it still is wonderful.
It would be difficult to describe how this one game propelled me into a world of sword & sorcery, science fiction, and fanciful day-dreams. Flights of fancy emerging between players clutching strange dice and scribbling on paper. I played this game every spare moment I had, for years, until I didn’t.
Why I stopped playing with such devotion I cannot rightly say: other hobbies competing for my attention, video games, girls? Whatever the case I hadn’t played D&D until something caught my attention in 2012.
Return to the glory days of fantasy with the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game. Adventure as 1974 intended you to, with modern rules grounded in the origins of sword & sorcery. Fast play, cryptic secrets, and a mysterious past await you.
I had good fun with DCC, sharing this game with friends and exploring the OSR in general. Then in 2019 I committed to run my original D&D at a local convention. I picked up that original rule book and said “err, what the…?” The rules were not clearly organized, naturally archaic, and difficult to understand – not good for convention play.
So I created a summary; a control panel that the DM or PCs could use to quickly understand all the core rules. This would allow us to play the game in our allotted time of three hours without constantly flipping through a rulebook.
PC Control Panel – provides core character rules, equipment list, and more all on a single page.
DM Control Panel – provides turn track, core wandering monsters, reaction table, basic deeds, combat summary, and more all on a single page.
I’ve run this game now 7 or 8 times and these references have been invaluable. I’m intrigued by this control panel / quick reference sheet concept and want to do more. Though I am conscious that more than a single sheet of paper just gets in the way. Perhaps I’ll find a use of the other sides of these sheets.
Update Feb. 1
Our regular Thursday night group that plays online has been having good fun playing Holmes Basic D&D. We are delving into Gabor Lux’s Castle Morthimion – which I will also run at DunDraCon44 in just 2 weeks. I had always planned to put a little something on the 2nd side of these control panels & inspiration recently struck for the PC version – a simple character sheet, update is linked above.
Update Nov. 25
Have updated the DM control panel, finally adding the second page. This includes random tables I find useful: a murcuial potions, wandering monsters, NPC details, town & city variables, bizarre of the bazaar, and caravan details. Each of these has a citation from it’s indie goodness.
Have also updated the PC control panel, correcting a few typos and clarifying some points (i.e. all stats use the same mod matrix, refined the simple character sheet)