Monday, May 16, 2016

D&D 5th edition 1.1 SRD released

While it was great that DnD 5th edition got a System Reference Document under the Open Game License, there were some flaws with the document. Notably the lack of the Eldritch Blast cantrip for the Warlock.  Now it looks like Wizards cleaned it up and added a few more things like rules for magic item attunement and use. And the document has been reorganized a bit.

You can download it from here.

Here is the full changelog

  • Various key spells used by classes, magic items, and monsters have been added to the spells section. For example, the eldritch blast cantrip is essential for many warlock abilities, and is now part of the SRD.
  • References to any archetypes (and similar choice-based class features like cleric domains) that aren’t in the SRD (like wild magic for sorcerers) have been removed from the text to avoid confusion.
  • References to “chapters” are gone, as the SRD isn't organized by chapters.
  • Bookmarks have been added for the most important and frequently-referenced topics.
  • A few text corrections have been made (such as a few references to "DM" instead of "GM," some typographical errors from importing the text from its original source, and incorporating errata from the Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, and Monster Manual).
  • All appendices have been moved to the end of the document. For example, the Conditions appendix from the Player's Handbook used to appear in the middle of the SRD, but now it's at the end. To avoid confusion between appendices taken from the Player's Handbook and the Monster Manual, the appendices now have a PH- or MM- prefix as appropriate.
  • Rules for magic item attunement, activating items, and wearing and wielding items are now in the SRD.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Another Harn Day

It is another Harn Day from Columbia Games!

This time up we have more Orbaal stuff, the home of the Vikings on the island of Harn.

We have map square H1 & J1 mapped out which covers the area the two castles are located in. They are mostly coastline as Columbia games usually only does one of these per HarnQuest release. The original map of Harn was divided into a number of squares that followed the hex grid pattern. Think Traveller subsectors vs. the entire sector. In recent years Columbia Games and Kelestia have decided the best way to do local regions was to map it square by square. Eventually all the squares will be detailed showing where every manor, mine, castle, keep, and points of interest is on Harn.

This time they decided to release a revised and expanded updates of two Orbaal Castles Pled & Sherwyn. While every Harn is unique because of its local circumstances these two are closer than most as they are both Viking settlement with a lord who is noted for being cruel, a brute, and a thug. However both have a lot of unique local color that make each their own place.

I recommend anything from Orbaal area of Harn to supplement the stuff you are using if you are running a Viking campaign.

This release also saw four more pages added to the Tome & Scroll article. Basically it is a series of one page articles detailing a specific book and its history. It has a lot of flavor and ideas for adventure.

With this release I released that steady drip drip of expanded reprint from Columbia Games Has nearly bumped all of the original articles from my main Harn Library. Note that unlike say the Forgotten Realms, the Harn authors and community are fanatical about keeping everything consistent. So all the details in those old articles are in the new articles as well.

Because of this, I decided to give all my old articles to +Tim Shorts of Gothridge Manor. He has a handful of article that he gotten on his own or from me. But now it time for his big Harn Day!.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The identity of the official guard figure has been found!

For nearly 30 years this figure has represented the guards of the City-State of the Invincible Overlord My group and I call them the Official Guard Figure.

Off to kick some PC ass!

Who is this mysterious figure who has been slain by the hundred by PCs who refuse to kneel before Zod the Overlord? Who in turn slaughtered dozens of PCs with their dreaded Knight-Killer Crossbows?

Well it turns out he is Ral-Parth Chaos War #50-023 Sea Elf Spearman I, in reserve. 

With a certain plume shaved off along with a spear missing. You can recruit him at Iron Wind Metals. The company also has a kickstarter to bring back more of the old Ral Partha Chaos War miniatures.

Here some Swords and Wizardry/Majestic Wilderlands stats for this guard along with the rules for the Knight Killer Crossbow

City Guard
Medium Footman, 1st Level Fighter
Init +1; AC 4[15]; HP 6; Save 14; Move 90’; CL/XP 1/15;
Attacks (x1)
Spear, 1H; HTB +3/+2, DMG 1d6+1, RoF 1, RNG 20 ft;
Large Dagger; HTB +3, DMG 1d4+1; or
Knight Killer Crossbow; HTB +2, DMG 4d5, ACC +4, Reload 6, RNG 100 ft;
Str 12 (+1); Dex 11 (+0); Con 10 (+0);
 Int 10 (+0); Wis 10 (+0); Cha 10 (+0);
Athletics +2, Intimidation +1, Strategy +1;
Scale Armor, Medium Shield, 1H Spear, Large Dagger, Knight Killer Crossbow, 1 day ration, 15d.

Crossbow, Knight Killer 46d/ea. 6.0/lbs.
Damage: 5d4 (Bolts), Accuracy: +4, Reload: 6. Range: 100 ft/yds.
This is the largest crossbow capable be carried on a regular basis by fighters. It uses either a windlass or a cranequin to cock the weapon for use. This takes a considerable amount of time, 36 seconds or 6 combat rounds. The result is a weapon capable taking out a heavily armored opponent in a single shot.

Note: 1d = 1 silver piece. Accuracy equal accuracy bonus to the to-hit roll. Reload action, the number of combat rounds it takes to reload this weapon. Abilities, a lite skill system used in the Majestic Wilderlands supplement.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Traveller Aid Society on OBS (RPGNow/DriveThruRPG)

Looks like the Mongoose Third Imperium and the entire Mongoose Traveller 2nd edition line will have a third party content program.

The basic deal is this,

Mongoose will allow you to SELL any work in PDF form that uses Mongoose Traveller 2nd edition rules and supplements, along with the content of ANY of Mongoose's Third Imperium products (regardless of whether it is for 1st edition or 2nd edition Mongoose Traveller).

In return Mongoose will require that

1) Mongoose/OBS will receive 50% of the sales price.
2) TAS have an EXCLUSIVE license to any original content you provide to use in the Traveller Aid Society. If Mongoose desired to use the content outside of the Traveller Aid Society then a separate agreement with the author(s) will be worked out.
3) That you allow anybody else in the Traveller Aid Society to use your original content
4) That you follow the guidelines for community standards.

Pretty much the exact same setup as the DM's Guild for DnD 5e, Forgotten Realms, and Ravenloft.

The way you should look at this is a mean for publishing Third Imperium material either systemless or using the Mongoose 2nd edition Traveller rules.

You should only use the Travellers Aid Program program if your product absolutely depends on being set in the Third Imperium outside of the Foreven Sector (which is covered by a separate license). Remember your alternative is Foreven, or negotiate a license with Marc Miller, or Mongoose.

Use the the Travellers Aid Program program if your product absolutely depends on being based on the 2nd Edition Mongoose Traveller rules.

In the above two cases the deal offered by Mongoose is a good one. Otherwise it is not.

Your alternative are to use
The Foreven Sector license and the Traveller SRD
The Traveller SRD and no Third Imperium content.
The Far Future Fair Use License (and release it non-commercially)
Negotiate a Third Party License.
Go through the submission process.

What innovative about the Traveller Aid Soceity, DMs Guild and the other programs is that the before there was a snowball chance in hell for anybody to use the IP of another company. Yeah there was the OGL, but beyond rules that OGL was rarely to applied to other interesting parts of RPGs, the settings. And even with rules some companies were never going to release a System Reference Document under an open license.

But now the Community Content is a intermediate step between the OGL and traditional licenses. In exclusive for losing control of your IP, and a hefty royalty cut to OBS and the IP Holder you get to near unrestricted use of that company's IP. And you get to do this without going through the formal negotiation process that license requires, or the oversight that a freelance contract gives.

It neither good nor bad but an option that now exists that didn't before.

For me I published OGL material for DnD. I would not normally use the corresponding DMS Guild program save for one exception; Greyhawk. If they incorporate Greyhawk as part of the DMs Guild then I have some work that I would publish there. It Greyhawk specific and would not work as part of any of the other stuff I make. So I have no problem with the conditions that the DMs Guild imposed on that IP.

The same with the Third Imperium. I have some science fiction stuff I created using the Traveller Rules that I will NOT be publishing in the Travellers Aid Society. But I also have some stuff that only make sense if set in the Third Imperium.

In end it is a series of tradeoffs, my recommendation is really think about it before you publish. But in the end if there is no other way, then do it. You will get 50% of your sale price and there is always the chance that will be well-received enough so that Mongoose will want to buy further rights to publish it outside of the TAS.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The problematic Ranger

+James Smith talk in this post about whether the Ranger is necessary. The Ranger first appeared in Strategic Review #2 in the summer of 1975 authored by Joe Fischer. The reason for the class was not explicitly stated in the article but anybody could what the reason for the class was....

To play the guy on the left in a DnD campaign.

The ADnD version of the Ranger class was a refined version of the one that appeared in the Strategic Review. While the abilities were similar the flavor was more woodland warrior than Aragon. Understandable given the cease and desist TSR was given a few year prior to the publication of ADnD.

However since then the Ranger has been steadily watered down, not just in terms of flavor but in mechanics. It changed to being a woodland warrior, woodland warrior with animal companion, a warrior with some woodland abilities but mostly fought with dual weapons and so on.

So it understandable why James would ask "Why is the class is necessary?"

First off let's get one thing straight, my view is that no class is necessary if it doesn't fit your setting. So if the Ranger in any of it incarnations don't fit your vision then don't include it. However a class should be a distinct from being just a fighter with some options. Especially in later editions where you have feats, and skills to customize your character. However DnD always been a kitbash of different styles of fantasy. So where can the Ranger fit?

My suggestion is double down on Joe Fischer's original vision of playing Aragon in DnD. Remember that in Tolkein Lord of the Rings, the Rangers are the Dunedain, descendants of a lost kingdom that was the home to the men who fought against the first dark lord Morgoth. They were rewarded to for their loyalty with better health and knowledge. Gifted with abilities beyond those of ordinary men. By the time of LoTR, in northern Middle Earth they were reduced to a remnant of their former glory but still dedicated to protecting civilization from orcs and other evils.

So what I would do it make the Ranger a different flavor of the dedicated warrior like the Paladin. However the Ranger are more like a fantasy Green Lantern Corp. Patrolling the frontiers of civilization for monster and evil to protect civilization. Their abilities were developed over the long centuries towards this end. While the Ranger will never be necessary it will be interesting with this.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Authoring a remake

I done several major projects so far that involved redoing an older product. My view is to try to preserve as much as possible while bringing it up to modern tastes. It is a delicate balancing act, one of the projects Dark Tower, was minimally revised and rightfully so as Jennel Jaquays pretty much wrote a classic for the ages.  The revisions for for the stat blocks and the graphics including the maps. I made only one major change to the map to clear up a confusing area and that was by separating out a sub level that was superimposed on the original.

Another was Citadel of Fire, and while I have a lot of respect for the hard work the author put into it I had to wonder why they were bothering even using Citadel of Fire it was altered so drastically to be nearly unrecognizable from the original.

My own Thieves of Badabaskor wasn't the straight copy that Goodman's Dark Tower was. I altered some areas to make the whole hang together. Now a decade later with more experience I probably could done a little better with the dungeon area. But despite that I think the Goodman version I wrote is still recognizable as the original module unlike Citadel.

So which lead me to the City-State map.

Look at this section

Notice that some building names are all caps and other are normal mixed case. In this instance I elected to follow the original as created by Bob Bledsaw Senior. However a good case can be made that I should just goto a scheme that maximizes readability. 

So what do you think readability or preservation for this aspect of the map? 

I realize for some the answer would be yes as I colorized the original and added a lot of extra detail. But since the case of the building name could mean something so I left it as is.

Unlike the dots on the street which I knew to be Street Lamp there is no recollection or text describing why some building names are all caps why some are not. And during a survey of the original it appears almost random as to why the different building are in different cases. 

My personal theory is that since the map was created by a combination of drafting tools and using zip-a-tone fills and letters that it was done in stages. That at one point the process Bob ran out of letters and so started using another sheet that was a different case. Which was first I don't know. But from drawing the thing on the computer I can tell you Bob Sr. slaved over this .. . a lot. And to do it with x-acto knife and drafting pen is just beyond belief. 

I did it myself 15 years later than Bob and didn't come anywhere near his level of detail or quality of detail. And it was a ton of work.

So let me know what you think in the comments.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

My view on the DM's Guild, Cypher System Creator, and Cortex Plus

First off WoTC's DM's Guild is no longer alone. Margaret Weis Productions has announced Cortex Plus a similar program with OBS for the Cortex engine that underlies all their games. However it doesn't give access to any their settings which makes sense as most of them are licensed.

However a lot people including +Erik Tenkar are very skeptical about the royalties the publisher are charging to be part of these program. Royalties that are on TOP of the ones that you pay to OBS to use their webistes (RPGNow, and DriveThruRPG) to release your products.

My view is that these publishing programs are a tool. I welcome them because they expand the options I have for publishing the stuff I am interested in and more important give me new alternative to ADVERTISING material of my own original creation.

Until the introduction of the DM's Guild we had these basic alternatives when it comes to RPG IP.

  • Nobody but the original company got to use it.
  • The original company setup a specific license to a third party and treated as a standard business relationship.
  • The company released some or all of their IP under a open content license.

Now we have a fourth, you can publish what you want as long as it means that some loose community guidelines are followed, that is appears in a specific store, and that we pay a specific royalty .

So far in all programs (Cortex, Cyper, 5e) the writer not the original publisher owns any original IP in the contributed work. But in all three programs the writer agree to share his work to anybody else in the program. But anybody using the writer's material won't have permission to use it OUTSIDE of the publishing program.

My feeling about the general idea is this. For all my works (Majestic Wilderlands, Hexcrawl formatted setting). None of this does anything for me. The fact that the 5e got a SRD under the OGL was a far more interest than the DM's Guild. If Cyper and Cortex had SRD under the OGL I would be looking at them as well. But they don't so they are of zero interest when it comes to content that I create.

But in the case of the DM's Guild I do have some ideas specific to Greyhawk.  A setting I have some personal attachment as it was the first published setting I ever used. I have some material that I could publish 'as is' if and when that ever get added to the DM's GUild. So it would be of benefit to me and I would get some cash. And in this specific instance, so what they charge 20%. The alternative is what? Yup there is no alternative as Wizards is never going to enter in to a business relationship with me for a license. If Cortex and Cypher had any setting that inspired me under their respective program then I would consider publishing using that program. But only if it can't be published a different way.

Another reason would be to take advantage of the visibility of the DM's Guild as a form of advertising. I am considering taking a section of the Forgotten Realms and make a hexcrawl formatted setting for it. The product would have in the back an ad for Blackmarsh and the other stuff I publish independently. In that case again so what the publisher is charging me 20% on top of OBS' royalty?

In the end the various publishing program are another option, another tool for the independent guy to use to get his stuff out there and make some money off it.

Also remember it took a few years to finally see how the OGL shook out after the initial hype. It an important part of our hobby today but is just that; an important part. It not THE hobby, and it doesn't define the hobby, just an important part that continues to have an impact (like the OSR).