Simple vs advanced D&D-ish games: Part 3 –Monsters & Dude/tte/s


The 3rd installment of this series will discuss some aspects of simple and not-so-simple versions of Ye Olde Game, namely monster formats and player involvement and how these may affect the game.

(I had originally planned for something else, but those waiting for that will have to wait…) Also, here’s post 1 and post 2 in this series.

One of my main reasons for choosing to play old D&D is the simplified monster format. It makes the game flow quicker and it’s very easy to create new monsters and improvise. It’s freedom in a jar for the GM. And conversely, I find the overly complex monster format in 3.x/Pathfinder severely off-putting. I feel it restricts the imagination with all the nitty-bitty details and do’s and don’ts.

I remember this old RuneQuest ad: “Monsters are also people” – meaning that monsters, NPCs and PCs all share a common statistics format. And in a way, that’s a cool thing, but when GM:ing, I really hate it and I have spent some time and energy working on a simplified NPC/monster format for OpenQuest 2 (which can be found here).

And yes, OpenQuest 2 is a simplified version of the mothership RuneQuest (Mongoose RQ 1 to be precise). In my opinion, it’s the modern d100 game that best replicates the old Chaosium RQ2 feel, only with better and more flexible mechanics.

In 5e, the monster format is simpler compared to 3.x/PF, but still much more complicated than old school D&D and I must say that browsing through the 5e Monster Manual I can’t help but feeling a little tired. Don’t get me wrong – I like 5e a lot – as a player. As a GM I find myself asking if all the extra bells and whistles really will make our games more fun and worth remembering, or if it only will serve to increase the “Papers & Paychecks“-factor, i.e. the crunching of numbers. I also know that when I GM systems I know less about, I tend to follow the rules more slavishly, not wanting to deviate too much in the beginning, which can be boring for all involved.

Another thing I’ve been thinking about is a thing Gavin Norman of City of Iron fame wrote in a G+ post a few weeks ago. It was about him coming back to Labyrinth Lord after having switched his home game to 5e a while back. His reasons for going back to a simpler system was about player involvement in the game, or rather the lack of the same. The point was that a game like 5e (or 3.x/PF) requires a certain level of player involvement between sessions: reading up on rules, learning about your powers and how to use them effectively etc. And as his players never did that, all the rules-y stuff fell back on him, the GM, to handle when playing.

This made me realize that I’m in that exact situation with my group. These guys (whom I have played RPGs with since the 80s) never read the books. They show up at the game and expect to have fun adventures with some old buddies. And that’s a perfectly good reason for playing RPGs in my book, if not even the best.

Being where we are in life, we have limited time for things like playing RPGs and other hobbies and we also have different reasons for doing so, being it social, gamer or whatnot. If I analyze my current main group I have two players who are only in for the social part, and gaming is just a context for hanging out. Then I have three players that I would call social gamers. They’re in for gaming, but in a fun and social context and with old buddies. None in these two categories ever reads anything at home. Gaming time and activities is strictly at the table. However, when we play, all get really immersed and we have great fun.

I only have one hard core gamer (and he’s also a Pathfinder GM). He’s there for the game more than the social part and he reads and memorizes the rules more than I ever do. For him rule mechanics and consistency is very important and he’s also the one who argues when someone suggests that we play “simpler” games like Swords & Wizardry or BECMI D&D. This guy reads up on the rules and makes well developed characters before the game and so on. This might sound a bit annoying, but at the same time he’s always there to support and keep the group together, and we’ve had a lot of fun playing his Pathfinder games.

So where am I going with this? Well, my point is that games like 5e (and PF) need a player group that is willing to invest both time and effort to read up on rules-y things that concern their characters. If not, the burden of keeping track of all these things falls on the GM, who already has his/her hands (and head) full of Game Master-y stuff. Knowing my players, I’m sure that I will do the heavy lifting when I run 5e further up the road (I will use it for a game set in Ravenloft, where I think the 5e engine will shine).

Simple vs advanced D&D-ish games: Part 2 – Renaissance

Thieves in their World

This is post 2 in a series – here’s post 1

Fast forward to 2010 or so. Despite no active gaming during the long hiatus, I still read RPG stuff online and bought the occasional book or PDF. In 2009-10 the idea of taking up gaming again slowly went from idea to concrete action. I chose Mongoose RuneQuest II as my system and Chaosium’s old Thieves World city setting as the scene for our adventures. And I started writing. And it took forever.

At the same time I had started lobbying with my old game group to take up playing again. At first, interest was there, but no one had time for such childish things. But I didn’t give up and slowly I managed to get the old gang together. Sadly, my new super-campaign was nowhere ready for play (yes, it was very ambitious). Thus, I went shopping for a quick and easy, well-known system – just to get play going ASAP.

You know of whom I speak – D&D.

I also started frequenting the Dragonsfoot forum to see what was going on on the D&D scene, and was very surprised to see the massive interest over the old editions. And so we started play using the Rules Cyclopedia (which I found on ebay before prices went bananas). We played Judges Guild’s original version of Caverns of Thracia for about a year (circa 19 sessions) and it was awesome.

At the same time it became apparent for us that “basic D&D” felt a tad too simple and restricted for our tastes these days and I started my quest to find the perfect iteration of D&D. While I liked the simpleness of RC, I also missed all the cool options of AD&D. From this I found Labyrinth Lord/AEC which seemed to combine the best of both worlds. I was also pleasantly surprised at the creativeness and willingness to break with old D&D-isms within the clone/OSR crowd. Far from the very conservative people on Dragonsfoot, where I on several occasions was severely dissed (by some) for suggesting rule hacks or alternative takes on ye olde game.

We played some Labyrinth Lord/AEC and I wrote and imported a lot of house rules for it, as the old D&D rules didn’t fully support the type of games that I wanted to run. And then I found Blood & Treasure which had it all. In one book. No need for all those house rules (just a few ;)). Since then, the B&T Complete book has been on my bedstand! For me, it hits the sweet spot of simpleness coupled with enough crunch and smart rules that lets me concentrate on the more fun parts of game mastering.

As a side note, after our Rules Cyclopedia game, the other DM in our group went on his own quest to find his perfect D&D, ending up with Pathfinder. He thinks it’s better to use a very complete system and remove the parts you don’t like. I tend to think the other way around. Also, I’m not into the player-centered mentality and “lots of detailed rules for all situations” that Pathfinder and D&D 3.x promote.

Another side effect of getting into the OSR clone-world is all the other nice games that has popped up everywhere. And I have found more games that hits my sweet spot just like Blood & Treasure, of which I will write in my next post in this series.




New book From Frog God Games. Again.

Just when the last Kickstarter – Borderland Provinces – is wrapping up, Frog God Games announces a new Kickstarter for The Blight – a huge horror fantasy city campaign.

Do I want it? Yes.

Have I got the funds? No.

Gaah. I’m already trying to save up to get the Northlands and Cyclopean Deeps books… Because Frog God Games books are awesome, and their world – The Lost Lands – is everything that Forgotten Realms is not.

It’s darker, more low fantasy and with a sprinkle of Lovecraftian horror sprinkled into the mix.

This rapid-fire publishing rate is a bank account killer…

Anyways – here’s the link to The Blight!

Teaser for my new adventure | Fiery the Angel Fell


Fiery the Angel Fell – Lazy Sod Press LSP3FW

A teaser for my upcoming adventure – working at it right now!

Meet Marah – über-succubus, in its natural form… One of the main villains of this dark adventure set in my home brew world of Terra Innominata. It’s the same world as my other adventures, but instead of taking place in the cold viking inspired north, this one is Slavic-inspired, set in the dark and ancient Dvatrač Mountains of Syrmija, (which fits, since I’m half Swedish, half Croatian).

Hope you guys like the cover – it cost me some serious cash. But then, you guys deserve it :)

Will be available around X-mas if everything works out. Illustrated by David Lewis Johnson and Jim Magnusson. Cover by Arctic Spring. The rest by me.

Available in Fantastic Heroes & Witchery as well as a Swords & Wizardry formats.



Lazy Sod Press | Come to Daddy now available in print on DTRPG

Come to Daddy_B&T_pic

Come to Daddy cover

EDIT 2015|11|19: After some technical difficulties, Come to Daddy is now available in print from DTRPG :)

EDIT: Apparently someone over at DTRPG must approve that I made the print book available to the public. And apparently that might take some time. The book should be available soon!

Coming home from my conference yesterday, the print proofs had arrived! They look OK, so now you can get the printed version of the book from DTRPG as well as from Lulu.

Print version buyers get the PDF for free.

Available in both Swords & Wizardry Complete and Blood & Treasure formats!