Free Adventures: Ammersfurt #9

The Secret of Ammersfurt is a free role playing supplement for the Dark Dungeon 2nd Ed game. Every week for thirty-five weeks, you'll get new bits for the Ammersfurt adventure setting, like monsters, NPC's, locations, skills, character templates, role play tips, and so on. And also every week, you'll get an adventure seed, which you can turn into a weekly adventure.

Adventure Seed 9: The Cargo

An expensive cargo must be shipped from Ammersfurt to Amstelredamme. It belongs to the Teppes family in Utrecht, who are related distantly to one of the heroes. They have asked him or her to take utmost care of the large and heavy coffer, with a potential relic inside. The bones of some obscure saint to be accepted by the Pope as of yet. Until then it should be shipped to Amstelredamme harbour where it is taken over by other family members. As a relic is concerned, the Burghermaster has asked all religious heroes to join in the trip and both protect and investigate.

Download the ninth part of The Secret of Ammersfurt here!


OSR Experiments #5: Interlude with BORG

No, I don't mean the Star Trek race of cybernetic hive minders. I mean the fighter Borg whose character sheet is filled out on page B5 of Moldvay basic D&D. I just figured that I rebuilt five characters from D&D into Dark Dungeon from sketch. But I never cared to explain how you would actually convert a character instead of rebuilding one.

Frankly, I'm not sure you can just convert one. But if you would, then it would be in a way somewhat like this. Use the table below to convert the ability scores. Scores above 15 cannot be attained if you are but first level. For each level after 1 you already gained, you may raise a point somewhere above 5.

D&D range     Dark Dungeon
3-6                    -2
7-8                    -1
9-10                    0
11                       1
12                       2
13                       3
14                       4
15                       5
16                       5 (can be raised to 6 after gaining a level)
17                       5 (can be raised to 7 after gaining two levels)
18                       5 (can be raised to 8 after gaining three levels)

Make sure you add up all the ability points, double them and see how many skill points you used in abilities. You have to subtract those from the total skill points you can shell out for skills, faith and disciplines. The total skill points for a character, skills and abilities (double) combined are 50 plus 5 for each level of the character.

So, first level fighter Borg would convert like this:

Str 17           Str 5 (might be raised to 7 by class level 3 or above)
Int 8             Int -1
Wis 10         Wil 0
Dex 7          Dex -1
Con 15        Con 5
Chr 6           App -2

Borg is dead ugly, clumsy, and not too bright. And he only uses 12 (6x2) skill points on his abilities. Which would leave him 38 points to put in all sorts of combat and other skills.

Using this kind of conversion flattens the characters a bit at lower levels for Dark Dungeon. Which makes sense, as Dark Dungeon knows no hit points like D&D. Hit points make lower levels weaker in D&D, and higher levels stronger. In Dark Dungeon that's different. There's just skills and abilities. A higher “level” there would translate in the prerogative of more points above the normal ceiling of skill and ability level 5.

I'm not sure how realistic Borg is in game terms. In the parties I played in he either wouldn't have been played at all, or he would have died fairly soon being launched as stupid cannon fodder. I guess Moldvay included the example in the hope of raising a new generation of players accustomed to high aswell as low scores, and a more “fair” distribution of ability scores. As players, we never fancied that style. Heroes need to be special. And even if that doesn't have to translate into six abilities at 16+, it sure did mean that for us for a while.

Once abilities are rolled up, a D&D character would be finished by rolling up hit points and buying equipment. But a dark dungeon character would have to be given skills from the template.

I'll leave that to you to figure out. Borg sure would have proficiencies with the weapons in his equipment list. The longsword, the daggers, the shield and the short bow.

Next issue, we'll finally look at the Haunted Keep.


Pick #41: Freaks & Geeks

If you haven't read Fantasy Freaks & Gaming Geeks by Ethan Gilsdorf, do yourself a favour and either borrow or buy a copy. You may not like the title, and you may not agree with all Ethan observes. But I think he does try to observe with integrity, and a love of the hobby. It's much milder than the title suggests. Ethan starts out describing the death of his mother while he was young and explains how important fantasy gaming was to him at that age, also as an escape. Then he describes how as a grown up, who has grown out of gaming, goes on a quest to find what he lost from that time.

What some may not like, or at least some friends said so, is that Ethan does not really want to be a geek or freak anymore. He wants to be grown up. Yes, he's over fourty. You might see it as a kind of treason to the hobby. But I don't think so. I recognize his feelings. I think many of us do. Just like many of us appreciate the secret brotherhood that can exist in a gaming group. And Ethan also appreciates that too, and quests for it.

Have a look. And wonder why Ethan looks so sad in his photo.


OSR Experiments #4: Dark Dungeon salutes Black Dougal

I'm almost done rebuilding the D&D example characters in my own Dark Dungeon system. Just one is left: Black Dougal the thief. I'll pick the rogue template and fill him out for 55 points. Fifty for the base, and five extra for second level.

Black Dougal, male rogue

Str 3, Dex 4, Con 2, Int 3, Wil 0, App 0 (24 points)

My guess is that Dougal is not the most charismatic thief around, and instead relies on force and stealth.

Stealth and Sneaking 4, Intrusion and Picking Locks 6, Picking Pockets 3, Rock Climbing 3,
Acrobatics 3 (Dex & Str are both at 3 so that's ok), Search 3, Swimming 3 (25 points in toto)

Dougal will have to defend himself too, so:

Throw dagger 4, Club 2

But Dougal should stay out of range of the enemy.

Dougals equipment will be simple yet effective.

Leather boots and jacket (armour class 1 all over except on the head),
Sturdy black clothes, cloak,
Pouch with food and flask of fine wine,
Six throwing daggers (weapon class 1), Heavy walking stick (club, weapon class 1),
Rope, Lock Picks
Fifty silvers in assorted coin

I just figured Dougal sounds like a circus name. Let's say Black Dougal was his stage name in the circus for an acrobatics act, including dropping down from the ceiling like in Mission Impossible. However, Dougals lack of natural charisma (Appearance 0) did not help in making his act a succes. Instead he could earn more on the side as a burglar and a scout. That's where he met Morgan the mercenary. And that's how he ended up in jail. However, Morgan and Dougal became friends, and he got out of jail for lack of proof. Dougal joins the group not just for the treasure to be gained, but also to rescue Morgan's brother Paul, who was kidnapped by the goblins.

Anything else I'd like to add as a Game Master? Yes. Let's say Dougal is one of the last of the Rodemus family. The family that once owned the Haunted Keep that stands away from the borderlands. The family which unbeknowst to our heroes has turned into were-rats because of a horrible curse. Dougal knows he belongs to the Rodemuses, even if it is the black sheep end of the family.

Say, wouldn't it be cool if Dougal would “die” of the poison needle, and then come back somehow? Turning out to have an uncanny constitution? And then, when the full moon comes, he starts to transform into... a hairy rat!

D&D Basic returns to DD with a twist. Next issue I'll look at the Haunted Keep itself.


OSR Experiments #3: Silverleaf & Fred go over to the Dark Side

Converting the Basic D&D sample characters from the Moldvay set so far seems to be succesful.

Silverleaf in D&D is an elf. But D&D elves are unlike the tall, proud Tolkien elves who live long, prosper and die for tragic love only. D&D elves are more like playful, short stature humans with a longer life span. In Dark Dungeon they would be more like Elflings than Elves.

Elflings, according to template on page 5 of the Lite Dark Dungeon rules, are no taller than human children of ten to twelve, playful and always looking for adventure. Sounds like a perfect Silverleaf to me. So let's give him his 55 points. 50 plus 5 for being level 2 instead of 1.

Silverleaf, male elfling

Strength 1
Dexterity 5, very nimble and agile for optimum Legolas effect
Constitution 1
Intelligence 3, observant and sly
Willpower 1
Appearance 1, above average in everything even if it's just a bit

As you may have noticed by now, Dark Dungeon lets you assign aility points by yourself. I actually like that, as most of my players playing D&D kept rerolling their scores until they were either satisfied, or until their arms fell off. But if you prefer to let the dice decide, let me know, and I'll cook up a table someday.

Back to Silverleaf, he has 12 times 2 skill points in abilities, or 24. Leaving 31 for the rest. For new characters I prefer this rate of about 40% of points in abilities and the rest in skills. But as a player you're free to do your own thing. As long as the points add up.

Weapon skills:

Short Bow 6, an excellent shot as would befit an annoying elf(ling)
Short Sword 4
Buckler Shield 4

Fourteen points in combat seemed more than all right to me, with an emphasis on long distance fighting. That's where the one skill above five (at six, indeed) goes. That leaves 17 points for the rest.

Excellent Hearing 3
Night Vision 3
Stealth and Sneaking 5
Swimming 2
Search 3
Singing 1

Actually I think I could have put some more points in assorted skills, but I suspect a D&D converted adventure may be a little combat heavy. Unlike Silverleaf in D&D, this Silverleaf will not be able to use magick. I would have had to make him an elf for that. Which would also have been a possibility. Only just thought of that. Oh well. However, I think the elven strain in the character is easy to discern.
I'll get some equipment from the template, and dream up a bit of background.

Green clothes, Leather Jacket, Helmet and Boots (armour class 1 all over)
Short Bow with a dozen arrows in quiver (weapon class 2)
Short Sword (weapon class 2)
Buckler (small shield)
Dagger (weapon class 1, but no proficiency)
Backpack with food and a flask of water
And 50 silvers in assorted coin

Silverleaf is an elfling, and I figure elflings would live longer than humans. He is not clear about his age, but he might be in his late thirties. But he is young at heart, and may be annoying in his optimism and aloofness to others. I figure he looks like a human of twelve with pointy ears, silverish hair, and a lot of freckles. One of his favorite playmates was the twelve year old sister of Sister Rebecca, who we will name Sophia now. Sophia was kidnapped by goblins, and Silverleaf readily joins the company to free her. And shoot some goblin in the mean time.

Silverleaf also knows Fredrik the dwarf, who is one of his better friends, as he is even smaller than Silverleaf himself. Which gives the elf ample opportunity to make fun of the dwarf.

Let's have a look at Fredrik too. You should know the drill by now, so I'll pick the abilities and skills from the template. Just one difference with his friends: poor Fredrik is quite young for a dwarf (only sixty-five perhaps) and he is only level one in D&D. So he'll have 50 points and no skills above 5.

Fredrik Forgemaster, male dwarf,

Str 5, Dex 1, Con 3, Int 1, Wil 2, App 0 (totals 24 skill points)

Fred is very strong, and sturdy. I'd first opted to give him a 5 on Constitution too, but then I remembered he had only 6 hit points before he got killed in the Basic D&D example. Poor Fred.
So I scaled down a bit. Or should I protect him and give him more sturdiness?

Battle Axe 5, Shield 5, Brawling 3, Throw Dagger 3 (totals 16 skill points)

Just decided to make Fred a pure combat machine.

Night Vision 3, Mining and Tunneling 1, Jewelsmithing 3, Weaponsmith 3 (the other 10)

Fred is a fine craftsman, with a specialty in making and repairing axes.

Full Helmet (armor class 3), Chain Hauberk (armor class 2), Battle Axe (weapon class 3),
Shield, Sturdy Clothes and boots, Six throwing daggers, Backpack with food and a keg of beer,
50 silver coins

Fred is a good yet short friend of Silverleaf, who joins the party to rescue Sophia and slay some goblins. He is fond of making jewels and finding the same, and he is also a fine weaponsmith – though he could be better one day. Like his uncle Fili Forgemaster. Or a dwarf he deals with humans fairly often, and he even has a fondness for some of them.

Rebuilding the sketchy characters from the D&D examples, I already notice that I start to give them more depth in DD. Of course, they are only very, very sketchy in the Basic set. But even then I can now see that killing off one of the DD variant characters will be harder. It will be harder because they have more chances of survival to begin with, with combat skills at 5 and 6. But they also feel more real to me already. Which makes them harder to lose.

Intriguing to notice the difference.

Next I'll have a look at Black Dougal. And then we go to the Haunted Keep itself.

The cool dwarf snippet artwork is by Bill Willingham, gratefully borrowed.


Free Adventures: Ammersfurt #8

The Secret of Ammersfurt is a free role playing supplement for the Dark Dungeon 2nd Ed game. Every week for thirty-five weeks, you'll get new bits for the Ammersfurt adventure setting, like monsters, NPC's, locations, skills, character templates, role play tips, and so on. And also every week, you'll get an adventure seed, which you can turn into a weekly adventure.

Adventure Seed 8: The Pirate at Ammerbrugge

Our heroes are invited by the Schout (Sherrif) of Ammersfurt, who lives in Ammersbrugge, way downstream on the Ammer. The older Schout is somewhat annoyed that his castle is to become the new summer residence of the Bishop of Utrecht, who is his liege. And he has another problem too. A group of pirates keeps stealing from ships, small farms and barns in the neighbourhood. Worse, he suspects that the pirates want to steal the treasures of the house. Such as the special runic chest and runic table silver. He wants the help of the heroes to catch the pirates.

Download the eight part of The Secret of Ammersfurt here!


Pick #40: Mazes & Minotaurs

Just suppose Gygax and Arneson, the inventors of the Dungeons & Dragons game would not have looked at Lord of the Rings. The book I mean, because the movie is post-1972. Just suppose they went to Ray Harryhausens Jason and the Argonauts, and thought, hey that's kewl. Let's do our game about Greek Gods and Monsters. Just suppose.

Then it might have looked like Mazes & Minotaurs. Or more like the 1972 version of Mazes & Minotaurs.

What, 1972? I hear you say. That's before Gygax! It's older! No it's not. Because it's not really from 1972. It's just made as if it is so. Frenchman Olivier Legrand wrote them after an idea coined by Paul Elliot. And it's actually BECOME a very intriguing game - well made - probably very playable too.

So, if you ever wondered how D&D would have looked if it were Classic Greek fantasy instead of Medieval Fantasy... or if you're wondering now, screen the game. And if you start a session, invite me please?


OSR Experiments #2: Converting Sister Rebecca

Yesterday I changed Morgan from Moldvay into Dark Dungeon stats. Now it's time for Sister Rebecca, the Lawful cleric, a true goody two shoes. Rebecca is also second level, so she also gets 50+5 points and just one skill at level 6. All other skills cannot exceed 5.

Oh yeah. If you really want to understand what I'm doing you should download the free Dark Dungeon Rules and have a look. Or you can figure out by telepathy. Whichever you prefer ;-)

Sister Rebecca, female priest, 55 pts (again 50+5 for second level)

Rebecca is a priestess, obviously, and since she heals Morgan in the combat example in Moldvay, a sister of the Order of Greyfriars would make most sense. These have Saint Gabriel as their patron Saint, and their most prayed for miracle is that of healing of wounds. But first let's do Rebecca's abilities first.

Strength 0
Dexterity 1
Constitution 1
Intelligence 3, required to learn Latin, which is required for a Priest
Willpower 4, as it is a near equivalent of wisdom, this is Rebecca's best stat
Appearance 3, I always saw her as convincing and charming

That's 12 times 2, or 24 skill points. Leaves 31 for the rest.

Special Skills:

Faith, Saint Raphael 6, this would be her forte skill, at a masterful level
Crosstian Ceremony 4,
Latin 3, required
Read & Write 3, required

The Dark Dungeon main religion "Crosstianism" does resemble Christianity in many respects, but it's a fantasy version of Roman Catholicism. Saints can be prayed to more or less directly, to ask for divine favor. There are no "spells" like in D&D.

Faith in Saint Raphael (page 17) allows Rebecca to pray for healing and protection against bodily and spiritual harm in many ways. Including long breath under water, healing diseases an raise the dead. Dark Dungeon Rebecca may indeed have a few more options than D&D Rebecca. She even has a theoretical 10% chance to recover a party member from the dead (She would have to roll an 18+ with d10 + skill 6, but a natural 10 also would suffice).

But Saint Raphael also requires that Rebecca keeps her faith. She may not kill or severely hurt anyone, which may put her at odds with the rest of the party. On the other hand she will receive even more supernatural aid if she rescues someone from certain death, while staking her own life. It does resemble the Lawful alignment in D&D. But if the other heroes kill and loot as in the average D&D game, Rebecca can hardly stand by and do nothing. She might have to be more strict than just say that Morgan cannot torture or kill captured goblins – as in the example in Basic D&D.

Crosstian Ceremony is closer to the rituals of the church. Ceremony will allow Rebecca to bless her party members, turn undead, and bless water to make it holy water. She can also make circles of protection against unnatural evil. So basically the Dark Dungeon ceremony skill nicely gives the typical clerical abilities of D&D. I'm actually surprised myself.

Meanwhile, the special skills took up another 16 points. Leaving 15 for weapon proficiencies and other skills. I'll pick a few from the list.


Brawling 3, this seems less lethal to me than most combat skills, befitting Rebecca's pacifism
Mace 2, high enough to threaten with and stop a fight

Other Skills:

Preaching 3
Poison Lore 2, always handy for the upcoming poison needle incident with Black Dougal
Swimming 2
First Aid 3

There, now equip Rebecca, and we're set!

Mace (weapon class 2)
Leather helmet (armour class 1 on head)
Grey Robes & Clothes,
Crucifix & Bible,
Bandages & Healing Herbs for First Aid,
Candles & Tinder Box
Backpack, Food & Wine Flask
And some odd coins amounting to 30 silvers worth (the mace cost 10 of her original 50, the helmet another 10).

Rebecca should avoid combat, not just for moral reasons, but also because she has little armour. And for a dungeon exploration the team should probably buy some torches, a lantern and some rope. Other than that she is set. And for D&D this would be more than enough.

But in Dark Dungeon, I'd like to give Rebecca just a little more depth. Let's say she's very young, only 17, but unusually strong in faith. She already noticed when she was four, when she saved her mother from death with a prayer to Raphael. Her faith was noticed by the matron of a local cloister, who took her in and taught her how to become even stronger. For some time she worked in a hospital in Hardby, where she met Morgan. Now she has left the convent to find her younger sister of twelve, who was kidnapped by the goblins.

There, two party members redesigned. I feel Dark Dungeon approach makes the characters a bit more three-dimensional. But we'll have to see later on what holds. To be continued!

The borrowed classic, excellent drawing is actually cleric Aleena, by Elmore.


Pick #39: Dave's 3D tabletop models

If you like geomorphs, and if you like miniatures, you also might like dioramas. And you might like filling whole basements, attics, sheds and living rooms with models. I don't. Not anymore. Because there's enough other stuff in these already.

But when I first saw Dave's 3D models, I was tempted for a moment. David Graffam makes models in InDesign (a DTP package for all I knew), and sells them as PDFs which you can then print on your PC to cut, paste and build them into nifty houses, ruins, boats, dropships and other stuff. You dig?

In layman's terms, Dave makes beautiful paper buildings. You can buy them as a computer file, print them and paste them on cardstock, and then build them too. They are often multilayered, so you can choose the exact of a model for yourself. That is, you can choose things like what color the bricks are, and what words are on the boards.

The cardboard building kits are very useful in games, as they are the right size for most lead figurines used in "the hobby". So you can do whole battlefield setups. Or you can totally fill up your basement.
If you have time, paper and ink for spare.


OSR Experiments #1: Morgan Ironwolf meets Dark Dungeon

Okay. I've set a new challenge for myself. I'll try and translate my Dark Dungeon game to Old School and the other way around.

I've been wondering a while now why old school attracts so many followers. And also why does it intrigue me aswell? Is it just nostalgia, whistfully thinking about the time we were young and (at least somewhat) nerdy? Longing for the sense of wonder we first experienced playing the game in the eighties? Table-o-mania? Is B/X a best game ever?

Yet, I haven't played D&D for some twenty odd years. Instead I have mastered and played my own game which evolved from home brew D&D – into something quite different.
So why do I prefer playing my own Dark Dungeon game above old school? Or why not?

Perhaps I can find out by translating DD into Old school and vice versa.

My first set task challenge: converting the Moldvay example adventure to Dark Dungeon stats.

[Just for the record here, I'm talking about Dark DungeoNNN which I wrote, with a few friends in 1989, and which evolved during the 90s. You can download the lite version here. I am NOT talking about the Dark DungeonSSS game retro style D&D clone of a much more recent date. Translating D&D to a clone would not be much of a challenge, would it? - Thanx for pointing out the potential confusion, Jeff!]

Challenge 1: Redesigning Morgan Ironwolf

My Dark Dungeon game was actually never written for dungeon romps, as our playing groups had grown out of the dungeon already. We went for more cinematic style adventures of one or two game sessions at that time. But who knows, it might hold up. Let's try.

First, in my opinion we need the heroes. In Moldvay, we find five of them. A dwarf, a warrior, an elf, a cleric and a thief. In Dark Dungeon these would be a dwarf, a warrior, and elf. A priest and a thief. So far fairly easy, eh?

But, let's provide some stats. Moldvay doesn't give many. Only Morgan the female fighter has a complete character sheet. Fredrik the dwarf is 1st level, and has only 6 hit points. Sister Rebecca can cure wounds. And all but Fredrik are 2nd level. So, I guess I can make up the rest. Here goes.

I'll give all second level characters 55 skill points. That is 5 above the starting 50. At this moment I'm just winging it, but I guess that 5 more points per level would be okay, especially at the lower levels. Also, I'll allow one skill at level 6 for each second level character. That's one skill point in the master range for each level above 1.

So, how would the heroes look? Today I'll try Morgan.

Morgan, female mercenary, 55 pts

Strength 5, (actually 16 in D&D, but there's a limit in DD for starting characters at 5)
Dexterity 3, (this would relate to D&D Dex 13, as 10 is average in D&D, and 0 in DD)
Constitution 4, (14 in D&D) good for taking blows
Intelligence -1, (7 in D&D)
Willpower 0, (10 in D&D)
Appearance -1, I'm surprised at the D&D dump stat Charisma: Morgan has score 8 in D&D

This makes for a total of 10 abilty points, or 20 skill points. Leaving 35 for the rest.

Combat skills:
Mercenaries fight for their daytime job, so the brunt of the skill points can go here.

long sword 6, this would be her main weapon, so this is the one skill above 5
shield 5
dagger 4
brawling 5, if she runs out of weapons
short bow 5, nothing beats a good ranged weapon attack

That's 25 points in combat skills, leaving 10 for the remainder.

Other skills:
Hm. Ten points. I'll just have a look at the template on page 5 of the DD rules. Yes, these are the Dark Dungeon rules you can download here. I'll pick a few and divide the ten points equally.

Swimming 2
combat tactics 2
hunting 2
leader 2
survive rural 2

Now I'll equip her from the template too.

Ringmail brigantine & light helmet (armour class 2 all over)
Longsword (weapon class 3)
Dagger (weapon class 1)
Short bow & a dozen arrows in quiver (weapon class 2, range not important in the Lite rules)
Leather boots
Backpack with food & flask of wine
Money worth 100 silvers (I'll say that's 4 in gold and 20 in silvers)

Morgan has some more equipment in D&D on her sheet, like a silver arrow, torches, iron spikes and fifty feet of rope. For ease I'll figure that that costs about a gold coin, leaving her 3 gold, 20 silver.

There. Morgan Ironwolf is ready for dungeon delving. However, I'd also would have to provide for some background in Dark Dungeon. Let's say she's served in the city guard of the nearest large town, Hardby. There she had the rank of assistant Serjeant. But after a conflict with her superiors (which she does not readily discuss), and a short time spent in jail, she went working for the highest bidder. Now, returning to her home hamlet, soliciting for the position of assistant sherrif, she finds that her brother Paul was taken by a goblin warband. Morgan is a natural blonde, blue-eyed, strong built, in her early twenties.

You may notice that I didn't mention hit points. If I would fill out a wound box for Morgan however, as described on page 11, Morgan would have four additional Light wounds she could take, in her arms, legs, chest and guts respectively.

To be continued...

Sheet gratefully borrowed from D&D Basic.

PS updated Morgan Ironsword into Morgan Ironwolf... guys... help me proofread?


OSR Experiments: What makes a game OSR?

Of course, Old School Renaissance is a style of play rather than a particular game system. And in my mind it's no use to argue about which game would be old style, and which one isn't. Perhaps some masters and players out there manage to play old style feel with 4th edition D&D, just ignoring most of the rules and advertisements and products that do not help them.

Perhaps there are OSR style players who don't even know they actually play what many OSR protagonists would say is their type of game. And maybe also the other way around.

But... lurking in the shadows of the renaissance, I started to wonder. Is my own Dark Dungeon 2nd Ed. game in a way OSR compatible? Can it have that feel? Or is it doomed to be something else entirely?

I decided to do some experiments, which you can see coming up in the next few weeks.


News #12: Swordplay

While indexing some Spanish language sites, I stumbled on this fencing video. You might want to have a look too, it's impressive, stylish, and neat.  And if you regularly think Ork, then this gives a whole different idea of what western style swordfighting could look like.

Thanks to Luiz Miguez of Feldkirch, a Spanish Fudge RPG.

Free Adventures: Ammersfurt #7

The Secret of Ammersfurt is a free role playing supplement for the Dark Dungeon 2nd Ed game. Every week for thirty-five weeks, you'll get new bits for the Ammersfurt adventure setting, like monsters, NPC's, locations, skills, character templates, role play tips, and so on. And also every week, you'll get an adventure seed, which you can turn into a weekly adventure.

Adventure Seed 7: The Farmer's daughter

A proud and hardy farmer at the stronghold farm Coelhorst, who is an old friend of one of the heroes, asks for help. He has had a fight with his youngest daughter, now thirteen, and she left the house in tears. He thought she would see how she was wrong, and would return soon. But instead she walked into the fields late at night, and darkness fell soon. That was three days ago. Now he and the rest of the family really worry for her life.

Download the seventh part of The Secret of Ammersfurt here!


Classic RPG Review #17: Pendragon

3rd edition softcover
by Greg Stafford
1990 Chaosium Inc, Oakland CAL USA

If you ever wanted to play an Arthurian knight, if you ever wanted to quest for the holy grail, if you ever wanted to joust and be chivalrous yet merry, then Pendragon may be the game for you. Pendragon isn't called Pendragon for nothing, it's because of Arthur Pendragon.

If you're not wondering what on earth Pendragon means by now, I'll tell you anyway. It means Lord of the Dragons, and it was the epithet of Arthur's father Uther. This doesn't mean the game is full of dragons however. Not at all. You can play knights, and that's pretty much it. I guess Greg Stafford just figured Pendragon would make a cool name for the game.

And I guess he's right. Greg Stafford by the way is one of my favorite game designers since “Basic Fantasy Role Playing”. Somehow he manages to provide a lot of flavour and atmosphere for his games without burying you under rules. Fortunately that's true here too.

Pendragon sports a simplified Runequest system, using a d20 instead of percentile dice. The Runequest increments of 5% each are one twentieth anyway. So why not play with a d20? It's much easier, as you don't have to multiply by 5 all the time. Also, there are less rules and mechanics than in Runequest. That's good. Less good is that the few game rules that are left, are kind of hidden between the huge amounts of flavour and background. In three columns of text per page. In over twohundred pages. You'll either need the index, or just make up the rule yourself.

New is the emphasis on role playing. And rules provided to help you. You don't quest for experience points by bashing monsters, but you quest for glory points by doing chivalrous deeds. Joust foul black knights, woe and marry the right lady, fight battles, own land. Glory makes a knightly noble tick, and sets him apart from the common folk. Also, when you design your character you have extensive rules for generating your family, family history and coat of arms. Now that's background!

Then you have personality traits and passions. Chastity, energy, honesty, cruelty, valorousness, and so on. Whenever you are challenged on a trait, the game master may require you to roll. So if you're particularly lustful, you may end up seduced all the time. If you're rather chaste you'll end up with more glory but will probably never get laid. Passions are more about your loyalties and what you'll get emotional about. Love your lord, wife or family up to the point that you'll go to hell and back for them? Or do you hate immigrant Saxons so much that you'll do much the same? Again you may be required to roll a d20 or lose control.

Lose control. That's exactly what I do, and at the same time do not like about this well meant mechanic. Using traits and passions may jog uptight hack 'n slashers and shy newbies out of their apathy. They may in fact help players to start role playing a bit. But at the same time the traits may provide yet another rule to hide behind. Oh, wow, sorry. I just missed my temper check. Now I'll have to bash you. In practice I've seen more of the latter, alas.

In Pendragon, you don't just play a knight really, but you play a dynasty. One of the goals in the game is to get married. To a non player character, it is assumed, which can be generated randomly, but it's better to find a special lady. And after getting married you try to obtain a healthy son. You can roll for this every year, randomly getting more children as you go along. And once your heir reached the adult age of 21, you can continue playing your son!

Rolling on tables does not only help you find who you can marry to, or what happens to your children, but it also generates quite a few opportunities for adventure. There even is an explicit section for solo adventures. So, if you like you could play Pendragon entirely as a solo game. Rolling up history and adventure possibilities for your character, and then playing them out with yourself as you go along. You'd almost guess that Stafford figured you'd be left without fellow players fairly often. I wonder where the guy lived while he wrote this. Alone in the outback?

How does it play? Personally I never got beyond rolling up a character and doing a few solos. So I guess I also lived in the outback when I first had the game. But I did hear of the game being played by friends. And they seemed to like the flavour and mechanics. But they also did not play for very long, perhaps finding it hard to build an actual campaign with just knights. Personally I'm still curious. It's not the first on my list as a system. But I would play if someone asked. And that's saying a lot. Meanwhile I'll page through the book for inspiration. It's very good for that too.

(rules are elegant, fairly simple, realistic, d20 based, simplified RuneQuest set of rules, with additional rules to focus on role playing, solo play and generating character history)
(Arthurian legend has always been a strong source of wonder and inspiration, and Pendragon is full of historic and literary facts, names, characters, creatures, heraldry, events, peoples and so on, for today's standards the only thing you may miss is colour print throughout)
(starting up the game and generating your character is easy, as is building your background with tables, but actually playing adventures falls slightly short, adventures being reduced mostly to encounters, battles and jousts; also there is little room to play anyhing but a knight, as even a damsel is not a real option)
(a true to theme Arthurian role playing game with a simple, yet effective set of rules, massive backdrop and strong suitability to solo play)


Pick #38: "Excalibur (World)"

"Excalibur [World]: A small world located in the Sword Worlds Subsector of the Spinward Marches. Excalibur has a cool climate with a very thin oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere tainted with volcanic gas and ash."

This is the Traveller Wiki, for the Traveller role playing game. It is one of a number of role playing universe wikis, chock full of data. Chock full of imaginary data. If you want to look something up, there's over 1000 pictures and over 7000 entries. You might actually use it as a starting point or a gimmick ship's library in your Traveller style Sci Fi games. If you use this universe, naturally.

I keep being surprised by the sheer bulk of imagined worlds and datastreams out there. To think I was just looking if there was an Excalibur RPG. In fact there is, several, and the best I know is Pendragon, but that's different. I'll review that in the coming days.

Let's see what else it says:

"Excalibur is resonantly locked with its primary, Artur, orbiting at a distance of 0.30 AU and rotating three times every two orbits. Many of its native life forms have evolved into "striders" that spend their entire life cycle following the sun. Excalibur has three small moons. While two are typical, the third, Bedwyr, seems to be a captured body, which entered orbit over Excalibur approximately 4,000-5,000 years ago."

Hm. Okay. Intriguing. Well, guess all you Traveller hardcore players knew this already!


Free Adventures: Ammersfurt #6

The Secret of Ammersfurt is a free role playing supplement for the Dark Dungeon 2nd Ed game. Every week for thirty-five weeks, you'll get new bits for the Ammersfurt adventure setting, like monsters, NPC's, locations, skills, character templates, role play tips, and so on. And also every week, you'll get an adventure seed, which you can turn into a weekly adventure.

Adventure Seed 6: The Threatened Nun

At the Augustine convent something is amiss. The abbess has tried to keep it secret for a while, but now the heroes have proven themselves on other cases, she dares to confide in them. There is a ghost on their premises. And they are so far unable to banish it, or set it free. The ghost particularly seeks out sister Maria Groote, who falls into madness because of the horrors the ghost shows. Now, she tells with rolling eyes, Hell will come to torture her.

Download the sixth part of The Secret of Ammersfurt here! 

Art public domain with thanks to Wikimedia.


Movies for Gamers #14: Excalibur

This is part of a series of reviews of movies particularly interesting or inspiring for role playing. Because of their setting, style, characters, editing or story. Read the introduction here or here if you are new to this series.

Knights in stainless shining armour, with shoulder pieces like football heroes. Flashing blades of silver and gold. The swelling song of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana. It's King Arthur from legend. It's John Boorman's Excalibur.

No, it's not realistic. No, it's not historical. No, it's not even true to Le Morte d'Arthur by Thomas Malory – although it doesn't stray too far off. But it's magickal. It's mystical. It's dramatic, it's tragedy. You could say it's visionary. It's even somewhat gritty. And bigger than life.

My favorite is Merlin, portrayed by Nicol Williamson, who is scary and funny at the same time. Plotting behind the scenes he both witnesses and steers the land and Arthur from the old time of myth into the time of Christianity. But is it what he wants? He is caught in an inevitable drama like all the others. From the sword in the stone to the search for the Holy Grail. It makes him very intriguing.

In role playing I've not yet dared to impose the same kind of inevitability on the players. Usually it doesn't feel right – and players hate to be railroaded. Usually it doesn't feel right in a movie either, but here it does. Maybe it is because the characters have such a clear sense of purpose and destiny, and they do not care that they direct themselves to their own doom. Maybe that's why it works. All characters have to do what they have to do.

Now that might work in role playing, but the players would need to know. All would need to know beforehand that they will play in a tragedy. All should know that they will push their characters into their own damnation. All would have to know and agree it will not end well. Then it might work. Food for thought. Food for a coming experiment.

On the other hand, if Arthur would just have been cool about Lancelot and Guinevere, there would have been much less of a problem.

Excalibur was finished in 1981, but it feels timeless. Worth viewing and viewing again, different from virtually every other movie in feel. And yet, there is a remake in the works. By Wunderkind Brian Singer, who also did “The Usual Suspects”, “The X-Men” and “Valkyrie”. It's produced by John Boorman himself – who did the 1981 Excalibur – and it's scheduled for release in 2012. Then we'll have the Once and Future King once again.


Pick #37: Maelstrom RPG Resurrected

A few days ago I had a look at the Maelstrom RPG, written by Alexander Scott ages ago, in the 1980-ies. He wrote it as a teenager, did unexpectedly well, and the game had absolutely no follow up. For twenty-four years.

But now, from the future of the Maelstrom, comes the Maelstrom Companion. It's not written by Scott, but it is okayed by Puffin. And I understand it's not bad at all. So maybe, after all this time, twenty-four years, the game Maelstrom will finally get its deserved public.

Or at least some. The Maelstrom Companion, and a few other supplements for the game are written by Graham Bottley of Arion Games. And the promise is there will be more. Including some free downloads to wet the appetite. Nice detail is that the companion indeed tries to fill the gap of the lacking historic background, and it provides some ideas for your campaign.

Want to know more? RPGPundit from Urugay reviewed the Companion in 2009 as it appeared.


Free Adventures: Ammersfurt #5

The Secret of Ammersfurt is a free role playing supplement for the Dark Dungeon 2nd Ed game. Every week for thirty-five weeks, you'll get new bits for the Ammersfurt adventure setting, like monsters, NPC's, locations, skills, character templates, role play tips, and so on. And also every week, you'll get an adventure seed, which you can turn into a weekly adventure.
Adventure Seed 5: The Body in the Canal

In the early hours of the day a scream echoes through the streets. In one of the canals of Ammersfurt a body is found drifting. It is the dead body of fifty year old Cornelius Coperszoon, a high magistrate, merchant and “Schepen” {an alderman}. Examination of the body shows that his head was hurt by a hard blow, and after that he may have drowned in the water. Was he murdered? And if so, by whom, and why? The Burghermaster again asks the help of our heroes.

Download the fifth part of The Secret of Ammersfurt here!