Saturday, September 6, 2014

B/X Dungeon Master's Adventurers Log

Something I have always found useful as a DM is a quick reference sheet containing all the vital statistics and abilities of the player characters. It's much faster to glance over my own cheat sheet than to ask a player for the information I'm seeking. It also helps prevent tipping off the players as to what might be coming up soon.

Although there are lots of DM playing aids out there, I couldn't really find anything that suited my needs for my current B/X D&D campaigns on Roll20. So, the only thing to do was to make my own!

In the hopes that it might be useful to other DMs, I am making available for download the B/X D&D Adventurers Log I am now using in my own campaigns. If you use this in your own game and subsequently come up with recommendations for improvements, I'd be glad to hear them!

B/X D&D Adventurers Log

Saturday, August 2, 2014

First D&D Set

Here's a photo of my first D&D rulebook, Holmes Basic, the dice that came with that set and some of the miniatures we used back then. Well, the cleric on the right is a lot newer, but the remaining figures date to the late '70s. I remember the guy with the winged helmet my little brother got out of a bubble gum machine, he was promptly added to the minis collection. That might have been around 1980-81.

Friday, July 25, 2014

I Drank the Kool-Aid

I will forego the ubiquitous un-boxing video and components review, but I decided to post at least one photo. However, I had no choice but to include the cat in the photo. As with all cats, any new box which turns up in the house must be thoroughly investigated.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Minor Update: OSR out, OSG in

A couple of months ago I posted here an article detailing my personal Old School Renaissance (OSR) tenets and also made available a .pdf document of the same. Since then, after further research and reflection, I have decided to no longer use the OSR label to describe my particular gaming philosophy. Instead, I will use the term Old School Game / Old School Gaming (OSG).

This is really just a cosmetic change, none of the tenets themselves have changed. I simply decided the terms Renaissance/Revival don't really apply to me, because I never gave up gaming in the "old school" manner to begin with. It's true that I did take a multi-year hiatus from gaming due to real life obligations. But when I finally did get back into gaming, I simply picked up where I'd left off.

Anyway, I just wanted to clear that up for anyone who might be wondering about the change.

Brett's 1-page Old School Gaming (OSG) Tenets

Saturday, March 8, 2014

House Rules: Spending Wealth for Additional Experience

Since I got back into role-playing games after my multi-year hiatus, one thing I've found is that my definition of "adventuring" has changed. Back in my early gaming days, going on an adventure meant a dungeon. It soon expanded to include other settings such as caverns or the wilderness but adventuring still involved the characters going to some remote location, far from civilization.

Now, I regard any location as a potential adventure setting and I've recently found myself becoming more interested in urban adventuring. While mining the web for information and ideas along those lines, I came across these interesting blog articles:
I particularly like the idea of spending money in town to gain additional experience and the possibility that throwing all that coin around can result in unintended consequences for the character just makes it even better. However, I can never leave well enough alone and I'm always tinkering around with the game rules, especially house rules. These wealth-spending house rules were no exception and so I generated a revised set which I've been using in my current 1st edition AD&D campaign on Roll20.

Now that we've play-tested these house rules in my own game a few times, I've decided to put them out there for anyone else who might be interested. These rules are written with 1st edition AD&D in mind, but should be easily adaptable to just about any game system. If you decided to use these house rules I hope you will find them an entertaining addition to your own game!

House Rules for Earning XP Through Spending Wealth

Monday, March 3, 2014

Walmart Owl Bears

We recently bought some small garden ornaments at Walmart. After we got home and I looked at the receipt, I noticed how a couple of them rang up:

Click to make larger
Coincidence? Possibly... Or maybe there's a gamer with a sense of humor somewhere in the Walmart supply chain.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

My Valentine's Day Present

This is what my wife got me for Valentine's Day. Needless to say, she's awesome...

Saturday, February 15, 2014

A Couple of New Downloads

Since my recent OSR Tenets post seemed rather popular, I decided to make available a PDF of that document.

I've also made available a PDF outlining my "Game Table Rules" and other precepts for playing D&D. I always send this document to my Roll20 players but I decided to make it available here as well for anyone else who might be interested. As usual, I've borrowed from the thoughts of others but much of it is my own. This list does overlap a bit with my OSR Tenets, but there's system-neutral material in there as well. If you decide to download I hope you'll find these documents useful!

Brett OSG Tenets - link updated to my revised Old School Gaming (OSG) tenets
Brett's Game Table Rules and Other Precepts for Playing D&D

Monday, February 3, 2014

My D&D B/X House Rules

A month or so ago decided to start a new D&D B/X campaign in Roll20 and I soon started searching around for good house rules. I figured I may as well draw upon the experiences of others to help identify what areas of the rules might benefit from some tweaking.


My B/X game finally launched yesterday and everyone playing got a copy of the house rules sent to them. But I decided to post them here as well, just in case anyone else is interested in a copy. A lot of the house rules I settled on are borrowed from others, but some are more or less of my own devising. At any rate, I hope you will find among them something useful for your own game!

Brett's D&D B/X House Rules

Sunday, January 26, 2014

To mark what is being regarded as the 40th anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons, here is a photo of myself and Gary Gygax when he appeared at a booth I had at GenCon '98:

It was great to meet him in person that day and he ended up staying at my booth well beyond the 45 minutes or so he promised me. He left only when his wife came to get him because he was about to be late for his next scheduled appearance.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Brett's OSR Tenets

For many weeks now I have been working on defining what the OSR means to me personally. After my multi-year hiatus from gaming, I decided that as long as I am apparently part of a movement I might as well try to define what that movement is. I've done a lot of reading on the subject and of course no two definitions are exactly the same. So, there was no choice but to develop my own! I've borrowed concepts from other sources with which I agree but I've also added a few of my own. Another goal I had was to be as concise as possible. So, without further delay, here are:


It is my position that Old-School Roleplaying/Renaissance/Revival (collectively known as the OSR) is not any particular game system, or only games produced during a certain time period. Instead, OSR is a mindset and not a ruleset. Below are the tenets which I believe define an OSR-style game:

De-Emphasis of Rules: OSR games de-emphasize adhering to the rules as written. Instead, the rules are a framework to facilitate game play but the Game Master (GM) is given license to utilize those rules, modify them or to make on-the-spot rulings.

Fast Pace: A primary goal of an OSR-style game is simply to keep the action moving forward. By not getting bogged down in written rules and giving the GM license to make on-the-spot rulings, OSR games progress more quickly.

Heroic Potential: Although Player Characters (PCs) have the potential to become heroes, they start out as relatively normal people. They might have one or two above-average ability scores and they may know basic swordsmanship or how to cast a novice-level spell. But at the outset, there isn’t much to distinguish an OSR PC from most of the rest of the fantasy world population.

Encourages Cooperative Play: OSR Player Character classes tend to have a focused area of expertise. This fact, and because they start out as little better than most Non-Player Characters (NPCs), means that OSR PCs are typically unable to survive an adventuring lifestyle on their own. If the PCs wish to be successful they must work together to form a cohesive, mutually-supporting team.

Encounter Balance is De-Emphasized: The campaign world does not exist solely for the benefit of the PC's advancement. Therefore, ensuring that every encounter or situation is balanced to the PC's current level is typically not a consideration in an OSR-style game. There will always be challenges which may be beyond the PC's abilities and it is up to the players to decide what those are and how to deal with them. This does not mean the GM should pit an ancient Red Dragon against a party of 1st level characters. But if that same party hears a (true) rumor that an ancient Red Dragon lives in the nearby mountains and goes actively searching for it, they will have a good chance of encountering it.

Abstract Combat: In an OSR-styled game, the interaction between weapons and armor is distilled down to a few simple charts. Damage inflicted is measured in terms of generic "points", usually without regard to specific wound type, severity, location, etc. It is left to the GM to flesh out the specifics, if that level of detail is even desired.

Resource Management: Keeping track of adventuring resources (rations, torches, arrows, etc.) is an important aspect of an OSR-styled game. But rather than being a mundane chore, resource management is meant to provide additional challenges for the players to overcome and it may require them to make difficult choices. “Do we push deeper into the dungeon while the goblins are still off-balance, even though we’re down to our last torch? Or should we return to town and re-supply first?” Seemingly routine decisions can have game-changing implications in an OSR-style game.

Player Empowerment: An OSR-style game also gives license to the players to attempt more actions, have more options and make more decisions. If you can think of it, your character can probably attempt it. He may not always be successful, but he can at least attempt it. This is in contrast to mechanics such as feats and skills, which might actually restrict a player's thinking about what his character can or cannot attempt.

In addition to the above, an OSR-styled game makes certain assumptions about the GM and the players:

Ability to "Paint the Picture": Because there are no formal feats or skills to roll for in an OSR game, it is up to the GM and the players to work together to determine what the PCs can see and do. The GM must first provide the players with an appropriate level of detail regarding their surroundings, which includes both the physical environment as well as any living beings. In turn, the players describe in detail how their characters are interacting with those surroundings. Based on those actions, the GM then informs the players what they have learned, affected, etc.

GM Consistency - Although OSR-style games de-emphasize written rules, the GM still has an obligation to be as consistent as possible in his rulings. This gives the players some degree of predictability over what they can expect to happen in a given situation. But in the end, the GM’s ruling is the final say. The GM should know the rules but is never bound by them.

Player Flexibility - Although the GM should strive to be consistent in his rulings, the players must still remain flexible about those rulings. Depending on circumstances which may not be readily apparent to the players, the GM might not adjudicate a certain situation exactly the same way every time. The players must be willing to accept this and trust that the GM is being fair to everyone in the long run.

I do realize others have gone into much greater detail about what defines an OSR-styled game. However, I think these tenets do a good job of summarizing the core concepts. If you ever find yourself trying to explain "Old-School" gaming to someone unfamiliar with it, perhaps this list will help!