Saturday, October 31, 2009

Knockspell #3 Now On Sale

More good news for Swords & Wizardry fans (and classic fantasy RPGs in general). Issue #3 of Knockspell is out from Mythmere Games and available through Black Blade Publishing. "Knockspell Issue #3 contains a plethora of resources for your retro-clone or out-of-print fantasy game."


Outnumbered but Tough: Musings of a Girl Gamer by “Spike”
From Kuroth’s Quill #3 Allan T. Grohe, Jr.
Pulp Heroes and the Colors of Magic “Akrasia”
Chariot Racing John Vogel
Blame it on the Players: an Editorial Tim Kask
Swords & Wizardry: Silver ENnie Award Winner
Black Armour, Black Heart: the Anti-Paladin Scot Hoover
The Font of Glee Jason Sholtis
The City of Vultures Gabor Lux
Random Wilderness Events Joshua James Gervais
Contest Details
Random Ruin Generator Robert Lionheart
Labyrinth Tomb of the Minotaur Lord R. Lawrence Blake
The Planes: Playgrounds of the Rich and Powerful Jon Hershberger
New Tricks and Traps
New Magic Items
Beginner’s Bestiary Andrew Trent
New Monsters
The Tower of Mouths Matt Finch

And, of course, another great cover by Peter Mullen!
Check it out, it's good stuff!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday's Fantasy Art

Every Friday I'll be posting a piece of, what I consider, fantasy art that inspires old school play. Since I'm finishing up the Lancer publication of Conan the Warrior I thought I'd open this up with Barry Windsor Smith's Red Nails splash page from Marvel's Savage Tales issue #2.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Beneath the Tower of Zenopus: Session I

So after a while of of doing a lot of online research and preparing a sandbox style campaign, I was able to gather some players together for a classic dungeon delve. I was hoping to get at least 3 players but that quickly grew into 5. I was a little concerned about managing a game as I haven't DMed in over two and half decades and then some but the 5 players actually opened the game up even more. It went really well so here's a session recap.

The 5 players who were pretty enthusiastic about getting a game on. Though most of the players at least downloaded the S&W book and read over the house-rules, character creation still took about an hour or so. Questions needed to be answered and equipment bought. I think a good idea would be to create a Character Generation sheet that I can hand out to each player to speed the process along. I went with the straight roll of 3d6 right down the line. Everyone had a good time rolling up characters and they all started with a roll off of Jeff Rient's 100 random starting items which everyone loved.

So the party was as follows:

Arvin Ardmore - Acolyte of Mithra
Gedleessmote Hammersend - Vetran Dwarf Warrior
Wolfhere, Viking Vetran from the North
Tibag Backstabber - Elf Rogue
Slick Vinny - Human Medium
and a Mule.

All the players jumped right in with their characters which was a blast and made GMing much easier.

The game began in the port city of Caladan in the tavern of the Cloven Hoof. The PCs have, by one means or another ended up is this port city and have become slightly aquainted with each other while spending their evenings at the tavern. Working odd jobs during their stay just hasn't cut if for them so they decide to spend the day gathering some information around town.

That was pretty much the broad-stroke that I gave the players then let them each pick a rumor out of a hat. I didn't want to railroad any of their actions so the rumors lead to various adventure hooks around Caladan and other near-by towns. They all just so happened to pick rumors about the ruined tower south of town. Then I let them go at it and discuss their rumors with each other. That worked great. It got all the players involved right away and let them make assumptions and decisions all on their own. I really didn't have to participate at all! I just sat back watching the fun.

After a bit of that, they were eventually introduced to an old blind man in the corner who knew much more about the tower so I was able to fill in some of the details about the tower of Zenopus. The old man revealed that he use to occupy the tower and study his arts there when one day a pupil showed up - a beautiful woman named Zenopus. She was a Stygian witch who stole his tower and his magic and explored the secrets below the tower. The old man was blinded by Zenopus and banished from the tower. The tower was destroyed by the town as per the Zenopus tower background story in the back of the Holmes blue book. By the next morning the PCs were on their way.

They worked their way up to the tower but decided to explore the cemetery first. I didn't have anything prepared for the cemetery and to get my feet wet, I decided to just ad-lib that. Note that players have no idea what you have prepared or not prepared. The improvised cemetery flowed smoothly with an exploration of 2 crypts and an encounter with a feral Zombie cat, which seemed to mystify the players. The cleric tried to turn the cat. My house rules don't have the undead automatically 'turn' from the cleric unless the cleric rolls twice the amount needed, otherwise the undead are just kept at bay and won't attack outright. This lead to more of a mystery to the cat. They spent time trying to figure out if it was indeed an undead cat or just a feral animal - after they had killed it, of course. I felt that by just giving them a nugget of information about what they saw or encountered, they tended to draw their own conclusions and let their imaginations run with it. That proved to be quite successful in that everything became a bit mysterious and they didn't have all the answers.

I tried to keep all the characters occupied with doing something at all times to keep all 5 players invested in the exploration.

They eventually found an opening in the base of a sarcophagus within one of the crypts which lead to a pit below. They threw a torch down into the pit to see if anything else could be seen. Secure in the knowledge that the room below was empty, they extinguish the torch, and the elf was sent down to explore. A tunnel was found while the rest of the party descended the rope into the room.

Now the thief took the lead just out of the range of the torchlight exploring with his 10 foot pole. After proceeding down a long natural tunnel they came to a door. After some careful examination of the door they opened it and discovered a man-made corridor beyond. Here they just went crazy examining the stonework and drawing all kinds of conclusions about it. I was caught a bit by surprise by this but I let them run with it and threw them a few nuggets based the conclusions they were making. I was learning to just work with what the players were giving me to flesh out details. In a way that was them letting me know what inspired them about the game and exploration. It really helped everyone help create the mood they expected / wanted. And it seemed to work because the more they explored, the more paranoid they became. They ended up finding another door but by his point, freaked themselves out enough that they were afraid to open the door. They tied one end of the rope to the door they just entered and the other end of the rope to the second door. On the rope they tied a bell to warn them if any of these doors were being messed with. I thought that was great and I loved that. Just keep building up the mood and let the players fill in the details with their own assumptions!

After a few turns down some corridors, they came to another door. This one they opened. Beyond was one of Holmes' very large chambers. When I was younger, I always had trouble working with these large rooms, but now, working with the torchlight, the characters were only able to glimpse some pillars at the edge of the light but no walls or ceiling. That was too much for them. Not seeing the entire room beyond the darkness really threw them. They decided to close that door and continue down the corridors.

Finally finding another door, they entered. Coming out of the darkness into the torchlight, were, of course, the two Ghouls. They threw a flask of oil in between them and the ghouls but missed the oil with the torch. The Elf fired his bow but after the first hit, rolled a 1, thus the string broke on the bow and the Ghouls moved in to attack. A quick battle ended up with two dead ghouls and a paralyzed and slightly wounded dwarf. A search of the room turned up a couple of smashed and open wooden coffins and two that were closed. Not taking any chances, the Magic-user preceded to dump his flasks of oil on the two coffins and lit them.

It was here that the session ended. The whole session, rolling characters and all, lasted about 3 hours. Time went by very fast and there was a lot of laughing and good times. We all were looking forward to the next session (which is planned for the October 19th). Everyone seemed to have a blast and I couldn't remember having a better time DMing! Oh, there is much to improve on my end but I felt really comfortable with just winging things when I had to - rules and situations. That, of course, is due to all the great discussions and knowledge being passed on about the game on various blogs and forums. So a big thanks to all those contributing to the classic gaming community! You've made my game a blast!

Oh, and the Zenopus' Tower adventure in the Holmes Blue Book is still one of my favorites!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Swords & Wizardry Core Rules To Be Distributed by Black Blade Publishing

Good news from Mythmere Games and Black Blade Publishing to all the Swords & Wizardry fans out there!

Black Blade Publishing to become Exclusive Publisher of the Swords & Wizardry Core Rules and Knockspell Magazine

October 27, 2009 – Mythmere Games, developer and publisher of the ENnie-award winning Swords & Wizardry fantasy role-playing game, is pleased to announce an exclusive agreement with Black Blade Publishing to publish the Swords & Wizardry Core Rules and Knockspell magazine, and to lead the charge to get Swords & Wizardry into retail distribution. The first print releases under this agreement will be a softcover version of the 124-page Swords & Wizardry Core Rulebook and Knockspell #3.

Working with Studio 2 Publishing as its distribution partner, Black Blade Publishing expects the Swords & Wizardry Core Rulebook to start hitting the shelves of brick and mortar game stores by February of 2010. In addition, the in-print version of the Swords & Wizardry Core Rulebook will be available for purchase directly from Black Blade Publishing or through select retailers by late-October, 2009.

Electronic copies of the Swords & Wizardry Core Rulebook will be available immediately directly from Black Blade Publishing, and will be available very soon directly from Studio 2 Publishing, DrivethruRPG, RPGNow and YourGamesNow.

Print versions of Knockspell #3 are available for purchase directly from Black Blade Publishing, and issue #4 may be distributed to stores around February of 2010, at the same time as the core rules.

“The Swords & Wizardry fantasy role-playing game is about a lot more than a return to the way these games used to be played. Swords & Wizardry unapologetically throws off 30 years of re-imagining and so-called ‘fixing’ of the original rules, returning to the wonder and mystery of “free-form” fantasy gaming without complicated rules and long rulebooks. Black Blade Publishing is very excited to be publishing the key Swords & Wizardry titles from Mythmere Games. The quality of new products being introduced in the old school gaming community is amazing, and we are really excited to be a part of it.” -- Jon Hershberger, co-founder of Black Blade Publishing

Founded in 2008 by Matthew J. Finch, Mythmere Games is best known for the Swords & Wizardry fantasy role-playing game, the award-winning retro-clone of the original 1974 edition of the world’s most popular fantasy game. For additional information, visit

Formed in 2009 by Jon Hershberger and Allan Grohe, Black Blade Publishing will begin publishing the Swords & Wizardry Core Rulebook in October 2009 under license from Mythmere Games. For additional information, visit

Studio 2 Publishing has been serving the games hobby industry since 2004, serving game designers and publishers as a sales and marketing organization as well as providing fulfillment and inventory management services. For additional information, visit

Where It All Began...

...for me was Holmes.

I first saw the Holmes basic D&D set on a shelf at a local hobby shop back in the fall '78. A traditional model airplane/rocket shop, this was the very first RPG item that they had on display taking up one little tiny space on the rack. I would walk home every day from school and stop at this hobby shop (The Hobbyist) and just get lost in the cover image of that box. Without ever opening it, the title and cover painting triggered something wild in my imagination. I was already reading Howard's Conan thanks to Marvel's comic of that same name and earlier that year saw Bakshi's version of The Lord of the Rings so something was in the air and I was being swept up in it.

It wouldn't be until that Christmas that I received a copy of the game and open that box for the first time. And what treasures to behold! The funny shaped colored dice, the adventure module in monochrome green "In Search of the Unknown" were riches beyond thought!

Now...if I were only able to understand those rules....

Monday, October 26, 2009

Does the world really need another blog?

...especially one talking about classic D&D? Apparently, I think so.

So what am I gonna do to make this one different? Well, I'll be talking about my sandbox campaign (which has just played it's second session and that's always fun to talk about). And since that is a learning process I'll be adding what I learn along the way along with session recaps and player reactions. I'll cover how I piecemeal this sandbox together.

Since I come from a graphics background, I'll be posting some map-making tutorials too along with anything else I can come up with.

I don't know if any of that makes this blog different or even interesting from what's out there already but I do hope that someone finds something useful here. If not, I'll just have myself a good 'ol time writing this stuff up on the interwebs.

So keep those dice rollin'!