Tuesday, August 23, 2022

"Foster's Miscellany, Volume 1" now available for sale

As mentioned in my last post, I decided to compile the various little house rule and addition tidbits that have accumulated over the last two years since The Heroic Legendarium manuscript was completed into a 20 page pdf which is now officially available at DriveThruRPG as PWYW, under the title Foster's Miscellany, Volume I. No print option because it's only 20 pages (and only 16 of them are actual content), and probably nothing new to anybody who's been reading and downloading content from this blog, but hopefully still worth a look for anyone who liked the Heroic Legendarium (or hasn't bought it yet but would like a cheap preview - about half of the new book is Play Aids that combine HL data alongside the original canon data (class and race info, equipment lists, weapon stats) for convenience at the table.

Since it's PWYW I went ahead and made the preview the entire thing, so you can see what you'll be getting if you purchase it. 

The big adventure-campaign book is still coming eventually (progress has been slow the last month or so but I haven't given up, I swear!) but I figured this was a nice little interim thing which will hopefully be of at least a bit of interest to some folks and will also (hopefully) suffice to get me off of DriveThruRPG's "second class citizen" list where they consign publishers who've only released one title. It also allowed me an opportunity to make a little tribute on to dedication page my dad, who passed away last week, following my mom by just over 13 months (and was an easier way to keep my mind occupied than trying to be creative).

Anyway, I hope y'all will take a look and maybe find at least one or two things that you'll find worth using in your 1E/OSRIC games.

Friday, August 19, 2022

Some new house rules & additions

As a way of procrastinating from doing more work on the adventure-campaign book I've been working on seemingly forever I decided to collect my miscellaneous "OSRIC" house rules and additions that weren't included in The Heroic Legendarium, either because I only came up with them after the contents of that book had been finalized or because for whatever reason I forgot to include them there. A lot of this stuff is pretty simple and minor, to the point that it didn't necessarily need to be formalized in writing, but a couple of them are more substantial and impactful. 

While I'm not so naive as to believe anyone besides me would want to actually use all of these rules and rulings in their games (surely anyone running a 1st edition game at this point has already resolved all of these issues to their satisfaction many years ago), maybe some folks will find something they like here, and - as always - I've already done the work of writing it all up so why not share it, right? So, that said:

Google Drive download link

Enjoy!

Update: In a fit of inspiration, I decided to combine this document with the other house rules and play aids I've published here over the last couple years (since the HL text was finalized) into a smallish (20 page) pdf and put it up on DriveThruRPG as PWYW. I'm still a second-class citizen there so it hasn't gone live yet, but should within the next couple days (and when it does I'll probably make another post about it with a link). The Necropolis conversion notes aren't included (both because they're incomplete and because I'm not sure it would actually be legal to upload them for sale there - I know people sell 5E conversion guides for old 1E modules but am not sure what the rules are for that and don't want to take any chances and risk a repeat of last year's Lulu fiasco) but everything else is. Most of you reading this have probably already downloaded anything that you're interested in, but it might still be convenient to have it all in a single file, plus it will at least theoretically reach the people who (shockingly!) don't read this blog.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

D&D Historical Sales Data

Recently game historians Paul Stormberg (at Dragonsfoot) and Ben Riggs (on Facebook) have been sharing a trove of historical sales data from TSR for various D&D and AD&D products. As a nerd, I'm a sucker for this sort of stuff, but was frustrated by the fragmentary and piecemeal nature of it so I decided to copy & paste their numbers into a combined spreadsheet of my own. Once I had collected all of their data and organized it as I wanted it (chronologically by release date, more or less) I also felt the urge to insert placeholders for all of the major items (hardback books and boxed sets) that they did not provide numbers for, which became a massive rabbit-hole because I'd forgotten how many boxed sets TSR released for 2E AD&D (and I have no confidence that I didn't miss some, especially since I had stopped buying any of them by about the end of 1990 - the last two items on the list I ever actually owned were the first Ruins of Undermountain set and the Monstrous Manual - the latter came out a couple years after I'd stopped playing 2E, but I bought it anyway as a reference to replace the terrible looseleaf binders that had preceded it). 

With these numbers conveniently combined, I noticed a couple interesting (to me) bits of trivia. While everybody knows that the D&D Basic Set was TSR's all-time best-selling product, with total sales of over 3 million units, if you separate out the different versions of that set (1977 Holmes, 1981 Moldvay, and 1983 Mentzer), the best-selling single product is actually the 1st edition AD&D Players Handbook (with total sales of more than 1.5 million).

In all, TSR had five items that sold over a million units each:

  1. AD&D Players Handbook, 1st edition (1.57 million)
  2. AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide, 1st edition (1.33 million)
  3. D&D Basic Set - Moldvay edit (1.26 million)
  4. AD&D Monster Manual, 1st edition (1.16 million)
  5. D&D Basic Set - Mentzer edit (1.1 million)

Additionally, another 6 products sold over 500,000 units apiece:

  1. AD&D Player's Handbook, 2nd edition (776K)
  2. D&D Basic Set - Holmes edit (639K)
  3. D&D Expert Set - Cook/Marsh edit (619K)
  4. AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide, 2nd edition (543K)
  5. AD&D Monster Manual II (541K)
  6. D&D Companion Set (537K)

The D&D Companion Set is a weird anomaly on this list, with a sales trajectory in its first 3 years (1984-86) pretty similar to other products, followed by an inexplicably huge jump in its 4th year (1987) to above what it sold in year one (and more than any other product sold that year, except for the brand-new Dragonlance Adventures AD&D hardback), with sales remaining similarly high for the last 3 years of its product life. I have no way to explain that strange late-in-cycle popularity for this set. I almost wonder if the numbers for those years might be off by a factor of 10 (that TSR's records show 132,000 sales when it was actually 13,200, and the same for the following years), which would be more in line with the trends seen for other products released around the same time (and would put its total sales around 250K - still very respectable). If anybody has an explanation for why these numbers are correct and this several-year-old boxed set was somehow outselling both the core AD&D books and the D&D Basic Set by a wide margin for several years, I'd love to hear it. Possibly AD&D fans were buying it because it included rules for topics (domain management, mass combat, top-end monsters) that weren't really covered in AD&D, but if so, why did they wait until 1987 to start doing so? I was active in the scene in those years (reading Dragon magazine, attending GenCon) and I certainly don't remember the D&D Companion Set being particularly popular or talked-about, and although I had a copy (purchased in 1984) I don't remember anyone else from my gaming circle buying it, and certainly not in 1987-90.

Anyway, this is deep in-the-weeds nerd trivia for sure, but since I spent a couple hours yesterday pulling it all together, I figured I'd make it available for anyone else who might also be interested. Enjoy! 

Google Sheets link

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Plugging Away

As of a month ago I'm now working again on a part-time basis (three days a week). In January I walked away from a position I'd held for over 20 years because I was feeling extremely burned out and over-worked, and took about two months off before starting this new position (which happily pays about the same for 3 days a week as I was earning at the other place working full-time. I had worried that going back to work even part-time would take me away from writing, but I'm happy to report that it has actually done the opposite - the discipline of knowing that I have to cram all of my creative work into the four non-work days (but that I also have those four days available for creative work) has energized me and cleared away a lot of the ennui and procrastination that had kept me from doing much substantive writing (as opposed to low-effort social media posts) during my ostensible break time.

Within those last few weeks I've written about 16,000 words of new adventure material (a bit more than the total word count of "Melonath Falls," which was just under 15K words) detailing 76 rooms across 3 levels of a planned 6 level ~140 room dungeon and am not feeling burned out or blocked - I've got a pretty solid outline of what will be on the remaining 3 levels (and have drawn preliminary maps - one thing I did get accomplished before I went back to work) and feel like I can keep my momentum going and actually get this thing wrapped up. 

It's part of the same setting as Melonath Falls and is a prequel of sorts (since it's intended for 1st-4th level characters instead of 3rd-6th), both based on an ambitious outline I wrote several years ago. It's written in the same style so those who didn't like the first one aren't likely to like this one much either, but I'm pretty happy with what I've got so far and hope that those who did like Melonath Falls will feel this is of-a-piece with it (and hopefully superior, given its larger scope and at least theoretical additional lessons learned based on how the last one was received). I'm very eager to get it in front of some players to see how they'll be able to deal with it, and whether or not I've totally overestimated the capability of  1st-2nd level characters (or possibly underestimated it, but that seems less likely). Writing all this stuff and being excited about it but not being able to share with anyone yet is frustrating! 

The ultimate plan is that once this dungeon is done it, Melonath Falls, some town and outdoor material I wrote a few years ago, and a couple more sections still to be written, will all be combined and published together as a single volume, likely somewhere around 120 pages in length, which can be run as a low-level "campaign in a box" taking characters from 1st to 6th (+) level over a couple dozen sessions, or can be pulled apart and used in bits and pieces as each individual purchaser sees fit. I don't have an ETA on when this will happen yet because I've still got an estimated one-third or so of the thing still to write (and the not-inconsiderable challenge of procuring professional quality maps, art, and ideally a second set of editorial eyes) but with the progress I've made in the last few weeks it definitely feels like things are moving and the end is a lot more realistically in sight than it was before. Stay tuned!

Thursday, April 14, 2022

I was interviewed for a Podcast!

This is sort of old news now (since it was posted on three days ago) but in case anyone hasn't already heard, German AD&D (and other old-school wargames) uberfan Settembrini did a 3 hour interview with me for his podcast, which is now available for your listening pleasure. I've heard from people who've listened to the whole thing (or at least claim to have) that it's not totally boring and incomprehensible, so yay! 

I haven't listened to it (because I don't think I could stand to listen to my own voice for 3+ hours) but from memory we talked about (in no particular order and tending to ramble back and forth between topics) why we like AD&D better than BX D&D, my inspirations and methods for creating The Heroic Legendarium (and the bootleg "AD&D Companion" that preceded it), what makes for good adventures and why Temple of Elemental Evil isn't one, my games with Gary in the 80s playtesting Necropolis (and my attempts at leveraging that experience to create an accurate AD&D conversion of it), using miniatures vs theater of the mind, why I like wargames but am not actually very good at them, why and how OSRIC needs to be updated, whether it's possible to make the Upper Outer Planes a location for interesting adventures, and probably some other stuff that I'm forgetting. 

It was fun having a nice long conversation with someone who shares my enthusiasm for this stuff. Maybe it will also be fun to listen in on that conversation... 

Friday, April 8, 2022

Literary and pop-culture examples of AD&D classes

A friend recently asked me if I had a list of literary or pop-culture characters that exemplify the various AD&D classes (in the same manner as the alignment examples I posted a few months back). I didn't, but it seemed like a fun idea so I came up with one. And, having done so, it seemed only fitting to post it here. Of course I've included the classes from The Heroic Legendarium alongside the canonical ones. I'm sure people could find things to quibble with in some of these, especially as some of the classes have been subtly or not-so-subtly redefined in later editions, but I feel all of these matches are good for how I envision the classes and how they were portrayed in the 1st edition books.

Fighter - John Carter of Mars, Hercules, Sinbad, Robin Hood, d’Artagnan (The Three Musketeers),  Odysseus, Thor (Marvel comics), James T. Kirk (Star Trek), Duncan Idaho (Dune)

Barbarian - Conan, Tarzan, Jeremiah Johnson

Hunter - Orion, Daniel Boone, Katniss Everdeen (Hunger Games)

Ranger - Aragorn, Natty Bumppo (James Fenimore Cooper), Davy Crockett

Cavalier - Sir Gawain, Sir Tristram, Boromir

Paladin - Sir Galahad, Sir Perceval, Roland Deschain (Dark Tower series)

Cleric - Van Helsing, Friar Tuck, Father Merrin (The Exorcist), Moses

Druid - Merlin, Radagast the Brown, Grizzly Adams

Mystic - Danny Torrance (Doctor Sleep), the Witches (Discworld series), Yoda (Star Wars series)

Magic-User - Gandalf, Circe, Ged/Sparrowhawk (Earthsea series), Hermione Granger (Harry Potter series), Dr. Strange (Marvel comics)

Illusionist - Saruman, Morgan le Fay

Savant - The Doctor (Doctor Who), Spock (Star Trek), Sherlock Holmes

Thief - Bilbo Baggins, the Gray Mouser (Fritz Leiber), Nifft the Lean (Michael Shea), Nuth (Lord Dunsany), Satampra Zeiros (Clark Ashton Smith), Aladdin

Acrobat - John Robie (Cary Grant in To Catch a Thief), Catwoman (Batman), Lupin III

Assassin - Black Widow (Marvel comics), John Wick

Mountebank - Cugel the Clever (Jack Vance), Harry Mudd (Star Trek), Professor Harold Hill (The Music Man)

Monk - Kwai Chang Caine (Kung Fu), Remo Williams (The Destroyer series)

Bard - Orpheus, Alan-a-Dale, Richard Francis Burton, Gurney Halleck (Dune)

Jester - Loki (Marvel comics), The Joker (Batman), Will Scarlet

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

AD&D Weather Tables

Dealing with weather in AD&D games has always been a source of frustration, because on the one hand knowing what the weather is like on any given day is totally relevant - not only as a matter of color and scene-setting, but it also impacts various rules-elements such as tracking, movement speed, certain spell and magic item functions, and so on - but the core rulebooks gloss over the topic completely and when a canonical system was introduced - by David Axler in Dragon magazine #68, later reprinted in the 1983 World of Greyhawk boxed set and, in a modified form, in the Wilderness Survival Guide, it was massively overcomplicated requiring a large number of sub-calculations and table references and also seeming to produce too many extreme results. 

I and everyone else I know quickly abandoned these tables and went back to either handwaving weather completely or picking a real world location and using its historical weather data from online archives. Not finding either of those methods really satisfying, but still wanting to incorporate weather into the game, I decided to create some tables of my own that still randomize the results but are easier to use than Axler's onerous system.

These tables were created in the specific context of an adventure I'm working on and are not intended to be a universal weather-generation system like Axler's, but since the environment they cover is a pretty common one in D&D games - a temperate inland mid-latitude combination of forest, hills, grasslands, and scrub, roughly comparable to the American mid-west - I figured it might be useful to some folks beyond myself and therefore worth sharing. 

I spent several hours pulling all of this together and am pretty confident in the quality of the results it returns with a few die-rolls each game-day. I'm sure some people will feel it is too granular and complicated, but there are plenty of other procedures in that ruleset that are as much or more complex (note also that the conversions between F and C temperatures are approximated for ease of use - don't bother pointing out to me that they aren't exact, because I already know).

-----------------------------------

Weather

The climate in this region is temperate and generally mild. Average daytime temperatures are as follows by season (with nighttime templates generally about 20℉ (10℃) cooler):

Winter: 40℉ (5℃)
Spring: 60℉ (15℃)
Summer: 75℉ (25℃)
Autumn: 60℉ (15℃)

In winter the sun rises around 7am and sets around 5pm, in spring and autumn the sun rises around 6am and sets around 6pm, and in summer the sun rises around 5am and sets around 7pm. A further half hour of twilight both precedes sunrise and follows sunset.

Each day roll 2d6 to determine the actual temperature:

2: 1d20℉ (1d10℃) colder than previous day
3-4: 1d12℉ (1d6℃) colder than previous day
5-6: 1d8℉ (1d4℃) colder than previous day
7: same temperature as previous day
8-9: 1d8℉ (1d4℃) warmer than previous day
10-11: 1d12℉ (1d6℃) warmer than previous day
12: 1d20℉ (1d10℃) warmer than previous day

In no event will these rolls make the temperature more than 30℉ (15℃) warmer or colder than the seasonal average (i.e. in spring the temperature ranges from 30-90℉ (0-30℃)).

Temperatures below 40℉ (5℃) are considered COLD weather; temperatures between 40℉ (5℃) and 60℉ (15℃) are considered COOL weather; temperatures between 60℉ (15℃) and 80℉ (27℃) are considered WARM weather, and temperatures over 80℉ (27℃) are considered HOT weather. These descriptors will typically be sufficient to provide to players unless their characters have some means of determining the exact temperature. Characters may suffer negative effects from temperatures below 30℉ (0℃) or above 100℉ (38℃) as detailed in The Heroic Legendarium, p. 85.

A second roll of 1d6 determines daily weather quality:

1 or less: precipitation (snow if temp is 30℉ (0℃) or lower, otherwise rain)
2: cloudy
3-4: partly cloudy
5-6: clear
(-1 in spring, -1 if precipitation on the previous day)

If desired, an additional 1d6 roll can be made each day to determine wind speed:

1: calm (1d4-1 mph)
2-3: light breeze (1d8 mph)
4-5: gentle breeze (2d6 mph)
6: moderate breeze (2d6+6 mph)
7: fresh breeze (2d6+12 mph)
8: strong breeze (2d6+18 mph)
(+1 in winter, +1 if precipitation on the current day)

Wind speeds of 0-5 mph are considered CALM, 6-30 mph is considered LIGHT WIND, 31-45 mph is a STRONG WIND, 46-60 mph is a GALE, 61-75 mph is a STORM, and 76 mph or more is a HURRICANE (cf. control weather and control winds spell descriptions).

These tables provide weather conditions for the sake of incidental color and detail, and will not produce extreme weather effects (such as extreme heat waves or cold snaps, blizzards, tornados, flash floods, etc.). Those types of extreme weather are covered under the Events table (q.v.).