Old School Fantasy Heart Breaker: Outline

There is no doubt that D&D spawned an entire hobby industry that quickly rose in popularity and passed the related war gaming hobby and also paved the way for other games to follow.  These games varied in their approach.  Some stuck pretty closely to the D&D rules while others paved a new path of innovation. Somewhere in the mix were games that tried to “do D&D better” by offering more of everything in D&D.  If D&D had 6 abilities then it should stand to reason that a game with 8, 10, or even more abilities should be even better, right?  That seems to be the guiding philosophy that several of these games followed in their design.  That is the guiding force behind my efforts to design an old school fantasy heart breaker… 

In an earlier post I mentioned this idea.  I have had it for quite some time and never pursued it very far. Here are some beginning notes and and an outline of ideas to pursue further.  The point is to include more options for most everything but also be a playable game.  The rules may be a little obtuse in some places but the game should still be playable.

Name: All games should have a cool name.  I want something like Maximum Fantasy, Phantasis Maximus, or something that sounds similar to “more is better”.

Dice: I want to include the use of all of the normal polydredon dice – d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, and d20 – and will try to incorporate some of the more unusual dice.

No Universal Task Mechanic: I know that it seems to be all the rage to have a universal task resolution system in most games today but this game is not built around that idea.  Some tasks will use a d20 while others use percentile dice and others might use a d6 to gauge success.  The whole point of the game is that it is supposed to be somewhat of a mess.

Attributes: The natural or base chance of most tasks will be represented by the attributes. Since this is a fantasy heart breaker I will need more than D&D so something like Might, Endurance, Coordination, Manipulation, Charisma, Intellect, Will, Influence, Perception, and Charm.  That list may not be final but it is an indicator of what I am looking to do.

Races:  All of the typical races plus several more exotic ones.  Simply put, closer to the selection available in the Palladium Fantasy RPG.

Classes:  The list of classes will be expanded greatly by one of two methods.  I can start with 4 to 6 basic classes and the characters can later “graduate” from them until a  multitude of advanced classes OR I can just have a ton of classes available right from the start.

Magic:  As there will be a lot of options for spell-casting classes, the spells and magical powers available will be unique for each spell-casting class.  There will be  no master spell list but there will be an individual list of options for  the mage, witch, sorcerer, elementalist, and the rest.

Priests:  The holy men will each be unique and run the full range of the pantheon.  Priests will have some spell-casting abilities but will also have other abilities granted from the gods; exorcism and divine intervention are just two examples.

Combat: There should probably be two flavors of combat resolution – a quick playing basic option with just a few options and a slower playing more advanced form with many options.

Armor: Will not make you harder to hit but will offer damage resistance and./or reduction and incur penalties to coordinated movement and actions requiring balance.

Weapon Skills: The training for weapons will be represented by a single skill for each weapon instead of broad categories such as sword, club, bows, etc.

Skills: A long list of skills available for player characters.

Psionics: I am not even sure if this will be included in the game; might be a good reason for a supplement…

Morals/Ethics: Similar to the alignment mechanic but there will, of course, be more options.

Experience: Similar to the old class & level systems.  Experience will represent your character’s actual progression in knowledge of their class & career path.

Reputation: Characters will begin play with a blank slate and can gain a good reputation or bad reputation.  Their reputation can influence NPC reactions if they are that well known.

Social Class: Characters can be of low birth to high birth status and it will also influence NPC reactions. Other effects will include a  modifier on wealth and starting gold.

Inheritance: Characters will have a chance of starting play with an item passed down to them by a family member or a teacher.  An apprentice mage may begin with a scroll or a warrior may begin with a weapon, for example.

This is a good starting list of topics.  I may never get around to doing anything with this but I wanted to get the idea out of my head so I could move on to other things.  The main idea is to be somewhat obtuse in the game design but not to the point that people can not understand the rules or have fun with the rules.  If either of those occur then the design is flawed and needs modified.  I am unsure if I will do any additional work on this but this basic outline is here for the time I decide to expand on it. More later?





Spotlight on Talislanta: Savage Lands

It is an exciting time to be a Talislanta fan!  The game has been out of print for a few years now but the entire library is available in the Downloads section of the Talislanta site.  Suddenly, there is talk of a new Talislanta book coming out!  The new book is tentatively titled Talislanta: Savage Lands and will cover a “dark chaotic age that followed the Great Disaster (all knowledge of spell casting lost, no cities or nations, just warring tribes)”.  Sounds fun!!!   

Toldara: Some Preliminary Thoughts

This post has a list of observations I have made in regards to rebooting my campaign world of Toldara. The information here will serve as an outline and will give an indication of what to expect in future posts concerning Toldara.

Game System(s)

Shortly after the release of the 3E core books I started making notes for my campaign world; it was not long before I decided to share the design duties with my cousin and we added more information as time passed. We made the transition to 3.5E and eventually went to Pathfinder. Alex has done most of the tweaking in both of those systems.  I enjoy Pathfinder but I have gotten way behind on the releases and I also want to experiment with using some other systems to represent the world of Toldara.  I am leaving the future Pathfinder development of Toldara in the very capable hands of Alex.  The systems I am currently experimenting with include the following:

Back to the Dungeon! RPG : A neo-clone system that I have contributed material to the design.  It only seems fitting that I should write a supplement.

Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG: For no other reason than the funky aspect of the game design.

Halberd Fantasy Role Playing (USR) – I like the fast and loose nature of the rules and I am just curious how it will handle stuff originally done in another crunchier system.

MicroLite 20: This greatly condensed version of the open gaming fantasy rules is of great interest to me. The “MicroToldara” rules are basically complete.  All I really need to do is add the Five F background system, a few classes, and then the basic world details.  This may very well be the first handbook completed.

Perilous Journeys: A skill-based fantasy game that is not a class & level system but is the spiritual successor to Lejendary Adventures.

Swords & Wizardry-Complete: I dig it because the complexity level feels about right on a match for the mash up of AD&D/D&D we used to play back in the day.  Hell, I might just do it all in B/X format…

I realize that there are six systems mentioned above for play-testing purposes.  What I aim to do is something similar to the character funnel from DCC RPG except through the process of tinkering with the different game systems I will be able to determine which rules set best suits my game play tastes.


The world of Toldara has always added four races to the core races in the rules – Anshus (a humanoid feline-like race), Karnin (a humanoid canine-like race), Oranian (a bird-like winged race), and the Slarn (a lizard-like race) – in addition to any changes to the core races.  I have been thinking about the races lately with an eyes towards trimming the list a bit.

I know that Alex added Goblins to the list of available player races in his Pathfinder campaign.  I have done the same in the MicroToldara version.  I am not sure the Goblin will be an option in any other game systems.

I am starting to wonder if any of the traditionally core races should be limited or excluded from the campaign. If one of them were excluded then one of the new races could take the place of the excluded race.  I am also considering moving the Oranians to NPC status due to their wings and flying ability.


After getting some feedback and looking around at other maps on blogs or other sites I have decided to start over on the map.  I think the best way to accomplish that is by starting small and then expanding outward. The player characters will begin as novices so they really will not be travelling far for adventure.  The simple truth is that I do not need the entire world mapped out from the start.  A new map with the elements I want to keep will be completed shortly.  As the world information grows through playing in the world then the map will increase in size.

Starting Location

Of course, the map will start out with the town and the surrounding area.  I am going to keep it a limited area with just a short distance in each direction mapped out.  Basically, a size that will be big enough for the novice adventurers to explore with hints at a larger, more dangerous world outside of those boundaries. Things I want to use include the following:

town: big enough that it offers a useful selection of equipment and adventure opportunities but some of the “better” stuff is available in larger cities.  I am not shooting for ultra-realism but I want it to represent a decent size place with a large enough population where not everybody is acquainted with everybody and there are still surprises here and there.

caravans: the caravans will need guards due to raiders and this will provide some adventure opportunity in itself.

mine: the nearby mine will need laborers and will also be the nearest dungeon for the characters after some trouble starts up inside.

mountains: there will be some mountains nearby with caves scattered among them and if the characters go far enough into the mountains who knows what sorts of adventure awaits?


Some of the topics I am working on include a history of the realm and surrounding areas, a list of deities, some organizations, attempting to make coins unique instead of generic gold/silver/etc., and making notes as I think up other stuff.

More later….

A Fresh Look at Old Game Ideas

In my earlier post, I outlined the contents of one of my old gaming notebooks.  After a bit of time with some reflection and attempts at adding to these ideas I have come to several conclusions.

Board Game design is definitely not my thing.  I can come up with concepts for the theme and ideas about game mechanics but I lack the necessary practical experience to bring it all together in a satisfying game experience.  I have played a few board games in my time but nowhere near the number of hours spent on role-playing games.  It makes a big difference.  I am tinkering with Auto Arena every now and then but who knows how far it will go?  I attempted a design for Escape from Camp Blood – think 80’s slasher movie goodness – with a fellow blogger but it just didn’t work out.  I haven’t completely given  up hope on these but I wouldn’t expect anything soon at all.  The Fantasy Board Game is the most likely to happen just because it would resemble an “almost rpg” and that would be a much better fit for my experience.

What about the role-playing games that I mentioned?  I still want to do them but some ideas and plans have changed.  First, A World in Ruins has been renamed From the Ashes!. I just think the name sounds better. Second, two of the game ideas – To The Stars! and From the Ashes! – are not going to be new designs but adaptations of of the Back to the Dungeon rules with appropriate genre modifications.  That just leaves the Old School Role-Playing game idea.  This will most likely see a name change when I think of a “good” one. The point of this game design is to follow the example of the early games following the release of D&D that were built on the “more is better” philosophy.  Simply put, I will offer more abilities, more races, more classes, more EVERYTHING!  The design will purposely be obtuse in some areas just to emulate some of the craziness of those early days.  This should prove to be a fun design that will be playable but balance will NOT be a design goal at all.

That’s where my thoughts are currently at on these projects.  More later…




Spotlight on ars phantasia

*This post is the same as the original on my other blog, The Semi-Retired Gamer, with one exception – I removed the introductory paragraph explaining the “sunday spotlight” feature that I will be adding on an irregular basis to that blog.*


There are plenty of gaming blogs out there to read so why should you add ars phantasia: reflections on fantasy cartography and game design to the list of blogs you follow and read?  The simple answer is that Tad Davis does not waste your time with diarrhea of the keyboard to drive up his post count but instead offers up posts of substance and insight that can improve your gaming experience. The first post I read there was Testing Out a new Dungeon Format and it immediately grabbed my attention because he detailed a method of writing up a dungeon for practical use at the table that could make your Dungeon Mastering time a little smoother. By using his format you can easily see what to read to the players, search results, traps, and encounters.  Granted, some prefer a different format style or to just wing it with minimal notes but the method presented there is clear, concise, and easy to use; I know I am going to steal borrow it for my own use.

Although that one post is enough for me to recommend checking out ars phantasia for yourself, I dug around in the archives and found some other stuff of interest also.  Clicking on the Portfolio tab on the home home page will take you to a collection of his impressive cartography work with examples in a photorealistic or hand drawn style.  If you are interested in information on Hexcrawl Procedures you can read about the process used by Mr. Davis.  He also put up a post on Hexcrawl Resources with everything from inspirational reading, design & mapping, hex-mapping programs, drop-in adventures, drop-in maps, and miscellaneous information.  There is a tutorial on Creating Forest in GIMP that he originally wrote for the Cartographer’s Guild a few years back.  Finally, Mr. Davis has also come up with an Alternate Armor System for the D20 Fantasy system.  This is something I have always wanted to do an “Armor as DR” system and he has come up with something that is far better than my attempts because it also has a method for wear and tear.

In the spotlight on ars phantasia above I touched on several of the available posts.  That is just a small sampling of what is available.  Stop by and look around to see what you find.  There should be something of interest for just about any fantasy gamer.

Getting Serious

I know I’ve said it before but I need to devote some time to this blog. The main purpose of this blog was to explore the options of WordPress because I’ve always wanted to compare the two services. I’ve been virtually silent for quite some time but I have taken steps to remedy that.

I have updated the About Me section of the blog with much more information. I am also going to start posting here regularly so I can get the hang of WordPress and decided whether to focus on it or continue with blogger.

Look for more posts soon…