Back to the Dungeon! (Neo-Clone RPG)

Yeah, I know everybody and their brother is working on or has put together a retro-clone of one of the editions.  I never started working on a straight up retro-clone but I have helped out with a few things on a neo-clone rpg, Back to the Dungeon!  What makes it different?  Well, it obviously has a place on the D&D family tree but it does not stick as closely to the SRD as other games; several sections have been re-worked.  Back to the Dungeon emphasizes the free-wheeling nature of the earlier days of the hobby with an updated rule set.  One of the biggest differences is the special effect granted when you roll a natural 20 in certain circumstances.  For example, a cleric will heal some damage to allies and damage undead within a certain radius. Each class has their own unique special ability that is triggered in this fashion.  The rules are presented in an old school ‘zine format.

For anyone interested, you can check out the blog or the Google+ community.  The rules can be found at either location.




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?




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…




Old Gamers Notebook – What’s Inside?

I imagine that many role-players have a notebook, or even several notebooks, used for storing all sorts of gaming information. I always liked to use a 5 subject spiral notebook.  The information I kept in these notebooks included D&D characters, ideas for new games, setting notes, house rules, and other assorted ideas; sometimes, I would include other non-gaming stuff in them also.  Of course, with the advent of computers I have pretty much migrated any gaming stuff I do to folders on my laptop.  I ran across one of my old gaming notebooks recently.  It was probably the most recent of the notebooks.  Regardless, I flipped through it to see what was inside.

Board Games
I have had several ideas that I would like to turn into board games but I have never actually completed the design on any of them.  I had ideas for 3 board games written in this notebook.

Army Men: This would more accurately be described as a war game instead of a board game.  I spent 8 years in the Army and I remember playing with those old plastic Army men out in the sandbox  growing up.  I wanted to do a simple set of rules for fighting out battles with these figures because the mass of armies would be easy to purchase and assemble due to low costs.

Auto Arena: I was a big fan of Car Wars by Steve Jackson Games.  When it went out of print I was not
happy.  My rules were misplaced years ago.  I started on an attempt to do a new version of vehicle combat rules.  It would share some similarities with Car Wars  such as being set in the future and have fighting cars but it would also be different.  Auto Arena would be set up like NASCAR in a league format.  The drivers would go to different cities throughout the season and compete in an ultimate demolition derby type event.  Instead of just ramming, the drivers would also have guns and other equipment to use in the event.  The arenas at each location would be unique and have their own challenges.

Fantasy Board Game: This would be a board game for when you were just in the mood to pick up and play.  It would be more detailed than the old DUNGEON board game from TSR but less complicated than D&D.

Role-Playing Games
I began playing D&D in 1980 with the Holmes Basic set.  Shortly after I began playing I started having ideas for games of my own.  I have designed several role-playing games but these three are subjects that I never finished.

A World In Ruins: Gamma World was probably the 3rd RPG I purchased.  I always enjoyed the game but I also wanted a grittier version of the setting.

Old School Role-Playing: This was actually planned as a series of games.  The first planned game was to be Old School Role-Playing: Fantasy Rules.  The inspiration for these rules were the games that followed after D&D early in the hobby.  Basically, the fantasy rules would be similar to D&D but include more options, more rules, and more crunch just as the early competitors did.

To The Stars…: This was to be inspired by the science fiction of the ’50’s and ’60’s films.  Of course, that means flying saucers, little green men, ray guns, and everything else.  I still think this could be a fun game to design and play.

House Rules
I also had various notes written down about house rule ideas for several games.

AD&D: Ideas about a new Ability Score generation method, a Hit Points variant idea, and a note that a racial bonus of +1 allows a score of 19.

D&D 3E: A breakdown of the racial traits listing in the race entries so custom races could be matched to the official entries.

RIFTS: Ideas on a low attribute table for the Palladium Megaversal system.

Risk: Submarine rules for the RISK board game.


Looking back at this stuff is interesting to me.  My plan is to look at each one of these ideas in a new light.  If possible, I want to expand on the original ideas and see about completing some of these ideas.

More later…