Wednesday, December 28, 2011

LL screen update

Hi all, just wanted to post an update here on the progress of this project.

First, many thanks to all who preordered! I received a proof and everything looks good, so I gave the thumbs up for the printer to get started. Assuming all goes as planned, I should receive the print run at the end of the first week of January. Then I'll send Steve the copies that need to be signed and I'll get started on mailing all the non-signed orders. Once I receive the signed screens back from Steve those orders will go out. So everything is looking on schedule to complete all orders by the end of January.

For people who were unable to preorder, my plan is for the screens to go into distribution in March or thereabouts. However, in January I'll probably also send product to online retailers so keep an eye out at places like Noble Knight Games for earlier availability.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Only 6 days left for the LL screen Kickstarter!

Preorders for the Labyrinth Lord Referee Screen will close after 6 more days. After that time the signed copies will no longer be available. After preorders are filled in January, the remaining print run will go into distribution, probably sometime in the first quarter of 2012. For this preorder unsigned screens are $10, but retail price will go up to $12.95 once they go to distribution.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Pacesetter System Part 2: The Action Table

It's a true shame that Pacesetter went out of business when it seemed like they were just hitting their stride. Of the products they published, it was really only CHILL that went on to enjoy future support, but the second edition used a revised system published my Mayfair Games.

I think if Pacesetter had survived longer the Action Table system would have become better known. It is a real gem, but if it suffered in any way other than its short published lifespan it was only because it is quite different from anything else and probably needs to be introduced to a reader in stages rather than all at once.

At its heart the system is a percentile system. I talked about attributes and how skill percentages are determined in the last article. Whenever the outcome for an event or action needs to be determined, like skills, paranormal talents, or some other kind of roll like avoiding the effects of poison, the player or referee will roll percentile dice.

There are two kinds of these checks. One is called a "general" check and the other is a "specific" check. If the check is a general check, you are only trying to roll equal to or less than the target number. Some skills and paranormal talents work this way, where you are only interested in a binary success or failure. So far that sounds pretty familiar, right? These kinds of rolls are common to pretty much all RPGs. The specific check is where things are different. Refer to the Action Table below (thanks Tim, I borrowed the one you posted on your blog!):

So let's say I'm rolling against my Gambling skill of 74%. You'll note that on the Action Table there are 10 columns under Defense Column. Usually skills use Column 3. If I roll 44 on 1d%, I subtract 44 from 74, with a result of 30. Looking at the Attack Margin Column I cross-reference a margin of 30 to column 2. The result is "C". What that letter means for a specific check when dealing with skills or paranormal talents is specifically tailored to the skill or talent. In this case it allows me a big bonus to cheat at gambling. Yeah me!

You will also note on the chart that ability checks usually use column 2. Sometimes a referee might decide a task is harder than usual and require a higher column number to roll on, thus limiting the degree of success that is possible.

But what about combat? One of the differences between the Action Table system and most other games is that essentially all weapons do the same damage. This was one of the hardest things for me to wrap my mind around at first. Most games are what I would call "front loaded". Damage is decided by perceived lethality of the weapon, and generally skill of use does not affect damage even though ability adjustments might. So a sword in the hand of a 1st level fighter in Labyrinth Lord will do the same damage as a 5th level fighter or even a 15th level fighter, though increased skill may be reflected in additional attacks at those higher levels. But with high skill also comes more attacks in the Action Table system, too.

But the Action Table system is "back loaded". Rather than split hairs about whether something deals 1d6 vs. 1d8 damage, the degree of success in a skill roll determines how well the weapon is used. When fighting melee combat the attacker matches the defender's equivalent skill percentage to the range of numbers above the Defense Column to see which column results are used. So for example, if I'm attacking someone with a sword, we use the defender's sword skill percentage to determine defense. This makes a lot of sense. He can use his skill to parry, anticipate my actions, and deflect damage. If the defender does not have the particular skill that the attacker is using, then he uses his Unskilled Melee ability (which all characters have) to decide the defense column.

So what's happened here are three things. The Action Table will have accounted for the attacker's skill when looking at attack margin, at the defender's ability in using his skill to decide the defense column, and third, the defense ability is also accounting for the ability to dodge or parry. So many games have a separate dodge skill, which in my opinion is a terrible way to handle dodge or parry. It often results in an endless combat circle of "I hit!" - "Wait, no you didn't, he rolled his dodge skill!"

Missile weapons, including everything from bows to laser guns, work just slightly different. There is a wider margin of chance for melee weapons. The defender does not use a skill to determine defense column because there is no chance to parry and dodge in the same way one might in a knife fight. Instead, chance plays the role here and the defender rolls a d10 to decide which defense column is used.

Aside from some situational modifiers, that's pretty much it. The Action System is actually not so complicated. You could sit down and play right now with this basic understanding. It is quite elegant in its ability to handle many situations within the table. Now of course, there can be more to it. There are various situational modifiers that many RPGs have that cal alter your skill roll. Characters with high strength can inflict more damage in melee combat, etc.

In this system characters have both stamina points and wound boxes. When wound boxes reach zero a character dies. When stamina reaches zero the character passes out, which could make him as good as dead depending on the situation. This is a gritty, deadly system.

I haven't decided yet if there will be a "Part 3" to this series. Maybe I should open it up to questions. Does anyone out there have any questions about the system? Has there always been something that baffled you about it? Just want a clarification? Fire away!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

ROTWORLD print versions now available!

The day of mass consumption of turkey flesh approaches, and what a better way to celebrate than by role-playing that you are fighting against undead flesh eaters! But they're after an entirely different white meat...

Now you can buy a perfect bound or hard cover print copy of ROTWORLD!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Labyrinth Lord Referee Screen Kickstarter Launched!

Over the years there have been a number of requests for Goblinoid Games to publish a referee screen. I've launched a Kickstarter for this project, so drop on by and pledge your support! We're also offering signed screens exclusively through this Kickstarter opportunity.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Pacesetter System Part 1: Intro and Characters


The Pacesetter house system, also called the Action Table System (ATS), was used in TIMEMASTER, CHILL (1st edition), Star Ace, and Sandman. Pacesetter was a company started by Mark Acres and colleagues, who broke away from TSR in the early 80s. There was a period in the early 80s where game companies were trying out a slightly different approach to RPG systems by using a chart from which most game resolution would reference.

As many readers already know, Goblinoid Games is the current owner of TIMEMASTER, and recently released ROTWORLD, a zombie survival horror game, using the same system. ROTWORLD is the first in a series of RPGs for this system that will cover various genres.

One of the things that separates ATS from other chart systems is the wide applicability and granularity. The system is gritty, and manages to be a functional universal system without feeling like it makes sacrifices in resolution complexity. This is (in my opinion) where some other universal systems (chart-based or not) fail. This post is the first in a series of posts where I talk about the system and some of my thoughts on its applications and strengths. Many people are unfamiliar with the ATS or haven't looked at it for many years, so this series is a way to bring everyone up to speed.


Characters are built based on eight basic abilities: Strength, Dexterity, Agility, Personality, Perception, Willpower, Luck, and Stamina. These abilities are generated initially by rolling 3d10 and adding together the results. This produces a bell curve, similar to using 3d6 in Labyrinth Lord. However, the ATS is a percentile and d10-based system, so to get these scores within that range the sum generated for each ability is doubled, then 20 is added, producing a range of 26-80. This is important because skills reference these abilities and ability checks also need to be applied to a range compatible with a d%.

All of my readers are familiar with RPGs, so these abilities will be self explanatory for our purposes. However, the Luck ability is something a lot of RPGs don't have, so I'll say a few things about that here. Luck can be used by a PC to reduce damage dealt by attacks. The Luck score generated at character creation can be permanently reduced to avoid damage. I like this mechanic because it meshes well with my old-school system sensibilities. Luck mechanics in some other games are bottomless pools. In the ATS, Luck is a very useful resource, but it is a resource, and when a PC is out of luck, well....he's out of luck! A character's Luck can also be used by the referee as a base percentage chance for a PC to avoid death in certain situations, or to simply have a lucky break at some point.


In the Action Table System skills are percentile-based. Each skill references one, two, sometimes even three, basic abilities, and is divided by the number of contributing abilities. So for example, Wrestling is Strength+Agility, divided by 2. Then, characters will have a level in the skill. There are three levels, Specialist, Expert, and Master. They grant +15, +30, and +55, respectively, to the base skill percent generated by abilities. At character creation a character can buy a skill at Expert level, but only through play and experience points can he raise it to Master.

One important and refreshing thing about skills in this system is that characters will start with only a few skills. Some skills default to abilities, and so they can be performed by anyone. I like skill-based systems generally, but when a character becomes a laundry list of 30 skills it is not just cumbersome in play, but it reflects a system philosophy that tries to identify a skill for about anything that a character can do. In my opinion this is the root of the problem with most people who dislike skill-based systems. So many mechanics are placed into skills that all characters have to be encyclopedias of skills. So ATS gets this right in creating a balance between having a smaller number of meaningful skills, but also in having a system that does not put characters in a straightjacket for doing other things not defined by skills.

Paranormal Talents

Paranormal talents (PTs) are supernatural abilities possessed by some characters. Obviously, these will not always be available to characters depending on the specific implementation of the ATS and the genre of game. For example, they are always a part of TIMEMASTER games, but are purely optional in ROTWORLD. The PTs available are not always the same either between games. PTs function in a similar manner to skills, being based on abilities and used as a percentage roll for resolution. The number of PTs characters start with also varies depending on the game, but in general characters start with only one or a few, and can buy more with experience. Using PTs costs Willpower. Characters have a fluid pool of Willpower that is based on the Willpower ability, and they regenerate points with rest.

This is where I'll leave the discussion for now. Next time I'll start to actually get into the Action Table and how skills, PTs, and other actions are resolved.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

First Rotworld review

Check out the first review of Rotworld here!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

ROTWORLD now available in electronic format!

As promised, ROTWORLD is now available, just in time for Halloween!

The electronic version is up for download, and print versions will follow by the middle of November.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Rotting Dead Walk before Halloween!

Still looking for a game to run for Halloween?

Goblinoid Games is pleased to announce that before Halloween we will release a new game of zombie survival horror.

Fight for survival in a world gone to rotters!

Visit the ROTWORLD website, and download the Action Table and character sheet.

The Rotting Dead Walk Among Us!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Realms of Crawling Chaos in distribution

Just a heads up for anyone waiting to buy this book at your local game store--it is now available through distribution channels!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Star Explorer Print on Demand now available

For those who may be waiting for a print option for Star Explorer, I got the proof back the other day and the game is now available via POD at The Game Crafter.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

TIMEMASTER reprint now available

Listen up recruits! We didn’t save you from death in your own time only to have you die at the hands of a stinking Demorean. So pay close attention. You were extracted a fraction of a second before your deaths because we recognized a talent in each of you that made you a good candidate for the Time Corps. Would you rather be rotting in the distant past or saving humanity’s future? That’s what I thought.

You’ll see and experience things in the Time Corps your momma never prepared you for. The cusp of human evolution? Been there. The meteor that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs? I had to put it back on its collision course. I dined and drank with kings, and fought for scraps in the prison camps of Gliese 777 IV. The Demoreans will destroy us if they can, and you’re the last defense in time and space…

The reprint of the core TIMEMASTER rules is now available! The PDF ($4.99) has been updated at RPGnow--if you've already purchased the PDF you are able to download the updated version for free in your account.

The physical reprint is available in both hard cover ($28.95) and perfect bound ($18.95) versions.

The interior features new art by Mark Allen. The reprint combines the two manuals included in the original boxed set. The introductory adventure is now available as a free PDF.

Join the Time Corps and fight the Demoreans in the 4th dimension!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Star Explorer electronic version now available

The electronic version for home printing and assemble is now up at RPGnow!

All files are high-res, so they are large but they will produce a high quality print for you.

The print on demand version will follow soon.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Geekdad at Wired talks about old-school D&D

Here is a link to Geekdad's discussion about old-school D&D, with mention of retroclones as a great alternative to the original books. He says LL + AEC is his favorite version, I'm honored!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Otherworld Miniatures Official Labyrinth Lord Line Coming in September!

Otherworld has announced the release of their first Official Labyrinth Lord Miniatures boxed sets, beginning in late September with the Level One Monsters boxed sets.

Check out the preview of the box art here!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Free one-page adventure at Gen Con

Each publisher participating in the OSR booth at Gen Con this year will have one flyer that goes into bags when people purchase items at the booth. I decided that rather than waste the space on the other side I would include a free one-page adventure! Side 2 of the flyer includes a 20 area adventure for 1st level characters, titled "The Gibbering Tower." The adventure should provide 3-4 hours of play, and would be perfect for a pick-up game at the con.

This adventure is signed and numbered. There are 150 of them so be sure to hit the OSR booth early and check out all the great products from many different publishers. Also note that this adventure will not be provided anywhere else except in PDF form to Labyrinth Lord Society members on the weekend of Gen Con. So if you have not yet joined, drop on by the website to join up!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Stonehell Dungeon play reports and other thoughts about demo games

For those who like reading play reports I wanted to direct your attention to James Mishler's blog, where is has posted a compilation of play reports so far from the sessions I'm running at Chimera Hobby Shop.

I've been running a biweekly game at the store and we've had four sessions. It's been a great experience so far. One of the things that I've always felt was true but couldn't quite get a bead on was the idea that there are many people out there who played old-school D&D and still would if they could. For whatever reason they don't have a group, or maybe they've lost touch with the scene when new editions came out. Other people who still prefer older editions may not even come to their local store anymore, except possibly to buy miniatures or another game that they're into. So far my experience at Chimera seems to confirm this (not just in recent weeks, but based on my discussions with James and observations about the store since September last year), as there are many old-schoolers who come in for other reasons and are lucky enough to have James there to explain the range of old-school products that are out there right now.

As a result of James and running games in the store we've brought in several people who played D&D "back in the day", not to mention some people who never gamed before at all. In our last session one gamer jumped in who is there on the same days James and I have run Labyrinth Lord over the last many months. He hadn't played in our sessions before, but this time he decided to give it a go. After talking with him it turns out that he did play first edition in the past but is now mainly into gaming with miniatures (Warhammer I think). He just wasn't interested in the new editions of D&D. He may not become a regular player, but our demo games were able to entice him back into the fold.

There are cases where a parent comes into the store who remembers playing old-school D&D in high school or college, and wants to introduce his/her child to RPGs now that he/she is old enough. James has turned more than one parent on to Labyrinth Lord in this situation. We're able to introduce a whole new generation to old-school gaming. Labyrinth Lord is doing fairly well in distribution, so I hope this is happening at other stores across the country.

Another thing I've learned is that it is impossible to determine all of this from internet feedback alone. There are a lot of people out there who use the internet to buy products, download resources, etc. but most never contact you or post on forums or blogs. Those of us who are active at communicating in this "community" on the internet can forget that we are the exception, not the norm. There is a whole silent audience out there. Some of the kids who show up at the game table in the store use free resources they've downloaded and that I'm not even aware of! Yet they've never posted anywhere in our community.

From an operational standpoint it can be challenging to run a large group for a demo game. James had been running Labyrinth Lord for several months before I started Stonehell, so the word had already been circulating in our community. Since I started we've always had at least eight people playing, and the last two times we've had 9 (plus play deaths require making new characters, taking table time). Things are always in flux, so even though a few people are pretty regular we always have new people or people who can come maybe every other time. What this means is that if they all show up at once I might find myself trying to run a group of 15-18!

If the numbers enlarge consistently it begs the question of how to handle it. Lucky for me James is here and if I wanted to split the party into two separate groups we could do that. Not everyone on the Labyrinth Lord Society Demo Team may have that option. I've thought about other possibilities, such as weekly signup. Since one of the goals of demo games in a store is to introduce new people, one might even have a policy that new people are allowed to reserve a spot by signing up, and returning people can join as space allows. It's hard to make a choice like that because it would suck to turn anyone away, which is why I have not tried it at this point. However, for other demo people it might be an option if you find yourself with this abundance of riches in players.

It's been a long time since I ran a group this big. My ideal group size would probably be about five if I were running the game at home. The added challenge to the large size is that the players and characters can change each session. The upside is that the demo sessions are extremely effective in getting the word out about Labyrinth Lord, the store has sold a lot of books, but the downside especially as time goes on is that due to the nature of the game I am limited in the way I can approach refereeing. There are areas I'd like to go into more depth, both with rules and complexity of the gaming environment, but when you are trying to keep a full table focused and moving you have to cut corners. It most cases for demo games it may not be necessary to increase complexity--but one reason I feel that way is because the regular attendees transition at some point from being new players to being seasoned players, and with large transient groups it is hard to add spice and keep things moving. One of the things this all boils down to is the question of whether you are able to demo a game to your best potential if the group size is not ideal.

Another challenge is the age range. We have two new players, one who is 10 years old and her mother, both never played any RPG before. It is absolutely delightful to see the enthusiasm of a young first time player. Everything is a novelty, from striking down your first zombie to buying a pony for your halfling adventurer. The hard part is indulging these natural desires to explore the small details of this new game while there are 8 other players, some only a little older but experienced RPGers, and others much older and have been playing for 30 years.

On the plus side, these are wonderful "problems" to have! One thing that is apparent is that there is fertile ground in my local area for old-school gaming and I will start thinking more seriously now about establishing a game convention. Probably something smaller and less formal the first few years, more like a "game day(s)" but we'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Creatures of the Tropical Wastelands for Mutant Future

I just wanted to give a heads up that Skirmisher Publishing has released a new source book for Mutant Future!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

New Module: Shadowbrook Manor for Labyrinth Lord

Patrick Kennedy brings us Shadowbrook Manor, a challenging "funhouse" adventure for characters of levels 1-3.

Once a powerful proponent of Law, the Archmage Tazimack the Red was eventually driven mad by a fear of mortality. As he slipped into insanity his retirement home began to reflect the chaotic bent of his mind. Long after Tazimack’s unnaturally animated body has disintegrated, his manor house remains as a shadow cast by a twisted intellect. Can the characters bring order to this chaos?

Find it in print and in PDF format!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Review of Mutant Future on RPGnet

There is a nice review of MF just posted on RPGnet. Looks like he is reviewing the version with the old art, but not a bad review nonetheless!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Is there a market for campaign worlds?

I just wanted to throw the question out there. I could be wrong but my perception is that the one product that old-school gamers desire least of all is a campaign world. Does that seem accurate? How interested are you in published campaign worlds, and what would one need to be like to be of interest--in terms of presentation and originality? Do you prefer straight up typical fantasy or does a world need a "twist"? How far is too far when trying to be "original"? Just testing the waters.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The term "Retro-Clone" keeps evolving

Dave recently talked a bit about the term retro-clone on his blog. I've started to notice something else interesting going on lately. It seems like people are now extending the term to include things like Palladium Fantasy, Rolemaster, Tunnels and Trolls, and other early fantasy games from the 80s. There are two interesting parts to this. One is that the term seems to be losing the temporal element it originally had, to include things that are "retro" by virtue of actually being old, not newly "created" to be retro. The second is that the "clone" element, even though it already had become blurred from it's original intent, is now seeming to encompass fantasy heartbreakers in general regardless of game system. Or in other words, any early fantasy RPG also that was created as a reaction to early D&D. There also seems to be an element of shift so that anything claiming to capture an "old-school feel" regardless of system (tweaked d20, or something pretty different), is being called a retro-clone.

Has anyone else noticed this? Where do you think this is going?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The OSR Publishing Group at Lulu is Dead.

Over two years ago I started the Old School Renaissance Group Store at Lulu. It was an effort to "unify" the OSR, or keep track of the various published materials from different sources. It was met with much enthusiasm and was well support for several years. I think it helped a lot of people track down products they never would have known about otherwise. I became very busy and didn't put as much effort into updating it and keeping it going for the last year or so, and today I sought to rectify that to reinvigorate it and the Labyrinth Lord Publishing Group store. Unfortunately, I discovered that Lulu recently stopped supporting groups.

The store still exists for the time being but no new products can be added. So the store is effectively dead. Despite how large the OSR has grown, I still think there could be a need to create a kind of "hub" for publishers. I have a few ideas about how to do that, but as much as I wish I could maintain such a thing I have to be realistic in that I simply don't have the time. There are added headaches in deciding what to include and what not to. An ideal website would allow each publisher to update his/her own publisher info page. In any case, if anyone is willing to step up to host and maintain such a site I'd love to have a discussion about how to do it.

As I write this I'm actually a little surprised at how sad it makes me that the group store is dead. At the time it was made I felt it was a very positive thing, uniting people who were all into the same kind of gaming across the various clones and publishers. It was a way of showing that we don't have to break apart and faction into various micro-niches of competition. Maybe that hope is already unrealistic because of how much the OSR has grown since 2009. Also, there are more delivery methods today for POD than just Lulu, also more companies only offer print products from their own stores, so trying to create a group store would be almost impossible. Still, a kind of hub to direct people to various publishers and other sources might be doable.

Dungeon Module ASE1 by Henchman Abuse

I just wanted to give a shout out about Henchman Abuse, and their new module for Labyrinth Lord. Dungeon Module ASE1 is an impressively large module that a lot of game play can be squeezed from. It is gonzo in the sense that it incorporates a lot of science fantasy, which could be an injection of something fresh to you campaign. Henchman Abuse was kind enough to send me a PDF comp copy, so I wanted to give it a mention here.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

DCC RPG: Observations and Comments

When I downloaded the DCC RPG beta rules I have to admit that when I moved past the cover image I was greeted with something that caught me completely by surprise. I guess I was expecting either a full color interior with art more in the style of the cover, or at least fancy layout with b/w interior. What greeted me was a very definite and probably exaggerated presentation of old-school styled art and layout. As I looked through the beta release I realized that the design and presentation is very strongly influenced by the internet phenomena we commonly call the OSR, which surprised me even more. Some readers will think, “well duh” to that, but the reason it surprised me is because a little over two years ago Joseph Goodman contacted myself and some other old-school publishers about getting Labyrinth Lord and other materials into distribution (which was just a few months before I relaunched LL back into distro myself). I had a few conversations with Joe that left me with the impression that he felt the online scene was too small to market to alone, and that more of an effort needs to be directed at stores and gamers at conventions. So to come full circle, this is why it surprised me that the DCC RPG would be so influenced by opinions from blogs and forums. I think in some ways Joe was right in that it’s always good to try to widen an audience, but for him to inform much of system design and presentation based on the internet surprised me.

This is very interesting for a few reasons. One reason is that it looks like the “OSR”, whatever it is or isn’t, has reached a level of influence that many people would have never anticipated. This isn’t to say the influence is huge, because I still think the majority of people who don’t frequent forums etc. know nothing of it. Nonetheless, WotC has clearly noticed it and reacted to it, and others continue to as time goes on. Another thing that is interesting about this is that I’ve learned that the majority of publishers these days receive most of their income through internet sales/orders, with that being direct sales, POD, or with electronic books, or in many cases a combination of these. Sales through traditional distribution, for most, are smaller in number and profits are less per unit because of the distribution structure.

What all of this comes around to is that my impression of the DCC RPC is that it has been designed and presented specifically to attract people from the OSR and to touch some of the “nerves” of the OSR that are frequently talked about. The game probably is not aimed at people who are really die hard about playing only the original games books, but there are many people in the OSR who are more flexible, and might be willing to play something like the DCC RPG even with its 3rd edition heritage.

I’m not going to do a complete review of the DCC RPG, partly because it is probably not appropriate for me to do so. I write this as a person interested in old-school D&D and the “revival” of that, however you decide to label it. I’ll talk about four of the “OSR nerves” that I think Goodman is trying to hit and my thoughts about it.

Appendix N: This is one of the areas that immediately tells me Goodman is aiming for the online OSR movement. If you could gather all of the OSR bloggers and a bunch of regular posters to old-school D&D forums into one room, I bet the majority of them would know what you are referring to if you ask “what is Appendix N?” Now go into your local game store and grab a random gamer and tell him you heard about a cool new fantasy RPG based on Appendix N. “Appendix huh?”

But I think this approach has been successful in terms of getting online attention. What perplexes me about it though, aside from the lack of “real world” recognizability, is that I always thought the wave of Appendix N blog and forum posts that pop up now and again was a far more casual discussion, not a doctrine, and wouldn’t warrant not just a marketing angle but also inform a lot of system design. I’m not going to go into whether I think the system design lives up to this “ideal” if you can call it that. I leave that to others. My main point is that by hyperfocusing on Appendix N it feels like there is an attempt to fetishize or create an idol of something that isn’t as big of a deal as Goodman seems to think it is. Maybe I’m wrong? Old-school D&D is already designed with Appendix N in mind, after all.

“You’re not a hero.”: One of the dichotomies (maybe the most important) between “new school” vs. “old-school” D&D is the attitude toward characters. The new school approach that really became emphasized in D&D 3.x and even more so in 4th edition is the idea that characters are (super) heroes. They don’t die often and they start out with powers/abilities way outside of the reach of old-school characters and normal men. The term “hero” really just means way above the human norm. Old-school gamers of D&D have often criticized this approach, preferring that a PC crawl up from being a weak 1st level character toward something that might seem more heroic. This kind of translates into the idea that one should “earn” that additional power, often through many character losses along the way. I think this is one area where Goodman took that sentiment and exaggerated it too far in the DCC RPG. The tagline “You’re not a hero” is most definitely a reference to this old-school philosophy, but to me it seemed to miss some of the point. The DCC RPG sort of goes for a soft Hackmaster angle, but in the end I think it takes the idea of character mortality further than it needs to. By default in classic D&D character survival is precarious. Something not often talked about as a reality of this is that many people houserule various ways to increase survivability—max hit points at 1st level, healing potions for the starting group, survival below 0 hit points with one method or another, etc. But in the end upping character mortality (to me) in the DCC RPG doesn’t make it “more” old-school than existing games, and maybe even creates an imbalance. It felt like an attempt to ratchet up this concept to a higher level, when it is already higher than a lot of old-school players deal with by the book anyway.

Old-school art/layout:
Personally I think this is one of the areas that the DCC RPG both succeeds and fails at simultaneously. It succeeds in that it includes a lot of very old-school art by some great artists. It fails to me in that it doesn’t seem to strike a great balance between homage and aping. As others have pointed out, a few of the art pieces are very clearly copies of some pieces from the Moldvay/Cook B/X set, a move that is very perplexing to me due to the obvious copyright issues on one hand (they also did not fill out the copyright section of the OGL correctly, they left out the SRDs). But on the other hand, because that combined with the number of other homage pieces gives the impression that the DCC RPG is either floundering for its own image (which had a great start in the cover), or it is trying to blast its readers with an overload of old-school art homage and art/page density in order to influence perceptions of the game beyond (or in spite of) the actual gaming content. Is that a fair assessment? I’m not sure. There is a definite message being conveyed(“this is old-school”), but maybe it is being said to forcefully.

Tables: One of the things old-school gamers love is a good table for determining random outcomes. In fact I’d say that after the issue of heroes vs. adventurers, one of the other big differences between the new and old schools of D&D is the degree to which the characters’ fates and the game in general is left to random die rolls. Accordingly, the DCC RPG includes a lot of tables. But I wonder if they are the wrong kind of tables? Or at least, too many of what might be the right kind in some circumstances? Again this is an area where it felt to me like the DCC RPG was designed with a laundry list of old-school elements. The randomness of the spells, for me, is off-putting. I understand and like the core concept, but for every spell to be like that changes spell casting in a way that removes it from the heritage the DCC RPG is trying to embrace. It really becomes a sort of “wild magic” game. There are other ways unpredictable magic could have been introduced, perhaps even in a modular way so people can use it or leave it. For example, instead of constant uncertainty in spell casting what if the uncertainty is only introduced when magics from more than one caster, or maybe a caster in proximity to some other magical effect, are operating with a certain range. You can get a kind of pulp fiction vibe from magic in various ways.

There are some positive elements to the DCC RPG, too, lest readers think I’m being too negative. I like the flavor of the “Gods of the Eternal Struggle,” even if I’m a bit hesitant on the system execution of turning unholy. I like the concept of the spell tables and their effects, even if it makes magic a bit too random for my tastes. In the end I can’t (and won’t) say whether I think the DCC RPG is a “good” or “bad” game. What I am left with is a lot of confusion about who this game is written for. Clearly from the above discussion, much of it is geared toward the OSR, with varying levels of success. But the inclusion of things like 3rd edition saving throws and AC, or old-school thief skill percentages and separate class experience charts, seem to make the game too old-school for some and not old-school enough for others. I suppose the real question is whether there has been enough of a balance achieved, like in Castles & Crusades, to attract a similar fan base. We’ll see how it all shakes out. Since much of the response to the DCC RPG has seemed to be luke warm right now it’s hard to say, but it is a beta release after all, so the jury is still out. In any case I wish Goodman Games much success with it.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Vigilance Press Releases "Nuclear Sunset", a world setting for Mutant Future!

Vigilance Press has been a publisher of old-school RPG products for several years. Today they've thrown their hats in the ring of support for Mutant Future with the release of Nuclear Sunset, the first in a series of books describing an all new post-apocalyptic world setting.

I'm delighted to see additional support for Mutant Future. This is the first setting to be released for the game. Here is a description of the product:

Nuclear Sunset: The Southwest is the first installment in a post-apocalyptic campaign setting.

Though written with Mutant Future in mind, this campaign is almost 100% mechanics-free and could easily be adapted to any post-apocalyptic rules set.

Nuclear Sunset: The Southwest
contains a map of the region, description of settlements and ruins and a full slate of post-apocalyptic organizations, including:

Hell's Heart: This enormous biker gang strikes terror into the entire southwest as they move from town to town, raping and pillaging with impunity.

The 88th:
This pre-war military unit was considered a great experiment in fielding an all-synthetic battlefield command. They have bided their time since the apocalypse and know the time is ripe for them to take control of this shattered world.

The Cartel:
This crime family has maintained the family business since before the Earth was destroyed in the great war. In fact, for these ruthless criminals, business has never been better.

The Marshalls: In the dark days immediately following the great war, a group of self-appointed vigilantes rose from the darkness to maintain justice.

In a land where law is often a comforting dream, the Marshalls settle for justice, even revenge, striking fear in the hearts of the wicked and cruel.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Free Labyrinth Lord Online Utilities

People who are not regulars to the Goblinoid Games forums may be missing out on some of the great utilities being posted online to make your Labyrinth Lord games easier. So I thought I'd post a link to a few of them. These may not be totally inclusive (there is so much material these days it's hard to keep up), so if anyone wants to direct people to additional resources in the comments please feel free.

Djeryv's Graveyard: Click on the Labyrinth Lord link on the left. There are a number of useful resources there, but I particularly want to draw your attention to a few of the items. The dungeon map creator assembles a random set of geomorphs contributed from a number of sources, to create a new map each time you reload the page. Number areas and then use the Random Dungeon Area generator to come up with a list of randomly designed areas, following the system in the Labyrinth Lord rules. There is also a Monsters & Treasure Assortment generator, to create a booklet in the style of the old resource of the same name. The other thing I will point out before you explore all of the great utilities is the Monster Listing. You can download the PDF of a complete listing of all creatures from the LL core rules and the Advanced Edition Companion, with the appropriate abbreviated game statistics.

Mithril & Mages: This is a relatively new site offering a growing number of free labyrinth Lord utilities. Explore some of the other items posted there, but I particularly want to mention the Labyrinth Lord Treasure on Demand section. You can use this to generate random lists of treasure computed for any LL hoard class. Or if you are in a hurry download any of several complete treasure books, akin to the old Monster & Treasure Assortments. The you get an entire book of 100 randomly generated treasures for each of the hoard classes--that's a book of over 40 pages! Very useful for just going down a list to hand out treasure, or roll on it randomly with a d%.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Goblinoid Games Travels Back in Time!

Goblinoid Games has always taken inspiration from the spirit of the 70s and 80s, publishing retro games such as Starships & Spacemen, Labyrinth Lord, and Mutant Future. Now we are pleased to announce that Goblinoid Games has been recruited into the Time Corps and is traveling back in time to bring a new classic title into the family.

Goblinoid Games has purchased the rights to TIMEMASTER: Adventures in the 4th Dimension! Originally published by Pacesetter in 1984, TIMEMASTER was an innovative RPG for its time (pun intended), presenting one of the earliest percentile “chart-based” game systems and a heavily supported and playable game of time travel; a feat few have been able to repeat. TIMEMASTER never suffered from the commonly perceived problems of time travel games, as it set out a very playable premise based on a number of “laws” of time travel, and infinite universes. A referee can run highly accurate historical games if desired, or fudge the details since it is in the distant past of the setting or even in an alternate timeline.

Lurching into action, your battered chronoscooter crosses the void of time and space. Another lurch, and the vertigo fades. The countryside comes into view. Knights in armor battle, clanging sword against shield, and then someone blasts at your neck with a laser beam. Once again, all of Time is a mess, and as an agent of the Time Corps, you must set this world straight or die trying! Adventure to any place, any time, in this universe and beyond! The TimeMaster Roleplaying Game makes you master of the "Fourth Dimension", guiding you to the ultimate adventure in history, legend, and science fiction. fight cunning aliens and savage renegades who twist Time to their own purposes. Only skill and wit stand between the world you know and absolute chaos!

The current time in the game is in the 72nd Century, leaving a wide swath of time between (our) today and the future for the referee to design. History in your campaign could have taken various paths over such a vast time period. For example, characters could go back to the beginnings of interstellar travel, or the post-apocalyptic period following the blights and radioactive fallout of the third world war, if you envision your milieu following that timeline. The possibilities are quite literally endless.

Join the ranks of the Time Corps, and you can be the Master of Time!

The TIMEMASTER product line is currently available in electronic format, and in the coming months the line will be released via print on demand. Note: the electronic files currently available are identical to what has been offered previously. As the books become ready for POD the electronic files will be updated as well, and will be much higher quality. Anyone who purchases the current version will be able to download the upgrades later free of charge!

For people unfamiliar with this game or who just need to fill gaps in the product line, the entire electronic product line is being offered at 60% off the regular electronic price for a limited time! The product line currently includes the original rule set that included a rule book, sample adventure, and campaign guide in addition to 12 modules and an indispensable expansion book.

Over the next year we plan to support the TIMEMASTER product line in several ways, so watch for future announcements!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Mutant Future sold out in distribution

The first print run for MF that went to distribution has sold out of the warehouse...more on the way soon!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

STAR EXPLORER update and play surface preview

Things are moving along toward a release of STAR EXPLORER, probably late this month. I've decided to make the game available both as a PDF that can be assembled at home and as a print on demand game at The Game Crafter (all retail prices are yet to be determined). Because of the components available, the game surface of the POD version will be sized a little differently than the PDF version. The PDF version is slightly larger. The game board for the POD version will be printed on two 10" x 16" boards that will be placed side by side for play. As I understand it the boards are not folded, they ship in a box to fit their size, so this should make it easier to set them side by side and extend the life of the components.

Here is a preview of the play surface.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Labyrinth Lord Second Edition on the way! Re-envisioned from Appendix J!

Many people may have noticed over the last few years that the "retro-clone backlash" has been building. Increasing accusations of a lack of innovation, contempt for not "getting on with the times" and other variations of these arguments have suggested that retro-clones should not exist or have no place in the gaming world of today. Some publishers wanting to break into the market created by the growing interest in retro games try to distinguish themselves by "innovating" 3e lite in different ways for new RPGs.

I've always prided Goblinoid Games on being responsive to customer demand, so after much soul-searching I've decided to discontinue Labyrinth Lord in it's current form, and revise and re-envision it with a stronger 3e lens. It's time to adopt the superior rules that have been developed by better-informed game designers! But wait, this won't be yet another retro-clone!

There are a number of similar games out there already, and others in development. There are already 3e lite versions that try to present a pseudo-1e or classic feel with the innovative and updated 3e mechanics, and still more in development that use some aspect of the original game as a spring-board, such as reinterpreting the entire game based on Appendix N of the 1e DMG. I'd like to take advantage of a spin like that before someone else beats me to it, so the new Labyrinth Lord will be totally redesigned taking inspiration from Appendix J: Herbs, Spices, and Medicinal Vegetables.

What if Gygax and Arneson had not been quite so interested in medieval battles and weaponry, but had degrees in botany instead? What if they were less inclined to war games but instead spent their Saturdays creating tinctures and tending their herb gardens? Think about it. No really, think about it! Not only that, but what if they didn't have to design all the rules themselves starting from proverbial sticks and stones, but could instead base their game on "more advanced technology," if you will, that already exists in the 3e SRD?

If you can wrap your mind around all of those alternative histories, you start to get a feel for what Labyrinth Lord: Herbalists and Vegetable Adventurers is all about!

You're not a hero. You're a vegetable in a world of vegetarians. You battle for your perennial lives in dank light-less worlds inhospitable to photosynthesizers, against creatures with an insatiable hunger for plant-based nutrients!

Traditional Vancian magic, classic races, and standard classes will be removed. All races will be built as race-classes on the concept of sentient vegetables. Labyrinth Lord: Herbalists and Vegetable Adventurers will feature the following classes:

Carrot Assassins,
Parsnip Priests,
Broccoli Barbarians,
Zuchini Vegemancers,
Beet Herbalists, and last but not least,
Wasabi Warriors!

In the coming weeks expect to find previews of some of these classes, and a sneak peek at some of the new monsters that will strike fear into the plant vascular systems of characters! Here are just a few of monsters you will see:

Hydroponic Elemental
Blight Swarm
Zinc Deficient Zombies
Alluring Algae Amazons
Turnip Trolls

...and many more!

This is an exciting time for retro gaming! Appendix J!

Friday, March 18, 2011


Goblinoid Games has purchased the rights to STAR EXPLORER, the role-play board game that takes place in the same universe as Starships & Spacemen. Originally published by Fantasy Games Unlimited in 1982, this classic game of space exploration has been long out of print and hard to obtain. The game is currently being converted to PDF format for download and home assembly, and should be ready to purchase at our online store within the next two weeks. Depending on demand, the game may be brought back into print as a physical product as well. The PDF release will feature the original green playsheet for people wanting the original, and a revised playsheet for those who want a fresh look. The rulebook will account for errata and minor rule revisions that have been implemented over the last 29 years.

From the back of the box:

Now you too can be a STAR EXPLORER!

In this game of exploration and confrontation you play the role of the Captain of a StarShip of the Federation. You are on a mission to explore several new worlds.

On the way, your StarShip may encounter the hazards of space. You may be called upon to perform your secondary mission of keeping the StarLanes free from pirates.

Although an uneasy truce exists with the Zangid Empire, each encounter with one of their vessels is potentially explosive.

Once you begin your voyage you must decide how your ship will be equipped. You must also choose your crew from the available manpower. You then set out on your exploration mission.

STAR EXPLORER is a role-play board game for as many as four players. It can even be played solitaire since competition is directed more against the universe as presented in the game than against the other players.

The player who completes his mission quickly and with a string of successful resolutions to encounters will do well.

The game contains:

A 17” x 22” mapsheet which contains the stellar display, space combat display, and a number of handy reference charts. This will be provided as four tiles for home printing, and as one sheet for printing at a print shop.

A 8.5” x 11” sheet of counters to be cut out that represent crew teams, ships, hazards, and planets.

A ship logsheet and planetary logsheet, to be printed for record keeping.

A 16 page rulebook.

Dogs in the Dungeon

Available at RPGnow!

Dogs in the Dungeon

This article presents new optional rules for using dogs in the dungeon as useful companions for the Labyrinth Lord rules set, and is usable with other basic or advanced FRPGs. In addition to new rules for using dogs, new war dogs, scenthounds, waterhounds, sighthounds, and two new exotic dog types are detailed to add variety to the kinds of dogs that may be employed by PCs.

This article refers to the Labyrinth Lord core rules and the Advanced Edition Companion, both of which are available at RPGnow and the Goblinoid Games website. Free no-art versions are available as well.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Eye of Terror!

As many people will remember, Otherworld Miniatures will be releasing licensed Labyrinth Lord miniatures boxed sets, scheduled to be released this spring after a number of delays related to sourcing box components. Despite those setbacks they have been busy working away on more figures, with an Eye of Terror to be released in a few weeks!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Lulu vs. RPGnow POD


I've been seeing more and more reviews in various places of print quality comparing the POD products of Lulu vs. RPGnow. I just wanted to post a brief note about this because I think it is important for everyone to know that Lulu and RPGnow use the same printer, Lightning Source. We need to dispel the myth that the printers are different.

All short run printing (in general) is done via digital printing (essentially high quality laser printers for text), whether ultimately through LS or some other printer, which means you will likely see more variation between individual books compared to offset printing of many thousands of books. Add to this the variation of individual printer machines, of which a printer may have several.

The point being that any variation people see between the services of Lulu and RPGnow has nothing to do with the front end the book was ordered from, but the back end at printing, which is the same company. The quality of the product is identical between these companies.


Friday, March 4, 2011

Mutant Future now in distribution!

As the title says, Mutant Future is now working its way through distribution channels! If you prefer to shop online, you can also purchase the book from fine online retailers such as Noble Knight Games.

In addition, both Labyrinth Lord and the Advanced Edition Companion have been restocked and should be available for order again through wholesale channels.

As always, if you prefer to skip the middlemen and buy via print on demand, visit our online POD store.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

GM's Day Sale!

If there are any Goblinoid Games PDFs you've been meaning to pick up, be sure to drop on by RPGnow where we have a discount on all our products for GM's Day!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

You wanted a Rosetta Clone.

You got it! As John Adams of Brave Halfling Publishing recently announced, their new original edition clone will be designed to match terminology with Labyrinth Lord.

What does that mean? It means for the first time in the OSR two publishers are working together to unify their games, instead of working totally separately and possibly further fragmenting old-school gamers.

What will that mean? It means that in the design of Delving Deeper instead of inventing new and different terminology, like some spell or monster names, or saving throw names, etc. There will be a coordinated effort to make these things consistent between Labyrinth Lord and Delving Deeper.

Sometime back a number of people voiced frustration with all the new games coming out, all just slightly incompatible in ways that might make using modules between games a little tricky. John and I realized we had a chance to collectively create the Rosetta Clone everyone has been looking for. Between Delving Deeper and the Labyrinth Lord core rules and Advanced Edition Companion, for the first time the full range of old-school fantasy will be available in a way that makes any modules or other supplemental material easily ported between games.

We'll all be speaking the same language toward the same goal!

So, for real this time, "Zee game is Zee Zame." Just different flavors.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Realms of Crawling available!

Get the electronic file here and the print version here!

The book will go into distribution sometime early this summer.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Realms of Crawling Chaos...sooner rather than later!

Due to all the rest of the art arriving in fast time and some other factors, I'm anticipating the release of RoCC within the next several days to a week at most! I sent on the free preview to the Labyrinth Lord Society Organizer, Dave Macauley, and I'm sure it will go out to members soon.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Goblinoid Games to participate in the OSR booth at Gen Con!

Joe Browning of Expedition Retreat Press is organizing an OSR booth for Gen Con! They will be carrying Goblinoid Games products among the many fine products by other old-school publishers. See Joe's announcement here.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

RoCC Preview for LLS Members!

About a week or two before the release of Realms of Crawling Chaos, Labyrinth Lord Society members will receive a free sample of the book, one page from the spells section, one page from artifacts, and one from monsters.

We have 200+ members at this point, have you joined yet?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Rehashing is the new expression of house rules

There has been some talk lately about whether we are seeing too much "rehashing". Part of this (at least as far as I can tell) came with the announcement by Goodman Games about their upcoming Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG.

I think that's because we are inundated with so much more now than in 2006-2007, it's easy to forget the history of all this. The first two "true clone" efforts (as I define it here), OSRIC and Labyrinth Lord, were attempts not to rehash but to keep these two rule sets in print. This is an important thing to keep in mind, because at the time this was a completely new phenomenon. They were not created to put a new spin on anything, they were created to fill a niche that 3 and 4 years ago desperately needed to be filled. When these two rules sets were released people were still waiting to see if myself, Stuart Marshall, and to a lesser extent Matt Finch (who had by then basically left the OSRIC project) would be the canaries in the coal mine, whether we'd be sued into oblivion. When that didn't happen, we've seen a proliferation of systems with more in development.

There's nothing wrong with that. It's only natural now that people have the tools that they can take the work previously done and alter it to suit their idiosyncratic needs. This is the new way of expressing house rules. Why? Because why add your house rules to an existing system, when you can cut and paste a full rules set pretty quickly, rewriting bits here and there? You can make the rules "your own" in a sense. All of that is great. It's what open gaming is all about, and I am proud to have contributed to helping make that happen.

However, the part a lot of people haven't figured out yet (and the thing that IMHO is causing the angst) is that each time a new house rule rules set emerges no one is under any obligation to care.

I think people are feeling OSR fatigue. Their arms are getting tired from all the high-fiving, but it doesn't have to be that way. I'm not saying these efforts should be ignored, but not every effort needs to be so aggressively "supported" by the community. People don't need to feel obligated to buy everything. Open gaming has revolutionized how people approach their home games. We're going to see so many of these tweaked games from here on out that trying to keep track of them much less buy them all will be futile.

As for Dungeon Crawl Classics, I wish him all the best in the effort. I really, truly do. Just as the old-school rules are being rehashed, so have the d20 rules for a very long time. Everything from True 20 to Castles & Crusades and many in-between keep rehashing, simplifying d20, giving it a twist here or there. Sounds familiar, doesn't it? Will another rehash of d20 stand out? Who knows? But Goodman Games has the same right as all of the OSR publishers who want to put their own stamp on the rules.

This is all really about the fact that for the first time in the 30+ year history of RPGs the gamers have the tools (easy POD and electronic publishing) and freely available source material (OGL, all the SRDs and open content rule sets) to express themselves. Let them! We just need to let go of the idea that we have to pay attention to all of it. We just can't. Let it take on the life of its own that it inevitably will, and create the kind of stuff you want to see. You can only create what you're passionate about.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Realms of Crawling Chaos...coming late winter!

I started this project in the late spring of 2008. It took a backseat for a long time so I could get other projects done (not to mention a pesky dissertation) but with no more further ado...

In R’lyeh, Cthulhu Stirs…

Evil cultists consummate their union with Shub-Niggurath in dark woods no other mortals dare go. Alien terrors lurk in the underworld; their vast riches wait, or their incomprehensible powers could leave you broken, dead, or worse. Adventure in underworlds filled with horrible entities, or the ruins of alien beings that enslaved the ape-like ancestors of mankind. Seek hidden secrets from the arctic wastes to dark, briny seas. But as you approach the ocean, what are those strange longings you feel?

Realms of Crawling Chaos is a Lovecraftian Dark Fantasy campaign supplement for Labyrinth Lord and the Advanced Edition Companion. Referees can incorporate the new material into existing campaigns, or design an entirely new milieu of gritty sword and sorcery gaming.

In this book you will find:

New player races from the works of H. P. Lovecraft, including white apes, white ape hybrids, sea blood, and subhumans. New races are presented both as race-class options and as races for use with advanced classes.

New spells

New monsters

New artifacts and a system for designing unique artifacts

Rules for psionics, fully compatible with Mutant Future

Pages: 64

Written by Daniel Proctor and Michael Curtis

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Labyrinth Lord and the Advanced Edition Companion sold out!

I've been anticipating another print run and I got confirmation a few days ago that these have sold out of the warehouse. More print runs on the way!