3d6 Six Times In Order

“I’m gonna revise what I said earlier. You’re not cowards if you don’t try this, you’re boring. And that’s worse. Cowards at least can be interesting. Who dares, wins.”

This, I completely agree with. Players are often terrified of 3d6 stats (or even the 1d4-1d4 I use in Stone Halls & Serpent Men), in a way that’s never made sense to me.

My first three characters in 1978, with 1-2 players and 1 DM so we each ran a few guys, were rolled 3d6 in order:

  • Grecal: Dex 16, Int 15, Wis 6, rest 10 or less. Magic-User. Sneakiest bastard mage/knife-thrower ever. Later class-changed to Illusionist.
  • Starkad: Str 15, Cha 13, rest 10 or less. Fighting Man. I’d been reading about the Norse sagas, because that’s the kind of weird kid I was.
  • Cleric I don’t remember: No really terrible stats. Died in first adventure. I’ve played only one Cleric again (Gracke Sundowner the Half-Orc Fighter/Chaos Cleric) in the following 40 years.

I played both Grecal and Starkad actively for years, they finally got killed in an asshole DM’s deathtrap dungeon called Hexcomb Horror, so I just ignored that session and kept using them. Now they’re just background NPCs, as a Referee I don’t spotlight hog from players like Ed Greenwood, but they’re around if you need information or a patron.

There’s no significant benefit or penalty to high or low stats in Original D&D, Holmes Basic, or other white box rules (up to +10% XP gain! Maybe a +1 bonus!); but even when they were run in power-gamer AD&D, they were fine. Stat rolls against any mediocre stat, in any stat roll system (1d20-roll-under, 3d6-roll-under, 1d20+bonuses over target number, etc.) are going to give you a 25-50% chance of success, which works fine in actual play. Just don’t make stat rolls be save-or-die without some warning, way to get a higher bonus, or way to recover; failure is a complication and a few complications or stupid play should lead to death.

One point Noah doesn’t get to: In Original D&D, there’s a TON of ways to increase or decrease your stat scores. Fountains (drink everything! … after testing for acid, etc.), magic books, divine favors (sacrifice at every altar!), etc. Sometimes you get an increase, sometimes a decrease, but you need that random variation to improve. Later editions (and SH&SM because it’s balanced against 3E) gave level-up stat increases just like CRPGs had been doing since the early ’80s. You’re not stuck with crappy stats forever, there’s a chance you’ll get better.

The fear of 3d6 in order is especially galling in Tunnels & Trolls, where the entire advancement mechanic is that you start off kinda crap and get to add to your stats.


Princess Bride RPG?

I’m an enormous Princess Bride fan; I loved the film, but then read the book which is better, with less intrusive framing, not having the Wonder Years brat, and having more detail than just what’s on camera. I’m sure William Goldman’s as mad at himself for being unable to make a proper sequel as all readers are, but it’s still galling. Everyone else can pump out a dozen doorstop fantasy novels on a theme, Buttercup’s Baby doesn’t have to be perfect, just good enough.

I’m also an enormous FUDGE fan, having read & commented on Steffan O’Sullivan’s development of it on USENET, and I’ve used it for many one-shot games. I don’t think it works great for a campaign, but it’s a perfect quick game since you barely need rules, just the Trait Ladder and 4 Fudge Dice or a 2d6 or 3d6 dice table. Download some of the books at FUDGE Files, or pick up the books. A Magical Medley is a fantastic supplement with multiple weird magic systems.

So today I see Princess Bride RPG, by SO’S and using FUDGE, has a kickstarter (via Tenkar’s Tavern)! Chocolate & peanut butter! … However, $25 for a PDF is not acceptable. I don’t like to pay more than $10 for a PDF, $20 is excessive but for a few things I’ll do it, but anything more than that I need print. The $50 print level looks more reasonable, if high, but I’m not sure.

The Quick Start is very nice-looking, but hm.

  • Photos from the movie used instead of art in most places; which is fine, but I would like them to not just be headshots staring at the camera, choose some action scenes, maybe?
  • They’ve changed the Trait Ladder up a point to Superb +4 down to Terrible -2 (originally Superb +3 down to Terrible -3). Why make it incompatible with existing FUDGE materials?
  • 3 Attributes, 15 Skills, ~20 Gifts/Faults, down from the 6 Attributes, 100+ Skills, 50+ Gifts/Faults in Five Point FUDGE, or the long choose-what-you-want freeform lists in core FUDGE; I don’t always use such a large list, but it’s kind of nice to have the detail level if you want it. But as a list for a storytelling game, it’s functional, I suppose.
  • “Grandpa Wait” points instead of Fudge Points, making every player be smarmy little Fred Savage who needed a good drowning.
  • Unlike earlier parts, combat and damage use every option, including min-mid-max from the core rules. I don’t think the standard wound system is a good fit for swashbuckling, and for Princess Bride in particular, knocking you to Incapacitated in just 2 solid hits, 1 on a lucky attack. Duels take much more time and effort in the Princess Bride movie and book.
  • A “Mostly Dead” wound level is added after Near Death, which while a good gag, is redundant.
  • Sample GM adventure. Linear railroad “story”, mostly if-then tests and some sample dialogue. There’s no map for the inn/stables, which is likely to be a fight scene. The other location has a photoshopped top-down map without keys; it’s only 3 buildings, but guess which is which.
  • No magic or miracle system is presented. Princess Bride is Ruritanian adventure, so there won’t be spell-casters exactly, but there are quasi-magical potions and poisons, weird beasties, Miracle Max, the albino’s weird torture machine, and so on; some suggestion of that should be in the game, and I see no hint of it.

Almost everything in this you can do better with the FUDGE 1995 rules (or 1993, if you prefer that edition, as I do), aside from a little flavor text. Read the book and watch the movie again, and you’re ahead by $50.

Update: I see that Steffan O’Sullivan had a reddit AMA on Princess Bride. A few things stood out:

  • “The target audience is, first and foremost, Princess Bride fans. They may or may not already be roleplayers. This means a lot of basic instructions to be sure someone isn’t lost.
    Then there are a dozen sample characters, one per page ready to print out, including one whole party specific to one adventure. There are some sample adventures and a lot of adventure seeds. There are lots of tables in case the GM needs to generate things – they take up room.
    Lots of detailed ways to customize new character Professions.
    An appendix with every Gift, Fault, and Skill defined in game terms.
    Lots of illustrations – that’s de rigeur these days in the RPG world – and white space for readability – ditto.
    Two chapters on combat: one for new roleplayers, then a large chapter of options for more experienced folks who want to recreate the clifftop duel blow by blow.
    Add a light tone to try to make the reading pleasurable, and it adds up.”
  • “Toy Vault really only has the license for the movie, not the book. The licensor was very generous in allowing us to dip into the book so long as it didn’t contradict the movie, so we did that. But I actually like the gaps in the story world. It’s part of its charm.”
  • “New rules … hmm. Maybe the Life’s Not Fair points. Not so much rules, but attitudes. The RPG world has expanded enormously since Fudge was first published, largely in the direction of more player input into the world and setting. So I’ve incorporated some of that. (Not too much, mind you, I still like the GM to have more control than the players. But more than I used to allow.)
    I also felt that since the characters are larger than life, and the only real combat is between what are essentially two PCs, that only players should roll the dice for combat. Allowing the GM to roll for NPCs places too much importance on NPC skills. There’s not enough of that in the movie to justify its inclusion in the main rules. Count Rugen’s dagger throwing is about it. Otherwise, it’s entirely Inigo’s skill involved in the fight with the four guards in the castle corridor. And it’s largely Westley’s skill that is important in the fight with the ROUS. Of course, there’s an option to allow the GM to roll for those who just have to have it …”
    [mdh: I do like the only-players-roll rule, 4.33 PCs vs NPCs in FUDGE 1995.]

Alpha Blue

A proper review of Alpha Blue & supplements is on my TODO list for this year, but the shortest possible version is:

Almost non-existently minimalist storygame system, great art (often but not always pornographic), great maps/deckplans, tons of weird random tables (often but not always pornographic), adventures are linear drug-trip nonsense (often but not always pornographic) but always have weird scenes and sleazy NPCs that could be thrown in front of a more self-directed party.

Since there’s almost no system, you can just restat everything for whatever system you actually use; use Alpha Blue content in Alpha Dawn, for instance.


Basically a portal, central hub of RPG blogs, feeds, and other communities, to try to tie everyone back together.

Back in the day, we had web-rings, DMOZ, sites like my RPG links page, and just subscribed to each other in newsreaders. I still do, I have a couple dozen feeds in FeedBin. But that’s difficult to discover.

If you’re here from OSGR, or if you’re new here from some other source, look in the sidebars for the games I’ve written, poke through the categories list for subjects you’re interested in. I typically post every couple weeks, and a new game or two a year. If there’s something you’d like to hear about, write a comment or send me email. Thanks!

Dungeons & Satan

Seems interesting, BADD didn’t directly hassle me back in the ’80s (small town, but at the time you minded your own business about religion; now the Christ-cultists have moved in), but of course they got TSR to make D&D lame in a futile attempt to pacify them. I’ve got it on in the background, will make notes as they come up.


There’s a new Mastodon instance for RPGs, dice.camp, which seems to be the new social hub for now, and I’m @markrollsdice

And unrelated, a thought for the day:

Some purists do not like to introduce any character types or monsters into their game world unless they have a medieval or “Tolkienian” flavor or base. This really limits their play possibilities as far as I am concerned, for what better world to accept aliens than ones that already have a myriad of other strange and weird creatures as residents? Sure, it would be hard for a town like Peoria or Indianapolis to accept strange alien creatures, but would it be so hard for people that probably have elves, dwarves, hobbits, and the like living down the street from them? I think not, for what is stranger, the alien with the blaster or the multi-tonned dragon that breathes fire? Think about it, and I think you’ll find that logic supports the use of aliens in fantasy games, and that playability supports their inclusion as well. They are fun, challenging, and very novel as characters and as monsters. I can still visualize the pair of Vegan space travelers trying to figure out how a wand of fireballs worked after they had traded their stunner for it. They ran every test imaginable, and their computer kept telling them: “This item does not compute!” Still, it worked when that funny looking guy with the purple robes sold it to them …

You get the point, I think, but let me just say one final thing on the subject and we’ll go on to other things: The very essence of fantasy gaming is its total lack of limitation on the scope of play, both in its content, and in its appeal to people of all ages, races, occupations or whatever. So don’t limit the game by excluding aliens or any other type of character or monster. If they don’t fit what you feel is what the game is all about, don’t just say, “NO!”, whittle on them a bit until they do fit.

—David Hargrave, Welcome to Skull Tower (1978)

Harry Potter and the Natural 20

The best fanfic I’ve ever read (a short list, but generally not good), more rational than HP and the Methods of Rationality. Take a munchkiny D20 3.5 Magic-User Wizard, drop him into the story, watch how a little adventurer-logic fixes everything. Except where it goes far off the rails, because Milo’s tenacious but doesn’t quite understand NPC human behavior.

I binge-read book 1 of HP:N20 in a couple days, I’m trying to pace out the last bit; doesn’t look like it finishes book 2.

I know I’ve seen a few magical school modules, but I can’t find them. Not a lot ever tried, because Rowling/Scholastic are aggressive litigators and she doesn’t seem to like/understand RPGs.

  • Principalities of Glantri from 1987 had a School of Magic section, including a campaign setup for playing children at this boarding school, magical duelling, and the kind of constantly-hazardous “education” Hogwarts would be infamous for 10 years later.
  • College of Wizardry is one of those books I almost bought, but “eh, it’ll be boring, uncontroversial pablum, like all 2E stuff”.
  • Magic & Mischief is a Lasers & Feelings type game about Hogwartsy games, which might work as the system for non-D20 wand wizards.
  • Scholomance, by R. Lee Smith is on my reading list, and certainly looks like good material for a different magical school.
  • Witch Girls Adventures made a lot of noise when it came out, but I’m the wrong demographic for it.

Also, the fanfic is full of useful information:

D&D Tip: You know how Elmer Fudd feels when he’s chasing Bugs off a cliff and keeps running for awhile until Bugs hands him a book explaining gravity and he falls? Turns out that’s how D&D works, too. Check this out:
Monks are not actually proficient with unarmed strike.
Now that you know, you can’t unlearn it.
Happy gaming!

Review: Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls

The most steady way to RPG for me is solo adventures; tabletop and online are great when I can do it, but they’re flaky, irregular activities depending on other people; I write my own computer RPGs in the style I like to play, but this takes a long time. In between, I do freeform self-GMing, or with boardgames like Barbarian Prince, solo modules like XS1 Lathan’s Gold, or solo gamebooks, such as Lone Wolf, Fighting Fantasy, and best of all Tunnels & Trolls.

So first, if you’ve never tried Ken St. Andre’s Tunnels & Trolls, go grab Tunnels & Trolls Free RPG Day: Goblin Lake. Just a few pages of simple rules, and a solo adventure where you play a Goblin to learn the rules. I promise you’ll have fun, and probably die in a pit. Later, more serious solos like City of Terrors can be run with the same minimal rules. Flying Buffalo Inc sells the books, dice (standard 6-sided), and many tchotchkes.

I’m mostly going to address what’s new or different from that minimal solo version, or the full 5th Edition of 1979, or 5.5 of 2003. While I have 7th & 7.5 Edition, I didn’t really use them.

Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls is a 368-page tome, an inch thick, like every game today. This is good for sales on a store shelf, it looks like great value for the price; but it takes away from the “tiny book in your pocket” value. It has great black & white art by Liz Danforth and others, with a signature of color pages.

Happily it’s still very rules-light, and half of the book is setting.


Prime Attributes (stats, ability scores) are the usual Strength, Constitution (used directly for hit points), Dexterity, Intelligence, and Charisma, plus Luck, Speed, and Wizardry. Luck is your catch-all saving throw, Speed is used for reaction speed and adds to combat, and Wizardry is the energy for casting spells (replacing the use of Strength in previous editions). One quirk is that Speed now represents some traits of agility, but so does Dexterity; I would prefer if DEX had been made purely manual dexterity.

Combat adds in Deluxe are a little higher than previous editions, since you get them for Speed, and no longer take a penalty for low attributes. Missile adds are no longer separate, which is fine, that’s the kind of fussy detail T&T isn’t for.

Character types (classes) are the Warrior, Wizard, Rogue, and Specialist.

Warriors now get a weapon bonus, the old armor bonus, and of course cannot use magic. The sidebar for Warrior acknowledges that some playtesters found the +1d6 per level melee weapon bonus very high; I’m with them, and I use just +1 damage per level with any weapon. Having armor wear down for being doubled is fine (a return to early edition rules), it gives Warriors something to do with their money. Warriors used to be fairly disposable cannon fodder, but now you have some reason to keep them alive to higher levels.

Wizards are the same, they get all 1st-level spells, can reduce spell costs as they level, and can use a magic staff to reduce spell costs even more, but cannot use weapons over 2d6 base damage. Wizards have always worked fairly well, but magic now using Wizardy means you don’t inevitably have super-buff wizards who can only use a dagger, but can punch a dragon to death.

Rogues weren’t in the solo/free edition, but were in the full rules, a competent fighter and magician. As before, they do not lower their spell costs, cannot use magic staves, but in Deluxe they start with a single spell, can learn spells past 7th level, and get one or more free talents. They can choose to switch to Warrior or Wizard at 7th level, but are no longer forced to.

Specialists are just a special case for characters with a TARO (Triples Add & Roll Over) attribute, but there are more advanced rules in the Elaborations section.

Warrior-Wizards (now called Paragons) and Citizens are moved to Elaborations, and aren’t really meant for players anymore. In the old editions, Warrior-Wizards would eventually dominate everything.

The basic Kindreds (races) are the usual Humans, Dwarves[sic] (two types), Elves, “Hobbs”, and then Fairies and Leprechauns, and you can use most monster types given in 13.2 Peters-McAllister Chart. Each kindred has a multiplier for each attribute, such as from 0.25 (Fairy STR) to 2 (Dwarf STR). You can roll your attributes, and then see if a kindred would maximize your adds or magical power.

Now, by default this pushes a group of only non-Humans. There are a couple of balances. One is a new rule to give Humans a second chance at all saving rolls (or only 1d6 times per session); I find this kind of cheaty, and problematic if applied to NPCs, but it’s functional. There’s more on this in 17.5 The Other Human Advantage, with other ideas.

The best solution is tucked away after the Illkin (“evil” kindreds) in 13.1 Playing Non-Human Characters: Non-Humans don’t get to be Warriors, Wizards, Rogues, or Specialists. They’re rogues without the extra talents. You can still make culture-specific training and spell lists for non-Humans, but now a Dwarf isn’t inherently twice as good as a Human Warrior.

Character advancement is massively changed, no longer a D&D-like table of XP to level, now you use your AP (Adventure Points) to directly increase attributes, and your highest attribute determines your level. Now you get a little bit better every session, and can evenly distribute attribute gains, rather than every few sessions getting one giant DING! and spending a bunch of points on one or two attributes. One warning, however, I find that old adventures were generous with AP because it didn’t help that much. Now an award of 500 or 1000 AP is a huge deal, and you should probably halve or quarter those.

The new character sheet is nicely designed, so much better than the old typewriter-on-index-card forms. But you can’t fit 4 per page, which you may need in a killer dungeon! Darkshade’s half-page character sheet is a little more practical, perhaps.

Equipment has one of the most exhaustive, complete sets of weapons (including gunnes), armor, and general goods, alternate materials and improvements for custom gear, and poisons. The already-long lists from 5th & 7th edition have been extended, and there’s a Weapons Glossary in the end of the book describing and illustrating almost every weapon. This is where T&T often shines, instead of wasting time on rules, it has content you’ll use. One thing that hasn’t improved is the “Basic delver’s package” is still the only equipment kit, it would be helpful to have a handful of different kits for faster startup.


Saving rolls (SR, attribute checks) are explained better than in previous editions, now using a target number of 20 – attribute for level 1, 25 – attribute for level 2, etc.

Talents (skills) are bonuses to specific actions or knowledge, and the basic system or even the multi-level system in Elaborations are both very simple additions to saving rolls, but they work well enough. Both are simpler than Mike Stackpole’s skill system in 5.5 or the talent system in 7th.

Combat is largely unchanged from 5th edition, but has a few additions. Spite damage occurs on every die roll of 6, inflicting a point of damage on the other side ignoring armor. In 7th edition, almost every monster had some special effect on various amounts of spite damage, and that’s gone and good riddance (with the sole exception of poison being inflicted on spite damage).

Missile weapons are more clearly advantageous, letting you inflict damage directly if you make your Dexterity SR to hit, and adding to your side’s total if not. Gunnes, unarmed combat, and berserkers are now in the main combat chapter.

Magic has the addition of schools of magic, many new spells, kindred-specific spell lists (hidden in 12.13 Wizards), and magic artifacts. The spell names are just as silly as ever, though a few have been renamed, but “Sux2BU” is eye-rollingly bad. Silliness aside, the spells are powerful and can be powered up so they never stop being useful, and it does a fantastic job of modelling pulp swords & sorcery wizards.

Elaborations has a few pages each on languages, more complex talent rules, miniatures, a slightly longer gem table (but still no other random treasure tables), wandering monsters, a calendar, locks & traps (but not explicitly what SR is needed to lockpick), and other knicknacks.


Basic monsters are represented, as they have been since time immemorial, as a single number: Monster Rating (MR). A Giant Spider (MR 16) or an Orc Assassin (MR 100) are mechanically very similar. Unlike previous editions, the combat dice from MR are no longer reduced by damage, so that Giant Spider does 2d6+8 in combat at full health, and 2d6+0 after taking 15 damage. Large numbers of monsters are much more dangerous in Deluxe.

Much of the Monsters! Monsters! roster and some new beasties have been included, so you can stat them all up individually, though this is slower than MR combat.

I’ve discovered and confirmed with Ken that stats for Half-Elf & Half-Orc are missing, and Dwelf are incorrect or very optimistic; instead for all half-breeds you should just average the parents’ stat multipliers.

New monster kindreds are: Dakk (dark Dwarf), Hobgoblin, Kobold, Selkie, Pixie, Redcap, Keeraptora, Lizard People, Policani (Dogtaur), Ratling, Ghargh (Gargoyle), Rhynon (rhino-men), and Forest & Jungle Trolls.

Some were renamed: Hobbit to Hobb, Black Hobbit to Rapscallion, Balrog to Kauter, Worm to Common Dragon, Wyvern to Young Dragon (in stats, but these lose the character of Worm and Wyvern), Dark Elf to Vartae, and Yeti to Man-Ape.

Missing beasties from M!M! are: Gorgon (Medusa), Shadowjack, Living Statue, Snollygoster (still appearing in the setting chapter), Mummy, Sphinx, Zombie (but see the Zombie Zonk spell), Slime Mutant of Florida, Ghost, Night-Gaunt, Giant Slug, Shoggoth, Snark, Chimera, Basilisk, Gorilla, Warg, Unicorn, Giant Spider, Hydra, Griffin, Elementals, Chinese Fox, Rock Person, and Tsathogua.

The new beasties are useful if you’re converting adventures, but others are only appropriate to some areas of Trollworld. The missing beasties are a huge loss if you run a monster-heavy game, so go get Monsters! Monsters!. 7.5 had a basic monster list in the book, and Monstrum Codex with dozens more, but these are often pretty weird, and rely on special abilities.

The classic laundry list of monsters is gone:

A dungeon without monsters would be dull stuff. What lurks and slithers in your imagination, I don’t know, but in mine there are fire-breathing dragons, crocodiles, unicorns, snarks and boojums, black hobbits, giant spiders, cave lions, pythons, centaurs, toothy nonflammable dragons, werewolves, balrogs, basilisks, ghosts, jub jub birds, slithy toves, cave bears, sphinx, enchanted warriors, reptile men, flame fiends, harpies, orcs, mushroom monsters, cockatrices, giant slugs, banshees, mummies, barrow wights, goblins, ogres, living statues, trolls, shoggoths, wraiths, demons, leopards, octopi (giant economy size), vampires, gnoles, minotaurs, slime-mutants, drooling maniacs, two-headed giants, half-orcs, hydrae, living skeletons, bandersnatchi, jabberwocks, pithecanthropi, ghouls, mad dogs, poisonous vipers, blood bats, night gaunts, lamiae, cannibals, witches, warlocks, rabid rats (ulsios), three-headed giants, chimaerae, wyvverns, hags, giant slimy worms, yeti, tigers, gorgons, zombies, bigfoots, griffins, invisible stalkers, were-creatures of all varieties, misanthropes and misogynists, mantichores, and lots more.

However, there is now 17.2 Wandering Monsters which has a few monsters and animals, with trivial, serious, and deadly MRs for each. 17.9 Steeds lists types of weird mounts and stats for barding, but not even MR or movement rates for the steeds.


The Trollworld Atlas, the remainder of the book, has a fairly extensive setting. 5.5 edition had a bit of timeline for Trollworld, but the older editions had almost no setting, except some implied setting in the adventures.

The newly expanded history paints a constant war between the Human-like races and the Illkin, and the Humans often lose, or are pushed back. The gods/omnipotent wizards seem to want to teach the mortals tolerance, shapeshifting wizards into the form of their “enemies”, but they rarely learn from it.

There’s not really anything like “pseudo-European fantasyland” in Trollworld, though you might think so if you don’t go far from Khosht. For worldbuilding and sense of wonder, as you go out and learn more, that’s great. For recasting existing fiction and adventures into Trollworld, it’s inconvenient.

There are four continents/regions, each location in each region only has a sentence or paragraph of description, but more details are given for the monstrous city of Khazan and its sewers, the mostly Human city of Khosht, and the pirate city of Knor. Gull (from City of Terrors) is given a short story tour by Mike Stackpole. I could use more detail, especially leaders, rough population, fortifications, and wealth for each town, given that players are often murderhobo Human-likes or monsters on raid.

The short solo adventure Abyss, where dead delvers have a chance to escape Hades and return to life, is in the book. An odd choice. I’ve often let players (and my own characters) have one chance through it in the little pamphlet edition, but Christian-tinged Greek myth is out of place on Trollworld, and starting the adventures off with death doesn’t work.

Three GM adventures on Zorr, the Eagle Continent, go from fairly easy exploration and adventure, to a much harder wilderness quest, to an extremely dangerous dungeon with a harsh, unforgiving time limit. I think you’d have to force-feed AP to starting characters to make them competent for the end if you ran it straight through, but it’s great to see a long GM adventure with a strong setting for T&T.

I rather miss the 5.5 edition’s tiny intro GM adventure of Trollstone Caverns, and the more extensive solo of Buffalo Castle. But you can also get a ton of solo and GM adventures from Flying Buffalo or 3rd parties on DriveThruRPG (I have 50-odd in my Adventures folder, plus another score in print), so it’s not mandatory.

The book ends with a weapon glossary, a rules index, and a setting index.

There are newly updated Deluxe solo books of Agent of Death, Buffalo Castle, City of Terrors, Deathtrap Equalizer, and Dungeon of the Bear, and new spell books for each of the kindred.


  • Presentation: ★★★★☆ Mostly just 2-column black & white layout with only a few callout boxes, one signature of color pages, no “hyperlink” page references as in some current books, but it’s easy to read and attractive.
  • Organization: ★★★★☆ Several elements are hidden away in awkward places. If you’re not diligent about reading every section, you can miss something useful. But the core rules are very easy to find in the usual case-point manual numbering.
  • Rules: ★★★★★ Wizardry, Spite, and Talents fix almost everything I ever had to work around in older editions. Balance for kindreds & types is a little higher-powered, but that’s subjective and fixed by choosing different optional rules.
  • Setting: ★★★½☆ Trollworld’s fine, and has interesting conflicts, and Khazan and Khosht are excellent, but it still needs another pass of detailing everywhere else to be a first-class world. The GM adventures fill in a previously-unknown continent, but Abyss is out of place.
  • Utility: ★★★★☆ Full of little mechanics, tables, and setting bits that can be directly applied in a game. You could easily pick up this book, read it, and run great fantasy games forever.
  • Average: ★★★★½ If you liked that Free RPG Day booklet at all, if you’ve ever liked solo gamebooks, if you have a sense of humor about your gaming, get Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls.


You may be feeling a little down right now. It can always be worse.

  • Black Sun Deathcrawl

    Nameless husks fleeing downwards in dungeons forever, watch everyone you ever meet die. Is this any worse than normal D&D? No more pretense of heroism or money-grubbing, the only excuse for levelling is escaping death a little longer.

    you are the Cursed, remnants
    of life in a universe of decay
    cannibalistic parasites you
    suck a meager existence from
    the corpse of a long dead reality
    once you had nations, races, goals
    now you are one, united at last
    in the unending struggle for
    survival in a reality that abhors you
    once you had love and happiness and light
    now there is only the crawl
  • Qelong

    Scavenging a lost weapon from the sidelines of a massive war you cannot understand or affect, doing nothing but spreading more misery among people you’ve decided are less important than your own profit.

  • Deep Carbon Observatory

    After natural disaster, and unnatural pollution and predation, you travel through an increasingly horrifying world and fail to prevent worse disasters, before plunging into darkness and horror forever.

  • Death Frost Doom

    A forbiddingly large graveyard, a creepy cabin on a mountain, a book of dead names. And a dungeon, there’s always a dungeon. Anything you disturb may be hard to put back down. What is it about these things that’s so hard to resist?

  • S1 Tomb of Horrors

    A tomb of an ancient wizard, full of death and just enough rewards to be worth going in, right? At one time, you could be that delusional. But you know now what it is, everyone in gaming’s heard enough about old Acererak’s lair. It’s in Ready Player One, it can’t be that scary. And still you’ll lose if you go in, and you have to go in.

I don’t usually run these kind of adventures, except at the end of a campaign when it seems like attention is flagging. But they’re among my favorite to read, and contemplate running, and steal bits of. The Crow siblings from Deep Carbon Observatory are of course to be found somewhere.

D&D 5E SRD OGL Acronym Soup

Hasbro of the Coast finally released the D&D 5E SRD!

(SRD = Systems Reference Document, the genericized version of the rules you can use to publish adventures or supplements; OGL = Open Gaming License, which makes all this not-quite-D&D stuff legally possible)

I plan to give this a good going thru, and see if I’d want to update Stone Halls & Serpent Men to be based on this instead of the D20 3.x SRD. I never did get around to a full review of D&D 5E Basic when it was coming out, and frankly it just bored me to death; it’s not liveliest awfulness like 4E, and not a hot mess of incoherent rules like 3.x or Pathfinder, so… snooze. They can’t have my money for 5E until they put out PDFs, which I guess now I don’t need. Cash being left on the table, Hasbros.

The one big change I see is that instead of 1d20 + stat (bonus) + Level rolls, D&D 5E uses 1d20 + bonus + Proficiency Bonus, and P.B. ranges from +2 at Level 1, to +6 at Level 20; this makes higher levels more playable, but everyone kinda sucks equally. Fighters don’t hit any better than Wizards, and nobody can hit an AC 30 monster. I’d rather have the game be a race to competence at Level 9 and near-godhood at Level 20.

P.S. Testing out the 2016 WP theme. I like seeing date & comment links up by the top of a post.