Fellhold Sessions 13 & 14 Recap

After fleeing from the seemingly endless hordes of large and aggressive trollkin, our adventurers spiked a door behind them and listened with baited breath. Not hearing any sounds of further pursuit, they decided against fleeing blindly, and continued to explore and map carefully. After discovering a secret door and defeating a hideous ooze that dissolved a few weapons, they secured a small clutch of gems, spiked another two doors behind them and decided to rest inside the dungeon. With a careful watch and secure location, their rest was uneventful, and after a few divine acts of healing from the groups clerics, they decided to make their way back out to the surface. They directly encountered no more trollkin, only the surprised sound of a guard coming from a newly constructed barricade and a poison trap that was defeated by Varian's iron constitution.

After successfully reaching the surface, the group made proper payments to the families of the deceased hirelings and proceeded to hire new soldiers and a few more torch bearers before returning to the grim mountain. Having decided that enormous hordes of angry humanoids might not be the best thing to face just now, the party returned once again to the Western entrance to Fellhold, where they encountered and defeated Dag's former bandit group. Exploring more deeply and more carefully, they once again triggered a portcullis, trapping them within, but before they had to resort to the aid of strongman Mihtig the Mighty, they discovered a secret crank that opened the gate. Further exploration led to a secret door opening onto a stairway leading upwards, in sharp contrast to what they've encountered thus far.

Climbing the stairs, they found an elaborate Dwarven antechamber holding six musical pipes. Experimentation revealed that playing certain pipes opened certain doors and closed others, until the proper sequence was found, opening all three sets of huge, impressive double doors. Entering, they found first a rough, unfinished section of halls and chambers, but then more beautifully crafted Dwarven architecture and sculpture, including a massive statue of Aki, the father of all Dwarves, carved from the living rock of the mountain. Though there was a plethora of doors to explore, the party found a large staircase leading farther upwards and pressed on, surprising a small band of trollkin at the top landing!

Even hemmed in by the stairs, the group made short work of them, with Yllgrad stopping the final one as he fled with a well placed thrown dagger. Following the path the dead trollkin seemed to be heading for, they fell upon another small band of trollkin, these obviously searching and rummaging around in what appears to have once been an officer's quarters. Outside the chambers was a large, magnificent hall with pillars carved in the likenesses of Dwarven heroes, warriors, and smiths. Crossing over they found a doorway directly opposite and entered a room in even worse repair, this one the nest of eight disgusting giant rats! The rats were quickly dispatched, with Sir Braxton the war dog taking especial pleasure in tearing apart one of the foul vermin. Catching their breath, our intrepid band prepares to continue to explore this mysteriously upwards reaching section of Fellhold.

Fellhold Session 12 Recap

We left off with our adventurers deep within the Ashfell, and as we joined them this week, they continued to explore . They returned to the relief mural depiction of the founding of Fellhold and followed the carvings around a large hall, reading a story of dwarves comes to Ashfell, delving into the mountain, and ending with a scene of trade, craft, and fellowship between dwarves and men. Having satisfied themselves that this mural did not contain any further clues about how to proceed, they set off to continue down a wide passageway leading from the imposing statue of a sorceror. Along the way, they found a large, crude set of double doors with a sword painted on and decorated with human and goblin skulls. After listening at the door and hearing some sort of chanting or cheering coming from beyond, they set to and kicked down the door.

This alerted a group of trollkin bigger than the goblins previously encountered to rush the party and slam the door closed. The party hacked open the door, and made pretty short work of these unarmored trollkin, but they were followed by fully armed and armored trollkin warriors in seemingly endless numbers. The group stood their ground and fought, felling scores of the humanoids. The fight began to take its toll, however, with Blum the magic user seriously wounded, the other members of the party reaching the limits of their endurance, and the deaths of four hirelings.

Deciding that surviving to fight another day was better than a valiant last stand. Flinging recovered gelatinous cube slime behind them to slow pursuit, they fled to a previously discovered narrow hallway with a door and spiked the door closed in the faces of their pursuers. As we leave them, deciding to put more space between them and the howling hordes, they flee deeper into the pitch darkness of Fellhold too quickly to map. . .

Fellhold Session 11 Recap

Our brave adventurers consolidated after cutting down wave after wave of goblin fighters, and decided that the best course of action was to camp outside of the goblin lair they had extensively mapped out. Spending the night in quiet, they proceeded to thoroughly map out every nook and cranny of the goblin delving, and then turned their eyes to the previously explored excavated stairs deeper into the mountain. Following these stairs down, they found a brief encounter with vicious giant rats, a long since abandoned market place, many empty store rooms, and a painful but ultimately unremarkable needle trap. After an unsuccessful strike by a surprising gelatinous cube, Yllgrad cleaved it in half with a mighty critical hit. Unfortunately, after a string of successes, Varian fared less well against a stoutly built door, and found himself on the ground in pain after one too many attempts to kick down doors in dramatic fashion. Altogether, the group covered a lot of ground, finding stairs deeper into the mountain, multiple large statues of sorcerors, and a variety of rooms and corridors, mapping perhaps a greater extent of the tunnels under the mountain than any previous expedition. What lies in store for them as they proceed forward? Will their blase ways continue to serve them well, or will doors prove more treacherous than foemen? Only time will tell!

First Fellhold Rules Post

Howdy folks. The bulk of this post will be the first actual rules I have written for Fellhold coming out of my reading "An Echo, Resounding" and "Dungeon World". I was initially afraid I would simply be using pieces from each with no original material whatsoever, but in the process of figuring out what I really wanted to do, I ended up coming up with something more different than I expected, though the influences are obvious. Without further ado, here's the section on creating a level for a megadungeon:

How to Create a Dungeon Level

These rules are presented to give you a toolbox for creating the levels of your megadungeon. They can also be used to make smaller lair style dungeons. The toolbox analogy is pretty fitting, though, because just as a hammer, nails, saw, and so forth are necessary to build a house, so too is the lumber and the time putting in the work. These rules are not a substitution for your imagination and creative work, but hopefully they are a useful guiding framework that limits your work to the fun stuff of coming up with what’s interesting, and somewhat mechanizing the more tedious parts.

Create a Level Front

Like the wider ranging and more amorphous sources of adventure of the surface world and wilderness, your preparation for the dungeon is organized as Fronts and Dangers, though being dungeon fronts and dangers, they are a little different in nature. You will follow a step by step process, and when you finish, you ought to have a living, breathing dungeon space ready for adventurers to stomp into and cause trouble.

1. Pick Tags for Original Purpose

Following is a list of tags that describe what the original purpose of any given area was broadly speaking. These don’t have any particular mechanical effect except to remind you what kind of hazards and monsters to put in there, how to lay out the rooms, and so forth. Somewhere between one and three is usually good for the level overall. Use these to capture a broad theme to guide you when maknig decisions about the level.

Arcane - Either built for some kind of Arcane experiment, or an area magical in nature.

Bandits - Brigands, human or otherwise, built or modified this area for their purposes.

Caverns - The natural forces of the earth opened these tunnels and chambers.

Chaos - Twisted by the intrusion of forces antithetical to reality, there is something deeply wrong with this part of the dungeon.

Cult - Constructed or modified for use by a secretive and sinister cult of some sort

Demonic - This area has received the attention of a demonic entity and reflects its twisted nature

Divine - When constructed, this area was imbued with some sort of divine energy - be sure to name the deity

Dwarven - This part of the dungeon was originally delved by dwarves. It is likely orderly and heavily decorated with dwarven designs.

Fungus - Extensive and large fungi grow in this area, whether wild or cultivated by underground denizens for food.

Gate - This area contains a passageway to somewhere else - a different environment, realm, or even world.

Mines - These tunnels were dug in pursuit of gold, silver, gems, or something else valuable under the earth, and are likely to be rougher hewn and less orderly than others, twisting to follow veins of precious materials.

Monsters - Some kind of intelligent monster made this place for its own use, it may be crudely done or well made.

Nest - This area was burrowed out by some kind of bestial creature.

Prison - A dungeon in the truest sense, this area was built to confine prisoners, and maybe worse.

Temple - This area was dedicated as a temple to some power, whether divine or profane, or something stranger

Tomb - Parts of these halls and rooms were built to serve as catacombs to house the dead.

Religion - This area was dedicated to some particular religious figure, you should specify which.

Volcanic - Whether active or dormant, this area was formed by movement of hot molten rock and gases from deep within the earth.

2. Pick Tags for Current Nature

Like the original purpose tags, these tags are meant to guide you in making decisions about crafting the level. You’ll notice that many of the tags are the same as from the original purpose section, even if their descriptions are a little different. The idea is that you don’t need to double up on something that is still true (If it was created divine and is still divine, no need for a separate current nature tag). Instead, these tags allow you to set up interesting contradicitons that show the way the dungeon has changed and developed. What was once the proud market place of the Dwarves may have become the scene of sorcerous displays by an evil cabal, and is now where bandits bed down their horses.

Ancient - Whatever formed this location, it was long and long ago.

Arcane - This location serves some magical purpose, or is imbued with arcane energies.

Bandits - Some kind of humanoids that prey on others have set up shop in this part of the dungeon.

Chaos - This part of the dungeon is twisted and tainted from the touch of something beyond any rational world.

Cult - A sinister and covert religious group uses this area for its mysterious ends.

Demonic - One or more demons maintain contact with the world in this place, and it carries their taint.

Divine - Blessed by some deity, name which god has bestowed his or her benefits on this section of the dungeon.

Fungus - Omnipresent and possibly huge fungi cover this section .of dungeon, whether overgrowth or cultivated by subterranean inhabitants.

Gate - This section of the dungeon serves as a gate to elsewhere - whether mundane or supernatural.

Mines - These tunnels are actively worked to extract the riches of the earth.

Monsters - Creatures, whether humanoid or not, infest this area. Use each significant monster type present as a tag.

Nest - Something monstrous and non-humanoid has made this area its home.

Prison - Captives are held or tortured here.

Religion - Some religion is practiced here. The tag should specify the deity’s name.

Temple - This section is used for worship of some force.

Tomb - Whatever its original purpose, this section now houses the burials of some intelligent group.

Volcanic - Active magma and hot gases can be found in this area.

3. Decide Total Treasure Number

As discussed in the Domain Play section, one Treasure is equal to 500 GP. A good rough formula for how much treasure a level should have is to multiply 10 times a number of D6s equal to the level of the dungeon (this is untested still!)

4. Create a Danger for each Section

This is where most of your work creating dungeon levels will come in.  Follow the steps below in the Create a Section Danger section in order to detail each section of the current level. Any tags you’ve selected for the level overall will apply to the sections unless you decide otherwise. Also, it’s important to point out that an entire level can just be one section. This is a great way to make either“lair” type dungeons, smaller megadungeon levels, or parts of larger megadungeon levels. In the original Fellhold campaign, most levels were divided into quadrants which were statted up as sections.

5. Create any level-wide monster assets

If you have any especially large monsters or wide ranging monster groups that you want to be prevalent throughout the entire level and not associated with any particular section, go ahead and follow the rules for creating a monster asset detailed in the chapter on Assets.

Create a Section Danger

It will be most regular for a level to represent a number of rooms and corridors roughly the same distance above or below ground, and for sections to be some subset of those rooms and corridors. This is not the only possible way to use these rules, however. You might have a tower that counts as all one “level” and each section is a floor, or even a grouping of floors. Don’t feel bound to create a new “level” and “section” just because the player characters will have to go up or down some stairs to access it. You could also create a sprawling ruin of a city and have each neighborhood be a section. The rules are purposely flexible.

The included Section Reference Sheet provides space for recording most of the decisions you make here, but all that’s really needed is a pencil and some paper (preferably graph paper).

1. Create a Ruin Location for the Section

This is fairly straightforward, and is mostly a content holder for all of the work you will do in the rest of the steps. If it is ever interacted with using the Domain Play rules, it will be a ruin with a Treasure value of whatever you assign from the overall level Treasure, a nature of whatever Original Purpose and Current Nature tags you pick, and any monster assets you create for the section. If you want to keep the dungeon feeling “alive” you can have each section function as a small domain and take domain turns using the monster assets and transfer treasure around and modify assets accordingly.

2. Pick Tags for Original Purpose

These are the same tags as for the overall level, but they allow you to fine tune a particular section of the level. Perhaps the level overall is an ancient Dwarven city, but this section was their fungus farm, yuou could add the Fungus tag.

Arcane, Bandits, Caverns, Chaos, Cult, Demonic, Divine, Dwarven, Fungus, Gate, Mines, Monsters, Nest, Prison, Religion, Temple, Tomb, Volcanic

3. Pick Tags for Current Nature

Just as with the Original Purpose tags, these are identical to the Current Nature tags for the overall level, but allow you to call out a particular section as different.

Ancient, Arcane, Bandits, Chaos, Cult, Demonic, Divine, Fungus, Gate, Mines, Monsters, Nest, Prison, Religion, Temple, Tomb, Volcanic

4. Assign portion of Level’s treasure to section

Use your own good judgment here, but unless you have crafted one section of the level to have more treasure than others (like, say, because a dragon has its lair there or an entire tribe of trollkin store their loot there) it’s just fine to split it up evenly among the sections.

5. Choose or Draw the Floor Plan

This part has always proved challenging to me, and so I remind you that you can repurpose sections of the many, many dungeon maps available for free or for purchase. It is satisfying in a different way to work within the constraints of an existing floor plan to find your vision than it is to think through the placement of rooms and halls and make your own decisions. Both are fun, and both lead to good dungeons, so honestly, go with whatever you’re most comfortable with, and feel free to mix it up from level to level, section to section.

The main thing you’ll want to concern yourself with, whether drawing or copying a map, is to make sure there is interaction with the rest of the dungeon. Make sure sections connect in multiple ways, have stairs up and down levels, and so forth. It’s especially fun and interesting to make multiple connections of different sorts, such that one part of level 1 leads down to level 2, but another goes to level 3, and still another leads to a sub-area of level 1. Layouts like this encourage thorough exploration and lots of backtracking, giving you the chance to showcase the dungeon as a living, changing place.

6. Create the Stocking Tables

The stocking tables are really where the section comes to life. It may seem dry at first to make a bunch of tables, but they allow you to combine your creativity and judgement and random chance in a way that really fosters a dynamic, living feeling for the dungeon. If you haven’t experienced it yet, you’ll be amazed at the way motives and plot hooks and history just pop into your brain as you work your way through the rooms with a random table. They also make it really easy to restock the dungeon after the adventurers have massacred their way through a section.

6a. Create Monster & Treasure Frequency Table

The Monster & Treasure Frequency Table allows you to determine whether a given room contains a monster and/or treasure. When checking to see if a room contains either a monster or treasure, you roll on this table. The default table, modified from the original adventure game is as follows:

Roll 1st DieResultRoll 2nd DieResult
2Monster w/Treasure2Nothing

If you use this default table, the procedure is to roll 1d6 to see if there is a monster with or without treasure, and then to roll a 2nd die if there is no monster to see if there is unguarded treasure. To save time, you may wish to roll 2d6 of two different colors, designate one the “monster die” and the other the “treasure die” and ignore the treasure die on a result of 1 or 2 on the monster die.

If you choose to create an alternate monster/treasure frequency table, simply choose a die size, how many dice to roll and then assign values. I’d recommend sticking with the default until you get a feeling for how populated a dungeon you want to face in play. Having a good mix of rooms that are genuinely empty and rooms that just need a little searching to find somethign of value, and rooms that represent a potential threat is necessary to keep the exploration aspect of the game fun and interesting.

6b. Create Monster Stocking Table

This table is where your section really gets the flavor that your players are going to notice the most. Monsters provide the most interactive part of what the players will face in a dungeon section, and so help define places. As you choose monsters for the table, don’t think only about how many hit dice they have, or how large a group they travel in, think also about how they fit together, and what they’re doing in this section of the dungeon. In a section of the dungeon you’ve designated as Hobgoblin controlled, most of your entries will probably be Hobgoblins. If you want a section of caverns to feel more wild and untamed, don’t put any intelligent monsters in your table. You get to exercise some discretion and taste in what you include and at what frequency, but then the random die rolls will give a pleasantly unexpected specific mix.

Another important consideration is the rate of refresh for your stocking table. The dungeon should be a living place, and just because the adventurers have been through an area before doesn’t mean it should be a barren, safe wasteland from then on out. Tweak your stocking table to reflect changes (maybe driving out the hobgoblins opened up the area to goblins now), and after the right amount of in-game time has passed, go through the stocking process again. A good starting point is 1 week, but up this for rarer creatures or lower it for especially prolific ones.

To create your table, simply select a die size and then assign an entry to each value, using the guidance above. Do yourself a favor, though: don’t go nuts on the die size. If you try to pick d100 monsters, or even d100 discrete entries for every single section, you’ll end up throwing your referee’s binder at the wall in no time. Now, if you have broad percentages that amount to 20 or less entries, that’s just fine. For starting out, D6, D8, or D10 gives you plenty of room to play with, but won’t leave you stumped on those last few entries.

6c. Create Room Dressing Table

Room Dressing is whatever random stuff you place in rooms to give them some character beyond their bare dimensions and the composition of their walls. It’s not necessary to have or to specify dressing in every single room, but you’ll want to be careful about only describing items in detail when they warrant being searched or flat out telling players a room is empty if it is. Let them explore! Try to include things that suggest something of the section’s purposes throughout the ages. As with the monster tables, choose a die size that seems appropriate and fill it with things that seem evocative of the tags you chose at the beginning, but that can be reused a few time without it being weird.

Depending on how frequently you use the room dressing table, you may want only things of especial interest or curiosity, or you may want a bunch of random nothing. Just remember that anything of value is treated under treasure, and has probably long ago been carried off by monsters unless hidden.

Maybe roll a D20 along with your monster/treasure frequency rolls and treat 1-10 as nothing, and then have results for 11-20.

10. Place any special monsters or treasures

Often you will have one or a few creatures or items that you know exactly what you want to do with - the troll chieftain, the dragon, and so forth. Don’t put these guys in your monster chart! They deserve to be treated as individual threats placed with care. So before you use any of your shiny new tables, place the things that are special to the section. Remember to deduct any treasure so placed from the available section treasure to be assigned using the stocking tables.

11. Run through remaining rooms using Stocking Tables

After having hand-placed the important monsters and their hoards, you identify any rooms that seem like they might contain monsters and/or treasures (I tend to leave out tiny storerooms or rooms that are extremely repetitive, or to only pick a few of them). Go through each in turn and roll on your monster and treasure frequency chart. If they indicate monsters and/or treasure, use the appropriate charts. Place treasure with monsters according to the monsters’ description, and when placing treasure randomly, it should be D100% of 1 Treasure (500 GP), and it should be well hidden and/or trapped. This is an excellent excuse to include a trap you hadn’t thought of yet!

As you go through placing monsters and treasure, you may find it easier to convert the sections Treasure total into a GP value and then assign the Gold Marks, Silver pennings, Copper Skillings, jewels, weapons, and so forth accordingly. If you reach the total treasure value for that section, then do not place any more treasure. If you have a lot of rooms left without any treasure, consider altering the level’s overall amount of treasure to better reflect what ought to be there.

12. Create Wandering Monster Table

This table will quite likely be fairly similar to your stocking table (sometimes they can even be identical), but you can add some nuance by having a distinction between the monsters that wander this area and those who actually reside there in a more permanent fashion. In addition to choosing a die size and assigning monsters (or evecn strange sounds or events) to each result, you need to choose how often to check for a wandering monster in this section. Once per hour (6 exploration turns) is fairly typical, but you can vary how dangerous and draining an area is not just in the difficulty of monsters, but in how often they show up.

13. Create Monster Assets

Follow the rules for Monster Asset creation detailed in the Assets section of the Domain Play chapter in order to create assets representing any large monster forces or particularly powerful individual monsters. Again, this will let you play out “domain actions” between dungeon inhabitants to keep the dungeon dynamic, as well as giving you the information you need if any enterprising domain ruler tries to deal with a dungeon through main force.

14. Place Traps

Go through the level and place any fiendish traps or puzzles you care to. Sometimes you’ll do this step as your draw the floor plan and see where traps would make sense. Other times you’ll being to see a sort of logic emerging from your stocking rolls, and you’ll set up traps that way. Give traps some thought: were they put there by the original constructors? Can they be reset? How do the dungeon’s denizens deal with them? On the other hand, don’t overthink them too much: dungeons have traps, they’re part of the territory, so if you think you need some, put them in there.

15. Final Touches and Tweaks

At this point you have an entirely playable dungeon section that you’re prepared to restock or have interact with other dungeon levels and sections as necessary. It’s helpful, though, to take a moment to look at everything together and make any final tweaks that suggest themselves, whether regarding monster placement, treasure amount, or just what makes sense or not, this is your chance to double check that the section actually makes good on the creative vision you codified in the tags you chose at the outset.

Porting Dungeon World's GMing Rules, Part 4

So, for this post I'm taking a bit of a departure from the campaign and domain play rules that I've been kitbashing from Dungeon World and An Echo, Resounding. This is mostly because it's been awhile, and I'm having to reconstruct all the stuff I had figured out from what are now opaque notes, and instead of figuring all that out tonight, I went instead for a simpler problem and decided to tackle some planning/layout issues, and then to address equipment tags.

Equipment tags are one of my very favorite nitty-gritty details from the Apocalypse World family of games. I'm a sucker for broadly modular systems that have a framework for incorporating very flexible input (now that I've figured them out, I'm a big fan of tags for blog posts as well). Perhaps best of all, incorporating DW style tags does not require a lot of work on other rules. For all of the "fictional cue" tags, it's really just a matter of systematizing and highlighting what's already there in OD&D. OD&D referees are already supposed to account for the fact that a Glaive isn't something you're going to use in a wrestling match and that daggers might have trouble getting around a determined shield wall. The trouble is, as I'm discovering actually running an OD&D game, is that when the ref gets caught up in keeping track of exploration rounds and combat rounds, tracking monster hit points and special attacks, remembering to check morale, and so forth, it's way too easy to succumb to "Roll to hit. Roll damage. Next guy." Equipment tags are a fantastic way to remind refs about the cool stuff to pay attention to.

Probably the most significant mechanical alterations are in terms of range and encumbrance. I really rather like DW's method of handling weight and encumbrance, and so I'm converting the pound weights of S&W WhiteBox into "Weight" tags. I'm going to go ahead and reexamine the movement and encumbrance rules to square them with the changed weight method. Range is pretty straight forward. I'm straight up converting ranges in feet into the broad categories of "near" and "far".

The biggest challenge is coming from converting prices for things not included in the WhiteBox rules, but overall I'm really excited about including equipment tags going forward.

Fellhold Session 10 Recap

Our intrepid adventurers, after having destroyed a wolf pack, venture through a secret door into hewn underground passages. Joined this time by Yllgrad and Earn and their cohorts (though still not by Blum) the strengthened party takes  a few moments to regroup and take advantage of magical healing before venturing into the underground passages. Finding no sign of the goblins they heard exclaim earlier, they push into to the passages and find a room full of rubble with stairs leading steeply downward. Following these stairs, they find themselves in apparently dwarven rooms, including a small chamber and a barracks room. They also find the entrance to an enormously large chamber with decorated columns, but decide that exploration of it can wait and instead go back up the stairs and check out the passageways closer to the surface more closely, worried about Goblins harassing them from the rear. They send a party of 3 hirelings (all hired by Yllgrad) to a passageway to the south, and themselves go north and east. They trigger a few crude, apparently improvised traps, with Yllgrad bearing the brunt of it, before stumbling upon the lair of a hideous Gelatinous Cube!

The group decides to run back to a room full of trash and attempt to satiate the horrendous creature. Unfortunately, despite its apparently pleasure at the garbage flung into its mass, the monster keeps coming for live flesh! After very little time, an effective hit from an arrow fired by one of Earn's men coupled with a devastating axe blow from Yllgrad serve to dissolve the noisome and foul cube.

The adventurers continue to explore and find a room full of apparently waylaid trade goods as well as a cave entrance directly out to the hill side that was initially missed due to the heavy vegetative cover. Knowing a quick way out and having gained no report from Yllgrad's men, they returned to the putative meeting point and found no one waiting for them. Venturing further south, they blundered into the goblins' own great hall, with dozens of combatant goblins present!


After a long fight with many multiple-goblin cleaving blows, and including astounding fortitude and viciousness in the face of mounting casualties by the goblins, our party found themselves victorious, but wondering where the goblin women and children had fled to, and whether that boded further trouble.

Fellhold Session 9 Recap

Due to various obligations in Silverdelf, Yllgrad, Blum, and Earn remained behind, but along with their hirelings and henchmen, Bryni, Caleb, and Varian set off to explore the heretofore unknown eastern path up the spur to Fellhold. They found that the path petered out in a heavily wooded and gently sloping portion of mountain, with crags and boulders suggesting caves. On further exploration, they found a large cave opening, and an initial scan of the cave revealed a heavy bed of pine needles as well as the grisly remains of creatures large and small, accompanied by a horrible smell. Deciding that discretion is the better part of valor, our explorers prudently set the pine needles alight to smoke out whatever may lair in the cave, taking up positions to meet whatever fled the cave.

They were confronted by an enraged Owlbear! This massive and ill tempered brute charged straight for Varian on his horse, as the most direct target, and landed a moderately injurious blow with its talons, but Varian's shield and plate deflected the beast's other attacks. The party engaged in a vicious melee, killing the monster without suffering any casualties. They drained the monster of its blood and stowed the carcass in the cart, hoping to turn some sort of profit, or at least have an impressive trophy for their now under construction home base.

After allowing the fire to burn down, they entered and found nothing of interest except for a small gem and scorched longsword and helmet (now beneath their well armed notice) on an unfortunate skeleton. Moving on to the other obvious cave opening, they sent a hireling in to investigate, who came fleeing out when he heard growls and smelled wet dog. Sure enough, a pack of 8 wolves came surging out of their den to fight viciously. The alpha charged straight for Varian (again the most obvious target) while the rest of the wolves spread out to harry as many of the human intruders as they could. Erna was severely wounded, but quick action by Aelfsigr saved the remaining sister soldier. Varian once again sustained a moderate wound, but Caleb magically cured his wounds so that he could finish the fight with the diminishing wolf pack. Sir Braxton, Caleb's trusty war hound, personally tore out the throat of the alpha wolf, but the pack was too frenzied to acknowledge what would normally be clear sign of dominance to wolves.

After a hard fought battle, all eight of the wolves were killed, and the party carefully inspected their den, finding a fairly large cave complex. In the rearmost chamber, they found a litter of four wolf pups, which they took back to the cart to sort out later, though there was talk of either vicious pets or sale to specialty merchants. During their careful inspection, they found a knob that opened a secret entrance to what appears to be a worked passageway. Peaking around the corner, they heard an exclamation of surprise in Goblinic (the language of trollkin). They retreated to regroup and plan at the wagon, and in our next episode they plan to push in to the mountain.

Fellhold Session 8 Recap

After last week's harrowing encounter with arm-hungry statues and pit traps, our daring band of adventurers decided it was time to attend to some matters outside of Fellhold's dark halls. Acca, the hireling who lost his arm, survived his grievous injury, and his family was so grateful for the pension his employer offered him that his son Weorc took service in his place. The party set out on a quiet trip to Mickleheim where they once again strengthened their ties to Clan Dagaeca through the steward Cnud, selling them the splendid necklace of fire opals lifted from Earn the bandit chief and discovering that an exotic beast brought in alive for the midwinter festival would  make a fine offering to Hrokr, fine enough that a bounty might be offered.  Bryni also once again besought Mihtig the Mighty, strong man extraorinaire, and found his fee more reasonable after the encounter with the portcullis. Having secured such specialist service and finding themselves flush with more money than they knew what to do with, the group decided it would be best to invest in a permanent base in Silverdelf, and so headed back.

On the return journey, they were ambushed by a group of small trollkin, out in the daytime oddly enough. In their first onslaught they managed to kill the hireling Gytha, leaving her sister Erna distraught  The rest of their attacks were largely ineffective, except for a glancing wound to Yllgrad. When the adventurers responded, Blum once again unleashed his devastating sleep spell, putting half of the attacking humanoids out of commission. The remaining half were dealt with fairly easily by the largely mounted party and their hirelings. They also had fewer qualms with slitting goblin throats than men's, and so dispatched the sleeping trollkin.

Upon return to Silverdelf, they employed the engineer hired to travel back with them from Mickleheim to seek out and survey an adequate spot for a great hall. Finding a suitable spot along the Silverrun river, they employed him to begin construction of a great hall with rooms enough for the party and their favored henchmen and a good stout cellar for the storage of treasure, a stables, a smithy suitable to function as an armory, and a surrounding palisade wall. This project will take quite some time to complete, but should give our heroes a welcome safe haven in which to celebrate and lick their wounds.

Fellhold Session 7 Recap

Our intrepid band of adventurers finished up their business in Mickleheim, recruiting even more hirelings for renewed expeditions. They returned to Silverdelf without incident and discovered that the captured bandits had been sent off to whatever rough justice awaited them in Mickleheim along with the rescued shipment of whiskey. They also caught wind of an armed group buying supplies and setting off in the direction of Fellhold, but for what purpose?

Deciding to deal with Earn and his bandits once and for all, they returned to the bandit lair, leaving Varian and his retinue to guard the baggage train in the ruined outpost. Once again, they managed to surprise a large group of bandits and Blum employed the sleep spell to great effect, downing all ten of Earn's new hires, but leaving Earn himself standing, slightly woozy, but ready to fight. Quickly ganging up on him after a few ineffectual bow and crossbow attacks, our band surrounded Earn and set to with deadly earnest. Yllgrad the dwarf landed a mighty blow, as did Caleb, and the others and their hirelings chipped away at his defenses. At his time to act, Earn proved to be a puissant warrior, delivering blow after blow, but to only limited effect. Once again the party set to him with continuing gradual effect, and one of Earn the Cleric's hirelings hilariously fumbled his morning star, waking an entranced bandit. The remaining hirelings subdued this bandit as the party finished it's exchange with Earn the bandit chief. He landed a vicious and potentially lethal blow on Yllgrad, but Caleb's nurse Alfsigr staunched the bleeding until the newly empowered clerics could see to him with magical healing.

Fittingly enough, Dag, the former bandit sergeant and now loyal retainer of Bryni's, landed the killing blow on Earn, and the party subdued and searched the remaining new bandit recruits. They recovered a magnificent necklace from the vain and luxury loving Earn, as well as a sizable personal stash of gold. After some debate, the party decided that these new recruits hadn't had much time for actual banditry, and settled for disarming them and letting them loose to fend for themselves, after being relieved of their purses, of course. After dealing with these logistics, the adventuring band camped out in the ruined outpost to prepare for further exploration, and besides a shouted alarm at small, shadowy figures observing the camp and darting away, the night passed without incident.

Returning to the dark halls of Fellhold, the party finally had the opportunity to explore deeper into the dungeon. Blum fell into a pit trap and would have been out of action, but for the quick work of Earn, being lowered into the trap with rope, curing his wounds with the power of Dwyn, the Oak Mother, and raising him back out. More carefully advancing, the party found a large room with several openings and two door ways. After carefully checking a small chamber behind one door, they found the second door the trigger to release a portcullis, blocking the way they came! The strongest hirelings in the retinue were unable to lift the portcullis, but Bryni devised a mechanism from a spear, helmet, and several iron spikes, creating a makeshift pulley, allowing almost the entire party to bring their strength to bear and to heroically lift up the gate enough to prop two doors under, so that everyone could crawl through.

Glad to have their path of escape clear, but still desiring to explore, the party proceeded north at the T-intersection where they had previously gone south, and then turned east, discovering a blasphemous and disgusting temple of the Sorcerors who once ruled Fellhold. In addition to the relief sculptures on the walls and pillars of repellent and sensuous revels of humans and demons, there were three large statues of grotesquely fat and vicious frog demons, two with glittery eyes, and the largest on a raised dais with a fist-sized gem in it's obviously hinged jaws.

After some discussion of how best to avoid tripping what appeared obviously to be a trap, they decided it most likely to be a pressure plate, and so tasked a hireling with carefully swapping a waterskin estimated to be the same weight out with the stone. Unfortunately for this poor fellow, the jaws snapped closed, severing his arm immediately! Despite this grisly sight, the group continued to search. Caleb and his helpers removed the eyes from the southern of the two glittery eyed statues and found them to be only glass and to release a cloud of poison gas! After some hacking and coughing, he and his hirelings were severely weakened, but still in fighting shape. Bryni, learning by the examples of his peers, was far more careful with the northern of the two statues, throwing stones until he could dislodge one of the eyes, and found them to be ordinary topaz, and no traps. With the use of crowbars, the party also recovered the unfortunate hireling's arm and the gem. Deciding not to press their luck further, the party left for Silverdelf to have their items appraised and to see to a proper pension for the now one armed former hireling and to see to various other matters of resupply and logistics.

Fellhold Session 6 Recap

Last night, our intrepid band set out on the road to Mickleheim. The first two days of the three day journey passed quietly, but on the third day just after sun up they were set upon by a pack of vicious wolves! Though the only serious injury was to one of Earn's retainers, who was viciously mauled, Earn leapt to his aid and stemmed the bleeding. After the players dispatched one of the wolves, the rest turned tail and ran, losing three more to parting blows and crossbow quarrels. The party made efficient but grisly use of the bodies, skinning them to sell the pelts, and making a meal of the meat to take their strength and save precious trail rations.

They pressed on and reached Mickleheim by nightfall, finding lodging in the Drunken Giant Inn. The next day they checked the Craftsman's Bazaar to see what they could get for their plunder, and were unsatisfied with the prices offered, and spent good coin drinking and spreading the word and gathering information. After three days of greasing the wheels, they discovered the Steward of the House of Daglaeca, a family of some esteem fallen on hard times. They managed to strike a deal satisfactory to both sides, and our adventurers found themselves flush with cash in a way none of them was familiar with.

Varian immediately discharged his ruinous debt, Ulf the lender being somewhat disappointed to see such a potential huge cash flow cut off early. The party jointly secured a larger wagon and draft animals, and several sought the services of more men at arms and other hirelings. The party has concluded most of its business in Mickleheim and will probably return to Silverdelf and Fellhold in our next installment, but their options are open.

Porting Dungeon World's GM Rules, Part 3

Though the title of this post shortchanges the role An Echo, Resounding is playing in my development of the referee rules in my campaign, I figured it was best to stay consistent.

As an example of the role AER is playing, though I'm working my way up to the domain rules, rather than down, I am broadly using the categories and concepts from AER's domain play, so that most of the framework for reconciling Dungeon World style GMing tools with the AER domain play should already be there. So, last night I figured out how I want to work steadings (which include cities, towns, and keeps), ruins, resources, and assets.

The inspiration I stumbled upon was that Gangs in Apocalypse world already provide an example of the intersection of statted out groups with the GM organization tool of Fronts and Threats. Dremmer's biker gang is a "threat" when it comes to figuring out what things are happening off stage and how they will react to player actions and/or threaten things the players care about, but when they throw down in a shoot out, they are a "gang".

So, by way of comparison, in Fellhold, there might be a bandit group that is written up as a threat to help me keep track of them as elements of the world, but if that bandit group starts threatening a domain's trade in a significant way, they'll be statted up as an asset that can move around and interact with other assets at a domain level. If it comes to personal combat, the existing D&D rules (well, Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox, as modified) will come into play as per usual.

I intend for assets to be able to exist for all three domain values: military, social, and wealth. Assets of different types will have different explanatory tags (for example, a social asset like a town council, won't likely have a damage/harm value, nor will it be mobile). But all assets will have a type tag (military, social, or wealth) and a size tag (the amount it adds to the listed value for the steading that owns it, or the amount it possesses on its own).

Assets are basically a way to enable increased granularity than the DW steading rules. They don't supersede them, they just supplement them. So, a Defense value of "Militia (1)" implies that the citizens of the village can be organize somewhat effectively with some real weapons, and it's given as a characteristic of the Village. On the other hand, let's say that we have a big city that wants to detach a small unit to go attack a neighboring town. Its overall Defenses might be "Legion (6)", but the referee decides that its important to keep track of how that military might is dispersed, and so creates an asset to represent the detachment sent away and gives it a value of "Watch (2)" and then assigns it various descriptive tags. At this point it become an asset of type Military with a size of 2. The city's defenses go down to "Garrison (4)" until the asset returns or enough time passes to replace it.

By default, assets should only be prepared for things that have enough of an independent existence to matter (like a powerful merchant guild) or are likely to be dealt with separately from the town as a whole (so, for a big city, you don't need to make an asset for the watch, the garrison, and every unit of the standing army unless and until they become important to game play).

Likewise, groups of monsters can be statted up as assets that live in Ruins or Resources, but this is only necessary if Domains take Domain level action against them, or if you want them to take domain level actions. So, that tribe of Trollkin squatting in the abandoned gold mine can just be written up as a threat as usual if the players are coming to root them out personally with sword and torch, but if a player owns a small domain and sends his troops to deal with the matter, then the goblins will need to be statted up as an asset so they can interact with the domain level troops action.

While I toyed with the idea that Ruin and Resource locations would have monstery/wild versions of population, wealth, and military, I decided that it was a bit forced and hindered the flexibility of threats and fronts. Instead, Ruins will mostly be collections of descriptive tags and associated assets. All Ruins will have a Treasure tag which is like wealth, but finite. So, if adventurers recover 1 Wealth worth of treasure from a Ruin that started with 3 treasure, it now only has 2 unless more is brought in. I probably need to figure out a good conversion from actual gold amounts to treasure, but that's difficult since 1 wealth is supposed to be enough for a small village to get by on. There may be some scaling issues involved, but we'll see.

Resources will also be pretty minimal. All resources will have a "Type" tag that describes what they are, and a "Size" tag that represents the amount of wealth that resource adds to a steading that owns it. A size of 1 will be typical, whereas 2 represents a truly noteworthy reserve, and 3 would be a once in a world source of a resource (something like South Africa is for diamonds). Like Ruins, Resources can have threat and other descriptive tags to make them more than just a place on the map that makes other steadings richer, and they can "house" assets.

At this point, I'm pretty happy with the structure of how tags will work with the categories I got from AER, but I need to dive into AER's methods of generating Ruins, Lairs, Cities, and Towns in order to write more tags and new threat types with new instincts and moves. After that I'll look at Domain Actions in more detail and and combine it with DW's "Updating the Campaign Map" to finalize the domain level rules.


Into the Wilderness (Porting Dungeon World's GM Rules, part 2)

As the party is about to venture forth to Mickleheim, I've started giving some thought to wilderness/sandbox adventure, which I've intended from the start to be a facet of the Fellhold campaign. I cheated a little bit up front by asking my players to do me the courtesy of agreeing that their characters had come together with the intent to explore Fellhold, at least initially, and we'd go from there. This let me devote my initial focus to having mapped and stocked dungeon locations (as it turns out, far more than I've needed so far - before play, I overestimated the speed with which the party would explore). Now they're heading to the big city to sell off some of their more specialized loot, and hopefully get some better prices on fancy things. I was prepared to let them make this trip safely, and only get into the difficulties of wilderness travel later, but they assumed that the journey would involve some play, so who am I to stop them?

So, I'm giving some thought as to how best to handle this. As mentioned in previous posts, I thoroughly like An Echo, Resounding's philosophy of building in later domain level threats and interactions into early play, both because it makes the setting seem more "alive", but also so that when the players start concerning themselves with higher goings on, it won't have come out of nowhere. However, as also mentioned above, I find Dungeon World's fronts (as modified from Apocalypse World) to be a fantastic tool, and so I want to modify them to work here. As such, I'm going to do a bit of thinking out loud about their value and how that will fit into an Old School approach.

First off, for those not familiar with fronts and threats from either AW or DW, they are a fantastic bit of gaming technology thought up by Vincent Baker that quite elegantly reconcile GM prep and vision with wide open player action. The way they manage this is to have a general characterization of the threat (say, a Cult of Demon worshippers) which may be part of a larger "Front" (like eastern front or western front) such as the Incursion of Chaos, or whatever. The GM decides what these things want, and what they will do if left to their own devices, and then figures out some specifics and when/under what circumstances they will happen. So far, nothing that different from what GMs have been doing since ever. Here's the paired techniques that make these something special: first, the GM is specifically charged with making sure these things the baddies are doing will in some way threaten or intrude upon the player characters, and secondly, that these things only happen if the players don't do anything about it. That's where the key difference with pre-planned story lines comes - the GM does not under any circumstances pre-plan a guaranteed outcome about anything that involves player action.

So, examples are more useful than vague descriptions. Under a post Ravenloft/Dragonlance idea of "story" in an adventure, I would probably decide that there's a Demon worshipping cult, and that they are gonna kidnap the mayor's daughter, and then the players are expected to go rescue her, and the climactic sacrifice will be about to happen whenever the players show up. On the other hand, with the fronts and threats system, I'd create a threat about the Cultists, describe what they're like, and what they're prone to do, and come up with a few special things they might do differently than other folks (call upon their Demon lord, make strange pronouncements, whatever) as cues for play. Then I'd decide that if left to their own devices, they'd kidnap and eventually sacrifice the Mayor's daughter. Here's the key thing, though: the timing of those things will be based on the internal logic of the Cultists, not on what seems appropriate to a preplanned idea of the adventure.

So, if the players are astute and figure out the cultists plan and wait to ambush them before they even kidnap the mayor's daughter, that's what happens. If the players don't particularly care about the mayor's daughter for a month or two, well, she got sacrificed while they weren't paying attention. At their most basic, fronts and threats are simply ways of organizing what happens outside of the players' immediate influence, and how to react when they shift their attention to them. For this Old School game, a further difference will be that I'm not particularly interested in pushing on issues of character ("man, this really threatens his core beliefs, let's see how they hold up!") and more interested in pushing on resources, strategic and tactical decisions, and exploration ("man, this really threatens that keep they're building as their new headquarters, let's see how they deal with it!").

What I'm running into in applying these ideas now is that they tend to treat maps as things that should be flexible and vague, whereas there is a lot of Old School value in the map being a key part of the game, with locations just as if not more important than whoever happens to be there right now. Tying threats to locations limits some of their flexibility in responding to player actions, but I feel like without developing theme as a goal, location may provide the answer to "when to push this thing instead of that other thing." And it is because of this desire to link place strongly to play that I put forward last time the idea of "nega-steadings" for dangerous places like lairs and ruins. I didn't have much time last week to sit down and actually put those ideas to use, but I'm hopeful that I'll the time this week, and so hopefully I'll have something more like a finished idea in a few days.

Some Challenges in Judgement

So, I wanted to separate these thoughts from the recap post, as I intend to keep those almost entirely descriptive of the fiction that works out in the game, rather than the rules and inter-player interactions, but we'll see what works!

After accepting a player's more reasonable interpretation of how Sleep affected a group with mixed hit dice, I was faced with the situation where the party got the drop on a lone, as yet unarmed, surprised 3rd level fighting man with a boat load of hit points (here's me realizing some of the dangers of incorporating unmodified AD&D module encounters into my OD&D game). Now, the problem here was the fact that by the combat rules, this guy probably could have eaten a round of attacks from the whole party and their hirelings, especially because he was wearing plate, and then proceeded to cause horrendous casualties while they tried to wear him down.  On the other hand, by my judgement of what was happening in the fiction, you had one tough and skilled guy looking more than a dozen armed folks with weapons to his throat, and he had no idea how tough or skilled they might be (other than suspecting that they were responsible for killing two thirds of his compatriots in prior encounters).

I decided to go with the judgement more related to the fiction and play his actions as a man at sword point (though I was careful to watch for the players getting lax in their treatment of their dangerous prisoners). I found myself a little bit worried that one sleep spell "undid" a difficult encounter, but then I reminded myself of a few things: one, the party has had a couple of dangerous, costly fights with these guys and gotten relatively little treasure to show for it so far, two, that encounters don't always mean fights, a point I've been trying to convey, and three, that my role is not to set difficulty but to create a setting and situation and then adjudicate what happens from there.

So even though it goes against some of my instincts of what the referee/game master is supposed to be about, I think I made the right call. On the other hand, I feel like I may have had the character roll over and be cooperative too easily, even if he didn't want to fight. Oh well, we'll see how it goes in the future.

Fellhold Session 5 Recap

Last night proved to be one of the most successful outings of our brave adventurers yet. Once again venturing under the mountain and into Fellhold, the judicious question of "just how many people *does* the spell Sleep affect?" proved to be the defining moment of the session. Finding the remaining bandits at their midday meal, the magic user Blum cast Sleep on the unsuspecting bandits, and immediately placed all but their leader into a magical slumber. Moving quickly, the rest of the party and their men at arms put this fellow (outfitted in plate and well armed) at sword point and managed to tie him and his followers up. Upon questioning, it was learned that he was merely the bandit chief's right hand man, and not the chief himself. The chief, a man by the name of Earn, had left for Mickleheim to recruit new followers after the many casualties inflicted by the party.

After some debate over different strategies including slitting the lieutenant's throat and giving the bandits the choice of joining them or a similar death, leaving them tied up in the dungeon, or using them as trap detectors/monster bait, the expedition decided on the more humane choice of bringing them to the sheriff of Silverdelf to be dealt with by whatever authorities there may be. Though there proved to be no bounty on these men, the party was allowed to keep their arms and armor and anything else they found of theirs, and this proved to be a serious haul. Serious enough that they once again borrowed the cart of the Silverdelf distillery to return not only the 18 casks of stolen whiskey, but also the rich furnishings of Earn the bandit chief's room. Not trusting either Silverdelf's assayer's estimate on price, nor the local market for luxury tableware and tapestries, the party pooled their more liquid treasure and purchased a wagon and draft horse and set out for Mickleheim the very next day. Will the road be filled with dangers? Will Varian pay off the outrageously high interest on his debt? What else will our brave adventurers find in the twisting streets of Mickleheim? We'll find out next time.

Fellhold Session 4 Recap

Our adventurers were joined for the first time by their magic using companion, Blum. Acting on intelligence gleaned from Dag, a former bandit turned hireling, the party concocted a plan to counter ambush the bandits by disguising themselves as traveling monks of Dwyn, borrowing a cart from the Silverdelf distiller and covering the back with a tent in order to conceal a number of hirelings and Yllgrad the dwarven fighting man. After being surrounded by seven bandits, including the leader, they attacked. Early in the fight, Earn, son of Earn, one of the party's clerics was incapacitated, as were the party's other cleric Caleb and one of the fighting men, Bryni. They were quickly attended to by hirelings so that they would not bleed to death. Blum's attempt to charm the bandit leader fizzled, but he used his staff to deadly effect, smashing multiple bandit skulls. One hireling was killed by a deadly effective spear thrust, but soon after, the bandits, having taken more than half their number in casualties, broke and fled, but our bloodthirsty protagonists pursued them and cut them down, though the bandit leader proved a tenacious foe, he was dispatched by the combined efforts of Dag (now controlled by Bryni's player), Yllgrad, Varian the fighting man, and two of his hirelings (controlled by Earn and Caleb's players).

Searching the bodies of the bandits furnished the party with a small amount of loot, and though in need of some repair after rough treatment, 7 sets of chain mail and some spears and crossbows, with which they intend to better equip their retinues. They returned to town to heal and rest and prepare to retrieve the whiskey stolen by the bandits for a reward of 500 gold marks. Altogether, it was one of their more successful expeditions thus far and marked the first very small step into the world outside of Silverdelf and Fellhold.

A Bit of Fellhold Flavor

So, I was inspired by Mr. Maliszewski's post over at Grognardia about homebrew campaign settings to talk a little bit about what's been established regarding Fellhold so far. There isn't a whole lot, because I'm trying really hard not to indulge my world building bug and detail out a hugely elaborate setting before things occur in play. Instead, I'm trying to fix a firm aesthetic in my mind, so that as questions/situations come up in play, I can incorporate recent events and player actions, but still maintain an editorial voice. I first saw this approach spelled out in Apocalypse World, and it was a recurring point in the Dwimmermount campaign at Grognardia.

So, that being said, I did want to give the players somewhere to start so they're not totally flopping around in the dark. I decided that my setting would be largely inspired by Germanic culture and folklore, but with a decidedly swords & sorcery vibe. Really inspirational to me were the works of Paul Bonner, especially for Drakar Och Demoner by Riot Minds. Along these lines, I decided that there had to be dwarves, but that I wasn't really feeling the other demi-humans. So far, dwarves are fairly typical, revering their ancestors, organized in clans, living in great underground delvings, et cetera. Fellhold itself was once a great dwarven city carved into a lone mountain towering out of immense forests, with the crystal clear waters of the Silverdelf flowing out of springs in the mountain side.

One of the main ways I decided to impart flavor indirectly was to provide name lists. I haven't restricted the player characters to using the name lists, but I do pick all of the NPC names from them. I used the simple expedient of finding historical names from the sorts of cultures I want to emulate and selectively picking them based on sound and meaning. Dwarven names, for example, are Old Norse, with as much emphasis as I could get on smiths, warriors, and tools. Human names are Anglo-Saxon, but where most real-world Anglo-Saxon names were compound, for Fellhold, I picked out the one syllable root words, and most are words that refer to mundane items, like Ketyl, which means "kettle". Trollkin (Goblins, Hobgoblins, Bugbears) have Gothic names, again, selectively chosen to emphasize words for weapon and warriors and violent stuff. Trolls have Finnish names. I'm hoping that this goulash will result in a generically "northern Germanic" feel, without tying too much into real-world history.

The other area of flavor I've fleshed out somewhat is religion. I've tried to leave myself room to adapt, but I wanted to have some of the gods spelled out for any cleric characters. Thus, the main deities shared by humans and dwarves are Hrokr, the Crow Father, Dwyn, the Oak Mother, and Volundr, the Smith. In addition, the dwarves revere their ancestors and believe that their spirits aid them in the form of the tools, weapons, and armor passed down from them. They also especially revere Volundr as their creator, but they recognize Hrokr's pre-eminence as king of the gods. All three of these gods stand for the alignment of Law in different ways: Hrokr upholds and is the patron of organized society, especially the sanctity of the guest-host relationship and the authority of chiefs and elders. Dwyn upholds the wilder, more organic structure of nature, which may appear chaotic to normal men, but is still governed by rules and structures. Volundr, obviously supports the pragmatic and tangible order of physical objects and laws.

In addition to being the king of the gods, Hrokr is a trickster god, and the lord of magic and secrets. He gave men and dwarves the gift of cunning that they might make their own way in the world, but is still open to the occasional intercession.

Dwyn presides over the harvest and death as well as nature, and she is the patron of women and wild animals. She is Hrokr's wife and queen of the gods, but they largely see to their own affairs.

Volundr, in addition to being patron of smiths and craftsmen, crafted the world from the corpse of the mother of dragons after Hrokr tricked and killed her. He created Aki, original forefather of dwarves, to be a companion, and taught him much of his craft. Aki presented nine perfectly life-like statues of ones like himself, richly armed, armored, and covered in jewels. Volundr was much pleased and breathed life into them and created wives for them, and they originated the original dwarven clans.

Contrawise, the trolls and trollkin worship demons, beings of chaos, who seek to undo creation and tear it down, and offer bargains of power to their worshipers if they believe it will lead to chaos and entropy. I don't want to go too much into this now, because the players haven't met any Trollkin yet, and play will reveal more details.

Other than that, I haven't worked much out besides the fact that magic items are scarce and precious, and magic has  slightly dark reputation. Also, as mentioned above, Fellhold itself was originally a dwarven city, but it was conquered by a sorcerous cabal who added their own dark additions and delved even deeper into the mountain. Who knows what lies underneath even that?

Porting Dungeon World's GMing Rules to Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox Part 2

So, the title of this post is more for the sake of continuity than for accuracy. You see, as my referee rule hacking has continued, I've been using not just Dungeon World, but also An Echo, Resounding and to a lesser extent the Red Tide Campaign Sourcebook. The sandbox material in Red Tide is, as mentioned before, quite excellent, but a good deal of it is superseded by what is included in An Echo, Resounding. So, what I have been occupying myself with recently is in figuring out how to blend together Dungeon World's rules for Steadings (cities, towns, keeps, et cetera - see also Apocalypse World's holds) with An Echo, Resounding's domain play rules. I think that Red Tide will come back into play when I get to expanding the fronts and threats section, as it has some really good suggestions for urban/court related complications and dangers.

As a quick recap of what the basic "Campaign Region" framework is in An Echo, Resounding (from here out AER), a referee is instructed to make the following sorts of sites (with guidance, of course):

Cities & Towns




Each of these categories is meant to provide both adventuring locales as well as things for domains to try to control in order to get benefits. Each type of location has some tables you can choose from or roll on to determine the nature of the site and what sort of obstacles are there to keep a domain from just waltzing in and taking full advantage of it. Each location provides bonuses to one or more locations if a domain does take possession of it - Military, Social, and Wealth. These categories can then be used in domain turns to perform domain level actions.

A quick word on domains, in case you're not following me. Domains are meant to be large-ish political entities, but they're set up more for borderland duchies and the like than for sprawling empires. Gamewise, they are intended to play two roles: one, they give a referee a system for adding some dynamism and life into the backdrop of a sandbox campaign, and two, they provide rules for higher level characters influencing the campaign setting at a larger scale in later play. I find both of these goals to be quite worthwhile, and so I found the rules very intriguing.

Now, in addition to the Agenda, Principles, Moves, and Always Say from DW and AW, I've also taken a shine to the Steading rules from DW. So, what I'm working on now is, as I said earlier, an integration of the steading rules with the AER campaign region and domain play rules. I started out by going through the different types of sites in AER and deciding whether or not I want to make DW Steading compatible site rules for them. I ended up deciding that Lairs would be better represented by fronts and threats, as would obstacles for the other sorts of sites.

So, first off, I decided to simply subsume AER's cities, towns, and borderland sites into the Steading rules. I may change some of the steading creation options to reflect some of the more interesting origin and activity options in AER, but otherwise, I felt like most of the options could be covered by the steading tag options. Perhaps most importantly, I decided to do a straight one for one conversion of Prosperity = Wealth, Population = Social, and Defenses = Military as a baseline. Other tags will be able to increase the Domain values as well. Now, this means that I won't be able to use AER's "Saving Throw" mechanic as written for Domain Turns, but I'm planning on working that out as I go forward.

For Ruins, I decided to do a "Shadow Steading" with Treasure, Population, and Danger. Treasure is a measure of how much loot the ruin contains, population measures the number of hostile inhabitants, and Danger measures their relative level of threat posed by said inhabitants. So, a low population, high danger ruin might have a single, large monster, while high population, lower danger might be hordes of less dangerous creatures, like goblins. The main reason for this framework is so that Ruins can fit into domain actions and domain turns, but I worry that  giving "Danger" a mechanical level will get in the way of the Old School approach of not trying to balance monster threat level to character level.

Resources were relatively simple. I just took the resource types from AER, and made them tags. I then added a "Richness" scale, parallel to prosperity in steadings. Since there's already a "Resource" tag for steadings, I decided that Resource Locations require a steading to "own" them or else to have a new Steading established on them. A Resource adds the resource tag to the steading that controls it and increases prosperity by the richness of the location. The resource also has an inherent danger level like ruins as a guide to the threats that should be attached to the location.

As I mentioned before, I'm going to use Obstacles and Lairs as sources for expanding the available fronts.

So, with a rescaling associated with the switch over, I'll have to redo the actual domain play rules, but so far I'm pretty excited about the direction this is going in. On the other hand, as I mentioned above, I *am* worried that I'm introducing mechanics (even loose ones) for things I don't want overly mechanized, like threat level. I think it'll be okay, since even OD&D had guidelines for the level of the dungeon and the average level of monster HD. I'll figure something out.

More to follow as I get into the fronts and threats and into the actual domain play rules.

Fellhold Session 3 Recap

After leaving last session with our explorers holding a bandit sergeant hostage, we rejoined the action this evening. A brief parley established that the bandit leader, Gren, didn't value the contributions of his sergeant Dag, and some quick bargaining brought Dag over to the side of the adventurers. They managed to flee, trigger the pressure plate trap to drop a net, and then picked up the net and threw it onto the advancing bandits. With this delay, they managed to get out of the Fellhold gates and to spike the door closed so that they could flee back to Silverdelf. Dag agreed to become a hireling to Bryni and throw his lot in with the adventurers from here out, and the party rested up to recover its wounds, with the notable exception of Varian who caroused in high style to make use of his loan. We'll open next week with their further adventures.

A Brief Sci-Fi Aside

So, I read through Grognardia's review of Warhammer 40,000, Rogue Trader, and it made me realize something. My design meant to take Necromunda in a slightly more role-play-ey direction was in fact taking 40k back to its roots in Rogue Trader. Now, I think that I can make some more interesting and balanced game design decisions, but overall, Rogue Trader was originally created to address the design space I was shooting for: small skirmish groups based on flavor, with an Arbitrator making it easier to have complex scenarios. I'm going to give the rogue trader rules a gander and see what's different from the 2nd Edition 40k and Skirmish rules I grew up with versus how I want to design my version of the rules.

"You Have to Put in the Work"

Let me tell you a little story about the path that led to my starting up an Old School D&D Campaign. While having far too much time on my hands courtesy of the United States Government, I stumbled onto the indie RPG scene online. Amongst other things, I discovered Vincent Baker's games and blog, and started reading and being inspired by both. One post that didn't particularly register at the time, but has since stuck with me was I <3 the OSR, and especially comment number 8. by Vincent (from whence comes this post's title). Well, about a year later, I don't even remember how or why, but I stumbled onto Grognardia and started reading all of the posts of the Dwimmermount Campaign. This is what really fired me up to actually get a D&D game together over Google+ and led to Fellhold (as I've discussed in pretty much all of the posts this last month). Now the game is underway, and yesterday I read a few posts by game designer Luke Crane (of Burning Wheel fame) regarding his experiences running Moldvay (Red Box) D&D while hewing strictly to the rules: Moldvay D&D RetrospectiveA Tale of Two MapsLet's Talk about Luke's D&D Explorations.  It was reading these posts that made an idea that's been floating around in my head as I've prepped Fellhold really click.

If you didn't check out the link to Mr. Baker's blog, he basically said that there is no book, no blog post, no single text that you can point to and say "if you read this, you'll 'get' the OSR". You have to put in the work. That work is following blogs, participating in discussions, wading through different retroclones in different versions, and most importantly *playing the games*. Sure, things like the Quick Primer for Old School Gaming provide an excellent introduction, but in the end, to grok it in fullness, you have to immerse yourself in it. Just like any subculture/philosophy, really.

Of course, all people everywhere want shortcuts to mastering things, that's human nature. But what has been valuable to me in exploring the Old School Renaissance has been that it is a wonderful antidote to the ubiquity of instant gratification. By way of example, after tearing through all of the Dwimmermount posts on Grognardia, I decided I was going to treat the archives like a "campaign" and read all of them. In many of the Dwimmermount posts, Mr. Maliszewski talks about the value of a long term campaign rather than jumping from interesting game to interesting game every few weeks. In particular he points out that part of a campaign is that some sessions are ho-hum but carry things along, and some drag a little bit, but these are necessary for the sessions that really pop to do so. You build up investment and commitment, and that's what makes the great stuff extra great.

Sure enough, reading through the rest of the Grognardia archives (and this took me a solid month or two of spending most of my reading time reading blog posts), there were a lot of posts that I wasn't particularly interested in (like an extended review of Gamma World) but I read them. I read every single post, even when I got into it and was like "I don't really care about this post". In the end, this had two chief benefits: for one, I discovered things I would have skipped otherwise. I thought I was well versed enough in Pulp Fantasy and wasn't looking for reviews on fiction, but I discovered numerous new authors and stories (more than I've had a chance to check out yet). Secondly, when I did finally slog my way onto the front page, I had a sense of accomplishment. Sure, that's a silly feeling to have for reading through the archives of a blog about a hobby I enjoy, but I feel like I am a moderate expert on this one small thing.

So, to bring this back to play, where it matters, Mr. Crane and Mr. Maliszewski both point out that what makes the rules of pre-AD&D D&D so great is that when you put in the time, a lot of the stuff that seems extraneous or stupid begins to make sense. When I was a kid learning D&D (AD&D 2nd Edition in my case), stuff like exact time keeping and movement rates and encumbrance seemed oh so horribly unnecessary. Ridiculous, even. Reading those posts about Mr. Crane's Moldvay games showed me exactly why they make for a good game. And I know this now, but I don't really get it in my gut yet, because my players haven't been at it that long.  But even the prep I've done on my own has taught me a lot and been immensely satisfying. Watching the players figure out the puzzle door to get into Dwimmermount and not resorting to an intelligence check or the like, just having faith that they'd figure something out was crazy satisfying.

So, if you're interested in this OSR thing, but you don't know much about it, I say dive in. Hell, if you're interested in any large and diverse area of interest, dive in and do the work. It's worth it.

Fellhold Session 2 Recap

In tonight's expedition, our daring adventurers took their first steps into the dank underground of Fellhold. After some accurate mapping and cleverly avoiding a pressure plate trap, the party got the drop on a group of bandits going through their loot. They failed to take full advantage of the surprise and entered into a grinding battle with them. With only the bandits' leader and one bandit still standing, a group of bandit reinforcements was spotted about to join the fray, and in a last ditch desperate effort, our adventurers managed to subdue the leader and hope to use his life to parley a way out of this dangerous situation. Meanwhile, the skeptic cleric and one of the few effective (wo)men at arms lay bleeding and near death, being tended to by nurses and torch bearers. We'll find out next week how the high stakes parley goes, and whether the desperately wounded characters can be tended to and healed.

Porting Dungeon World's GMing Rules to White Box, Part 1

So, as mentioned in my previous post, I think that the GMing rules from Dungeon World/AW are those which can most profitably be ported into an Old School D&D game (Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox in my case). With that in mind, I'm going to start by going through the Dungeon World Agendas, Principles and Moves, as well as the Always Say guidelines, and discuss/tweak to the 'Old School' refing style I am using in my game.

As a quick aside to those unfamiliar with these: the concepts of Always Say, Agendas, Principles, and Moves comes from Vincent Baker's Apocalypse World and are a way to codify and make rules good GMing practice for a particular way to run games. They aren't fluffy "advice" nor are they nitty-gritty "use monsters of X challenge value against characters of Y level" mechanics. They are honest to God game rules, ones you can point to and say "He's not GMing the game by the rules if he doesn't do this". All that being said, the particular style of play Dungeon World's GM procedures point to is close to but not identical to the style of play I'm shooting for with Fellhold, hence the tweaks coming up. Well, let's roll up our sleeves and get to work, shall we?

Always Say

As a Dungeon World GM you always say these things (in bold - followed by my commentary in regular text):

What the rules demand - This one is pretty consistent with my refing philosophy for an Old School game anyhow. I had already decided to follow Mr. Maliszewski's example and make all rolls out in the open and to have a firm "no fudging" policy. On the other hand, one of the "rules" is my judgement as referee (which I am attempting to regularize somewhat with this post) and sometimes the "rule" will be that I roll a die and figure something out based on whether it's high or low. Overall, though, I don't think this one needs any tweaking.

What the adventure demands - Again, this one is fairly straightforward, and pretty close to old school principles. Though it doesn't need to be said to those familiar with Old School or Story Now methods, "the adventure" in this  instance emphatically does not mean "pre-planned story". Rather, this is a reminder to insure that the world's internal consistency informs what I say, and not to hold anything back.

What honesty demands - Building off the "not to hold anything back" idea above is this notion not to hoard information or keep secrets for dramatic/plot based purposes. If a player pokes the canvas cover of a pit trap with his 10' pole, he found it, the end. If the wandering monster check brought up something scary right when the party is wounded and retreating, well, damn, there it is. Once again, totally consistent with an old school approach as I understand it.

What the principles demand - Here's one that is usually not spelled out in Old School games, but I think there is some precedent for the concept. I read somewhere recently someone saying that the OSR relies mostly on "tribal knowledge" and "best practices" to achieve what games like Dungeon World and Apocalypse World have codified in GMing rules, but that both embrace the idea that there is a right way to GM/Ref a game for a particular approach. I'm making some of my indie sympathies obvious with this very post, and it's partially because I don't have much experience with actually running in an Old School style.


Your agenda is what you sit down at the table to do:

Make the world fantastic - Not much to say here, describing everything to present a coherent fantasy world is definitely one of my goals.

Fill the characters’ lives with adventure - I think this one has potentially the greatest room for differences, but isn't fundamentally different. The agenda as stated and implemented in Apocalypse World/Dungeon World calls for the GM to actively craft threats that target things that are important to the characters, while the Old School approach tends to go more for scattering a number of potential dangers/adventurers around, see what the players engage with, and then run with that. I don't have any problem with bringing in a focus on targeting what the players/their characters establish as important to them, but I think I will strongly filter it through the idea that I just make things that the characters interact with, and that I don't try to get at certain "issues" or themes.

Play to find out What Happens - This is the agenda that most struck me as a point of similarity between Old School refing and Apocalypse Engine GMing. Old School GMing expresses it via random tables and constructing locations and environments based on their internal logic and ecology rather than on a story line or specific challenge levels. Apocalypse derived games express it by having stakes and questions in Fronts and strongly reminding the GM not to pre-plan outcomes. I might even point to this agenda as the heart of *my* in-play enjoyment, whereas the other two have more to do with how I help the players have fun (although, Make the World Fantastic ties right into my lonely-fun prepping between sessions).

I can't think of any agendas that need to be added, although my particular version of Play to Find out What Happens, includes a little more of "test the players' skill" than a straight up story now focused game. Here's why I don't think this will result in incoherence: the focus on player skill has practically zero to do with system mastery and more to do with player creativity and initiative. I view seeing the ways players get around puzzles and traps or think up outlandish tactics as part of what I'm playing to find out, and since finding that out doesn't have an impact on the rules the way, say, min/maxing would, I think the other principles and moves will mostly hold.


Draw maps, leave blanks - If anything, Old School play has more focus on maps, but I think it tends to interpret "blanks" more abstractly. Rather than leaving sections of the map literally blank, Old School approaches tend to concretely map out the physical location (dungeon complex, mountains, town, whatever) and then to intentionally leave areas "blank" to be investigated in play. In particular I'm discovering the joy of random dungeon stocking tables, and I'm going to experiment with doing more on the fly once I really have my in-play reference hammered out.

Address the characters, not the players - This one is probably one of the bigger departures. There's much more of a tendency in Old School play to view your character as "your guy" that you control, rather than a "persona" you get into the headspace of. This makes sense given the high rate of lethality for low level characters. I've somewhat consciously avoided this principle in the sessions so far in order to play up the fact that players can't expect plot immunity. As characters grow and develop (and survive) I might start doing this more.

Embrace the fantastic - No problems here, although I've been trying to force myself to be open minded about "the fantastic" than my own narrow sense of what is "right" for the setting. So I think I'll keep this as a reminder to relax and remember the free wheeling pulp source material.

Make a move that follows - Obviously, this one is built on the idea that you are using "moves", but I think the core idea that what you decide to do as a GM/ref should logically follow from what came before fictionally, and perhaps more importantly, that you have "permission" to do hard/bad things if it makes sense fictionally is very Old School. That's part of why I think incorporating "moves" into my thinking will help encourage me to make interesting and exciting decisions about the fiction.

Never speak the name of your move - Here's one that doesn't come up very strongly in most Old School play, but the idea of "embellishing" the nuts and bolts explanation is an old one. I might embrace this one and stop saying things like "the monster rolls to hit", even if it's obvious that that's what's happening. I think that will help focus things back on the fiction, which is the whole idea here.

Give every monster life - Here's one that I think was present in very early Old School play and the renaissance, but that maybe got de-emphasized pretty early on. If you look at the Little Brown Books, you can see that there's an expectation that monsters are more than piles of hit points and attacks sitting on top of treasure. There are rules for capturing dragons for sale, recruiting monsters as followers, and seeing what sort of reaction monsters would have to you in a social situation. This one I definitely want to embrace.

Name every person - I think Old School best practices follow this one, and I've definitely embraced it whole-heartedly, making good use of random name lists and quick NPC creation tables. Something alluded to in the Dungeon World rules that I think will be interesting to see in play is that sometimes monsters become persons, and how they're interacted with will change how the rules treat them.

Ask questions and use the answers - This is fundamental to the Old School way of running things, especially in any sort of rules light game. "You search for traps? Okay, how?" One thing that AW derived games are more open about that I'm keen to embrace is sharing some of the game world's authorship (though there are some excellent examples of this in the Dwimmermount Campaign over at Grognardia).

Be a fan of the characters - Though the Dungeon World rules stress that this does not mean root for the Player Characters to win, I think a cultivated attitude of impartiality is more the approach of the Old School. Perhaps a more specifically Old School restatement would be "Never Treat the Characters as your Enemies".

Think Dangerous - The Old School is so on the same page here. I think DW's broadening of said dangerous thinking from just the characters out to the world's institutions and NPCs and so forth is a worthwhile and consistent  expansion.

Begin and end with the fiction - Yup, another point of strong kinship here. While Old School games have historically not had all of the links between the fiction and the rules as clear as would be ideal, the strong emphasis on the fiction as what matters is definitely there. Hell, I'd argue that rules that started to distance the fiction and game mechanics (thief skills, generic skill sets, et cetera) are what started Old School games on the path away from the Old School.

Think offscreen, too - This one's a staple of good sandbox campaign play, and is also reflected in modules and supplements that presented dungeons as living places (like the various humanoid tribes abandoning the Caves of Chaos after an attack in Keep on the Borderlands). So, I think it's a great idea to put this up as a reminder.


There's going to be significantly less overlap with established Old School procedures in some of these moves, I think a lot are just formalized versions of what Old School Refs do all the time.

Use a monster, danger, or location move - Things like this tend to be covered by special attacks, spells, or the like. The big difference that comes immediately to mind is that most Old School games have an implicit assumption that the monsters follow the same rules or variations of the same rules as the characters (HD as analog for levels, rolling to hit and to damage, et cetera). The idea of having mechanical moves that are *not* based on the player rules is intriguing, and I'm going to have to think about well I think they'll mesh.

Reveal an unwelcome truth - One word here: traps. That being said, thinking of this as a general move to be applied to multiple situations ought to be useful in an Old School context.

Show signs of an approaching threat - A lot of this will get pre-loaded in a module, and the Old School will often rely on the characters asking about it as the prompt to supply it, but I know that in my own design of my megadungeon, I've felt compelled to include indications of the really nasty stuff to be found rather than just springing it out of nowhere.

Deal damage - Pretty obviously in the Old School Ref's repertoire.

Use up their resources - This tends to be more systematized and by the rules in the Old School, but it is definitely a strong focus. I particularly like some of Dungeon World's examples of thinking broadly about "resources" and emphasizing it can be temporary (like the example of a sword skittering across the room out of reach during a fight).

Turn their move back on them - I think the canonical Old School example of this move would be the critical miss/fumble, but it should be fun to keep it in mind with a broader definition of player "moves" as well.

Separate them - Here's one that is less popular with the Old School, if only because of logistical reasons. Never split the party and all that.

Give an opportunity that fits a class’ abilities - I'm not sure how much I'll use this one in play, on the fly, as it seems to go against the idea of the world as a place of its own that the characters interact with, rather than as something designed for the characters. Certainly I try to put a variety of situations with opportunities for all different ways to solve them, but I don't know if I'll look at my notes and go "right about here we need something for the mage to do".

Show a downside to their class, race, or equipment - And here's exactly why you don't take polearms into cramped underground tunnels. I very much plan for this to be one of the ways I make their lives interesting besides throwing monsters their way.

Offer an opportunity, with or without cost - This one's a pretty basic GMing/Refing thing to do, so yep.

Put someone in a spot - See above. Yep.

Tell them the requirements or consequences and ask - Here's one that I think is especially important with so much depending on the referee's judgement. It takes a lot of sting out of arbitrary decisions when you make sure the players have buy in to what the outcome of that arbitrary decision might be. I definitely already use this one and will continue to do so.

So, all of that was a somewhat lengthy way to arrive at the fact that it looks like the Agendas, Principles, Moves, and Always Say of Dungeon World map pretty closely to how I intend to continue to run my Old School campaign. I may think of some additions/modifications as I go, and if I do, I'll post them here. If anybody with more Old School experience takes issue with any of my comparisons, let me know.

Dungeon World, An Echo, Resounding, Refereeing and You

(ed: in my original post, I said that Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox was shared under a Creative Commons License, but this was incorrect. It is, in fact, shared under the Open Game License. I've edited the text below to reflect this)

So, I've been reading through the ever-excellent Kevin Crawford's An Echo, Resounding, as well as Sage LaTorra's totally sweet Dungeon World, switching back and forth between the two of them, and I think there's something really powerful to be made between them.

For starters, don't get me wrong: both are awesome and great on their own. The sandbox GMing advice in Red Tide and An Echo, Resounding is useful, flexible, and imminently playable. Where it touches on the specific campaign setting it is evocative enough to get me to want to read more about it despite my firm intention not to play in it. On the other hand, it is light enough and tied enough into standard D&D tropes that any setting-specific content can be easily excised or repurposed. Just about the only thing I'm finding a little bit difficult is that some of the assumptions in the Domain Play rules in An Echo, Resounding assume a technology level and social organization consistent with Imperial China/Shogun era Japan. In a more European flavored milieu, some of the social structures described imply a higher technology level/later historical analog. Since I am going for a Iron Age/Dark Age Scandinavian feel (predominantly) with scattered and primitive bits of "civilization", assuming that domains can dispatch "magistrates" or that there are organized mercantile forces pushes in some different directions than I have in mind. Fortunately, I've done some thinking about bronze/iron age social and economic structure rules, as that is the entire point of my Book of Threes game.

Which segues me nicely into Dungeon World, given Book of Threes' current status as an AW hack. Ever since Tony Dowler threw together some playbooks and GM advice for "Apocalypse D&D", I've been enamored of the implementation of Apocalypse World's rules to Dungeons and Dragons. Imagine my chagrin when I discovered the Dungeon World kickstarter a week after it was successfully funded. Poop. Fortunately, if you're willing to do some work with InDesign, the rules are available as open source (I had to import XML, since my CS4 InDesign won't open the included InDesign files, and my student discount isn't *that* good on CS6). At any rate, they'll be getting my money just as soon as the make the book/pdf available for purchase. It really is a fantastic way to get a lot of what is great about D&D and a lot of what is great about these new-fangled story games/story now games/indie games/whatever in the same package. Reading through the rules makes me want to play it/run it like whoah.

But I've taken to heart Mr. Maliszewski's advice on gamer ADD to heart, and I'm already having a great time with my S&WWB Old School campaign, so I'm mostly resisting the urge. Mostly. But as I opened the post with, I think there is a lot of use to be found in Dungeon World that can be ported to D&D without too much pain, especially since I loves me some kit-bashing, whether with models or with rules systems. So, following are my thoughts on what I plan to do with Dungeon World while still running a game I can call S&WWB with a straight face.

First off, I won't be importing any player moves. I thought long and hard about importing some for areas that aren't "skills" - stuff like "Last Breath" and "When you Make a Perilous Journey". If I ever do import any player moves, it'll be ones like those - stuff that is not a substitute for or supplement to player observation or description of action, but rather a system for covering something that would otherwise purely be me making decisions out of the blue. Because that's where I think Dungeon World has the most to bring to Old School D&D, at least in my case. I don't have nearly 40 years of good Old School Refing practice to fall back on. I do have buy-in to the underlying principles, and I have read through a lot of OSR posts, and I can look back on a fair number of play experiences as emblematic of Old School play, but it's just not automatic to me. So, AW style agendas, principles, and moves are a great way to give myself reminders of how to Old School ref. Fortunately most of what's in the Dungeon World GMing sections is congruent with if not representative of Old School refing. What doesn't match up, I'm going to tweak.

Where these tweaks will take shape is in the reference file I'm creating for myself. I'm taking the Creative Commons Licensed Dungeon World material and chopping it up in InDesign to export into a PDF of just the stuff I want for my current D&D game. With a little more effort I may actually combine it with some of the stuff from Red Tide and An Echo, Resounding, but that stuff is *not* CCL, so if I do, that would not be quite as releasable as  a fan supplement. If I get really ambitious, I just might even take the White Box rules (Open Game License, which is similar to CCL) and combine them with the various Ref aids I end up using, and make a one volume Fellhold Edition ruleset for my own use (or to be shared if anybody cares and if I can wrangle a legal version).

Now, I think that the traits system (like the tags system in Stars Without Number, Kevin Crawford's excellent and free sci-fi game) in Red Tide and An Echo, Resounding along with the Location rules and Campaign Region rules more generally could have some really awesome interactions with Fronts, Dangers, and Tags from Dungeon World. I'm not sure what those interactions are just yet, but they both are modular and evocative in a way that supports individual referee decisions while still making the work easier, and I like that a lot. They also both tie directly into how to make those decisions matter in play and to help in moment-to-moment running of the game, which I definitely appreciate. Again, I'll probably post here when I think of something more concrete about how to merge these systems that are both getting my engine going.

In the meantime, check out some of those links I included above if you're not already familiar, they are well worth your time if you're at all interested in RPGs of any stripe.