Friday, July 31, 2009

S&S Indeed

Swords & Sorcery ain't got nuthin' on Spears & Spells! OK, yeah that's a stretch. What about Spears & Shields?

Swords seem to have captured the genre with a muscular grip of thick Hyborian sinews, but Spears should be just as important, if not more so, than Swords. I fully understand that Swords are widely considered the pinnacle of hand-to-hand melee technology. It's just that by the time the Sword actually took the title of undisputed champion, by way of the long sword, firearms were but a few generations away.

Compare that to the oft disregarded Spear. The reign of the Spear was far, far longer in the greater history of warfare. In the truest example of fiction/fantasy influence, D&D coughed up the crown to Swords. In OD&D Swords account for 1 out of every 5 Magic Items discovered. Spears? A paltry 1 out of every 200 Magic Items. Something's amiss here.

Also, consider the Shield in not just OD&D, but all editions. Shields improve Armor Class by one. Really? OK, I can live with that in the greater scheme of things, but Shields are realistically much more valuable in hand-to-hand combat.

Perhaps the Sword is the more romantic of the two. Perhaps the image of knights in shining armor is likewise more evocative of the fantasy genre which D&D embraces. The fact is, take a Spear & Shield and you're good to go melee wise, armor be damned.

Would it be heresy to make the unjustifiably disregarded Spear the predominant weapon in a campaign? Would it be blasphemous to make the disrespected Shield the basis of one's true Armor Class in a similarly conceived unconventional campaign? I think not, and I believe that such notions are both historically and logically sound.

So there you have it. The Spear reigns over all melee weapons, and the Shield is the backbone of any defensively-minded Fighting Man in said campaign.

The Spear is useful with one hand or two, as an effective deterrent to charges, tactically due to reach and usefulness in cramped confines, and further as a crude missile weapon. Nothing really needs to be said about the Shield; it is clearly as important as armor, regardless of whether one is clad in scale, chain or plate mail. That D&D made the Shield as effective as leather armor is laughable.

The Spear & Shield campaign replaces magical and sometimes intelligent Swords with Spears. It also rearranges the AC rules as detailed below:

No armor: 9
Leather: 8
Chain: 7
Plate: 6, reduces Move by 3
Shield: -3 AC
Large Shield: -4 AC, reduces Move by 3

Just thinking out loud. Carry on, but give the Spear and Shield their due or I'll get all Spartan on your Barbarian scum hides.


Thursday, July 30, 2009


Look, I'm one of a very tiny niche of a niche of a niche that loves both 0e D&D and Punk. Yes I went to some lengths last year to explain the ethos shared by both. So suddenly Punk is another bad word to level at 0e fans, just as fatbeard is another to utilize similarly. What have I wrought?

Unplugging from the sphere for a while to focus on the reason I'm actually here: D&D.

With the occasional "How ya like me now" video. In parting,


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Out of the Frying Pan

Well, actually off of the Back Burner:

I'll be covering some of my future plans and projects over at Three-Headed Monster Games. Some of the tidbits discussed there will be linked here now that I have a new sharing account after the Orbitfiles debacle. Thanks for the various suggestions, but I've settled on MediaFire for the time being.

In the meantime I'll clutter my bandwith here at Ye Auld Grog & Blog with the scans I made. Apologies for the smudges in certain areas; my printer didn't want to cooperate with the way too think paper I was forced to use, but the images get the idea across effectively. There is one Open Office file and a pair of PDF's I've shared on MediaFire. The first of the files is Sham's OPD Template, seen below:

Using the "Check Method" will require the Open Office file entitled Treasure Tables. Once you grok the Check Method the small table on both the example and template will make sense. It's not nearly as complicated as it might at first seem; you'll grasp the idea quickly and find that it's simple as can be.

Finally I made a quick PDF of an Example OPD, borrowing old info from the Dismal Depths, level 1B; The Chambers of Zod. There's an error I just spotted on the map (forgot to change the 1A bit), but I'm sharing it just to give an example of the new template version, as seen below:

Feel free to dl the template, change the tables, add to it, whatever. More information can be found in my post over at the THM Lair (AKA the Head Shed).

~Sham, Quixotic Referee

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Friday Flashback

Yes, I know it's actually (at this point) quite technically (who's counting?) Sunday.

Let me remind you whose name is hanging on the placard out front: Moi.

Yes this is the "Friday" Flashback.

Some history: I DVR'd the movie: What We Do Is Secret. A biopic of the influential early LA punk band, the Germs.

The plan was to watch said flick and get a post ready by Friday. Well, here we are over 24 hours later trying to get our act together.

The Germs. Love 'em, hate 'em, there are what they are. (Or were, thanks to a very timely Darby Crash suicide/OD):

First off the REAL s**t:

And an interview for Germs fans:

Realize that Darby died in 1980; the Youtube catalog is somewhat limited:

Now go get in-freekin-infected by some Germs. Oh, one more:

You'll thank me later.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Good Major Weighs In

David Wesely added to the comments section of the lengthy Q&A with Greg Svenson with insight into polyhedral dice, the co-founding of RPGs, and other tidbits which will be of interest to many readers. Thanks again, David!

~Sham, Quixotic Referee

Friday, July 17, 2009

Friday Flashback

A few flashbacks for your listening and viewing pleasure tonight, from the inexplicably never-big-in-the-States mod/punk trio The Jam. One of the greatest three-man bands ever? Had I the time that would be a fitting tribute to yesterday's unveiling of Three-Headed Monster Games, but for now three from this legendary threesome will have to suffice:

In the City, live at the Circus:

All Around the World, live on the Marc Bolan Show:

And finally, the classic To Be Someone, live:

Enjoy and have a great weekend!

~Sham, Quixotic Referee

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Dirty Work Afoot...

Born when the world was young, a trio of ancient powers, long trapped in time, have been fused together by inexplicable energies and emboldened with newfound vigor. Unchained at last the creature emerges from its otherworldly lair, a half-dozen eyes gleaming with steely determination, bearing three keyboards bristling with untold arcane force…what? Keyboards?

Announcing Three-Headed Monster Games, brought to you by, well, three heads, myself included. The other pair of heads is a pair of Mikes, namely Michael Curtis and Michael Shorten. Yes, those two characters better known in this realm of gaming as Amityville Mike and Chgowiz. I had the pleasure of becoming online blogging acquaintances with these two last year. In December the three of us began to trade advice and critical thoughts centered on the One Page Dungeon idea. Shortly thereafter we formulated the notion of publishing material with one another’s insight and assistance.

From that concept grew what we are unveiling today with Three-Headed Monster Games; a working cooperative and collaborative gathering place for like-minded gaming enthusiasts to congregate. Tapping into the collected talents of its members, Three-Headed Monster Games seeks to establish itself as a functional think tank and design space for both writers and artists who can maintain complete control of their ideas while publishing under an identifiable brand.

For the time being the effort involves just the three founders, Mike, Mike and Dave. You are invited to follow our plans, projects and progress at the new web log, which is sure to give plenty of tidbits on upcoming publications. The galvanizing force that prompted us to finally move forward with this concept is being unveiled as I type this. I’ve had the pleasure of a sneak peek at this book, and I am proud to announce the first in what promises to be a long line of quality material from Three-Headed Monster Games.

That book? Michael Shorten’s elegant Swords & Wizardry Quick Start rules. Mike has managed to create an effortless no frills set of low level rules, and the only analogy I can come up with is also the highest compliment I can conceive of; it is to S&W as Holmes D&D was to 0e. No I am not comparing the two or claiming that this is the new Holmes edit, just that it fills a similar role, serving as a great jumping off point for beginners while catering to the needs of dedicated low-level enthusiasts. The Dungeon of Akban is perfectly positioned within to provide invaluable examples for both the neophyte GM and the hardened veteran, and even if you own Swords & Wizardry already, you may find yourself reaching for this before the Core Rules themselves. If it’s not already available, it should be soon at Ye Old RPG storefront.

There are already other ideas percolating in the THM pot, and the Swords & Wizardry Quick Start is just the beginning. So pop by and say Hello. Just let me warn you, there’s dirty work afoot at Three-Headed Monster Games. You have been warned!

~Sham, Quixotic Referee

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Summer Doldrums

It’s been a bit quiet ‘round these parts of late. Only four posts in the past 30 days time is a clear sign of summer. Nearly a month ago I announced I’d be absent for a dozen days so I could focus on judging the One Page Dungeon Contest, and devote spare time to wrapping up a rather large submission to Fight On!

Agreeing to get that adventure done in one month was me being over-confident in my writing capabilities. I didn’t meet the deadline, but was able to estimate the size so it could be planned around. I should’ve known I wasn’t giving myself enough time; I’ve had nothing but delays and, well, writer’s block with that adventure since day one back in August of last year.

It’s been submitted for a number of days now, but I figured I’d make a post in regard to the blasted project tonight. It’s something of a flight of fancy in many ways, and I’m hoping the editor is bold enough to cut out chunks of the text I wasn’t able to part with. It is truly the polar opposite of the One Page Dungeon, overflowing with information and threatening to collapse under its own weight.

I don’t even know if it’s coming back to me with a nasty letter and orders to revise the thing. It was submitted in font size 9, weighing in at 31 pages, 10 of which are devoted to the adventure’s appendix. It features in the neighborhood of 90 rooms, 70 NPC's, 20 new monsters, 24 new magic items, 20 rumors, 20 suggestions/events, and some tables. That room count includes guest rooms and sub-caves, and many of the NPC’s are just names. Don't let the high page count mislead you, although it is wordy where it needs to be, it is still crammed with substance.

Here's the altogether dense mess of a map that I'm hoping will be in FO! 6:

It was something of a challenge working a functional Adventurer’s Inn into the dungeon. My insistence on including a detailed background and loose plot further complicated matters. Wrapped around all of that I plugged in what I hope are realistic cave and spelunking features using speleological terms.

With an Inn so close to the action I had to take a few things into consideration. Resource management becomes easy mode if this is a normal dungeon level, having a safe house and resupply point around the corner. How can I ensure that players would want to continue to make use of the Inn, even after they are “done” on this level? What on earth, or beneath it, would make anyone want to run an Inn down here?

To combat the proximity of the Inn I undertook two goals. First I would make the caves difficult to negotiate, much like a real cavernous complex. They’re difficult to map, even harder to traverse, boast secret sub-caves and hidden tunnels. Jogging back to the Inn after each encounter is time consuming. Second I deliberately made many very challenging encounters. Most of which can be retreated from safely, but add even more in ensuring that although the Inn not too terribly far away, the level is downright nasty for 5th level characters unless they have large numbers and play wisely.

There’s another plot driven aspect to the Inn that actually might deter characters from spending the night within, but that’s GM adjudicated and shouldn’t be something that prevents them from using it altogether. The Inn is really the focal point of the level.

In an effort to make the Inn actually feel like an Inn and not just a collection of dungeon rooms, I wanted to add enough creative opportunity for GM’s to be able to craft endless possible adventures revolving around the establishment. How successful I was there remains to be seen.

Lastly, why would Jalen Longspear want to open and operate such a place? Reasons are given in the adventure and I think they hold up well enough that players won’t consider the whole affair ludicrous…that is as long as they don’t consider megadungeons in general ludicrous.

In the end I think that the Inn has some nice sand-box aspects to it, as there are plenty of areas to discover and explore. The NPC’s in the Inn offer a plethora of city-type adventures with a crafty GM at the helm. There’s some history and an involved story that can be uncovered but is not essential to the level. There’s some really weird eerie old magic infused throughout.

As I told Calithena, if nothing else the 10 page appendix might be worthwhile for the additional homebrew within. I’ll have more on this submission once I learn whether or not it is seeing print, and then I can give away more information as it is warranted.


This long hiatus has also involved something which I’ll be announcing tomorrow. There’s a six eyed monstrosity stirring in its deep, dark lair, and I think it will awaken on the morrow.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee

Friday, July 3, 2009

Friday Flashback

Live version of 1971's Queen Bitch, which is cited by many as the starting point for Glam Rock, was David Bowie's tribute to Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground:

Here's the studio LP track found on Hunky Dory being used in the end credits for The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou:

Which is Director Wes Anderson's video tribute to the end credits found here:

Yes! The always awesome Buckaroo Banzai! So, when's that sequel again?

Oh, and I forgot to mention, the music score for Life Aquatic was composed by Mark Mothersbaugh. Yes, that Mark Mothersbaugh. Wes and he have teamed up for Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, and The Royal Tenenbaums as well.

Enjoy, and have a great weekend!

~Sham, Quixotic Referee

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

112 Page Dungeon Contest

As most are aware at this point, the highly successful One Page Dungeon Contest (OPDC) Winners have been announced. I'd first like to thank Chatty DM and Chgowiz who together took on the bulk of the effort here; announcing the contest, assembling a staggering array of prizes, accepting entries, and remaining flexible during the entire process. They also served as judges, and brought in myself and a few other innocent bystanders to help in that department, namely Alex Schroeder, Amityville Mike, and Dave the Game, for a total of one half dozen judges charged with reading and evauluating all 112 entries, and coming up with winners.

By the time you read this my esteemed cohorts will have already compiled the Honorable Mentions, Runners Up, and Winning Entries. Rather than make you read what has already been posted, simply follow these links from three of the judges involved. I'd like to thank all 112 of the contest entrants. It was an honor to be able to get an early look at these dungeons, and to be able to evaluate each when formulating my list of favorites. To say I was impressed with the creativity of many of the entries would be an understatement.

Here's the little scan I made back in December of last year that started this whole thing. Wait until you see how many of the contestants interpreted this simple idea and made my original flounderings seem laughably rudimentary by comparison!

I'll have a lot more to add in regard to the contest, and I'll be focusing on some themes and individual entries in the future. In the meantime, hearty handshakes go all around to everyone involved with the One Page Dungeon Contest.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee