Buried Treasures: Old School RPG Magazines and Fanzines

Because I can’t keep track I thought I’d create a list of RPG fanzines and magazines dedicated to pre-3.x D&D, clones of it, and T&T. Images are the most current issue. The order is not meant to be a comment, but just reflects the order I remembered them.

If I missed your magazine or you’d like the link or thumbnail changed please drop me a line. I’m only interested in those still being actively produced (I’m unsure of the status of Green Devil Face so I didn’t list it).

The World After: Substance to the Random List

Last week, as I was abandoning my idea of running a 4e game (I like playing it but just couldn’t bring myself to read the books enough to prep) and thinking about giving something akin to a mega-dungeon centered campaign I came up with a random list of inspirational materials and created items I’d want to have.

Having decided to return to at least the ideas that initially sparked City States of the Apocalypse I started to make that list more concrete.

Old School Rules Set:Back to the drawing boards on this one…

Random Comics: I have one (of ten) selected and it could be very influential. Warriors of the Shadow Realm is set in Marvel’s Weird World. Weird World has a very 70s take on both elves and dwarves. The elves remind me a lot of Elfquest (an issue of which might join the 10 pre-1980s comics). Interesting, based on both the illustration and text of the LBB I suspect a Weird World elf is much closer to Gygax’s vision than all the Tolkien influenced elves that now over-run the hobby. Expect more on this topic next week.

80s “Metal” fantasy novel: The Lady of the Snowmist by Offut, which I just brought back from El Paso last month. The last of his War of the Gods on Earth books and the reason I bought the first two back in the 80s it’s the one I never got around to reading back then. The tone is very different from what people think of for T&T and the Weird World comics. I like that. It’s a random element, but I’ll read it red notebook (and maybe blue notebook as well) in hand.

Notebooks: I wrote about a gaming table notebook with letter index tabs for keeping track of creation in play. I still intend to do that but from the same huge box of notebooks I’ve pulled two others fro megadungeon notes (blue) and campaign world notes (red) to keep next to me while reading source material. The blue notebook already has two entries: an outline of levels 1-3 in terms of shape and my first inhabitants, the Green Tunics.

This is the best I’ve felt about campaign prep in a long time. Much better than my last two clone games.

Return to the City States

If you look at the reading box to the left I’m reading James Blish’s The Devil’s Day. I wrote about it setting inspiration early in this blog. I hadn’t read it in years when I wrote that. However, it would inspire my short lived LL campaign from last year.

That I am reading it is distinctly related to that game, sitting down and reading all of James M’s Dwimmermount posts, and this morning’s random list.

Fall is coming which is campaign starting season around here and I want to run two or three things (life? what’s that?) and one is Tunnels & Trolls. I think T&T has great potential as the core game for a game firmly in the old school and it answers most of my complaints about D&D.

So, I’m returning to the City States, but with several differences. I had an original megadungeon idea that I didn’t run with and will this time. The setting won’t be near the White City, although I won’t eliminate it either. It will be closer to a location currently called Verteidigung, which is the megadungeon. That’s over a thousand miles from the White City.

I also picked up four PDFs yesterday which I hope to use: The Dungeon Alphabet, Random Esoteric Creature Generator for Classic Fantasy Role-Playing Games and their Modern Simulacra, and both volumes of Mythmere’s Adventure Design Deskbook. Look for reviews as I actually put them through their paces.

I’ll be using T&T both because I like it more and certain assumptions in it work better with my ideas than D&D. Specifically I’ll be using a mildly house ruled 7.5 (mainly toning down the characteristic growth rate) and I’m sure rules will evolve during play assuming I find players.

An Idea Has Been Eating My Brain

I came across this comment by the Trollgod himself via Grognardia:

Yes. My conception of the T&T world was based on The Lord of The Rings as it would have been done by Marvel Comics in 1974 with Conan, Elric, the Gray Mouser and a host of badguys thrown in.

Original Source

I think this could be the basis of a second alchemical proposal with three ingredients:

Rules: Pick a core rules set. You can use any game but only the core rules. Then add a single supplement for any game, not necessarily the one you are using.

Setting Inspiration:Pick the core book of your favorite fantasy setting. You may pick any setting but go for the core book/books. If you want Valdemar you get the original Heralds trilogy. For Pern, you get Dragonflight and Dragonquest. For Narnia you would get the four books with the Pevensie children. However, you’re not directly taking the setting but using it as an outlines: geography, character types, magic style, etc. You can also get characters and broad setting plot lines (wars, etc) from here.

Imagery and story types: Use one entire year’s output of your favorite comic company. From these get your imagery to describe fights, plots and motivations for NPCs, and even NPCs outright. Where the fantasy books provided your macro scale outline the comics provide your micro scale inspiration. For me it would probably be either 1977 DC or 1984 DC (I was always more of a DC fan), but you could do some minor or even indie company. The reason I say pick a year at a company over the run of one comic is there is more likely to be a distinct flavor to a given year than to a given comic, especially at the two majors.

For example, imagine your next Microlite20 supplemented with Testament game built using Narina (as above) with the DC 1984 run. Or imagine a Mutant Future game supplemented with Palladium’s After the Bomb that took its broad outline from Farmer’s Dark Is the Sun and the 1971 DC run (which brings in all of Kirby’s Fourth World among other things).

I think Jeff’s proposal was a brilliant idea. I think mine is pretty good, but I’d love to see others of you post formulas that you’ve used or just think would be interesting. Limited pallet is a powerful creative force. A sense of direction is as well.

2d6 Expldding on Doubles

What are the odds of scoring any value three through 20 on 2d6 if they explode on doubles? This, is of course, the same as saying “what are the odds on a T&T Saving Roll?” Because I’d like to convert the thief’s skills to T&T style talents I needed to come up with values for levels one through 20. I’d have to look up the math to do an exact probability calculation so I wrote a Perl script to do 1,000,000,000 simulations instead. The results for those who are interested:

Roll Odds Odds <= Odds =>
3 8.0% 8% 100%
4 8.0% 16% 92%
5 16% 32% 84%
6 16% 48% 68%
7 17% 65% 52%
8 9.0% 74% 35%
9 9.7% 83.3% 26%
10 1.3% 84.6% 15.4%
11 2.0% 86.6% 13.4%
12 1.4% 88% 12%
13 2.1% 90.1% 9.9%
14 1.4% 91.5% 8.5%
15 1.9% 93.4% 6.6%
16 1.2% 94.6% 5.4%
17 1.3% 95.9% 4.1%
18 0.1% 96.9% 3.1%
19 0.1% 97% 3%

Twenty was under a tenth of a percent even rounded so I excluded it.