Thursday, March 9, 2023

D&D PC Kits done right in the forgottern edition.

I think Dragonfist did kits right.  The kits weren't just a package of over-powered crunch but actually provided the tools to fit the character in to the campaign. 

Each PC had to select a kit and this really was necessary because it is what fit the character into the axction.  Fighters (for example) had 3 kits available: The Righteous Fists, The Red Tigers, and The Heavenly Gates each of which provides a place in the campaign, a little history, an organization, a handful of mechanical benefits and a hinderance.

The Righteous Fists are Fighters with a STR and WIs of at least 9, and they like to punch and kick things gaining weapon specialization in unarmed combat and when they are using an Acrobatic Stunt their AC gains twice the bonus it normally would. The Righteous Fists are led by Grandmaster Fei Gan and a select group of masters from the safety of the Jade Mountain Monastery. Couriers for the organization only travel by night carrying messages to the dispersed network of masters to continue their fight against the emperor.  There you go a network of contacts, an allegiance, and a possibility of adventures all together in the kit. 

The Red Tigers are focused on Sword fighting and these once rivals of The Righteous Fists now have some common ground against the emperor. The Heavenly Gates are philosophical archers that seek enlightenment and refuse the emperor as their founder did.

So Punching guy, Hacking Guy, and Shooting Guy with decent historical backgrounds and organizations that help a DM come up with adventures as the organizations the PCs are part of attemopt to fulfil their missions and struggle against the emperor.

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Everybody was Kung-Fu fighting!

 In Dragonfist (The Forgotten D&D Editon) there are 4 character classes Fighter, Wizard, Shaman, and Thief (yeah Thief not "Rogue").  Kits are applied to focus characters more on the style of play and setting. Most importantly of all however is everyone PC is trained in the Martial Arts, you can't be sure how an encounter is going to end but there's a fair chance someone is getting kicked.

Every class has access to a martial arts maneuvers in a scheme not at all unfamiliar to D&D players as it resembles how spells were gained by classes. Here's a clipping of the wizards martial arts chart showing the first 7 levels of the Wizard's martial arts maneuvers.

Pretty clear and straight forward. An entirely new sub-system bolted onto the existing framework using a mechanic any experienced player would be familiar with. 

The martial arts maneuvers are split into 5 ranks, which is plenty for this game which covers characters of levels 1 to 10.

1st and 2nd Rank Martial Arts Maneuvers:

The names for the maneuvers are flavorful and evocative but while certainly mechanically effective the descriptions just don't always live up to the cool names. These are the descriptions of the first two maneuvers straight out of the rules: 

Cobra Strike:The character can make a called shot (see the “Combat Considerations”section below) at –2 to hit instead of the usual –4. 

Crane Stance:The character’s AC is increased to 12.

Wow... talk about a missed opportunity. There's a lot of flavor throughout the rules but somehow the descriptions of the maneuvers that the game sort of focuses on are pretty darn dry. They are pretty solid mechanically but...darn those descriptions are dull in comparison to a lot of the rest of Dragonfist.

Oh yeah... did you notice "AC is increased to 12" in Dragonfist AC starts at 10 and goes up. Due to the stunt mechanic and how ability bonuses function a character's Dexterity Bonus is not always applied to AC. One of the chief ways to improve aC beyond using a DEX stunt is to use maneuvers that raise the AC score. Worn armors do not boost this score but are the default when worn, most PCs aren't going to bother much with armor however and generally highly armored combatants will be the goons serving some bad guy.

The list of maneuvers isn't huge but it certainly gets the job done.  Maneuvers are typically general modifiers or specific actions that can be attempted as often as the player wishes.

As mentioned above characters are covered from 1 to 10 and have slightly larger Hit Dice than their analogs would have in most versions of D&D because the CON bonus doesn't always add to HP. PCs also are meant to start at level 3 since this gives them an interesting range of maneuvers and class abilities compared to the fairly frail level 1 which would still work in play but fights would end real darned quick and a martial arts focused game really does need fights that typically last at least 3 or 4 rounds because that's where the excitement comes in. 

Further Mysteries of the Forgotten Edition

 Let's look deeper into DRAGONFIST the forgotten editon of Dungeons and Dragons!

The 1st level Wizard spells


Charm Person

Cobra's Breath

Detect Magic

Elemental Charm

Give Me Face!

Iron Scarf

Light of Yang

Read Magic

Scales of the Lizard

Suppress Magic

c'mon... how cool are some of those names, and those are just 1st level spells ?!

Here's just one of them: 

Give Me Face! (Yang)


Range: touch

Components: V,M

Duration: 1 turn/level

Casting Time: Fa(6)

Area of Effect: Creature touched

Saving Throw: None

"Face" is a very important concept in Tianguo. "Giving face" means showing the proper respect, and denying a powerful figure his or her due is a grave error. This spell surrounds the recipient with an aura of power and prestige. While it is in effect, the recipient receives a +4 bonus to all Charm feats related to social position and power. This is most useful in social situations.

The reverse lose face, makes the recipient appear foolish and ill-mannered and confers a -4 penalty on his or her Charm feats. The material component for either version is a small porcelain mask.


There's some flavor and a lot that should be familiar to D&D players but "+4 bonus to all Charm feats"... excuse me what? That's right just a year before 3e there was a version of D&D where the term "feats" meant something different than it would in 3rd and later editions.

Now here was an editing problem in Dragonfist the rules seem to mention Stunts and Feats interchangeably as the same rule mechanic...some of the time. Stunts are actions you resolve in dramatic ways!  Really they are ability checks vs a Target Number. They are rolled with 1d20+ stunt bonus based on the related ability score. Might Feats... oh I mean Stunts are tied to Strength, Acrobatics to Dexterity, Fortitude to Constitution, Savvy to Intelligence, Insight to Wisdom, and Charm to Charisma.  Now here's what I find curious...why name each stunt type separate as each is tied to an ability and each ability only has one stunt type?   The stunt bonus granted by an ability score isn't a flat score however, it is a die range so a player will never be sure just how effective their bonus genuinely is. 

Oh even cooler you are seemingly supposed to narratively justify getting to use your stunt bonus. It's got to be cool to use it. But... in application it looks like they are pretty constant except of course you can only normally only apply one stunt a round! So it's effectively the Strength Bonus or the Dexterity Bonus during a round of combat depending on what type of Stunt a character is attempting in a round. A player has to work to involve all their ability score they aren't an automatic gimmie. You have to play the role to get the benefit of the numbers in play... c'mon how great is that!

Feats are task resolution of a stunt roll vs a target number... so really the same thing as a stunt.  

A character gets to boost 1 stunt every odd level including 1st level so this is where some of a character's mechanical advancement and customization will be. 

Interestingly enough your Hit Point bonus for high Constitution isn't permanent it only exists on rounds the character decided to tough it out with a fortitude stunt to give them extra HP that round.

Yang... it's up there in parens next to the spell name. That shows if the spell relates to Yin or Yang. Yin is the reactive power of the cosmos, Yang is the active power of the cosmos. The duality of yin/yang is important to the default (and assumed) setting. Surely this will be important at some point.

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

The Forgotten Edition

 Once upon a time there was an edition of Dungeons and Dragons released as pdf only.  This was DRAGONFIST.  

Released in 1999 it got eclipsed and generally forgotten with the release of 3rd edition D&D in 2000. The RPG GEEK entry on it is brief:

Dragonfist, "The Roleplaying Game of Martial Arts Action," was a roleplaying game released by Wizards Of The Coast as a series of free PDFs on their website in 1999. The rules were a heavily modified version of the 2nd edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons rules.

In November 2002, the rights to the game were sold to Green Ronin, who had planned to release a new version in 2003. However, it seems that the new version was never released and remains in development limbo.

It was a kung-fu action D&D with a fairly innovative range of rules changes and additions. There were the standard 6 ability scores, but they didn't have a fixed bonus. Every class had level based maneuvers with a progression not unlike spell progression. There were kits to detail the 4 character classes of Fighter, Wizard, Shaman, and Thief. There were feats but they didn't work like they would in 3e. Everybody was kung-fu fighting and there wasn't a Samurai or Ninja in sight.

Friday, March 3, 2023

Firing-Arc chart... pew pew pew.

A planner/reference graphic for a game project involving spacecraft on a hexgrid.  Not a complete official illustration just a knocked-out sample for my own reference.

Got to work on the descriptive text. These aren't even as pretty as the paint file above.

Firing ARCs.

A- Straight ahead, 1 hex path

B- straight ahead ,  hex forward and then 3 hex path afterward.

C- straight aheas 3 hed wide path.

D- 3 hex arc fron center.

E- 5 hex arc from center

F- all hexes excluding straight backward from center.

G- all hexes.

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Dark Sun IS NOT Problematic.

Contrary to the opinion of a corporate tool Dark Sun is not problematic.  

Dark Sun is a Dungeons and Dragons campaign setting first published by TSR for the 2nd edition AD&D game back in 1991. The setting is bleak the world is all but absolutely destroyed by the actions of a handful of monsters bent on bleeding the world absolutely dry for their own individual power. The evil that has utterly wracked the setting stands virtually unopposed in a shattered ecology where the tropes and character types of D&D have been forced into shadows or mirror reflections of what they are elsewhere in RPG-land. The only real choice players have for success against the future planned by the villains of the setting is to survive by rebelling and uniting against the systems of oppression and destruction forced on them by a handful of greedy power-mad individuals.

The only enduring path for the PCS in Dark Sun is absolute heroism in an unforgiving setting bent against them. Nobody will be on the PCs side if the PCs fail to unite and find allies to stand against the selfish greed that would consume all. In Dark Sun PCs aren't heroes because of their alignment, character class and background... all of those choices have been twisted and polluted by the forces that would destroy the world in the Dark Sun setting as the only thing that makes a hero is the actions and deeds of the PC.  Players aren't heroes because of the initial decisions and choices the player makes at character creation but how they act in every encounter and situation that follows for the life of a campaign in the setting of Dark Sun.

Survival, transformation, and a constant challenge at every step make Dark Sun a remarkable Heroic RPG setting. Player choices will matter. Selfish choices will consume the world. PC actions are the only path forward to undo the greed of those who are and would be monsters.

Why oh why would corporate shills think a setting where people must unite against systems of oppression and ecological ruin imposed and maintained by a small powerful elite as problematic?

Sunday, February 19, 2023

They Be Giants

 Ever wonder why there are seldom great nations of Halflings in fantasy RPG campaigns?  It's not because halflings are small and weak, unclever, or lazy as none of those are limitations of halflings. Sure they are small compared to adult humans but for their body size they are very strong and we all know they ever seem to lack the capacity to feed themselves and find comfort. Their populations are seldom oppressed and enslaved so that isn't holding them back. The horrible truth is much worse than most folks would imagine: Halflings are the larval forms of giants.

The quaint tales Halfling parents tell of finding babies in cabbage patches or pipeweed patches is not a fiction produced by parents unsure how to relate the facts of life to their children but the absolute truth of the matter. Halfling babies are left by their giantish-parents for discovery by their older siblings and cousins that will take them in and care for them as "parents".  Their older siblings are better proportioned to safely raise their less mature larval kin than their giantish parents are.

As they mature the larval giant (as a halfling) lives a life of simple pleasures and industry, their drive to build burrows well stocked with more food they can possibly eat reveals their true nature. Their life as a halfling is dedicated to building the burrow they will "retire" to. No halfling is seen to die of old age among its peers as they have a drive to move on or become private and either retire to their borrow or travel "away". It is during their "retirement" sometime between the age of 100 and 130 when the Halfling typically after a decade or more of seclusion emerges as a giant before traveling into the wilds to live it's giantish life.

During the period of seclusion, the Halfling (as  it is a larval giant) gorges on its vast larder of food it has stashed over the years and sleeps as it grows to proper giantish proportions.  The newly emerged young adult giant will occasionally raid its younger neighbors as it moves out of the area to live among adult giants in the greater wilds and while these raids are common in Halfling lore they are seldom of much consequence because the giants have no desire to cause much harm to their larval cousins; those incidents where young adult giants cause genuine harm to their younger cousins seems to be when different breeds of giants unknowingly intermingle in their larval halfling stage.

It is their lifecycle that checks the advance of the Halflings as a people. Their drive is simply to burrow, build a store of food and transform into a giant to emerge from their burrow and travel into the wilds as a giant as they lack the drive to build halfling society beyond this.


This all popped into my head as I woke this morning. I hope someone finds this inspiring and useful for their fantasy RPG campaigns.

Thursday, February 2, 2023

Making them creepier.

 Retooling some of the common humanoids for an upcoming campaign, I've posted bits and pieces of this over the years:

Gnolls:  virtually invisible beyond 80', they can't see you so good either. You can see each other just fine inside that 80'.

Bugbears: can hide virtually anywhere, if their head fits they can vanish inside or behind an obstacle or object much of the time.  They are the bogyman hiding under the cellar stairs.

Goblins: are magical, not bang-zap magical but they can build doors that connect non-adjacent spaces and can build great halls in spots men and dwarves would have trouble putting a closet. They can see and travel in directions you and I can't normally see.

Kobolds: are furry and beat both live young and lay eggs. The eggs hatch slowly and are an emergency food source. Egg-hatched Kobolds are more likely to have magical abilities.

Orcs: brutal industrial expansionist servants of Levithan, all industry and war are to serve the growth and supremacy of Orc. You can tell when it's orcs because they cut down forests and pollute rivers quicker than humans do. If it's not Orc, it doesn't matter.

Elves: not always the good guys, well not according to people anyway, they usually consider themselves to be the good guys. They can ser and travel in the same directions as goblins can and even more.

Dwarves: not a mono-culture. There are different nations and cultures among dwarves. Contrary to popular belief dwarves are not anti-magical. 

Halflings- have bad guys too.

Hobgoblins: I didn't really change them much, but they do look more like WW-I soldiers in the trenches than they do ersatz-samurai. They live inside hillside bunkers and citadels surrounded by trenches and other battlefield constructions. They are geniuses of military science but not otherwise technologically developed. 

Monday, January 16, 2023

Done shot themselves in the marketing.

 Wow it's been a rather interesting week or so in TTRPG. I'm sure almost anyone who'd read this is aware of the "breaking" news in regard to WoTC and TTRPG publishers. WoTC got too greedy too openly, they could have kept the OGL in place and retained their walled off garden and filled it with micro-transactions (and likely still will) leaving the largest competitors working for crumbs and still supporting their business but they have lost a whole lot of brand loyalty and lit a fire under publishers to move on.  

Some people chalk this up to the usual crankiness and resistance whenever a brand announces forthcoming changes and while there may indeed be some of that this is far more worse than anything I have seen before. Third party publishers are not standing around and waiting for what WoTC is doing next, it's already reached down to tiny contributors like me: I've already approved a publisher re-releasing content I wrote that they had published under the OGL so they may release it under a newer license. We are all seeing changes that would have taken months maybe a year or more happening at a pace a large business is unlikely structured to deal well with at all. 

Wizards of the Coast does indeed own the trademark and the specific IP but they have no real capacity to change how we play the games we like, how we talk about the games we like, and where we play the games we like. About the only think WoTC can really do is make sure we don't provide them with funds to purchase what they wish to sell. At this point DND is forever regardless of who owns the trademark, and it's future will be decided by the fan-base that has allowed business to build what it has.

Thursday, January 12, 2023


 News from Paizo Today:

You likely heard about it before coming here, looks like ORC is coming to the marketplace and OSR community.

Watch it.

 Ryan Dancey talking about the OGL.

First Level Eldritch Spell List [Draft Shared Game Content]

No descriptions yet but you likely get the idea.

 1st Level Eldritch Spells

1. Charm Minion

2. Decipher Script

3. Eldritch Missile

4. Eldritch Translation

5. Glow

6. Hovering Platform

7. Phantom Shield

8. Seal Portal

9. Sense Magic

10.Sudden Slumber

11.Wandering Lanterns

12.Ward vs Evil

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

People Need to See This.

 Please take a look. This clip explains part of what is wrong with the new OGL recently leaked and how it's a slap in the face to D&D fandom and people who have boosted the games profile for decades.

Monday, January 9, 2023

Target Class [draft proposed shared game content]

 Target Class (draft proposed shared game content).

Target Class:   This is a rating with two values that expresses the effectiveness of armor in combat. The first is how difficult a character/npc/monster is to hit in combat. The higher the number the less likely one is to connect with a successful attack in combat. The second number is how much damage armor worn blocks even on successful hits this may be noted in rules elsewhere as DB. 

Example Target Classes for a Fantasy Medieval Campaign

TC Description

----- ------------------

11/0 Unarmored

12/1 Leather Armor

12/2 Padded Armor

13/2 Scale

13/3 Chainmail

13/4 Lamellar

14/0 Shield

15/1 Leather and Shield

16/3 Chainmail and Shield

17/5 Platemail

18/5 Platemail and Shield

18/6 Fullplate and Shield

Note: on the chart above I favor the shield as it held more than a minor incremental benefit to defense in medieval combat but as Plate Armor technology improved it was often discarded in favor of two-handed weapons. Shields do not increase the Damage Blocked of other armor worn but if a game include magical shields that may alter the Target number and the Damage Blocked.

Some campaigns may not make used of Damage Blocked and when doing so simply note Target Class as a single value without a slash.

--- Licensing (really a suggestion on licensing) ---

The above is a simple introductory draft example proposed for shared game content. You are free to use it or a derived form of it however you wish as long as you do not limit others from doing so as well or prohibit them from using your derived version. You are required to tell people where you derived the rule from but if multiple rules are from the same source you need only state that multiple rules were from the same source. This is subject to change but any future changes made can not limit your use of this specific version.

Example :

"Target Class, from Target Class [draft proposed shared game content] by James D. Jarvis published1/9/23 on  his blog Aeons & Augauries"

If there were two rules here something along these lines is fine:

"Some combat rules  by James D. Jarvis published 1/9/23 on  his blog Aeons & Augauries"

Not ONE Penny

 Over the past week WOTC has managed to outrage a whole lot of people. While I do understand why a company would try to increase the monetization of their product the means by which they now seem to be approaching to do this is to destroy the communities that have allowed their game to be what it is today. 

WOTC has transformed the next release from One-D&D into the NOT ONE PENNY FROM ME edition. 

They had a tough sale in me anyway. I have more gaming material than I can possibly use in remainder of my life and now that I have seen them go from greedy to beyond greedy I can't possibly be bothered to spend any money on their wares regardless of how amazing the digital platform they have yet to deliver actually is.  You do not get to threaten my friends, their co-workers, and their employers and to challenge their livelihood and get my money. I hope anyone reading this joins me and goes on to enjoying RPGS for decades to come without buying into the NOT ONE PENNY FROM ME edition.

There are other RPGS out there...

 This may come a surprise to certain people but there are RPGs out there that are not Dungeons and Dragons. Should a publisher of one game become so bothersome other people find it troublesome to publish materials for that game there are many options out there and if the publisher of Dungeons and Dragons makes producing materials for D&D or D&D compatible rules so troublesome there is no market advantage there are a lot of places to go.

If you like games where you and your friends pretend to be brave warriors, uncanny elves and wise wizards grubbing for gold coins in mazes of tunnels... there are hundreds upon hundreds that aren't Dungeons and Dragons. 

Do you know there are RPGs out there that aren't about playing in a pseudo-medieval setting and kicking in doors to fight monsters and steal their stuff at all? Thousands of those are out there. The internet is full of them. 

You don't have to play the currently marketed version of D&D, you don't have to play a medievalesque-fantasy dungeon-crawler. You don't even have to play a game that is in print as long as you can get a copy to create adventures to share with your friends.

There are a lot of options out there and no publisher has the ability to keep you from giving them a try but they do have the ability to make people stop playing the current version of their own game.

Saturday, January 7, 2023

On The Nature of Orcs

The following brief text outlines the nature of Orcs within a fantasy role-playing campaign.  It is not inconsistent with the root source of orcs or as known in classical fantasy gaming. The identity of Leviathan can be that of any nemesis spirit or god that seeks triumph and domination of creation even if that selfishly results in the destruction of that creation. Feel free to use any part of this you like in your campaigns as I consider this text to be open and in the public domain.

 On The Nature of Orcs.

Orcs are the mortal embodiment of twisted souls forced to serve Leviathan. Orcs toil and war at the whim of their overlords and Leviathan itself, they resent this compulsion, and this serves to drive their cruelty for they are stuck in an eternity as slave and soldier only able to gain relief in brief pleasures they can rip from the world while otherwise serving to spread their industry of war for Leviathan.

Orcs and Half-orcs a result of their selfish cruelty and the breeding programs of their wicked masters. Love is meaningless in an existence where all one can do is serve cruel masters so one can be rewarded with higher privelege within that servitude. The lot of orc-brides is unpleasant as those unable to produce vital offspring that can serve will be forced into lower servitude or the larder to feed the host of Leviathan. 

To march to war for Leviathan is Orc. To toil in the service of Leviathan is Orc. To feast on the spoils of war and the output of industry is Orc. All will be consumed by the host of Leviathan and that host is Orc.

The lot of orcs is to serve Leviathan. The industry of orcs is to enable the service of Leviathan. Orcs that do not toil or march to war are consumed to feed the host of Leviathan. Each orc's lot in life is to serve and die. Orcs will prevail as the world is consumed in service to Leviathan. All that is Orc will be known by The Last Orc who will strike down his brother and feed on every last morsel once the host of Levithan has consumed the remainder of creation. The reward for Orc will be the chance for revenege on a corpulent bloated Leviathan swollen on the dripping fat and blood of creation. Orc will feed on Leviathan and be all that ever was. Orc will be Orc. All Will be Orc.


Some ask on the nature of Orc souls and their place in the afterlife, those asking forget orcs already exist within an afterlife having been consigned to their lot in service of Leviathan due to the nature of their souls. 

Some say Orcs war endlessly in Hell to be flung back to the mortal world to war here, others say their goal is to turn all of creation into that part of Hell. None can deny that those found unworthy by the host of Leviathan are consumed and this surely happens on the battlefields of Hell as it does here in the mortal world. The soul of each Orc once thrust back into the world is in service to Leviathan for they are Orcs and that is the nature of the body and soul of Orc.

The Horrible Truth About The RPG Publishing Business

 A whole lot of noise and attention about monetization and future licensing plans in the RPG world the past few weeks. Everyone forgets the horrible truth of the RPG Business from the business angle: you have to publish things people want to buy because the customers have no reason to buy anything else once they have the rules. If you bought any version of an RPG over the past 50 or so years that includes the rules for foes and treasure, creating and developing player characters,  the core rules of the game and how a game master can establish and run a campaign you have no reason at all to buy anything else from that publisher you and a whole room full of people can play for the rest of your lives using just that initial investment. 

A publisher must continue to produce new materials to keep selling to the same customers; they have to bring something new to market or be content to market only to new customers. Licensing can't make people buy something new from you.  

Absent one heck of a new platform a certain publisher is going to do nothing but alienate a whole lot of customers and fellow businesses that have been responsible for the bulk of their success unless they are certain they can deliver on that new platform in a sufficient matter to retain some old customers and many more new customers.  

If you have the rules you get to keep playing without paying anyone any extra money.