Friday, December 29, 2023

MCDM RPG - 4th Edition on Steroids???

 If you have watched enough videos by Mathew Colville you may know he is quite fond of D&D 4th edition. To him 4e represented heroic high fantasy with a tight focus on tactics. Unfortunately for D&D, most of the existing audience was expecting to continue on with a mostly dungeon crawling, exploring, resource tracking style of system, and Wizards did nothing to advertise or explain this shift. So is the MCDM RPG 4e reborn?

I signed up to the MCDM Patreon for $8/month to get my hands on the playtest packet. It turns out that the games will have many aspects in common, but I feel from what little I have seen that the new RPG dice mechanics and design will separate it from the predecessor in all the right ways.  

The core mechanics in the playtest docs and as described in videos about the game have me intrigued enough that I will likely remain a backer despite my dislike of 4th edition Dungeons and Dragons. Note: I bought a lot of 4e books to give it a thorough chance before determining it just wasn't my thing.

Fourth Edition had too much of a video gamey, button pushing, Magic: The Gathering tap/untap/burn feel. I can still see some of that here, but the design choices so far have not fallen into that same repetitive rut. Unlike 4e the characters become more badass as play proceeds instead of wearing down to where the boss fight will be a slog, hitting the same at-will button every round.

Among the pre-generated characters in the playtest packet is a Conduit (cleric). This character is unarmed, carries no melee weapon of any sort, instead relying on a ranged cantrip. What happens if the enemy is in the Conduit's face? I do find this jarring since I would prefer to tone down the starting capabilities of these characters just a little.  Not everything needs to be conveniently solved with an overabundance of magic, even if the 1st level characters are already heroes.

I won't be able to pass judgement on this yet, though I will be watching closely till just before the crowd funding campaign on Backerkit ends.


Saturday, December 23, 2023


I recommend checking out this in-development game on Backerkit. The designers are top notch, well respected, and known for delivering what they promise.

While it won't be a giant killer (who the hell has the money to take on D&D) it is gaining a significant amount of grass-roots support with over 20,000 backers as of this writing.

Spend the 51+ minutes watching the intro video, you'll know what this game is being designed to do and have a good solid idea if it is something you would want to play.

I just backed it since I feel this deserves to be supported. Sure, it isn't expected to release in full until June of 2025, but the makers clearly state why - they want it to be great in all ways.

Friday, December 22, 2023

Eye of Myrkul - Dungeon Magazine 73

I was going to skip this one due to the amount of work needed to convert this for use in Ptolus, but decided to give it at least a cursory try. This adventure is the 5th and final episode in the Mere of Dead Men series that were published in Dungeon Magazine during the 2nd edition period, and it is an adventure that I particularly enjoy reading. The module is extremely wordy, filled with a ton of backstory and history before you even get to the adventure itself, fortunately this information is not needed to convert the scenario. 

There are twin brother adult black dragons that make a well coordinated effort to leave the impression that there is only a single dragon involved. They are after the bones of a long dead ancient black dragon who had become a dracolich. 

The brothers have located the tomb complex and now need to manipulate someone into going in and bringing the bones and remaining ghost, out to them.

Worshippers of Father Claw are also after the bones of the Ebondeath, and powerful magic items within the mausoleum, and while the brothers have been manipulating the worshippers, they would prefer their own team of delvers get there first.

In the module as written the adventure takes place in a vast swamp with all sorts of obstacles and nasty encounters before reaching the tower and mausoleum site. Placing the adventure in the dungeon and caverns below Ptolus is the obvious thing to do, and requires quite a bit of effort.

Starting at the beginning . . . A group of religious soldiers have been below the city trying to make an area safe for travel. Maybe we should change their objective so that their expedition was to prevent anyone from getting to the tomb. I'm tempted here to make these a group of mercenary delvers led by Ralelle Noramar, a knight of the Golden Cross. The knights of the Golden Cross were once dragon slayers. One of the dragon brothers attacked this group and has taken the survivors hostage.

Getting the player characters involved may be as easy as the Knights hiring the party to take supplies down in to the dungeon for the other delvers and to re-enforce them. They would arrive only to encounter the dragon and learn of the hostages. That's when the dragon offers them a "deal". Get what I want and you get your people back as well as most of the hoard of Ebondeath.

There happens to be a celestial event tied to the timing of getting into the mausoleum in the adventure as written. Perhaps this could be altered to be a double lunar eclipse of Lunas and Rogue, I don't know if the event should have any actual effect since the happenings are all under the city, but you could still keep it as relevant. Maybe the Knights of the Golden Cross are aware of the significance of the event to worshippers of Father Claw and are playing it safe by sending an expedition below. The idea for the celestial event itself is interesting and plays well with the setting.

It should be possible to keep some of the feel of the difficult trip through the swamp by having many of the cavernous areas partially flooded. 

Keep the undead encounters, but change them to be more appropriate for the caverns, instead of having undead horses involved maybe skeletal lizards ridden by skeletal Drow.

Replace the shipwreck with something else of interest. Consider making the encounter take place in a former Kuo Toa outpost with zombie Kuo Toa.

There is a major encounter with a Dark Tentacles and some of its monster servants right by the tomb's location. This is going to be a tough battle on the shore or in a small underground lake. Depending on what system you are playing you made need to create the Dark Tentacles and its monster pals from scratch.

Finding their way to the tomb of Ebondeath will have been made possible by the party being given a few rings by the dragon. These rings in the adventure are needed to call the tower and mausoleum up from below the swamp. In this case they should cause the water flooding the cavern to recede, revealing these structures for a good number of hours after the celestial event. Another advantage of the rings is that the wearer is Invisible to Undead (minor ones at least). The rings also give the wearer some nasty powers, but making use of them can bolster the power of the temple, and potentially harm the user by reducing their maximum hit points by an amount permanently.

Keep the mudmen encounter (they can be called muckmen if that suits). 

Father Claw's followers are also on the way to the location. The dragon brothers are trying to ensure they get what they want so there are rival delving teams. One of the brothers is sneaking along, hidden from both groups. It doesn't matter to the dragons which team gets what they are after as long as the bones of Ebondeath and a special crown become dragon property. Player characters have a two hour lead on the worshippers, so it is important to keep track of time spent exploring in case of a possible encounter of the teams.

The Uthtower should be converted to a large column that has been hollowed out to make rooms. 

In the event the cultists get the bones and crown, one dragon will side with the PCs since the hostages are a hold on them that guarantees the dragons get their desired items.

All undead in the structures are either resistant or immune to turn undead do to the unholy nature of the place. Undead and worshippers of Father Claw also gain Protection From Good.

There are markings relating to Father Claw through the place. If PCs decide to deface these markings it will have an effect including shaking similar to a minor quake. It is possible to cause the structures to collapse if enough destruction is wrought against these markings and other items holy to Father Claw.

The rooms within the tower/column have standing water in them that rushes out when doors are opened, and this can be used for a moment of entertainment if someone gets swept off their feet and down a flight of stairs, but shouldn't be overplayed.

In the library the only undamaged tome remaining is a Book of Vile Darkness. 

In the catacombs below the tower, the water level in the rooms drops by 2 feet per hour meaning the party has that obstacle to deal with if they try to explore downward before exploring the tower portion.

Originally these structures were used by royalty of some type and there are remains in the crypts for various noble houses. Maybe these were the crypts for an ancient settlement of Drow. Alternately it might once have housed dwarves.

There are undead down here to deal with.

Among the treasures discovered in the Ebondeath's remaining hoard is a means to destroy the dragon's bones, a Wand of Obliteration, but the PCs would need to figure out the command word which was lost ages ago.

Getting the bones out of the mausoleum and to the surface is a challenge. The bones are big and heavy, weighing a total of 3,000 pounds. There's a listing of the number of man hours it will take to remove them. Fortunately one of the worshippers of Father Claw has a Bag of Holding that will make it easier.

If the PCs uphold their end of the "bargain", the hostages are released.

There are plenty of plot ideas that can spin off from this adventure. The bones of Ebondeath may be able to take over control of one or both dragons and down the line that could mean more trouble. Giving the bones and crown to the dragons will free the hostages, but might in the long term make the Knights of the Golden Cross unhappy. 

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Blink And You Might Miss It.

 I can see again, 99% of the time. I still have to get needles in my eyes periodically, but that's a small price to pay in order to have eyesight.

Posting will resume soon. It likely will not match the tempo of the period before my retinas went wonky.

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Temporarily Blind.

OSRbaron is suffering from swollen retinas and will not be posting for a while.

Friday, January 27, 2023

Quoitine Quest - Dungeon Magazine 73

To fit this adventure into Ptolus it needs to be flipped upside down.

As written, the party gets hired to locate a source of magic stone. Stories of heroes battling dangerous beasts give the PCs stuff to ask locals about in order to gain more information. The location is outdoors near some very small villages, cliffs, difficult trails, and a couple of castles. 

I recommend putting this down in the caverns.

The wizard seeking the resource could be a member of the Inverted Pyramid, and more specifically the Dreaming Apothecary.

Change the Quoitine which is used to crafting earth based magic items, for Aethel crystals which are also prized for crafting magic items. The amount of Aethel available should be dramatically reduced since the value of the crystals is high.

Change the small villages into small dwarven outposts off of the Eternity Cave. 

Take out Lady Penrhys' castle and replace it with the Abandoned Tower where an undead dwarf (wight) has taken up recent occupation. She's not aware that she's dead.

Swap Lord Gwebli out and instead have him be Lord Terrik Clanstone of Kaled Del. He'll help the party locate some important places if they do him the favor of taking down some Hell Hounds (instead of Worgs) loose in the caverns. Helping Kaled Del with the Hell Hound problem earns some good will from Lord Terrik Clanstone.

Keep the Galeb-Dur as-is.

Swap the huge ravens for Darkmantles. It will be a much more challenging and interesting fight.

You'll need to replace the random encounter table with suitable creatures.

The guardian of the Aethel is a Xorn obsessed with protecting the small supply. Consider giving it at least Lair Actions if not also Legendary abilities.

Since the Xorn cannot be returned to the Elemental Plane of Earth, which it wants, due to Praemel being a prison plane, another solution is needed.

 Maybe Penrhys isn't the last of her family and that can lead to issues later on. If the family member returns, locates her body, and they use speak with dead they would only learn that the PCs killed her, not that she was undead when they did.

Think about having a rival adventuring company get alerted to the presence of the Aethel crystals and try to beat the party to them.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

OGL 1.2's Obscene Morality Clause

Give this a view. It points out the problems letting someone have the sole discretion over what is obscene, etc.

They want the power to police not only what you write, but your personal behavior and you cannot challenge their decisions. That's too much undefined power to grant anyone.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Mug Shot

Time for more shameless self promotion. The blog's Zazzle store has these mugs and some other things for sale. Follow this link to see what's available. If you like something order it. Thanks!*     <----- Link

Below are the designs on three other mugs. Pardon the duplication of images. The banner design mug image copied fine, but the rest came out, well, not as mugs.

There are cards with these images, you can send to folks for whatever reason or to invite them to a special game session. 

Also there are a banner pin and a banner magnet available.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

The Overlooked Ramifications of the OGL Deauthorization Attempt by Wizbro

 Should WotC/Hasbro succeed on revoking the Open Game License 1.0a, the implications for all other open licensing efforts is dire.

There are software programs running worldwide under open licensing that could conceivably be yanked which would throw things into chaos. I know it sounds like hyperbola, but it is a very real potential consequence should anyone manage to put the genie back in the bottle.

Here's a link to a brief video about this topic.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

OMG! OGL 1.2 Draft is INSIDEOUS!

If you thought version 1.1 was bad you'd be right. I believe it was that way on purpose. Nobody with a lick of sense would sign it and I think that is what Wizards of the Coast wanted. That would drive everyone out of their market space and anyone foolish enough to sign would quickly find it untenable and stop publishing under the 1.1 license.

Here's where things get worse. Draft version 1.2 drops the outrageous royalties and the horrendous license-back (we can steal your stuff) clause (more on this later), but it continues to try to deauthorize version 1.0(a), and far worse.

NOTE: I am not a lawyer, but I have been listening to lawyers doing breakdowns of the draft.

If you publish anything they give permission to use (other than the game mechanics) it effectively is your involuntary signature and acceptance of 1.2 and relinquishing of the right to use 1.0(a).

Despite adding the word irrevocable to it, they also include a number of ways that they can revoke 1.2 with little or no notice. 

If you violate their morality clause, which they have the sole authority to determine. they can revoke your use of the license.

If you copy any of their intellectual property they can yank your license.

And here's the big one I expect they set up to have happen - If it is determined that any provision within 1.2 is unenforceable (and several are vague enough to likely qualify) they can revoke the entire license for everybody.

Further treachery includes a way to steal a creator's work without calling it a license back provision. They left in the option for a creator to sue for monetary damages if you can prove they deliberately stole your stuff, but you give up the right to injunctive relief meaning you can't stop them from continuing to sell it and profit from the work as if they own it.

Then there's the Virtual Table Top section which is so vague it seems arranged to prevent anyone from competing with their own pending VTT in even the slightest way.

There's more to examine, but if this isn't enough to drive away 3rd party publishers from their market space I don't know what will until they yank the entire rug out from under everyone.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Meh, Things From Wizbro I'm No Longer Excited About

I had been looking forward to the following things, but WotC has screwed the pooch and I will no longer be sending any money their way.

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. This high budget movie is coming out in theaters at the end of March. My brother and I had planned a trip to go see it. Neither of us will be going, instead we will wait till it can be watched for free, however long that takes.

The D&D TV show in the works. Not going to subscribe to a streaming service to get access to it.

The 50th Anniversary edition (6th edition, aka One D&D) of the game. Nope.

Instead, that money will go to 3rd party publishers to support their efforts in service to the community of fans of the game.

I have also put in a request to cancel my D&D Beyond account, but it is being deliberately bounced from department to department in order to get me to give up the effort. Not happening Wizbro.

I'll still play D&D, the game isn't the problem, the company that owns the rights to it is the problem.

Wizbro is dead to me.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Wizards of the Fuckery's Nefarious Plans Exposed!

For those that thought the very nasty changes in the Open Game License were the whole of their chicanery, buckle up.

When WotC President Cynthia Williams told investors that they were planning to create a recurring revenue model for D&D what she meant is that they would drive out any competition within the D&D community (3rd party publishers) and then make it so that anyone wanting to play or DM had to go through them via D&D Beyond.

The plan began with the egregiously horrible OGL version 1.1 that no sane company or creator would ever agree to. Now it is moving on to eventually jacking up D&D Beyond pricing by outrageous amounts.

It appears, via leaked info, that the top tier access will cost $30/month and free accounts are likely a thing of the past. Micro-transactions will be a regular part of the equation with both DMs and Players forking over cash for simple stuff like fancier character model skins, clothes, armor, weapons, continuing on to attribute buffs, etc.

It wouldn't surprise me if in the future they stopped publishing D&D in book form and went entirely online. No more gathering around the table and playing for free, they want you logged in and spending.

This whole thing sounds like one would imagine the largest drug gang in a city might operate when they decide to have all of the revenue mainlined into their pockets. 

Step one - drive out or absorb the other drug gangs and small-time dealers. 

Step two - raise prices.

Step three - ensure the addicts have no other means to get their fix.

Step four - keep jacking up prices.

The only problem with this operating model is they're leaving out the means to create new addicts, and gradually through kicking the habit, overdosing, or getting jailed while stealing to support the habit (caught pirating), the pool of paying junkies will decline.

Wizbro is going to kill the brand.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Did Elon Musk Secretly Buy Hasbro/Wizards of the Coast?

While out visiting game stores with my brother on the weekend we were talking about the ongoing OGL fuck-up by Wizbro and he asked me the title question.

All you have to do is watch or read the news to know what a mess things have become at Twitter since he bought it and started making some really crazy decisions. Tesla stock is also going down the tubes because investors are concerned about his seeming inattention to the company during the insanity at Twitter.

You can see why the question was asked. Of course it was tongue-in-cheek, but still. You have to wonder.

Fuck the D&D Community, signed WotC

Give this a listen.

Monday, January 16, 2023

Dicky Blenders 2: Electric Fucka-You

As the OGL fiasco goes on, the player base stepped in and got Wizbro's attention in the only language big corporations understand: money. 

The call went out on social media for people to protest the mess by cancelling their paid subscriptions to D&D Beyond and people responded by at least tens of thousands. After the link went down (or was shut down) for cancelling subs, it then became necessary to file a trouble ticket with DDB's recently downsized support team. 

Wizbro had been silent during the uproar till this point and cancelled a planned twitch stream. Then, on the day the new "O"GL was supposed to take effect, ta-da! Wizbro put out a fake apology in which they claimed to have rolled a 1 (dudes, your die only has negative numbers you rolled so low).

Why do I call the apology fake? Because they continued lying. They said the leaked OGL 1.1 was just a draft to get feedback. False. They sent out contracts along with it for publishers to sign to accept it. You don't do that for a draft.

Now a consortium of 3rd party publishers has arisen to have a new Open RPG Content License (ORC) put together and handled by a neutral legal firm and to be held by a non-profit set up for that purpose. This will prevent any single company from doing the same thing Wizbro has done.

The WotC CEO said that D&D was under-monetized. If you thought it was under-monetized before, wait till you see the long-term effects of your fuckery on the bottom line. 

Wizbro need to fire the ass-hats that are responsible for this bad decision and announce it loudly and widely.

Friday, January 13, 2023

Plundering Poppof - Dungeon Magazine 72

If you need a short one session scenario for your Ptolus campaign, Plundering Poppof should do the trick. It can also have sequels.

There are a few possibilities for bringing the player characters into the adventure. Word has come to the party that the wizard was seen heading out of town and . . .

The Longfingers Guild decide that despite having a protection agreement for the wizard's house, he has something they can get a very good price for. They hire the PCs to go in and get it while they deny having any part in the theft.

A former owner of the house wants access to a piece of property he left behind. The wizard has refused his request to recover his stuff so he hires the party for a simple break-in.

Arcane casters in the party have been searching for some spells that Poppof is thought to have since recently coming into some spellbooks illicitly.

Someone wants to frame the wizard for a crime and hires the characters to plant evidence.

Poppof is believed to have stolen a rare necromantic grimoire and the previous owner wants it back without involving the authorities.

Once characters break into the house they discover that all of these things are actively true.

Necromancy is outlawed in Ptolus. Sure, you can learn about it, but actively animating the dead is punishable by prison time. Ten years for creating an undead or bringing one into the city. Poppof is very guilty of creating undead. His house is littered with them.

He's also very likely to try to find anyone that breaks into his house, and will hire mercenaries to help deal with them.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Are WotC Sticking Their Dicks in a Blender with the new OGL?

With the leak of what might be the new not quite Open Game License version 1.1, Wizards of the Coast appear to be trying to force the genie back into the bottle. 

At this link you can read the full text, and hopefully you'll have enough legal knowledge to pick through it without straining you eyes or brain.

If you want to here some perspective from a contract lawyer check this out on Youtube:

Among the things controversial about the leaked OGL 1.1 are WotC's attempt to retroactively invalidate earlier versions. I'm no lawyer, but this sounds like a very difficult, if not a legally enforceable trick to pull off. Were they to call the next edition 6th edition and applied the new license to it and any editions going forward, it would likely work without a problem, but they aren't planning to call 6th edition 6th edition.

Further, they reserve the right to take a creator's material and resell it themselves without compensating the creator, who also is on the hook for destroying existing inventory. If you crowd-funded the project and are about to ship to backers when that letter arrives, you and your backers are fucked in so many ways.

Then there are royalty tiers that are damned expensive. Most creators don't have a profit margin even approaching the 20 to 25 percent cut WotC is asking for.

They have VTTs (virtual table tops) in their sights as well. Now that they are building their own after acquiring D&D Beyond, they are going to interfere with what these other VTTs can use of the game. Since I use Vorpal Board with my Dwarven Forge terrain while I DM, this won't impact me unless I play in someone else's game.

We already have some idea where Kobold Press stand on the issue. They announced today that they will be developing their own Fantasy TTRPG system.

I can't wait to find out what WotC told Critical Role regarding profiting from D&D. What CR says back could be even more interesting. Critical Role can be directly credited with driving some of the increased popularity of D&D over the past few years, as well as Stranger Things (will they go after the show as well?). Trying to cut a leg off of a cash cow that it still producing is a damned fool idea.

Since the launch of 5th edition Wizards of the Coast have generated a hell of a lot of good will among the public and fan base. Now they're looking to piss in everyone's cereal bowl. That's a dick move Wizards. There's a very good chance it will hurt rather than help your bottom line.

Friday, January 6, 2023

No Stone Unturned - Dungeon Magazine 72

An agent of the Balacazar criminal organization who runs a money lending operation decides to relieve some of an undertaker's debt if he'll provide them with lots of free labor. He's discovered a sealed ruin he wants to break into, having read about it. It was the abode of three wizards ages ago. He has been given the ok from higher up to delve.

An undertaker with a gambling debt gets coerced into withholding bodies from the grave, replacing them with mannequins. Those bodies get turned into undead for a secret mining operation in the dungeons below Ptolus. 

Suddenly those zombies end up scattered around parts of Oldtown and Midtown in the city above the dig site. Encountering one of the zombies is the first thing that gets the PCs involved. The second is meeting the daughter of one of them that asks for their help. She owns a business that can be directly impacted by the sudden reappearance of her recently deceased father wielding a pick-axe in the middle of town.

The undertaker's location should be very near the Necropolis, on or near Nag Street. 

The loan shark could be located in either the east end of Midtown, or in the Docks District. He owns a warehouse in Oldtown above the dungeons and the dig.

The actual dig site could be in the original city of Ptolus which is below parts of Ghul's Labyrinth just below Oldtown, and above the Giant's Staircase. In the adventure as written, the dig is below the docks, which doesn't work for Ptolus because of how the area is built up using tons of fill.

It's easy enough to make new excuses for why some things are in the location, like the skeleton of a sahuagin priestess and her belongings, and also easy to explain why part of the area below is partially flooded.

A small tribe of mongrelmen inhabit part of the old city that still has some partial buildings standing. They can be made into allies.

This adventure includes the possibility that the loan shark and his buddies manage to loot the treasures in the explored area before the party has a chance. There is a time table for the scenario progression that makes such a thing possible.

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Blog Monetization Update: Big Money, No Whammies! (derp, derp, derp)

The call to have some readers click on advertisements so I could learn a bit about how things work, and make a tiny bit more cash, did exactly that. I learned very little, earned very little, and only a handful of readers contributed. Thank you to those that did lend a click.

Blog earnings lifetime total grew from $8.88 to $11.29 and taught me that some ads are only worth a few cents while some can be well over a dollar. Since beginning monetization 7 years ago, the blog is averaging $1.61 per year. I know, shocking!

If you are reading the blog on a mobile device, and most folks are, then your traffic is valued less per click than someone on an old-fashioned computer. If anything it should be the other way around. 

 Providing the motivation hits, I would like to rebuild my reserve of completed draft posts, and boost output again so I can make another effort to draw ad clicks and see what if anything changes.

So cheers to a strong 2022 on the blog, and here's to the prospects for 2023.