Sunday, March 22, 2015

New Playing System in the Works

Having always favored ultra simple rules systems for table top role play gaming, it comes as a bit of a surprise to myself that a good friend and I have begun collaborating on a decidedly more simulation-oriented rules system for a new game we are forging.

We are  borrowing extensively from the underlying strata of some rules systems of days gone by. Brent is working on the combat system at the moment while I undertake the magic section, and the way its shaping up, it will be a different kind of game experience for me.

I have always favored low-level adventures for D&D games, meaning that I enjoy playing games with characters from 1st level on up to about 5th or perhaps 6th.

I've realized that one major reason for this is simply because as DM, its easier to keep track of things in the game at lower levels. Its also much easier to run combats. I really do not like the way that combat gets longer and longer the higher the levels of the characters and hit die of monsters involved.

With that in mind, we are trying to get the best of both worlds with regards to realism and ease of play. It is skill based and uses a twenty sided die for most resolutions.  It is not, however, the open d20 system prevalent today and probably favors some of the old aspects of some of the Fantasy Games Unlimited systems of old.

The spell system is nearly done--it does not consist of prepared lists of spell by level but rather the mage begins with a certain chosen skills relating to the particular type of magic he or she most wants to practice, be it Necromancy, Divination, Conjuration, Sorcery or what have you.

Instead of choosing from a spell list the player informs the DM of the desired magic effect.

Player and DM select the skills which are needed to perform the magic and a skill check is made for each one--usually there will never be more than about four.

Only a critical failure in using any of these skills negates the spell at this point.

After determining the skills to be used, the spell is set against a codified but brief list of spell criteria/effects including but not limited to, say number of wills involved, area of effect, spell distance, amount of elemental matter to be manipulated, damage effects, whether or not the spell is creative in nature, time in preparation, and so on.

Modifiers are assigned based on these factors, the more difficult spells having tougher mods.

Once all of this is done, a final roll is made using the Mage's Intuition attribute score as a modifier as well. It should be noted that at this stage, only a critical failure negates the spell...however, less spectacular rolls could diminish the spell result, like, for example, cutting down duration, etc.

There will be a mana or magic power reservoir stat from which spell casting is drawn, no more magicks being available when it is depleted.

There are no backlash effects  for critically failed spells other than the fact that you lose the mana in a crit fail but get no magic effects. However, if one has conjured or summoned an other planar being or is maintaining control over a mind or will and critically fails, the backlash is quite evident.....

One unique feature of this system and somewhat of a departure from D&D is that most spells are not cast on the fly because the skill of Ritual is a requirement in casting most powerful magicks, certainly those which require summoning, necromancy, displays of elemental power, etc.

Incantation is also a Mage skill and magicks which require only Incantation can be cast on the go.  Magicks of this nature would be spells of illusion, suggestion and command, and very minor elemental manipulation of materials close at hand.

The key to making use of more powerful spells during an adventure is casting them before hand in a a place of magick making and binding or storing the spell in talismans, amulets, or the most likely, wands. The spell can then be cast from the item using a word of command.

Any level mage can craft enchanted items to store such spell effects--however, the item is limited by what magic it can hold by the amount of magic that went into crafting the item.

Spells of ritual can be cast during an adventure but only if time, atmosphere, peace and space permit.

Physical components are required for all spells.

An obvious side effect to this sort of system is that Mages of even the lowest order MUST have a place to perform magick, a base of operations. And their physical talismans and wand are vital. However, by means of binding magicks to such items, although they expend mana in the making of the spell, they do not expend mana during the adventure, allowing them to use their mana for Incantation spells or in resisting other magicks cast against themselves.

Another thing gone bye bye...and I apologize in advance for saying this, I know it is a time honored the silly business of "We drive a spike under the door and spend the night in the dungeon room so the mage can regain spells....".

Uh, no...not gonna happen.

The aspects of that entire situation completely preclude any effective magic building in such a dire locale. The state of mind of the Mage, the opposing influences in the ethereal realm, the history of that place, everything.  Because although in our system mages will certainly want to own grimoires and magic books, the magic comes from ritual and not memorizing spells which you forget once cast.

What I like about our system is that it means a player should really only construct from the skill tables a character they are personally really suited to play.

If you have a mage, for instance, you will be creating your own spells and customizing your own talismans and items. Sky is the limit on the subtle variations a player can introduce to the game.

The combat system that Brent is working on is the same in this respect in that it is suited for those who favor warrior characters.

It's not a matter of "Here, roll this number on this dice, if you hit, roll again to see damage."

You actually tell the DM what you want to do in the way of moves, desired strike effect, etc. You have a number of defensive moves available to you in a round as well. Use them or hold them, up to you. So in playing a warrior, you will use your imagination.  Warriors use their Prowess attribute in battle in a manner similar to how mages use Intuition in spell casting.

We are discussing religion and healing magic at the moment and how the Priest type character fits into this scheme.

But that is a foretaste of the coming system, which is yet unnamed.

We will be self publishing it, probably in large part for free! So stay tuned to the Mazes!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Greetings OSR gamers!

In spite of best intentions the blog remains static.

I would like to revive it and pay a lot more attention to it.

I have not been remiss in my pursuits of game design, but due to very large and positive life changes, I have been somewhat busy.

Getting married tends to take some focus....!

Anyway, I will be updating and trying to provide content that will encourage commenting by those who visit the Mazes, since a weblog is much more fun to work on when people are involved.

So that means I've got to get some content up worth commenting about!

I predict 2015 will be a great year for games!

If anyone is out there paying attention, please send me your e-mails or comments as to what you would like to see!! More dungeons? New game systems? Obscure relics of the Deep Age?

Reviews? Stories?

Let's build cool stuff!!!

Good gaming to you all.


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Sunday 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons Game: Encountering With the Wights in an Ancient Torture Chamber!

 ...and no, the title doesn't refer to your high school reunion, but rather to the ruins of an ancient castle known only as...the Keep.

The party has been searching the ruins for answers to the mysterious nature of a powerful man who has retained their services in times past...a man who floats about in a strange metal chair since losing his power to walk to an encounter with an ancient red dragon upon another plane. Hmmm....

After battling Serpent Men and Quogoth, the heroes (?) discovered a secret door in one of the chambers which led them to an ancient torture room replete with a wrack, an iron maiden, and a gibbet.

Jonathan the DM, filled with glee at the party's dire predicament!
Upon entering and sensing a malevolent presence; Sally's cleric, Blessing, decided to use her Turn Undead power to force out any restless spirits who might be hiding.....

Three nasty wights materialized and proceeded to punish the trespassers!

 Highlights of the battle included the wights phasing in and out of invisibility and picking up characters and throwing them into walls.

My halfling Rogue, Jabijah, did better than ever with his +1 magic rapier, with me having the unusual luck of rolling three 20's almost in a row.

Our half orc bard attacked with his magic sword while our druid cast a Moonbeam spell. Our Monk, Meriel, had a Water Whip which she used to great effect. Our Gnome Magic User got picked up and thrown around by the angry wights and ended up prone for quite some time.

At last the wights were dispatched and as we searched the horrid place, opening the iron maiden revealed the skeletal remains of some inhuman creature which met it's pitiful fate here ages past. Someone had secreted a rapier here--investigation revealed it to be a strange technological artifact; it can function both as a light casting item as well as a sort of low grade light sabre....our Gnome came in handy in ascertaining the nature of the weird sword.

"You just got hit by a wight--make a saving throw!"

Sally ponders who Blessing should heal during the fracas...

Would you mess with these guys? Our bard leads a charge, behind him our wizard prepares a spell! The blonde in the purple cloak is our monk and behind her you can see the nasty wight!

 All in all, a very good time was had by everyone and we have lived to fight another day...but what is the origin of the strange technology? It radiated no magick! Was the weird skeleton in the iron maiden a being from beyond the stars??? I guess we'll have to find out next time!

Toby ponders his wizards next move as Gwen, playing the druid with the staff behind him, eyes the approaching Wight with dread and horror

Knock knock...who's there.....?

Blueholme Prentice Rules Review

Dreamscape Designs has produced their first instalment of a series of "retro-

 clone" rules and supplements designed to recall the flavor and gaming style of

 one of the oldest of Dungeons and Dragons editions, the Eric Holmes"Bluebook"

Basic Dungeons and Dragons  Rules, circa 1978. And from what I can see,

Michael Thomas, Blueholme's creator and the pilot of Dreamscape Designs, has

done a fantastic job!

For those who don't know what a retroclone is, it is essentially a reproduction or

 imitation of an old D&D edition that is no longer being printed and exists largely

 as a relic of the gaming past. Retroclone editions represent a tribute to the old

game on the part of the authors and an attempt to connect new generations of

gamers with "old school" game styles---a style or feel that often (but not always)

 gets lost amid newer games which, according to the feelings of many old school

gamers, are more akin to D&D inspired modern video games than to the original

 table top Dungeons and Dragons experience concieved of by the creators of

D&D, Dave Arneson,Gary Gygax, and the players who took part in those

original campaigns.

The gaming community is wide and diverse, and times change, so it should not

be construed as an insult to say that new games aren't old school.

That said, the Holmes Bluebook D&D rules are mana to the minds of those who

came of age playing D&D in the late seventies and early eighties, and Blueholme

successfully distills Dr. Holmes' game essences into a very well crafted

retroclone that you can get started playing quickly without weeks of laborious

rules studies. This is a game designed to throw players old and and new into the

arena of fantasy action and drama quick as a flash!


Blueholme Prentice rules are designed to introduce characters of levels 1-3 to

the fantasy world of your own making. One can play the part of Fighter, Cleric,

Thief, Magic User, Dwarf, Elf, or Halfling. The book is filled with pages of magic

spells, enchanted relics, mythical monsters, and dice tables and rules to cobble

it all together into exciting hours of dungeon exploration amid realms of ice and


The game is very well designed and formatted. The rules are easy to read and

understand. The art inside consists black and white fairy tale illustrations that

go back a century or more. The copy I received was "perfectbound" and well

constructed with the very attractive  painting you see pictured above as the


Blueholme Prentice rules is designed as an introduction to the Blueholme

Compleat Rules which will take characters to the highest levels, accompanied by

 a line of published fantasy adventures which are in production and soon to be

released. The material in Blueholme will allow you months of play without these

other supplements, however. When you are ready for the other supplements,

there is enough material on the presses to ensure that a Dunegon Master can

run a full campaign for his or her players using Dreamscape Design's published


And being priced right at five dollars as of this writing, the game can be

ordered with shipping and handling for under ten dollars, a bargain to say the


And how does Blueholme measure up to re-creating the 1978 Bluebook D&D

game? As someone who ran games with the Bluebook for a few years, there is

virtually no difference. Michael Thomas has innovated the odd magic item,

monster or magic spell, and the art is different, but Blueholme Prentice is a very

faithful reproduction of the the sort of campaign and games that Eric Holmes

would have played and refereed.

In conclusion, I highly recommend it for people  who desire D&D without

entire chapters of rules--quick start up, quick play, and still plenty of room to

navigate the fantasy genre for endless games of the imagination.

Good job, Michael!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Our Old Gandlara Game, Using the D100 Narrative Game Rules from Tekumel

This was another fun game that lasted about seven months back in 2011-2012.

The setting was based upon the Gandalara Cycle series by Randal and Vicki Garret, adapted and modified to port in some D&D flavor.

Excellent reading if you want a new high adventure, low magic fantasy series that will keep you reading expectantly until a very mind blowing end!

Here is the blog link which gives the rules and flavor of this game, which included at various times a dozen or more players:

Gandalara Cycle D100 Narrative Game