Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Launch Day! Issue 13 is out!

After seven years in the wilderness, today is the big day - the launch of OD&DITIES, Issue 13! The magazine is now available for purchase through RPGNow for $2.

It's hard to put into words how I feel right now, with the magazine once again out there. Excited that it finally made it this far, certainly, though there are also some nerves there as well. I hope you all enjoy Issue 13 - now to get back to work on Issue 14!

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Starting a Campaign: The First Decisions

I'm rather hoping that I can talk my group into making my next campaign another of our famed xD&D games, in this case a Labyrinth Lord campaign. Although I only just finished playing in a 2nd Edition game, it's actually been more than a year since I ran such a game. I'm looking at a few months down the line, which means it is time to start preparation. Connected to this is a little project I'm working on, unrelated to OD&DITIES but connected to Labyrinth Lord, about which more in a couple of weeks.

The first decision is naturally the rules set. I definately fancy a change from 1st or 2nd Ed, as we've only just come out of a 2nd Ed campaign, so definately a B/X type; I was rather impressed by Original Edition Characters, so I think a '74 style campaign is definately in order. Without the Thief. It's not in the actual OEC, wasn't in the 'original three booklets', and in the last campaign, all but one of the players ran a Thief of some sort. Time for a change.

Another early call is the style of campaign. I'm currently running an episodic-based campaign (Star Trek, using the CODA rules), so I think it's time to break out the sandbox. I generally think that sandbox-style play is the best idea for D&D anyway, especially the earlier editions. Besides, I've been reading some descriptions of 'hexcrawl' campaigns lately, and I'm rather eager to give it a try.

Final call - the name. Not as easy as it looks. I used to use the 'Fading Realms', an old KODT reference, but I think I want something a bit better for this one; I'm hoping it will last a while. I'm thinking of a setting drawn from the old pulp fantasy novels, from the Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, or Lin Carter. So a name from ancient mythology such as they used, or perhaps from cosmology.

Time to hit Wikipedia for a list of mythological places. I don't want to use anything that has been done to death before, but a few interesting options suggest themselves. I like Leibethra; not only a mythological name but evoking the creator of the Grey Mouser himself. I've always been partial to Thule, the land at the end of the world, and that also ties in with a Viking feel as well. Lemuria and Atlantis are rather old hat by now, but stepping back many millions of years, perhaps Gondwana, Pangaea, or Laurasia?

This one has me stumped for the moment. Any thoughts?

Friday, 19 February 2010

Review: Original Edition Characters

(Second pass-through on this post - Blogger ate my first review!)

As I have recently reviewed that Advanced Edition Companion, it seems sensible to follow it up with a review of another Labyrinth Lord sourcebook, Original Edition Characters. Like the AEC, the OEC is designed to help imitate a slightly different style of play, that of the original '74 D&D edition, but with some minor variations. It also has a second purpose, serving as a player's handbook to the game itself.

Physically, another good book. (Still no index, though!) You get a 64-page digest sized book, with some nice illustrations and generally well laid-out; everything is in a logical place. Everything needed for the generation of a Labyrinth Lord character is present - classes, races, equipment lists, and spell lists. As a player's handbook, it works well.

As a way of moving Labyrinth Lord closer to the 'original three', it works as well. Looking under the hood, for the GM it is essentially the same basic system in any case, so there is no need to make any changes there. The changes is for the players, who have slightly different options to choose from (no thief, elves effectively as dual-class characters), and a somewhat different ethos to the game.

Do I recommend this? Let me put it this way - I'll be picking a copy up for each of my players for my next Labyrinth Lord campaign.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Advanced Edition Companion: A Review

I went into this one expecting to like what I saw, and I came away initially with a slightly unsatisfied feeling – it took me a while to understand why. I'll explain later...

Physically (I picked up the paperback version from Lulu), the book is well-presented, well-laid out, and a good match for the revised edition Labyrinth Lord in terms of style. Everything seems to be in good shape; my one niggle is that there is no index, though there is a substantial table of contents.

The book opens with character creation, and here we have the usual races you would expect from 1st Ed, as well as the additional classes – new races Half-Orc, Half-Elf, and Gnome, new classes Paladin, Ranger, Illusionist, Assassin, Druid. As promised, this book allows characters to be created that match 1st Edition standards, without a lot of the clutter. I was pleased that proficiencies were left out, but that the 'Secondary Skill' table, providing characters with some background skil from their past, was included.

Frankly, it was at the part of the review that I hit a stumbling block. Suffice to say that this book contains most of the 'missing content' that 1st Edition had that B/X did not, but written as if it was a later book in the B/X product line – I'd almost say that this is the 'Companion' book we've been waiting for all these years.

This is my point – there is nothing here that we haven't seen before. That's what initially left me somewhat unsatisfied, but I rapidly came to see that this was the greatest strength of the book. In one 156-page book, all the elements of 1st Edition that I like have been provided here in a distilled format, and pretty much everything I dislike has been left out. I'm going to put it another way – this isn't the 'Companion' – this is what 2nd Edition should have been like.

Is this book a new, amazing read? No. But then it doesn't promise to be. Is this book good inspiration for games – yes. Is this book actually useful at the table? Definitely yes. I have a running debate with a friend of mine over sourcebooks that are 'cool and revolutionary' over ones that are 'actually useful at the table'. The former I will read an enjoy, and they will sit on my shelf unused. The latter I will read through, and then carry to every session and eventfully wear out through use – though on first read it didn't hit me as hard. This definitely falls into the latter category, folks. If you're looking to run a 1st-Edition style game, you could do a lot worse than pick this up. If you want a good 'sourcebook of stuff' for your B/X game, this is pretty much essential.

Will I use all of this? Probably not; I'd rather run a more B/X style game, racial class and all. Will I grab monsters, spells, magic items from this? Absolutely. Recommended buy.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Progress Report...and Issue 14...

Well, having come to my senses regarding the 'Papyrus' font, I spent a happy couple of hours going through a selection of other fonts to find something better; I think I finally managed it, and have now reformatted the issue. The White Space problem is pretty much solved, as well - I've finished work on a couple of tables, and there will be a couple more short articles, half-pagers - including one on integrating new character classes into ongoing games.

Next week I start work on Issue 14, the Thief-related issue. A preliminary (very preliminary, as so far I have not written a single word) list of articles looks like this:

'The Many-Tentacled Beast': Thieves Guild as Adversary
'A Touch of Class': The Psionicist (Looking forward to writing this one...)
'Anyone can join the Guild': Unusual Monster-Based Thieves Guilds...
'Avoiding the DM's Wrath': To Play the Thief
Magical Miscellany: Magical Thieves Tools

Still a few more to nail down yet, but those are the big ones.

I got my copy of the Advanced Edition Companion for Labyrinth Lord; about half-way through it now, and so far I must say I'm impressed - expect a review in the near future. I'm still working on themes for the next few issues - I'm torn between 'Fighters' and 'The Lost World' for Issue 15...

Sunday, 7 February 2010

White Space...

Well, OD&DITIES Thirteen, bar a few tweaks and another quick run-through, is laid out. Still need to to another pass over a couple of the articles I wrote this week, but it's nearly there. One thing has emerged, however - the curse of the 'white space'. I had planned on twenty-four pages including front and back cover; the back cover has been deleted and replaced by an article - which I think is an improvement.

It has thrown my spacing a bit, however, and I now have four spaces, each less than a third of a page, that nevertheless make the pages look a little barren. Three possibilities here - leave the spaces white, which I don't want to do, add some filler art, which I again don't want to do (while I want the magazine to be illustrated, I don't want the magazine to be loaded with artwork just for the sake of it.)

Option three, then - new content! Right now I'm leaning towards four random tables, that I think will be D12 based; I've got a few ideas for what can go there, but if anyone else has any suggestions for tables, or for anything they'd like to see instead, I'd be eager to hear them...

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Fighting the Layout Wars!

My apologies for not posting yesterday, but I've been engaged in a titanic struggle with Open Office, that managed to nicely eat up my day; however, I'm now about 70% of the way thorugh the layout of OD&DITIES Thirteen. Working out what I wanted to do was easy enough, but the best way of doing was not - it's been a good few years since I last did this, and I'd forgotten a lot of the tricks. One of my biggest concerns was and is fonts; I want a nice, unified structure - one font for headers, one font for content, and something that is nicely legible and looks clean on the page.

After much work, I finally went for Papyrus for headers, and a nice font called Andalus for the interior. At least so far; my printer has decided to die on my, so it's going to be a few days before I get to see what it actually looks like. This is the problem with a PDF publication - it has to look good both on the screen and on the printed page...

Thursday, 4 February 2010

OD&DITIES: The 'Standard Layout'

One of the things that was apparent in the early stages of my thoughts about reviving OD&DITIES was that I wanted to provide each issue with some sort of a 'binding theme', a focal point for the issue. Not only would this serve as a means for me to hang article ideas off, it would help later on when it came to article submissions. Also, I wanted to return to the old practice of ongoing columns; features such as 'Street of a Thousand Adventures' and 'Compendium of Characters' were popular before, and I wanted to try and capture some of that same magic this time.

Given that I wanted OD&DITIES to be a regular monthly publication, I decided also that I would keep the page length to around 24 pages. (Not counting the OGC Licence.) This had several advantages - it would be a managable piece to print out, could include a wide variety of content, and would lend itself well to being produced in a compendium format later on, of 72 pages. Any bigger, and I would struggle to fill the magazine on a regular basis.

With this in mind, I settled on a structure for the magazine, one that I intend to try and stick to. Two articles - one of four pages, one of two, directly related to the 'theme' of the magazine. Four more pages - either two two-page articles, or one four-page article, on an unrelated topic. Four columns - a four-page new class in each issue, the 'Surviving the DM's Wrath' piece, usually of two pages, providing tips and suggestions for players, a 'Magicial Miscellany' piece - either magical items or spells, generally in support of the main theme, and Mr. B's Last Word.

This means - with the other necessaries such as covers and contents pages...

Cover (1 Page)
Contents (1 Page)
Editorial (1 Page)
Theme Article One (4 Pages)
Theme Article Two (2 Pages)
'Touch of Class' (4 Pages)
Unrelated Articles (2+2 or 4 Pages)
'Magical Miscellany' (1 Page)
'Surviving the DM's Wrath (2 Pages)
Mr. B's Last Word (1 Page)
Back Cover (1 Page)

This adds up to 22 pages, with leaves me some room for flexibility. I can introduce new columns, and see if there is any additional interest, run reviews (the new 'Advanced Edition Companion' is an obvious 'must-review' for Issue 14), and cover if any articles run over.

The structure has held up fine for Issue 13, for which the contents list has now been finalised:

Cover (1 Page)
Contents (1 Page)
Editorial (1 Page)
Building the Keep on the Borderlands (4 Pages)
Designing the Keep on the Borderlands (2 Pages)
'Touch of Class': The Illusionist (4 Pages)
'Man's Best Friend' (4 Pages)
Surviving the DM's Wrath: Party Formation (4 Pages)
'Magical Miscellany' (1 Page)
Mr B's Last Word (1 Page)
Back Cover (1 Page).

That's all for today - tomorrow, FONTS!

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Quite a Day...

Well, it's been quite a day. A one page article has managed to turn itself into four pages on me, and I've been going over Issue 13 once again. Through it all, I've been staggered by the response; I honestly never believed that OD&DITIES would arouse this much interest when I brought it back, and I've been amazed by the fond memories people have of the 'zine. I only hope that it's as good now as it was then...

One important piece of news: courtesy of Goblinoid Games, OD&DITIES now has a discussion space on the Goblinoid Games forums, at, so I expect I'll be spending quite a bit of time there in the near future.

Tomorrow: Two articles to complete, both single pagers, and that will about put OD&DITIES Thirteen to bed. I'll try and write some more about the design process tomorrow, and the general 'standard layout' I envisage for the magazine.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

OD&DITIES is Back!

After a seven-year absence, OD&DITIES is returning – hopefully better than ever! I've spent the last few years watching the retro-clone movement with interest, and lately I've been feeling the itch to write again. I finally decided to yield and get going at the start of the year, and have been working on OD&DITIES Thirteen since the beginning of the year. I'm now at the point where I can announce a launch date: OD&DITIES Thirteen will be published by Wednesday 24th February.

What was OD&DITIES?

Back in 2000, I began OD&DITIES as a fanzine covering OD&D; back in the day, there was very little OD&D on the internet, and it is strange to think just how much things have changed since then, with a lot of quality product now available. The magazine showcased some amazing articles, and had some excellent writers; issues 1-12 are available in various places around the internet if you want to see the 'first generation'.

What is OD&DITIES?

Today, OD&DITIES is pretty much the same basic idea – a semiprozine covering OD&D, published in PDF format monthly, this time with compilations to be published on a quarterly basis through Lulu. The plan is that the magazine will be available through RPGNow, and will cost $2; each issue will contain between 20 – 24 pages.

What is the release schedule?

Monthly. A new issue of OD&DITIES will be available in the last week of every month, generally on the last Wednesday of every month. I'm going to stick rigidly to this, and plan a substantial article backlog to make sure of it; as I write this, Issue 13 is a couple of days away from being 'put to bed', and I'm already working on Issue 14.

What version are you supporting?

The original OD&DITIES danced around this issue somewhat, looking back; a lot of articles were for slightly different versions of OD&D. This time, I'm setting the 'default' version as being for Labyrinth Lord, but the intent is general compatibility with Basic/Expert D&D. I don't think there will be any serious difficulty – or any difficulty at all – in using the articles with Swords & Wizardry, OSRIC, or any other of the retro-clones.

What's in the next issue, then?

Each issue will have a mixture of themed articles, with the theme changing each week, and regular columns. Issue 13's feature is 'The Keep', referencing the famed 'Keep on the Borderlands' module. Two articles cover PC construction of strongholds, and a DM designing such a structure to use as a home base. There's a four-page article on the 'Illusionist', including new spells, and an article on 'Man's Best Friend' – dogs in D&D. Regular features include 'Surviving the DM's Wrath', a 'Player's Advantage' feature, and 'Inside the Magical Vault', a collection of detailed, special, magical items. There will be regular reviews in each issue, and the issue is rounded out by our mystery columnist.

Future issues?

Issue 14 will revolve around 'The Thief', and have articles on boosting the Thief, Thieves Guilds', alternate Thieves' skills, and a Thief-based adventure, as well as a four-page article on the 'Psionicist' as a class. Issue 15 is currently planned to be based around 'The Fighter', but this is still in the very early planning stages.

It's really good to be working on this again; I hope to produce something you'll all enjoy.


Richard Tongue

Once Again, Editor, OD&DITIES