Sunday, April 21, 2013

Second Chances or More 2E

Being a fan and player of AD&D 2E I’ve been a bit disappointed the edition often gets skipped over by the gaming community at large, whether mainstream, OSR, indie, or what have you.

The rising juggernaut of Pathfinder champions the spirit of 3E/3.5E. Their support includes volumes of gorgeous full color books, ample primary and third party publisher support (probably the best in the industry), competent and convenient digital retailing, and print distribution with increasing prominence in many brick and mortar stores.

It can be argued the forthcoming 13th Age is a divergent adaptation of 4E using the OGL. It has a growing community and we will see how well it fares when its released into stores giving all gamers outside of the pre-order folks or convention goers a chance to look at the system.

OSRIC, one of the earliest OSR games, claims direct descent from the ideas offered in AD&D (1E). Other games emulating earlier pre-Advanced versions have supplemental and companion books (S&W Complete, LL AEC) easily scaling up the basic systems to approach AD&D. All these games are reaching out to their audiences and in some instances making headway towards new player-bases. Their growth is made evident by the response to Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day and other indicators, such as Wizards’ reprinting earlier editions in premium or collector formats.

Where does 2E fit into this? There’s not as much activity as far as I know. Two games always pop up when I search for a 2E ‘retroclone’. Both have been around for a couple of years, but none of them have reached the self-sustaining critical mass like some of the other OSR games have (third party adventures, subsystems, genre variants). One is For Gold & Glory and the main website hosting it appears to have expired.

The other is Myth & Magic and my personal experience (or lack thereof) goes back to Late March, Early May of 2012 with the conclusion of a very successful Kickstarter project. Things were looking up. The supportive community helped the game complete a crowd-funding project with an abundant surplus. Maybe this was the catalyst a 2E-style game needed to gain traction with the gaming community.

I mean, in their DIY scrappiness the OSR games have found ways to gain solid footholds in traditional distribution channels and were always adepts at digital distribution — and self-publishing, and crowd-sourcing, and print-on-demand, all the publishing hot topics that have several industries dizzy, giddy, and panicky from the whirl of activity — always pioneers to begin with.

At the time, the next pioneering wave seemed to be Kickstarter as it was riding off the high of its first mega-projects. It was THE platform with which to launch a creative project and games in particular. It was essentially self-publishing ground-zero, not just self-publishing which other platforms could do, but came prepackaged with expanding an audience as well.

Well, I joined that herd and I can say the experience was especially unmemorable. I promptly forgot about Myth & Magic in the midst of more exciting and better updated projects. Not that New Haven Games didn’t update, I just found a lot of them didn’t raise my interest beyond the surface level of "Oh, that’s nice to hear". Others were focused on the Game Master’s Guide Kickstarter, which I didn’t bother backing as other things again seemed more interesting at the time.

I neglected this project until reading Tenkar’s Tavern updating on the progress on this and the developing history of trouble facing this project, a history which had skipped over my head entirely due to my absence of attention. Previously, I had downloaded the direct upload of the Players Guide, but the password locked PDF annoyed me and I never went beyond a skim of the table of contents. I missed the RPGNow coupons for the regular PDF as it was sent along with the flood of Kickstarter update emails. I have those emails turned off. By now New Haven Games had grown silent and non-responsive, so my request for another coupon is not likely to be heeded.

In a recent update, we at least know the reason for the lack of communication. In the face of mounting pressure from the project and real life issues, the project creator blanked out. The whole situation, what was once a positive experience, became an unpleasant weight.

You know what? I’m perfectly fine with that explanation. Having experienced similar situations and pressures, and falling flat on my face, I can understand. Glad to hear the designer realize it and claims he’s taking steps to resolve the remaining issues with the project. I hope to get what I backed for, sooner rather than later. We’re coming up on a full year now for a project that already had a draft and now a completed PDF but seemingly no where near completion in terms of physical goods. Tom Ryan, the one-man show behind New Haven Games also admits to making a publishing miscalculation choosing the print option of glossy pages. Art for one of the supplements is going to be non-existent and shipping is going to eat into the GM Guide funds or he has to pony up the difference. Doesn’t help that postal rates rose. Another stumble in the long line of slip ups, but publishing dilemmas have plagued far more experienced and well organized projects than this one.

One thing Tom said in his update, "Myth & Magic is likely doomed now because of my mismanagement of the campaigns", may hold true. Honestly, 2E may not be the most popular of D&D editions and a 2E retroclone probably doubly dubious in its position. With the extent of problems disrupting it, M&M may very well be dead in the water. The thing with retroclones is they have to reach out to a large enough segment of the gaming community to warrant groups adopting the rules, at least for gamers like me who play solely online in either PBeMs or PbPs. I don’t have a tabletop group I can convince to play a retroclone they’ve never heard of. Convincing a GM online to run a retroclone he’s never heard of is even more remote.

Funny thing is right around this time last year when Myth & Magic seemed like it would rekindle 2E’s flame, I joined an actual 2E game with members of my group left over from a shuttered 3E game. It’s a lot of fun and probably the best time gaming I’ve had in years. So do I really need a retroclone? Probably not.

What else is right around the corner, a year after Myth & Magic’s funding? The WotC produced official AD&D 2E premium reprints. Not only are 2E books easy to find in used bookstores, flea markets, or eBay, we’re going to have a set of brand new reprints available in May. Steve Winter already received his copies (some of the first off the press) and posted a picture on his Twitter account. They’re handsome books. I may get them just to support 2E.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Random Thoughts When Rereading S&W Complete - A Brief Pseudo Let’s Read

Between the multiple attacks against 1 HD creatures, parrying, and the exclusivity of strength bonuses, Fighters have actual class specific abilities. Wow. This took a bit to sink in. Not familiar with the older edition rules, but if this was how they had it, later versions are regressions in design. In that case, 2E and 3E (more feats don’t count, especially as other classes have more class specific feats than the Fighter) have some explaining to do.

Paladin’s don’t have spells. That took a double take. I’ve grown used to Paladins with eventual spell access. They have the same experience table as Fighters, so it evens out. A similar modification could make an interesting variant for 2E Paladins.

More so than with the other classes, the Ranger seems to come prepackaged with an implied setting and it’s awesome flavor that recalls Tolkien’s Numenoreans and Rangers in the LotR, yet non-specific enough to be easily adapted. It can readily invoke post-apocalyptic, sword & sorcery fantasy with no effort. They have the steepest experience progression but get numerous skills and abilities for the cost. There is something very appealing about the implied history of the S&W Rangers.

I found Races section remarkably short but still provided enough to relay the flavor of the race mechanically. I’m still unused to the lack of the stats skewed towards their iconic niche. Those provided a way to gauge the race with a quick glance. Designing races within the light rules may actually be a challenge compared to what I’m used to.

Overall, the Complete version is like 2E (the oldest system I’ve played) without the optional rules (i.e. proficiencies). There’s minimal conversion required. With any experience with pre-3E games (or even post- due to the brief rules), S&W really is a pick up and play game.

S&W Appreciation Day: At the Confluence of the New and the Old

I’m not an old school gamer by any means, despite starting at the end of AD&D 2nd Edition (and there are many who argue 2E was not nearly old school enough). I spent most of my gaming years in the d20/3E/3.5E trenches and more recently started digging around its offshoot, the Pathfinder system. It was through Pathfinder that I inadvertently found myself backing Frog God Game’s Kickstarter for Swords & Wizardry Complete, by way of their previous Kickstarter for Rappan Athuk.

Before this time I had been tangentially aware of the OSR movement as some nebulous thing on the fringes of my gaming sphere. I downloaded the free PDFs of the various system for potential future reference and had trouble differentiating them. They were all just an alphabet soup, OSRIC, S&W, LL, BFRPG, etc.

At around the same time, I started noticing the d20SWSRD link on the sidebar navigation of the d20PFSRD. Hmm, I thought to myself, this one OSR system is effectively marketing itself to my new school senses. By joining forces with some of the most prominent third party companies, sites, and organizations of the Pathfinder system, S&W is making headway into a significant population of gamers, PFRPG is giving WotC’s D&D behemoth a run for its pedigree after all.

If this were some type of OSR contest, I would say S&W took steps towards "winning" by dramatically increasing its profile and adoption by the limited number of gamers. Except this isn’t a race. Reading the many blog posts and comments for Sword & Wizardry Appreciation Day, it is evident there is much overlap in the various OSR systems. Being based on the d20 OGL, the OSR games also invariably take some influence from the mainline d20 games. It is all one grand continuum.

From my exposure to the energetic discussions, I’m starting to gain a better grasp of the different OSR games, their differences, and ways in which they may be remixed. One informs the other and vice versa, and there is room for a multi-channel infusion between other d20 games, and even across genres (sci-fi applications of S&W in particular have caught my interest).

The cross-pollination coupled with the ease of sharing and dialogue through web-based medium is the great strength of these games and the communities formed around them. Today may be Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day, but it is in actuality a day of appreciation for gaming in general. I think this is a good day, not for one system or for the old school, but for all system and all schools. As the old saying goes, the rising tide lifts all ships. We’ve a lot of ships on the water and it’s wonderful seeing people signal each other across the waves to share cool stuff.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Let the Games Begin!

Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day has arrived!

While the focus of this event is on the ideas presented in the system and the directions people take them, what’s a shindig without some actual *stuff* to go with it. Two places are running a one day sale during this occasion. One is Frog God Games and here’s what they had to say about their offer:

"Frog God Games has discounted their entire line of Swords & Wizardry products for 1 day only in celebration of Swords & Wizardry appreciation day (April 17th 2013). The discount is good for 25% off S&W Products but you must use coupon* code SWApprDay on April 17th 2013 at check out.

*The coupon excludes items less than $1, S&W Cards, Pre-Orders, and Subscriptions."

Follow the link below to see what strikes your fancy.


Of course the core rules and all sorts of other goodies can always be found here for FREE:


Another place running a sale is the D20PFSRD store. They’ve been very supportive of Swords & Wizardry, putting up the open game content of the S&W products on their site along with their SRD of Pathfinder open game rules and mechanics as well as Mutants and Mastermind. The wonders and convenience of technology. D20PFSRD’s promo code is: SWAD252013. Link below to the corresponding products:


The Swords & Wizardry SRD is available FREE, searchable and indexed online at:

Friday, April 12, 2013


Second post - let's talk about AD&D 2nd Edition. It’s old news by now, but WotC is reprinting the core books for 2E. This initially came as a surprise. Despite starting tabletop roleplaying at the end of the that era, thus 2E being my first version of D&D, even I knew the edition does not hold the same nostalgic value as AD&D 1E and older versions, or have the same present day recognition and relevance as 3.5E.

That said, I’m quite pleased 2nd Edition is getting a reprint. While I’m aware of criticisms of the system from both old school players and the post-d20 crowd, I find it a worthy and quick ruleset, easily modifiable, and relatively compatible with most prior editions from what I know of them. It has its flaws, but every system does. I think it gets unfairly shoved into the awkward middle child category, not enough of either extreme to please segments of the gaming population. I actually like its middle ground approach, light enough to be flexible and brief, but with enough options for some additional definition. The additional rules beyond the base game being optional makes it clearly customizable to groups.

Sharp, not shiny.
Some time ago, WotC released the cover images to the books. I have to say, they’re probably the most elegant premium hardcover reprints thus far. They seem understated and stoic compared to the downright gaudy 1E reprints, or the merely ostentatious-by-comparison 3.5E rereleases. I am somewhat disappointed by their use of the ‘95 black spine cover art. Always found the art bland compared to the original 2E covers (and the black spine books were the first D&D books I owned). I understand the black spine books are the version they’re using for the reprint, but a hybrid of first version cover art with second revision interiors would have made these unique. I say that mostly for selfish reasons as it would increase my inclination to buy the reprints. Right now it’s a maybe.

Either way, I’m contemplating whether to get them for the sake of nostalgia and to support the system I first started roleplaying with. The books would see actual use as I’m in two PbP games that use 2E and likely would join more in the future as opportunities arise and time permits. It would be nice to have one set of books in my library for reference and one by the computer for game use.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

In the beginning …

Welcome to The Campaign Expanse.

'What's with the name?' would be an apt question to answer in order to establish the primary focus of this blog. I’ve wanted to start a gaming and general geekery blog for some time, but through the course of various obligations and distractions never initiated one with the proper time or effort. A recent set of influences has provided me the impetus to finally try my hand at blogging.

Part of the reason for the long delay to action was a muddled sense of purpose. What would I post about? The thought brewed for some time before I looked back and realized the topics I gravitate towards through my years as a gamer (and geek of other media) were the campaign settings. I like to read about them, discuss them, try them out and play in them, buy the setting guides, examine the different versions, even study their publication history, and when the opportunity arises add to them.

My fascination with settings and worlds was quite obvious, I'm surprised it took me this this long to express, but there was never a need to reflect on something meant for fun, since the objective of fulfillment overrides most requirements for objective scrutiny. As a nod to the campaign settings that inspired me when I first entered the hobby, this blog takes its naming cues from the campaign accessories, regional supplements, and most obviously the campaign expansions of the classic campaign settings.

While I will write about the concept of settings and the settings themselves here, it will certainly not be the sole subject. I've collected an assortment of different game systems, adventures, and other books over the years and continue to increase my library. Expect the usual random thoughts, reviews, product hauls, as well as posts on other non-gaming topics, though I will keep to things of interests within related genres and fandom.

One of the more recent games to enter my library is Swords & Wizardry. My exposure to the OSR community and retro-clone type games is limited. Although I have electronic copies of the more prominent OSR games (because they’re free, why not keep the main PDF for reference), Swords & Wizardry is one of the few OSR games I have acquired a print copy. Thanks partly to Kickstarter and partly to Frog God Games who I previously purchased Pathfinder materials from. Crowd-funding may be a source of many posts for this blog as I have several products derived from these sorts of projects or due from such projects. Come to think of it, this blog just became a lot more interesting due to that thought alone.

A major reason for finally getting a blog off the ground is the upcoming Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day on April 17th. The growing list of blogs and overall energy of the S&W and OSR communities is infectious. Since I have a perfectly good copy of Swords & Wizardry in hand, I figured I would finally crack open the book. For Sword & Wizardry Appreciation Day, my perspective will be mostly as a 'newish school' gamer looking at an old school style system for the first time, 'newish' since I started at the end of 2nd edition (and still play the system), but spent most of my time in 3E/3.5E and more recently Pathfinder. Then again, by now with 5E on the way, everything is 'old school' in some sense. Everything under the many suns of the 'verse is fair gaming.