Official NAP Tournament Reference Bible

Salutations NAPsters. With NAP II outperforming its predecessor by a considerable margin and NAP III on the horizon (after which I will get the companion volume out I promise), I wanted to compile a comprehensive list of permitted retroclones and sourcebooks for the NAP tournament format, to reduce attrition by technical knockout in any future contests. Therefore what follows is the complete list of permissable source material.

For the purposes of the contest, some ruffians will occasionally try to import monsters from one system into an adjacent system. As the curtailed list is comprised almost exclusively of variants of the worlds most succesfull roleplaying game, such subterfuge, while frowned upon, is not illegal. We nevertheless ensure that any such conversions are done as faithfully as possible. Grave deviations from the original creature might result in penalties, banishment, death threats and acid attacks.

The goal is of course not to fight against layout or art or to curb all creativity but instead to channel it in directions that are actually useful and contigent with the game of oldschool d&d that represent the focus and foundation of the OSR. Creation should be considered in terms of adding to an extant and living library of material, adventures and game systems and being of use and enjoyment to fellow participants. If artistic flourishes contribute to that, then all the better! Conversely, self-expression can never be the primary goal of a healthy and active hobby, and persons seeking to indulge in fantasies of participating in some sort of bizarre table-top games themed artists commune are encouraged to move to game systems or other expressive media more in line with such proclivities.

Note that if you select a system, use of any supplementary material beyond the Core Rules is not mandatory. Use of AD&D does not neccessitate that you use Unearthed Arcana also. Deviations from the core rules are extremely discouraged, piecemail borrowing or selective porting from elements in supplementary material is permitted. Using, say, a Robe of the Stars from Unearthed Arcana in your NAP entry does not force you to accept or take into account the existence of Half-Drow Cavaliers. Items, creatures or classes may be imported from setting specific reference material without bringing with it any obligation to abiding by the conditions of that setting. These are supplementary tools meant to enable, not restrict.

Official Canon:

– Original 3 Brown Books.
– Supplement I-IV
– Swords & Spells mass combat system

AD&D 1e
– Player Handbook & Dungeon Master Guide
– Monster manual I, II & Fiend Folio
– Legends & Lore, Deities & Demigods
– Wilderness Survival Guide, Dungeon Survival Guide, Manual of the Planes & Unearthed Arcana
– Oriental Adventures
– All official TSR modules for said system
– The Battlesystem rules

Basic D&D
– Any version of the Holmes, Moldvay, Mentzer, Denning authored core rules of Basic/Expert Dungeons and Dragons game
– The BECMI boxed sets
– The AC supplementary works (most of these are horrible, but AC9 The Creature Catalogue is an excellent supplementary bestiary for B/X)
– The Rules Cyclopedia
– The Gazzeteers, Wrath of the Immortals boxed set, Voyage of the Princess Ark and Champions of Mystara (at your own peril)
– All TSR modules written for the above are permissable

AD&D 2nd Edition.

2nd Edition remains a contentious addition to the tournament and represents one of the first deviations from the spirit of the original game. Under its decade long reign, D&D would indulge in all manner of unwholesome experimentation, including railroading, storygaming, excessive simulationism, excessive lore, metaplot, splatbooks and other directions that, while occasionally interesting, are no longer fully aligned with the spirit of Fantasy Adventure Gaming of the original game. It also has an immense library of material for consideration, representing an additional challenge to any would be NAP judge. Nevertheless, excluding 2nd edition based on its direction, rather then its contents (which is the closest game to 1st edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and is almost fully compatible), seems cruel and unusual. Therefore 2nd edition material and submissions are grudgingly tolerated, and somewhat curtailed. Petitioners wishing to use 2e material beyond that mentioned below must petition the Judge via Email using the following format only.

Oh wise and benevolent NAP Judge,

Know that I stand before you, a lowly worm, steeped in sin and unworthy of notice. A million lifetimes would not be enough to repay the debt of your attention. I beg you, for my NAP entry, permit me the use of {insert name and TSR code of 2e supplement} and in the next life you will be blessed with a thousand camels.

I patiently await your just verdict, in full recognition of its righteous and irrevocable nature.

Your willing servant,

The plethora of exotic settings for 2e might represent an alluring challenge but aspiring NAPsters are urged to refrain from submitting material explicitly set in any of them for legal and fantasy adventure gaming related reasons.

– The 2e PhB & Dungeon Master Guide
– Tome of Magic, Book of Artifacts
– The Complete {-} series
– The Monstrous Compendia, The Monster Manual
– The Historical Reference Sourcebooks
– TSR 9506 Chronomancer
– The Players and DM’s Option books
– The Battlesystem rules for 2e
– The DMGR series
– Legends & Lore

Additional material:
– Dragon Magazine #01 – 273
– Dungeon Magazine #01-81

Any core ruleset just described may be substituted by one of the following Oldschool retroclones. As a rule of thumb, core bestiaries containing a few new entries are permissable, bestiaries of entirely new creatures are not. Expansions and sourcebooks fo the respective systems are NOT permitted unless explicitly canonized.

AD&D 1e: OSRIC, Adventures Dark & Deep Phb, DMG & Bestiary
OD&D: Swords & Wizardry Complete, Swords & Wizardry White Box
B/X, BECMI, RC: Basic Fantasy Roleplaying, Labyrinth Lord, Advanced Labyrinth Lord Companion, OSE: Basic Rules, OSE: Advanced edition, Rules Compendium
AD&D 2e: Gold & Glory

Additional oldschool games permitted:
Adventurer Conqueror King and any supplementary material
Worlds Without Number and any supplementary material

It should herein be mentioned that Worlds Without Number is permitted as a favor to one of my readers and represents occasional problems fitting within the contest stipulations. If you are a devoted fan of the system, your contributions are welcome, but otherwise, other options are more compatible.

Additional material permitted:
– White Dwarf #01 – #104

In accordance with the living nature of the hobby, each year of NAP the presiding judge shall canonize one work of the OSR for permanent inclusion in the listings, unless no worthy material may be found. For this year the following work shall be canonized.

– Monsters of Myth (OSRIC)

NAP III conditions to follow soon-ish. The original idea of high level gaming will remain in force.

120 thoughts on “Official NAP Tournament Reference Bible

  1. What of OSE Advanced? I’d like to petition the committee for a ruling on that one. It’s basically B/X with 1e material imported thoughtfully, which is very much in the spirit of your stipulations about cross-edition borrowed content.


    1. I’d assumed it wasn’t included for whatever reason Unearthed Arcana was left out of the “canon”. OSE:AF ports a lot of the UA player options. My question is: was the omission of UA deliberate?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Glad to have the official rules out; looking forward to participating. Would you consider gifting us contenders with a supplemental document with some tips on how to playtest high level adventures? I wouldn’t want to turn in anything half baked as it were.


    1. I could do that. I’m testing stuff out myself currently so I’ll have some quick tips and tricks to get everyone started. With any luck, I’ll even be entering myself (although obviously I cannot win).

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Hmm. My thoughts are that by being so broad and accommodating as you are suggesting that you will beaking it much more difficult to judge NAP III. If the focus of NAP III is high level adventures and we’re all agreed that they are the most difficult to do well then I think that OD&D, 1e and BX/BECMI with only a few supplements is the way to go.

    There’s a lot for you to check, so perhaps people need to provide a cross reference on sources for the more unusual monsters, spells or treasures.


  4. IMO, including ACKS, WWN, etc is an important distinction between this being an OSR contest and a “people who can’t accept 3e happened” circlejerk (honestly, I think there might be a better case for 3e as OSR ruleset than AD&D 2e). The OSR isn’t just supposed to be about sitting around polishing rulesets written before word processors and editors were a thing. It’s supposed to be about getting in touch with and using what was good about those rules.

    Personally, I’d tell you to use Kevin Crawford’s OSR definition (something you can run Keep on the Borderlands in with minimal on-the-fly conversion) rather than an itemized list, but that’s me.

    Also, I have a vague recollection of Castles and Crusades being included in the first year? I believe no one made an entry for it, but still seems a shame to exclude it.


    1. >>>I think there might be a better case for 3e as OSR ruleset than AD&D 2e

      I stick to the extremely unpopular opinion that 5e lends itself to old-school gaming better than any official edition of the game published after the year 2000.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. After 2000 is a reasonable position. You had two guys, The Dungeon Age man and the High Moors guy who started on 5e and sort of migrated here, and Commodore is a PF migrant I think.


    2. This distinction is clearly very important. You wouldn’t want to accidentally find yourself in a contest where other people might say you’re one of THOSE PEOPLE.

      Don’t worry bucko, Prince has already promised you it’s within the rules to pick one of the last 16 kickstarters you backed to pretend to get some value out of it. And we know next year you’ll be the guy (?) pining for Shadowdark to be canonized, due to it being importantly distinct, or something something something.


      1. @EOTB: the distinction IS important. You see, one group likes gaming that isn’t all narrative horseshit with too many rules and feelings. The other group likes nostalgic whining, self-fellatio, and not knowing how to design a game coherently. There’s some overlap in what they buy, but the two are very different. I care not what other people think about it, I don’t want to be one of that second group because they’re generally stupid and unpleasant. And my back’s not up to the self-fellatio.

        The OSR is more than just rehashing stuff TSR published, and IMO the contest should ensure it reflects that, even if there are good and obvious reasons for that stuff being the focus.

        As to the kickstarters, I fear you have failed to visit my intentions. I’ve backed a few Kickstarters lately. It’s more than I’ve backed in years, and they’re all cyberpunk, but I’m sure that somehow makes it clear I do nothing but chase after the latest artpunk darling while squealing in glee. For this contest, I’d be looking to design something for WWN, if I did. While it is relatively recent as game rulesets go, if you’re going to try claiming it’s not properly OSR I think you are likely to find people disagree.

        Also, given the tone of your message, I suggest both fucking off and fucking yourself. I’d suggest doing so good and hard, but am 100% confident both are beyond you.


      2. Admits back is blown out
        Claims no care as to what people think, then insists other people will agree
        Presumes his subject desires association
        Tone-checks after opening with circlejerking comments

        I would say “they’re not sending their best”…but I think they are.


      3. …Claiming that the riotous unpopularity of mouthbreathing “only TSR gud” fanboys is not why I despise them, and also claiming that many people may think WWN is genuinely OSR is not contradictory. It is not contradictory because who I despise and how I think OSR categorization works are two completely different things.

        Also, since you seem to be self-identifying as a mouthbreathing only-TSR-gud fanboy, I want to be clear about something: you and those like you are morons. You wouldn’t know decent game design if it fucked your mother, raised a superior half-sibling that knew how to make decent RPGs, and then cried yourself to sleep every night wondering why your mother no longer even pretended to love you. Old RPGs having elements that are superior to newer ones does not mean those newer ones are worthless, or that those old ones are not able to be seriously improved upon. Nor does realizing that mean people are idiots who will salivate over any novelty that comes along. Those people are merely the mirror image of you, and they’re almost as bad.

        As to tone: my comment was general, and limited to a word. Your message was specific to me. It’s almost like there’s a difference in those things.

        Nor does your “sent their best” comment make much sense given I’ve been commenting here since before the first No Artpunk.

        You are not as clever as you think, and if it weren’t for the fact that those like you are pretty much incapable of learning I’d suggest you reconsider some of your assumptions. You’d be a better person after doing so.


      4. The OSR Man designs insults as he does games: by mimicking that which has wounded him (in this case, middle-aged white women on twitter instead of the Tony Montana of RPGs)


      5. I am also a moron then who thinks “the OSR is all about…” precisely nothing anymore.

        You have your freedom to do and play whatever you want. No one can stop you. Just don’t expect anyone with any experience to call it D&D (or good). An apple is not an orange. The Sun is not the Moon.

        Trash-mouth sexual insults aimed at anyone who just happen to like unaltered older products exclusively is also an indicator of a particularly insidious sort of intolerance and generational angst.


      6. @squeen:
        Both you and EOTB have told me what games I prefer based on an expressed dislike of people who sit around and just want pre-3e again. Neither of you have been correct, but you have both spent effort on doing so (you much more politely than him). That would seem to be a much clearer example of intolerance and generational angst.

        There is nothing inherently wrong with being old. There is nothing inherently wrong with preferring older rulesets. But there is something VERY wrong with insisting everything was inarguably better in the old days, evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. People who do that have officially moved into the category “idiot who does not have to be listened to,” regardless of age.

        To use a non-gaming example, if you point out that the gas milage on a modern pickup is pretty much the same as a 1962 one, and the 1962 one couldn’t brick itself with a software update in your driveway, you’ve got a pretty valid critique. If you go on about how cars were ‘just better’ in the old days, you are an idiot and should be kept out of sight of decent people. The OSR has a lot more of the latter than it should, even accounting for the nature of the movement.

        Nothing about being old or preferring older rulesets requires being blind to their faults, or blind to the good qualities of newer ones. That is a stupidity people choose, because thinking is effort, and they deserve contempt for so choosing. This is especially so given that the first OSR ruleset was Castles and Crusades, which uses 3e rules to try to produce a pre-3e experience. Whatever the OSR is (and I would concur that the term is becoming increasingly meaningless), it is not just retroclones (and never has been) and people who try to limit it to that are actively worsening it.

        Also, the insults are in response to someone who opened by being contemptuous and insulting to me, at length. Given that, I decided to not bother being polite about how I felt. The only other comment of the nature you describe would be ‘circlejerk,’ and if that bothered you I would urge you not to read Prince’s blog – it will only upset you, for he has used much more colourful imagery in the past and will use even more colourful imagery in the future.


      7. From the Shadowdark Kickstarter:
        “Old-school gamers will find a system that is familiar and nostalgic, but with major quality-of-life upgrades that modernize the old-school experience. ”

        Who are these old-school gamers looking for “quality-of-life” upgrades? Seriously. That’s almost an oxymoron. Old-School gamer just want to find people and time to play old school games. Period. We are not the dissatisfied lot — it’s the people new to the hobby who immediate want to rearrange it (rather than actually learn it!).

        If you really enjoy playing Chess, and someone wants to show you a modified chess with new rules (lite!) and board pieces you can buy for $9.99 ea…but you’ve been snookered a 100 times before with claims of “better”-with-a-short-shelf-life — is it unreasonable to just be skeptical and tired of perpetual change? Is it “intractable” to just prefer to just sit down and play sometime you know is awesome? Is it really that insulting to new folks that you don’t want their “inventions” (mostly simplifications)? We all know there are as many ideas of how to do anything, as there are “brilliant people” in this world (8 billion at last count).

        Sorry, we just want to play (normal) D&D. That’s why NAP limits the tool-set. Your post was chaffing at the limitations. It marks you as a newbie. In 1980, I too had several dozen ideas on how to “fix/improve” D&D. New mechanics. New classes. Ignoring difficult/inconvenient rules. Etc.

        Over the years, they have all fallen by the wayside.

        Now, I/we just want interesting CONTENT (not rules). Hence NAP.

        Having a long attention span is actually virtue. As you automatically stupid is you are not bored and dissatisfied? Being at peace with the world as-it-is is a state of semi-enlightenment…not decrepitude. Who does not seek peace of mind?

        Dig it?


      8. squeen:

        Fun rant about things I didn’t actually say. I especially enjoyed the way it turned into literal incoherence at the end.

        Prince has expressed his reasoning for limiting the rulesets a fair bit by now. Old people being tired of change is not one of the expressed reasons. Avoiding novelty-for-novelty’s sake is certainly much more of one, of course (hence the name of the contest).

        I am extremely confident that it’s not just intended to produce more content for pre-3e gamers who need more content. There has been much discussion over the years of why this is being done. “Old rulesets are perfect as they are, the only thing that is necessary is to provide more content for them, there is nothing the future can offer” has never been the reason. Hell, that’s contradicted in his post above – note the mention of the OSR being a living community.


    3. The OSR was started by ‘people who couldn’t accept 3e happened’ arguably. For NAP purposes, the whole idea is that ‘getting in touch with what made them good’ part by using them. Since this is an OSR contest, there are a select few games that fall within the spirit of the original, with playstyles that are almost identical, so they are allowed to make it easier to contribute.

      I technically allowed Castles & Crusades but I don’t know much about it, don’t know anyone who plays it, and haven’t checked out anything for it. Consider this omission a natural development unless we get complaints from the CoC fandom about wanting to participate.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. @Prince:

        Certainly. At the same time, none of those rulesets are particularly light. For a bunch of people who claim stuff was better in the old days, retroclone designers sure are good at writing rulebooks twice the thickness of the old ones. While there’s a lot of intercompatibility, at the level of design you’re trying to encourage that’s asking a lot of people – “here, learn this system you don’t regularly play well enough to design a very good module.”

        My view on allowing Castles and Crusades is that it was first published in 2004 – it is almost inarguably the first OSR ruleset. Even if no one actually played it (and there apparently are people that do), I think it’s owed a lot for being that early. A note about “am open to expanding this list if people actually want to write something for a sufficiently notable OSR system” might also suffice.


      2. If people want a light ruleset, there’s B/X, or SW Whitebox, as Paul points out. You hardly need more rules lites, especially for NAP III, where the complexity of it is kind of the idea.

        I won’t disallow C&C based on some sort of precedent, although I should examine it further to see if it qualifies. It is a stripped down 3e variant, and would probably fall on the tail end of WWN, so acceptable, more or less. It feels arbitrary, but if there are C&C players out there, sure I guess.

        All this talk of what the OSR is and is not is going to revolve around whatever definition of the OSR people enjoy. ‘actually useful and contigent with the game of oldschool d&d that represent the focus and foundation of the OSR’ should inform one as to my views on the matter.


      3. Definitely fair re the complexity being something of the idea here. At the same time, I think that makes it more important the ruleset options be as open as possible (within reason). System mastery is important in good high level content (as is often so evident in poor high level adventures that do things like forget passwall exists), and I think people need to be able to use the systems they are most comfortable with if at all possible. This is all rather hypothetical, though.

        I can never figure out why everyone’s all “WWN is like 3e.” KC considers it derivative of BX (IIRC), it only uses d20s in combat, and the stat bonuses etc are all much more in line with BX than with 3e.

        I doubt there can be anything more in line with the spirit of old school D&D than the occasional arbitrary rule imposed for improved gameability. Your point re the focus is well taken, though.


      4. @SK

        The point of the System-mastery is also that it must still be recognizably D&D. The minute differences between various versions tend to compound as complexity increases. All these versions are going to play a lot more similar at level 1 then they are at level 15.

        WWN has a modern feel, even though it is a B/X derivative (I’ve played a lot of SWN). The skill system would be the biggest difference. I think it is about the limit of what I would permit if I was running an old school dnd design contest, maybe even over the limit. But as I said, we will see. And if everyone ends up switching to it I will hand out WWN ‘loicences’ but ban it for general entries or something.


  5. S@W White box! FMAG






  6. This is a pretty good and comprehensive list/Bible. Though I do feel like there should be some spot in here, somewhere, for Trent’s Heroic Legendarium. Also: no Hackmaster? Hmm…

    BUT…this is a huge spread of options for folks. If NAP participants can’t find SOME system in this list to use for their adventure, it raises the question: are you really trying?

    Looking forward to the contest announcement.
    : )


      1. Heh, you’ve already added Monsters of Myth – if you also add HL eventually Perlammo Salt Mines might retroactively qualify and I can insist I was ahead of my time 😉


      2. I know, I know. Literally working on it right now, doing some editing as a break from the never-ending writing, the completion of which seems (finally, hopefully) to be in sight now – or at least more so than it was a couple months ago. The draft currently stands at about 115K words with maybe 5K more to go (but then again I’ve consistently underestimated the word count for every section, so we’ll see). Also still need to figure out what to do about the maps, because the guy I had the verbal commitment from to redraw them no longer seems interested but I still really don’t want to release it with my hand-drawn originals. So if anyone knows anybody who can draw reasonably attractive maps who would be willing to redraw ~27 maps for me on short notice for token payment, please hit me up!


      3. Trent, I worry that I must remind you that the best writing is often the shortest and that the perfect is the enemy of the good. 😛

        Re the maps, hand-drawn by you is better than trying to find a perfect solution. But perhaps a collaboration with some noted map-drawer? This seems a project easy to get someone enthusiastic about.

        I’m still interested in editing if you need that, though obviously understandable if not. I’m a bit rusty at it anyway.


      4. All true. On the plus side I checked in with my original map guy and he is still on board so I was worried over nothing there.

        I don’t think I’m overwriting this thing – I feel like I’m providing the minimum necessary info to make it playable (with the understanding that there’s always fat that can be edited out when looked at after-the-fact with fresh eyes), it’s just that that’s a lot of info because my sense of “playable” means something different than “can pull it off the shelf and run it with zero prep and no at-the-table page-flipping required.”

        I also get the minimalist approach of just providing the bare bones and letting the purchaser DM improvise everything else in the moment but to me the bare bones aren’t fun or interesting and if that’s all you get then it doesn’t seem worth it to me. I’m not a fan of the Judges Guild Wilderlands style (or modern stuff that emulates it) and I don’t want to sell something I wouldn’t want to buy.

        For me the fun and interest lies in how you expand and elaborate and make sense of and add substance to those bare bones. I want things to fit together in a way that feels plausibly real, for all of the NPCs’ knowledge of and relationships with each other to make sense and be potentially learnable and exploitable by the players. I want it to seem worthwhile for the players to pay attention and puzzle out larger patterns and connections and engage with the fictional world and not just go passively from scene to scene, rolling their eyes and getting antsy if it takes too long before they can do something cool or funny.

        But figuring all that stuff out takes time and effort, and describing it in a playable manner sometimes takes a lot of words and requires going back and iterating on something you’ve already written when you discover more about it later (“oh hey, I just realized this NPC connects to this other NPC I wrote up 9 months ago”).

        I know a lot of people don’t care about or want that kind of stuff and consider it wasted effort, but I appreciate it and want it and I’m hoping there are at least a few others out there who do as well, maybe even a few who don’t realize they want it because so few people are offering it because it’s hard to do and isn’t what Bryce likes.

        I’m hoping there are more people than just me for whom “usability” means content that fits together as a cohesive, logical and interconnected gestalt and not just fetishistic obsession over cutesy layout gimmicks: where the goal is not to eliminate the need to read the thing before playing it or to flip pages during the session but rather to reward that reading and study with meaty substance that enables and encourages a deeper level of engagement. Or something.

        Liked by 2 people

  7. Two comments:

    1) Re: all the OSR blather above, I only just discovered that 3d6-in-order didn’t appear in RAW until the 2nd Edition PHB; and

    2) Holy Hannah! The Creature Catalogue is really good. Thanks for the goto.


    1. The claimed importance and prevalence of 3d6 in order has always seemed very suspicious to me ever since I started looking hard at pregen character stats in the backs of modules. Suffice to say those average scores sure look like either another generation method was used or a LOT of characters got thrown out.


      1. I’ve always wondered about Kayen Telva and Olaf Peacock.

        That said, 3d6-in-order no mods is like playing ResEve Hard, Knife Only. It is an entirely different game.

        It would be interesting to consider as a condition for a future NAP.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. 3d6 in order made sense in 0e LBB only where modifiers were all but nonexistant. For more advanced stats, method I has pretty much always been 4d6 drop lowest.


  8. I wonder if you realize what you have done with the WD 1-104 stipulation. Hundreds of insane cracked classes and monster tribes, loads of bullshit spells and items. “Yes my TRVE OSR DUNGEON written for WWN. will have TENSER BEASTS and SHAPELINGS and ARCHER-NINJA-HOURI MULTICLASS PREGENS”


    1. But remember, just because something qualifies doesn’t mean it’s good. The criteria for getting a good review and being included in the anthology is still a well-crafted, playable adventure that understands and captures the original animating spirit of the game as it existed in its first decade (or so). Loosening the restrictions on what content is allowed to be included in year three helps it not feel shackling and limiting (and feeds the dumb criticism that the contest is anti-creativity), but it’s still about how you use the tools that are available the same way it has always been. The toolbox is just bigger now. But somebody who submits an entry intentionally using all the craziest and most tonally-dissonant stuff from the magazines and doesn’t do anything interesting with it isn’t going to get any better reception than the guy who submitted a statless “adventure” in verse for NAP1.


      1. I concede (consneed?) to your wisdom. I wonder if the freedom to use so so much would still be there if this was for the “normal” NAPs instead of the “special” high level one.

        Will you enter or are you still polishing up your modules?


      2. Still polishing up (actually, still writing) my damn module, which is starting to feel like Zeno’s Paradox. But even if by some miracle I actually do get this thing done and out the door by the time of the contest I’m not sure I’ll enter anything. I have a couple of ideas but I’m pretty sure their scope is too broad to be workable and also I must confess that I’m not sold on the Monte Cook/Anthony Huso school of high level adventure design that’s all about crunchy system mastery and commando-style raids. I respect that it’s a theoretical aspect of the game, but it’s not something that’s really appealing to me either to play or to write.


      3. It would be interesting to identify a sort of schools to high level design but there are not many. There is a fertile acre in the 8-12 band but beyond that there’s tombs, grand-strategy and the commando raid on Mordor model, more or less.


      4. In case anyone wants to run with the White Dwarf allow, ping here for my list of all the new spells from same.

        I’ll get you the link or the file, as you prefer.


    2. First of all, where is the Stairway Ghoul in this catalogue of worst offenders?

      The power to make an extremely stupid dungeon was inside you all along. You have access to Fiend Folio, Dragon magazine and 2e. 98% of contestants will not read WD. If they do, they are more likely to make a choice selection (say, the Dirdir-men or that article that adapts The Dragonmasters by Jack Vance) then to find something absolutely horrendous because of the amount of study involved. Extremely dedicated trolls might say yes.

      If the damage turns out to be immeasurable or the quality plummits, I will reduce complexity and the next iteration becomes more pure.

      WWN is the most contentious entry in the permitted systems and I have included it based on a readers request. If the results are disasterous I can always compress the catalogue next year.

      For this year, I want a broad palette, sweeping.


      1. I have to admit, I was pretty surprised to see WWN on the list. It claims to be runnable with “standard” OSR statblocks, but given what I know about the system, I consider that to be a dubious prospect. If nothing else, you’d have to add shock damage to legacy stats. I mean, it’s a pretty cool system, but there are a lot of pretty cool systems.


      2. I do really appreciate it, O Wise and Merciful Prince. In all fairness, when I converted monsters for the last entries, I pretty much copied everything verbatim from the original statblocks. Shock was the only thing I had to add, and even that was a pretty simple matter to find by just using something comparable from the corebook. Same with items. The vast majority are just cribbed directly form the DMG


      3. I wasn’t CRITICIZING your inclusion of WWN, just expressing surprise. Perish the thought that I would gainsay your highness! As for Advanced OSE, it’s just B/X with additional content and the option of splitting race from class. 100% compatibility with the Stat Blocks of Yore! Honestly, I’d stick to straight B/X but for the comparative paucity of monsters and magic items.


      4. @edge

        The criticism might be warranted. Perhaps I will give Thief the right to keep entering under WWN as an indulgence, but ban everyone else from doing so 😛


      5. @Edgewise: adding Shock damage to legacy stats is quite straightforward – mostly you do it by weapon, and the bestiary in the back of the book has enough examples to get one’s eye in for the other examples.

        I quickly read the first entry in NAP 2 with an eye to your concerns, and am fairly confident the only tricky bit is the saves, which is solvable by digging out the rule cyclopedia notes on which stats apply to which save, then converting. Which is a thing you have to do once as long as you remember to write it down.

        Liked by 1 person

    3. White Dwarf was the source for Fiend Folio and its editors and founders worked for TSR UK before they would go on to do Warhammer stuff. It is like para-cannon.

      That being said, this is going to be interesting.


  9. Rager request Shadowdark! Hamster master 4e!
    Blood and treasure! Nod master demands the old school hipster good good God

    Vegas bb

    Old tv parts I love you

    Stater da kami

    I love you


    1. Shadowdark looks phoned in as hell, no dice. CDS, see my stance on ultra-lites. B&T, maybe its okay? All these systems are increasingly obscure so I will tackle these situationally. I did love the throwback Oriental Adventures B/X clone submission last year even though I had to disqualify it.


      1. Interesting thoughts (and comments). I think it is a bit early to pass judgement on Shadowdark, which may turn out to be an “entry system” for 5E players less than delighted with the way things are going. But it is reasonable to suppose it won’t be a great system for level 10+ play. B/X hasn’t produced many high level classics: X10 Red Arrow, Black Shield is a possible, and X7 War Rafts of Kron has its supporters. (Not played either.) But (especially) 1E and 2E can support top class high level action: for the former I’ve run G1-3D1-3, S1 (but not S3), and for the latter WGR6 City of Skulls and Night Below (with levels in double figures for Book 3). There was a mountain of dross written for 2E, but there are gems to be found, and the initial books system is sound enough (inheriting most of its virtues from 1E). If anyone can write a cracking good high level adventure for systems other than 1E or 2E (and clones), I’ll be impressed. Given the excellence of NAP I and II, there is hope.


  10. [Re contemporary OSR game design vs the old stuff]

    I think we can credit the OSR with ‘minor and situational improvement.’ A few early successes would be ACKs, which is heavy, but which does tackle its intended target with a thoroughness and a gusto that is seldom seen, DCC as a sort of saccharine, hypercharged demonstration version of dnd and SWN as an accessible but reasonably engaging take on Traveller with some great sandbox tools. Excepting DCC, these are games you can play for a long time and that have sufficient depth to sustain a long campaign.
    Then you have your extremely specific outliers here and there, which are labors of love or gourmet meals like Seven Voyages of Zylarthen, NGR or Nightmares Beneath. This would be stuff you play if you are in need of a fresh breeze of air, enjoy it for a while, and then move on, not something you necessarily replace your core game with. While we are at it, the initial focus on gameability, the rebirth of the megadungeon, thats all cute. I like that.

    However…there are a few trends in OSR design that are horrible. Toolboxes are generally shit* because they are predicated on the notion that you can just ram a set of rules into your extant game without having to consider how it functions together. This is a recurring problem that you see when the brain trust of the OSR decides to tackle ‘inefficiencies’ in the old games by considering them in isolation. Hazard dice? Fucking horrible. A set of specific resources has now been entangled into a single unwieldy random number generator that reduces your capacity to make intelligent decisions. Veins of the Earth, a magnificent bestiary that introduces the notion of using light as currency, then completely drops the ball when integrating that into something like a workable campaign format.

    Do not get me started on the ultra-lites. ‘D’oh, guess there was a reason for all those dungeon procedures after all. D’oh, guess we need a little more then just a name and a gp price. What even is a ‘diegetic advancement?” These things are parasites, that draw off the context of the broader OSR, and completely collapse the second someone is handed them without knowledge of the games that preceded them. But these are not made by game designers but by morons. ‘I can do OSR too. look I made a one-page cyber punk game with 3 stats and 4 things on an equipment list.’ When Chris McDowal made his elegant though-experiment for short quick bursts of Dnd in some sort of Bas-lag inspired universe, I doubt it was his intention that his creation took on malignant life and would try to kill and replace the games that birthed it and then traipse around, wearing its skin.

    Where is a workable version of B/X? I end up houseruling the piece of shit every time I try it. Lotfp is a little better but its actually too different, it tries too hard to be something else and its succeeded. The more I houseruled B/X with AD&D houserules, the smoother it actually ran. It was like a lot of inert or vestigial material was suddenly getting more actualized. Basic Fantasy, Lablord and OSE all have minor changes from the Basic ruleset, but the thing still has the same problems you run into after 10 sessions or so. Now maybe that is WWN, I haven’t checked, but I would be surprised. And then it hits you, there is a workable version of B/X, it is called ACKs, and it is dense.

    Rules-lite and rulings-not-rules was a meme that was made to differentiate Oldschool games from the brobdignagian behemoths of the 3.5 and 4e era. This did not mean a game had to be writable on a postage-stamp.

    Do not even get me started on the unwholesome introduction of indie-rpg mechanics into OSR games. These are almost all horrible freaks of nature, possibly also because most indie-designers don’t ‘get’ OSR design and seem incapable of getting it. The priorities for what they seek in a game are simply incompatible. The 2% success rate is to be chalked up to random quantum fluctuations.

    Fight On! magazine hell yeah. Carcosa hell yeah. Mid- to late mainstream OSR? Meh (a few exception notwithstanding). I think we have been getting fat, lazy and can do better. Back to school.

    * burp*

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Certainly, your affection for crunchy OSR rules is carefully considered, and not atavistic fetishism. That doesn’t mean I entirely agree with you…

      I think you’re verging on One True Wayism here. I can tell that certain mechanics and rule-sets work best for the kind of game that YOU like to run/play. I accept that it is an excellent way to go. However, it’s not the ONLY way to go. Not every campaign is destined to end up with domain-level play (fantasy or otherwise). Some things can be handwaved without a breakdown of reality. And as one continues, rulings will spawn rules. After all, that’s how the First Game was made, was it not?

      You complain about having to houserule every version of B/X, but I think it would be a bit silly if that didn’t happen with every system you play more than a couple of times. Because none of them are perfect, or at least, certain parts won’t work for you as-written. Ever tried running 1e unarmed combat? Are you really hoping for a system that never needs tinkering? I’ve never heard of a competent GM that ran an extended campaign without their own houserules.


      1. To be clear: Rules-lites is not B/X, Rules-lites is Knave or MB or the like. That’s perfectly fine if you just want to play something quick and dirty, no danger there. For longer games, you need a certain weight to it. I think it is preferable to have an outline or some safety nets in place that you can always elect to handwave, then it is to have to churn through certain problems by yourself, even though a solution is available. It is preferable to at least look at an available solution before coming up with your own, even if you end up picking a different one.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh yeah, I knew you didn’t mean B/X when you mentioned rules-lite. But you still did bitch about having to houserule B/X. i.e. “Where is a workable version of B/X? I end up houseruling the piece of shit every time I try it.” Counterpoint: B/X is a surprisingly comprehensive system, but it’s far from “complete.” But what is?


      3. I should point out, yes! I have run a Wrestling contest during my last 2nd edition session lol.

        I think there is probably a tolerance limit for houseruling and patching, depending on how often the situation occurs. Its perfectly acceptable to make a game that does not cover every exception and corner-case, that is fine. I am however swayed r.e. the shortcomings of the game. As a candidate for an open game, it is still fit for purpose, but for a longer game, it needs shoring up I’d say.


      1. – RC summed modifier of +0 or more for ability scores
        – Max starting hp
        – 100 gp/spell level cost for learning spells
        – Firing into melee (first a complex system that took into account the row you fired on, later just the firing into melee rules)
        – Interrupting spells
        – Death Threshold
        – Costs for clerical magics
        – Consequences for Raise Dead in the form of loss of one point of Con and 5000 gp (system shock not imported).

        Most of these make the game run a bit smoother.


      2. Yeah, a lot of those are clear omissions, although some are clearly your preference. Firing into melee is a pretty big miss, and B/X definitely hand-waves magical R&D procedures. I’ve seen a lot of different ways people break up the round into phases in order to achieve things like interrupted spells etc.

        Some of those just make sense, like the CON cost of Raise Dead and various thresholds of death. But I’m not sure what you mean by “RC summed modifier of +0 or more for ability scores,” and I wasn’t aware of any cap on starting HP other than what you can roll with your CON bonus.


      3. Originally RC and B/X didn’t have interrupting spells(RC had one but it was apocryphal how it connected with initiative), although most retroclones of B/X ended up including it. Individual preference will always play a part in any sort of discussion about gameplay, complexity of the game vs simplicity of execution, but then, what of that? Most people would probably agree that being able to interrupt spells makes the game more interesting.

        Max starting hp means that characters start off with maximum hit points during character creation. It is a relatively simple procedure, meant to prevent characters dying in one hit, which is undesirable if it occurs too often. I can envision just implementing a death threshold and keeping random hp.

        I forgot, I added a thing where you reroll your hp each level and keep the new result if it is higher, as a means of insulating people from successive poor rolls that will have a disproportionate effect throughout the game.


      4. – RC summed modifier of +0 or more for ability scores
        WWN lacks that, but gives you enough options for improving character scores (you get a 14 to put anywhere you want, and starting skill rolls also include the option for rolling stat improvements) it’s somewhat workable anyway.

        – Max starting hp
        WWN doesn’t have that, though it’s not an uncommon house rule. You don’t die instantly at 0HP, though, and it also has “reroll all your hit dice every level, always getting at least +1.”

        – 100 gp/spell level cost for learning spells
        There are rules for how long it takes to learn new spells from grimoires. Learning new ones on leveling up is abstracted.

        – Firing into melee (first a complex system that took into account the row you fired on, later just the firing into melee rules)
        Handwaved as the PCs having worked together enough to avoid penalties for this, with the justification that it sucks to be a ranged PC if everyone keeps getting your way all the time. He’s got a point.

        – Interrupting spells
        Specific rules for how to do it (there’s a few ways to do so).

        – Death Threshold
        Bleedout rules.

        – Costs for clerical magics
        Clerical magic in WWN is a standard kind of magic. How much to charge for magic is somewhat vague, but there is guidance about it. WWN’s implied sitting isn’t really one where you trot off to the local mage and ask him to cast a spell for you for 10gp.

        If you mean magical R&D, as Edgewise mentioned, the rules for that are pretty comprehensive (though can be a bit vague about exact costs).

        – Consequences for Raise Dead in the form of loss of one point of Con and 5000 gp (system shock not imported).
        Being raised is quite rare (level 8 Healer or above), but has no permanent consequences (beyond maximum System Strain and being unconscious for 24 hours). Given it has to be used within 8-10 minutes of it happening, though, it’s not exactly unrestricted.


      5. re: max HP

        Funny, I thought you meant the opposite when you referred to max starting HP, like a ceiling to ensure that all the PCs are especially vulnerable.

        re: rerolling HP each level

        I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this concept in a couple of retroclones. Seems quite sound to me. Although I always thought it would feel like a massive bummer though if you went two levels in a row without increasing HP. I’d probably houserule on top of that that you get +1 HP if you don’t roll higher to mitigate Sadness.

        re: feeling like a contrarian

        By sheer coincidence, I happen to recently have taken to flipping through my old 1e DMG, and also reading Lyonesse for the first time. EGG is clearly aping Vance’s voice in the text, but he’s so much more ponderous and pompous. You could cut the size of the book in half (and have reasonable margins to boot) if he had let someone tighten up his man-with-a-pipe manner of exposition.

        Also, in reference to the actual mechanics, I feel like you’d have to houserule the fuck out of 1e to have a playable game. B/X actually has better rules for wilderness survival, and 1e has a number of weird, complex and arcane rules for combat, including: you can’t move more than 10′ and melee in the same (one minute long!) round (unless you’re charging), surprise segments, weapon speed factors, initiative and multiple attack routines, etc. I contend that most tables discarded most of these strange rules.

        As an aside, when you consider the idea of a one-minute combat round with exchanges of many blows, the idea of multiple attacks against the same foe seems so at odds with the level of abstraction.

        re: unarmed combat

        This aspect of the game goes without saying, even though I already did. I don’t know how it worked in 2e, but I’m going to assume that 1e unarmed combat represents a nadir.

        I won’t even open the can of worms that is psionics.


      6. @knave

        It seems more or less a direct port of SWN, which I am quite familiar with.

        Rerolling hp at each level seems to be one of those refinements that is generally considered preferable. A select few hardcore gamblers might prefer the unequivocable nature of rolling once and taking the result, but most are likely to prefer this method.

        The spells is a part of a larger problem, that in B/X you gain huge amounts of wealth (even more then AD&D because of the lack of Magic item XP), but there is little to spend it on. Yeah yeah something something mercenaries. In the beginning it is at least desirable to exert a cost for significant operations like consulting Sages, learning spells, setting up expeditions etc. In SWN this is hardly a problem because there are credit prices into the millions for battlecruiser class ships. In WWN though.

        [Firing into melee]
        – This is another carry-over from SWN. In SWN it makes sense because almost everyone uses fire-arms. Melee weapons are a fringe thing (excluding optional rules for martial arts that make attacking someone wielding a gun in melee very advantageous). In a game of medieval fantasy, maybe not so much. Most FAGs (fantasy-adventure-games) try to delineate melee and missile combat, attach some price to the state of being in melee, and add a bit of complexity by making it risky to fire into melee. There are rationalizations either way, but the one creates an incentive to fight, say, with spears, use blocking etc. while the other just abstracts it all away. Everyone on rank 2+ gets the heaviest range weapon and can use it at will.

        [Interrupting spells]
        -Good. As mentioned, OSE and possible LL have adopted it also.

        – How do they handle stabilization? You don’t have those Stimpacks or whatever they were called that instantly revive a person in WWN do you?

        [Raising the dead]
        – Within 8-10 minutes means that unless you are carrying a healer in the party, they have effectively removed Raise Dead from the game. With a death threshold that might be defensible but damn…


      7. O Prince:

        [What to Spend Money On]
        WWN sort-of dodges the issue. KC discusses it in the rules (because of course he does). Basically, he says they use money to engage with the campaign world. Magic items aren’t usually for sale, so that leaves influencing NPCs and the world around the characters. You can buy Renown (which is the currency for world-influencing projects), you can support allies, you can buy gear and property, and you can make alliances. As you might expect with KC, the rules for doing all those things exist and are effective.

        There are also fairly comprehensive high-level playstyle rules, with supernatural epic abilities, and you unlock that through questing etc. So there’s certainly something to do with the money, it’s whether that’s of interest to the players.

        The Legate (very-high-level) rules DO suffer from not really having much of a transition built-in. You go from “Level X guy” to “Level X heroic character with Legate abilities” pretty much instantly. Being Heroic gives you a fray dice, an additional partial class, and some other stuff, so instantly getting all that is rather a lot if you are starting out with mortal characters (and if the other members of the party still are mortal characters).

        [Price of melee]
        There is a price to melee – you have to use fighting withdrawal to move away from enemies you are in melee with, or they get a free attack. That and the Screen an Ally action (attacks against allies within ten feet are directed at you unless the attacker beats your Melee-skill test) make maneuver a thing.

        Also, there are cover penalties, so you could certainly judge that Rank 3+ do not get to shoot through Rank 2+ unobstructed. I sure as hell would.

        Heal test (TN 8+ number of rounds they were downed), or magical healing. Magical healing is extremely useful (as one might expect). And since Healer is only a partial class, it’s not that hard to come by.

        [Raising the dead]
        Healers are extremely useful (they have several options beyond just basic healing others, including being incredibly durable), so you’ll usually have one to work with (indeed, you can have more than one and they can have different character concepts – they get 8 of the 13 potential Healer arts, so there’s some room for different implementations).

        But yeah, death is still very much a potential consequence in WWN. If you want to resurrect your super-dead friend, it’s somewhere between impossible and a major quest. Honestly I consider that a massive strength – I’ve always hated easily-accessed resurrection magic. Heroes don’t get resurrected. The risk is what makes them heroes.

        Liked by 1 person

      8. You pretty much hit all the points I wanted to make about WWN and what you can do with money. Hell, all the major workings have a cost associated with them, so if you want to make cool, lasting changes on the game world, better grab the torches and ten foot poles ’cause it’s time to go questing bitches!

        Liked by 1 person

      9. WWN is a terrific game. I love the mechanics, the setting, and the Sine Nomine standard awesome content-generation tools. My surprise at seeing its inclusion has nothing to do with its quality, and I don’t begrudge the decision.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I notice you talk a lot about advocating for 1e and the advanced game yet your play reports have been for bx and 2e. you have wrote much more about 5e 3pps than fight on and knockspell or first edition society stuff like gunderholfen. your money is not where your mouth is.


      1. Its a process, moving towards a destination. I’m moving towards complexity in this case. The destination might be AD&D, it might be ACKs, it might be something I don’t know of yet. I’ve obviously written much more about AD&D adventures then I have on 5e 3PP, no question. They are good too. I’m not sure if a good game automatically generates good adventures, but I am considering that the health of a system’s adventure library is an indicator of its merits. In my particular case I’m doing 2e high level play reports because that’s the real adventure I will be running for the high level game (Lab of madness, Throne of Evil is training mode for me, and is a 1e Dungeonmag adventure that I have converted relatively smoothly). My contribution to NAP III will be for AD&D/OSRIC.


  11. Wombat to the rescue!
    Yeah Shadowdark is light but i dont know how much lighter vs B X. Been playing gabor adventures with grognards and the quickstart.

    I would say the basic label is ok and thus not high level for nap 3.

    Request to review her adventures – she is a child of gygax and bryce likes her. Would be curious to hear your thoughts.

    Seems old school fundamental


    1. I am a bit skeptical, although her maps look better then something like mork borg. Its the various ‘oldschoolish’ mechanics, culled from blog and forum posts and stuffed into the game willy nilly, that sets off my alarm detectors, The marketing does not help of course. Seems like a marketing-savy outsider saw the opportunity to make a quick buck in the declining OSR and set themselves up like a power.


      1. I don’t want to be one of those people who suggest you go look at their blog, but my reply to this turned into a blog post:

        Basically, I think she was planning to do a more conventional and restrained launch, then WOTC dicked around with the license and she realized she needs to turn this into her future career – convert every 5e player she can with her existing reputatation, and be all Shadowdark/OSR from here on out.

        Which I’d say is probably actually a good thing, given Shadowdark’s rules seem compatible enough that its players are probably a decent target market for other OSR content.

        Also, most of her audience seems to be ex-5e players or people who think existing options are overcomplicated.


      2. There are a few transplants from 5e to OSR that have done interesting work, Joseph R. Lewis and the High Moors Guy (OSR version and that other thing he sent me pending for a review) among them. Dr. Commodore of consecutive NAP fame has even come from Pathfinder.

        That being said:

        It would be extremely foolish to regard the history of large scale migrations into the OSR and their effects on gamedesign and the social mores and not consider them with at least some trepidation. On the other hand, something like Shadowdark is going to appeal to younger and more casual fans of the game, so you will get drift from Mork Borg and OSE players, while leaving jaded veterans such as myself pretty much indifferent.

        I have not checked out her work, but I am incredulous it will be very good, especially in an OSR medium since this is a professional. It takes a few years to properly ‘grok’ old-school gaming and going from ‘pretty good’ to ‘exceptional’ takes talent and investment. Time has proven it is a better strategy to simply disparage or obfuscate the extant tradition, attract newcomers that have no connection to the old ways, or change the definition of the word OSR then it is to attempt to fit in and outcompete genuinely. There have been exceptions to this rule in the form of Kevin Crawford or Alex Macris (who might have a day job but who does run Autarch like a business) but many more that prove the rule.

        I don’t know if making the type of exceptional material that still attracts my interest is even commercially viable. A limited amount of commercialization vastly increases the capacity of a few worthies, but prolonged and excessive commercialization has been poison to the OSR.


      3. I did not lie about the child of gygax prince. She has more legit cred than we do. She played with him and he set up his players to be apostles to younger generations

        Her first dm was a result of this program
        She is gygax spawn indoctrinated, review her high level dms guild or a 40 room shadowdark adventure and curious to hear your thoughts

        The 5e stuff is not loopy sometimes but itd for sure not a railroad
        Review something others have not covered
        She has cred even if she does not always work in ouur sandbox


      4. @Prince: I must concur re Paul’s comments that she is not some newcomer to the concepts of old-school gaming. She also has apparently commented somewhere about not intending to convert her 5e materials to Shadowdark because they’re for different styles of gaming, so I think some aspects of your concerns are excessive.

        Anyway, go look at something she’s actually done already. The free adventure in the Shadowdark GM Quickstart’d do. It’s only 16 pages – 27 rooms. This is the background:

        “Long ago, a mighty enclave of warriors lived inside the Lost Citadel. They worshipped bulls in ever-bloodier, cultish rituals that culminated in their leader, Minoros, transforming into the Scarlet Minotaur. This immortal avatar of rage slaughtered the warriors in a single night of mayhem. However, some of their servants escaped through the unseen halls used by the lowly. These beastmen hid in the fallen citadel, trapped by superstitious fear of the outside.”

        Looks extremely runnable.


      5. You guys are advocating awfully hard on behalf of a game that hadn’t even been published yet. If the game turns out to be as simple and OSR-adjacent as its Kickstarter pitch claims it to be then it should be trivially easy to convert something written under a different old-school system to run under it and it doesn’t need to be included, so why the hard push? If it turns out to be really good and OSR-styly then it can presumably be added to the list of qualifying systems for NAP4, but there doesn’t seem to be any justification for being in such a rush to include it now.


      6. I’m a bit skeptical of the hype train that is Shadowdark, just because the whole marketing campaign was just a little too slick and contrived. However fwiw @Trent, the quickstart rules are available on DTRPG to the extent that one can see where she’s going with this. If the actual game has crunchier rules suitable for a hexcrawl, I’ll be pleasantly surprised. What is there is totally fine, meatier than say Mork Borg (whose main rulebook wasn’t terrible; it’s just the deluge of crap that followed it).

        Liked by 1 person

      7. @Trent: basically what Edgewise said (as is often the case).

        I’m not suggesting it be included (though I think if someone actually wanted to submit NAP content for pretty much any OSR game the default answer should be yes). And I am deeply skeptical that it is some transcendent paradigm-shifting experience that will transform the OSR. Nor do I like it being marketed as such: I am not American, I trust people less when they tell me they are the best, not more.

        But it being a decent OSR ruleset with a lot of good adventure content seems pretty plausible, and I think Prince’s ‘outsider who doesn’t get the OSR’ worries are not in accord with the evidence. “OSR-familiar author using pig ignorance of 5e players to sell their OSR version”? Definitely seems like there’s a lot to that, but that doesn’t mean the adventures won’t be good, and in this case there’s an example readily available for Prince to judge.


      8. @Paul

        I will have a look one of these days.


        The evidence favors exactly the outsider interpretation. Shadowdark uses a bog standard OSR framework with a grabbag of contemporary mechanics. This is not some staggeringly unique vision of the future. It feels more like Mork Borg then WWN.

        She might be a good adventure writer for 5e, I have no definite opinion on that until I check it out. Part of that skillset translates over. I thought the map looked alright. But I am not hyped, and it and the surrounding marketing campaign makes me suspicious rather then excited.

        I think my contest is of interest to people that genuinely care about old school dnd and it is a means of separating the wheat from the chaff, to get in touch with the material that kindled the original spark. Opening it to any game with the label OSR would ruin its appeal and turn it into yet another OSR event: blurry, vague, big tentpole, no standards. This is disastrous advice.

        Liked by 1 person

      9. @Prince: I’d argue that a grab-bag of contemporary mechanics makes it less outsidery, not more. That’s exactly what you do if you’re making a bunch of house rules. Like I have said before, I think the best way to view this is as her writing her fantasy heartbreaker OSR variant (as is the birthright of all people and most clever animals), and then realizing that she needed to sell it hard so she isn’t bound to WOTC. I feel like an outsider coming from 5e to make a quick buck would be unlikely to choose random advancement, for example.

        I am not sure if I am understanding your goal correctly re ruleset limitation – are you trying to ensure the rulesets are close enough to original ones that the results more easily trend toward something original, or are you hoping people will go out and learn rulesets with which they were not previously familiar for this? The one makes sense, the latter I think not so much.


      10. @SK

        This is not some homebrew system that has been played and refined for years. It reads like someone took a bunch of OSR design trends of the last few years (and yes, random advancement is one, going back to Arrows of Indra and others before it) and then shoved that in there so it would feel OSR-ey. But I have not yet read Cursed Scroll so I cannot estimate her level of familiarity (Diogo Nogeira levels of surface mimicry or intermediate O5R like Jospeh R Lewis).

        R.e. my goals: The rulesets are all original D&D or fairly close. The idea is that greater engagement with the original source-material will produce better results and understanding then immediately trying to do your own shit. I have a fine review coming up to illustrate the power of mastering this original framework and combining it with a sort of purposeful, natural creativity.

        Speaking of which, I just removed Seven Voyages of Zylarthen from the listings!


      11. Prince:

        Arrows of Indra was nine years ago now. If that’s the last time someone notable used random advancement, that’s…a rather deep cut. I am curious what you would expect to see that you do not if it were genuine house rules.

        If you’re trying to prompt engagement with the original material, I’d think the adventures more important than the ruleset. Though short of “write a sequel to X” I don’t see how to do that in an adventure-writing contest.


      12. Random advancement goes all the way back to Gamma World in 1978 (and possibly to Metamorphosis Alpha in 1976, though I don’t have a copy of that handy to check). It was also a buzzy blog thing in the late Google+ era and I remember Jeff Rients and Zak and that lot leaning heavily into it. So although it’s been around essentially forger the reason it’s never been popular or widely adopted is because it’s not actually a good rule. It’s the kind of thing that seems fun on paper or on the abstract but at the actual game table is impractical and frustrating and un-fun.

        To echo some of what Squeen just said, there’s very little new under the sun. Most of the supposed innovations the OSR crowd is so proud of is stuff that people who’ve been playing for a long time have already seen and experimented with and, for the most part, ultimately rejected. It’s all just an endless cycle of reinventing the same wheel, but with an extra layer of smug superiority and generational resentment.


      13. Geez everybody, why don’t we wait for the game to actually come out before deciding if it is great or awful, or somewhere in between? I’m not singling anyone out; everyone seems to be jumping the gun. For now, there’s barely anything to talk about, so this debate is even more tedious than usual.

        Liked by 1 person

      14. @SK

        You are invested in the position (I recall you were some sort of lawyer(?) so the extra tenacity is expected) but this objection is quite weak. I gave a point where it had entered the OSR, I was indeed aware it existed before that (Trent mentions several excellent examples, and my personal one would be that Empire of the Petal Throne uses random starting skills for example), I guarantee you I can find myriad examples of randomized advancement after that, from multiple authors, easily, I won’t even have to use Dark Albion or Lion and Dragon as an example. It is an old hat.

        R.e. houserules
        A fair question. In a way they are both houserules right? Knave is houserules. The dichotomy is between a homebrew that has grown over years and years of old-school gaming, with added value that can only arise through praxis and successive refinement and one that is created wholecloth from a surface level understanding, using only a simplified variant of DnD. If I see a bunch of trendy OSR mechanics thrown together, with a gimmicky mechanic for torch expenditure and no strong overarching vision, I expect the latter.

        Something like Seven Voyages of Zylarthen is a better example of the former. A baroque take on od&d that comes across as something that exists as much as a refinement as an expression of the authors ideosyncracies. Oddly specific rules about helmets, weapons vs ac tables, advancement, a threefold class model, a shields will be splintered rule (also an OSR old hat btw) etc. etc. Looks baroque, but then you play it and it goes down smoothly. This has been made by some madman who has played OD&D to death and swapped out each part until you have something that is effectively its own game. It is difficult to boil down the differences in a systematic fashion because there are so many elements, though they are certainly aparent.

        In a perfect world, writing your own OSR game is the very top of the Skill pyramid, something that comes after multiple campaigns and is grown through trial and error, with full understanding of the body of work so that it is a genuine addition or improvement. Perhaps it focuses on some element that was understated in the original game (ACKs), perhaps it seeks to take the game in a different direction (Lotfp). In practice, people join a hobby that they don’t really like, but it is popular, so they play 5 sessions, and then immediatley try to do their own thing. The results are very often worse then the original.

        Cursed scroll #1 came out…when? 2022. Are there other instances of her doing old school games? Can a professional adventure writer for a different system figure out how to do a good adventure for B/X in a year? If she is decent you better hope so. But the chance a game will come out that is more then a diversion?


      15. @Prince:

        It’s not that it’s not been done in many places before (certainly it has), but more that it is not an example of drawing from the current OSR trends – suggesting less flash-in-the pan and more genuine appreciation of the subject matter. That said, I think you admirably lay out the distinction between a collection of other’s mechanics (even older ones), versus something that has undergone a more organic evolution, and I think I have a good understanding of your concerns now.

        And I do criminal defence. A tendency to see both sides of things, defend people on that basis, and an expectation that evidence be provided for claims is in no way frustrating in the modern world.


      16. @SK

        If you look at something like Random class features and the people that employ it, this is not exactly the cream of the crop of OSR design. It is more like Trent said, a sort of cargo-cult overt random-modification because ‘OSR = random’ that does not really add much. Its not the presence or absence of any single mechanic like this that cinches it, it is the whole. Torches go down in real time, that sounds like its cool, but consider for a second how that actually works. The action economy in DnD is based on turns, every action has a price to facilitate weighed choices and careful decision making. It sounds exciting to an outsider, in practice it actually makes the game more predictable while removing a bunch of gameplay. With Shadowdark, its not just that there is a bunch of ‘meh’, where is the fucking smoking gun? What does it actually do? It looks to me (from a bird’s eye) like a game with surface level OSR features, designed to introduce her largely 5e fanbase to another field so she can set up shop there after the OGL debacle.

        The more the game is played, the more one can perceive difference between mechanics that actually improve long-standing problems versus mechanics that either remove functionality, are vestigial, add random noise in the name of stream-lining, or are just gimmicky. Dice drops, hazard dice, useage dice, abstracted distance, encumbrance ‘fixes’ (and there are some that are not bad, and you can tell almost immediately which ones are), a lot of it is just aimless tinkering by mid-witted starbucks baristas trying to pad an aenemic resume so they can call themselves a designer, or a series of hideous mutilations employed so zoned-out smooth-brains can claim to play oldschool DnD without having to grapple with the complexity of B/X.


      17. All this talk about needing robust rulesets from years of experience has me thinking; what if you’re just getting your feet wet and you don’t have years of experience, and you don’t know the relative importance of different kinds of mechanics? Isn’t it a lot to expect from newbies to digest rules for boating, wilderness survival, domain management, magical research, etc. when their only exposure to D&D may have been a few dungeon delves?

        I wonder if there’s a better way to approach this, whereby mechanics are introduced gradually, as-you-need-them. A rulebook that describes core mechanics for the most common and interesting activities, with appendices or further chapters that describe mechanics for which it is explicitly stated that you can ignore until they become pertinent. I had a great disinterest in rules for boating until that actually became an issue in an adventure. Then, I was very happy to have something to turn to so I didn’t have to just handwave everything.

        So I think there’s something to say for (hiss! boo!) “lite” systems, and I think there’s something valuable in more comprehensive systems. I think what’s missing is a rulebook that adequately bridges these worlds. Simply presenting a massive complex set of rules as-is, with the implicit notion that you need to learn it all before you can run it, is not very helpful, reasonable, or realistic. A super-lite barebones system that suggests you can simply handwave every situation is going to eventually leave a GM feeling lost and desperate.

        That missing middle ground is something I’d like to see for bringing modern players into the OSR.


      18. @Ray

        I agree with what you said, but as far as I am concerned that missing ground is more or less present. You have B/X for introducing new players. You have AD&D/ACKs for sustained comprehensive campaigning. You have OD&D if you want to tinker and make everything ‘just right.’ There is room for specialized innovation or the odd peculiar variant for sure, but attempts to replace these points tend to take the form of admixturing these three core elements and adding an amount of modification that could be expressed on a single pamphlet.

        As for ultra-lites, the mediocre will abandon them, the low will cling to them and the grand will end up reverse engineering the rules that they excised to begin with.


      19. @Prince

        I’m not talking so much about what rules are present in a game so much as how they are presented. You know that I think B/X is pretty comprehensive, if not complete. But even OSE doesn’t present itself so much as a guide as a reference manual. I’m not saying that B/X or ACKS need to be lighter, but maybe that they need to be lighter up-front, and provide so many of their sub-systems in the context of something you won’t immediately need to learn.

        As for Shadowdark, that’s a separate thing—I’m not a fan of some of the mechanics (abstract distance), I’m pretty indifferent/meh about others (real-time mechanics), and I’m cautiously positive about a few (randomize progression). That’s based on the quickstart; if that’s all that we are going to get, the system will be inadequate for my purposes. Will there be deeper mechanics? Will they be well-presented? Those would be nice. I’m going to reserve judgement. Opining strongly about incomplete knowledge tends to reveal more about the speaker than the subject.


  12. Re trent would love the playtest high level guide other commenters mentioned
    Will likely go osric or wwn under alias sense senpai notices me

    Exited by this and love you prince
    Your efforts make life better fun and nerd forever deep


  13. Re trent : at least for my comment
    I think you misread
    I convinced others that Shadowdark is basic in that it stops at level 10 thus not for this high level 11 or more contest

    As far as kelsey we are saying prince should review her stuff and is passing judgement too soon (please review stuff others dont she has a lot that no one talks about ie not the bryce stuff)
    Her adventures are a product of direct gygax child contact
    Spawned deep within basement passion


    1. Ok. That makes more sense. I agree that it would be nice for our gracious host to review one (or more) of her adventures to see if there’s any real substance there or if she’s just following trends and good at self-promotion. I wouldn’t read too much into the ostensible Gygax connection, which only really stands out because of her age. Lots of older folks (e.g. me) also met Gary at cons. And as for her direct mentor James Mishler, I can’t say I’ve been impressed by anything I’ve ever seen from him, all of which always struck me as having a very 90s overwritten boring flavor.


  14. Yeah James can use some Bryce advice or heck enter this contest! Bring it James

    That said playing in the wilderlands in the dnd meca from those guys is props
    Writing good adventures does not translate to good dms imo

    Finch was a great dm, kask was great to play with

    But many other good gm experiences for me have not been with the best writers imo

    I liked playing with coville for example or heck hickman was pretty good too


    1. That’s true, GMing is a seperate skill from writing adventures, and if you are a great GM you might not need very elaborate or intricate challenges.


  15. A fellow discorder remarks:

    “I have unfortunately played a little bit of Shadowdark. My roomate wanted to try it out because he runs 5e, sometimes plays in my LGS OSE open table game, and was coming at it as a way to bridge the gap.
    As predicted, it’s just somebody’s b/x shitbrew with some poorly thought out rules stapled to it and all the good stuff cut away.
    In my opinion, the biggest offender isn’t the shitty real-time torch tracking, it’s that each player and the GM get a turn in a round instead of just declaring intent for the party members with a caller or individually. The turn order is based on initiative and so if you want to check a door for traps so you can progress, you either have to wait ’til it’s the thief’s turn and make up something unproductive to do, or risk opening the door yourself to advance. That and all casting needing a check to succeed, shows the designer does not seem to get how these games work and wanted to crank out yet another “le epic gritty funnel game where random things happening is good because you shouldn’t be attached to your character who died through no failure of your own.”
    Totally bogus.”

    Liked by 1 person

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