Category Archives: D&D

Roleplaying in Middle Earth & magic

Middle Earth is a fantastic fantasy world and it can be used for tabletop roleplaying games. There are games designed with Middle Earth in mind (MERP by Iron Crown, The One Ring by C7, Adventures in Middle Earth by C7), but they are all out of print. Given the vast amount of Middle Earth content available elsewhere it should be quite fine to use any fantasy roleplaying system not written for a specific setting, right? I particularly like the simplicity of OSR. Well, it is that thing with magic.

Magic in fantasy roleplaying games

Magic in fantasy RPGs is most often about spells. Sometimes they are spectacular and action oriented. Often there are clerics getting their powers from deities, and sorcerors taming raw magic power.

This is not obviously a good match for Middle Earth. Clerics praying to Valar for spells is kind of unheard of. Saruman and Gandalf use magic, but not so easily and not very spectacularly, and they are Maia (half god-like spirits) not men. Powerful elves have some magic abilities. But regular men being educated wizards casting fireballs is quite not in the books.

Magic in Middle Earth

I am presuming a (late) Third Age campaign.

There is definitely magic in Middle Earth. Many magical items are mentioned. There are things like the river horses that swept away the nazgul outside Rivendell, the tempest Saruman used to stop the fellowship from crossing the misty mountains, and whatever was done to Theoden.

However, most magic is very old, connected directly with Elves, or connected to Maia.

When Sauron appeared in Dol Guldur he was thought to be a Necromancer. So the free people of Middle Earth found the existence of a necromancer a possibility (more likeely than the return of Sauron). If a powerful necromancer could have appeared there should also exist magic practitioners.

The question is, how and to what extent can magic be available to the player characters, and their enemies?

What are we looking to solve?

Obviously, if GM and players agree, then so is it: Clerics worhipping Valar and fireballs. However, I think we can do better.

Also, if we want much magic (like in Forgotten Realms) then perhaps it is better to play in setting with more open magic (like FR). But I think we can do better.

Sam feared that Gandalf would turn him into something unnatural. In the movie Gimli warns the hobbits of the elf witch who lives in Lorien […] all under her spell and are never seen again. No one in the fellowship (except Gandalf) had imagined the Balrog in their darkest dreams. So I argue that it is in the essential nature of Middle Earth that unexpected magic and supernatural things can happen. If you mostly remove magic you actually turn your Middle Earth game into less than it deserves to be.

I would like to have a Middle Earth where magic is not at all commonplace, but where it can feasibly and arguably exist. Ideally, I would like to interpret and explain magic so that I can mostly use simle OSR rules, with moderation.

Ideas and possibilities

I will now present some arguments for why (OSR style) magic could be used to some degree in a late Third Age Middle Earth RPG campaign.

Alatar and Pallando: Tolkien wrote in a letter about the two blue Istari: I suspect they were founders or beginners of secret cults and ‘magic’ traditions that outlasted the fall of Sauron. This is clearly an opening for the existence of sorcerors or wizards in Middle Earth, even though they played no part in the books.

Religion: We don’t read in the books about clerics praying and sacrificing to Valar. But the Third age is 3000 years old, and it is not hard to imagine that the free peoples were actually worshipping and praying. That works of fiction do not mention religion does not mean religion can not exist. The most important building in Gondor was obviously not a cathedral, that we know. But can there be no shrines, nowhere, at all?

However, worshipping is one thing, being granted spells is a different story.

Valar: Since the end of Second Age, Valar has a kind of non-intervention policy. However, they sent the Istari to Middle Earth on a mission. Someone sent Gandalf back as the white wizard after the fight with the Balrog. So I think it is unnecessarily restrictive to imagine they have no power whatsoever in Middle Earth.

Maia: The Maia helped Valar create the world, so they are powerful magical spirits creating and changing reality. All of them are not named and they are not numbered. Gandalf said: There are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world. The Balrog had been hidden for long times when the dwarves disturbed it. I think as a GM you have quite some space to use unmentioned Maia as source of magic powers.

End of Third Age: The Valar has been quite absent for three millennia. Sauron is rising but driven from Dol Guldur, Smaug is killed, and large parts of Middle Earth (Arnor) is largely desolate and open. The Istari is not supposed to use force, but Saruman has other plans. This is a situation with two factors:

  • it is a power vacuum – there for somone (Maia or other) to fill
  • the rules are rewritten – Istari are failing their mission

And things can have been going on for centuries quite secret in the background.

Multiverse: The first chapter of Silmarillion does not start with These events took place in a little corner of the multiverse. No other creation myths start like that either. Nevertheless the multiverse idea is that different game settings exist in simultaneously and that the deities can be present in several of them. If Middle Earth is really left alone by the Valar, why would not some other power show interest in it?

Leave it open

I am not suggesting that you as a GM write down exactly who is granting or teaching what magic powers in Middle Earth and tell your players all about it. That serves no purpose and the players need not know.

What you tell the players is that just as the fellowship did not know about the Balrog, they also don’t know about all powers of Middle Earth.

You can tell that the Istari – or other unknown Maia – during the last millennia of the third age may have taught, shared or granted magic to smaller groups of rather unknown spellcasters. The characters know nothing of this, of course, but the players may ask.

You are now free, with moderation, to introduce spellcasters as part of your adventures.

And if a players wants to be a cleric, wizard, sorceror or warlock, it can be done. It may come with risks though

  • being accused of witchcraft and black magic is always dangerous
  • that magic teacher or spell-granting-deity, who is it really?

Sauron decieved the Numenoreans to worship Morgoth and make human sacrifices.

Conclusion

I think it is possible to run a Middle Earth campaign with a simple OSR system (or your favorite game) and use the magic system of that game mostly the way it is. That does not mean that magic appears in Middle Earth just as it does in Forgotten Realms (or some other hi-magic setting). It just means that magic is possible.

I don’t suggest you to turn Middle Earth into a hi-magic setting. But I also think it is a mistake to have so little magic that there is nothing mysterious or unexpected to the players and their characters to discover.

OSR Melee Weapon Damage House Rules

If you look at old versions of D&D (OD&D, B/X, BECMI/Rules Cyclopedia, 1e, 2e) they have lists of weapons with varying damage (or not – varying damage is optional rule in some versions). Newly written OSR games as well as newer versions of D&D have their own tables – and bring some innovation as well.

If you start looking into these tables there are inconsistensies, making some choices objectively inferior to others (examples below). I don’t like that. I prefer when there are both pros and cons – risk and reward – in a choice.

Proposed House Rules

Different classes have different capability to do damage, but to reach that potential a proper weapon is required.

1d41H Basic weaponsAllDagger
1d62H Basic weaponsAll but RogueStaff
1d61H Standard weaponsAll but WizardWarhammer
1d82H Standard weaponsAll but Wizard, RogueSpear
1d81H Martial WeaponFighter, Elf, Dwarf, RogueLong Sword
1d102H Martial WeaponFighter, Elf, Dwarf2H Sword

Basic weapons are mundane everyday items (dagger, staff, club).
Martial weapons are rather large AND use blades for extra effect.

Compared to BECMI/Rules Cyclopedia it really changes very little in most cases.

Extra Features

To make weapons different each weapon can have an extra features reflecting its nature. Typically:

  1. Weapons can be versatile (used in 1 or 2 hands) OR they have an extra feature
  2. Non-martial weapons can have extra features (to compensate for lower damge)
Bastard SwordM12
Battle AxeM12
ClubB12
DaggerB11d10 damage when used for sneak attack or at DMs descretion at intimate range
FalchionM11d6+1 damage (slightly better than 1d8)
Great AxeM21d12 damage, disadvantage to initiative
Hand AxeS1Can be thrown
Long SwordM1+1 damage when rolling 1.
Pole WeaponM2Can be used from behind ally.
Advantage to initiative 1st round.
RapierM1May choose to roll initiative with advantage, for 1d6 damage
Short SwordS11d8 damage when used for sneak attack or at DMS descretion at intimate range
SpearS12Advantage to initiative.
Can be thrown.
StaffB12Advantage to initiative when 2H
Two Handed SwordM2+1 damage when rolling 1
WarhammerS12

Above list is just an example. Any weapon IS a basic, standard or martial weapon.

Practical Use

These rules set the wielder in focus, not the weapon:

  1. Can the character use the weapon at all
  2. Does it match the characters potential (a martial weapon for a fighter)
  3. Is it 1H, 2H or choice
  4. Are there any extre features

The features could depend on the wielder. A dwarf may use it as a throwable 1H hand axe, but a halfling may use it as a 1-2H axe.

Weapon Quality and Damage

Some weapons are inferior or superior.

  • Inferior: -1 damage on best two rolls (5,6 on 1d6)
  • Low quality: -1 damage on best roll (8 on 1d8)
  • Standard quality
  • High quality: +1 damage on natural 1. (10x price)
  • Superior quality: +1 damage on natural 1,2. (100x price)

This should be compared to magic weapons doing +1 always. Bad quality could reflect bad maintenance and condition.

Shields

Shields give +1 Armor Class (some new OSR games may be different). I employ the house rule that a shield can be sacrificed to save the wielder from a blow that would otherwise be deadly.

Two Weapons

I employ the house rule that anyone fighting with two weapons gets advantage on initiative. If the two dice show same result, the attack is made with the 2nd weapon (only). If the second weapon is not smaller than the first, that attack is made with -2.

After playing a bit of 5th edition, I think multiple attacks is an annoyance and a mistake. Then there is always the question whether you can actually effectively use two weapons at the same time, and whether you can use your off-hand effectively. My proposed rule can be thought of as “it does not hurt to hold a weapon in your off-hand, occationally it can be your best option”.

Initiative

The standard BECMI / Rules Cyclopedia rules state that the wielder of a 2H weapon loses initiative. I see two problems with that:

  1. There is already a penalty of using a 2H weapon: no shield
  2. I think of 2H weapons as fast (staff, spear) or long reach (pole arms), which should be rather good to initiative

I am experimenting with using advantage/disadvantage (roll 2 dice, use the best/worst) for initiative. If you find that offensively 5th edition, you can of course use +2/-2 instead.

Background

The following paragraphs are just background and reasoning behind the house rules proposed above.

Expected Damage

If you do 1d8 damage and want to do better, what do you prefer? Table shows hits required to kill an enemy with 4, 10 or 11 HP.

4HP10HP11HP
1d81.422.762.97
1d4+31.002.192.38
1d6+21.172.282.44
1d8+11.252.372.51
1d101.332.362.59

Why is 1d4+3 better than 1d10? Why is 1d6+2 better than 1d8+1? This is a bit counter intuitive. They all do 5.5 HP damage, on average (except 1d8 doing 4.5). The reason is that an opponent with 4HP is always killed in one hit with 1d4+3, but survives 3/10 with 1d10. And after a few blows, any enemy may end up with 4 remaining HP.

An abstract system

It is important to recognise that D&D in general, OSR in particular, has an abstract and simplified set of rules. Not everything is in the system. A perfect simulator would need to consider:

  • Manufacturing cost
  • Durability
  • Need for maintenance
  • Cost of maintenance
  • Efficiency against different armors, and perhaps enemies
  • Speed and range
  • Training required
  • Strength required

At some point you get to the point where you reason that a more experienced fighter will beat anyone even if he is armed with only a broken chair and a handful of sand. Perhaps 1d6 for all weapons is not so bad after all?

Inconsistencies

Here are a few strange things

  • A Bastard sword can be used in one or two hands, for 1d6+1 or 1d8+1 damage respectively. That means it is a better 1H weapon than the 1d8 longsword AND a better 2H weapon than the 1d10 2H-sword. It is just better.
  • In BECMI a dwarf can use a 2H Broad Axe for 1d8 damage. Or a 1H Long Sword for 1d8 damage. There is no advantage using an axe (initiative is lost and a shield can not be used).
  • A hand axe is cheaper than a short sword, but can also be used as a thrown weapon.
  • Spears are generally underestimated

Bästa versionen av Dungeons & Dragons?

Den bästa versionen av Dungeons & Dragons är den jag just nu spelar med mina vänner.

Den bästa versionen av Dungeons & Dragons är också den omåttligt populära och aktuella versionen (5e). Och så resonerade även jag när jag skulle köpa D&D för ett tag sedan. Men, vad skulle inte vara bäst med 5e?

  • 5e finns inte på svenska
  • 5e är inte den enklaste versionen att lära sig och att spela
  • 5e kostar ca 1500kr för Players Handbook, Dungeon Masters Guide och Monsters Manual (det finns billigare starlådor, men om du vill fortsätta spela så räcker de inte)
  • Smaken är som baken: olika spelare gillar olika versioner olika mycket, så det kan hända att just du och din grupp faktiskt skulle föredra en annan version.

Låt mig ge en förenklad bild av olika versioner av D&D (se wikipedia för detaljer).

1974-1977-2000-2008-2014-
Original D&DClassic D&D
Advanced D&D (1e, 2e)
D&D 3eD&D 4eD&D 5e

Om man frågar sig vilket spel som är enkast men också genomarbetat och bra, så blir svaret Classic D&D. Det heter såklart bara Dungeons & Dragons, men det brukar kallas Classic eller Basic för att skilja ut det.

En rolig sak med Classic är att det släpptes på svenska i slutet av 1980-talet av Titan Games.

Dessa två boxar täcker spel för rollpersoner med graderna 1-14. På engelska finns ytterligare två boxar (Companion och Master Rules för graderna 15-36). Alla dessa fyra boxar finns samlade i en enda bok som heter Rules Cyclopedia som släpptes 1991.

I mångas ögon var och är detta den bästa versionen av D&D. Men produktionen lades ner i början av 1990-talet och självklart blev produkterna allt svårare att få tag i. Därför uppstod en rad retro-kloner, spel som inte heter Dungeons & Dragons, men som i väldigt stor utsträckning är samma spel – och som är kompatibla när det gäller äventyr och annat. Så för dig som vill spela “Classic D&D” i Sverige idag 2020 finns flera bra alternativ:

  • Rules Cyclopedia (print-on-demand eller PDF från dmsguild.com)
  • Monster & Magi (en svensk retroklon som finns på Bokus och Adlibris eller gratis nedladdning)
  • Svärd & Svartkonst (en svensk retroklon som är ännu enklare och inte så nära originalet)
  • Basregler och Expertregler från Titan Games (begagnat)
  • …eller någon av en stor mängd retrokloner på engelska, både i tryck eller som (gratis) nedladdning

Tvärt emot vad det först kan verka, så är detta inte på något vis en återvändsgränd för mycket nöje med D&D.

  • dmsguild.com säljer alla gamla D&D-äventyr som PDF (på engelska)
  • Monster & Magi erbjuder flera äventyr
  • Svärd & Svartkonst erbjuder flera äventyr

Är Classic bättre?

Jag har precis börjat spela Classic igen (Titan Games D&D) efter att ha spelat 5e ett tag, med blandade känslor. Det återstår att se om gräset är grönare på andra sidan. Det som talar för Classic är att det är ett enklare och snabbare spel. Om jag skulle spela med unga människor i Sverige så skulle jag absolut välja D&D Classic på svenska.

Det finns också en trend som heter OSR (Old School Revival) som handlar om att hitta tillbaka till rollspelens ursprung. Utan att gå in på detaljer så är min mening att rollspelen blev mer och mer avancerade under 80-talet och 90-talet – det fanns såklart en efterfrågan från spelare, och en marknad att tjäna pengar på. Sedan försvann intresset för bordsrollspel mycket på 2000-talet, och jag tror en bidragande orsak var dataspel (Diablo, World of Warcraft). Ett dataspel är alltid överlägset ett rollspel när det gäller möjligheten att hantera taktisk realism och djup på ett snabbt sätt. Men till slut ersätter inte dataspelen helt rollspelen – det är en annorlunda upplevelse. Och kärnan i vad som gör rollspelen unika fångas helt även i ett mycket enkelt klassiskt rollspel. Jag tycker på samma sätt att man kan ana med nyare versioner av D&D (inte minst 5e) att de är designade med dataspel i åtanke (också).

Jag har skrivet mer om OSR (länk).

En annan sak som kan upplevas som en fördel eller nackdel med Classic är att eftersom det är så enkelt, så är det också väldigt enkelt att hitta på egna husregler som passar din grupp.

Vilken retro-klon eller Classic-D&D är bäst?

Jag är inte alls i stånd avgöra vilken retroklon som är bäst, eller om den är bättre än Bas/Expert från Titan Games.

Men retroklonerna uppstod därför att originalet blev svårt att få tag i. Sedan några år finns Rules Cyclopedia att köpa tillsammans med allt gammalt som publicerats till classic (på dmsguild.com). Om allt det funnits tillgängligt 1995-2015, så hade det troligtvis inte funnit så många retrokloner.

Med det sagt så är självklart inte Rules Cyclopedia från 1991 det perfekta D&D i alla avseenden. Olika retrokloner har ändrat vissa saker i avsikt att förbättra. Så för den som jämför retro-kloner finns några huvudsakliga skillnader:

  • Ras som klass: I D&D är alv, halvling och dvärg egna klasser. Människor kan vara krigare, magiker, präster och tjuvar. Men det finns inga alv-tjuvar eller dvärg-präster. Många retrokloner gör annorlunda.
  • Räddningsslag: I D&D finns 5 olika typer av räddningsslag. I vissa retrokloner finns bara 1 räddningsslag, eventuellt modifierat av grundegenskap (som 5e), eller andra lösningar.
  • Pansarklass: I D&D har man PK9 utan rustning och PK3 med plåtrustning – lägre är bättre. I många retrokloner har man vänt detta (precis som i 5e) så att högre PK är bättre.
  • En del retrokloner är mer T20-baserade (medan D&D ofta använder 1T6 eller 2T6 för att avgöra saker).

Styrkan i Rules Cyclopedia är mer avancerade saker som ofta saknas i retroklonerna, och att det är omfattande och komplett

  • Regler ända till grad 36
  • Färdigheter och “Weapon Mastery”-regler
  • Många formler, monster, magiska föremål, osv
  • Regler för fältslag, mm

Min egen avsikt är nog att använda Titan Games D&D, men med Rules Cyclopedia som referens i bakgrunden (och i den händelse jag behöver hantera karaktärer över grad 14) eftersom det är precis samma spel.

För den som vill börja spela D&D på svenska så skulle jag föreslå Monster & Magi. Det finns regler upp till grad 20, och skulle man vilja plocka in saker från Rules Cyclopedia så tror jag det skulle gå bra.

Även om Svärd & Svartkonst känns väl minimalistiskt för mig, så finns det mycket intressant att läsa i den snygga regelboken! Det finns lite valfria regler för strid, perspektiv på erfarenhetspoäng och hur exempelvis vandöda (levande döda) hanteras som helt klart är bra nytänkande!

Jag har svårt att se att jag skulle rekommendera någon att leta efter D&D Titan Games begagnat när M&M och S&S finns.

För den som föredrar ett engelskt spel så tycker jag utgångspunkten är att originalet (Rules Cyclopedia) är det bästa alternativet. Men det finns många bra retroclones på engelska. De jag skulle titta på först är:

  • Basic Fantasy Roleplaying Game (Mentzer / d20)
  • Castles and Crusades (1e / 3e)
  • Dark Dungeons (Moldvay / BECMI / Rules Cyclopedia)
  • Dungeon Crawl Classics (d20 / D&D)
  • Five Torches Deep (5e simplified)
  • Labyrith Lord (Moldvay / BECMI)
  • OSE / Old School Essential (B/X)
  • Sword & Sorcery (Original D&D)

Slutsats

Det här med att välja D&D-version som passar för dig och din grupp är inte helt enkelt. För att verkligen kunna ha en riktig uppfattning måste man såklart provspela. Men om man vet vad som finns så är det nog lite lättare att göra ett klokt val när man köper ett spel.

Jag hade nog inte köpt D&D 5e förra året ifall jag kände till Rules Cyclopedia och Monster & Magi då.

D&D Ability Scores: How exceptional is your character?

D&D (and many other RPGs) have ability scores. You are supposed to roll 3d6 for each of them, but most often players want better scores and DMs allow methods that gives better scores.

Each ability has a value in the range 3-18 and it gives a bonus in the range -4 to +4 (for Classic D&D: -3 to +3).

Lets forget about child mortality and assume 3d6 is for those who reach adulthood (without racial ability modifiers). This would give that the average citizen of a fantasy world has a total ability value of 63 (6 x 10.5) and a bonus of 0. It makes sense that the player characters – adventurers – are better than average. Not everyone becomes an adventurer.

If we imagine our D&D town or village not to be so very different from how children grow up today, I think this is a reasonable way to think of it (approximately)

  • 1/4: most talented among siblings
  • 1/10: most talented kid on the street
  • 1/30: most talented in class
  • 1/200: most talented in school
  • 1/1000: most talented person in a village
  • 1/10000: most talented person in town
  • … and beyond that, exceptional and rare talent

How does this match ability scores and bonuses?

Ability Score

6 abilitiesBetter than
6347%
6453%
6558%
6663%
6768%
6873%Most talented sibling
6977%
7081%
7185%
7288%
73Best of 10Most talented kid on street
74Best of 14
75Best of 18
76Best of 24
77Best of 32
78Best of 45
79Best of 64
80Best of 92
81Best of 136
82Best of 205Most talented kid in school
83Best of 316
84Best of 499
85Best of 808
86Best of 1341Most talented person in village
87Best of 2287
88Best of 4009
89Best of 7237
90Best of 13472Most talented person in town

So, a character with an average score of 15 would have a total of 90. On one hand that is a person who would probably have received some attention for her talents when growing up. On the other hand, it is far from unrealistic that such a person exist.

Bonuses

So what about total bonuses?

Total Bonus
6 Abilities
D&D 5e
Better than
Best of
D&D Classic
Better than
Best of
045%41%
+155%59%
+266%75%
+375%87%
+483%/17
+589%/45
+6/15/135
+7/26/473
+8/50/1 924
+9/103/9 075
+10/229/49 840
+11/554/320 497
+12/1 476/2 435 080
+13/4 344/22 166 682
+14/14 251/246 959 710
+15/52 658/3 481 658 707
+16/221 926/65 692 122 012
+17/1 083 583/1 846 464 029 852
+18/6 251 574/101 983 687 214 006

What I find interesting with this is that it can somehow be connected to the background story of the character. If the character is just an unknown nobody who left her village for adventuring a total bonus of +6 (or +4 for Classic) is on the high side (a best-in-class-character would probably have recieved som attention). If, on the other hand, it is understood that the character is somehow distinguished, priviliged or meant for great deeds, it is not at all unreasonable with a total bonus of +12 (+8 in classic).

Even higher bonuses than that are very possible as long as it is understood that the characters are extraordinarily talented individuals in their society.

Other Rolling Methods

What if the DM allows other methods of rolling (Classic in parenthesis)?

~1/10 bad rollAverage roll~1/10 good roll
3d6-5 (-2)+0 (0)+5 (+2)Average person
2d6+6+4 (+2)+8 (+5)+12 (+8)Best in large class (~50)
4d6 drop worst+1 (+1)+6 (+4)+10 (+7)Best kid on street (~15)
5d6 drop worst 2+5 (+3)+9 (+6)+13 (+8)Best in small school (~100)
5e: [15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8]+5 (+2)Best sibling
5e: My House Rule+6Best kid on street (~15)

What this table says, roughly, is that if the player rolls once using this method it is likely she will get the average outcome. Only about 1/10 she will get the bad result from the bad column, or the good result from the good column. It is not at all likely that any of your players will roll a +14 (+9) character (which would correspond to best one of 10 000, or most talented in town) with any of the methods.

Conclusion

From this little experiment, two things came to me.

First, when it comes to NPC, villains and heroes (Conan and Robin Hood if you like) sometimes the stats of such figures are published and they can seem ridiculously good. But that is quite fine. They may be one-in-a-million type of humans who really made a footprint in their time.

Second, most established methods for generating abilities will produce characters that are the most talented among their siblings or perhaps the most talented in their school. For a player to roll anything significantly better there are some ways:

  • Very much luck
  • Rolling very many times
  • Cheating
  • Inventing a very powerful method

I think, more than just focusing on the rolling and the methods, it makes sense to talk to they players and ask: who do you reasonably think your character is. If they are the son of Conan, or the only one girl selected by the archmage in the country to study magic because of her extraordinary talents, then very high ability scores are perfectly reasonable.

Source Code

The source code for this is written in JavaScript and runs with Node.js on your computer. It is not quite written to be published, but here it is anyway.

Parameters are hard coded in the top of main().

const objcopy = (obj) => {
  return JSON.parse(JSON.stringify(obj));
};

const num2prop = (n) => {
  if ( n < 0 ) return '' + n;
  if ( 0 < n ) return '+' + n;
  return ' 0';
};

const numcmp = (a,b) => {
  return +a - +b;
};

const abilities = () => {
  const ret = {};
  let i;
  for ( i=3 ; i<=18 ; i++ ) ret[i] = 0;
  return ret;
};

const dice3d6 = () => {
  const ret = abilities();
  let i, j, k;
  for ( i=1;i<=6;i++ ) for ( j=1;j<=6;j++ ) for ( k=1;k<=6;k++ ) ret[i+j+k]++;
  return ret;
};

const dice2d6p6 = () => {
  const ret = abilities();
  let i, j;
  for ( i=1;i<=6;i++ ) for ( j=1;j<=6;j++ ) ret[i+j+6]++;
  return ret;
};

const dice4d6drop = () => {
  const ret = abilities();
  let i, j, k, l;
  for ( i=1;i<=6;i++ )
    for ( j=1;j<=6;j++ )
      for ( k=1;k<=6;k++ )
        for ( l=1;l<=6;l++ ) {
          const a = [i,j,k,l];
          a.sort(numcmp);
          ret[a[1]+a[2]+a[3]]++;
        }
  return ret;
};

const dice5d6drop = () => {
  const ret = abilities();
  let i, j, k, l, m;
  for ( i=1;i<=6;i++ )
    for ( j=1;j<=6;j++ )
      for ( k=1;k<=6;k++ )
        for ( l=1;l<=6;l++ )
          for ( m=1;m<=6;m++ ) {
            const a = [i,j,k,l,m];
            a.sort(numcmp);
            ret[a[2]+a[3]+a[4]]++;
          }
  return ret;
};

const multiplestats = (dist,n) => {
  let ret = objcopy(dist);
  let i;
  for ( i=1 ; i<n ; i++ ) {
    ret = multiplestats_2(ret,dist);
  }
  return ret;
};

const multiplestats_2 = (total,one) => {
  let ret = {};
  let t, o, r;
  for ( t in total ) for ( o in one ) {
    r = num2prop(+t + +o);
    if ( !ret[r] ) ret[r] = 0;
    ret[r] += (total[t] * one[o]);
  }
  return ret;
};

const bonuses = {
  'Classic' : () => {
    return {
      '-3' : 0,
      '-2' : 0,
      '-1' : 0,
      ' 0' : 0,
      '+1' : 0,
      '+2' : 0,
      '+3' : 0
    };
  },
  '5e' : () => {
    return {
      '-4' : 0,
      '-3' : 0,
      '-2' : 0,
      '-1' : 0,
      ' 0' : 0,
      '+1' : 0,
      '+2' : 0,
      '+3' : 0,
      '+4' : 0
    };
  }
};

const ability2bonus = {
  'Classic' : (a) => {
    switch (a) {
    case 3: return '-3';
    case 4: case 5: return '-2';
    case 6: case 7: case 8: return '-1';
    case 9: case 10: case 11: case 12: return ' 0';
    case 13: case 14: case 15: return '+1';
    case 16: case 17: return '+2';
    case 18: return '+3';
    };
  },
  '5e' : (a) => {
    switch (a) {
    case 3: return '-4';
    case 4: case 5: return '-3';
    case 6: case 7: return '-2';
    case 8: case 9: return '-1';
    case 10: case 11: return ' 0';
    case 12: case 13: return '+1';
    case 14: case 15: return '+2';
    case 16: case 17: return '+3';
    case 18: return '+4';
    };
  }
};

const dist_ability2bonus = (distDice,version) => {
  const distBonus = bonuses[version]();
  const getBonus = ability2bonus[version];
  let a;
  for ( a=3 ; a<=18 ; a++ ) distBonus[getBonus(a)] += distDice[a];
  return distBonus;
};

const toPercent = (dist) => {
  const ret = {};
  const keys = Object.keys(dist).sort(numcmp);
  let total = 0;
  let i,k;
  for ( i=0 ; i<keys.length ; i++ ) {
    k = keys[i];
    total += dist[k];
  };
  total = 100 / total;
  for ( i=0 ; i<keys.length ; i++ ) {
    k = keys[i];
    ret[k] = dist[k] * total;
  };
  return ret;
};

const accumulate = (dist) => {
  const ret = {};
  const keys = Object.keys(dist).sort(numcmp);
  let acc = 0;
  let i,k;
  for ( i=0 ; i<keys.length ; i++ ) {
    k = keys[i];
    ret[k] = acc;
    acc += dist[k];
  }
  return ret;
};

const rounddecimals = (dist) => {
  let k,v;
  for ( k in dist ) {
  v = dist[k];
  if ( !Number.isInteger(v) ) {
    if ( v < 10 )
      dist[k] = '1/' + (100/v).toFixed(0);
    else if ( 90 < v )
      dist[k] = '1/' + (100/(100-v)).toFixed(0);
    else
      dist[k] = v.toFixed(1);
    }
  }
};

const main = () => {
//const rolldist = dice3d6();
//const rolldist = dice2d6p6();
//const rolldist = dice4d6drop();
  const rolldist = dice5d6drop();
//const bonus = '5e';
  const bonus = 'Classic';
  const rollcount = 6;
  const percent = true;
  const accumulated = true;
  const round = true;
  const printall = true;
  let workdata = [{ dist:rolldist , lbl:'Roll Dist'}];
  const last = () => { return workdata[workdata.length-1].dist; };
  if ( bonus ) workdata.push({
    dist : dist_ability2bonus(last(),bonus),
     lbl : 'Bonus: ' + bonus
  });
  if ( 1 < rollcount ) workdata.push({
    dist : multiplestats(last(),rollcount),
     lbl : '' + rollcount + ' stats'
  });
  if ( percent ) workdata.push({
    dist : toPercent(last()),
     lbl : 'Percent'
  });
  if ( accumulated ) workdata.push({
    dist : accumulate(last()),
     lbl : 'Accumulated'
  });
  if ( round ) workdata.forEach((w) => { rounddecimals(w.dist) });
  if ( printall )
    console.log(JSON.stringify(workdata,null,4));
  else
    console.log(JSON.stringify(last,null,4));
};

main();

Reading old Dragon Magazines in 2020

I discovered that old issues of the Dragon magazine are available free for download. When reading about old versions of Dungeons and Dragons there are often references to the Dragon Magazine.

I entertained myself browsing through the first 100 140 issues (June 1976 to August 1985) and took notes of articles I find can be of value today.

  • OD&D is mostly covered up to #25
  • After #25 most things refer to AD&D 1e (which for most practical purposes is quite compatible with OSR clones and Classic D&D)
  • There is virtually no content to be found specifically written for Classic D&D
  • There is a separate Dungeon magazine which also is downloadable for free, and which almost only contains D&D modules (adventures), so I have only noted a few such modules from Dragon magazine.

This is a list of articles I found in Dragon #1 – #130 that I found particularly relevant in 2020.

You are most welcome to give feedback on my list!

About D&D

#pagesTitle or type of article
77Gary Gagax on D&D***
823On Realism (Joke)***
1615-16,21Gary Gagax on Realism, Game Logic and more****
1636Game Balance***
2417-19Gary Gagax on Melee in D&D****
2628-Gary Gagax on OD&D and AD&D****
28Gary Gagax on OD&D and AD&D****
3512-13TSR plans D&D and AD&D****
3916-18Women want equality***
5214-15On Classic D&D by Holmes/Moldvay****
7645-52Index of previous Dragon Magazine
7726-29On Classic D&D by Mentzer****
8438-44On Companion D&D by Mentzer****
9512-13The influence of JRR Tolkien on D&D and AD&D***
1028-10Realms of role playing***
1038-10What the 2nd Edition will be like by Gary Gagax
10356Profile: Gary Gagax (never sleeps)***
10763Profile: Elmore
11241-64Index of previous Dragon Magazine
12240Gary Gagax “Farewell”**

Creatures (new AD&D 1e)

Creatures for AD&D 1e can probably be used with little effort in OSR gaming.

#pagesTitle or type of article
27The Horast
3043Crust
3239Crawling Claw
3356Frost
3518-19,42-43Angels
36Krolli
376-Neutral Dragons
3810-Dragons
427-15Demons, Devils, Spirits
4244Necroton and more
4488-Ice, various creatures
4566-Dust Devil, Sand Lizard
4810Sea, various creatures
5166Piranha Bat
5248-49Rhaumbusun (Crocodile-basilisk)
5430Jabberwock
5559
60
61
62
Devil Spider
Surchurr
Dyll
Poltergeist
***
**
**
****
6148-49Umbreas and more
626-11Dragons (faerie and more)
6528-30Dragons (yellow, orange, purple)
6620-21Oriental (different spirits)
6656-57Vultures, Hawk, Skeleton animals
7412-15Landragons (non flying dragons)
9020-23Bats, 6 types****
918Goristro Demon
9444-54Creature Catalogue II
9538-39The many shapes of Apes***
10140-55Creature Catalogue III**
10220-28A collection of Canines (dogs)
1108-14Dracolich
11542-45Snakes
11638-44Sea Creatures
11864-67Spiders
11946-53Creatures of the Woods
12434-37Aaracockra
1347-14Dragons
13742-49Prehistorical animals
13822-35The ungrateful dead
13970-74Rare beasts of Forgotten Realms

Creature Lore

#pagesTitle or article type
1414-Interview with a Rust Monster
2531-33Interview with an Iron Golem
2542Vampires, Variety of**
2636Lich, Blueprint of****
507-12Dragons: Fighting strategies
7115-18Mind of the monsters
766-8On Beholders
7866-68Ecology of Mind Flayers
806-8Psycology of Dopplegangers
8127-28Ecology of a Basilisk
8718-20Ecology of a Dryad
8822-24Ecology of a Rust Monster
9229-31Ecology of Ettins***
9424-26Ecology of Chimera
9522-26Ecology of a Cockatrice****
9725-27Ecology of a Gorgon
9919-20Ecology of Will-i-wisp
103
105
35-46
24
The Centaur Papers
10433-36Ecology of the Ochre Jelly
10616-17Ecology of the Maedar
10932-34Ecology of a Displacer beast
11550-54Ecology of a Harpy****
11632-35Ecology of a Minataur
11733-36Ecology of an Anhkheg
11942-44Ecology of the Korred
12456-57Ecology of a Gelatinous Cube
12510-12Ecology of the Greenhag
12629-34Undeads
12641-43The ecology of the Shade
12921-23Drow
13136-39Ecology of the Aboleth + Stats
13142-46Ecology of Hook Horror + Stats
13417-22
24-26
28-30
33-36
Give Dragons a Fighting Chance
Serpents (Dragons) and Sorcery
Dragotha (a Dracolich)
Ecology of the Red Dragon
13654-56The Golems Craft
13727-32Ecology of carnivorous plants
13942-43
86-89
Golems (hiding)
Ecology of spectator (+stats)

Greyhawk

#pagesTitle or article type
5218-24Birthplaces in Greyhawk
56
57
18-
13-
Countries
6314-17Sea Barons and more countries
86
87
88
89
90
30-34
23-27
8-11
20-24
24-28
Gods of the Seul Pantheon

Knowledge

These articles are mostly not about rules but other useful knowledge.

#pagesTitle or Type of article
2032-Demonic Possession
2250-54Pole Arms
2512-13Social classes in D&D
3221-Celts
3926-27Bows*****
4541-43History of Dwarves
4549-51Castles*** (historical)
5013-Raising a Dragon
526-13Clerics
5855-59Swords*** Quality of swords?
5916-20Gypsies** Special “class” rules of limited use.
5949-55Halflings
606-14Elves
6128-33Gnomes
6325-31Humanoids (and their Deities)
6351-54Plan before you play
6367-71Coins*** (historical)
6547-53Celtic mythology
6556-62Law***
6563-65War**
6818-22Ice Age Adventureing
697-15Runes
7224-29Barbarians*****
75
76
8-33
23-44
Hell and Devils
7554-57Orcish language
8014-16Five things to DMing Success****
8022-28Castles
8512-14
15-17
Clerics: Special Skills & Thrills
Dragon Magazine #85
Clerics must be deity-bound
****
**
9030-33Political Game
9036-60Gladsheim / Norse Mythology + Module****
9118-34The Nine Hells Revisited
926-10Clerics – missions and playing
9312-17World Building
9324-30How to pronounce monster names
9410-16Large Scale Logistics
978-Deities and their faithful
986-10Dragon Hoards
9811-13Dragon Teeth
9815-16Dragons of Dragonlance
9822-24Detailing a fantasy world
9828-32Knowing whats in Store*****
998-10The neutral point of view (between good and evil)
10536-42,55Parallel gaming worlds
1068-12The laws of Magic*
10716-21The six abilities
10722-25Increasing ability scores
10812-20The Role of Nature
10928-30A dwarf’s beard is more than hair
11122-26Out-of-control campaigns
11310-26Welcome to Hades
1159-36Thieves
11538-40Clerics: Weapons of choice**
11628-30Aquatic Elves
11716-17Feuds and Feudalism
11740-42Fun without Fighting
11743-45Henchmen, Hirelings & Followers
1188-14,18-20Gladitorial Combat
11910-29Druids (several articles)
12244-45DMs ten commandments***
12316-30The Mystic’s College
12514-16Woodlands of the Realms (trees)
12518-19Code of Chivalry
12542-45Glory, Danger and Wounds
12615-24Vampires
1288-14Welcome to Waterdeep
13070-78If looks could kill
13228-32Trap Design
13327-33Roman Pantheon + stats
13518-19Usages of Rope
13526-29When Game Masters go Bad*****
13618-20The long arm of the law
13628-32Inns (with price lists)
13634-38Fifty ways to foil your players
13755-58Festivals
13844-49Plague
13936-40Speaking with Spirits

Magical Items

#pagesTitle
2624-Deck of Fate
3035-36Extranous Magic Items
7336-40100 Unusual Magic Items
7418-24Blades of the (Forgotten) Realms
7718-24Curses and nasty items
8034-36Treasures rare and wondrous
8228-30Magic Jewelry (13 items)
8626-28A few magic items
8914-18Six very special shields
9152-62Treasure Trove (47 magic items)
9949-52Seventeen new treasures (Magic Items)
10230-34,89-Nine Wands of Wonder
11546-47Nine magical harps
11746-47Nine magical masks
11748-51Magic rings
12564-67Magical maps of Greyhawk
12726-31Bows and Crossbows
13310-11Arrows (and Quivers)
13520-24Arrows

Modules (Adventures)

A few I found interesting.

#pagesTitle or article type
7842-56Citadel by the Sea
8035-45Adventure + City
9246-53Adventure
10243-54Valley of the Earthmother

Rules, Lists

These are optional rules, items and other lists.

#pagesTitle or type of article
3219-20Permanent Damage
2419Diseases
2923Rewarding Heroism*
2924-25Taverns & Inns + Menu*****
31Criticals & Below 0HP
324-5Poison
3430-31Beware of Quirks and Curses: Magic items are not always nice****
3847-48DM Hostile Magic Users
3934-35Criticals
43Witches
4860-62Instant Adventures***
5410-Ruins
59
60
6-10
16-21
Cantrips***
?
5957-60Poison
6842-53+last 3Weather (Greyhawk)
776-13Tarot cards
787-33Psionics
816-17Poison
8214-19Healing Herbs
8310-19Gems
858-11First Aid
9946-48Magic Swords
10416-19Pick Pocketing (lists)
10622-23Doors: Open them if you dare
10714-15Reactions*
10828-29Cantrips for Clerics
10842-26The plants of Biurndon
11227-31Cloaked in Magic
1148-21Witches
1169-27Maritime Adventures
11722-24Dungeoneers Shopping Guide****
11822-29Jousting rules
12417-32Aerial Adventuring
13040Ingredients of (alchemists) potions
13377-80Berserkers (NPC class)
13646-48Recharge of magic items
13716-24Treasures of the Wild
14054-55Knives

Random World

#pagesTitle
1715Sights and Sounds***
2110Random Town Events***
4130Doors***
4932-33Names***
8030-34Random Treasures/Items
10514-18Wayfarers***
10530-35The well equiped victim***
11422-24Grave Encounters**
11548-49Dungeon floor design***
11560-61Doors (50 of them)****
12116-19Japanese Names**
13122-30Random Natural Caves
1368-14Random City
1378-14Hunting – whats for dinner
13734-41Weather system
13750-52Encounter tables wilderness (pre history)

Fiction / Short Stories

These should be Fantasy short stories.

#pagesTitle or type of article
1-7The Gnome Cache
214-Short Story
423-25Roads from Jakalla** Ok D&D, not much of litterature.
518-24Short Story
612-14The Forest of Flame****
712-15The Journey Most Alone** (planes and mystery)
1222-30Short Story
1322-28The Stolen Sacrifice*****
1510-11The Gospel of Benwa** (creation story, law, chaos & neutrality)
15
16
23-
25-
Green Magician (1/2)
Green Magician (2/2)
2442-43Monty Haul and the
Best of Freddie
***
Power game session
31Short Story
356,39-40Oasis****
386-Short Story
447-Short Story
467-Short Story
5450-51Short Story
5524-36The coming of the sword
5836Short Story
6031-32Short Story
6673-74Friends in High Places***
7111-13The blink of a Wizard’s eye*
7371-72Short Story
7911-12The Ordeal* (and not fantasy)
8118-22Short Story
8265-69Short Story
8326-30Short Story
8457-63Short Story
8528-35Valkyrie Settlement
8556-62A stone’s throw away (Dragonlance)
8659-63Short Story
8859-63Short Story
8955-61Short Story
9186-93Short Story
9355-61Short Story
9457-63Short Story
9560-67Desperate Acts
9863-67The forging of fear*****
9963-67Short Story
10022-32Short Story
10162-66And Adventuring To …
10564-68On the Rocks at Slabs
10869-75The Grey Stones
10970-75Valkyrie
11066-76The Wizards’ Boy
11362-71A Difficult Undertaking
11849-56Across the Fog-Grey Sky
11963-73The Pawns of Crux
12047-50Dragon Meat**** (humourous)
12151-63Love and Ale (Dragonlance)
12263-67The Prince’s Birthday
12363-67Palimpsest
12557-63The passing of kings
12644-49Well Bottled at Slab’s
12836-42The Spirit Way
12958-64The old ways are best
13042-49Shark Killer
13141-45Out of hand
13449-55Eyes of Redemptions
13555-60Karl and the Ogre
13641-45The curse of the Magus
13857-64Between Lightning and Thunder
13947-49The visitor
14047-51Flesh and Blood

Art – B/W

#pagedescription
2926
38
Three warriors and a horse
Warrior – roman style
**
***
3520Bowman in Chainmail**
398Dark Paladin****
4512
16
18
61
Alchemist
Coat of arms (Shield + Two axes)
Anvil with sculpture
Castle against night sky
****
***
***
*****
5957Poisoned nobleman***
6322
28-30
Bandits
Goblins (3x)
**
***
6660Nobleman with Drinking Cup**
7110
19
22
54
Two old wizards
Elegant man with flute
Rogue with sword
Lich / Death god
****
**
***
****
727
10
58
Mounted knight
Female knight on Unicorn
Man with sword at wall
****
***
***
8022Castle****
8538
45
49
58
77
Viking on Longship
Executioner
Orc with axe
Hung in tree by mob
Ruin: Gate & Trees
***
**
**
**
**
928
22
24
45
Priest with warhammer
Witch or Sorceress
Dwarf with warhammer
Hiding elf / Hunters with bows
***
**
***
**
944Wizard (?)***
9829-32
62
Shop interiors: Smith, Leather, Tanner
Blacksmith
****
****
12019Angry dwarf with club****
1315
41,42
Two knights jousting
Dwarves
***
***
13213
24
40
53
A few ships
A Demon (?)
Woman drawing, man standing
Man and witch (?)
**
***
****
***
13448
69
Barbarian (?) with Dragon
Ogre
***
**
13545Wizard****
13918
19
26
27
36
Woman – tottooes in face
Wizard
Old Merchant
Two village women
Ritual and demon
***
****
***
***
**
14017
25
29
31
Old man in library
Portraits of priests/shamans (2)
Coat of arms (Dragons and swords)
Wizard (and dead/defeated man)
****
****
**
***

Art – Full Color

#pagedescription
723Warriors having passed a river**
666
7
Old man inspecting sword(s)
Monk in armory
****
****
7281Mounted knight and goblins***
9059Elmore: Dragon & Warriors*****
13315Warrior + Death Knight(?)****
13423Fighter / Dragon***
1377Hydra & Warrior***
13915Wizard***

Earth as a fantasy RPG setting

This post is about using our Earth as a fantasy setting for roleplaying games like D&D or Fantasy!.

The appeal

The appeal with using Earth is that everyone already knows things. Egyptians, the Atlantic Ocean, Samurais, the Church and many other things are already there. If you play in a culture that your group is already familiar with there are symbols that can be used immediately for a feeling of authenticity.

The problems

The most obvious problems are the absence of supernatural fantasy things, and WHEN to set the campaign. I have seen the division of campaigns into Historical, Epic or Fantasy. I want to go for fantasy: there will be dragons, magic, and orcs.

The problem of WHEN is that in the history of Earth, civilizations are emerging and disappearing. And as some empires grew large, nature was also tamed and less land was truly wild and unexplored.

Another problem is unfortunately that there are people who are offended or triggered when something they care about is being depicted in a way they don’t approve with.

The solution (in principle)

We obviously need to rewrite history. Let us say the year is about 1000, but many civilizations and empires remained – smaller than at their peak – and they are now technologically mostly equal. Between these civilizations (and underground) there is wilderness, chaos and evil.

I suppose you need to cherry pick what remains and what was never there, based on what is meaningful and interesting to your group. I live in Sweden and I and my players (sadly) know nothing about the history of Belarus. So I can do what I want with that spot on the map (maybe it is an ancient empire of elves, or goblins). But you may be Polish or Ukrainian and want to center your campaign there, and Belarus has lots of references to you that you care about. Sweden on the other hand can be a land of viking barbarian orcs to you.

Europe Centric A-Z

Here follows short descriptions of countries and civilizations that can coexist. The exact borders matters little to me at this point.

Note that most nations consist largely of wilderness and that both internal and external borders can be quite fluid.

This is Europe centric because it is what I and my group know best. There is nothing right and wrong here – I am just trying to be practical.

The Alps

The naturally protected alps are home to dvarves in the mountains and elves and halflings in the valleys. There are well protected and profitable trade routes going through (and under) the mountains. However, other humanoids and dragons also dwell here.

Arabic Caliphate

Under Islamic leadership and with its political center in Mekka, the Arabic Caliphate is spreading from Southern spain, most of Sahara and northern Africa, around the Red Sea and over Arabic peninsula to the Persian gulf. These are arid, warm lands and its people are mostly fast moving nomads on camels, waging wars on many fronts. Egypt and many fertile settlements on the on the Mediteranean south coast are being proteced and held by the Roman Empire (and Christian allies and mercenaries).

Babylon

Babylon, being one of oldest great settlements, remains on the banks of Euphrates. The persians, romans, ottomans and arabs have all tried to lay hands on this desert jewel but ancient sourcery and powerful allies have kept Babylon an independent city state (effectively ruling the fertile lands around it). This is a melting pot yet an ancient place where culture, traditions, rituals and worship has survived for centuries.

Baltic Nations

The three Baltic Nations are officially duchys of Russia. However, in practice they participate in the Hansa League, and often see themselves raided by barbarians and vikings.

Byzantine Empire

The Byzantine Empire covers Balkans and Bulgaria. It is home to Orthodox Christianty and a remaining part of the once huge Roman empire. On one hand the Byzantine Empire profits from being the crossroads of trade between east and west, on the other hand it struggles to protect all its boarders.

Catalonia

Catalonia has liberated itself from Muslim occupation and since then acted as an independent state.

Denmark

Denmark is a viking monarchy, often at wars with its neighbors. It is a strong agriculture and trading nation and Christianity has made little progress here.

Egypt

The ancient religous nation of Egypt was under control of the Roman Empire for long. However, it regained independence and is strongly allied with Rome against the Muslim campaigns and domination in northern Africa. Egypt is a religous dictatorship ruled by a divine Pharao, with some cities (mostly Alexandria) being open to foreigners and more international and multicultural.

England

England is a Kingdom of wealth and struggle, often at war with its neighbors. The Christian Anglican church dominates, but there are conflicts with other christian groups, pagans, druids and even vikings.

Finland

Finland is the land of Elves in northern Europe. Some towns along the coast have a significant human population and manage trade with Hansa.

France

France is a Christian kingdom, engaged in holy wars far from its own borders, while struggling to stay safe from Saxons, Germanic tribes, and Muslim onslaught in the south.

Germanic Tribes

The lands of Germany and Poland are largely wilderness, inhabited by barbaric tribes (and other humanoids). However, there are smaller kingdoms in these lands, and trade routes going through them.

Greece

Greece, the cradle of democracy, remains. Athens being the cultural and political center and Sparta being the home of the military that has defened the ancient nation countless times. Christianity is tolerated side by side with the old gods of Greece. Greece is also largely a nation of islands with a significant trade and military fleet.

Hansa Trade League

Towns and lands around southern Baltic sea form the Hansa Trade League. This is an economic, but also military alliance, with influence far beyond its member towns.

Holy Lands

Between the Ottoman empire, Egypt, the Persian Empire and the Arabic Caliphat lies the Holy Lands. Christians and Muslims struggle for control of the holy sites, especially Jerusalem. There is obviously room for a jewish aspect, or not, depending on your preferences. Apart from Jerusalem, there are desert city states like Palmyra here.

Iceland

Iceland, populated with outcasts and refugees from Scandinavia and the British isles, is a viking meritocracy and democracy. The Icelandic’s have settlements also in Greenland and Newfoundland.

Ireland

Ireland is a rural and pagan country dominated by druids. In some towns along the south east coast there are many Christians and they serve as intellectual melting pots. Both halflings and elves are common in Ireland.

Italy and the Roman Empire

Northern Italy consists of free city states, advanced in trade, culture and freedom of expression, and melting pots in the crossroads of Europe.

Southern Italy is the core of what remains of the West Roman Empire. There is decadence and arrogance but the empire is rich and with a strong military. However much wealth comes from lands in northern Africa which are part of the empire but now at war with Muslim forces.

Many Romans worship the old gods of the empire, however at the same time the Vatican and Pope in Rome are the head of Christians.

Normandy

The ambitious Normands managed to forge their own kingdom, aspiring to expand over the English channel.

Norway

Norway, the coastal areas, are lands of vikings making a living plundering, trading and fishing. There is not much central government (although attempts are being made). The vast mountains hosts dvarves and monsters.

Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire has internal religious power struggles between different religons groups (both Christian and Muslim). It is a vast country with untamed dangerous wilderness and ambitous rulers struggle to maintain the borders even though they occationally engage in foreign campaigns.

Persian Empire

The Persian empire is ancient vast and complex. Islam is growing more influential.

Portugal

Portugal is a Christian kingdom mostly looking westward doing trade and some warfare in South America. Portugal has a strong fleet and is a strong trade nation.

Romania (Transylvania)

Romania has been part of both the old Roman Empire, the Byzantian Empire and the Ottaman empire. However, dark forces are moving here and Romania now consists of city states and smaller independent nations. However it is well established that sourcerors, vampires and perhaps even priests in unholy alliances rule these lands.

Russian Empire

The huge Russian empire has few borders. This nation upholds civilization in unlikely places. Officially the Tsar rules with an iron hand, but in practice power is given to local lords and the empire is losely kept together.

Chistianity dominates among the elite and in the large cities.

Saxony

Saxons are an old people with a young nation located south of the English Channels. Saxons have been influential in England and they have been at war with all their neighbors.

Scotland

Southern Scotland is a kingdom (Scotland), often at war with England, and often allied to France. Christianity is dominant in Scotland.

Northern Scotland is inhabited by barbarian clans.

Spain

Spain is a Christian kingdom at war with Muslims occupying the southern parts of the nations since over a century. The kingdom has family and political relations to the kingdoms of France, Normandy, England and Scotland but because of the wars within its own borders it has lost position to England and France.

Catalonia has declared independence from the weakened kingdom, yet stands against the Muslims.

Sudan

Sudan and Khartoum are centres of trade between Africa, Europe (via Egypt) and the middle east. Slaves is one of the most important goods.

Sweden

Southern Sweden is a quite rural pagan evolving feudal monarchy. This is a land of mostly wilderness and civilization is centered around some towns. Norse gods are still worshiped but Christianity is growing.

Gotland and the southeast of Sweden belongs to the Hansa trade league, and is a bit more advanced.

Northern parts of Sweden lack government and consists of vikings, barbarians, nomads (samis), dwarves, and other humanoids.

Wales

Wales is druid land, opposing monarchy and Christianity.

Beyond and other Continents

China and India deserves the same complexity, diversity and depths as all of Europe and if you choose to locate your campaign here you probably know what to do. I think of China as en ancient empire, struggling with being united and shattered over and over again.

North America is probably home to elves and native tribes (druids and rangers), and some viking settlements.

South America has its own militaristic empires, and som portuguese settlements.

Africa south of Sahara is a rich land of kingdoms and perhaps even empires of its own.

Japan is an advanced monarcy, quite isolated, but not unknown.

Antarctica has huge potential with ancient elven kingdoms under the ice, and lurking horrors.

Islands

Islands are great opportunities for things more outside the norm on Earth. Svalbard, Corse, Sicily, Crete, Canary Islands and the Hebrides all provide opportunity for extra spicy things.

Monsters and Beasts

Europe can seem crowded. But Africa and Siberia can host wild creatures and dragons that occationally visit Europe and even settle there. Evil humanoids (goblins and orcs) live in forests, mountains and underground.

Religion

I think religion is one of the best reasons to place your campaign on Earth. Apart from the world religions you also have old Norse, Greek, Roman and Egyptian gods, as well as druids and nature worshipping. It is all quite consistent and familiar, with lots of useful references and symbology.

Languages

Not being able to talk to anyone is rarely useful for good roleplaying experience. Latin comes in handy, perhaps in combination with a “common-anglo-germanic” language.

Historic People

I have avoided making references to historic people. I think Buddha, Jesus and Mohammed are needed. I can imagine the french making references to Charlemagne (as former or current king) and why not make references to Ceasar as well?

History

The exact passing of history was, and is, not known to most people or even most historians. You don’t need to know. They players don’t need to know. You can use “I am a direct decendent of Saladin, liberator of Jerusalem” in your game, and the players can believe what they want. Or you can make reference to the 100-year-war-between-babylon-and-persia, if you need to.

Hyborian Age

Was this Fantasy Earth following the Hyborian Age as in Howards stories about Conan? If you want to, it can be a soure of references: ancient artifacts, lost underground cities and Set the snake god.

Dungeon Master Inspirational Reading

This is work in progress.

I read to get inspiration for my D&D Dungeon Master hobby.

5/5 Recommended

  • Conan Chronices (short stories of varying length and quality)
  • Northlanders 1-3 (comic)
  • Untold Adventures – Dungeons & Dragons (short stories)
  • The Outsider (short story, H.P. Lovecraft)
  • The stolen sacrifice (Dragon Magazine #13)
  • The Testament of Athammaus
  • Thorgal (comic)

4/5 Recommended

  • Berserk (Deluxe, 1-2, manga)
  • Kull Exile of Atlantis (short stories)
  • Svavelvinter, Slaktare Små
  • Lone Wolf (Project Aon)
  • The Forest of Flame (Dragon Magazine #6)
  • The Tale of Satampra Zeiros
  • Legends and Myths: Robin Hood

3/5 Average

  • Crannog Saga 1-3 (Comic)
  • Fall of Gondolin
  • Legends and Myths: Knights of the round table

2/5 Not so recommended

  • Den eviga nattens riddare + Det mörka hjärtats vilja (Swedish)
  • Legends and Myths: Charlemagne
  • Vox Machina
  • Roads from Jakalla (Dragon Magazine #4)

1/5 Not recommended

  • Legends and Myths: King Arthur

Not yet read

The Revorian Age (D&D Setting)

This is an outline for a D&D setting that I call The Revorian Age, following after The Hyborian Age (essay by E Howard, wikipedia), where the stories of Conan take place.

Most of what Howard wrote I consider lore and history…

… however during the Hyborian age, there was a much smaller continent on the other side of the planet called Maringia. This was an ancient contient that had existed during the time of Atlantis and that mostly survived the (first) cataclysm. Maringia was home to D&D races and beasts that never walked the Thurian continent (at least we are not told in the Conan lore).

The second cataclysm shatters Thuria. Also happening:

  • volcanoes erupted
  • a short (100s of years) ice age covered parts of the lands
  • land sank and raised, even affecting Maringia
  • hordes of orcs, goblins and other creatures of darkness that had dominated but been bound to Maringia, found ways to Thuria
  • a few refugees of Thuria made it to new lands
  • eventually, also elves, dwarves, gnomes and halflings and other good creatures spread to the new lands

Thousands of years passed, new peoples and eventually lands formed (as Howard described), originiting from the peoples of the Hyborian age, but mixed up with the lore of D&D.

This post-Hyborian age is called The Revorian Age and it is a place of

  • Ancient remains of the Hyborian age (and possibly its deities)
  • Everything you want in a D&D world
  • Earth-like deities, cultures, peoples, lands (just as “The Danes were decendents of pure-blooded Vanir” as written by Howard, there may actually be Danes in your D&D world, and if they look like anes, fight like danes and sound like danes, why not call them danes?)

But why?

I have written before that I am not too fond of Forgotten Realms.

I like the world of Conan and the history and cultures of Earth more interesting than the lore of Forgotten Realms (or other published D&D settings). And for simplicity, I can call a viking a viking (truth is that even Forgotten Realms and D&D are full of things with very specific references to earthern cultures: berserkers, minataurs, the deity Tyr, paladins and so on).

I like to outline a homebrew world as the campaign goes on, and into The Revorian Age I can plausibly draw familiar things.

D&D Cool Ideas

As I read different books to get inspiration for D&D adventures and campaignes I often find little simple cool ideas that I can make use of.

  • A city build on the round top ridge – just above sea level – of an old vulcano.
  • A tower castle at the top of a sharp rock in the sea.