Monday, July 27, 2009

Labyrinth Lord Character Creation House Rulings

Aside from how it is played, much of what affects a character’s success is determined at creation. With this in mind, I have created a couple house-rulings for the character creation process.

  • Stat Rolling: I use the tried-and-true roll 4d6 and drop the lowest die method.
  • Starting Hit Points: At first level, characters get maximum hit points. It is like like they rolled the highest hit point die result and added any constitution modifier applicable.
  • Beginners’ Luck: At second level, characters get to re-roll a hit die roll that results in a 1 or a 2 until they get something better than 2.

Given these tweaks, the survivability rate increases.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Labyrinth Lord

Currently, I serve as the game moderator for two gaming groups. In both groups, we play Labyrinth Lord. The choice belongs to me. I chose Labyrinth Lord for a few reasons, which I will enumerate here.

  1. It costs nothing. I like to use free systems when I introduce, or re-introduce, people to gaming.
  2. It possesses an old-school feel. Call it nostalgia. Call it an aesthetic. I like it.
  3. The rules work … simply.
  4. One book! Most games I like come complete in one book. I observed this throughout my years of gaming. This was not decided by way of some philosophy.

Like many GMs, or LLs, I like to tinker and develop house-rulings. I will present a few here. The people I play with have a more narrative flair, which I welcome and encourage. This means that they want to develop characters that they can play and get into. Labyrinth Lord tends to have high mortality rate. To combat this, I have developed a few tweaks. I will post them separately.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The People of Yore

Four groups accepted the Archons as their gods. Four groups decided to forsake the Darkness and its demons. The Dwarves, the Elves, the Halflings, and the Humans decided to embrace the Light.


The dwarves of Yore are the standard dwarves of fantasy. Dwarves are only male. New dwarves are carved from stone and precious materials. When they awaken, they do so as adults. While dwarves revere all of the Archons, they are most fond of The Noble, The Smith, and The Warrior. Dwarf names are based on minerals. This is a metagame convention that is employed to create a cultural tone. Male names end with –ar, -ir, and –or. Occasionally a “g” can be added for flair.

Some male dwarf names: Adamitar, Aerinor, Bazzitarg, Borax, Dumortar, Fluorar, Galenor, Hyalor, Idrialor, Kyanor, Lanthanir, Scorodar.


The elves of Yore are the standard elves of fantasy, with one exception – they are plants. Elves are more like dryads. Elves are plants and not animals. They resemble traditional elves in most ways, though their skin tends to have a green hue that changes to red, orange, or yellow in the fall and winter. This means that half-elves are impossible. While elves revere all of the Archons, they are most fond of The Artist, The Counselor, The Mage, and The Ranger. Elf names are based on angels. This is a metagame convention that is employed to create a cultural tone.

Some male elf names: Ezekiel, Forfax, Gabriel, Gazardiel, Hadraniel, Metatron, Omniel, Orifiel, Ramiel, Rashnu, Samandriel, Sariel.

Some female elf names: Verchielle, Taharialla, Sofielle, Michaela, Sophia, Sushinae, Seraphielle, Manakela, Remielle, Qaphsielle, Murielle, Jophielle.


The halflings of Yore are the standard halflings of fantasy. While halflings revere all of the Archons, they are most fond of the The Doctor (in the guise of The Midwife), The Knave (in the more benign for of The Trickster), and The Yeoman. Male halfling names are based on birds and theirs calls and songs. Female halfing names are based on herbs and wildflowers.

Some male halfling names: Hoypoo, Bobwhite, Tremolo, Grebe, Kee-arr, Sorah, Dee-dit, Kill-deer, Coowah, You-all, Will, Flicka.

Some female halfling names: Dandelion, Willow, Petunia, Azalea, Angelica, Hemlock, Cicely, Sassparilla, Aster, Marigold, Thistle, Crupina.


The humans of Yore are the standard humans of fantasy. Humans revere all of the Archons but hold different ones in higher esteem based on region. Likewise, names vary by region and can follow any number of conventions.

The Archons

Though they are gods, the Archons closely resemble people. They can be moved, angered and inspired. They think thoughts and feel emotions like people. And like people they have flaws and foibles, and profound secret strengths. They obey the laws of nature just like people.

To the best of any sage’s knowledge, the Archons have no true names. If they did then they have been long lost. Each is known by many names. There is no true organization or hierarchy to the Archons. They appear in art and song and story over and over again, often times in contradictory roles. Some stories have more popularity with a particular group or a particular area, though all understand that none of them are the one, true story.

The Archons are neither male nor female but can appear as either. The gender an Archon presents itself as depends on how it would best be seen or the part it is playing in a drama. Archons have many different names. The names listed above are the most common. For example, The Knave is also known as The Trickster, The Thief, The Jack, The Varlet, and The Skulk. Each of the different names focuses on a particular aspect of the Archon.

Archons can manifest as a being on Yore at will, and have done so many times. Usually an Archon will manifest only a portion of their essence. When an Archon manifests a form, they are often locally worshipped in that guise. In Cairn City, the wizards of the Magesterium are known to revere Lunaris the legendary Moon Mage as a manifestation of The Mage.

Archons can be prayed to and sometimes grant gifts, wishes, and miracles. Sometimes people have felt the wrath of an angered Archon. Individuals who dedicate their lives to a holy purpose can train as clerics and learn to cast cleric spells.

The Archons are:

• The Artist,
• The Counselor,
• The Doctor,
• The Knave,
• The Mage,
• The Noble,
• The Ranger,
• The Scholar,
• The Smith,
• The Stranger,
• The Warrior, and
• The Yeoman.

A Brief History of Early Yore

Long ago, before reckoning, Yore was a peaceful, plentiful land. People knew no danger, fear, or want. Everything was in balance. Life was so easy that people never needed to develop cities or tools. Time was so plentiful, and life so secure, that people turned to their imaginations and discovered the arcane arts of magic.

Over time, things changed. Perhaps a summoning brought him, perhaps he found a world ripe with potential, whatever the cause, the demon Abraxas came to Yore. He threw everything into chaos. What's more, with Abraxas came monsters. The world became a hostile, perilous place.

When the Archons found Yore, the paradise was torn asunder. Together, the Archons taught the inhabitants of Yore how to fight Abraxas and the monsters. The arts and sciences that are still practiced today were imparted on the people. Through the judicious use of their knowledge, tempered by their hearts, the people of Yore freed themselves of the demon Abraxas's power and created a great civilization.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The World of Yore

The world of Yore resembles Earth in many ways. Day follows night as sure as night follows day. The sun and clouds share the sky with the pale moon and unnumbered stars. The cycling of four seasons marks the passage of a year, while wind, rain, and all sorts of weather shape the land. All these natural forces, and one more – magic, define and refine the world of Yore.

Yore is one continent on an entire planet; however, to the inhabitants it is the world.

The far north is the Winterlands. The region's name reflects its character. Year round, snow and ice cover the land. It is not entirely inhospitable though. There are people who call it home. Most people settle around the delightful hot springs that pop up around the area.

Looking south, there is a land of sun and sand. A vast desert called the Miragelands, which stretches toward unknown boundaries. It is dotted with the occasional oasis, which serves the hardy inhabitants well.

In the middle, ranging from east to west, extends a large temperate zone. Mountains, forests, hills and plains make this most well traveled and homely region. The Splitstone mountain range, cloaked with clouds, reaches up to the sky. Caves honeycomb the slopes and peaks penetrating deep within. The peaks, named for the appearance of the age-weathered rock, cut across the land. Yore bares forests that can hold entire nations unto themselves. One such forest, the Wanderwood, does. Here also are grasslands and plains that appear as boundless and rolling as the seas that bookend the continent on either coast; the most notable is the Goldendisk Grasslands, which produce much of Yore’s farm goods.

Add to the mix the rivers, lakes, swamps, marshes, and hills and you have a land that has largely been mapped but still holds surprises for the most seasoned of adventurers. A wanderer can go days without seeing a soul, or might happen upon a different village for every meal, snack, or rest in one day’s hike.

Locations of note:

• The Steamveil Hot Springs in the Winterlands, a large trading post that resembles a perpetual festive;
• The Mud Pot Hot Spring, home to orcs and goblins;
• The Coolrun Oasis in the Miragelands, a neutral area where nomads stop to trade goods and stories;
• Agator’s Peak in the Splitstone Mountains, the range’s highest point, named for the dwarf who climbed it – alone;
• Agator’s Cave, home to the seat of the dwarf nation;
• The Ashmound Volcano in the Splitstone Mountains, a simmering but inactive volcano;
• The Crystal Tone Caverns in the Splitstone Mountains, where spelunkers and musicians delve to hear the naturally tuned crystals ring with haunting melodies;
• The Wanderwood, home of the seat of the elf nation;
• The Glasslake, large and serene, but what lies beneath…
• The Spring Rush River, a large long river that goes from roaring rapids to a placid, meandering flow;
• The Spillsilt Delta at the end of the Spring Rush, homes on docks, boats, and stilts abound;
• The Sucking Swamp, little can be said about this place, the few who have braved it aren’t alive to share what they have seen;
• The Goldendisk Grasslands, home of the seat of the halfling nation
• Cairn City, the largest settlement in all of Yore, home of the seat of the human nation and home of Castle Yore. The city has been built up around a large pile of stones in which, it is rumored, rests a dormant, ancient evil.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Introducing the world of Yore!

Common fantasy is comprised of a variety of themes from myth, folklore, legends, and fairy tales. The stuff of dreams and imagination is something with which to trifle, but that does not mean that it has any less depth or resonance. It stimulates us mentally and moves us emotionally. Fantasy touches something in us that returns us to childhood and connects us with the boundless reaches of human wondering. Clichés, tropes, and memes become widespread because they are effective. They are a shorthand language for concepts that can sometimes be complex. They help communicate the ideas and feelings that we fantasists intend.

In fashioning the world of Yore, I have embraced many of the clichés, tropes, and memes that make fantasy. I am a busy man. I dedicate myself to being a husband, father, and teacher. I spend most of my time pursuing those ends. As a game master, I do not have time for a lot of preparation. I can barely invest enough time into playing on a semi-weekly basis. For my friends, it is much the same.

The symbols of fantasy have become a sort of common language. It allows individuals with different experiences and viewpoints to begin communicating quickly. Whatever differences exist because of “dialect” can be viewed as personal quirks. They can even add to the richness and nuance of the conversation. Using the most prevalent components of the fantasy genre allows us to jump right in and play. Players have already invested the minimal time needed by enjoying games like "The Legend of Zelda" and "Final Fantasy," reading the works of Tolkien and Eddings, and watching movies like "Dragonslayer" and "Princess Mononoke."

You will notice that I have painted the landscape of Yore with broad strokes. If there is more detail in one part it reflects my idiosyncracies, and those with whom I game. Shoddy or sloppy work does the same. Take it for what it’s worth and remember the spirit with which I designed it. Enjoy.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

A bit of background first ...

A teenage boy visits his admiring, eleven year-old cousin. He finds a boy who has been devouring Greek mythology and The Hobbit. To pass the time, the teenager regales the boy with stories of his adventures. Dungeon crawls and tavern brawls, all taking place with friends around a table. When the young man departs, he leaves the boy’s imagination buzzing and his hands clutching a weathered issue of Dragon magazine. Later that year, the boy receives the Frank Mentzer, red box version of Basic Dungeons & Dragons.

Twenty-five years passed since that fateful encounter, and I, the boy, have been gaming ever since. I played many games and systems, and I read many more. Currently, I run Labyrinth Lord for a group of three players. In this blog, I will explore my campaign world and ruminate on the hobby of role playing gaming.