A Review of The Ice Kingdoms

Links to RPGNow and DriveThruRPG are Affiliate links. A portion of your purchase price supports this blog and helps buy products for use and review.

The Ice Kingdoms is fantasy RPG setting from a Kickstarter that funded on August 31, 2016, with a projected delivery of December, 2016. I was approached by Caleb Congrove, one of the additional writers,  at the end of January to do a review. He sent me the PDF of The Ice Kingdoms, a jpeg of the map, and a PDF of the adventure module, Lair of The White Wyvern. At this time, The Ice Kingdoms is available as a PDF on the OBS site RPGNow for $15, and Lulu for printing. With a $25 softcover, $30 hardcover, and $10 eBook options.

The three principle authors are C.C Barnhart, James M. Ward of Metamorphosis Alpha, Gama World, and many other things, and Chris Lites. There is a forward by E. Gary Gygax, Jr.

According to the Kickstarter video, there are three planned books for this setting. The first is the campaign book, The Ice Kingdoms, next will be a bestiary, and the third will be The Ice Kingdom Adventures, with demi-humans and adventure ideas. There is also a module written for the Kickstarter, by James M. Ward, Into The Mournwood. A total of five modules are planned.

I will review Lair of The White Wyvern separately.

Their website has a 404 error and the domain is returning a 500 Error at the time of this writing. Both worked a few weeks ago when I gathered the links for this review. However, you can find them on Facebook.

The map is focused on a regions several hundred miles on a side, giving a wide range of places for adventure. It also features in a two page spread in the book. The map is available on Printer Studio.

This is a Norse inspired setting, that also takes from Greek mythology and near Eastern myths to make its own variation. It is intentionally low magic, where there are no corner potion shops, or markets that sell magical items.

This is a human centric setting, but dwarves and gnomes, and halflings are a possibility. Elves are described as evil enemies of humanity, much like in Norse lore. There are thanes and earls, and a few kings. Women have no restrictions on being adventuring types, as it is specifically mentioned.

Jarls, Karls, and Thralls are the three main societal ranks. Thralls are slaves. Bondsmen are debtors who are temporarily lowered to the status of thrall until they work off their debt. Thralls can earn their way to freedom.

Karls are free men and women. There are further subdivisions. Jarls are the nobility and include thanes, jarls, landsmen, and kings. Most of these titles are for the individual to attain and keep. Few but the most wealthy and powerful kings have their sons succeed them.

Outcasts are not under the law, but also don’t benefit from its protections. They are considered lower than thralls. Types of outcasts include: tramps, seers, sorcerers, witches, beggars, or criminals. Some may be mistreated, but others have the ability to protect themselves or work revenge.

Next is a discussion of diet, crops, trade goods, and ships. All heavily influenced by the Norse of our world.

In chapter 4 we get to the characters. Ability scores recommend using 4d6 drop the lowest, to generate above average heroic types. In addition, at every even numbered level a character can increase one ability by 1 point, with exceptional strength only being 10%. There are level limits of 15th level, with 16th & 17th level achieved by divine encounters or something like limited wish. 18th level requires both divine intervention and a wish spell. If a character gains enough XP to reach 19th level, They are wisked away to serve the gods or serve out their eternal punishment.

Character death: When a human character dies there is a 5% chance per level that their soul is called to serve their deity in Valagard (or
to be punished in the underworld).

All born in the cold nothlands have two special traits: Ice Born, and Cold Blooded that give them bonuses verses cold effects and even insanity, since they are used to staying indoors for much of the cold winter.

There are multiple sorts of humans. Each type has a favored class in which they can gain additional XP bonuses. Each group also has restricted classes, in that if they pick a class out side of that list they have penalties. The bonuses affect abilities, saves, and include additional abilities. This is an interesting idea that make different groups stand out. With the bonuses plus the point buy every other level, exceptional characters will be the norm. This is perhaps one way to bring the heroic into the game without overpowering the lower levels. However, being a harsh and unforgiving place, with many foes, GMs can match this power boost with an extra foe here and there in encounters. As an old school DM, not all encounters are meant to be fought, so even heroic types need to know when not to fight.

The character races described are one of the human races, or dwarves. Humans of other racial groups and other demi-human races could be used at the GM’s discretion.

Sorcerers are added a a multi-classing option starting as a claric and switching to magic-user.

Demi-Human multi-classing – once a class hits maximum level, the other class that can still advance does not divide XP. This is an interesting idea. One I had not encountered before.

Magic is feared and seen as a sign of evil, except for clerical servants of the gods, and tribal shaman and wise elders. They include: Rune Magic, Clerical Power, Druidic Power, Hagcraft, and Sorcery. The setting advises true arcane casters to be rare, and the same with their spells, of the Invocation/Evocation and Alteration schools. Either treat them as one level higher, unless acquired form a travelling mage or scroll. Most use runecasting in their spells.

There are different types of runes. there is the normal letter and number runes used for writing, and then there are runes for other mystical purposes: The two types of power runs – spell runes for casting spells and magic runes for making magic items. Luck runes and True Runes are more powerful forms of spell runes. Oracles may use Fortune Runs, called bones or sticks in their divinations. Master runes are used by arcane casters in place of spell books and are the component used in arcane spell casting. Spell runes must be carved and used with Master runes for casting spells. If there is a lack of spell runes, traditional components may be used.

15 new spells specific to the setting. 6 new magic items. Standing stones are a special magic item requiring 50 levels of priestly magic to construct and has lots of restrictions. Upon successful construction, it can be used to boost one aspect of a priestly spell. This is a neat idea that I can see being used by druidic sects.

The pantheon of the Ice Kingdoms has its own chapter and relays the way the gods interrelate and the basis for the current religious and cultic activities. Cult is not used in the sociological sense, but as a sign of the evil beings out to punish humanity.

There is a whole long chapter on the priests of the various gods and what kings of armor and weapons, and other items such priests are permitted. For example, some can’t use shields. The power and station of a deity determine what level of spell they can grant. Such as only greater gods can bestow 7th level spells. This ties the whole mythos together and makes it an interlocking whole.

The chapter on the region’s geography is a gazetteer style, and include a two page map like that of the jpeg I was sent. It describes an immense 150,000 square mile area of mystery and adventure opportunities. there are three weather tables that begin with a modifier to daily temperature, and a general regional temperature table based on the 4 main latitudes of the region. there is a simplified table for generation of rain, snow, or special dependent on time of year.

Arfhrdheim is the main ancient city of the region, that was founded by a mythical king, and it used more as a ceremonial and traditional center of meeting. for one who dares, There is the opportunity to claim the mantle of king. The districts of the city and a general history and explanation, along with a map are given, for use when characters journey here.

The Flora dn Fauna of the ice kingdoms go into the humanoid races and other creatures found there. With frigid-zone versions of common creatures, to the very rare elves, who are faery creatures. These are merely descriptions and there are no stat blocks. Not all of them are listed in the bestiary in Appendix B, so one must turn to their rule system of choice or develop the stats for these creatures themselves.

The Details:

The Ice Kingdoms

(c) 2016 Mad Martian Games, 202 pages

Three main authors: CS Barnhart, James M. Ward, and Chris Lites.

Uses OSRIC so 1e compatible, and easily used with B/X and the various retro clones. On page 160 in appendix A, it mentions:
“NOTE: By default this book is designed more toward the side of basic era, first era and second era of play. In particular it is designed to be used with For Gold & Glory, Labyrinth Lord: Advanced Edition Companion or OSRIC.”

The Table of Contents is linked, but links to some pages seem to be off a page. Some land on the page before the heading, and some land just after the heading. I would like to see consistency in where the links hit.

It has what appears to be a great index, that is linked. This is a big help when using a PDF reader.

Chapters include:

  1. Kingdoms of Blood and Ice
  2. History of the Ice Kingdoms
  3. Of Thanes and Thralls
  4. Characters in the Ice Kingdoms
  5. Magic in the Ice Kingdoms
  6. Legends and Lore of the Ice Kingdoms
  7. Temples of the Ice Kingdoms
  8. Geography of the Ice Kingdoms
  9. The City of Arfhrdheim
  10. Flora and Fauna of the Ice Kingdoms

There are seven appendices:

A Basic Conversion Notes:
This deals with converting to the use of other rule sets. This covers 3 pages. The first section on Dice Modifiers is a bit awkward, and doesn’t have an example to make it clear. It is for converting s. bonuses, like strength and dexterity bonuses to a d100 check. I would like to see this cleaned up. There is a table of Dice Modifiers, but it falls after the discussion on Armor Class. This is a layout issue, rather than lack of explanation.

There is a discussion on converting from descending AC to Ascending AC, as well as THAC0 to Base Hit Bonus.

Next mentions skills & proficiencies, and generally how to convert to different “eras” of the rules.

Hit Dice conversion chart for advanced & basic rules with special notes. A discussion of Hit Dice and Hit Points is after this and the following table.

Terminology of what the diffeerent classes are called in different eras. This has a table for what classes were originally called. I suspose for those not in the know, this is a useful bit of Rosetta Stone. There is a heading for this topic with one line, “Class terminology also varies across the different eras of gaming.” Again, this is AFTER the table.

The final two table in this section follow the discussion, surprise and exceptional strength.

B Bestiary
The bestiary is only 12 pages, but definitely sets the tone for the setting. Each creature is in tune with the nordic setting of the north and far north.

  • Hagling
  • Ice Elf (Wraith Elf)
  • Ice Hag
  • Minotaur
  • Orcs (also known as hobgoblins or goblin men) are mansized
  • Owlbear, Thanic – The polar bear version of an owlbear.
  • Stone Dwarves
  • Wereborn:
  • Wereborn, Arkon – Arkons are wereborn offspring of a werehorse. They are hulking humanoids with the muscular body of a human
    and the head of a horse.
  • Wereborn, Dynarthion – Dynarthions are wereborn who live far from civilized lands, most often in low hills and semi-mountainous regions in deep forests. A dynarthion has the head and torso
    of a human and the lower body of a bear.
  • Wereborn, Ratborn – Ratborn are humanoids, they appear to be bipedal rats, slightly shorter than humans,

C Adventures in the Ice Kingdoms
This gives two pages with examples of the types of adventures one can find in this setting.

  • Raids
  • Exploration
  • Defense
  • Politics
  • War
  • Survival
  • Classic
  • Sword and Sorcery
  • The Wildland


The major threats to the Ice Kingdoms are as follows.

  • Rival Thanes
  • Hags
    The abandoned daughter of the gods and her kin….
  • The Cult of O’Mawj
    The forbidden god O’Mawj has a secret cult that infests the
    people of the Ice Kingdoms. Many clans and tribes of the
    Varyag still pay homage to the cannibal god and engage in
    his brutal rituals and ceremonies.
  • The Frozen Thrones
    Hidden deep in the Frozen Thrones lies a powerful undead
    lord dedicated to reclaiming his rightful rule over the land
    of the Ice Kingdoms.
  • Giants
    The giants are still bitter over the fall of Thrymtur to Uthin.
  • Trolls
    The children of the hags, trolls are set lose to lurk and hunt
    in caves, woods, streams and hills of the Ice Kingdoms as
    a means to annoy, harass and terrorize the humans of the
    Ice Kingdoms.
  • Orcs
    The orcs lost much of their original homelands promised to
    them by their god Belac
  • Frost Men
    A rumored threat coming from the Jotunreach

D Clerical Spheres
This is a list of all the spells found in the original game and current retro clones and lists which retro clone has that spell. It includes the new spells introduced with the setting. 13? new spells.?

Spells with a “Y” in the FG&G, M&M, and BFRP
columns can be found in For Gold & Glory, Myth & Magic,
and Basic Fantasy Role Playing Game, respectively. “C” and
“D” in the OSRIC and LL columns denote cleric and druid
spells for OSRIC and Labyrinth Lord Advanced Edition Companion;
spells labeled with “B” in the LL column are found
in the core Labyrinth Lord book.

The sphere of a spell is tied to the deity a cleric follows and if their deity does not include a certain sphere, it limits or prevents them from using spells outside their sphere, or incures penalties and disfavor.

Each spell is listed as what sphere it is in, with this list.

  • All
  • Animal
  • Astral
  • Charm
  • Combat
  • Divination
  • Elemental
  • Guardian
  • Healing
  • Healing
  • Necromancy
  • Plant
  • Protection
  • Summoning
  • Sun
  • Weather

E Cultural Miscellanea
This includes the setting calendar with an explanation of the months, and number of days and names of the week days, and seasons. There is also the dwarven calendar.

There is a brief mention of constellations and the names for the 13 constellations.

Finally, there is a list of human and dwarven names with a naming convention for humans.

F The Codex of Eordan
This is a discussion of the planet Eordan and its place in the solar system of several planets. There is no more mention of them. Eordan has four continents, only two are significantly explored. There is a map showing where these two land masses meet. There are four moons. The primary one is just called the moon. The Faemoon is only visible to the fae or revealed with powerful magics. the rotan moon is only visible to those with infravision. Finally, the mythical Tide Moon, viewed as a tall tale told by sailors.

N Games to Play
This is a list of various RPGs that can be used with the Ice Kingdoms settings.

What I liked:

  • This has a feeling of the Norsemen of our world, but it not a complete copy and paste like would be tempting to do.
  • There is room for GMs to use that which suits them.
  • Those looking for a pre-packaged campaign setting for a northern setting will find it here.
  • This is a low-magic setting.
  • It is not tied solely to a single ruleset, and it can easily be used as-is with OSRIC or AD&D 1e.
  • Most of the rules sets it works with are available for free.
  • A new rules set is not needed, one can use their preferred rules, unless they want a change.
  • Tables for translating to various rules and versions of the game.
  • For GMs who want to pick a setting and go, this is all one needs.
  • A GM can easily insert this setting into a portion of their game world to use when players want something different.
  • The Table of contents is linked.
  • There is an index and the page numbers are linked.
  • The clerical spheres chart is in level number order, within each sphere.
  • The black & white art fits the Nordic setting of snow & ice.

What I’d Like to see:

  • Consistency in where Table of contents links land.
    Table of Contents links working on tablets. (I used the Adobe Reader on my Galaxy 5 tablet.)
  • Tables in the appendices following the discussion related to that table.
  • Some of the artwork looks rushed or unfinished. Some of the art appears to be a quick sketch that was cleaned up for production.
  • Some art looks like a very light pencil sketch, where pen and ink would translate better to the page, and fit the tone of the other art.
  • One more pass by an editor or proof reader on the introduction and the appendices.


This is a setting I could use, if I were in need of such a setting. Currently, I am building a new area in my campaign world that could have a Nordic feel in one area, but not where the characters will start. I think it gives designers of other settings something to think about. There is a new take on handling variances in human groups, and it does not automatically assume all the classes of old will be available. New spells, ideas for using magic, and some new or varied creatures gave me several ideas for potential future use.

I almost backed this Kickstarter, but was well over the limit of what I needed. I thought that I could do my own north lands setting, but this is far and away better than I could or would have done.

Other than some editing, layout, and art issues, I didn’t see anything to jump out and dissuade me from this product.

There is so much packed into these 202 pages, that I think the value is definitely there for those who want or need such a well defined setting.

The Kickstarter video:


Print Friendly

Update – The RPG History Project

As I have mentioned multiple times [see below], I am a backer of the Patreon for the RPG History Project.

I got permission from Pat Kilbane to mention two dates in the latest backer update.

  1. The last of the interviews will be recorded during Gary Con in March.
  2. There will be an announcement of the film’s title in April.

It’s getting closer to the finish line, and the other two D&D documentaries are still in legal limbo. Support this Patreon and help get this one out faster!

Please consider helping Pat and crew get this film done sooner.

Pat also does other videos on various aspects of RPGs, such as how strength and hit points translate to the real world.

My Articles to Date on The RPG History Project:

Rebuilding Trust

Tim Kask – First 5 years at TSR

The Great Kingdom Mess

Patreons I Support

My posts from Gary Con last year:





Print Friendly

Dungeon Grappling – eBook Review

I have already done a review of an advanced copy, PDF, and book for Dungeon Grappling. Doug did above I beyond and along with the PDF released two eBook formats ePub & mobi.

I fired up my Kindle and loaded it up. It is Black & white with no graphics for speed at the table. All the content is otherwise the same. It has the linked table of contents and index like the PDF.

It has a clean and crisp layout. I’ve not tried using my Kindle at the table, but I may have to give it a go.

I also fired up my Samsung Galaxy 5 tablet and opened it in the Aldiko reader and it looks good there too. The PDF looks good on my tablet as well.

If you have an eBook reader, or want it on your phone or a tablet, this is a cool option to have.

This part is worth repeating:

Doug took one reviewer to heart about the art and has published a book of just the art. The cut is for the artists to get a bonus, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, and towards a bit of the overhead. You can buy Dungeon Grappling On DriveThruRPG and on Doug’s website, Gaming Ballistic.

Print Friendly

Dungeon Grappling – Book Review

I was right in yesterday’s post when I said I squeaked my review of the PDF of Dungeon Grappling in under the wire before the arrival of the book today!

It is an 8.5 x 11 inch AKA U.S. letter sized volume in softcover. It has a wraparound cover image that Doug sprang for when the Kickstarter was only $180 short of the goal.

The art is more gorgeous on the printed page. I mentioned in my review of the PDF that the background image did not obscure the text. The same is true of the physical book. There is a bit of a shine at some angles, but that does not stop it from being legible like some slick-paper books with a background image I have, like the 5e rulebooks.

I’m old and remember rule books with perforated sheets in the back. While this book has 3 reference sheets in the back, they are not perforated. That’s OK with me, since I wouldn’t mar a book anyway. Also the PDF has the same sheets and it is trivial to print those three sheets if you need them.

If you prefer physical books for your rules, or you just like cool art, this book is for you. The PDF, two formats of eBook, and this volume were at the $18 level, plus shipping. I sprang for the bundle of the 8 issues of The Manor. Plus, the physical book with an initial goal of shipping in April has arrived in January!

Doug Cole has taken to heart the advice of +Erik Tenkar over at Tenkar’s Tavern and many others. Doug is planning another Kickstarter, and from this experience, if he does anything else that I find useful at the table, I will back that Kickstarter!

This part is worth repeating:

Doug took one reviewer to heart about the art and has published a book of just the art. The cut is for the artists to get a bonus, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, and towards a bit of the overhead. You can buy Dungeon Grappling On DriveThruRPG and on Doug’s website, Gaming Ballistic.


Print Friendly

Dungeon Grappling Final PDF Reviewed.

I was honored to get an advance copy of the PDF based on my review of Grappling Old School, in +Tim Short’s The Manor #8. Check out Tim’s blog, Gothridge Manor. Based on comments in my review of the advanced copy, Doug made changes. He did this based on feedback from all the reviewers. He went above and beyond and even though the Kickstarter was just shy of the final stretch goal for a custom cover, he did it anyway.

The PDF comes in at 53 pages, it has awesome art, and the table of contents is hyperlinked. The index also contains hyperlinks to the page numbers. Color coding of the section headers is continued in the table of contents and the index. There is a background image, but unlike most of them I have seen, here it is faded out so I can actually read the text. Attention to the details of both usability and legibility in the text is awesome!

There is an in-depth overview of the core concepts for a cleaner, simpler, and easier to run grappling system. It covers generic concepts that will accommodate any older rule set, as well as many clones. There is also special focus for both D&D 5e and Pathfinder. Monstrous grappling is also discussed. Finally, there is a reference section with three reference sheets, one of my suggestions, to reduce the need to refer back to the rules.

One can take all of this system, or just the parts they need. I play AD&D, and its grappling system is so cumbersome that few dare try it. I plan to implement this in the games I run and an upcoming special project game on Roll20.

Along with the release of the PDF, there is an eBook format in both mobi and ePub formats. I’ll also fire up my Kindle and review the eBook as soon as I can.

This was Doug’s first Kickstarter and he is delivering way ahead of schedule. The PDF was slated for February, and delivered in January. The printed book was planned for April delivery, but has shipped in January. His constant updates were to the point of wishing it would ease up a bit. But unlike some notoriously failed Kickstarters, that is the kind of problem a back wants. the books have shipped and I’ll be getting mine any day now. Look for a review of the physical book soon!

Doug took one reviewer to heart about the art and has published a book of just the art. The cut is for the artists to get a bonus, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, and towards a bit of the overhead. You can buy Dungeon Grappling On DriveThruRPG and on Doug’s website, Gaming Ballistic.

Print Friendly

Trap Idea – Take One Thing and Expand on It

Take something simple, and think of all the ways this could be used, it could all be in the same dungeon, or series of dungeons/tombs. Perhaps all the tomb builders of a certain epoch used them.

I’m just now dipping my toes into Reddit and decided to build on a comment I made to a thread asking for trap ideas for a kobold infested dragon cave. [It’ll be at least 30 days before I can make my own subreddit. You can find me here.]

Have a giant rock or cube the shape of the corridor fill up the space.
It doesn’t have to kill. Use it to stop entrance or exit and otherwise direct the adventurers along the path most favorable to the kobolds.
Think of all the ways you can use a giant block of stone to impede and frustrate their efforts. Be sure to think in 3 dimensions.

Examples with a 10X10X10 dungeon corridor.

  • The block that falls can’t be pushed or pulled as it is a tight fit and there is a slight lip in the floor around its base.
  • The block falls just in front to make them turn back or aside at an intersection.
  • The block falls after they enter a room and exit on opposite wall has one that will fall before they can leave the room.
    • There can be no exit and the party waits for rescue or attack, or figures a way out.
    • There can appear to be no exit, but there is a secret door or trap door in the flor/ceiling.
    • The room is water tight or mostly water tight. Maybe there is a secret drain that opens up when the room is full and the occupants are passed out.
    • The room is airtight and the party passes out 1d6 rounds after the torches go out.
      • If no fire-based light and they have magic light, perhaps it lasts several hours or days before they pass out. It all depends on the size of the room.
    • The cliche walls/floors/ceilings of spikes close in.
      • Have it stop a few feet from the players independent of their efforts to stop it and the floor drops out from under them.
      • How can you make that fun & different?
        • Hallucinogenic poison makes them think they can see through or walk through walls….
        • Instead of filling with water or sewage, fill it with snow, ice cubes, or gold (molten if you’re mean.).
  • Have a giant stone fall so fast that the party doesn’t see the person in the lead simultaneously fall through a trap door. The person appears to have been squished into paste. If it’s an NPC, you can have them show up in a totally unexpected place. If a player, they will have to play along, depending on how strongly you want a big reveal that they aren’t dead.
    • Related to this have a cloud of dust roil as the person who sprung a trap falls through a trap door so fast it looks like they disappeared. All that is left is a pile of dust on the floor. You know, like they were disintegrated.
  • Spring a trap door and a stone block falls:
    • It can crush those below it, or have enough of a lip to seal the pit.
    • The pit could be a container that is replaced by a block, i.e. slid aside, before the stone falls. Those looking down will see those in the pit slide away. think fast and step back….
  • Have ways the kobolds can easily move blocks out of the way, and players will come back around and the stones are gone….
    • Sliding walls can receive the block that is pushed across the hallway and an elevator contraption reloads the trap.
    • Other creative mechanisms. They don’t all have to be automated.
      • They could require kobolds or their prisoners to use a “hamster wheel” like used for ancient & medieval cranes.
      • It could require ropes and pullies and work gangs of kobolds to reset.
  • A stone block actually is a secret room but the players have to find it in the portion facing them.
    • The secret door could lead to the passage on the other side.
    • The secret door could lead to the room to the side of the block. The block could be two blocks wide with a portion of the wall part of the enormous Tetris-like block.
      • If not an extra big block in a Tetris-like shape, don’t the person who finds and opens the secret door…
  • Add in trap doors in the ceiling and floor for kobolds to drop down on the part or come up behind them, or to have cover/concealment for firing at the party.
  • Add in sliding walls to open firing platforms or direct players trough a maze. They can be automated when they step on a trigger or require the kobolds to have enough of them to keep up with the party’s advance.
  • You can even throw in a gelatinous cube being dropped from the ceiling…. They’re 10′ cubes, at least in the versions I play.
    • There could be a nesting ground of them above the dungeon level and when ceilings open up under their weight, they fall.
      • Or the dungeon designers seeded them and have triggers to let them drop at the right time and place.
    • Use sliding floors to reveal a 10′ cube pit with a gelatinous cube in it. Remember its pseudopods can draw in food.
    • Have a couple that are particularly full of treasure  and well back-lit to help overcome the party’s reluctance to fight it.
    • Drop cubes at opposite ends of corridors when the party is at halfway, and stone block drop behind the gelatinous cubes.
    • Swap out any other kind of slime, mold, or jelly.
  • In addition to all of the above, the blocks and such can be used to direct wandering monsters, whether intelligent or not, into the party. Why should the kobold fight when the big nasties they found in here can do it for them?
  • Swap stone for ice, have a wall of ice spell go off in the right shape. Remember in AD&D a falling wall of ice is like an ice storm….
    • Swap stone for anything else you can think of.
  • Use round stones, a la Indiana Jones.
    • Pick other fun shapes to make the trap stand out and either be a time waster for the party to puzzle over, or really be a puzzle.

In the above examples, determine if the kobolds (or other intelligent monster) found these existing traps and embraced them, or if they are of their own construction. Or are the kobolds maintaining what they found, but “not up to code?”

For comic relief, roll for a chance for the kobolds to pull the wrong lever at the wrong time revealing their rope-powered winches and pullies. Roll for surprise to see if the Kobolds can recover before they are noticed. Except for the noise behind the party….

I started with a stone block and added in pits, moving walls, floors, and ceilings, and so forth. In the same way, start with something simple and look at it just a bit differently.

  • What can you do with it that you or a player wouldn’t expect?
  • What can you do with it with and without magic? (Technology for other genres.)
  • Find one of your child’s or grandchild’s toys or other household item.  What can you do with that?
  • Pay attention to the things you see at the big box stores or hardware store.
  • What overheard conversation from public places sparks an idea?

Don’t limit yourself to traps. You can do this with secret doors, hidden compartments, etc.

If you grab onto one of these ideas of taking one thing and going with it, you can end up with ideas coming so fast that you can’t keep up with them. Embrace those moments. Make notes, organize them, make tables and charts to help generate more ideas. (There’s another series of articles for the blog in all this too!)



Print Friendly

AD&D Core Books Print On Demand!

This week WotC released the core books of AD&D as print on demand (POD). That is, the Players Handbook, Monster Manual, and Dungeon Masters Guide. [Affiliate links, a portion goes to help me buy more stuff to use & review.]

My Stack Of AD&D Manuals Less One PH And one DDG
My Stack Of AD&D Manuals Less One PHB And one DDG

They clock in at $24.99 each, plus shipping. At that price, they are a bit more than some table copies you can occasionally find. However, a LOT cheaper than the nicer copies from a few years ago.

The text is based on the reprints from a few years back. the layout is close to the original, but there is at least one new errata introduced in the PHB. It is interesting that the original PHB was never fixed for its errata. I don’t know if the re-prints fixed that errata or not.

We found a typo during play the other day on the cleric spell progression chart on p. 20 of the PHB. It is OK in the original PHB. The asterisk indicating max 6th level spells is on 5th level spells in the re-print.
The wisdom table on p. 11 is correct.

I don’t see a way to report such things to One Bookshelf or WotC. I’m not sure if they even care. It is minor, but could add to arguments if not known.

I’ve expanded to 5 table copies for players, plus my original PHB my Mom got me for Christmas way back when. I also have the OSRIC Player’s Guide, and the OSRIC full lay flat.

So if $75 plus shipping is too much for physical books, look for older original copies. Or, you can go with the OSRIC lay flat which is the rough equivalent of all three volumes on Lulu for $15.50 plus shipping.

I think this is a smart move on the part of WotC. For a bit of a time investment in converting older titles to nicer PDFs, they get a PDF sale, and for those who want it in physical form, they get get the sale, instead of those who take their PDFs to Lulu or other sources to get a hard copy. I mentioned this a while back here, here, and here.

They’ve added the original D&D books and in the last few weeks Chainmail to the list of PDFs available.

I would like to see Holmes Basic, so I can have a table copy instead of the copy I bought to replace my original that I gave to my little brother when I went off to college.

I have a page just for the AD&D PDFs that I will update as POD is added.

Print Friendly

Where Can I Find a Game Convention?

There is a lot of talk online about what game conventions are happening, or those that many plan to attend.

I recently had a friend inquire about cons in his general area. I thought I had written about

Google is my first tool of choice to find things with an online presence.

There are several site that share lists of cons. My favorite is Game Convention Central.  I last wrote about them in 2014. It has groupings by country, and then region within the country. Like most lists I found, since my primary language is English, and I live in the USA, the lists focus on the U.S.

Game Convention Central has a page to submit cons that aren’t on their list. They also have a game/gamer search for those looking for players in their area.

BoardGameGeek also has a list of conventions. It is also grouped by country.

Similarly, Wikipedia has a list of gaming conventions grouped by country and region.

Upcoming Cons is a site that has a long list of cons in date order on the front page. It goes to November, 2017 and has one at the bottom already for 2018. It is mostly US. I spied one in the UK. They have a page to submit cons not already on their list. They also have a rating system, and have categories to divide up the cons. This seems to be cons of all sorts, with a specific gaming con list.

Local cons in your area may be organized by the local college or university and not much advertised beyond campus and local game stores. If you don’t already know about cons in your area, and they are not on the above lists, if and when you do find them, please add them above to help others find them.

When the local con in my area, Marmalade Dog, isn’t the same weekend as Gary Con, I will be at it running and playing games. Support your local cons, not just the ones with all the big names. Local cons have more opportunity to find local players of like mindset. They are also a lot cheaper and can be from one to 3 days. Best of all, you don’t need a hotel since you live nearby.

Print Friendly

No WOTC at GenCon 50

WOW! Not the year i’d pick to skip Gen Con, the 50th is a big deal. Personally, Gen Con is too big for me, and also a time of year I can’t easily get off work. I first saw mention of this over on Tenkar’s Tavern.

I hope their attendance at Gary Con and not Gen Con doesn’t force rapid growth at Gary Con. It’s cool to keep it in Lake Geneva. I’d hate to see them cap attendance or move, but I also don’t want it too big.

Same with GameHole, good size.

I’m curious what no official D&D presence at GenCon will mean? I assume no WOTC means no “official” D&D games/tournaments. I’m sure they will still have DMs running their adventures that count for their adventure league or whatever it is called. It probably won’t hurt as people will still play.


Print Friendly

New Art For the Blog by Satine Phoenix

I’m super exited to share my new blog banners and icon/avatar by the talented +Satine Phoenix.

She gave me two versions of each, so I’ll have to put them on rotation, since I can’t decide which I like better. I really like how the image of the avatar is like an arrow pointing to the right. This fits right in with the left to right reading of the blog title.

You can see other examples of Satine’s work here. Her plate is very full, so allow plenty of lead time if you have a target date for art.

Be sure and watch Satine on her live play D&D (Eberron Campaign) show at Maze Arcana on Sundays 12-4 PST.

The new banners:

By Satine Phoenix
By Satine Phoenix
By Satine Phoenix
By Satine Phoenix


The figure in the avatar is from my favorite AD&D character, Griswald, and half-elf Cleric/Fighter/Magic-User, I have written about elsewhere on the blog. The shield design is based on one my brother, the DM drew. This gave rise, in game, to his nickname, “The Wolf”. My brother also taunted me with what I settled on for the title of this blog. Read more here, and here, and hear it here, where I attempt to emulate the way my brother says it.

Satine was also kind enough to record an introduction for my inactive YouTube channel at GaryCon 8 last year. Here’s the Blooper reel.

The new avatars:

By Satine Phoenix
By Satine Phoenix
By Satine Phoenix
By Satine Phoenix

Satine suggested the black background for a T-shirt. I’ll order and see how they look. Might be something I offer for sale in the future. Suggestions for online services that don’t require outrageous prices to make money on T-shirt sales are welcome.

I also engaged another busy artist for an art upgrade to the blog, and his preliminary sketch is so on target to what we discussed. I’m pumped to see his final work. I’ll announce who it is with the big reveal.

Print Friendly

Ramblings of an Old Gamer