Category Archives: D&D

Echo Chamber News Flash: D&D PDFs Are Back

In case you somehow miss the news in all of the other thousands of places where it has been (or will be) announced… PDFs of old D&D material (including AD&D, AD&D 2e, and more) are now available for legal purchase from RPGNow.

Apparently the titles that are currently available are only the first wave of releases and (many) more will be coming, so if you don’t see the thing you’re looking for, don’t despair just yet.

Now then, if you’l excuse me, I think I need to wander off and acquire a copy of Against The Giants.

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What Fresh Pao Is This?

Well howdy there, anyone who still happens to have Strange Stones in their RSS readers! Yeah. I know. Long time, no blog. I just haven’t had anything I felt compelled to share. But I have been gaming some, at least:

  • The year-plus Call of Cthulhu campaign I was playing in just went on hiatus after, well, more than a year.
  • The Dungeon Crawl Classics game I started up with some friends has made it through three sessions and the fourth is going to happen, just a little delayed because of work schedules and new babies and such amongst the crew.
  • Another guy I know is talking about starting up a 1st edition AD&D campaign that I’m leaning towards playing in.
  • Oh, and I got to play in a session of Mythic Iceland (BRP) that was pretty cool.

And since it’s now October I find my mind turning to:

  • The Chill/Ghostbusters thing I always want to run around Halloween but never do (and probably won’t again this year)
  • The Thanksgiving game I’ve run the past few years with my oldest of gamer buddies (but probably won’t this year due to some logistical stuff)
  • The half-dozen or more games I want to run, kinda sorta (but probably never will, for assorted reasons ranging from lack of player interest to lack of time in anyone’s schedule and beyond)

But hey, I’m gaming at least semi-regularly and that’s a good thing.

In Other News
The Sword’s new album comes out in just two weeks. And the advance tracks I’ve heard have been tasty. So that’s exciting.

And speaking of music, I’ve been playing a lot of bass lately (I’ve been playing bass almost as long as I’ve been gaming), having taken up with an absurdist jazz punk art noise rock ensemble here in Austin. We’ve even, in spite of the expected limitations of the genre, had a couple of actual gigs and there are at least a couple of additional shows on the horizon. And some recording that should actually lead to some kind of released album of some sort. So that’s a thing or two.

What Now?
Well, I’m not going to shut the blog down or anything. There’s stuff here that people keep finding and enjoying (the mighty G-Man’s BoL adventures, if nothing else). And really, who knows when inspiration will strike and I’ll have to start posting like mad again or risk burning up from the inside? So there’s not really an answer to the question I’m afraid. I just decided I should poke my head in and say hello, yes, I’m fine, thank you, how are you? So I did.


p.s. I’ve been trying to read a lot more of the Appendix N classics lately, too. Poul Anderson’s The Broken Sword is on my table right now. Just beneath it in the stack you’ll find Clark Ashton Smith, the smattering of Lovecraft I’ve never read, Beowulf, the recent non-Conan REH compilations, Vance, Moorcock, and more. Yay, books!

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The Reprints

Surely you’ve read by now that, come April, Wizards of the Coast will be releasing reprints of the AD&D Players Handbook, Dungeon Masters Guide, and Monster Manual.

This is exciting news, even if I’m not entirely sure that I’m interested in purchasing reprints. I mean, I don’t need them. I’ve got my original books and I picked all of the old AD&D books up as PDFs back when WotC was selling them at RPGNow. I’m also not quite sure how I feel about the idea of new “commemorative” covers for these editions, but that will ultimately depend on the covers once we see them.

I’ll cop to having balked at the prices when I first saw them late last night, but in retrospect they’re not at all unreasonable. Assuming the books are solidly put together, that is. I’m inclined to believe they will be, of course. But it’ll be awfully hard to beat the bindings that were done on the originals. Those things might as well be wrapped in titanium!

So that’s that. It’s definitely a nice thing to have happen. And very surprising. Now if only WotC would put PDFs of all the old material back on sale. That would be truly awesome.

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A New Edition Of D&D? Meh.

I don’t like saying “meh.” I don’t even like the concept of “meh.” And yet, the news (Forbes, New York Times) that WotC is officially working on a new edition of D&D pretty much makes me go “meh” even though I don’t want to. I’m so far removed from anything resembling “official” D&D – I haven’t played a “current” edition of D&D since a brief and ill-fated 3rd edition campaign in 2001-2002, and prior to that it would have been some 1st edition AD&D stuff in ’84 or so – that this really doesn’t mean all that much to me. Except that the signal-to-noise ratio online just got worse as a whole new group of people fire up their outrage and angst engines to complain that their edition has been slighted.

Meh aside, I’ll pay attention to what develops. I might even try to weigh in on the process if anyone in my gaming group expresses an interest in poking at the playtest stuff when it becomes available (which is pretty unlikely, since we’re all happily playing BRP, BoL, Labyrinth Lord/Mutant Future, Mini Six, Advanced Fighting Fantasy, or what-have-you). And I do wish this venture well – at least if it succeeds it might shut up the “RPGs are dooooomed!” crowd some.

Oh, and I do like where Jeff Rients is taking this. Seems like something that a more motivated (and optimistic) individual than I might even try to set up an online petition for…

p.s. Does anyone else find it amazing that both Forbes and the New York Times are covering this? That just seems unfathomable to my inner twelve-year-old geek.

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Quick & Dirty BoL to Labyrinth Lord Conversion

We’ve been over this before, but it never hurts to say it. I love Barbarians of Lemuria. It’s a great little system that inspires me and I find it painless to write stuff for it. Of course, great as it is it has a limited player base, especially when compared to a certain well-known 800 lb. gorilla of the RPG scene. So here are some notes I’ve knocked together for converting BoL characters to Labyrinth Lord and other games in that big ol’ extended family. Use or ignore as you see fit.


First up, the ever important Attributes. Just like in my Quick & Dirty BoL to BRP Conversion post, attribute values can be derived by taking the BoL value, doubling it and then adding 10 to it. So a BoL merchant with a Strength of 1 would have STR 12 in LL while a mighty thewed-barbarian with a Strength of 4 in BoL would rock an 18 STR in LL. And so on. Hooray for that 3-18 scale that’s so popular with a certain era of games!

Of course, we need to map the BoL stats to LL stats. Here’s what I propose:

  • BoL Might = LL Str, Con
  • BoL Agility = LL Dex
  • BoL Mind = LL Int, Wis
  • BoL Appeal = LL Charisma

As with the BoL-to-BRP conversion, one could surely devise more detailed and “realistic” formulas for this sort of thing. But for most purposes, the above should work. That said, if you really need a character to be high INT/low WIS (or low STR/high CON, etc.), just adjust as needed.

Careers To Levels & Classes

Probably the biggest issue in this conversion is dealing with taking a non-class/non-level system like BoL and rendering class- and level-based characters out of it. There are probably a million different takes on this, but my suggestion is just to make the LL character’s level equal to the sum of the BoL characters career ranks. So your typical starting BoL character would come over to LL as a 4th level character, while the average BoL NPC (per the examples in the Legendary Edition) would wind up as a 2nd level character. This power level in LL might not quite match up with BoL, but it seems to give the characters a reasonable leg up while leaving room to grow as well. And hey, the original title for a 4th level Fighter was Hero and a 4th level Magic-User is called a Magician in those lovely light blue rules designed for experts*, so I’m happy with this.

As far as classes go, I feel the best thing to do is just pick the class that seems to fit the character best – multi-classing where needed, but preferably as little as possible. A character whose capabilities in BoL would require two classes in LL are really the only ones who should multi-class (e.g., characters with rank in both Soldier and Magician). If it is at all possible to stick with one class, though, that’s what I recommend. “But what about my Magician 2 / Merchant 1 / Sailor 1 / Torturer 0 character? Shouldn’t she be a F-M/U?” I hear you ask. And the answer is no. Being a merchant and a sailor – even skilled ones – doesn’t make you a Fighter in LL terms. But don’t worry, you’re not screwed. Read on for more…

Since classes are normally generalized while careers can be a bit more specific, I also suggest looking at the character’s career ranks and giving them +2 per rank in a career on Ability Checks related to the careers (but not to combat or thieving abilities or anything else that specifically mechanical in LL – those things come with level, not career rank). So that BoL character with 2 ranks in Merchant would get +4 on attribute checks relating to the buying & selling of goods, knowledge of caravan routes, and so on. Oh, and while having a Zero in a career rank won’t get you a bonus to checks, just like in BoL it could very well make checks possible that a normal person wouldn’t be able to make (por exemplo, the classic Thief 0 allowing you to know about the local thieves’ guild in ways that someone with no rank at all wouldn’t).

Combat Abilities

BoL’s combat attributes don’t translate all that well, since fighting skill is a defined function of classes in LL. You can either ignore these entirely (advised for most NPCs and Mooks) or bring them over where each rank provides a +1 bonus to the appropriate kind of attacks (for Brawl, Melee, Missile) or −1 to AC for each rank in Defense. Doing this for PCs and significant NPCs will further help with the perceived power level difference between BoL characters and their LL analogues. [editorial aside: This is one of the reasons I really adore BoL. Your combat skills aren’t based on whether you’re a fighter or a thief or whatever. They’re based on whether you’re good at combat or not. And that means you can have badass sword-swinging wizard or a fancy “can’t hit me” lightly-armored fighter without throwing a monkeywrench into the rules. End of editorializing.]

Boons & Flaws

BoL’s Boons & Flaws also don’t translate directly to LL. But, just like with Careers I suggest granting PCs and important NPCs a bonus (+2 or so, but maybe higher or lower depending on your needs) on Ability Checks (or Saving Throws) that relate to a boon that the BoL version of the character possessed. Similarly, imposing a penalty of −2 (or so) on rolls relating to a Flaw found in the BoL iteration of the character should get the job done just fine.

In the case of Boons & Flaws that don’t modify dice rolls, a little improvisation will be necessary. But the author of this quick & dirty guide trusts that his readers can handle those situations on their own and in the ways that will best suit their own needs.

Weapons & Armor & Such

Obviously BoL handles armor in a completely different fashion than Labyrinth Lord does. The easiest thing to do is just assign an Armor Class based on the overall armor level found on the BoL character. Translate as follows:

  • BoL No Armor → LL AC 9 (unarmored)
  • BoL Very Light Armor → LL AC 8 (roughly, Leather armor)
  • BoL Light Armor → LL AC 6 (roughly, Leather armor & Shield or Scale alone)
  • BoL Medium Armor → LL AC 4 (roughly, Chainmail alone or Studded Leather & Shield)
  • BoL Heavy Armor → LL AC 2 (roughly, Chain & Shield, Plate alone)
  • BoL Very Heavy Armor → LL AC 1 (roughly, Plate & Shield)

The examples given above are, as indicated, rough equivalents. I can do the math and know that Chain & a shield actually equals AC 4 and not AC 2. Remember, though, that BoL is much more fluid in its definitions of what armor levels equate to. If you want to be more precise, then by all means be more precise.


Oy, here’s a challenge. BoL’s magic system so completely doesn’t mesh with the Vancian fire-and-forget stuff that Labyrinth Lord and its relatives use. I suppose you could just say “Well, you’re a 4th level magic-user, so act like one” and be done with it if you want to keep it simple. I also suggest having BoL characters with Priest career ranks but no Magician ranks not be treated as Clerics, since BoL Priests don’t really work “magic” in the spellcasting sense. Ignore that suggestion if being a Cleric is really key to the conception of the character as it is crossing the line between these two world.

One other idea that occurred to me is that the Vancian stuff could work as a reasonable model of BoL’s Alchemy. Instead of having X number of spells per day per level, though, you’d get X number of alchemical preparations (which you define with Labyrinth Lord spells) per adventure. Just use the M/U spell tables to determine what X is and you’re set. So I’d class BoL characters who were Alchemists as M/Us in LL-land but restrict their usage of spells as noted above. To offset that, I figure you’d need to give them better HD or something. But again, that’s beyond the scope of this post.


The above stuff works for characters who display a full range of stats, but normal BoL monster listings are a bit more abstract. Ultimately, though, what you need for a Labyrinth Lord monster is an Armor Class, a number of Hit Dice, and a concept of how they attack & what damage they do. So here’s how I’m breaking these numbers out from a BoL listing:

  • LL HD = (Lifeblood/5)
  • LL Attacks = BoL attacks (i.e., claw/claw/bite or whatever, with the bonuses to hit listed), with damage as follows:
    • 1 LB = 1 HP
    • d2 LB = 1d2 HP
    • d3 LB = 1d3 HP
    • d6-1 LB = 1d4 HP
    • d6 LB = 1d6 HP
    • d6+2 LB = 1d8 HP
    • 2d6-1 LB = d10 HP
    • 2d6 LB = 1d12 HP
    • 2d6+2 LB = 2d8 HP
    • 3d6 LB = 3d6 HP
    • 3d6+2 LB = 2d10 HP
    • 4d6 LB = 2d12 HP
  • LL AC = 9 – (Defense + Average Protection/Armor Value)

But what about Movement? As I see it LL Movement varies quite a bit independent of creature size, while in BoL’s “Base Move” is entirely based on creature size. I’m too lazy to come up with a specific approach here, so I’d suggest just defaulting everything to LL’s 90/30 unless being fast or slow is part of the creature’s schtick. In that case, adjust accordingly.

For monsters’ attributes, just use the same translation method as for PCs ([BoL Att*2]+10) if you need to know them. But since LL doesn’t often reference creatures’ attributes, this shouldn’t matter too often.


A couple of examples are probably in order. So first, let’s look at a character. How about good ol’ Captain Ertegun Vaul? Based on his listing in the linked post, here’s how I would render him as a Labyrinth Lord character:

Ertegun Vaul / Human Magic-User 4 Chaotic Good
STR 12 INT 12 WIS 12 DEX 10 CON 12 CHR 14
HP 13 AC 7 Gold 40
Scimitar, +1 Dagger, Leather Armor
MU Spells: Charm Person, Comprehend Languages, ESP, Phantasmal Force
Non-Combat Bonuses & Penalties: +6 to mariner rolls (+4 from careers, +2 from boon); +2 to merchant rolls; +2 to religion rolls; +2 to carousing rolls; −2 to resisting greed

Note that even though he had a rank of 0 in Sorcerer as a BoL character I went ahead and made him into a 100% Magic-User in LL. Even rank zero qualifies you to cast some scary stuff in BoL, so having that should – at a minimum – result in a 2/2 split with another class. More often, though, it should override all the other possible class considerations (in my opinion). Or you can, of course, build the character without magic at all. That’s an entirely reasonable approach as well. Mostly I think it depends on your conception of the character in question and the level of magic in the campaign you’re working with.

Now, let’s convert a monster – just for fun. In this case, let’s use the Ilthoth-eg of Nogoloth.

No. Enc.: 2d4 (2d4)
Alignment: Chaotic (Neutral)
Movement: 120’ (40’)
Armor Class: 3
Hit Dice: 1-1
Attacks: 1 (bite)
Damage: 1d4
Save: F1
Morale: 8
Hoard Class: VI
XP: 7

Small, grey-furred cat-like beasts that inhabit the caves deep within the northern mountains of Nogoloth, Ilthoth-eg are set apart from the “normal” wildcats of the region by their abundance of eyes. A typical Ilthoth-eg possesses somewhere between 7 and 11 eyes arrayed across their bodies. Though not truly intelligent, these animals chitter and whisper their previous victims’ words as they stalk their prey through the darkness of the caves.

Due to their abundance of eyes, Ilthoth-eg are only surprised on a 1-in-6. Further, these creatures are incredibly difficult for thieves to backstab. A thief attempting to perform this maneuver against an Ilthoth-eg suffers a −25% penalty to the move silently and hide in shadows rolls necessary for a successful backstab.

Following my suggestion of tweaking the movement rate for a converted creature beyond 90/30, I upped these guys slightly based on their wildcat-esque nature. I improvised on the No. Encountered, Morale and Hoard Class for these guys. The Save As and XP Value were calculated per the LL rules.

In Conclusion

So that’s my ideas for converting Barbarians of Lemuria characters and monsters to Labyrinth Lord. I think they’ll get the job done well enough for most purposes. These should also allow you to take BoL resources and use them in any other game from the same gene pool as LL. Those games are, after all, pretty much the same game with some minor changes here and there.

I’m open to any thoughts you, my readers and friends, might have on how to handle things. So go nuts in the comments if you like. Your input is, as always, invaluable to me.

*Other iterations of the source material refer to a 4th level MU as a Theurgist. You can’t win ’em all.

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Experts On Sale

Experts by Skirmisher Publishing is on sale at RPG Now. Lots of other things by Skirmisher are on sale, too, but I point our Experts in particular because it was easily my favorite thing that came out for 3rd Edition D&D back in the day. I truly loved the concept of the NPC classes (Expert, Warrior, Shaman, etc.) in Third Edition and I always wanted to run a game using this supplement that would focus on a group of Experts as guildsmen on some kind of Chaucer-esque pilgrimage. It never happened, of course, but maybe I’ll make something like that happen someday. With a different system (*cough* BRP *cough*), though.

Anyway, I just thought I’d share. Because I can.

Oh, and for the record, I actually liked 3rd Edition D&D when it first came out, before it got bloated and absurd. Heck, it was part of what got me back into gaming on any consistent level after my late 90s GURPS burnout. Of course, as we all know, they went and ruined it by making it a never-ending stream of upgrades and splatbooks and such. But I always enjoyed the core game.

That said, I wouldn’t play it now if you paid me, unless everyone at the table agreed to using nothing but the core books and perhaps one well-chosen supplement. Like the aforementioned Experts. Even then, though, probably not. But Experts could still be a solid resource for another game.

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Berwhale the Avenger

Wherein your humble scribe riffs on an old comedy routine as a way of filling space otherwise left blank because life got a little busy all of a sudden. We will be returning you to your regularly scheduled Tlactoztlan shortly.

Forged by an order of priests dedicated to the eradication of evil magic, this ancient, ornate silver longsword’s name is engraved into its blade in the runes of Ollerman-Goth. It was once wielded by Timothy the Pure, though it was lost upon his death in battle against Pewnack, the Destroyer. It surfaced sometime later in the hoard of the red dragon Furloroth. It has since disappeared again, though rumors abound that it may be found in the dungeons beneath Saffron Walden.

Magic Longsword, +3 to hit, +1 Damage
Alignment: Lawful
Special Purpose: Slay Magic-Users
Intelligence: 12
Ego: 12
Primary Abilities: Detect Evil, Detect Magic, Read Magic
Extraordinary Abilities: Healing
Languages Spoken: Law, Old High Thjardil, Draconic

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Two Lesser Artifacts (For Jeff Rients)

Jeff Rients put out a call for some lesser artifacts in the AD&D/OD&D style towards the end of last week. I’m a little late to the party, but the following are my two contributions.

Vikram’s Shield

by The Venomous Pao

Forged by the mad gods of the eastern sea, and once wielded by the legendary hero Vikram, this large verdigrised copper shield shield bears a raised scallop shell device of pure alabaster. The shield was lost when Vikram was slain while attempting to defend the Imperial Armada from a bale of enslaved Dragon Turtles.

In addition to the unique powers listed below, this item functions as a +1 shield, +2 against attacks by aquatic creatures. Three times per day, when the command word is spoken, the shield radiates a shimmering blue light that illuminates as a torch. This illumination lasts for 1d4 hours each time it is used.

3 x I _____ _____ _____
1 x III _____

The Clockwork Bird Of Muzza’im

by The Venomous Pao

Created by the powerful artificer-mage Muzza’im in the time before the Dukes’ War, this odd mechanical device has the shape and size of a Sumichrast’s Wren. The clockwork bird is wound with one of two keys – a silver key found beneath the item’s left wing and a gold key found beneath its right wing.

When wound with the silver key, the Clockwork Bird of Muzza’im sings a beautiful melody that calms listeners, bringing a temporary break to hostilities (1d6 rounds) during which negotiation may be possible.

When the bird is wound with the gold key, one of the following effects (determined at random by rolling 1d4) is triggered. The bird sings a different melody for each of these effects.

2 x I _____ _____
1 x II _____
1 x IV _____

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Central Texas Mini-Con July 31

Check it out. There’s a mini-convention on Saturday July 31st (and again on August 21) here in Austin. And it’s dedicated to playing old school D&D, no less. Interestingly, it’s put on in part by (or at least in conjunction with) the folks who do the ever-growing North Texas RPG Con. And guess what? Your humble scribe is going to be in attendance (for the July 31st event, at least). See, my wife’s out of town that day and Scholz Garten is maybe a mile from my house and the con itself is free. So really, how could I not go?

Now, for the record, I’m very much not a con guy. The last gaming convention I went to was AggieCon ’95, and that was almost entirely a business trip. I definitely didn’t game at that one. The last time I went to a con where I actually played or ran something you have to go all the way back to 1985, for the twin majesties of TexCon (where I won an Illuminati event of some sort) and DalCon (where I ran a fun Champions game and played my only session of Runequest). I’m pretty sure my only other gaming con experience was Origins ’84 (where I picked up my well-loved OCE box) and didn’t actually play anything. I tend to go to panel discussions and such with these things rather than game, it seems.

So this little con, which is entirely about playing – and not about speakers or vendor rooms or anything else – might just prove to be very interesting. I’m sure I’ll have at least something to report after next Saturday, even if it’s just horror and disgust at the cheeto-dust encrusted gaming masses 🙂

But seriously, if you’re going to be there (and I’d be surprised if any of my “known quantity” readers made it since I know how very NOT in Austin they live) let me know. And if you’re not a “known quantity” reader but you’re there, please do say hello. I’ll be the balding, overweight guy with a beard and glasses wearing a black t-shirt that might say something funny on it. You won’t be able to swing a dead possum without hitting me 🙂

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