Tuesday, December 4, 2012

D66 Random Weapons

Yet more stuff for the kid game.

D66 Random Weapons
11. Iron Fists
12. Lightsaber
13. Net
14. Uzi
15. Shrink Ray
16. Scimitar
21. Slingshot
22. Bolas
23. Laser Pistol
24. Bazooka
25. Club
26. Ninja Stars
31. Fire Hose
32. Knife
33. Crossbow
34. Boomerang
35. Nunchucks
36. Staff
41. Tiger Claws
42. Whip
43. Six-shooter
44. Katana
45. Grenades (3)
46. Bow and Arrow
51. Morning Star
52. Really Bright Flashlight
53. Sword
54. Darts
55. Soap in a Sock
56. Axe
61. Baseball Bat
62. Spear
63. 2x4
64. Blowgun
65. Sunsword
66. Sword of Omen

D66 Random Items

More stuff for the kid game.

D66 Random Items
11. Broom
12. Scientific Calculator TI-82
13. Candy Bar
14. Bag of Flour
15. Tuning Fork
16. Mouse Trap
21. Backpack
22. Bottle of Glue
23. Juice Box
24. Bag of Marbles
25. Football Helmet
26. Golf Cart
31. 4 Rolls of Toilet Paper
32. Pack of Gum
33. Scissors
34. Whoopie Cushion
35. Compass
36. Bobsled
41. Wienermobile
42. Pet (choose what kind)
43. X-Ray Specs
44. Perfume in a Spray Bottle
45. Anvil
46. Riding Lawnmower
51. Can of Fart Spray
52. Balloon
53. Magic Wand (1D uses)
54. Deck of Playing Cards
55. Large Magnet
56. Can of Whipped Cream
61. Velociraptor (with saddle)
62. Suit of Armor
63. Shin Guards
64. Parachute
65. Rope
66. Night-Vision Goggles

D66 Random PC/NPC Types

A list for my kid game.

D66 PC/NPC Types
11. Space Alien
12. Prince/Princess
13. Wizard
14. Ninja
15. Caveman
16. Robot
21. Bug Person
22. Dragon
23. Hobbit
24. Butterfly Person
25. Vampire
26. Bear
31. Fire Person
32. Angel
33. Jello Person
34. Cowboy
35. Venus Fly Trap
36. Merperson
41. Billy Goat
42. Rabbit
43. Warrior
44. Fairy
45. Rock Person
46. Witch
51. Scientist
52. Flying Monkey
53. Ogre
54. Jedi
55. Jellyfish
56. Wolfman
61. Filthy Pirate
62. Cactus Person
63. Acrobat
64. Hobo
65. Troll
66. Snuffleupagus

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Adventure Time with the Girls

Got to play some adventures with the girls today. Rockin' good fun. It's honestly way more fun than playing with adults. Here are some of the highlights:

  • The basic premise: It's been raining cats and dogs for many days. An old half-crippled wizard comes to the girls and explains that the weather fairy, who keeps the weather in order in the Land of Ooo, has been trapped by the Ice King in a giant block of ice in the middle of the spooky forest. They must rescue her!
  • They encountered a mud monster, sprayed him with fart spray, and sent him floating away on a giant bubblegum bubble. He landed on the Ice King's porch with a splat. The Ice King determined he was a pile of poo (what would you think a big pile of mud soaked in fart spray was?) and had his minions hose down the porch, destroying the monster.
  • On the next encounter, I rolled two story dice and got a bee and an envelope. I decided it was a giant killer bee that was also the mailman. The girls decided to pack some garbage into envelopes and mail it to the Ice King. They really enjoyed terrorizing the crap out of that guy! Even though the characters were hundreds of miles away, I played out the Ice King receiving his packages so they could get a nice payoff for their dirty tricks. There was immense laughter at the table.
  • One of the players made good use of the magnifying glass item she chose at the beginning of play, closely inspecting the water in a magic fountain to ensure it wasn't harmful. Also, just for good measure, she had her cat test out the water first.
  • After rescuing the weather fairy, I told them they had completed their quest. They said they wanted to go take on the Ice King anyways, to ensure that he didn't commit any more mischief. They really had it out for the guy!
  • After defeating (knocking out) the Ice King in an epic battle, I asked what they wanted to do with him. Tying a large rock to him and dropping him into a volcano was discussed, but in the end they decided to jail him in the dungeons of the Candy Kingdom - with a hungry grizzly bear as his cellmate for good measure.
We all had a ton of fun, and it's really rewarding to see little kids adding up simple figures, and coming up with creative solutions to challenges. I highly recommend doing this if you have any kids around.

It just so happens that this week is also Teach Your Kids to Game Week, and while I really appreciate the spirit of it, there are a few things about it that I think could be better.
  1. More free games. I've purchased a number of non-free PDFs of "RPGs for kids", and they tend to suffer from a sort of identity crisis. On the one hand, if you're going to charge money for something, there should be some meat to it, with lots of material and options presented. On the other hand, if it's a game for young kids, it needs to be very simple and open-ended. So what you end up with is something that is either too complex to really be a kids' game, or something that is so simple that you feel dumb paying money for it. I certainly haven't seen every offering out there, and I'm sure there are exceptions, but this has been my overall experience with these types of games.
  2. More support articles with stories and tips about playing with kids. It seems like this is not much more than "here are some game PDFs". I think this is easy enough for people that are currently into RPGs, but what about the guy that hasn't played for years and wants to try it out with his kids. There should be some help available for that guy.
So now since I feel mildly uncomfortable about criticizing a thing meant to be good for kids, I hereby offer my payment of the Joesky Tax - a complete list of the resources I used to run my game today, complete with explanations and examples.
  • A few printed copies of my TOON hack character sheet. Game rules included on the sheet. I believe this game to be suitable for any type of adventure gaming one might do with young kids. For any rules not listed on the sheet, make something up that is fun and reasonably fits the situation at hand. That is the key. We honestly barely even used these rules, and could probably get by without any rules at all. You will have way more fun making stuff up as you go than you would going over some list of predetermined options with a child. Don't limit them! Just go with the flow!
  • A pair of six-sided dice for each player. Preferably different colors to make d66 rolls easier.
  • Pencils. Dixon Ticonderoga is preferred.
  • A map of the Land of Ooo. Just looking at this map gives lots of ideas for adventures. Or you could just do a google images search and easily find another suitable map.
  • A magic 8-ball for answering those crazy questions kids inevitably come up with. (Thanks to Jeff Rients for this idea. I've gotten a ton of mileage out of this thing in all my games.)
  • Some story dice. These are just to get your brain moving to help you make stuff up. Playing with kids is all about making stuff up. Our crusty adult imaginations need all the help they can get!
  • Some random charts from the original TOON game, or any other random charts with fun things on them. I don't have anything available to share at the moment, but I'll see if I can get a few scans of some of the charts up on my tumblr in the near future as examples.
As you can see, you don't really need to buy much of anything. The story dice and the 8-ball are totally optional, and if you spend a bit of time beforehand, you can make up your own random charts or find some online. In a pinch, you could even get a little kid's ABC book and flip to a random page to give your brain a starting point. Use toys on the tabletop to play out scenarios if you like. Make up your own clever uses of stuff you have lying around to add a bit to your game. The sky is the limit really, and it's very liberating!

Finally, I think a lot of people fall victim to the idea that kids can't start playing these games until they are 8 or 10 or 12 or something. Nonsense, I say! Sure, they might not be memorizing the AD&D Weapon vs. AC To-Hit Adjustments tables, but that is a far cry from not being ready to enjoy the essential elements of tabletop adventure. Again, just forget about rules systems. Go ahead and even ditch the dice and pencils and paper. Even just a verbal exchange can be a great start.

I now leave you with these awesome character sheets.

Character played by Penelope, age 3
Character played by Bella, age 4
Character played by Sophia, age 6

Monday, November 26, 2012

My Crappy Little NaGaDeMon Game

I whipped up this little game, which is nothing more than a hack of TOON, in the spirit of NaGaDeMon. I'm not an actual registered participant, but it seemed like a fun thing to do anyways.

I made the game so I'd have a one-stop system for any RPGish gaming I do with my daughter (age 3) and her friends (and perhaps the "grown-ups" too, when we're in the mood for some lighter fare). It should be able to handle anything from My Little Pony to Adventure Time to old-fashioned dungeon crawling. I took care to keep the thing as open-ended as possible, since I think more structured games have a stifling effect on the creativity of a child. Thus, there are no pre-defined character types, powers, or items. The players will have to make them up!

Yep, that's all there is to it!

If you do happen to give it a go, I'd love to hear how it worked for you.

My NaGaDeMon Game 2012 (PDF)
My NaGaDeMon Game 2012 (PNG Image)


Tunnels & Trolls 4th Edition PDF Released

Flying Buffalo has released a PDF of the 4th edition of the Tunnels & Trolls rules, and it is available HERE. I highly recommend the purchase, to show that there is interest in the old crusty versions. T&T 4th has a great deal of charm, and the power curve is notably lower than that of the popular 5th edition. I think it's a great framework if you want to keep your game really simple, or to have a nice skeleton upon which to build your own wacky creation. At any rate, the $4 price is tough to beat.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Most Used Random Tables

For the games I run, the "Dungeon Master Guide" I use is nothing more than a homemade digest booklet - about 32 pages or so - that holds my most commonly-referenced charts, tables, and notes. I periodically review it and make a new one, dumping little-used tables, updating ones where a lot of the results are used up, and making any other tweaks I might want to make while I'm at it. It's interesting that I always find a few that I thought were awesome but they never saw use at the table. Conversely, some of the less sexy tables get used all the time.

So yesterday, while I was going through this process, I compiled a list of my most-used tables and posted it on G+. No one really responded with theirs, but Zak suggested it might be more suitable as a blog thing, since it does require a bit of thought and effort.

Here they are, in no particular order.
  1. Crits & Fumbles I'm always using some form of crit and fumble charts, and I switch them up from time to time. Next session I plan to try out James Raggi's d30 crit/fumble tables from Green Devil Face #5. They're filled with ridiculous things! Here's one entry from the fumble chart, as an example: "15. Your attack actually hits for max damage, but you learn the wrong lesson from this lucky hit – you lose all accumulated XP for your current level." That's totally fucked!
  2. "I Search the Body" From Zak Smith's Vornheim. Supremely useful, although I edited to get a few less "small number of coins" results. We've had whole adventures around some of the results on this table.
  3. Carousing Mishaps courtesy of Jeff Rients. A few versions are available. Not sure how different they are. There is one in Fight On #4, one in The Miscellaneum of Cinder, and one on his blog.
  4. Deck O Stuff Also by Jeff Rients. Copy/pasted from Fight On #5 and made into a d100 table. A shorter version is available here. Occasionally useful for unique starting items for PCs, but even more useful for when PCs are searching dressers and suchlike.
  5. Wandering Monsters I use the Labyrinth Lord charts (page 104 & 105), but sometimes reskin the monsters or make on-the-fly tweaks like with Monster Mutations from the Miscellaneum of Cinder.
  6. Mutations I use both Carcosa and Encounter Critical charts. Would love to use Mutant Future ones if they weren't so damn long.
  7. Male & Female NPC Names Why name an NPC before they are met? Once a name is used, I cross it off the list and make a note about that NPC in my binder, except for when I don't because I forget to.
  8. Unguarded Treasure from page 7 of Underworld & Wilderness Adventures. Super-boring and super-useful.
  9. Whimsey Chart My own table created per the guidelines given in the Arduin Grimoire in the entry for Elvish Whimsey Wine. (or something like that)
  10. Good/Bad/Indifferent Not really a chart, but I use a pair of fudge dice in a lot of situations to determine if something happens. Two plusses means good, two minuses means bad, anything else is indifferent/nothing. Most common use: "I cut open the monster's stomach. Do I find any treasure?" Double plusses indicate a good result, such as a minor treasure in the beast's stomach. Double minuses indicate a bad result, like a face-hugger-parasite-monster that was taking up residence in the manticore's digestive tract, that is now going to attempt to leap out at the character's face, choke him to death with its tail, and then crawl down his throat to lay eggs in his stomach. Any other result is indicative of nothing interesting happening - “Nope, nothing inside the manticore's stomach. Sorry dude.”
Feel free to make a post of your own list and post a link in the comments. It doesn't have to be 10 items. Just make a list of whatever you find yourself using regularly.

A note on The Miscellaneum of Cinder: Last I heard, this was available as a free download from The "OSR Conservation Process". The link isn't working for me at the moment, so I'm not sure what the deal is. If you want a copy and are having trouble finding it, just shoot me a note at jderam by way of google mail and I'd be happy to send a reply with the PDF attached.

Actually, looks like an awesome result to me...

Thursday, September 27, 2012


Last time my "home group" played, the first ever TPK in my life happened. It was in the Tower of the Stargazer, in case you were wondering.

Anyways, as much as I LOVE DCC (let's call it my favorite in-print game), I couldn't help but find myself looking fondly at my ghetto homemade brown box every time I would pass it while walking through the house.

So I made an off-the-cuff decision to run OD&D for those guys the next game. I'm still going to run DCC at the game store, at least through the end of the year, since I made a commitment to myself to do that. I'm not sure if this will be a one-off, or if we'll stick with OD&D for a while - we'll just have to see what happens. I whipped up a quick house rules doc, trying to keep things short and sweet. I'm going to try a few things differently and see how it goes.

  • Only the three classes: Fighting-Man, Magic-User, Cleric (never gone thiefless before!)
  • I didn't bother writing up any wacky races. I'll just ask people what they wanna be and take it from there.
  • Stole an idea for neutral clerics from Talysman's Beastmaster Class. (Note: I didn't actually read the post. I was just like, "Okay turning table, something about animals, got it!")
  • Someone mentioned this on G+, and I think I might try it - Have everyone roll up a few characters and then shuffle them all up and hand them out randomly.
The rest is included in the doc:


So my love affair with those little booklets continues... I can't really explain it. It's the one iteration of the game that I feel best delivers on the promise of "You can do anything!" 

I'm excited for this Saturday. We'll see how these guys like it.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

One-Page DCC Spell Charts

I've begun my attempt at reworking the DCC spells that span across multiple pages, and getting them trimmed down to fit on a single page. I've done the 1st-level cleric and wizard spells so far, and will do the rest as time allows. Check them out on the DCC Resources Page. I hope you find them as useful in your games as I have in mine!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Outland's Quarterly Campaign Newsletter

So last week, Alan Grohe pointed us odd74 readers to this dude's blog. I loved the idea of the campaign newsletter thing, so I immediately started working on one.

I have multiple groups, and I believe the sharing of information to be a good thing - conducive to meaningful choices regarding adventures the groups choose to undertake. However, I always have a lot on my mind at the beginning of a session, people have questions that need answering, I need to get my stuff situated and so forth, so it's very easy to forget to share information regarding recent events in the setting.

Further, I loathe writing session reports, and I have yet to encounter much in the way of players that are interested in writing them.

I figured a short, infrequent newsletter would allow me to share a snapshot of happenings in the campaign with the players, and wouldn't be too tedious an undertaking for me.

Here is my first stab at it:
Xusael's Unblinking Eye: Issue 1

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Outland Fully Migrated to DCC Rules

I only recently discovered this amazing Erol Otus piece
I've finished converting all my Outland stuff for use with DCC, which will be used as the system of choice going forward (at least until I change my mind again). If you are interested in such things, everything is accessible from the new page I added here.

I made a number of changes to the character generation process. I didn't have them documented at the time I ran the first game with my new home group, so it actually took a fair bit of time for me to help 6 people with making their characters, but it was a fun process in and of itself, and everyone got at least one wacky race - most people had two. Also, I can't for the life of me remember where I got my unique item list, but I think it was a d100 table where someone expanded upon Jeff's original Deck O' Stuff. If anyone knows what it is, I'd love to know so I can link to it. Hint: One of the players got a Sword of Shiva (+3 sword, whirlwind like a djinni 1/day). Also gotten were a tin of mustache wax and a WWI German army helmet.

Best Morlocks ever?
The players in that game completed Sailors on the Starless Sea (good times!) and my game store game will be resuming in about a week, and we will be converting their existing OD&Dish characters to DCC. I'm looking forward to getting back into a regular gaming schedule again, and I've got a few new players so that's double-awesome!

Which brings up a side issue... I'm not certain at this point when or if I'm going to resume running games on G+. I've got a game store game every other week, and a monthly game at my house now. For a gainfully employed father of two, that's kind of a full load. Plus, since the arrival of our new daughter, I lost my office so it could be converted into a kid's bedroom, so getting a semi-private spot in the house with some peace and quiet has proven challenging. Hopefully the opportunity will arise where I can run or play in the occasional one-off game, but I guess only time will tell if that's in the cards.

Even still, I consider myself a diehard FLAILSNAILS adherent, so if you were to show up to one of my games at Unique Gifts & Games with some sort of AD&D/Labyrinth Lord/whatever type of PC, I'd be happy to let him or her get killed in my game join in on the fun.

Anyways, stay awesome, dudes (and dudettes!)

Looks like a 3rd copy of the DCC rulebook is in my future!
P.S. - Thanks to Jeff Rients for his suggestions with regard to converting the dwarf and the halfling into non-racial classes (and everyone else I stole ideas from).

Friday, July 20, 2012

Review: The WotC AD&D Reprints

I've been kind of surprised that I've seen very little talk of these books since their Tuesday release. Perhaps I've simply been too sequestered over on G+. At any rate, I just got mine yesterday, and here are my thoughts:
  • The covers are decent, nice quality. They have a nice feel to them. Not as cool-looking as the originals, but pretty good nonetheless.
  • The gold on the edge of the pages ("gilded pages?") is silly and tacky. So is the bookmark ribbon. Doesn't make sense in an RPG book, in my opinion. (Side note: I've been strongly considering undertaking Jeff's advice of reading the DMG front-to-back, and I guess it would be useful for that, but I'd probably choose to read the original book in that case.)
  • The slick paper doesn't seem to fit right in a black & white book. It doesn't bother me with Pathfinder stuff, but it doesn't seem appropriate here.
  • It's cool that they spent the time re-typesetting the entire thing, but the typeface is narrower and more difficult to read than the original, which is probably exacerbated a bit by the glossy paper.
  • These books are having sort of an identity crisis. They are too crappy (although reasonably priced) to be collector's items, yet they have these little touches which suggest they are not meant to be everyday play copies.
Conclusion: If you are looking for books to actually play with, and have the patience to search on eBay, used book stores, etc., I'd highly recommend going with an original set. I think the originals are more durable and more legible. On the other hand, if you have the disposable income, and want to tell WotC that you think it's cool that they are printing older material, don't be afraid to buy a set of these. These books are perfectly serviceable, and my nitpicks are only things that a true OCD nerd (like myself) would even notice, much less find objectionable. I haven't scoured these with a fine-tooth comb, but as far as I can tell, the text and layout is true to the original, insofar as if you had to look up a spell, for example, you would find it on the same page in the same location in both versions. In terms of the identity crisis I mentioned earlier, I'm glad they erred on the side of keeping the books reasonably priced. If I were to start an AD&D game tomorrow, I'd have no qualms about recommending players who didn't want to fiddle with eBay to get a copy of this reprinted PHB for use in the game.

I thought I would take some photos of my books, but I found that Tim Brannan has taken some excellent photos of his, and did a far better job than I could have done with my crappy camera on my phone. (I also stand in awe of his beautiful set of originals.) Go check out what he has to say on the matter.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

DCC RPG Character Sheet

An updated version of my DCC character sheet is now available on the DCC RPG resources page. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Do-It-Yourself OD&D Woodgrain Box

Since I'll likely never buy my own brown box, I decided to take a stab at making one. Here is what I did.

Step 1: Get the materials. You will need the following:

  • 6x9 cardboard box (good luck with this part!)
  • woodgrain contact paper (I used this one. Not sure if it matches exactly, but I don't really care. I'm sure it's close enough!)
  • scissors (and a scrapbooking razor slicer if you got one)
  • pencil
  • ruler
  • glue (I used some kind of clear scrapbooking glue)
  • hi-res image of woodgrain box cover
  • cardstock
  • color printer
The hardest thing for me was the 6x9 boxes. I've looked all over for them online, but could never find the right kind. One day I was at a thrift store, and found two boxes of birth announcements and envelopes that were in these boxes. It was one of those privately owned thrift stores, so they charged way too much ($5.00 for two boxes), but since I couldn't find them anywhere else, I just went ahead and got them.

Step 1

Step 2: Cut out the contact paper to the right size. You need the surface area of the front of the box, plus one and a half times the height on all sides. The height measured 1-3/4", so I added 2-5/8" to each of the 4 sides.

Step 2

Step 3: Make four cuts vertically between the edge of the contact paper, and where it would meet the edge of the box (2-5/8" in length)

Step 3

Step 4: Peel the backing off the contact paper and place the box face down on the center, matching the box corners up with the ends of the cuts you made in the previous step. I left some of the backing on to try to help keep the contact paper from sticking to itself, but it turned out to not really be necessary, since this contact paper was pretty easy to pull apart if two pieces accidentally touched and stuck a bit.

Step 4
Step 5: Flip it over carefully, and squeegee any bubbles out, going from the center out. I just used my driver's license.

Step 5

Step 6: Fold up the long sides, starting at the center and then squeegee in an outward direction.

Step 6
Step 7: Pull the end bits around, and squeegee those into place as well.

Step 7
Step 8: Make some cuts in the corners so you can fold the thing down without it getting all wrinkly. Then fold the long sides down first, starting in the center and squeegeeing outwards from there. If there is a part that you can tell will go into the corner when you fold it down, go ahead and trim a bit off to prevent that.

Step 8
Step 9: Fold the short ends down, trimming if needed to prevent a bunch of contact paper gathering in the inside corners. First you'll do the pieces that stretched around from the sides. Then you fold the end piece down over that.

See how its sticking out past the edge of the box?

Just cut a little sliver out so it doesn't bunch up in the corner when you fold it down.

Fold it down in the center and push down and out.

Step 9: Go over it and squeegee any remaining bubbles out the best you can.

Should be looking good at this point.
Step 10: Print out your cover image on cardstock and cut it out. My wife had this scrapbooking razor slicer thingy she never uses, so I used that, since I cut about as straight as a kindergartener when it comes to scissors. I scaled the image down to 5.25" width, since if I printed it at 100% it would have been a bit too big.

Step 10: Before the trimming

Step 10: Not gonna lie. I ruined one with sloppy cuts and had to print out another one.

Step 11: Glue that thing on. I lightly dabbed that clear glue stuff all over the back and brushed it lightly with a paper towel to get a thin layer of glue. This is to prevent it soaking through the paper and leaving spots or oozing out the sides when you press it down onto the box.

Step 11

Looking good!
Step 12: Do the same thing to the box bottom with the contact paper that you did to the top. Obviously, it's a tad smaller, so adjust your measurements as necessary.


The digest-sized stuff I use most often. Some originals, some of them are "play copies".

Okay, maybe it doesn't quite all fit...

Final thoughts: This was a relatively simple project. The cost was about $12.00 plus stuff I already had lying around. I have enough materials to make a second box, and enough contact paper to do a few more beyond that if I can find more of those type of boxes. It took about an hour of my time, and that includes simultaneously taking smoke breaks outside, cooking a pizza, and dealing with babies barfing and kids pooping. Should be a snap for anyone to do.

I think for my next one I'll do a custom cover. I also have this aspiration where I would like to run my games with only whatever I can squeeze in that box. Not sure I can pull it off, but it's worth trying!

If you make one, please post a link to a photo of it in the comments. Enjoy!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Races of Outland (updated)

I've been silently working on a project that is an OD&D supplement that includes all my Outland stuff in it. I normally don't like to talk about things I'm working on until they're done, because of the very real (and likely) possibility that I'll never finish. My hard drive is littered with half-baked ideas and unfinished projects. Further, Outland steals from is inspired by so many other sources, I often have doubts about whether sharing such a document would be a good idea to begin with.

Anyways, I figured it would be a nice thing to use in my game and sort of a cool souvenir for my game store players. I really enjoy reading other people's homemade game supplements, and I can appreciate the time and effort that is required to document one's lifted material ideas in a way that can be used by others.

Anyways, to make a long story boring, I at least have the Races part done, so I figured I'd at least share that much, in case I never get any further. It can be found on the "Outland OD&D Game" menu item above, or just get it HERE.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

DCC RPG Reference Sheets Updated

Check the DCC RPG Resources Page for the updated document. Feel free to drop me a note if you think I missed an important table, or made a mistake. I worked very quickly to crank this out, so I wouldn't be surprised if there was an error or two.

Cover I threw together for my personal copy!

No art, no frills, just the tables you need to help you run a fast-paced game without having to crack open that massive tome of a rule book!


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Awesome New (to me) Blog

Apparently this blog has been around over six months, but I just became aware of it today. I've been reading it all day, and really enjoying it! If you haven't already you should check it out:


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Familial D&D Adventures with the Girls (Part 1 of 2)

Last weekend two of my nieces, ages 9 and 16, spent the night so as to give their parents some much needed leisure time. My lovely wife had her hands full with our new baby, so I decided to do my best to help keep everyone entertained. I went with what I know best... games!

I got my 3-year-old daughter and the 9-year-old niece together, and we started rolling up some characters. I explained how Dungeons & Dragons was a game where you sit around a table with your friends, eat lots of junk food, make jokes, and possibly have an adventure if you get around to it. They definitely got it. You should have seen these girls stuffing their faces with chips and chugging root beer! The greasy kid-hands all over my dice and pencils kind of made me cringe, but I was able to ignore it with a bit of effort.

I was happy to get a chance to use my new expanded Outland race tables, and I took out a few of the half-character-sheets I made a while back. I tried to get the 16-year-old involved as well, but she didn't seem interested, so I didn't press the issue.

My daughter rolled first and got a human (1-67 on the percentile table is human, although there is a fair chance of a Carcosa-colored-human). She had a crestfallen look on her face, so I asked if she would prefer something else. She said yes, so I just had her roll d30+70 to bypass all the human results. She got a Half-Giant. My niece got a Deodand. Then I had them roll their stats, 3d6 in order. I wrote the results for my daughter, since her handwriting isn't so good yet :)

My daughter chose to make her character a thief named Conan (she always names her characters Conan). My niece decided to go with a wizard which she named "Penny the Great". I was extremely happy that she threw in the title!

Now, here is where I started to become torn. I already knew in my mind that if either of them died, I fully intended to make them roll up a new character. Thus, I wanted to give them some durability, but I also didn't want to give away the store. I place great importance on "working your way up" from less-than-stellar beginnings. So on the spot I decided I would just have them roll 1d3 and that would be their level. Both rolled 2, and that seemed to work out really well. I had each roll their hit points twice and take the better result. My niece was concerned that my daughter had more hp, but a simple explanation about the frailty of wizards cleared that up.

I had them roll their starting gold (3d6x10), and again, my niece expressed displeasure at my daughter getting 100gp while she only got 60gp. I just explained a little bit about the game and how it uses dice and sometimes you are lucky and sometimes not so much. It seemed to satisfy her.

I also had them roll their backgrounds. Turns out the deodand wizard was a fisherman before she started her adventuring career, so she got a fishing rod and a stylish fishing hat. Conan was a goat-herder, so she got a shepherd's crook. The 9-year-old was familiar with this item, so she explained it to my daughter. This brought me back to when I first started playing D&D, and I would pore over the equipment list... "What the hell are crampons? Sounds like tampons!" D&D really does teach us quite a bit, even if a lot of it is trivia.

I gave them their saving throw values, weapons, and armor, and off we went.
Wizard: wizard robes + magic staff
Thief: leather armor, short sword, dagger, bow & arrows, thief tools

I decided to use my Tegel Manor ripoff haunted house, since I had already run it several times, so it would require minimal brainpower on my part. Then I could have more to help them out. I also decided that since it was just a party of two, that they each hired two "helpers" to come along to the dangerous haunted house, in exchange for a share of the loot. The 9-year-old promptly chimed in, "I'm only going to pay them 5 gold and I'm going to keep the treasure we find." She's a natural! The deodand's helpers were named Bob & Joe, and my daughter named hers Jasmine and I don't remember the other. She wanted to make sure that I knew that it was Jasmine from the Conan cartoon, and not Jasmine from the Aladdin movie. Oh yeah, she wanted to name her other helper after the girl from the Pirates of Dark Water, but neither of us could remember her name, so we agreed to watch an episode in hopes of finding out after the game.

We didn't bother statting these guys. I just figured they have +0 attack bonus, d6 damage, 16 for all saves, and treat ability scores as 10 if it comes up. This is how I generally handle zero-level mooks.

Anyways, I present them with a description of the old, run-down manor with 3-foot tall weeds all over the place, and thick forest blocking out most of the sun's rays. I explained how the front door creaked open by itself once they got within 30 feet of it.

At this point, there was some debate, as one would tell me one thing, and the other would tell me something completely different. I explained how they needed to decide together what they were going to do and then tell me, since it was a bad idea for them to become separated in such a dangerous place. Really, I just didn't want to be running two separate adventures for a pair of kids that have yet to develop any attention spans worth mentioning. Immediately after this conversation, the 9-year-old says she is going in the door, and the 3-year-old says she wants to go around the back. I said, "okay", and I was just going to roll with it, when the 9-year-old changed her mind and decided to join sneaky Conan and try the back way.

There was indeed a back door, but it was locked. My daughter tells me, "I USE A KEY!" I explained to her how she had some lock picks, and they were like keys, but didn't always work. I made something up to have her roll, and she was successful! The door creaked open and I told them of the darkened hallway beyond. The wizard's player immediately tells me how she wants to have her magic staff illuminate the place. "Of course, yes, your magic staff can do that!" At almost the same time, my daughter tells me how she turns on her flashlight! That was just too awesome, so I was like, "Yes, you have a flashlight in your pack, so you get it out and turn it on!" Then my daughter tells me, "We leave our car outside", looks at me for a second like she's really confused, and thinking really hard, "Wait, daddy, do we have cars?" "No, sweety, you don't have cars, you guys walked there, but it wasn't too far. There are horses, like the kind Conan rides, but you guys didn't use any since the haunted house was so close anyways." I grinned to myself as I watched her grapple with the idea of a world without cars.

Then we had a brief sidebar, so my daughter could tell her cousin about the time she rode a black horse named Thunder on my mom's friend's farm, and how Conan has a black horse named Thunder in the cartoon, too. What can I say, the girl loves Conan!

So fast forward a bit, and the first room they went into had a kid's rocking chair, rocking by itself. There were some jacks, a doll, and a teddy bear on the floor. Periodically, the ghost of a little girl would appear in a random spot in the room, look at them, scream, and then disappear. 9-yr-old wizard decides to ready a magic blast from her staff for when it appears again. A few more on-the-spot decisions on my part, and I told her that her magic staff has basically an at-will 1d4 magic missile, but she would have to make a DEX check in order to get the thing off in time to hit the ghost. (Of course I used actual English while explaining this to her.) She failed her DEX check and blasted a scorch mark in the back wall. So, she decided to do what any good adventurer would do, and repeatedly blasted the wall until she blew a hole into it. The hole went right out to the back yard, but that wasn't where they wanted to go, so they tried another room.

Now this part is interesting. Before running the adventure, I had decided to "wall up" the stairs that went to the second floor and the basement, since those weren't fully fleshed out. I figured there was plenty of stuff on the ground floor, and why make myself think if I don't have to, right?

Well, it turns out, the next room they went into was free of dust but completely empty. The room itself started breathing, and the walls began to flex as the room began to take deeper and louder breaths. So naturally, the wizard starts blasting the west wall, until she blows it open. What's on the other side? The stairs going down of course!

So, they went down. I had the cave at the bottom keyed with "3d6 child zombies". I rolled an 18. Wow! I just described them as short zombies, since even my twisted self found child zombies to be somewhat repulsive. The wizard is getting ready for a fight, and I'm getting worried the adventure is about to end. Then my daughter says, "If I shine my flashlight at them, does it scare them?" "Of course it does!" I was so proud of her! Our deodand wizard followed up with a sleep spell, and then she and her cronies went about relieving the disabled zombies of their heads and limbs (note that I did not suggest this course of action!).

Back when we were creating the characters, I told my niece that Charm Person and Sleep were the best spells. I had to decide that Sleep would work against these undeads in order to not make a liar out of myself!

Of the 3 tunnels leading out of this chamber, they chose to go northwest. The next room, I don't really remember, but I think it was just a room full of bones that they weren't much interested in. they continued south.

The next room had a large pedestal in the center. In it was set a huge sword that glowed with a blue light, and a mannequin wearing an ornate amulet that also glowed. I described a faint humming noise that permeated the room. My daughter said she wanted to get the sword, so I asked, "You just run over and grab it?", leading her into the trap just as I would any player. "Yes," she says. So she took d6 damage from an electrical shock, but from her new position, she could she a lever on the wall in the back of the room.

I sort of struggled here. It was difficult for me to throw dangerous monsters and traps at them. I wanted them to have an awesome time. But I also wanted the challenges to be genuine. As difficult as it is sometimes, I think learning how to lose or not be successful is very important. Luckily for my sake, it wasn't a lesson I had to take part in teaching for this particular adventure.

At this point, I told them about the "magic healing water" that they had with them, using the same rules I normally use, but using water instead of wine. Kids that age shouldn't be drinking alcohol, you know. I explained that they each had a waterskin with two drinks worth of magical water that would heal them for 1d4 hit points. My daughter gives me a quizzical look... "THERE'S WATER IN THEIR SKIN!?!?" I did my best to explain what a water/wineskin was, but not sure she really got it. My niece knew what I was talking about at least.

So my niece had her wizard, in an extremely careful and brilliant fashion, flip the lever with her staff. This was extremely fortunate, because the lever did indeed deactivate the electrical trap on the items, but it also opened up a pit trap right beneath the lever's location (with spikes at the bottom, naturally). Since she used her staff, she was not subjected to the fall. We did high fives all around.

So my daughter got the magic two-handed sword (d24 attack die, +1d6 lightning damage), and my niece got the magical amulet, which allows a 1/day casting of a 6-die lightning bolt. There was also a drawer set in the pedestal, inside of which were some coins and gems rolled up from the LBBs, and I let them each roll for a miscellaneous magic item. The wizard got a bag of holding, and my daughter's half-giant thief got a flying broom! We all had a good chuckle about Conan, the half-giant thief with her flashlight and magical broomstick!

Good times were had by all. We added up experience, and they both had enough to advance to level 3.

We took some time to eat dinner, and played a game of My Precious Presents as well. Jim Ward gave me a copy last summer - quite a fun game, ironically more fun to play with a group of adults than kids. I asked if they enjoyed the game. My niece said, "It was pretty fun, but not as fun as DUNGEONS & DRAGONS!" A while later, they were asking me about dragons, and if they could go after one. I politely explained how dragons definitely have the best treasure, but they are very fierce, and people usually go on a lot of adventures before they become strong enough to challenge a dragon.

My explanation was met with a chorus of pleas, "PLEASE! PLEASE! PLEASE! CAN WE HAVE ANOTHER DUNGEONS & DRAGONS ADVENTURE!"

Of course I agreed, even though I was quite tired at this point. I would tell you all about it, but I think this next adventure warrants it's own post!

To be continued....

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Stupid Dice Tricks - Thief Skills

The other day I was giving some thought to how I could make thief skills a tad more fun. Rolling percentages can be boring. Rolling a d20 is kind of boring. So I thought about rolling two dice - one to set the target number and the other to test for success/failure (hereafter referred to as the skill die).

The first application of this will be thief skills. The target die will always be a d6. The skill die begins life as a d3, and progresses from there according to the following:

d3 -> d4 -> d6 -> d8 -> d10 -> d12 -> d14 -> d16 -> d20 -> d24 -> d30

Success = skill die comes up equal or greater than the number showing on the target die
Failure = skill die comes up less than the number showing on the target die
Super-Fail = skill die does not exceed half the number on the target die

In the tradition of JimFirePrincess, all characters may attempt to use the thief skills, testing a d3 against the target number rolled on the d6, but only the thief may improve and use better dice. The thief gets 4 points at each level (including first), and each point may be spent to increase the die for a particular skill by one step in the dice progression listed above.

Here are the skills, which are more or less standard fare...

Acrobatics: Used for crazy stuff like walking a tightrope. Also used to move past enemies or escape from them without allowing them a parting shot.

Stealth: Move your speed while undetected by your enemies. This is used to move into position for a backstab.

Backstab: This skill is not rolled against the target die. Whatever die type you have for backstab is added to your normal damage die whenever you make a successful attack from behind against an enemy that is unaware of your presence. Thieves attack at +4, while other characters only get the normal +2 for attacking from behind.

Sleight of Hand: Used for picking pockets, cheating at card games, and so forth. If your test die doesn't get at least half the number on the target die, your attempt is noticed.

Locks & Traps: Used for picking locks, disarming mechanical traps, sabotaging equipment, etc. Requires thief tools.

Poison Use: Die type is rolled and added to the d20 roll when making a saving throw vs. poison while attempting to extract poisons/venoms from defeated monsters. Requires thief tools to get the extra die.

Spider Climb: Allows you to move your speed up or down sheer surfaces. Requires leather or lighter armor. Works great with your favorite falling rules!

Scroll Use: Allows the casting of magic-user scrolls, provided an actual magic-user of equal level would be able to memorize a spell of that level. Failure generally results in horrible mishaps.

For your convenience, I have listed the percentage odds of success for each of the die types against a random target number rolled on a d6 in order to help you determine if this system is one you might want to use, or what adjustments you might like to make. However, these percentages shouldn't be shared with players, as they run a high risk of having people game the system. If a player wants to do that, fine, but at least make them do the math themselves!

Skill level 0 [d3]: 33.3%
Skill level 1 [d4]: 41.7%
Skill level 2 [d6]: 58.3%
Skill level 3 [d8]: 68.8%
Skill level 4 [d10]: 75%
Skill level 5 [d12]: 79.2%
Skill level 6 [d14]: 82.1%
Skill level 7 [d16]: 84.4%
Skill level 8 [d20]: 87.5%
Skill level 9 [d24]: 89.6%
Skill level 10 [d30]: 91.7%

Other thoughts:
  • This is totally untested, but I hope to present it to the party thief next time we get together and have him try it out.
  • I use the cleric tables from Men & Magic for thief experience/level progression, hit dice, saving throws, and fighting capability. If you use the tables from Greyhawk or Basic D&D, the thief will gain levels (and therefore skill points) at a slightly faster rate. Probably negligible, but there you have it.
  • Other stuff I considered but didn't include either for simplicity's sake, or to keep the scope of this post narrow: starting thieves with a d4 in each skill, while all other PCs begin (and remain) at d3; upping the skill points to 4 per level; having abilities affect skills - for example, a DEX of 15+ could allow some skills to start one die higher; item-based skill improvements - e.g. masterwork thief tools could give a +1 or increase the die for Locks & Traps, etc.
EDIT: changed to give thieves 4 skill points per level, added acrobatics, and added rule that skill rank cannot exceed twice the thief's level.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Running Mildewy Editions at the FLGS

I've been running Original Dungeons & Dragons at my awesome local game store (Unique Gifts & Games) for a few months now. I was lucky enough to get some great advice from Jeff Rients a while back, and applied most of the things he suggested. I think the game has been a great success, so I just wanted to share a few things I did and how it's all worked out.

Of course, it goes without saying that this is purely anecdotal. This is just my experience, and is not to be treated as THE ONE WAY TO RULE THEM ALL.

Setting the Game Up, Scheduling, etc.
First, I figured out what days I could run a game consistently, and how often. Wife approval is important here. I told my wife up front, "Hey, I'd really like to run this game every other week. It's important that I am considered unavailable during these times, because yes, it's only a game, but it's also a number of busy people adjusting their schedules so they can play in it. Are you cool with that?"

It's also important to be realistic about your availability. If you schedule a weekly game, but end up not being able to make it every few weeks, that's bad for everyone involved. Choose a schedule you can consistently follow through with. You can have a successful game with flaky players. Not so much with a flaky DM.

Once I got that part squared away, I contacted the game store letting them know I wanted to try to start an OD&D game that would be every other week. I told them I could do Mondays, Wednesdays, or Fridays, included a proposed start date, and asked which was best for them. Turns out Mondays were pretty slow and had table space available, and they had no issues with me running a long out of print game. I hear some stores take issue with running games they don't sell, but I guess I just lucked out in this regard.

Once game dates, times, an so forth are set, you have to get players there.

Promoting the Game
The game store owner/personnel are key here, in that you have to depend on them in some regard, but you should be prepared to do all the heavy lifting. Here are a few of the things I did:

1. Make a nice flyer and bring it to the game store. Several copies are a good idea. Something colorful and eye-catching. Hang one on the bulletin board. Ask the game store to hand out the others to customers who they think might be interested and are also cool people.

2. Post about the game on blogs, facebook, forums, etc. Meetup.com has several local RPG groups, so those are a good idea to join and post to.

3. Mention it to people you know. Honestly, I'm kind of in-the-closet about my love of D&D. It's not something I wear on my sleeve. But I have mentioned my game to a select few co-workers and acquaintances who I thought might enjoy it.

4. Anything and everything else you can think of. If there are no players, there won't be a game!

Results: All of my game store players were the result of game store personnel promoting my game except for one cool guy that was local and learned about it through my blog. However, I still think it's important to go down all the avenues you can think of when it comes to recruiting.

Like Jeff said, bring a book or something with which you can keep yourself entertained in the event that no one shows up. If that happens, be persistent! There are people out there that want to play your game, but if you give up too soon, you may never meet them!

The First Session
I brought short player handouts with instructions for making 0-level characters (roll race, roll background profession, done!). I explained a bit about the game and my style of running it. I helped them get their characters together, gave them a very short synopsis of the setting, and gave them a few choices of places to go looking for adventures.

"We are playing Original Dungeons & Dragons from 1974. There aren't many rules. Feel free to try anything, and we will work out how to resolve success and failure. We aren't really here to have a serious, deep, and meaningful campaign. To me, it's mostly about hanging out with cool people, chucking dice around, and doing awesome stuff in the game."

"Basically you come from a generic Tolkienesque world, and you are in this newly discovered land full of ruins, treasure, strange peoples, and stuff you've never seen before. The main goal is to get treasure and stay alive."

"There are some caves over here (pointing to map) with weird monsters. There is a haunted house over here. Nobody knows whats over here. Theres a village over here with weird brown people, but most people that try to go there disappear. Someone said there's a ruined castle by the village, but no one is really sure."

I know that when I'm playing D&D, my eyes glaze over if the DM goes on and on with setting info that I don't care about. So I try to just give them the barest basics, and address anything else as it comes up in play. Try to get to the fun as quickly as possible!

Out-of-Print Rulebooks
Since we're playing OD&D, and getting a copy is stupidly expensive, I bring a few extra copies of Men & Magic that I printed up. The only thing it's really needed for is looking up spells. I typed up my own one-pagers for each class and the equipment list, but really the DM is the rulebook in this game. One nice side effect of players not having rulebooks is that rather than flipping through a book, the players just asks, "Can I..." That being said, if a player shows up regularly and shows interest in the rules, I'd be inclined to let them borrow one of mine to look over between sessions, and also tell them about some of the clones that are available.

Be careful about running a clone and asking the game store to stock a bunch of books on their shelf. There is a very real chance they might just end up collecting dust there, and you might not want to be the person responsible for that. If you run a clone it's probably safer to just have interested players order their books through the store if they want them. In my experience, a lot of players don't give a crap about the rules, they just want to play and be guided along as necessary by the DM. They don't sit around and pore over rulebooks outside of game time like a DM/D&D blogger might be apt to do.

Edit: Note that the last thing I want to do is discourage anyone from getting any of the excellent retro-clones available into their game stores. Just take into consideration that it can be easy to overestimate the demand for a game you might personally love. Maybe give it some thought before asking the game store to stock 10 copies of the game in question before you've even begun running your own game - that's all I'm saying.

Open Table Adventures
Since you have a rotating cast of characters, and usually a short amount of time to run a session, some concessions need to be made. You need to deliver fun, self-contained adventures.

I like to give the players lots of choices about what sort of adventures they'd like to have. I'm not hesitant to just flat out tell them, "that's the gonzo sci-fi dungeon, that's the haunted house, that's the traditional ruined castle dungeon, and blind exploration is available as well." The hope is that they can choose what they think is the most interesting, and we can get right on with the adventure. I think roleplaying interactions with innkeepers and locals can be quite fun at times, but it's not something you're going to find in my game store games unless the group decides they would like to spend the entire session doing that. There just isn't enough time in 3 hours to fit in that and a successful delve into a dungeon.

How I Roll
There are a few things I do at the table to help underscore the style of game I'm going for. I learned all of them from someone else more talented/smarter than myself, but they have served me well.

1. No Screen. We are all here to have fun together. To me, the screen is sort of adversarial, and a symbol that my notes, etc, are serious business. I haven't used a screen the entire time we've been playing, and I think it promotes the idea that I'm just another player that happens to also be running the game. I keep any tables and info I need at my fingertips in a little reference sheets-style booklet I made.

2. Keep the players rolling dice. This keeps them engaged. Aside from the normal stuff (attacking, damage, saves), I also have players roll wandering monster checks, damage their characters take, random treasure, monster crits/fumbles against them, etc. I rotate who is rolling initiative from round to round. Basically, unless there is a valid reason that it needs to be the DM rolling, I try to have the players roll. This also serves to minimize the player vs. DM adversarial aspect of the game. If a PC gets killed, I think it stings less if it was that PC's player that rolled the damage dice. At least it helps me to not feel bad about it!

3. I bring wads of d6s and roll monster hps at the table. It's a quick, easy way to track monster hp, and gives the players a bit of feedback about how things are going. They can tell the progress that is being made in a fight as I remove hit dice from the table. Most players can't see the actual numbers on the dice, but even if they can, so what? There's just kind of an unspoken gentleman's agreement that metagaming and trying to calculate your tactics based off exact hp numbers of individual monsters would be frowned upon. It's worked well so far.

4. Ask for player input. This is one I would like to do more often than I do, but I try to remember as much as I can. If a player asks to do something and it is not immediately apparent how to adjudicate it, ask another player how they would adjudicate! This is fun, helps keep players engaged, and gives players a chance to walk in the DMs shoes, if only for a moment. If one player asks for details about some dungeon feature you haven't defined, ask another player how they envision it.

5. Bring goodies. This is something I learned from Jim Ward. Bring goodies to the game! It is a nice gesture and helps promote the feeling that everyone is here to hang out and have a good time. I usually bring a few bags of kit kats, twizzlers, and the like. Perhaps you prefer more healthy fare. Nothing wrong with that either!

6. Roll a d6! I wrote about this on Google+ the other day, and it came about as the result of a discussion about fudge dice. Most simple questions in the game can be answered using this method. Does the equipment vendor have any pulleys available? Is there anything inside that dead monster's stomach? A result of 1-2 is a bad or negative result (example: poisonous viper living inside the intestines of that dead monster!). A result of 3-4 is neutral or indifferent. A result of 5-6 is a good or positive outcome (yes, he has 3 pulleys for sale, and cheap, too!).

7. Embrace randomness. I personally love randomness because it enables me to get a lot of the same type of enjoyment out of a game that the players do. I don't know what's going to happen any more than they do. To promote this, I build in a few minor extra rewards for players that make random rolls for certain things. For example, I give magic-users bonus XP if they randomly roll for their new spell when they gain a level. Dice can take the game in fun and unexpected directions. Let the players know why you think that is awesome.

8. The idea of balance is a mythical one. (This is more of a philisophical thing, and probably doesn't fit in this list, but I included it anyways.) There are two basic categories of things: cool stuff and dangerous stuff. The idea is that the players overcome the dangerous stuff and get cool stuff. We are told by a bajillion different people/sources that there must be careful balance maintained between the abilities of the PCs, the dangerousness of the dangerous stuff, and the coolness of the cool stuff. I reject the idea wholeheartedly. Not so much because I think it's wrong, but more due to the fact that it's a lot of time wasted on something I'm not very good at anyways. So I throw in lots of stuff that I think might be too dangerous and too cool, and let the players sort it out. You'd be amazed at what 6 players with their unused d30 rolls, a few wacky items, and a clever idea can accomplish! I've given out rings of 3 wishes, decks of many things, a lightsaber, an uzi, a few laser rifles, the sword of omen, etc. So what? That's all fun stuff, is it not? Most of these guys still have only 6 hp or whatever, so if they get too big for their britches, they will die. I used to have all sorts of concerns about "breaking" my game. One thing I've learned from playing Metamorphosis Alpha over the summer with Jim Ward is this: the only thing that can break my game is me worrying too much about breaking my game. (Note that this is not something he ever said explicitly, just my interpretation from playing in a MA mini-campaign, quite possibly totally misguided!)

9. Take a break. I always take a 5-10 minute break mid-session. The primary reason is that I'm a smoker, but it gives everyone a chance to stretch and has a nice side effect of getting the players browsing around the store. Hopefully they'll spend a few bucks!

10. Accessorize your game. Since you are playing an out of print game, it is a nice gesture to the game store if you can figure out a way to use some stuff the game store sells in your game. For example, you could integrate fudge dice into your game somehow if you have an idea for that. One thing I've done is have magic swords use different dice instead of having a +X modifier. So if you get a magic sword, you get to make your attack roll with a d24 instead of a d20. If you don't have a d24, you could just borrow mine or roll d20+2, but you want your own d24, don't you? What red-blooded gamer wouldn't? The d30 rule has made the purchase of d30's popular as well, if I'm not mistaken.

The Ongoing Game
At the beginning of each session, I let the players know about any other adventures that may have occurred in Outland (like in a G+ game or whatever). I think this helps create the feel of a living world, with goings-on outside of what the PCs are doing (with the benefit of having pretty much all the action still player-driven). I also consider one week to have passed between each adventure a particular PC has, and I allow them to start with full hp, and ask if there are any activities they would like to attempt during this downtime. For example, I've recently begun allowing magic-users to specialize in alchemy, so they can attempt to brew a potion or two - that sort of thing. If they wanted to study a book they found to see if they could get any useful information from it, I'd allow an INT roll, and so forth. There are a lot of things a PC can do with this time, and I leave it mostly up to the players to come up with ideas. Sometimes a player will come up with something really fun and you can create a simple little subsystem to handle success/failure, as I have done in the case of alchemy.

Well, that's all I can think of at the moment, but any comments or questions are welcome!