PLEASE NOTE: With all the changes taking place at Blogger this material may soon be relocated. Please bookmark the following address:

This is a permanent domain that will remain active. Thanks for dropping in and apologies in advance for any CRoA network interruptions - ADD Grognard





The following adapted texts come the closest to describing the Forsaken Souls system during its development phase. I hope it sheds some light on the direction that the system will take during those first tentative steps and I look forward to bringing a fun and unique game experience to players of all styles and manners.

"To me the Old School Renaissance is not about playing a particular set of rules in a particular way, the dungeon crawl. It [is] about going back to the roots of our hobby and seeing what we could do differently. What avenues were not explored because of the commercial and personal interests of the game designers at the time."

Rob Conley, Bat In The Attic (

(Based on the original release of this post I find it very helpful to post the goals and intents in such a manner)
FORSAKEN SOULS-What It Is & What It Isn’t

The goal: to create a modern RPG that reflects D&D’s origin-point concepts with decades-later rules editions. For many years I have been a fan of old-school gaming. This is not a retro-clone: this is a re-imagining.

Here’s what Forsaken Souls is, and is not:

It is not a retro-clone.

It is an OGL game.

It uses a rules engine derived from the SRD, OGC, Public Domain sources.

It is not inherently compatible with 1970s/1980s D&D rules.

It plays like a 1970s / ‘80s AD&D session.

It uses mechanics like feats, skills, actions, character building and other modern mechanics in fresh and fun ways that are optional and not mandatory.

It does not utilize miniatures or a grid-based combat system. (But they may be added as an option).

It is built on the assumption that some characters will die.

It is built on the assumption that the strongest characters will provide long-term campaigns.

It is built for low-level, mid-level, and high-level play with different types of character growth at each stage.

It does not use the traditional D&D spell system associated with memorizing spells. (But other spell systems, such as Vancian (D&D style), may be added optionally).

It strives to be a proud descendant of a long tradition.

It is produced to be affordable without sacrificing game play.

It is lots of fun to play.

It uses the conventional dice suite: d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, and d20. Most combat and spell checks are resolved with a d20 roll.

(Adapted from and inspired by:

Joseph Goodman
Goodman Games )

(Stuckey Theory Of Style) (From: Advanced Microlite20 OSS 1.0 )

A man I respect greatly for his spirit and conciseness. Adapted from his:

Notes on “Old School” Play

Forsaken Souls is designed for a completely different style of play than many players who started to play in the last 20 years or so may be used to. This is a brief overview of “old school” play.

What is “Old School” Play?

There are two major styles of role-playing games. The first (and older) style says “Here is the situation. Pretend you are there as your character, what do you want to do?” This style has been superseded over the years with a style that says “Here is the situation. Based on your character's stats, abilities, skills, etc. as listed on his character sheet and your knowledge of the many detailed rules of the game, what is the best course of action to
solve the situation?” Old school play strongly favors the first style and frowns on too much of the second.

Here are some major points where old school play is different:

Skills Rolls Downplayed:

Unlike most modern RPGs, skill rolls are downplayed. While the streamlined skills are used, players only make skill rolls when the GM determines that a random result is needed. Instead, players are intended to have their characters act like adventurers, just telling the GM what they are trying to do. The GM will decide (based on the character’s class, background, skills, talents and the players description of what the character is trying to do) if the attempt succeeds or fails. The GM may ask for a particular skill roll if he thinks a random result is needed. So don’t search your character sheet or the rules for the perfect solution. Instead, you just tell the GM what your character is trying to do. If you need to keep a door open or shut, you might tell the GM your character is using a spike to keep the door open or closed. A ten foot pole is your friend for checking for
traps. Searching a room means looking in and under objects, not rolling a skill check. While this may seem strange at first, you will quickly learn to appreciate the freedom it gives you. No longer are you limited to the skills and feats on your character sheet, you can try anything your character should be capable of trying. You might not succeed, but the rules generally will not stop you from trying.

No Assumption of “Game Balance”:

Old style game sessions aren’t about carefully balanced characters (who are all able to
shine equally at all times) who only run into situations carefully designed by the GM to be beatable by the characters presently in the party and to provide treasure that fits their current level. Instead, part of player skill is learning to evaluate situations so situations well over the party’s current abilities or which will waste the party’s resources for little gain can be avoided. Don’t assume that you can beat every monster that you encounter, running away from monsters too tough to handle can mean the difference between character survival and character death. You can also get creative in how you defeat monsters. Perhaps those goblins you bypassed could be talked into (or tricked into) attacking that giant you know you can’t beat, perhaps killing it for you or at least
softening it up so your party has a chance of defeating it and living to tell the tale. Part of the skill of playing “old school” style is coming up with creative solutions when a direct attack is likely to fail.

It’s Not All About Combat: Many modern fantasy RPGs have made combat the star of the system, combats in these systems are time-consuming and very crunchy with rules for everything. Rules-Lite derivatives avoid this by having fast-playing abstract combat systems. Forsaken Souls takes this one step further, combat isn’t intended to be the main source of fun in the game. The game is as much about exploration, diplomacy and treasuring finding as it is about combat. Sure, you are going to have to fight things to explore and find treasure, but always remember that combat may not be the best or safest way to handle every situation. Think before you rush into combat. After all, it’s not the only way to earn a good pile of experience – and monsters don’t have to be killed to be defeated.

Forget “Rules Mastery”: Player skill in “old school” style games isn’t about mastering the game rules so you can solve any problem by knowing the right combination of rules from 20 different rule books. Designed to be rules-lite Forsaken Souls tries to stress this even more by encouraging GMs to make rulings on the spot taking into account specific circumstances instead of trying to hunt up special cases in the SRD or a stack of optional rule books. It’s faster and helps players immerse themselves in their character and the game world instead of in rule books. Both players and GMs should remember that these rules are a tool for the GM. If something herein does not work right in your campaign, change it. The object is to have fun, not be a slave to rules or to players who think being a rules-lawyer is the way to get ahead. In many roleplaying games, the Rules As Written (RAW) are often considered sacrosanct or at least somehow better than those a GM can come up with himself. This is not true of Forsaken Souls.

Styles of “Old School” Play

If you read some “old school” blogs, forums, and web sites, you might get the impression that there is only one “old school’” style of play: a style with expendable player characters who spend all their time in dungeons designed in the style of the old “Tomb of Horrors” module where an adventuring party is only one slipup away from death. This style of play is often shown in early modules.

What most people forget is that these early modules were designed for tournament play where the party that lasted longest and make it deepest into the dungeon was the winner. While a few gaming groups did run their regular campaigns like this and enjoy it, most people did not enjoy such games and the GMs who ran them were often referred to as “Killer GMs” (who often found themselves without players). Instead most home campaigns were a mixture of the following four styles – some campaigns stressing one or two over the others.

Power-Gaming: Many players start out playing in this style. Many soon get bored with it and add more and more of other styles. A power-gaming campaign is all about character power. They are known by their class, level, special items, and amazing powers and deeds. There is often a lot of player competition for the most powerful character in campaigns that stress power-gaming. A lot of people look down on this style, but it can be a lot of fun to play a pure power-game in a group of players who all like the style.

Wargaming: This was probably the style old school rules were originally written for. The wargaming style of play is a competition between the player group and the GM. The GM sets up tactical battles, puzzles, and the like and the players solve them for treasure and experience. Fudging die rolls and ignoring rules (either for or against the players) is frowned upon as it detracts from the challenge and fun of the adventure. Characters in pure wargaming campaigns often were expendable and had little personality or goals (beyond staying live and getting rich) as a character with such might be tempted to do things dysfunctional to survival. Published tournament dungeons like Tomb of Horrors could be considered examples of extreme forms of this still. Once the RPG hobby became known outside of the minis and board wargaming community, pure forms of the wargaming style quickly became uncommon.

Role-Playing: A pure role-playing campaign is almost the opposite of a pure wargaming campaign. Player skill, tactics, and rules aren’t really important. What is important is the player’s character and that character’s life in the game. In a pure role-playing campaign, players create the personality of their characters in great detail and players generally have a large emotional investments made in them and do not consider their characters expendable. Players tend to have their characters act within their personalities and within the beliefs they're supposed to hold – even when doing so is not the best thing to do at the time within the game. The object is to live your character’s life in the campaign world. You “win” be having your character achieve his goals, goals which may or may not have anything to do with the game’s goals of exploring and accumulating treasure and experience points. The modern computer game The Sims is an example of this style of play.

Story-Telling: While all campaigns tell a story after-the-fact (that is, you can tell a story based on the characters actions in the game), in a story-telling campaign, the GM has worked out a story in advance and the player characters are the protagonists. The campaign world usually has a detailed background and back story behind it. Knowing this background may be more important than knowing the rules. Some pure story telling campaigns are little more that single-line railroads where the characters play their almost pre-scripted parts in the story. In other cases, things are more free-form with story flow and events created by interactions between the GM's basic outline of story events and the actions of individual characters during the campaign. Some people consider the more pure forms of story-telling campaigns boring straight-jackets while others love the idea of being a major part of a real story.

These four major styles of play appeared early in the history of role-playing games. They were first mentioned in a general circulation publication in Glenn Blacow's article “Aspects of Adventure Gaming” in Different Worlds #10 (the October 1980 issue).

The important thing to take from this section isn’t the four styles or their labels (as there are other systems for describing this with their own labels), but the idea that there were many different styles of “old school” play back in the “old school” days – not just the single style stressed in “old school” blogs, forums, and web sites. Don’t let those sites make you believe that you aren’t playing old school right if your campaign isn’t strongly in the wargaming camp. Most successful campaigns back in “old school” days were a mixture of all four major styles – and a heaping helping of minor styles.

Advice for the New ‘Old School’ Gamemaster

If you are comfortable running other rules-light games you’ll probably have no trouble running Forsaken Souls as you have already learned to run a game without having hundreds of pages of rules detailing how to handle every situation that might possibly arise in the game. You’ve already learned to just make a ruling that you think fits the situation and keep the game moving.

The greatest change in Forsaken Souls is the modification of character skills. If you are used to just allowing players to just say “I’m searching the room. What do I find?” and make search skill roll or just say “I’ll try to persuade the baron to loan us a catapult.” and make a persuade skill roll, running without skill rolls is going to require as much change to your thinking as it will to your players’ thinking.

First, you need to get your players to tell you what their characters are actually doing in the campaign world, instead of talking in terms of what skill they are using. Then you need to learn to listen to what they say and decide if there description of what they are doing a) would most likely solve the problem, b) wouldn’t have a chance of solving the problem, c) might not immediately solve the problem but would provide more info that would help solve the problem, or d) would not definitely solve the problem but has a fair chance of doing so. Only d would require a die roll.

Let’s take checking a chest for traps as an example. Get the players to describe in general terms how they are going to check the chest for traps. Note general terms are enough, the idea is to see what the characters are doing, not to require them to describe every single muscle and eye movement they make. Having to “click on one exact pixel on the screen” to succeed is boring and frustrating in a computer game, the verbal equivalent of it is even more frustrating in a tabletop game. Don’t fall into the trap of doing it as it turns players off fast.

Let’s say a player says “I’ll look the chest quickly over for obvious traps, paying special to the keyhole, clasp, and anything that looks out of the ordinary. I’m not touching it yet.”

If the chest had a poison needle near the clasp or some holes for poison gas or needles to shoot out of, this should be enough for the character to notice it without a roll, even if he isn’t a Thief or the like. However, if the chest if set to explode (or shoot daggers out of the opening when opened, such a search is not going to discover the trap – again no matter what the character’s class or background as such a trap isn’t visible from the outside. If you are feeling generous, you might have a Thief make a Subterfuge skill roll and if she makes it tell her player that while she doesn’t see a trap, something still doesn’t seem right about the chest.

If the character had said he was then poking the chest with a pole instead of rushing to open it, he might hear something strange if the chest had the above-mentioned dagger trap. Of course, unless he is a Thief or has some strange background, changes are he would not associate the noise with a trap, but rather just that there was something loose in the chest. Again, you might give a Thief a roll, especially an experienced Thief.

As this example shows, it really isn’t hard – unless you choose to make it hard. It’s just different. After a few sessions both you and your players will find that it really isn’t as hard as it looks.

Some players, however, really want die rolls. Because of previous bad experiences with poor GMs, they just can’t trust the GM enough to handle some decisions being made without die rolls. If your players are like this, you can use “skill” rolls as a safety net. The players will still have to describe what their character does to solve the problem just as above. Once the player describes what his character is doing, the GM calls for a class/background based “skill” roll as described in the skills section of these rules. The results are determined by your opinion as GM of the action described and the skill roll. There are basically two situations:

In the first case, you feel that the player has a good plan that should likely succeed. Therefore it will succeed regardless of the result of the roll, but how well it succeeds is determined by the skill roll. A failed skill roll is a minimal success; the character succeeds, but just barely. A successful skill roll means the character's plan succeeds without any major hitches.

In the second case, either the player obviously knows less than his character does about the situation or just comes up with a bad idea that you feel is unlikely to work. You let the skill roll decide the result. A failed roll means the plan fails, while a successful roll means the plan somehow worked after all, but probably not perfectly.

Players who refuse to even try to come up with some type of rational statement about what their character is actually doing but just want to let the skill roll decide automatically fail.

Intro to Original Edition-style D&D Gaming

Or: How to play with few rules/many options

(The excellent guidance from this document was taken from “A Quick Primer for Old School Playing” © 2008 Matt Finch, found
here: Thanks to Michael S. for the original document: ).

Tips for Players

1) Think Tactically - View the entire area you’ve mapped out as the battleground; don’t plan on taking on monsters in a single room. They may try to outflank you by running down corridors. Think where the party can fall back to a secure defensive position.

2) Think Stealthy - Scout ahead, and try to avoid wandering monsters which don’t carry much treasure. You’re in the dungeon to find the treasure-rich lairs. Trying to kill every monster you meet will weaken the party before you find the rich monsters.

3) Think Cautiously - Don’t assume you can defeat any monster you encounter.

4) Breadcrumbs! Keep some sort of map, even if it’s just a flow chart. If you get lost, you can end up in real trouble – especially in a dungeon where wandering monster rolls are made frequently.

5) Think Curiously - Ask lots of questions about what you see. Look up. Ask about unusual stonework. Test floors before stepping.

6) Think Magically - Protect the magic-user. He’s your nuke.

7) Think In Numbers - Hire some cannon fodder. Don’t let the cannon fodder start to view you as a weak source of treasure.

8) Think About Firepower - Spears can usually reach past your first rank of fighters, so a phalanx of hirelings works well.

9) Ask Everyone - Check in with the grizzled one-armed guy in the tavern before each foray; he may have suddenly remembered more details about the area.

Four Zen Moments of Old School Play

First Zen Moment: Rulings, not Rules - The players can describe any action, without needing to look at a character sheet to see if they “can” do it. The referee, in turn, uses common sense to decide what happens or rolls a die if he thinks there’s some random
element involved, and then the game moves on.

Second Zen Moment: Player Skill, not Character Abilities - Original D&D and Swords & Wizardry are games of skill in a few areas where modern games just rely on the character sheet. In an old school game, you are always asking questions, telling the referee exactly what your character is looking at, and experimenting with things. Die rolls are much less frequent than in modern games. You don’t have skills and dice rolls for everything you want to do. You have to tell the referee where you’re looking for traps and
what buttons you’re pushing. You have to tell the referee whatever tall tale you’re trying to get the city guardsman to believe.

Third Zen Moment: Heroic, not Superhero - Old-style games have a human-sized scale, not a super-powered scale. At first level, adventurers are barely more capable than a regular person. They live by their wits. To make a comic-book analogy, characters don’t
become Superman; they become Batman. And they don’t start as Batman – Batman is the pinnacle. Old school gaming is about the triumph of the little guy into an epic hero, not the development of an epic hero into a superhuman being.

Fourth Zen Moment: Forget “Game Balance.” - The old-style campaign is a fantasy world, with all its perils, contradictions, and surprises: it’s not a “game setting” which somehow always produces challenges of just the right difficulty for the party’s level of
experience. It’s more like a story with dice: the players describe their actions, the referee describes the results, and the story of the characters, epic or disastrous, grows out of the combined efforts of referee and players. The referee will be just as surprised by the
results as the players are. Just as the players have no right to depend upon a rule in the book, the referee has no right, ever, to tell the player what a character
decides to do. That’s the player’s decision (unless there’s a charm spell going).

And the Final, Most Important Zen – Play and have fun!

Going Back to the Roots is Not Enough

"These rules are strictly fantasy. Those wargamers who lack imagination, those who don't care for Burroughs' Martian adventures where John Carter is groping through black pits, who feel no thrill upon reading Howards' Conan saga, who do not enjoy the deCamp & Pratt fantasies or Fritz Leibers' Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser pitting their swords against evil sorceries will not be likely to find DUNGEONS and DRAGONS to their taste. But those whose imaginations know no bounds will find that these rules are the answer to their prayers. With this last bit of advice we invite you to read on and enjoy a 'world' where the fantastic is fact and magic really works!"
E. Gary Gygax, 1 November 1973
From the Foreword to
Men & Magic
by Gygax and Arneson

Three Little Brown Books set in motion a revolution that still captures imaginations and pilfers beer money from gamers like nothing else that came before it.  As we approach the Fortieth Anniversary of the launch of the Original Dungeons and Dragons, and after all the OGL-inspired retro-clones, simulacra and editorial necromancy visited upon the ouvre and corpus of Gygax & Arneson's literary creation, maybe we can begin to look past the roots a bit and stop mucking around in the tired dirt that's all but played-out and go start tending our own gardens, hoeing our own rows, and planting our own seeds out past the looming shadow of OD&D and all that has come afterwards.


It is important and valuable to go back to the roots of things, if indeed your intention is to acquire some understanding of what was done and how, to learn from the past and devise your own strategies which you then take forwards and outwards and set into motion on your own terms.  Going back is only useful if it facilitates our inspiration and spurs us to action.  Endlessly revising, re-interpreting and regurgitating what has already been done is not what it is about --and it never was-- going back to the roots cannot be perverted into a retreat into some peculiar hegemonic orthodoxy.  That way lies madness, sterility, barrenness and self-deceit.  Going back is about learning, understanding and then moving on, going your own way, doing it on your own terms, using what has come before as a creative springboard or launching pad.

That is how we honor creators and innovators: by becoming our own creators and our own innovators.

Self-declared pontiffs and purveyors of empty opinions have no place in any creative undertaking, be it a movement of artists, a school of thought, or a swarm of nerds armed with colorful dice.

We're better than that.

All of us are better than that.

Look deeply into the roots of things, drink deep and then cast your lot.
It is the oldest way to bring something really and truly new into the world.
Do you have the courage to make the assay?