Reuel ~ Campaign Setting

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien

I have finally hit upon the name for my campaign setting, Reuel. It is inspired and in honor of J.R.R.Tolkien. Reuel was a family name for Tolkien and has a nice ring to it. I’ve read conflicting views on how much of an influence Tolkien’s work is on Dungeons and Dragons. It matters little to me what anyone has to say on this point. One thing I can testify is that the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings was my introduction into fantasy literature. Tolkien painted the picture of a world that is eminently suited for exploring. His works are but one of many influences for me. Robert E. Howard and Edgar Rice Burroughts are also two writers I hold in high esteem. The tales of the Cimmerian and the adventures of Tarzan are what made me love tabletop roleplaying.

So, you ask, what does this have to do with me? Well, I plan on expanding my campaign world and adding bits and pieces here and there. I you gain inspiration from it, then I am glad.

Now, I will need to figure out the best way to present the information. I’m really liking the idea of short stories. I think that much of the flavor of a setting can be evoked in this manner. I know that my expertise is not in playing the role of an old school sage. I’ve played Dnd and many other rpgs over the years, about 40 years or more, but I’m not any kind of authority. So, I’ll just have to see where this takes me. Any suggestions or comments would glady be appreciated.

More to come,


This really happened!

Let me set the scene for you. Our Roll20 game tonight begins in the village of Larm. We are using the Labyrinth Lord Original Edition Characters rules. Three players with these characters; cleric, elf, and magic-user. We hire a man to take us upstream to an evil temple and we also hire a man-at-arms. He claims to be a expert crossbowman, but we didn’t get a chance to find out.

Sitting in our rowboat, coming up to an island. On the edge of the riverbank to the east of us is a lone orc. He has his bow ready and wins initiative. Before we can react, the orc fires an arrow into our rowboat at an random target. It is our man-at-arms. He is wearing padded armor. The orc hits with plenty to spare and does 6 points of damage, killing the man-at-arms instantly. He falls overboard as our elf returns fire.

The elf hits the orc but doesn’t kill him. At the same time, the magic user is fishing the dead man-at-arms out of the river. The boatsman rows us to the island and we get make ready to take cover in the trees.

Next round the orc wins again, hitting the cleric for 4 points but not killing him. The elf returns fire killing the orc. We can hear the shouts of more orcs coming to the river’s edge. The magic user begins fishing out his scroll. The rest of us take cover.

The magic user has a scroll of animate dead that he found in the evil temple last session. He uses it on the man-at-arms. The orcs arrive on the scene.

The magic user commands the newly undead man-at-arms to stay back and fire his crossbow at the orcs across the river. The rest of us are running for the cover of the trees.

One of the orcs fires at the undead man-at-arms, hits him and does 6 points of damage. The man-at-arms drops again, second time he’s been killed in just two attacks on him! Needless to say, it was one of the funniest scenes I’ve ever witnessed in 40 years of gaming! We are definitely going to need more hirelings!

On Writing

I open my notebook to a blank page, grab my pencil, click it twice to advance the lead. I’m sitting in my car at the park, a diet Coke and cheeseburger and fries on the passenger seat. It’s a beautiful day, a cool breeze blows through the car windows. This is my favorite time, a moment of endless possibilities. Sometimes inspiration strikes me and ideas flow onto the page. Other times, I pause, not knowing what to write. In that instance, I flip through the notes I’ve made and often think of something new. In either case, I live for this moment. This is why I love roleplaying games. It gives me the reason to perform this ritual of writing.

More to come…

Lydia Bucktooth, Dwarven Veteran, RIP

The second session of our Old School Essentials (BX dnd) Roll20 game saw the unfortunate demise of Lydia Bucktooth, a stalwart dwarven fighter. It was Lydia’s first foray out on the road east of the Keep on the Borderlans.

The party consisted of Lydia (dwarf), Fodder (druid), Tad (hireling), and Yersan (hireling). The group walked along the road to the east until evening. They made camp upon a hill known as “Overlook”. It was then the had their first random encounter. Result was four giant shrews.

This was the first time I had ever used giant shrews against a party. Four of them were quite a challenge. The druid cast entangle but only caught one in its viney snare. The others attacked the party. An interesting note about the giant shrew…when they attack, the target must make a save vs death or flee in panic! This happend to Fodder the druid and Tad the hireling. Lydia and Tad did well against two of the shrews, but one was still able to attack. Poor Lydia fell to the vicious bite of the creature as the others fled in panic!

A good time was had by all!

Quite deadly but it could’ve been worse. The shrews weren’t hitting very well. Our poor PCs had lower hit points. We agreed to play rules as written, so hit points would be as they come (re-rolling 1 or 2).

Fun little foray and more to come!

A Tavern Notice Board

DIY Notice Board for your Game

We’ve started a new campaign using Roll20. The rest of the fatbeards want to explore the Caves of Chaos (Keep on the Borderlands, module B2). I’m happy to oblige, having recently visited the caves in my solo play using Pits & Perils Rpg.

This time, we are using the B/X edition of the Dungeons & Dragons Basic game but with the Old School Essentials rulebook (a modern layout that is in essence the B/X rules). In addition, we are adding the Advanced Fantasy Genre rules (with some new character classes). So far, my pal Doug is running a female dwarven veteran (race is a class in B/X) and a male druid.

This past weekend, Doug and I ran a quick session, the other fellows were unable to join us this weekend. Lydia, the dwarf, and Fodder, the druid (gotta love that name!) made their way through the front gate of the Keep and quickly found the tavern.

None of the characters or establishments are named in the module. I decided to call the tavern the Egg & Goat. This is in honor of Egg Barkley and Goat Bentley, two of the henchmen I played in my Pits & Perils solo game.

Anyway, the tavern has a notice board (and grand place to hand out rumors and adventure threads). I’ve seen some nice looking tavern notice boards (obsidian portal has an example and drivethrurpg sells some pre-made boards) but I wanted to make a good looking board that I could customize.

Using the internet and MS Paint, I was easily able to make the board (pictured above) in little time and no cost. I searched online for “textured wood background free” and found a few sites that had images without watermarks. Here’s an example. Instead of downloading any image, I just snipped it using the snipping feature on windows 10. A screenshot would work just as well.

I dropped this into MS Paint and then did a search for parchment paper images. I snipped a variety of these onto my paint workspace. Make sure you open the cavas up extra wide to allow you to give you room for the images.

Tavern Board Template

Once I have the tavern board and the parchment, I made a duplicate tavern board to keep blank for new projects. I then had a neat idea to use the free-form select tool in MS Paint. This allowed me to make the rough and jagged edges of the notes that I post on the tavern board. Make sure to click transparent selection as an option when copying them.

Add your text and you’ll be all set. Just select the finished tavern board and paste in a new paint file, save it, and use it for Roll20 or print a handout for the table top. It really was a lot less work than I thought it would be, and I’m really happy with the results. I know that this and so many cooler things can be done with other drawing programs but this is free and simple to use.

Let me know what you think and how your make your own tavern notice boards.

More later and thanks…


The Keep on the Borderlands with Old School Essentials

Tonight I started a new campaign using module B1 The Keep on the Borderlands. It will be different than my solo play with Pits and Perils. For this, we are going back to B/X rules but using the Old School Essentials by Gavin Norman. This is like coming home to me. My first game of dnd was with the red box rules (Basic Dnd) with Tom Moldvay. And B1 was the very first module I ran. I guess I love the game and this particular module so much due in part to the nostalgia factor. I still get that warm fuzzy feeling when looking over those blue maps and perusing the artwork.

It’s a great time for Dungeons & Dragons and a great time for Old School gamers too. I’m probably playing as much if not more now that when I was a kid. I’ve got plenty of projects to keep me busy inbetween roll20 sessions. I’ll continue to tinker with my Fatbeards RPG rules (purely for my own enjoyment) and continue to play variations of rules (Whitebox, Old School Essentials, Pits & Perils, and many more.) They’re all great games and will continue to give me years of enjoyment.

More to come…

Happy New Year!

Photo by Zbynek Burival on Unsplash

Greetings and good wishes to you all for the coming new year!

I have put the blog on the back burner to simmer for awhile. I imagine many of us do this with projects they’ve started. It’s not for a lack of gaming that I’ve been silent, but on the contrary I’ve been gaming once a week on average.

My roll20 group, we call ourselves the Fatbeards, has been a wellspring of joy and relief from the soul sucking grind of real life. Actually, life is not that bad, but it gets stressful and escape into the world of table top gaming is a true respite.

With the new year, I find myself contemplating my direction in life and how to maximize my happiness and contentment. My son recently married a wonderful girl and we are so very happy he has found the love of his life. They are true soul mates and meant for each other. When I see them together, I know they are just right.

In the new year, all I can hope for is continued health and happiness for my family. As I’ve grown older, I’ve made a decision to limit my hobbies to music and roleplaying games. Both are going just fine. I have a life’s work ahead of me in gaming and am looking forward to more time playing and running games.

Recently, I’ve been working on a Frankenstein’s monster type of creation with rules. I’m calling it Fatbeards Style Rpg. I’ve discovered the Youtube channel DungeonCraft with Professor Dungeonmaster. If you get a chance, you will enjoy the videos he is making on DIY crafting of terrain and also rules that he uses at his table. So much of it really speaks to me. I like the usefulness and rules lite method he employs. There is something about rules lite gaming that I really enjoy.

My rules are a combination of Whitebox Dnd (Charlie Mason) mixed in with Index Card Rpg, Five Torches Deep, Pits and Perils (James and Robyn George), Helmets and Halberds (Alex Schroeder) and other houserules (such as luck points and rolling with advantage). My goal is to distill the rules down to just a few pages (including spells and monsters). I’d rather not even have to look at the rules when the game is on.

In addition to this, I’ve been running a Whitebox play by post on the Smoldering Wizard Forum. It is set in a new campaign world of my own creation called Thaerene. I’ll be working on this more in the new year.

The Perils on the Borderlands posting that I’ve done on this site had been on hold, but I will try to play and post more adventures of Arden and Company. This and the Roll20 sessions with my Fatbeard pals give me much to look forward to.

Here’s hoping all the best for each of you in the New Year!


As a sidenote, after publishing this post I learned that this is my 100th post. That is kind of a fitting way to end the year. Hope to have many more posts in the year’s to come.

Beyond the Borderlands Play by Post

I’ve been busy setting the table for a new campaign on the Smoldering Wizards Forum. The campaign world is based on much of the content I’ve written in this blog.

Running a play-by-post is a great way for me to build on the campaign world. The play-by-post is using Whitebox rules, but I want the campaign world to be easily adaptable to other games (Pits & Perils in particular). I want to build a world filled with ideas, interesting people, places, and dangers just waiting to be explored.

My intention is to release finished pieces of it to my blog for use by others. I don’t think that making it into a commercial product is really my cup of tea. I can’t get past the constant drumbeat needed to promote anything commercially. It takes the fun out of what is meant to be a great hobby.

Who knows? I may write an adventure set in this campaign world and do a pay want you want online or publish a compiled version. But for now, I’m enjoying the chance to work on the campaign.

Here is a link to the current play by post game.

I can alway use a few more players. Take a look at it and see what you think. Hopefully it is a fun read.

More to come…

Crits and Misses

Critical hits and misses are an often house ruled thing. Most of the time I’ve simply allowed the player (and npc) to roll twice for damage if they scored a critical hit (rolling a 20).

It’s simple and it works, and it is boring. Players love to have something special happen when they roll a 20 and I agree. The funny thing is that the players often get hurt by criticals. Regardless, it adds an element of suspense and unpredictability to the game. So here goes my attempt at another critical hit and miss table! Please feel free to try it out and let me know your thoughts. Any suggestions or comments are always welcome!

Note–this works best with White Box rules.

Critical Hit and Miss Tables

A natural 20 is a critical hit. When this happens the target takes maximum damage by weapon and one of the following happens.

Critical Hit

1. Weapon hand injured! (-1 to hit for rest of battle)

2. Leg is injured! (-1 to hit and 1/2 move rate for rest of battle)

3. Head is grazed! (lose next action if wearing a helmet, otherwise save to avoid being knocked out for 1d6 rounds)

4. Knocked down! (opponent gets one free attack)

5. Armor, shield, or weapon damaged! (randomly choose, loses one level of quality, see Quality of Items)

6. Extra damage! (roll damage by weapon)

A natural 1 is a critical miss. This means one of the following happens.

Critical Miss

1. Dropped weapon! (roll d12 for direction, d12 for distance in feet)

2. Weapon damaged! (loses one level of quality, see Quality of Items)

3. Fall to one knee! (-1 to AC until next turn)

4. Fall down! (opponent gets one free attack)

5. Hit an ally! (make an attack roll on a random ally close by)

6. Hit yourself! (make an attack roll on yourself)

Breaking Rules

Photo by Hannah Gibbs on Unsplash

Not breaking the rules of the game, but rules on breaking things in the game!

Back in the old days, when I was a little DM, most often we would play Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (1st edition). One of the house rules we tinkered with was equipment damage. When one of the PCs was hit with a 20 (critical), their armor suffered severed damage and needed to be repaired. In the meantime, their damaged armor’s AC worsened by 1 point. It was a houserule that made treks into the dungeons a little more dangerous without major housekeeping of the inventory.

A lot of dice have been thrown under the fridge since then. I came across an excellent posting of item damage here.

Here’s my take on equiptment damage.

Note–this is geared towards White Box rules but should work for any system with little or no modifications. This is an easy switch to Pits and Perils. I will post the notes on this sometime.

Quality of Items

Weapons, armor, and tools all have some degree of quality. They can be categorized into four groups–fine, standard, poor, and broken.


Fine quality items will cost at least 20 times the normal price. They are exceptionally well made.

Fine weapons will give the wielder +1 to hit (non magical). Fine armor will increase movement rate by 10′ per round. Fine tools will give the user a +1 bonus when using them. (I usually roll a d6 to determine if a task is successful. Depending on the circumstances, I come up with an X-in-6 chance of success.)


Standard weapons, armor, and tools are just that. They provide no extra benefits. They are just serviceable items.


Poor weapons cause the wielder -1 to hit and are so bad that a roll of 1 or 2 will indicate it has broken. Poor armor -1 to AC. Poor tools will take twice as long to get the job done.


Broken weapons, armor, and tools does no one any good. They need to be repaired.


Shields can either be fine, standard, or broken. A fine shield can absorb two blows (Shields Shall be Splintered rule) before breaking. The first blow reduces it to a standard shield and the second blow will shatter it. A standard shield can only absorb one blow (Shields Shall be Splintered rule) before breaking.

Loss of Quality

Each time a weapon is damaged, it will lose a level of quality. For example, a fighter swings his fine sword but rolls a 1. A roll of 1 in my game indicates a critical miss and then I need to consult the critical miss table. If the critical miss table indicates the weapon is damaged, the fine sword becomes a standard sword (and loses the +1 to hit benefit that fine weapons are given.) If the sword is damaged again, it will become a poor sword. Any roll of 1 or 2 for a poor weapon indicates it has broken.


Repairing the item can be done if it is taken to someone with smithing skills. Magical spells of mending will also work. Repair of an item will be 10% of original cost for each level of quality that was lost. Example, if a fine sword was damaged twice and is now considered poor condition, it would cost 20% of the original price to restore it to fine quality. No item can be improved to a quality greater than its original quality.