Queue the Twilight Zone theme song. I was cleaning up the projects area of my hard drive this morning. I found a game, Microlite20 Comprehensive Edition, that I apparently worked on and finished in 2015. I somehow forgot about it. All it needs is layout. How could I have forgotten an entire game? I know we were dealing with a lot of doctor visits for my wife that year, but still, how could a complete game have slipped my mind? I vaguely remember putting it together for players in my old Waco group who wanted a version of Microlite20 that incorporated a lot of the early extensions and additions. I’ve just ask on the Waco group mailing list if I ever gave anyone a copy or if it has sat uselessly on my drive for 3 years.
A Second Edition of Microlite78 First Edition Lite?
Microlite78 fan Robert has been at it again. While he was happy to see the digest/ebook version of Microlite78 First Edition Lite, he pointed out that i could do a version much closer to 1e now that I have more than the Microlite74 material to work with.
He’s right. The original mandate for Microlite78 was to combine the Microlite74 Extended rules with Microlite74 Companions II (Treasure), IV (Bestiary of Monsters), and V (First Edition Spells) into a single volume that could be used to play 1e style games — and to use the more standard XP and advancement system I was developing for Microlite81. The idea was that I could toss this together in a month or so. I agreed to do this a few days before my wife’s mother past away unexpectedly (and our move to Dallas), so my one month project ended up taking about a year.
Robert has convinced me to look at doing a second edition of Microlite78 First Edition Lite. In fact, I already have a fairly compete draft version available to RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund donors (usual place, usual password — direct links: Draft 1 and now Draft 2). While there are not a lot of major changes, the changes made are significant:
- The math heavy system for recalculating advancement tables if certain optional rules (like psionics) are used have been replaced with the Experience Rank system I’ve developed for the BX Advanced games. Some granularity is lost, but dealing with advancement adjustments from optional rules is reduced to simple addition and subtraction of small numbers.
- The treasure section is more like that of 1e. Many 1e magic items were not included in the Microlite74 Companion II rules (and therefore were not in the first edition of Microlite78). The majority of them are present now.
- The first edition rules — like the Microlite74 games they were based on — did not include much information on how to run the game for the GM. More recent RetroRoleplaying releases have added section of GM Lore with helpful GM advice and procedures. This material is included in the second edition.
- While high level characters received strongholds, little information on handling player-controlled areas was included in the game. There was really nothing beyond the costs of building a stronghold. The second edition includes rules for running player-controlled dominions.
- There are a number of minor additions: a few more optional rules, sample wilderness and dungeon encounter tables, etc.
- The contents have been reorganized.
The basic version of this game will be “pay what you want” and will not have a lot of art. There will be an Extended Version with more art and more monsters, treasure, etc for sale. The aim is to get these out by the end of summer — at the latest. Fingers crossed for no medical or family emergencies.
Microlite74: Perilous Adventures is Now Available (Free RPG)
Back in 2015, I created a special version of Microlite74 designed for my Wilderlands of High Fantasy game. It was sort of a “Basic Plus” version in that it limited itself to the original three character classes of Microlite74 Basic and the original 0e boxed set, but used the more complete/complex rules from Microlite74 Extended. It also allow Magic-Users to select between four spell lists at character creation and clerics to select between two. A “special edition” of this game (entitled Microlite74: Perilous Adventures) with donated art was released for RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund donors in the Spring of 2015. I panned to release a generally available version with public domain art about a year later.
As it’s now the summer of 2018, I’d say the schedule slipped a bit — because I forgot all about my plan to release this game to everyone while working on things like moving to Ohio and other games. However, Microlite74: Perilous Adventures has been cleaned up, reformatted with public domain art, and is now available as a “pay what you want” game on RPGNow/DrivethruRPG. The rules have been slightly revised for this release and a few additional optional rules have been added. As normal, $0 (aka free) is a perfectly acceptable amount to pay.
Get your copy of Microlite74 Perilous Adventures on RPGNow.
Why download this game? Microlite74: Perilous Adventures provides a look at a different path 0e might have taken. A path that expanded character design options without starting down the road that leads to a huge number of separate classes each with their own rules and other bits and bobs. The entire game — rules, spell lists, monsters, magic items, etc. — fits in a 72 page rulebook.
Microlite74 games are trimmed-down miniature versions of the Primary Fantasy SRD rules designed to be quick and easy to play, especially when compared to modern incarnations of the game. The goal of Microlite74 games is to recreate the style and feel of that very first (“0e”) fantasy roleplaying game published back in 1974 without giving up all of the clearer mechanics of modern D20-based versions.
These rules assume that the GM understands the basic concepts of roleplaying games, but provides information for both the GM and the players on the various “old school” styles of play. Microlite74 games can easily use adventures and material from early editions of the world’s most popular tabletop fantasy roleplaying game or modern clones.
Microlite78 First Edition Lite Digest/Ebook Version Released
I’ve had several requests (including a number of requests from 1 person ::waves to Robert::) for a digest/ebook version of Microlite78 First Edition Lite. I’ve finally had time to reformat Microlite78 into a single column digest-sized pdf (and produce .epub and .mobi ebook versions), so a digest/ebook version is now available. The digest-sized pdf is 505 pages and sells for $4.95. Note that this is the same content as the 158 page “condensed type/pay-what-you-want” version that has been available for a few years. The only changes are formatting, larger type, different art, and a fixing 3 or 4 minor typos I noticed while laying out the digest version.
You can find it on RPGNow.
Microlite81 Advanced Expanded Tablet Digest Edition Available Next Week
Coming next week. Microlite81 Advanced: Expanded Tablet/Digest Edition.
The Microlite81 Advanced: Expanded Tablet/Digest Edition takes the popular Microlite81 Advanced rules and puts them in a format designed for easy use on tablets (larger type, smaller single-column pages). However, it also adds a lot of new material that is not in the pay-what-you-want “condensed type” edition of Microlite81 Advanced — such as:
- about 100 additional monsters
- over 50 new magic items, including some magic items designed specifically for Microlite81 systems (e.g. the hit point fueled magic system)
- a few new spells
- rules for using small parties of 1-3 characters in old TSR adventures designed for 8+ PCs
- expanded rules for dominions (the territories high level PC rule).
- sample adventures
- art — lots more art, including color art.
There are 888 pages in the pdf version. Epub and mobi versions are also included, although the formatting may not be perfect (especially on small screen devices like phones). The price will be $9.95.
Dungeon Delving Undying Light SRD Now Online
I’ve created a Dungeon Delving Undying Light “SRD” web site where the entire Dungeon Delving Undying Light rules are online as web pages. The site is not spectacular to look at, but it is functional and allows reading the Dungeon Delving Undying Light rules from a web browser on just about any modern computer, tablet, or smartphone. SRD sites are popular with other games like D&D 3.5, Pathfinder, Dungeon World, and others; and I’ve had requests to provide such sites for my games. Since Dungeon Delving Undying Light is a small game and I recently discovered a way to easily convert MS Word files to Markdown (which can then be converted to html without the mess of weird Word html you get from converting Word directly to html), I decided to give it a try. If this site proves popular, I will try to find time to create SRD web sites for my other games.
You’ll find Dungeon Delving Undying Light “SRD” web site here: https://dungeondelvingulsrd.retroroleplaying.com/
“Free” Version of Dungeon Delving Undying Light Now Available
The Pay-What-You-Want (aka Free) version the Dungeon Delving Undying Light is finally available!
Dungeon Delving Undying Light is a trimmed down and simplified version of Swords & Wizardry. This game takes the Continual Light edition and cleans up the rules and the formatting, then adds backgrounds, more monsters, rules for morale and reaction rolls, additional minor optional rules, four optional systems (True Magic Rituals, Action Points, Body Points, Advanced Combat), and some basic explanations for the referee on how to handle dungeon and wilderness exploration. Designed to be easy to play and easy to teach to those new to tabletop roleplaying games while retaining all the fun of exploring strange new lands and crawling through dark and dangerous dungeons. Referees can easily create their own adventures and campaign settings or use adventures and setting designed for Swords & Wizardry or other early editions and variants of the world’s most popular tabletop fantasy roleplaying game. The complete game — all the standard rules, monster and spell descriptions, and guidelines for the GM on adventuring procedures — are covered in a mere 19 pages.
The Pay-What-You-Want (aka “Free”) version of Dungeon Delving Undying Light is two-columns and is letter-sized with less art that the paid version. The paid version is digest-sized, single-column with larger type and includes more art and sample blank dungeon maps and dungeon geomorphs. The text is the same exception references to the blank dungeon maps and dungeon geomorphs in the paid version have been removed. While you are welcome to download and enjoy the Pay-What-You-Want version for free, a dollar or two would always be appreciated.
You can download a copy of the pay what you want version of Dungeon Delving Undying Light from RPGNow or DriveThruRPG:
Dungeon Delving Undying Light (PWYW Version) on RPGNow
Dungeon Delving Undying Light (PWYW Version) on DriveThruRPG
Playing Dungeons & Dragons as a Test of Artificial Intelligence?
The article below points out that getting a computer to play Dungeons & dungeons and pass a human player might be a better test of artificial intelligence than games like Go or Chess. I agree that playing Dungeons & Dragons (or any tabletop RPG) requires showing a much different time of intelligence than playing Chess or Go — games with strict rules and a very limited set of actions one can take on their turn.
Everyone had died – not that you’d know it, from how they were laughing about their poor choices and bad rolls of the dice. As a social anthropologist, I study how people understand artificial intelligence (AI) and our efforts towards attaining it; I’m also a life-long fan of Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), the inventive fantasy roleplaying game. During a recent quest, when I was playing an elf ranger, the trainee paladin (or holy knight) acted according to his noble character, and announced our presence at the mouth of a dragon’s lair. The results were disastrous. But while success in D&D means ‘beating the bad guy’, the game is also a creative sandbox, where failure can count as collective triumph so long as you tell a great tale.
What does this have to do with AI? In computer science, games are frequently used as a benchmark for an algorithm’s ‘intelligence’. The late Robert Wilensky, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley and a leading figure in AI, offered one reason why this might be. Computer scientists ‘looked around at who the smartest people were, and they were themselves, of course’, he told the authors of Compulsive Technology: Computers as Culture (1985). ‘They were all essentially mathematicians by training, and mathematicians do two things – they prove theorems and play chess. And they said, hey, if it proves a theorem or plays chess, it must be smart.’ No surprise that demonstrations of AI’s ‘smarts’ have focussed on the artificial player’s prowess.
Yet the games that get chosen – like Go, the main battlefield for Google DeepMind’s algorithms in recent years – tend to be tightly bounded, with set objectives and clear paths to victory or defeat. These experiences have none of the open-ended collaboration of D&D. Which got me thinking: do we need a new test for intelligence, where the goal is not simply about success, but storytelling? What would it mean for an AI to ‘pass’ as human in a game of D&D? Instead of the Turing test, perhaps we need an elf ranger test?
Of course, this is just a playful thought experiment, but it does highlight the flaws in certain models of intelligence. First, it reveals how intelligence has to work across a variety of environments. D&D participants can inhabit many characters in many games, and the individual player can ‘switch’ between roles (the fighter, the thief, the healer). Meanwhile, AI researchers know that it’s super difficult to get a well-trained algorithm to apply its insights in even slightly different domains – something that we humans manage surprisingly well.
Second, D&D reminds us that intelligence is embodied. In computer games, the bodily aspect of the experience might range from pressing buttons on a controller in order to move an icon or avatar (a ping-pong paddle; a spaceship; an anthropomorphic, eternally hungry, yellow sphere), to more recent and immersive experiences involving virtual-reality goggles and haptic gloves. Even without these add-ons, games can still produce biological responses associated with stress and fear (if you’ve ever played Alien: Isolation you’ll understand). In the original D&D, the players encounter the game while sitting around a table together, feeling the story and its impact. Recent research in cognitive science suggests that bodily interactions are crucial to how we grasp more abstract mental concepts. But we give minimal attention to the embodiment of artificial agents, and how that might affect the way they learn and process information.
Finally, intelligence is social. AI algorithms typically learn though multiple rounds of competition, in which successful strategies get reinforced with rewards. True, it appears that humans also evolved to learn through repetition, reward and reinforcement. But there’s an important collaborative dimension to human intelligence. In the 1930s, the psychologist Lev Vygotsky identified the interaction of an expert and a novice as an example of what became called ‘scaffolded’ learning, where the teacher demonstrates and then supports the learner in acquiring a new skill. In unbounded games, this cooperation is channelled through narrative. Games of It among small children can evolve from win/lose into attacks by terrible monsters, before shifting again to more complex narratives that explain why the monsters are attacking, who is the hero, and what they can do and why – narratives that aren’t always logical or even internally compatible. An AI that could engage in social storytelling is doubtless on a surer, more multifunctional footing than one that plays chess; and there’s no guarantee that chess is even a step on the road to attaining intelligence of this sort.
In some ways, this failure to look at roleplaying as a technical hurdle for intelligence is strange. D&D was a key cultural touchstone for technologists in the 1980s and the inspiration for many early text-based computer games, as Katie Hafner and Matthew Lyon point out in Where Wizards Stay up Late: The Origins of the Internet (1996). Even today, AI researchers who play games in their free time often mention D&D specifically. So instead of beating adversaries in games, we might learn more about intelligence if we tried to teach artificial agents to play together as we do: as paladins and elf rangers.
This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.
Dungeon Delving Undying Light Now Available (Paid Version with Art)
The first game in RetroRoleplaying.com’s new series of Swords & Wizardry-based games, Dungeon Delving Undying Light, is now available in a 96 page digest-sized pdf for only $3.99 (an epub version is also included, although it has minor issues with fonts and illos). A Pay-What-You-Want/Free two-column letter size version (without art) will be out in 5 to 10 days. All the rules fit in about 24 pages in the letter-sized version, so in spite of the page count of the digest-sized edition, it really isn’t that much larger than SWCL. As usual for my games, the rules are open game content.
Dungeon Delving Undying Light is a trimmed down and simplified version of Swords & Wizardry. This game takes the Continual Light edition and cleans up the rules and the formatting, then adds attribute rolls, backgrounds, more monsters, rules for morale and reaction rolls, additional minor optional rules, four optional systems (True Magic Rituals, Action Points, Body Points, Advanced Combat), and some basic explanations for the referee on how to handle dungeon and wilderness exploration. It is designed to be easy to play and easy to teach to those new to tabletop roleplaying games while retaining all the fun of exploring strange new lands and crawling through dark and dangerous dungeons. Referees can easily create their own adventures and campaign settings or use adventures and setting designed for Swords & Wizardry or other early editions and variants of the world’s most popular tabletop fantasy roleplaying game.
You’ll find Dungeon Delving Undying Light on RPGNow and DriveThruRPG (where a 20-page preview is available):
Dungeon Delving Undying Light ($3.99) on RPGNow
Perhaps Really Huge Dungeons Aren’t “Unrealistic” After All
I stumbled across an article on a huge complex of man-made tunnels under parts of China that were apparently, like the Great Wall, built to help defend the Northern part of China from invaders. From the article (click here to read the entire article):
Experts have dug out similar war passages in Yongqing, Xiong county, and Bazhou. The ancient war passages are about 65 kilometers from east to west, 25 kilometers from north to south, which extend through 1,600 square kilometers. When the border between the Song Dynasty and the Liao Dynasty went as far west as Rongcheng county and Xushui county, it is thought that many ancient war passages existed in that area. How far the ancient war passages extended eastwards from Yongqing is still unknown.
These passages were apparently built around 1000 AD. Given the size of this tunnel complex and their apparent usage, perhaps megadungeons aren’t as an unrealistic idea as even those of us who enjoy them have assumed they were.