Sunday, June 23, 2013

SPIDERS & ANGELS - A Stormbringer 1e adventure, Part One


A Stormbringer 1e adventure.

Here is the first installment in my Stormbringer 1e scenario, ‘Spiders & Angels.’ Why Stormbringer 1e? It is the grand dame of fantasy rpgs, and allows you to tromp around Michael Moorcock’s multiverse. It’s beautifully broken and eminently playable.

So yeah, why not?

Don’t expect tons of stats or explanations. Read the adventure, get your mental bearings and fill in details as needed. A Random NPC Generator is provided at the end for Gamemasters lacking inspiration or wanting to leave things to chance.



It starts with a rumour that comes to the Adventurers, of a fantastic city fallen to the earth 1d6+1 days’ travel from where they are. Gamemasters can have an old contact slip them the information for a share of the spoils, or a diviner tell them, or a deity contact them, or whatever is convenient and discrete. If play starts with this adventure, use the following table to decide starting locale and the rumoured location of the city, and have players prepare as they can for the journey to come.

1 Start in Karlaak, fallen city is in the Weeping Waste. Wooden armor, bows and horses are half price, metal weapons are triple.
2 Start in Isle of Purple Towns, city is near the Unholy Fortress. Adventurers will need to hire a boat and crew. If they fail a Bargain roll or are just loudmouths, word gets out and all costs triple in addition to having rival crews to deal with.
3 Start in Lormyr, city in the hinterlands of Yu. Any characters publically professing allegiance to Chaos must make a Luck roll (POW x 5%) or draw the attention of Inquisitors of Law.
4 Start in Pikarayd, city is in the hinterlands of Dorel. Any characters publically professing allegiance to Law must make a Luck roll (POW x 5%) or draw the attention of Inquisitors of Chaos.
5 Start in Aflitain, city is in the Marshes of Mist. Mounts cost double and no one will rent horses as few return from the Marshes.
6 Start in Immryr, city is on one of the lesser abandoned isles of Melnibone. Non-Melnibonean characters will have their hands full escaping the Dreaming City, much less arming and equipping themselves, while any found outside without imperial permission will be executed.


Once the Adventurers have started out on their journey towards the fallen city, the Gamemaster should throw a completely random and distracting encounter at them. The point is to provide a red herring that heightens anticipation for the fallen city.

1 Bandits! A number of bandits equal to the Adventurers plus 1d4 more block their path demanding coin. Adventurers may pay a suitably hefty amount or decide to fight as they see fit. The bandits are poor locals looking to prey on soft travelers and will flee if any are killed or incapacitated.
2 Clakars! A traveling family of 1d4+1 Clakars spies the Adventurers from afar and decides to hunt them. They will start by flying over and dropping rocks on the Characters. If the Adventurers can slay one Clakar or if the creatures can slay one Adventurer and make off with his corpse the encounter ends and they fly off.
3 A caravan! 2d6+2 wagons with 3d6+3 caravaneers wind through the wilderness. Though wary at first, they will offer hospitality in the form of tea, a meal, directions, and shelter for the night. If the Adventurers offer violence the caravaneers will attempt to defend themselves, but are simply mortal merchants and can all be slain if the Adventurers are up to the task. If the caravan is massacred by the Adventurers, the Gamemaster should go to pains to convey the bloodthirstiness and brutality of their actions. The cargo is dried foods, nails and metal weapons. A lockbox contains a sufficient amount of operating money.
4 A lone Hero! He or she is on a quest and will not stop to talk. Any attempts to parley are rebuffed, any violence is met with merciless force. The Hero has 99% in weapon of choice, and can summer one type of supernatural aid chosen by the Gamemaster. The Hero will destroy Adventurers if he or she can or flee with supernatural aid if threatened.
5 A beast! A giant animal is sighted in the vicinity. Roll 1d6 – 1 crocodile, 2 mastodon or elephant, 3 cat, 4 bull, 5 lizard 6 buck. If left unmolested, it will wander off. If the Adventurers attack it, the beast will do its best to destroy them.
6 A strange wanderer! Roll 3d6. He or she is from 1 Hawkmoon’s realm, 2 Corum’s, 3 our world, present day, 4 our world, historical period chosen by the Gamemaster, 5 a fictional realm chosen from the Gamemaster’s own readings, 6 a completely alien world. The wanderer is totally helpless but needs to get home or at least to civilization. If the Adventurers help out, either give them a reward or have the wanderer return and save them at some future point.


After days of travel and the encounter above, the Adventurers arrive near the fallen city. From afar they think it a natural formation or mesa, but as they draw close any character making a Known World roll, or else from Oin, Yu, the Sighing Desert or the Weeping Waste will recognize it as very alike a giant insect hill. It is a 30 meter high monolith with signs of having dropped from the sky and impacted the ground. Adventurers have two choices of ingress – either scale the craggy walls to the entrance holes they can see up their, or crawl into one of the radiating cracks in the ground from where the city landed.

At this point, Gamemasters should throw a rockslide at the players, unless they are already injured from a preceding encounter. Have them make Dodge rolls or take 1d4 damage, which is halved if they are wearing armor. Hopefully at least one Adventurer will take minor damage, which can be used to advance the story as described later. If players arrive inside unscathed, feel free to throw a wild animal, insect, or hostile force of looters at them to ensure they get clipped. The point is to inflict minor damage, not cripple or kill Adventurers.

Whichever they choose, after some effort the Adventurers find themselves in a giant shaft leading from the dark chamber at the bottom of the city to the sky above, with entrance holes leading off to darkness at irregular intervals. Have all make a Perception/Search roll. Suddenly, the successful roller sees a grey nun-habit and robed figure disappear into the nearest hole, strangely enough by apparently walking on the wall. If no one succeeds, tell players they hear a fall of rocks from the same area.

If Adventurers follow the figure or noise, they proceed through a dark winding organic tunnel until they see a pulsing light at the end of it. If they manage to Sneak closer to the light source, they see a half dozen of the robed, nun-habited figures standing in a chamber whose walls are made of glowing crystals and fluorescing latticeworks.

If Adventurers enter the chamber, they will see that the ‘nuns’ are hideous, spider faced humanoids with bulbous lower bodies. They radiate a feeling of complete alienness, as does the room and all the weird furnishings in it.

If Adventurers attack, the nuns flee by walking up the walls and disappearing in holes near the ceiling, then attempt to communicate telepathically as described below. They have Dodge skills of 75% and 15 Hit Points with one point of armor each, DEX 18, and can be slain easily if the Adventurers can hit them. If Adventurers enter peacefully, one of the nuns draws a slim rod and shoots a green ray at them, which hits one wounded character automatically. (NOTE: Secretly inform the hit player that his character is completely healed, but that he cannot tell other players until his character’s turn comes around. Hopefully this will sow a little chaos and lead players to think before they act in future).

If any nuns survive, they begin to talk telepathically to the Adventurers as follows:

“We are the Si-Anan, knowledge seekers through time and space. We come in peace and the spirit of inquiry, and wish you no harm. Our city was attacked by our enemies, the dread Winged Death, and our flight generator destroyed. If you would help us gather the materials to repair the city and move on before the Winged Death arrive, we would be in your debt and reward you.

What say you?”

Let the characters debate their course of action. If they decide to exterminate the Si-Anan, they will spend a fortnight wandering aimlessly through the city while the nuns scuttle away, then the Winged Death will arrive and slay all who remain. If they off to help, the Si-Anan will meet them and discuss plans. The Si-Anan can read minds, and any attempt to lure them with false promises of help will go unanswered.


Use these tables to make a character on the fly. Simply roll 7d6.
First Dice – 1-3 is a male, 4-6 is female
Second Dice – 1 or 6 is Lawful, 2 or 5 is Neutral, 3 or 4 is Chaotic
Third Dice – Favorite weapon is 1 Sword 2 Axe 3 Club 4 Bow 5 Polearm 6 Daggers
Total of Next Three Dice – Gives weapon skill as follows:
3 Unskilled 10%, 4-5 Beginner 25%, 6-8 35%, 9-12 50%, 13-15 65%, 16-17 Veteran 75%, 18 Master 90%
Seventh Dice – 1 Unarmored, 2-3 Leather, 4-5 Half-plate or barbarian, 6 Plate

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

England Abandoned - A 28 Days Later style system-free zombie adventure

Man, have I been busy! Since last I posted work, the PhD, job hunting and having a son (HOORAH!) really swamped me. Since I haven't been able to post on topics I had planned, I thought I'd dig through the vaults and offer up a 28 Days Later style infected adventure I wrote for a con awhile back (which I also missed due to being swamped by life!!).

The scenario is largely  system free, and ZMs can extrapolate stats and rules as they see fit. I originally intended to use AFMBE, but Kreg Mosier's 'The Dead' or 'Zombi' are both freely available on the web and would do in a pinch. It is written for me, so read through once and prepare your mental territory before running it. Sadly, there are no maps, but just scribble up some or spend some good time with Google maps.

If you like the adventure or (Zod forbid) actually run it, drop us a line!

England Abandoned          infected apocalypse scenario             Rated Mature.


England lays in ruins, overrun by psychoticinfected, chained with a blockade of ships, the Pound collapsed, government gone, Queen eaten, the people scattered. Dispossessed Britons like you are the new gypsies, impoverished pariahs unwelcome wherever they wander. You have one chance at a comfortable life sneak in to your homeland and recoverthe product for a French crimelord. Of course, it wont be easy. Guy Ritchie meets 28 Days Later. Requires a massive sense of humour, stomach for blood and gore, and outrageous British accent (real or fake). Rated R.
Ill be using tournament system fulfill your victory conditions to win the game and a cheesy prize.

Purpose: To test the system (combat, etc) and set up the story. Warn the players that it is a tad railroadey, but respect their decisions once shit starts going down.
Set Up: Each player takes a soldier sheet and rolls two d6. Results are as follows: Sex, 1-4 is male, 5-6 is female. Race, 1-3 is white, 4 is brown, 5 is black, 6 is asian. Players add a last or nick name then play begins. Each is fully armed and equipped. Try to go for an Aliens colonial marine feel.
An army helicopter flies inland away from a seaside town where we start the action. Your squad of soldiers guards the chainlink fence gate for a local wharf. Inside is the dock and, off to the side, a few small warehouses. Several yachts and fishing vessels loaded with civilians can be seen plying the Channel towards France, while one waits at the dock. Landside, the central collection of buildings forming a small village with pub stands nearby, while another clump of apartments and some rows of council houses further up the hillside sit darkened and devoid of people. The last few cars arrive on the main road through the town winding down the hillside and stop at the gate where the soldiers check the passengers for infection and pass them through.

Suddenly, a last vehicle appears over the ridge and comes driving down erratically. The soldiers can see people inside the bus fighting as they drive. They have the choice to ignore it or try and take it down.

Either way, it crashes into the town and explodes, catching buildings alight. Uninfected and infected pile out of the wreck burning, the former screaming for help, the latter making a beeline for the wharf. Seeing the conflagration, the last vessel guns its engine and takes off. The soldiers are cut off. They get a radio message from their CO: This is commander Curt. Procure transport and rendez-vous at the field HQ.

The cars left by the fleeing civilians are all locked and largely devoid of gas. Just as the soldiers are searching for keys or busting in windows, they hear a metal shutter going up and a truck engine start. A large delivery van rumbles out of one of the small warehouses and slowly trundles toward the gate.
The soldiers can see a straggly haired, Russell Brant type at the wheel, next to a wigger gangster-style cradling a shotgun.

The soldiers can stop them either by force or threats as the two are cowards, or the ZM can have the wigger fire at the soldiers to increase tension or give them some wounded and more of a reason to take the truck. The van looks large enough to transport the entire squad and their gear, and has a full tank of diesel. If they open the rear cargo door they see the product shining at them like the briefcase in Pulp Fiction. End of Prologue.

Set Up Players each take a sheet from the random selection of dispossessed Britons. They get one + 1 in French, one Weapon Skill and one Secret Skill, giving a + 1 to each, which they may choose now or later in the adventure when they see fit. Next, they choose a Secret Mission and are ready to go. They start with nothing.

In the three months since the Infection began, life has been hell for you all. As luck would have it, you were either outside the country or were among the first to evacuate. Since then, the Pound was wiped out, and for the first time the EU is relieved you hadnt adopted the Euro. Nevertheless, the world has gone into a recession, and with all your savings destroyed, youve been forced into menial jobs to make ends meet while you learn the language and hope the Infection will burn itself out. But the flood of UK refugees has made finding honest work nigh impossible, and EU social support systems are strained to the limit. You are on the verge of committing a crime to survive when you hear about a job for Britons from the east coast, near Calais.

You are taken up the coast to Calais, the old port for ships to England, to an old yet stately mansion in the
woods. There you meet Mr. Lassad, a crime boss specializing in cross-border acquisitions.
Allo, and thank you for coming. As you know, the world is in a terrible state now. Not only your country, but all nations are affected. Cross-border traffic has slowed to a trickle, while security and customs are a thousand times stricter than before. This has affected my business.

In addition, the world economy is in a slump of historic proportions. France can hardly feed her own, much less care for you British. Since rumours abound of the infection coming from one of your labs, there isnt much sympathy for you. However, I know a way you can earn your keep.

I have a favour to ask. Just before the infection spread, I sent a shipment of my product to England. If you can get it back for me, I will reward your for your troubles.

I will equip you, train you, and when the opportunity comes, arrange for safe transport through the barricade to England, near Skegness. I have lost contact with my men in there. Find them, and what happened to my product, and I will give you a small reward. Get my entire shipment of product back to me, and my gratitude will know no bounds.

The PCs then spend a fortnight training at Lassads compound, learning one weapon (hence the bonus Weapon Skill) and being briefed on the last known position of the product.

One night they after supper they are told to make ready. They are driven to a boathouse by the ocean where they choose gear from a selection of soiled weapons and backpacks, board a sailing sloop, then set sail for England. They are told to keep quiet the whole voyage. 8 long hours later, as the sun rises into a fog, they hear the sounds of waves lapping the shore. The captain weighs anchor, and the PCs are put into a Zodiac and told to row. They have their weapons, a weeks worth food each, and two encrypted satellite phones between them. Make them decide who carries these latter.

1. The warehouse The first place to search for clues is the warehouse from the Prologue. If either the driver or guard were spared by the soldiers, they are here.

SYD Russel Brant lookalike, he has hold up eating sardine cans in the warehouse and snorting the bag of product left for him by the soldiers. He wears leather pants and Doc Martens only, and smells quite funky. He carries a Desert Eagle and may fire at the PC unless they can talk him down. He can give them information on the truck and the soldiers, and the direction they headed in.

Dizzy The wigger is dead, locked in the office. Unable to come to terms with the reality outside his doors, he has blown his head off and is rotting in here. Make appropriate Fright/Sanity checks. Syd in his delusion thinks Dizzy is still alive, but just refusing to talk.

2. The Duffer Unless or even if one of the players can hotwire a car (probably by using a Secret Skill), another may notice what looks like a light briefly visible from the council houses on the hill (appropriate Perception check). It is a good 15 minute walk to the houses, or just a few minutes in car. When they get there an old mans voice calls out Who goes there? This is The Duffer, the caretaker of the estates. He has survived hiding out in a root cellar, scavenging canned foods from peoples homes and vegetables from the gardens. He is a WWII veteran and still a crack shot with his double-barrel quail gun.

If attacked he will fire back then attempt to hide and make his way back to the cellar, knowing Infected have probably heard the gunfire and are on their way. He is, however, lonely, and will answer any attempts to parlay with an offer of tea and biscuits. If engaged in conversation, the Duffer explains he saw the soldiers take off in the van towards the west, and that their HQ is located on the outskirts of Pendleton. If the players dont have transportation, he will offer them his Land Rover.
All this reminds me of Dunkirk. The screaming, the panic, the madness, then the quiet. Except now I want to stay right here.

1. Raccoon girl As they drive through the deserted country roads, they may spot the Raccoon Girl. She is a tween (13 years old) who has gone feral and survived by hiding out and scavenging or foraging for food. She carries a wrench as a weapon, has blacked out her eyes with soot and is in filthy clothes. She lives in a nearby abandoned animal den. If cornered, she will fight.

2. Tyger tiger Another encounter may be the tiger, which has escaped from a nearby private collection. It will follow the PCs for a while (Perception check), and will wait until one or two pair off before attacking. If they fire at it they will drive it off. This will also alert any Infected in the vicinity.

3. The Green Berets At some point, a PCs may notice camouflaged, ghilie suited commandos watching them (Perception check). These are a US reconnaissance team, and will refuse to communicate or cooperate, attempting to slip away. If PCs approach too close, they will receive a verbal warning in an obvious US accent, then if they continue a warning shot will be fired. Finally, the PC leader or the nearest one will be targeted by a sniper.

4. The checkpoint and the Tardis Finally, as the PCs reach the town below the city, they see a military checkpoint, with a tanktrap and sandbags blocking the road.
Off to the side is a chainlink area with tents inside. A spray-painted sign reads FOR RESCUE USE PHONE INSIDE TENTS. Inside the tent is a phonebooth that has been sloppily painted blue.

If they lift the receiver, after 3 rings a voice on the other end will introduce itself as a soldier and give directions for the Pleasuredome.

1. In the foxholes Whether the PCs follow the directions received at the checkpoint or arrive on their own, they arrive at the closed wrought iron gates of a large estate surrounded by stone walls with trees waving behind them. A sign tells them the servants door to the left of the gate is unlocked, that they should enter, close the door behind them, and FOR SAFETYS SAKE stay on the stone path and make their way to the manor house.

Entering the servants door, they see an immense lawn, with roughly placed stone slabs leading up to a 3 storey manor house. To their right from the gate a narrow road winds up to a large oval in front of the manor house where a camouflaged Hummer is parked. The lawn is mined, so anyone straying from the stone path should make a hard Luck roll every turn or take landmine damage.
As they enter the foyer, they see there is a security cage barring entry, with a table on one side underneath a pullbox for goods, and a desk on the inner side. A half-dressed soldier named Hash tells them they must leave their weapons in the pullbox. If they do, they enter the foyer before the stairwell. Off to the side, one bare-chested soldier smokes a spliff while another, on his knees, fellates him. He gives a peace sign and a wink as they pass. From somewhere Babybirds Youre Gorgeous plays. The smell of marijuana smoke is heavy in the air. A female soldier, topless in panties, looks down at them from the top of the stairs, eyes bleary and bloodshot. She croaks out Welcome to the Pleasuredome! as the PCs enter.

The Pleasuredome is done up with murals based on album covers or fantasy scenes. Beanbags, throw rugs, and pillows are everywhere. There are a pair of pet foxes in a cage on the ground floor, as well as a peacock in another. Groundfloor has pantry and kitchen.

Armed If PCs scout about the Pleasuredome, the find the following: The second floor has pleasure rooms (where PCs will be allowed to sleep), and dining. Third is barracks, Curts office, and armory, and is always guarded by an armed soldier who will warn off snoopers and shoot if disobeyed. The roof has a small vegetable garden. Landscaping tools are locked in the shed next to the garage, which is likewise locked. Inside the garage is the truck from the Prologue with the remaining product.

The soldiers include the PCs who survived the Prologue, plus the following:
Maureen, a Scottish Doc (If the PCs converse with her, she is the only one against Curt)
Singh, a cook,
Donnie, a muscled Orkney grease monkey
Finn and Billie, a pair of London-Irish snipers
Sandra, Yorkshire stoner
Anne, London career soldier
Tyrese, black London demolition expert
Reg, Brummey career soldier

There are four crosses in the backyard. These mark the graves of Father Phil (shot by Curt), Meg and Tommy (lover, ODed on the product), and Smith (infected and shot).
PCs are stripped of weapons and taken to see commander Curt.

2. The Art of Darkness - Commander Curt
Newly arrived PCs are taken to meet commander Curt in the dining room when they are fed.
Commander Kurt is shaven headed and wiry. He stands to shake the PCs hands and offer them seats. He asks about their reasons for coming, then explains his mission.

We are here to maintain an official presence, to stop thieves, and to lay the claim to our land in case the Yanks or French or whoever attempt to land.

If asked about the drug use or hedonism, Curt replies as follows:
Do you know where the word assassin comes from? It comes from Persia and Syria, before the Crusades. A sect of Nizari Ismailis created a Pleasuredome and training temple in the mountains. Their leader, the Old Man of the Mountain, would take young men, give them all the hashish, wine, women, and sumptuous food they wanted. Then, one day, he would throw them out and tell them not to come back until they had killed a certain person. Addicted to the drugs, sex, and delicacies, they either went mad or began training and completed their mission. Or died trying.

If the Old Man told a hashasheen to jump from a cliff, he would. Sir Conrad of Monferrat was killed strolling in his garden by two hashasheen who were in turn hacked down by the knights that surrounded them.

My soldiers are pure killers. They have seen heaven on earth, and so have no fear of death. This is the only kind of soldier that I can depend on here

3. Getting the Goods
There are a few ways the PCs could get the product. First, they could try to steal it. The soldiers have kept it in the delivery truck in case they need to get rid of it quickly, except for the bag they are currently working on. Commander Curt has the keys, and the truck needs diesel fuel, which will have to be siphoned from the generators or procured from some source in town.

Second, they could reason with the commander. Especially if they tell him they encountered US commandos, he might be convinced to get the product out of the Pleasuredome and clean up his act. However, his followers may not be happy at that and could start an armed resistance. They will still need to procure diesel.

Last, they could fight their way out. Since half the soldiers are armed at any time, they would have to make a diversion or choose a moment of weakness. The soldiers are true hashasheen now, and are sloppy taking cover but fearless in battle and dont feel much pain.

However the PCs manage to obtain the product and transport, their journey isnt over yet.

1. Getting Gas As noted earlier, the truck is on fumes, but a jerry can of fuel is hidden locked inside the armory. Otherwise, PCs will have to track down to the bus terminal or truck depot and siphon gas. Either of these places could be filled with Infected.

2. Bandits/Soldiers The PCs may have a run in either with bandits or the soldiers if they have crossed them. Bandits would be largely armed with melee or improvised weapons with a leader who may carry a pistol. They should not be a threat, just a challenge. The soldiers would be a greater threat, trying to get the product back.

3. The Infected Of course, driving a large, noise delivery truck back to the seaside is bound to attract attention. Especially since they have to call for pickup and wait for it to arrive, and one can of fuel will only get them half way.

4. Get to the Chopper (Optional) If the ZM thinks it feasible, he could have the chopper from the Prologue parked in the back garden of the Pleasuredome. It is under a tarp and has low fuel. It could get to or near the coastal village. A PC who hasnt selected his or her secret skill could select Pilot Chopper.

If all goes according to plan, they can call Mr. Lassad on the satellite phones and arrange a rendez vous. It will take a day for a ship to get in, the safest place to hide being probably the warehouse from the prologue, but one that would also be known to any of Curts vengeful soldiers.

After the journey to France, Mr. Lassad will pay the PCs upon receipt of his product and the adventure ends. If they return without the product or it is destroyed, he will be a fearsome enemy and will send killers to exact vengeance.

England Abandoned Secret Missions
25 / 75 points
For loot taken and sold in France up to/over 5000 EU
100 points
For delivering product to them in Paris
10 / 50 points
For getting stoned / overdosing
10 points
For every human killed, double if unnoticed
10 points
For every close up of Infected taken
20 points
For every member killed while delivering product
25+50 points
For sibling found + brought outside England
15/75 points
For Infected blood sample / prisoner brought back
25 points
For every rare animal brought back to France
60 points
For family heirloom brought back to France
15 / 50 points
For stopping sin / destroying the product
75 points
For getting Lassad arrested on return to France

Thursday, June 6, 2013


Over the years, the OSR blogosphere has repeatedly burped up the idea of expanded experience awards like a tired cop digesting a rotten burrito. There have been soooo many blog posts about alternate or revised XP awards over the years (no I won’t link, go look for yourself), all inconclusive, but all leading to one conclusion I think.

Give XP for everything. That’s right, you heard me, GMs should be giving experience for freakin’ EVERYTHING worthwhile the PCs do. Fighting, roleplaying, questing, goldgathering, exploring, traveling, surviving, thinking, governing, playing alignment, you name it. If they do it, if it suits the game, they get XP.

The first justification for this admittedly major mental shift is historical. Back in the day, XP came in at a trickle, which was fine when we got together in someone’s basement every Sunday (and sometimes Wednesday) night and didn’t mind grinding our way through the levels. Hell, that was half the fun.

Honestly, who has the time anymore? I mean this both in the mundane sense that work, family, and education utterly robs us of prime gaming time. I also mean it in the larger sense that most of us are in our 30’s or 40’s – how many more times can we get a character to name level before we delve off into that undiscovered country that awaits us all?

The second justification is squeezing all the fun out of the games we love. Sure, starting off a new 0-th level mook with only a first name and a frypan in the Dungeons of Beheadedness is its own kind of fun. But so is turning Mooky into Sir Mooky McMarn, Swordmaster, over the course of his adventures. This ‘zero-to-hero’ bildungsroman narrative is the very heart of fantasy and fantasy gaming, although the waters have been muddied by anti-heroes, gonzo science fantasy, and barbaric tales.

I feel that the OSR (and TSR before it) sometimes focuses on the ‘zero’ part of the story without ever trying to get to the ‘hero’ bit. Compare the HUGE numbers of low level adventures made and still being made with the scant high level adventures kicking around. The same goes for monsters. There was a post a while back (don’t ask me to look for or link ancient and ephemeral posts) that bemoaned the fact that although there were lots of dungeons in the games the OP had played, eponymous dragons were few and far between.

This is exactly why 4e went overboard with ‘kewl powerz’ I think – frustration with the cult of the ‘pathetic ethos’ and exclusion and vilification of power gaming. It is also why, I believe, Flailsnails was invented – to give players a chance to keep the adventurers adventuring and thus gaining experience and power. Both the powerless ‘zero’ and powerful ‘hero’ are equally valid parts of the gaming experience, and I feel just as dissatisfied with constantly being reduced to a ‘zero’ as becoming an instant ‘hero’ not having earned it. That to me is where the fun in D&D gaming lies – the ‘sweet spot’ isn’t the low to median levels as some claim, it is the journey between all levels itself.

Giving XP for a wider range of actions also encourages a wider range of play and allows players to be more than murderhobos. Give a cleric XP for healing and he'll go out of his way to do so to NPCs as well as PCs. Give a thief XP for moving up in the ranks of the Thieves Guild and she'll take an interest in its workings, its people, and any side quests you offer that allow her to fulfill her ambition. Give XP to a fighter for protecting helpless villagers and... well, you get the picture.

The last justification is for GMs to grow. The reason many OSR GMs decry power gaming, I feel, is that they haven’t worked up to it. A GM is omnipotent and omniscient – why else should he or she fear some player characters regardless of what collection of unholy gear they have acquired? A GM who has moved his players through the levels learns how to ramp up the challenges and rewards, and learns how to foil the best laid plans of monks and mystics. A GM who constantly runs low level adventures will quake in his boots when a name level character with a few wonky rings and a glowing sword shows up to the table.

But don’t take my word for it – ask the Old Ones. Although the profit motive was certainly there, why else would old Gygax and Arneson write Expert and Immortal rules if D&D was only meant to be a low level experience? Allowing the possibility of advancing and growing fuller also increases the chances that an evolving game will keep players interested and playing longer and more consistently. Wouldn’t you like to follow in Gygax and Arbeson's footsteps, creating your own worlds that PCs will explore fully and even come to shape instead of dying off after ransacking a few ruins? Don’t you want to lead them on world-shattering adventures and assist them in creating spells instead of constantly and consistently forcing them to loot the nearest cave or be reduced to begging a goblin wizard for cantrips?

So, trust me, give XP for everything. But be ready to up your and your players’ game. Get them past the dungeons and into the dragons for once. And learn to be a true Dungeon Master yourself!