Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Sale on RPGNow

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea
Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea

North Wind Adventures (Jeff Talanian) is having a 25% off sale for everything PDF in the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea series. I got the update  from the recent Kickstarter which looks like it’s about to send to the printer! Right when I was just looking at their website last night about picking up some of the other modules!

I posted a review of AS&SH awhile back on I have to admit, though, that I’m a little embarrassed by the review. I’ve learned so much more about this product (and it’s history) since then and I don’t think I gave it proper credit. I refer you to this post regarding a question I had about the setting. There’s some other good videos on YouTube, but this was a great interview of Jeff Talanian by Matt Finch.

Converting THAC0 to Hit Bonus

THAC0. “To Hit Armor Class 0”. How does one convert this to a modern equivalent of a hit bonus when looking to use older modules & monsters in a modern game (such as DCC RPG, or D&D 5e)? As a follow up to my investigation into ascending vs descending armor class, I now offer my interpretation on how to simply convert THAC0. Or not… as it turns out, this wasn’t as nearly as easy as I’d hoped..

TL;DR: There is no easy conversion, but as a start, use table 2 below, and assign the THAC0 to the D&D 5e proficiency bonus as a hit bonus and then add your other modifiers (i.e. strength bonus) for either 5e or DCC.

First off, if you want a basic explanation on how to use THAC0, a good blog post is here and some explanation on the origin here. Basically, I refer to one of the comments in the first link to sum up how one uses THAC0 in an original game:

THAC0 – (d20 roll + mods) = You hit anything of this AC (or higher)

But, that doesn’t really help me too much for what I want to do…

So, maybe the D&D 5e conversion guide has something? And I’ll just use that for DCC RPG? Unfortunately it doesn’t mention anything about THAC0. I’m out of luck there.

Swords & Wizardry uses both an ascending and descending AC, and uses THAC0. But I’m finding there are some discrepancies in the math, which I’ll skip over for now. But it may be a start if you want to look at it, and look at Tenkar’s rules of thumb for converting to pluses.

Maybe if I look at the “base” THAC0 and start there? It is 20. Meaning that at level 1, with no modifiers, to hit an unarmored target (AC 10), you need to roll a 10 or higher. So, essentially, this is like having “no” hit bonus. Now,  what happens when a player levels up? This THAC0 sequentially goes down (or is it “Increase” since you’re getting “better”?… so confusing…), and this is linear for the fighter. Based on this, I made a table with a simple inverse, linear, relationship. Turns out this doesn’t really work out; but it’s easier to show than tell:

Table 1. A Simple Inverse Linear Relationship

THAC0 Hit Bonus
20 0
19 +1
18 +2
17 +3
16 +4
15 +5
14 +6
13 +7
12 +8
11 +9
10 +10
9 +11
8 +12
7 +13
6 +14
5 +15
4 +16
3 +17
2 +18
1 +19
0 +20

If you now compare the fighter in AD&D, 2e, and 5e, and the Warrior in DCC RPG, you see that this Table 1 doesn’t really match up. 5e is “flatter”.

Table 2. Comparing Across Editions

Level* AD&D 1e** AD&D 2e D&D 5e DCC*
THAC0 THAC0 Proficiency Bonus Deed Die
1 20 20 +2 +d3
2 20 19 +2
3 18 18 +2 +d4
4 18 17 +2
5 16 16 +3 +d5
6 16 15 +3
7 14 14 +3 +d6
8 14 13 +3
9 12 12 +4 +d7
10 12 11 +4
11 10 10 +4 +d8
12 10 9 +4
13 8 8 +5 +d10+1
14 8 7 +5
15 6 6 +5 +d10+2
16 6 5 +5
17 4 4 +6 +d10+3
18 4 3 +6
19 4 2 +6 +d10+4
20 4 1 +6
* I am using a convention that one level in DCC is equal to 2 levels in any edition of D&D.
** I think... I found this on a thread; I can't make heads or tails of any of this by reading the AD&D PHB or DMG; and the table in OSRIC is a little different.

Looking at table 2, I come to a few observations based on a level 9 D&D fighter (or level 4 warrior) as a test:

  • Whereas table 1 would convert to a +8 hit bonus, the level 9 D&D 5e fighter has 1/2 this proficiency bonus of +4; so table 1 isn’t close to the same; i.e. this is not a simple inverse relationship (I can’t find any links, but I believe Mearls referred to a “flat math” when designing 5e).
  • However, I find it interesting that the level 9 DCC Warrior in ‘some’ ways is similar. That is, if you looked at the maximum possible deed die result of +7 compared to the predicted +8 on table 1. But, of course, with the random nature of DCC RPG, you’re equally as likely to roll a +1. So, that doesn’t really match 1e and 2e either. HOWEVER, it is equivalent to D&D 5e as the average result of a d7 would be +4.
  • Keep in mind that in D&D 5e, proficiency bonuses are the same per level, regardless of class.

To make this even more confusing, the THAC0 tables for all the other PC classes are different, and monsters use a table based on Hit Dice.. and the table in the 2e DMG is confusing on this… God forbid I can figure any of this out in the 1e AD&D PHB or DMG…. and then 1e is different than 2e….. and this THAC0 stat isn’t used for anything else in the game but combat…… I’m sorry but all those comments that respond “oh, but THAC0 is easy, you just subtract this one number from another number….”, you’re missing the fucking point; as a whole, this is confusing as shit!

One more Table

As just mentioned, Monsters use Hit Dice instead of level (and class) to determine THAC0. You might need this table since my whole point of this is to convert weird monsters found in old modules and references.

Table 3. Creature THAC0 in AD&D 2e

Hit Dice THAC0
less than 1 20
1 19
2 19
3 17
4 17
5 15
6 15
7 13
8 13
9 11
10 11
11 9
12 9
13 7
14 7
15 5
16 or higher 5


Based on these observations, I conclude that there is no simple conversion. How’s that for a conclusion! Ha!

However, you can probably use table 2, and just take the THAC0 listed, and then cross reference to the appropriate D&D 5e level and assign that proficiency bonus as the “to hit” bonus. Obviously, you then add any other hit modifiers as usual (i.e. strength bonuses) and I think that will be helpful to start.

This is merely meant to be a simple conversion to create a starting point. I assume that common sense should guide any further modifications. And, when in doubt, I recommend that you should round up (in favor of the monster!).

Dungeon Crawl Classics PDF Sale on RPGNow

There appears to be a big sale going on over at RPGNow/DriveThruRPG and I just picked up a ton of great Goodman Games PDFs for $1 each. basically this is a deal on their 3e products, but there’s a few more if you look:

DCC RPG and Metamorphosis Alpha are only reduced 20% which I think is the usual price, listing for completeness. But look at the Hurricane Harvey Relief bundle if you haven’t got these three modules (67, 75, 91) yet!

All these have affiliate links; doesn’t hurt my feelings if you take it off, just letting you know.



Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss II: A Review

Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss II
Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss II

“If you really want to write, the best way to go about it is just start writing.”

And thus, although I’m on call yet again tonight and the pager is blowing up, I’m just going to get started writing a review for this latest book I picked up from Venger Satanis, High Priest of Kort’thalis Publishing. This is Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss II, which is the second part follow up to the original.

Just like the other products in what I call his “Like a Fucking Boss” product line, AWLAFB2 is easy to read, gets you straight to the point without wasting your time, and is chock full of gorgeous artwork that just inspires you to grab your notebook, graph paper and pen and start brainstorming ideas to torture your friends at your next session.

Currently at a mere $4 on RPGnow, this book is 18 pages with an awe inspiring cover, 5 kick ass whole page artworks and 1 sexy half page art piece. All the PDFs in this line are offered in both the full color version and a tree hugging printer friendly version. The layout is excellent, so the large art pieces and the text work very well despite a heavy water colored (or are these blood stains…?) whole page background art. Overall, the layout, color choices, and art are similar to part 1 (which was already very professional appearing), but it’s looking even tighter. Apparently Venger is becoming even more of an expert in his desktop publishing skills.

The text is laid out in 28 small sections with far ranging bits of advice. Each section is typically 3 to 5 paragraphs with a heading that is usually self descriptive like “Interior Art” or “Introducing NPCs” but sometimes something more catchy that forces you to read further like “Let Them Eat Cake”, “Hat Rack Descriptions”, and “Needs More Tentacles”.

The writing style (and art choice) is typical Venger Satanis. Occasional edgy and humorous topics and language along with awesome old school art, some of which is NSFW but all of it is awesome. Included are bits of wisdom spread throughout in easy to comprehend examples that get right to the heart of the matter. Kinda like one of the common themes in the entire book. Your responsibility (as a writer of adventures) is to get to the point so that the reader can get most of what they need without getting bogged down, while at the same time injecting the seeds necessary to allow the reader to expand in the direction they need in real time at the gaming table.

So. if this sounds at all interesting, then just pick it up and read it. You’ll learn something, or at least be inspired. I promise. And then, go write mega dungeons worth of rooms with greater than 3 paragraphs each. Seriously, I dare you. No, really, totally do that cause the High Priest demands it… [you’ll have to read page 10 to see why I say this, seriously the funniest thing ever!]


Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss II on RPGnow or DriveThruRPG


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Converting Descending to Ascending Armor Class (AC)

Armor Class doesn't have to be confusing
Armor Class doesn’t have to be confusing

Practically everything I’ve read from the TSR days are much more interesting than anything published under WotC. So, if you play any OGL based systems (such as DCC, OSRIC, S&W, C&C, etc.), or 5e, then it’s necessary to convert older material in some fashion.

I looked at the D&D 5e conversion guide, and found that it wasn’t very helpful. Next I looked at key types of armor.

  • All systems start with a base AC of 10 except in Basic D&D where it is 9.
  • Leather gives an AC of 8 in AD&D and 7 in Basic. It is 11 in D&D 5e and 12 in DCC.
  • Chainmail gives an AC of 5 in AD&D and in Basic. It is 16 in D&D 5e and 15 in DCC.
  • Full plate gives an AC of 2 in AD&D (but 0 in Basic) and 18 in D&D 5e and DCC.
  • All of the other intervening armors were similarly close (or the same).
  • All systems modify by 1 (either + or -) for shields.

What I found was that you can set both systems equal at 10 (with Basic offset by 1) and simply go up and down by increments of one and it’s practically the same. Especially if you are using AD&D material in DCC. So, as VS would say, “No need to convert, adapt”. So, I created a simple little table that I think would work well.

AD&D Basic D&D D&D 5e DCC
22 21 -2 -2
21 20 -1 -1
20 19 0 0
19 18 1 1
18 17 2 2
17 16 3 3
16 15 4 4
15 14 5 5
14 13 6 6
13 12 7 7
12 11 8 8
11 10 9 9
10 9 10 10
9 8 11 11
8 7 12 12
7 6 13 13
6 5 14 14
5 4 15 15
4 3 16 16
3 2 17 17
2 1 18 18
1 0 19 19
0 -1 20 20
-1 -2 21 21
-2 -3 22 22



Swords & Wizardry Complete Rulebook for Pay What You Want

This may be a limited thing, but I see the Swords & Wizardry Complete Rulebook up on RPGnow/DTRPG for “Pay What You Want”. This is normally $34.99.

Written by Matt Finch and Published by Frog God Games, I’ve really been meaning to read through this. I may be a bit wrong, but from my research, regarding retro-clones, S&W is to be based on the 1974 OD&D. And, this seems to have a lot of support.

S&W comes in three versions, an essential “White Box” version, an updated “Core” version with expanded rules, and this “Complete” rulebook which I gather combines all the above.


Review: Rise of the Dungeon Master: Gary Gygax and the Creation of D&D

Review of

There are many stories floating around the internet regarding the rise and fall of D&D (or at least, TSR). This graphic novel provides a very comprehensive overview of that story and does a bang up job of telling it in one enjoyable sitting.

This 136 page, black & white graphic novel, is a quick and easy read. Illustrated by Koren Shadmi, he does a wonderful job of reproducing all the characters. He further beautifully reproduces a very stylized rendition of all appropriate scenes; from Gygax’s Hawaiian shirts to the D&D books and even a perfect recreation of the 80’s D&D animated cartoon. Although the entire book is B&W, the color front and back cover are gorgeous.

Rise of the Dungeon Master

Written by David Kushner, the book is broken down into 9 chapters and told from the perspective of the various figures in the D&D story. Of course, Gygax receives a considerable amount of this time and next off is Dave Arneson. Also included is a whole montage of the whole Satanic Panic from the 1980’s mostly told from the perspective of William Dear, the private investigator hired to find James Dallas Egbert III.

Rise of the Dungeon Master

I’ve read quite a bit about the creation of D&D, with the various accounts regarding the contributing influences other than Gygax. This story, I think, does a good job of succinctly telling the story as I’ve come to know it. One where Gygax was certainly the visionary, however, Arneson is probably under-recognized as an instrumental creative force in D&D’s initial inception. Furthermore, the differences in the two’s early personalities are still seen today as a split between “rules light” and “rules heavy” styles of D&D play (although the book makes mention of Gygax moving to the rules light side later in life).

We see various examples of how D&D influenced a wide swath of geek culture (which is now “pop culture” in many ways). Then the story gets bleak in chapter 7 with what I’ve best seen referenced to as “The Ambush at Sheridan Springs“. This story is brief in this graphic novel. If you are interested in these sorts of things, then give this a read. It is long, but is a fascinating account of just how badly the Blume brothers and Lorraine Williams fucked everyone over and sank TSR like the RMS Titanic.

The story eventually picks back up again on a positive note as it leads into essentially the reason why I’m posting this right now. That is, the intersection of older players getting back into the hobby, rise of geek culture, what is called OSR, and the release of D&D 5e.

Lastly, chapter 9 is legitimately a little sad as it covers the deaths of Gygax and Arneson. I didn’t know a couple of the things mentioned here. For instance, I actually didn’t know that Gygax was a born again Christian. That’s really awesome and I’ll have to research this further.

This is a beautiful book. Very well written, telling a very good version of the story. One that tells some of the hard truths without minimizing at all the great contributions to the modern of storytelling which these artists brought to life.

Rise of the Dungeon Master

Amazon Listing



10 Years ago on Grognardia

I think it is interesting to read the first 4 posts on Grognardia. Quite prescient 10 years ago.

Starting with “What’s A Grognard?” is important to set a certain stage, that is the wisdom brought to the table by the experienced within a culture.

Then on to “Pulp Fantasy D&D” and “What is Pulp Fantasy?” details the increased desire to incorporate Appendix N influences when playing tabletop RPGs. However, these were posted in early 2008, (a month after Gary Gygax passed away BTW) and this is still a hot topic.

Lastly, in “D&D in the NewsJM totally calls the fate of 4e and sets the stage for (why I believe) 5e becomes a success despite all the other potential escapist distractions. That is, by returning to some of the core roots of D&D in earlier iterations. The one irony in this may be the same technology which brought an alternative fantasy escapism (and signaled a downfall of tabletop RPGs), the PC and the internet, have served 5e quite well in the form of virtual tabletops, Twitch, and YouTube which perform quite well with lighter versions of D&D.

Appendix N: Inspirational and Educational Reading



Inspiration for all of the fantasy work I have done stems directly from the love my father showed when I was a lad, for he spent many hours telling me stories he made up as he went along, tales of cloaked old men who could grant wishes, of magic rings and enchanted swords, or wicked sorcerers and dauntless swordsmen. Then too, countless hundreds of comic books went down, and the long-gone EC ones certainly had their effect. Science fiction, fantasy, and horror movies were a big influence. In fact, all of us tend to get ample helpings of fantasy when we are very young, from fairy tales such as those written by the Brothers Grimm and Andrew Lang. This often leads to reading books of mythology, paging through bestiaries, and consultation of compilations of the myths of various lands and peoples. Upon such a base I built my interest in fantasy, being an avid reader of all science fiction and fantasy literature since 1950. The following authors were of particular inspiration to me. In some cases I cite specific works, in others, I simply recommend all their fantasy writing to you. From such sources, as well as just about any other imaginative writing or screenplay you will be able to pluck kernels from which grow the fruits of exciting campaigns. Good reading!

Inspirational Reading:



Brackett, Leigh.

Brown, Fredric.

Burroughs, Edgar Rice. “Pellucidar” Series; Mars Series; Venus Series

Carter, Lin. “World’s End” Series


de Camp & Pratt. “Harold Shea” Series; CARNELIAN CUBE

Derleth, August.

Dunsany, Lord.

Farmer, P. J. “The World of the Tiers” Series; et al.

Fox, Gardner. “Kothar” Series; “Kyrik” Series; et al.

Howard, R. E. “Conan” Series

Lanier, Sterling. HIERO’S JOURNEY

Leiber, Fritz. “Fafhrd & Gray Mouser” Series; et al.

Lovecraft, H. P.


Moorcock, Michael. STORMBRINGER; STEALER OF SOULS; “Hawkmoon” Series (esp. the first three books)

Norton, Andre.

Offutt, Andrew J., editor SWORDS AGAINST DARKNESS III.

Pratt, Fletcher, BLUE STAR; et al.

Saberhagen, Fred. CHANGELING EARTH; et al.


Tolkien, J. R. R. THE HOBBIT; “Ring Trilogy”


Weinbaum, Stanley.

Wellman, Manly Wade.

Williamson, Jack.

Zelazny, Roger. JACK OF SHADOWS; “Amber” Series; et al.

The most immediate influences upon AD&D were probably de Camp & Pratt, REH, Fritz Leiber, Jack Vance, HPL, and A. Merritt; but all of the above authors, as well as many not listed, certainly helped to shape the form of the game. For this reason, and for the hours of reading enjoyment, I heartily recommend the works of these fine authors to you.

Source: Gary Gygax. 1979. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Dungeon Master’s Guide, page 224.

To page with links on Amazon for these books.


First Grognardia Post


So, I was curious to read through the Grognardia blog, of which the author (James Maliszewski) stopped posting 5 years ago this month (12/11/2012). I found this thread on Dragonsfoot that addresses the author having family health issues. Not sure what happened after that. Regardless, God bless Mr. Maliszewksi (and his family), whatever happened, this guy was friggin prolific!!! It was actually not easy for me to get to the very first page (I like to read chronologically of course!). I scrolled and scrolled for like an hour!

And so I post the appropriate links here for anyone else searching for the first Grognardia posts:

Beginning of Stream

First Post: What is a Grognard (3/30/2008)