Friday, December 2, 2016

POD Report: The Secret of Bone Hill, Uncaged: The Faces of Sigil and Castle Amber

Continuing my review of the reprint-on-demand editions of classic D&D books at the dmsguild.com, I'm going to summarize the POD review of all three in one cluster because all three are equally great: the POD versions of Castle AmberThe Secret of Bone Hill and Uncaged: The Faces of Sigil are all fantastic. In fact the extra sturdy paper quality makes the two modules a better purchase overall than the originals. The maps that once graced the detachable covers are now situated within the book itself, but the quality is excellent. Unlike the last batch of books, all three of these tomes are clear and legible with no "faded" feel to them, which makes me wonder if maybe they came from a different print source through Lightning, or if someone changed the toner drums before this print run started.

Uncaged: Faces of Sigil is full color and the version I have is the premium color heavy stock paper. This was an extra cost but well worth it; I think I'd have a hard time telling the difference between this POD edition and the original.....it's crisp colors are as good as the original, and even the block text with a darker background is legible (albeit as annoying as the original).

All three of these are books I owned and used (heavily), so I'm pretty familiar with the originals. These new replacements are well worth it. Absolute A+ on the quality of all three of these reprint editions.



Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Orcish Pantheon of Lingusia in the Age of Strife (slightly NSFW)

I've never exactly outlined the pantheon of the orcs of Lingusia. Time to correct that:


The Orcish Pantheon of Lingusia (in the Age of Strife)

Baragnagor

Creator god, god of beasts and orcs, Baragnagor is a degenerate mad god of chaos who stole the forms of other creation to cobble together his own people. Baragnagor is regarded as the degenerate brother of Dalroth and Slithotep, a beast neither subtle nor graceful in its desire to consume, destroy and hunt. He is the oldest identified deity in the orcish pantheon (though Set is older, orcs did not embrace the worship of the serpent god until much later). Baragnagor’s cults harbor shrines that look like brutal charnel pits where prey from sacred hunts are cast in to carefully tended beasts, usually carnivorous monsters or natural animals such as bears and crocodiles, to feast on the flesh of the kill in the god’s honor. War chiefs of the orcs often revere these beasts as both aspects of their god and dear pets.


Zafethra, the Blood Goddess

The female fertility goddess of orcish women, rarely spoken of as her secretive cults among the orcish women preserve her worship carefully and keep male orcs away. Zafethra was described as the first orcish woman, and in their folktales it was lust for this goddess that prompted Barganagor to seek to shape his own form to lure her to lay with him. In the end, it was their progeny which became the first orcs. Zafethra’s cult teaches a variety of skills such as midwifery, medicine and healing but certain members of the order belong to a subcult of assassins known as the Jagged Blades, and carry out executions against those who would affront the cult.


Baphomet

The demon god Baphomet is identified as the being which first taught orcs the art of magic. Prior to Baphomet’s intrusion into orcish belief, Baphomet was an enigmatic figure, a winged, goat-headed beast which was recognized by demonic witch covens in Hyrkania during the early years of the rise of the young empire, but otherwise a human cult. It is believed that the Thyzzakoni, the red orcs, first embraced the worship of this demon and so were given over to the mystical traditions of chaos magic granted by the demon god. Today, most of the cults of Baphomet can be found in many orcish cultures, but they remain most profound among the red orcs, so regard the demon god almost as highly as they do Set.


Orcus

Orcus is seen as the gatekeeper of the dead, and while Orcus is most definitely a demon god of undeath in conventional human worship, Orcus represents the gateway to the Abyssal legions for the orcs. Orc belief states that one must appease Orcus to gain entry into the gates of the Layers of the Abyss, and to achieve this reward is the highest honor an orc can hope for (short of becoming a true demon in the afterworld). To be rejected by Orcus is to fail, and return to the mortal plane as an undead.


Set

Set is a god worshipped in Old Galonia, Zued and other lands by humans, and a patron god of the serpent men of Hazer-Phennis, but the Thyzzakoni red orcs also worship Set, and seek to promote his religion throughout the many clans of orcs. Set is regarded with suspicion, but the power the god bestows on his clerical followers is given much weight among the orcs, who grudgingly accept that the Lord of Lies is nonetheless also a valuable deity to be protected by. Most orcs get very suspicious of red orcs who will then invite serpent men into the mix, for despite the assertion that the serpent men are the created race of Set, most orcs have a deep mistrust of the serpentine race.


The Kraken

The Kraken, one of the ancient pre-human gods of old chaos (the Skaeddrath) still trapped within the crust of the world, periodically reaches out with dreams and nightmares to gain new followers. The last major incursion of followers happened at Old Chegga, but enclaves of dedicated followers exist throughout Octzel. These orcs throw aside all other beliefs and embrace the Kraken exclusively, almost monotheistically, and seek to appease the dark god by finding portals in the Under Realms through which they can feed the dark beast with sacrifice. The followers gain strange powers,  often mutating in horrible ways as a result.


Seth

Seth is not related to Set in Lingusia but is a deity alleged in the human pantheon to have been born of Amasyr and Enki. Orcs regard Seth as one of their own, and some orcs, especially the Grey Orc tribes to the south, revere him as a protector god who liberated them from the taint of Baragnagor. These orcs continue to engage in their primal ways, but tempered by the teachings of this god who is a lord of weather and the harvests. The orcish version of Seth is seen as a benevolent giant orc, whom they claim was born of Zafethra and Baragnagor as a demigod, but was raised by the human gods Enki and Amasyr as their own child. In the old era before the rise of Imperial Hyrkania Seth learned of writing and civilization, and brought it to the orcs, making them more than the beasts their god had spawned them to be. Followers of Seth believe their kind have lost their way, and believe that the orcish language is proof of Seth’s influence.


Ochraiste


The demonic half-brother of Orcus according to some, this ancient demon lord was banished to the mortal realm long ago, and it is said in his early years of wandering that his amorous ways led to the birth of the first of the Fell Manorg, the black orcs. These demon-touched orcs are exceptionally strong and powerful, sometimes mistaken for ogres except for their charred flesh. Orchraiste is regarded as more of a folk figure in orcish belief, and his current whereabouts as a demon banished to the mortal plane remains a mystery (to most). 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

D&D Reprint On Demand Report: Spelljammer and Ravenloft

Three more books from the POD option at dmsguild.com came in today: Ravenloft II: The House on Griffon Hill, Spelljammer: Goblin's Return and the first-time-in-print Scourge of the Sword Coast. I won't focus on the content, but instead on the quality of these print editions:


Ravenloft II: The House on Griffon Hill

I couldn't resist this primarily because I never owned the original, and I always wanted to investigate the first module to outline Mordent, one of my top five domains in Ravenloft. The cover and binding of this module is great, and it's a bit thicker than the old 1E modules were, mainly due to being perfect-bound on heavier quality paper. The cover and back look great.

However, the interior looks a bit faded to the naked eye, although I noticed it less once I put the reading glasses on. The net effect is that some pages....many....just look a bit "off" in that way a print from a scanned copy tends to be. This is unfortunate. It's not bad enough to make me regret the purchase, however....or the advantage of an inexpensive new copy over hunting for one on ebay. The back contains reprints in color of the handouts and maps for the module, and they actually fare much better, being legible and useful.



Spelljammer: Goblin's Return

I owned this one long ago and ran it once. Like Ravenloft II, the module's color cover looks great, and it's thicker paper and perfect bound spine mean it looks just a tad thicker than the original (which was itself a big book at 68 pages including fold out ship cards. The cards are in the back, and remain in full color, albeit standard, slightly washed-out colors instead of the glossy cardstock of the original.

The print in this module suffers from the same problem as Ravenloft II: a bit light, and feels like a bit washed out in a "print of a scan" kind of way, but the problem once again more or less disappears for me with my reading glasses on so I'm not 100% sure it's me or the book itself. I'm leaning to "book" though because of the next module, which serves as a great control....


Scourge of the Sword Coast

This was the third module to be released in the 2013-2014 D&D Next playtest phase, which means its at once compatible with D&D 5E and also contains some interesting artifacts in its design from that formative phase of 5E, including some interesting monsters stats. The book's never been offered in print before, but it was clearly laid out and designed for print; the POD version looks awesome, and the version I got (the deluxe premium color paper) is crisp and sharp....and the fact that it looks so good and is also so readable is a good test to confirm that the lighter print of the other two books is a real problem, and not just an issue with my eyes.

As a side note this module is a direct sequel to the Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle module, which was a Gencon special with playtest rules and a level 1-10 quartet of scenarios. This is another great candidate for a future POD edition. I actually ran the entire Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle as a level 1-10 campaign in the first half of 2015, albeit ported from the Sword Coast to the Silver Coast of Pergerron. Good module! But not sure how viable Scourge of the Sword Coast is as a direct sequel, since it's aimed at level 2-4, and takes place after the last scenario in Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle, where the PCs would be pushing level 10-11.

Overall

I think for the price all three POD books above were worth it, but if you're a collector I'd keep hunting the originals, especially Ravenloft II and its large map of Mordenshire. For Goblin's Return, this module would be perfect if you want to run it....and more than sufficient if you're collecting Spelljammer for fun, but maybe not ideal if you want a "first printing" level of quality. As for Scourge of the Sword Coast....if you had the two prior print release modules from that era (Murder in Baldur's Gate and that other one with the drow elf and the crystal shards) then this is a must-have, and contains plenty of useful stuff to crib for 5E games.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Sick to Death of Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Seriously. I eagerly look forward to not being endlessly spammed about everyone's amazing Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. The five days following Thanksgiving feel like they have hit a new low this year. All of my favorite sites are enmeshed in reporting on the best deals, to the extent that the "best deals" all appear to be an endless, amorphous amalgamation of all deals, everywhere, at all times. Worse yet, they started this at least a week early for most venues, with the actual "Black Friday" deals being specific targeted specials of limited quanity, barely there to justify the specialness of that particular day for a few hours.

I've never (willingly) participated in Black Friday and have never found that the momentary savings of a day's specials was worth the agony of participating in the consumerist feeding frenzy. But seriously....it's gotten worse, especially online, and especially when it seems like every venue I like to frequent for gaming, comic and fiction news is currently dominated by an endless parade of "deals reporting" which all inevitably point you to what are essentially the same sort of deals the internet hammers you with already, every single week.....but now with more trumpets and sparklers.

Okay, just had to get that off my chest!



Thursday, November 24, 2016

13th Age Rides Again (more unabashed praise)


I've been playing lots of 13th Age, which has become the default Wednesday game for now (which is in some ways amazing considering there are a lot of D&D 5E books out now I want to be using), but it's really hard to think about not playing it. 13th Age is just such a smooth, friendly game experience and it accomplishes a great "D&D" experience while also allowing for some excellent flexibility in play style, narration and just an overall "customized/modded-out" feel, thanks to its interesting improv-style rules on stuff like One Unique Things, backgrounds, rituals and the fact that most powers and spells are meant to be evocative but leave the descriptiveness to the GM and players.

It is, in many ways, delivering the stuff I liked about 4E D&D without all the baggage 4E came with, and in a Theatre of the Mind style approach to combat that bakes in abstract measurements so successfully that no one in my group gets tripped up in distances and positioning while playing 13th Age.....which is pretty cool. Even D&D 5E, which we usually do TotM and crib a few notes from 13th Age for has us trying to figure out relative distance and positioning on occasion, but these worries never, ever come to 13th Age.

Not much more to this post than another gushing round of praise for the system. We're on a level 1-10 campaign arc over five plots, and we're wrapping the first major plot (probably next week) to start the second. Everyone has gone from level 1 to 3 so far, and will hit level 4 probably after their milestone next session....with a planned 4 or so sessions advancement between levels, we might wrap this campaign late Summer in 2017.

I've been using my Keepers of Lingusia campaign setting for 13th Age pretty consistently now, and am impressed that such a contemporary system feels so right in my most venerable old school setting, the one I started as a kid in 1980. I've accumulated enough adapted material for Lingusia's Era of Strife that I'm tempted to look in to what it takes to do 3PP work for 13th Age, and maybe release it as a book....I'm waaaaay behind the curve on my self-publishing efforts, and at the rate I'm going by the time my 5E edition of Realms of Chirak is ready D&D 6E will be out, so I'd better get cracking!




Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Reviewing the Print Edition of Hollow World (Updated with Pics)

Hollow World is one of the first reprint-on-demand books available at Wizards of the Coast's dmsguild.com site, and also the first one I ordered to check out the quality of the print. The book arrived today, and here's the lowdown:

What is it?

If you're wondering what Hollow World even is, it's a sourcebook for a literal hollow planet in a D&D setting called Mystara, although the book provides guidance on placing it at the heart of any fantasy realm if you so desire. The setting is one of D&D's more unique visions: a domain of lost kingdoms and fallen empires, a population of each sequestered away inside the hollow planet, with a strange day/night process, in which ancient Immortals have decided they will keep a record of these fallen empires. The many empires of the Hollow World are based on analogs of ancient civilizations of Earth, and in their default setting represent a who's who of the ancient history of the B/X universe of Mystara.

My suggestion is to grab the Duchy of Karameikos from the Gazetteer series to establish a "locale" for PCs to be familiar with on the surface world, then let them stumble upon a means of reaching the Hollow World from there (the core book includes scenarios for just that purpose).

Hollw World contains a lot of useful information for a B/X or BECMI era D&D game, but you could easily convert this to D&D 5E with minimal fuss, mostly through substitution (i.e. use the appropriate D&D 5E monster stat in place of the one in the book). It would also run just fine with current OSR systems like Labyrinth Lord, White Box or Swords & Wizardry Complete with almost zero fuss.

Print/Paper

In the original release it was a boxed set with three books and a fold-out map set. The new print on demand edition is a single soft-cover volume with a full color interior on nice quality paper...the description on the product page says its standard heavyweight, but not premium...but it looks pretty damned good.

Resolution

The resolution/quality is pretty much perfect. This does not look like a print from a scanned copy....it looks as good as any current release. It's got a tiny bit of that POD-level graininess (mainly to color illustrations) you might be familiar with, but I had to really stare at it a while to notice. The readability of this is A+ though. Only exceptions I can note are a couple regional maps in the Player's Section are too dark for my tastes.

Functionality

The core three books of the original boxed set are bound in one volume. In the back are eight full color pages of the Hollow World maps. It's a very usable format. You will want to either grab the old BECMI rulebooks to run this baby, Labyrinth Lord (or similar) or pull out D&D 5E and start converting (my plan).

(UPDATE!) Some Pics:






I have many more of these new reprint-on-demand editions on the way. Hollow World has bolstered my confidence in the anticipated quality!


Monday, November 21, 2016

Loading up: Death Bat Dad get's a hoary hoast of classic stuff in print on demand for Xmas

I went ahead and ordered a medley of print modules today (on top of Hollow World, which is now shipped)....I guess I couldn't wait to confirm the quality of the print editions....anyway, in the order we've got:

Castle Amber --a module I first ran in 1982ish using my hybrid B/X AD&D 1E mashup.

Secret of Bone Hill --a module I ran 1983ish and also led to my second remembered TPK (or nearly so; I recall resurrections were done to get everyone back on their feet from the one surviving cleric who was also a homebrew minotaur).

Uncaged: The Faces of Sigil --a heavily used tome from my mid-nineties Planescape days, and also a lot of fun to read. 

The House on Gryphon Hill --I actually never ran or owned this before except in a free PDF WotC used to distributed in the 3E days.

Goblin's Return --in principle just the existence of a POD Spelljammer module has me buying this. Just need them to release the rest in POD now, please!

Dreams of the Red Wizards: Scourge of the Sword Coast --this was one of the four modules released leading up to D&D 5E as part of the Next Playtest period, but despite the first two modules being in print, the third and fourth were released online only....at long last this corrects that problem; just need Dead in Thay made available in print now.

Anyway.....plan would be to use all of this with adaptations to D&D 5E, of course. I think a revisit of Castle Amber and Secret of Bone Hill are in the near future, and the next time Sigil is visited (as it often is in my settings) then the Uncaged tome will be most useful. 






Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Wizards of the Coast offers up print on demand at the dmsguild.com

Exactly what the title says: head on over to dmsguild.com here and take a look, Over a dozen books are now available in print format options, including the Hollow World, Secret of Bone Hill, Dragonlance Adventures, Uncaged: The Faces of Sigil and more! The options appear to be based more on what they could produce print-ready scans for, rather than any particular structure to the releases......but damn, this is more than enough to be excited about, already.

I'm going to order something....probably Hollow World....and see how it looks on arrival. Trying hard to remind myself that I can be patient, POD doesn't go out of print.....


Review: Ultramodern5 - bringing high tech mayhem to your D&D 5E games


Ultramodern5 is a weird product. It's definitely a toolkit, and is full of useful content for creating a specific kind of modern or near-future SF experience to your D&D 5E-powered campaigns. It's published by Dias Ex Machina Games, who are also behind Amethyst, an RPG which tries to create a D&D-powered variant on Shadowrun-esque fantasy and future tech. Ultramodern5 borrows somewhat from that setting, but provides all of the content in a context-free environment, with two sample scenarios at the end modeling zombie apocalypse and alien invasion settings.

The core mechanical bits for U5 are introduced right off the bat, which is mostly a few new rules (such as for auto and semi-auto weapons fire), some skills and a few feats. The new skills include some basic crafting rules (engineering), which are serviceable and in the "scope" of 5E's mechanical depth. U5 also introduces a detailed lifepath generator that's kinda neat, and is strongly reminiscent of the old lifepath systems characteristic of R. Talsorian Games' RPGs (Cyberpunk 2020 and Mekton).

The core character generation rules are modified in some interesting ways: characters are defaulted to human in U5, and the rules, while allowing for other races or species, assume you're running a humanocentric campaign. As you read through the book, this will become increasingly evident just why this is so: the toolkit is aimed at very specific kinds of games.

Character generation now focuses on three items: a ladder, a class, and an archetype. The two new steps are designed to allow for a more customized class experience. There are seven ladders, which each describe a core conceit of your character, such as "born leader," "survivor," or "warrior."

There are ten classes, and these function more or less just like regular D&D 5E classes, with the caveat that they have left room open for the archetype (and ladder) to add level-acquired abilities. The classes include more task-specific skill sets, such as the Infiltrator, Gunslinger, Medic, Sniper and Techie. They are all fairly combat-oriented.

 The archetypes replace the more class-specific format in standard 5E where you gain an archetype, domain, school or other specialist feature at 3rd level with any of the twenty-five archetypes included in U5. These are designed so that any class can pick from them, but some classes will naturally have a better synergy (and those classes are mentioned in the archetype descriptions).

As a result, you can get some really odd and interesting character designs out of this....but with the caveat that some will be mechanically superior combinations. For example:

Veteran martial artist ring fighter
Born leader medic anti-hero
Savant Grounder Selfless Protector

Those are all viable (though not necessarily optimal) builds.

The next section of the U5 core rules consist of a massive amount of equipment, weapons, vehicles and armor with extensive details on various forms and types of power armor. It was around this point that I got the feeling the game was heavily influenced by the likes of Starship Troopers and Bubblegum Crisis. Notably absent from this section are rules on cyberware and wetware, as well as pretty much anything you could otherwise use to craft starships or more exotic SF vehicles. The equipment rules do include lots of high tech equipment and a bewildering array of high tech future weaponry, though. There's enough meat here to run a high tech near-future SF technopunk campaign, just minus the cyberware part.

As I was looking through the weaponry and armor rules it quickly became apparent that the game will feel incredibly deadly at lower levels (levels 1-5 most especially) but as things escalate and hit points grow, the damage dealing value of PCs and enemies will have an interesting impact on how high level play feels. If you get shot and take 78 points of laser fire damage, but you don't drop because your a level 16 grounder....well, I'll have to say I need to reserve my judgement on this until I try some actual high level play, but my intuition already is telling me that the feasibility of this in regular D&D 5E works best when you are assuming semi-mythic fantasy heroes, but I don't think that suspension of disbelief will work as well as one might think in a high tech future version of the same,

Aside from copious equipment rules, the book has an reasonable bestiary of foes (about 35 stat blocks) aimed squarely at the new-future technopunk thematics it is best designed for, and follows up with a section on adventure design that includes several "set piece" locations that are presented as archetypal encounter locations with enough info for the GM to run with as-is. After that are two scenario/setting locations: one is "Biohazard" which deals with a zombie apocalypse taking place in pleasant Happyland, and provides five additional zombie stat blocks. The second, "Invasion Proxy" deals with an invasion of aliens in Baghdad. Each  scenario could reflect a new world/setting in its pages, but they actually work just fine for a single campaign where weird stuff like this happens all the time and the PCs happen to be the special ops dudes who get to fix things.

There's some implication that you can use U5 to run all sorts of high tech, modern, western historical and other campaigns in this book. My take on it is that U5 works best for what I would call the "Tom Clancy/Michael Criton/toned-down William Gibson" futures, and has loads of gear and thematic classes to support such. For example, I had experimented a few blogs back with the idea of using Tom Clancy's The Division for a Savage Worlds campaign....but honestly, a setting like The Division would be a natural fit for U5. However, I don't think there's enough here in U5 for me to comfortably be able to run this as a cowboy western, for contrast....you could probably do it, sure, but it would require a lot of reskinning (so whether that's an issue for you or not depends on taste) of the existing content and careful vetoing of thematically inappropriate choices.

However, if you want to run a future tech setting with lots of hardware, maybe some power armor, and a general vibe that feels like "Bubblegum Crisis" mashed up with more recent films like Babylon A.D., Elysium or even Judge Dredd (the new one) then you are probably exactly the kind of person that U5 is going to really benefit.

I'm kind of hoping Dias Ex Machina puts out a sequel that includes starship rules, cyberware, wetware and maybe even some rules on creating aliens and biogenically modified humans and near-humans --not just the "people are special in weird ways" rules U5 offers, but actual simulant, android, and transgenic rules. If it adds these rules in, then you've got a great set of rules for handling just about any contemporary or future setting using the 5E mechanics to run hard-hitting techno futures with lots of potential for brutal firefights and investigation.

So who would get the most out of this book? I'd suggest that anyone who wants some near-future high tech SF (but without cyberware or starships) or modern gaming will find this a useful tome. It's the only thing we've got right now, and I think it would serve any number of possible modern or futuristic campaigns until (or if) WotC ever decides to cough up a revision to D20 Modern.

The pitfalls could be unintended synergies in the class/ladder/archetype design that lead to suboptimal characters for games where optimizing is preferred....and the other side of that coin, where certain optimizers dominate the game due to their character design. In my read through the game I saw plenty of ways to make a suboptimal character, although nothing egregious (if you're going for an rp-focued PC this will not bother you), but not many ways to make an optimal PC build. I think the stricter design focus, keeping people to three "moving parts" helped.

If you are a fan of D&D 5E and want a toolkit to add modern and future tech themes to your games, or design a new modern/future setting from whole cloth (that sticks within the scope of what this book offers) then I think you'll find a lot to like in Ultramodern5. If you're looking for a broader book in terms of theme, scope and options for design, then I think you'll want to wait to see if U5 comes out with a sequel, or look to other systems like GURPS which provide the largest pool of resources for what might suit you best.

I could also see this book working well for a "Dragonstar" style campaign. If you don't recall Dragonstar, it was a setting for D&D 3rd by Fantasy Flight which merged fantasy themes with a future space-fantasy empire, complete with starships, laser guns, dragons and more. Think Warhammer 40K circa. 1990ish and you've got a good picture of Dragonstar. You could easily use the setting from those books with the rules from this to do a space-fantasy themed D&D 5th; and maybe borrow the starship design rules from Dragonstar to hold you over until U5 gets a proper sequel with such, too.

For me, I'll definitely be using this soon. Probably for a post-apocalyptic style "future tech society that has collapsed" type setting. I'll provide actual play details on how well it all works together soon.



Monday, November 14, 2016

Review: Open Fantasy - the D6 System returns again!


The D6 System has had a weird history, but it's always been a solid system with a lot of fans going back to the Star Wars RPG of the 80's, and these fans absolutely will not let it die....which is good! Because it's a good system, and a lot of fun.

Anyway, in it's last incarnation before death, West End Games released a variety of D6 System RPGs aimed at fantasy, modern and SF gaming. In fact those were all eventually released as free editions (right here). Each was a fairly decent game in it's own right, but suffered a bit (I felt) from being too much toolbox and not enough ready to go content. You had rules, for example, to construct lots of spells in D6 Fantasy but only a few actual sample spells to get you started. This meant there was a lot more prep up front in starting a D6 Fantasy game than was necessary for competing systems (like, ferex, D&D).

D6 Systems have languished in private fan projects for a while, and the Open6 and Mini6 systems are the most interesting examples of how fans have kept it alive and even transmogrified it in new direction. Along comes Open Fantasy from Anthony Uyl and Solace Games, which takes the full open content of the West End Games released and utilizes the OGL itself to flesh out the game into a much more robust one-book system.

The new Open Fantasy, as an example, includes more spells than I can count. It's mostly derived from the D&D OGL, so we're looking at a lot of D6-based interpretations of familiar content, but the mere fact that this includes a full, functioning magic system with tons of spell support is impressive, and instantly makes this an easier system both to run out of the box as well as to use to adapt D&D modules to.

There's also a shockingly robust monster section, which surprisingly does not do a lot to derive monsters from D&D....and also has a lot of non-western monster themes going on. I am impressed, to say the least.

If you're not familiar with the D6 System, then first: I'd love to come visit that rock you live under, but the short version is it's a die-roll mechanic built entirely on D6's, rather than hard stats. You would have a physique (strength) of 4D6+2, for example, rather than 16. When you take action, you roll your stat or skill dice and shoot for a target number. Most actions in the game resolve in this manner. Characters are not based on classes, so you have flexibility in design comparable to BRP, Mythras and other games. It's not level based, either....you earn XP to advance your die codes up the ladder of experience. Finally, it's a "reality based" set of mechanics where in you may get better at doing things but your combat expertise is based on skill, not hit points.....you can still die relatively easily. This means that in most cases the GM has more flexibility in how he designs encounters, and with what creatures....and deadly creatures are usually best dealt with through cunning or brute force (sheer numbers) rather than just by leveling up.

Despite the realistic element, D6 System still shows its roots in encouraging cinematic play, principally due to it's heritage as a Star Wars system originally. This is a bit muted in Open Fantasy, which emphasizes it's literary sources as a genre very well, but in actual play you can see how smooth the game is.

In addition to the other robust sections, I'd like to mention that the character race options are also incredibly robust. Each racial type has numerous subtypes (10 for elf, for example) and there are a lot of racial types derived from the OGL. A few are original, and a couple raised an eyebrow (I don't recall dragonborn being OGL anywhere, precisely).

The look of the book is utilitarian in design and filled with very familiar clip art, but ironically this makes the book feel "familiar" and comfortable all at once. Yes, I love utilitarian rule book designs, apparently....I like knowing approximately where to find information with the least amount of fuss, I guess.

You can grab it in print on lulu and rpgnow. The PDF is only $5 and honestly, if you were a fan of the D6 system at all I strongly suggest you check this one out. It's a great system, and this iteration of the fantasy rpg version is the most user-friendly, toolkit-friendly and most importantly: sufficiently robust to start running something with almost zero fuss and muss.