What’s Old Is Young Again

It should be self-evident, due to this blog, that I’m a fan of Paizo. I have been for a while; ever since they formed to keep Dragon and Dungeon magazines alive, in fact. But for all my admiration of the excellent material Paizo continue to put out to this day, it’s the indie third-party publishers whose work excites me most.

Part of this is the ingenuity that comes from these smaller companies. While bigger outfits have to play it somewhat safe to protect their sales margins, a company that’s run by a couple of guys (or even just one guy) as a hobby is free to experiment with something more “out there,” regardless of market potential. Admittedly, a lot of the time this doesn’t work, and production values (such as editing, interior art, etc.) can vary wildly, but when everything clicks it can produce pure gold.

The other great thing about third-party publishers is that they’re more likely to be open to freelancers who submit unsolicited material. While larger companies can afford to produce their products in-house, and/or have a stable of well-known freelancers with proven track records, a smaller company is more open to working with an unknown. This is particularly true in terms of judging a work on its own merits, rather than having to consider issues of scheduled releases, typsetting and layout, and name-recognition.

Yeah, this is rather long. How about a picture of a lively kitten to help?

Given all of the above, it’s probably no surprise that, prior to starting this blog, smaller third-party publishers were my venue of choice for when I had a Pathfinder (or, prior to August, 2009, 3.X) idea that I wanted to share with everyone. True, I could have posted them on a messageboard or home-made website, but like most would-be game designers, I’m narcissistic enough to want the unspoken tag of “official third-party” hanging over my work. In fact, to me that’s often more important than being paid for the submission (though it’s nicer to be paid in addition to that distinction).

There were several third-parties that I worked (and still work) with. One of the more esoteric ones, however, was The Grand OGL Wiki.

Started back in September of 2008, the Grand OGL Wiki is the culmination of an idea that was gaining popularity at the time – that of compiling a free online repository of Open Game Content materials from various publishers. While this seems obvious to us Pathfinder fans now that we have the d20PFSRD website, it was fairly controversial back in the day. A lot of people, including some publishers, were critical of the idea, claiming that it robbed companies of the profits for their hard work by making it available for free – “after all,” the reasoning went “why would anyone buy something if all of the crunchy bits are a few keystrokes away?”

Again, we know better now, but at the time more than a few people thought that was sound reasoning. Still, for every person who thought that way, there was another (including plenty of publishers) who thought it was a great idea.

It might have remained just an idea (since, as I recall, there were a few aborted attempts) had not Mark Gedak stepped up to the plate and formed The Grand OGL Wiki. From the very beginning, Mark was classy about his approach to the GOW (as it came to be called), always making sure that he had a publisher’s permission before reposting their Open Game Content, despite the fact that under the terms of the OGL, he could have done it anyway. Several publishers even allowed him to repost some of their Product Identity as well (though still closed, so it could not be subsequently reposted elsewhere).

And here it… wait… this isn’t the picture I uploaded.

Mark put out an open call for people to help him post content, and several people responded, myself included. Of course, I quickly lost steam after posting a comparatively small amount, so my contribution remains miniscule compared to that of others.

Of course, Mark eventually aimed his sights even higher, and eventually started his own third-party publishing company, Purple Duck Games, which puts out a number of excellent products.

This isn’t to say that the Grand OGL Wiki has been allowed to languish, of course. Just the fact that the link to it and the link to Purple Duck Games lead to the same page should be enough to put the lie to that. Indeed, Mark continues to quietly update the GOW with more Open Game Content to this day, in addition to expanding Purple Duck’s catalogue.

There is one aspect of the GOW that has been allowed to fall into disuse, however, and it’s the reason for today’s post. In late March, 2009, Mark expanded on the GOW’s original mission and created the DM Sketchpad. From then until February, 2010 (with bits and pieces up through that November), the DM Sketchpad was the place Mark posted new material he’d written, making it all Open Game Content.

He also allowed anyone else to submit material, something which suited me quite well, for reasons posted above. Thus, I became an infrequent contributor to the DM Sketchpad, sending various new rules material that I’d written (along with sending in requests for material, something Mark encouraged).

Nowadays, the DM Sketchpad is still around, though accessing the older pages require that you manipulate URL (the last four digits, specifically, to showcase the month and year that you want to see) a little bit. Given that the material on there is all Open Game Content, and isn’t easily accessible any longer, I’ve decided to repost my original submissions here for wider access.

To be clear, what I’ll be posting here is only my own work; the material done by Mark and others (including material written based on requests I submitted) will not be reposted here. With that said, let’s turn to today’s piece from yester-year.

Updated Actuarial Tables

A recent discussion on the Paizo messageboards mentioned how elves in Pathfinder weren’t so much “eternally young” as they were “eternally old.” While that’s a slight exaggeration, it does highlight how the longer-lived PC races can spend a lot of time being, well…old.  Afterall, according to the Aging Effects table, elves can spend up to four hundred years being “venerable” age! It was with that thought in mind that I wrote the following:

The listed aging effects never seemed entirely sensible to me where demihumans were concerned. Why does an elf have the potential to spend up to four hundred years – more than half his life – in the venerable age category? The gnome is in a similar position, and a halfling could spend literally half his life that way. That doesn’t seem plausible, so I rewrote the aging effects table.

This table reduces the maximum age each race can live down to a single die roll. The excess dice had their averages added to the venerable age category, and the other age categories were modified to match, as each race has their middle age category as exactly half their venerable age, with old age being the mid-point between them.

For example, elves normally have a maximum age of 350 + 4d% years. This takes the average of three of those d% dice (50 each) and adds them to the venerable age category, making it 500 years, and the elf’s maximum lifespan is now 500 + d% years. This adjusts middle age to be 250 years (half of venerable) and old age to be 375 (halfway between middle age and venerable). While this slightly shortens the maximum number of years a given race could live, for most people it actually heightens how long they’re likely to live, and broadens the range of each age category.

One notable exception to this rule is that humans have not had their age category altered. This is because the maximum age for humans, 70 + 2d20 years, does adequately cover the range of how long a healthy human can live. Since humans are commonly thought of as being the most adaptable and versatile of all races, having a comparatively broad maximum age fits with this image.


Race Middle Age1 Old2 Venerable3 Maximum Age
Human 35 years 53 years 70 years 70 + 2d20 years
Dwarf 150 years 225 years 300 years 300 + d% years
Elf 250 years 375 years 500 years 500 + d% years
Gnome 150 years 225 years 300 years 300 + d% years
Half-elf 73 years 109 years 145 years 145 + d20 years
Half-orc 33 years 49 years 65 years 65 + d10 years
Halfling 70 years 105 years 140 years 140 + d20 years

1 At middle age, –1 to Str, Dex, and Con; +1 to Int, Wis, and Cha.

2 At old age, –2 to Str, Dex, and Con; +1 to Int, Wis, and Cha.

3 At venerable age, –3 to Str, Dex, and Con; +1 to Int, Wis, and Cha.

Needless to say, this seems to make things a lot simpler for the demihuman races (bonus points if you remember when “demihuman” was a much more common term), particularly since now they’ll remain younger longer.

After all, the longer you remain young, the easier it is spend your youth killing things and taking their stuff.


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4 Responses to “What’s Old Is Young Again”

  1. Mark Gedak Says:

    Mark really needs to go back through the DM Sketchpads, break them up into bits and then he can tag them and they will reappear in the Main Index.

    Or simply make a DM sketchpad page on the main index….

    Hmmm, I see what I can do. There is a lot of good stuff hidden on the site.

  2. Mark Gedak Says:

    How about this…


    • alzrius Says:

      Mark, very nicely done! I’m sure a lot of people will appreciate having this lost trove of Open Game Content made more accessible!

      Of course, now that it is I’ll need to look elsewhere for inspiration regarding future articles. D’oh!

  3. Mark Gedak Says:

    Sorry. We could always try to round up enough people to start a new DM Sketchpad.

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