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Asymmetric Monastery of the Deranged Berserkers

Ten Foot Pole - Sat, 01/15/2022 - 12:11
By Dan Collins, Paul Siegel Wandering DMs OSR Level ... 4?

Dan and Paul. the Wandering DMs, set themselves up with the challenge of stocking an entire dungeon in under two hours on their weekly live stream. What you see here is the output – a one page dungeon style adventure through an ancient monestary that has been long neglected and ravaged by nature. It features a sentient extraplanar ooze and a group of deranged warriors who worship it as their slimy overlord!

This four page adventure is actually a “two page’ dungeon with twelve rooms. An exercise in creating a dungeon in an hour, it comes off better than most dungeons, but, mostly, because they are forced to keep things terse and tight. I scoff at the methodology used and the results obtained.

By now we should all be aware that I love people who play with design ideas. Challenging the hows and whys of established design theory and process is always an interesting idea. Sometimes it will work and you’ll gain new insight in to D&D and how it works. And sometimes it doesn’t work. I’m always interested in the new ideas and always ready to tell someone that I appreciate their attempt, but, No. 

A few years ago I got seriously disgusted with the overwrought crp that was coming out. “How hard is it, really, to write an adventure for publication?” I asked myself. So, Criag Pike set out to test that. The goal was to write an adventure in an hour. I created four or five levels of a megadungeon, and, by the end, was doing thirty or so rooms in about ninety minutes. So, not hard. Along come these two dudes, who have a YouTube channel, and they want to design a dungeon on their channel in about an hour. Ok, sure, gimmick for the channel. But, also, buys in to the Bryce core conceit – That this shit ain’t hard and all the crap adventures coming out is because people are fucking idiots who don’t spend any time at all trying to figure out what makes a good adventure.

We’ve got a dyson map, twelve rooms, better than his usual small maps. An underground river runs through the middle of the map, allowing for a few hidden places and some multiple paths to rooms on the other side of the river.

The first issue is the selected format: the one page dungeon. Or, two page dungeon, for this, since the map is on one page and the twelve keys on another, along with a small art piece. This is a bad idea. One page dungeons. Bad idea. The original idea was that the constraint, in the contest, would invite innovation and keep things tight. Which it does. But it also limits the possibilities, especially in true one page design format. I have to ask, why are you limiting yourself to just one page of keys? What if you ran over in to a second page? Is it the end of the fucking world? No? Then why? I get that the format can help to force a terse keying, which is great, but, there are other ways to do this as well.

Looking at the adventure we get a shitty little wandering monster table. Six entries, not doing anything, just lists of monsters. And, while evocative of the monsters in the keyed descriptions, it comes off flat and boring. Have them doing something! Just another couple of words that amount to something other than laying in wait to attack.

The encounters are the real issue though. They run a huge variety of quality. We get a door to the room being boarded up with to giant lizards inside. The boarding up is ok, but there’s nothing more to this, a symptom of the format. We also get four berserkers camped out roasting a giant beetle legs over an open flame next to the underground river. That’s great! A near perfect example of a terse key. Maybe another environmental thing, like smokey room or something, but still very good. Compare that to “Supply closet breached by 3 giant ants.” Just like the boarded up door, it’s boring. Describe the situation, the breach, the moment the party comes in. There’s enough space for this, even in the selected format. One room has prisoners bound ready for sacrifice … one on a +3 shield soaked in flammable oil. Nice!

The adventure does a decent job of telegraphing encounters. In two situations, in particular, there are hints of whats to come. A room with rubble in it betrays an unstable ceiling, while an oily sheen on water hints at the bombardier beatles lurking overhead. Great examples of including a small detail that an observant party can take advantage of … and that cause a careless one to say “oh fuck! Oh course” once they are screwed over. 

I’m not the end all and be all of design advice, but I do think that the one page format, or even the two page format used here, is empty for anything other than performance art purposes. A page for a map, maybe two more for keys, a page of monster stats to get them out of the main text (and the space they therefore take up in it) and a page of intro/wanderers/extra stuff seems to me to be just about the perfect format for a “small” dungeon. You get the tightness that you need to retain focus, but still are not all that limited. 

As a website gimmick, and the first of one also, I can see the value in this … if I squint hard. But, just a little more thought would do this right and produce something good instead of just performance art.

This is $1 at DriveThru. There’s no level range listed anywhere (Bad!) and the preview is too short to get a sense of what’s up. No bueno.–Asymmetric-Monastery-of-the-Deranged-Berserkers?1892600

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

There's war and there's Total War

Two Hour Wargames - Sat, 01/15/2022 - 02:33


Coming soon ...

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

ATZ End of Days How To Video

Two Hour Wargames - Thu, 01/13/2022 - 23:23

Short and to the point. Check it out! 

ATZ How To

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Beyond the Burning Teeth

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 01/12/2022 - 12:11
By Amanda P Hopeful Weird Wonder BX/Cairn/D&D "Low Levels"

Don’t get excited. The Burning Teeth are a mountain range.

A charismatic exiled warrior lord Dakon Lazard drove his followers to an ancient warrior temple in the Burning Teeth mountains, looking for redemption at any cost. It has been a month since any of the warriors have come from their vault. Villagers have begun to go missing, merchants are losing trade goods, and the earth rumbles more furiously than ever. Explore the volcanic mountains and discover what has happened below in the Sunken Grave.

This thirty page adventure describes a 21 room dungeon with a boring disposition. Devoid of most evocative writing, or interactive elements, and slightly generic in the way that system-neutral things can be. I should have gone with the four page two hour dungeon instead.

You get three things here. First, a small town. You get descriptions like “Respite has had to be relatively self sufficient as a border town. As you wander, you can find carpenter’s shops, cobblers, and any other craftspeople you might find in a small village.” So, you know, totally worth the page count to describe a generic small town. Unless you are doing something memorable then there’s not much reason to spend a whole lot of time on the town. The best of the town entries is “Two large, homely men play cards at a table while the other two guards on duty whisper to themselves as you approach, eyes grim and deadly serious.” Note the difference between that description and the previous one I pasted in (which, was another location, as generic as it seemed …) In the guard one you have something going on. They are playing cards. They are glaring. They excuse danger. This is specific information. And in the world of evocative writing specificity rules. Not detailed, but specific. 

Part two is a kind of wilderness journey, I guess? There’s a watchtower on a hill and a side-view map showing a cavern system with around eight rooms. The rooms get descriptions like “The Cavernous Descent is a dank hole with a hidden ladder under a wooden trapdoor.” or “The Fountain of Ignus. A heavy door (locked) leads to an ancient shrine to a forgotten fire deity. A place for dreadful healing, soothsayers and curious sights.” Completely abstracted text. I’m not sure why the designer even bothered? This is not the second adventure I’ve seen recently that has a cavern system as a “front door” to the main dungeon. It’s not a bad idea, but, why provide these descriptions, abstracted as they are? There’s nothing here. Or, perhaps, you’re putting work on to the DM? I don’t understand AT ALL why this section exists.

Finally you’ve got the dungeon proper. The rooms are formatted in a bullet point kind of system, maybe four or so per room sometimes. But, they aren’t really in an order that makes sense. One room starts by telling us that a plaque hangs over the door to the next room. Then it tells us that door is broken and hanging from its hinges. THEN it tells us the room is full of pipes and shower heads pumping out hot steam. With acrid simple and burning cinders. Uh … Hello! Burying the lead! Finally, it tells us that thee is a great eye carved in to the door. Which door I don’t know. The one in to the room? That would make sense in the other room though, the one that leads here? It’s all just blasted out, without any consideration as to what he DM needs when.

But, mostly, there’s a sense that things just don’t work together. One rooms description is “The air singes your lungs and the hair on your arms. Sweat pools on your palms. The steps were carved long ago by a workman’s pickaxe and chisel.” So the workmans pickaxe thing is all padding, but the environmental stuff isn’t. Excet, it really has no purpose. It’s not like the next room is the furnace room or anything. It’s all just window dressing. 

And EVERY room feels like this. Like they are just window dressing. Like nothing in the rooms matters. One tells us that “In the Drywell: a 40’ pit. At the bottom, skeletons forever longing for their lost loved ones or raging at having been deceived.” So, ok. And? I mean, that’s fine, as a kind of side note to a room, but as the whole thing for the room? And for EVERY room to have this sort of window dressing and little else? 

This extends to a “random effects” table. It’s just a table full of things that can happen to you in certain rooms. Like, now you glow green. Great! Why? Because the dungeon is evil. Uh, ok. I guess I’m corrupt now? But it’s all just window dressing. No good or ill effects, really. Grow a small antenna on your head that has no impact. Sure, whatever. Next room?

A room with a bridge, over bubbling acid, is written as the most boring thing in the world. The entirety of the description is “The collapsing bridge. Above the bubbling sulfur boiling acidic water. SUpports one person at a time. You get scalded every turn you are in the water if you all in. A set of bronze armor likes at the bottom of the lake”  The armor thing is good, but, otherwise … thats taking an exciting room concept and making it in to nothing. 

This is $5 at DriveThru, The preview is eleven pages, but it’s the first eleven, so you don’t actually get to see any of the content you are paying for, preventing you from making an informed decision.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Dungeon Magazine 152 – The Last Breaths of Ashenport

Ten Foot Pole - Mon, 01/10/2022 - 12:11
The Last Breaths of Ashenport by Ari Marmell D20 Level 6

A special request for a Dungeon 152 review!

This 44 page adventure is the standard Call of Cthulhu scenario, except written for 3e (3.5?)  You’re in an Innsmouth, it’s cut off, freaky shit goes down, you raid the church and then you raid the sea caves. I’ve played and run enough to these that I know how it’s supposed to go down, and you can see the basic outline and what the designer wants to do, but the scenario doesn’t accomplish it.

I like CoC. I think CoC is great. Non delta-green versions of CoC are the perfect one shot/con game. What I do NOT think, though, is that investigation adventures are meant for D&D. D&D has the Divination problem. The players can and will cast Detect Evil/Locate Object, etc. This is because D&D is not an investigation game. D&D is a dungeon exploration game. The spell lists are crafted for a party raiding a dungeon and finding a princess and wanting to know if they are gonna get a kiss and kingdom as a reward or a level drain for their problems. And for every Detect Evil you memorize that’s one less Fireball to toss out. It’s a give and take and resource management game. And I don’t really give a flying fuck how YOU play D&D. That’s irrelevant. The Spell Lists are created for this type of play. It’s built in to the game and WILL be built in to the game until someone reworks the fucking spell lists. 

Until this happens the only possible solution is to gimp the fucking party. I still remember being stone’d by a Medusa who the adventure said was evil “but not enough to register on the spell …” Uh huh. And in this adventure there is a vague evil detected in the village but nothing specific. Because two evil altars are masking the fact that everyone in the village is an evil Dagon cultist. Combine this with the standard “You are trapped in the village by a raging storm” mechanic. I know, I know, it’s a standard trope for these things. Or, rather, it’s a standard fucking trope for a game in which you are normal people facing the terrible unknown. I can teleport without error and he regularly communes with his god and rides the sun chariot around the night sky with him. We don’t get trapped in villages. It’s trying to force a scenario type in to a game that doesn’t support it. Just like you don’t explore dungeons in CoC, you don’t investigate in D&D. That’s not how the game was built.

Ok, so, that’s out of the way. Let’s say something nice. There’s a paragraph of advice up front that is extremely useful advice to the DM: “When describing them [ed: the fish-men], however, don’t use either of those terms. In context of the adventure, they’re not “pseudonatural kuo-toa”; they’re fish-men of Dagon. It may sound like a minor point, but the proper use—and, just as important, the careful avoidance—of particular terms can go a long way toward making the PCs, and indeed the players, feel like they’re truly facing the unknown.” No truer words. This gets to a core point: making the party afraid. You don’t tell them they face a troll. You describe the troll. You don’t say “dragon”, you describe it. You describe eyestalks popping up out of a bit, not say the word “beholder.” The specific advice given is different (they are fish men, not kua-toa) but the concept is in the same neighborhood. Don’t remove the mystery and fear from the game by naming the thing.

There’s also a pretty good in-voice bit from an NPC. If you question a rando townsperson about an inn, when you first arrive in town, you get this little gem: “Might meet you there later to hoist a tankard or two; gods know I’ll not be doing much else ’til the sky stops weepin’.” Pretty good! An NPC acting like a normal person for once! The adventure also let’s you roll, after 24 hours, to determine that the weather is not normal. A nice naturalistic way; it takes time. 

We are now done being nice.

The standard long read-aloud. The read-aloud is in italics, making it hard to read. Nothing new there. The read-aloud has a lot of “you’s” scattered in it: “their eyes glare at you in hatred” and so on. It does solve the “long stat block/enoucnter” issue by removing all encounters and placing them in the rear of the adventure. So a room might say “run encounter ‘from the sea on page 24 now.’” 

The adventure does two things majorly wrong, which would be wrong even in a CoC game. First, it relies A LOT on questioning captives. It fully expects you to knock people out and question them so you can find the next breadcrumb location. Not cool. And if this doesn’t happen then the NPC’s in the inn, the other travelers, will spoon feed info to you. “It looks like everyone is going to the church!” or some such. SO much so that at one point it advises to give the party a story award if you DONT have to have the NPCs do this.  This Adventure Plot extends in to other areas as well; when the party is magic’d to walk in to the sea to drown themselves, if they all fail their save, then an NPC in the inn will save them. IE: This is all just window dressing. It’s meant to be exciting, but not dangerous. You don’t actually have agency and there are not actually any consequences to your actions. Not cool.

It’s also using a standard room/key format for the town. The mayor is in the town hall. The sheriff is in the sheriffs office and so on. But, this isn’t how an adventure gets run. They shouldn’t just be sitting there, waiting for the party. The sheriff is a small town bully. He should be out, harassing the party around town, having goons do things and like. His entry even says this. But, his description is just hidden there, in the sheriffs office entry. There should be a section, up front, describing events and actions and things to happen in the town. The towns vibe. It’s a dynamic, fluid place … or, at least, it should be. This is not an exploratory dungeon. This is a social investigation adventure. Room/key isn’t the right way to present this information in order for the DM to be able to run a smooth and fluid game in which that asshole small town sheriff is out causing trouble. It just comes across as a throw away comment, and too much is left fo rthe DM to infer. The DM is not supported.

I can see exactly HOW this is supposed to be run. I can get the vibe the designer is going for. It’s not the utter garbage that most Dungeon adventures are. But it’s also no where near runnable in order to get the full experience that I think the designer was going for.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Fractious Mayhem at Melonath Falls (No ArtPunk #8)

Ten Foot Pole - Sat, 01/08/2022 - 12:11

Number seven(?) in an eight-part series. 

This is a compilation of the best eight entries from Prince’s recent No ArtPunk contest. Basically, you had to use published monsters, magic items, etc, with one unique allowance allowed in each category. Settle in, I’m reviewing one adventure at a time. Also, I admit that an orgy of women, wine, bread, circuses, and self-absorbed loathing kept me from reading Prince’s commentary earlier. So I’m going in to this blind. Let’s see what “winning” entries look like, shall we?

Fractious Mayhem at Melonath Falls Trent Smith 1e levels 3-5

This eighteen page adventure features four interconnecting cave systems around a waterfall with about forty or so rooms. A monster lair assault ala B2. It’s dense. It makes no apologies. 

Throw a dude a fucking bone Trent. Ok, so, let’s say your write the amazing adventure ever published. But you did it exclusively in iambic pentameter, in Inuit. And when people are like “Dude, can I get a version I can run?” you take a brief moment to glance at them and say quietly “fuck you.”

This is not the worlds greatest adventure. There is no explicit “fuck you” in it by the author. What it is, though, is a good adventure that is plagued by usability issues. And while I can’t be certain, it seems logical to assume that Trent knows about usability issues and has made a conscious choice to not worry too much about them.

This all means that I’m not running this adventure. Hey, this bottle of wine rates a 96 on Wine Review and costs $900/bottle. Or you can have this bottle that rates a 95 and runs $3 at Aldi. Look, that’s not a perfect analogy but you get where I’m going: why put up with X when I can have Y that is almost the same thing? Every adventure ever written is now available to a DM. This isn’t an appeal to the massive production values of the overly laid out monstrosities that haunt certain segments of the hobby. But, presumably, we share out works with others because we’d like them to get some use out of it. If they aren’t going to use it then what’s the purpose? Creation for the sake of creation? Sure. But that’s not an adventure. That’s a personal art project. It’s 2022. It’s time to beef up our formatting/layout/usability skills … just a little. I’m a firm believer that you can get to about 80% in about a week. Spend a week for a big step up.

It should be obvious where this review is going. I like this adventure. It’s a more intelligent B2, with a lot more depth to it. Four interconnecting cave systems with multiple paths through it. The maps have a good deal of variety and depth to them, loops, multiple paths, halls running over or under others. And the verticality of the waterfall itself. 

We’ve got a pretty traditionally lair complex. You’ve got the beast caves, made up of bullywugs and giant catfish/frogs/etc. You’ve got the rando monster cave ala the Owlbear in B2. Hook horrors in a cave cut off from the rest of the system. Then you’ve got the Xvart lair, with a fully fledged Xvart society. Women, kids, MU’s, stevedores, etc.

Who are gonna FUCK. YOUR. SHIT. UP. They busting out of secret doors. They got an order of battle. They ain’t taking no shit from the party. It’s quite the complex environment, replete with wererats doing their conspiracy shit, prisoners, and the like. 

And it’s all wrapped up in what is essentially a wall of text. I’m looking, right now, at a full colum of small text that describes the secret room of the wererat boss. It’s furnished with a bed, lounging chair, brazier, desk, rug, and chest, the text tells us. And then a LONG paragraph about how the assassins guild views him. And then one that starts by telling us that thened, chair rug and brazier are remarkable, though the rug has a resale value of 500gp, it’s encumbrance value. And on and on and on it goes. 

What we have here is minimalistic descriptions. The classic minimal description. Bed, rug, chair, brazier. But then, when something IS remarkable, then EVERYTHING about it needs to come out. Rooms are large, chambers are empty. Descriptions aer not evocative. But the entire thing is DESIGNED. This IS a xvart cave lair. The descriptions are not laundrylists of room contents. It’s not expanded minimalism. It’s a weird mix of minimalism and then picking a topic in the room and expanding on it, hidden depth style. 

It’s fookin DESNSE. And you’re not gonna get ANY help from the designer in running it. It is what it is and you’ll gonna have to live with it. Take it apart. Highlight the fuck out of it. Take copious notes. 

And I don’t do that anymore. That’s not what an adventure is to me. I’ll pick something else, equally good or better, that is easier for me to run.

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru, with a suggested price of $10. Proceeds are going to the Autism Research Institute.

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Review & Commentary On The Ship Files: Polixenes Class Courier By Michael Johnson From Moontoad Publishing For Clement Sector Rpg, Cepheus Engine rpg, & 2d6 Old School Science Fiction Rpg Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 01/06/2022 - 22:26
"Used by both the Stellar Exploration Corps and the Terran UnionSpace Navy, the Polixenes was a design initially commissioned bythe navy to provide fast and efficient fleet communications.With its two parsec jump drive the Polixenes can bridge the averagefive light year gap between most stars and a long range variantsacrifices the cargo space for additional fuel to provide an additionaltwo parsecNeedles
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First Impressions of Grunt Rpg By Paul Elliot From Zozer Games For Cepheus Engine Rpg or Your 2d6 Infantry Level rpg Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 01/06/2022 - 03:34
 "Terror. Sheer blind terror sublimated and spat back out of the barrel of an M16. The fear and isolation. The desperation to get out alive - just to get out and get home. A green hell populated by a people who despise you and want to kill you. Or maim you. Or send you mad. This is the Vietnam War. This is GRUNT.GRUNT attempts to be historically realistic, claustrophobic and packed with a great Needles
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Big Picture Thinking - and a Picture

The Splintered Realm - Thu, 01/06/2022 - 00:58

When I was in Middle School, my friends Matt and Mark had this deck of cards filled with silhouettes of military vehicles. I loved these cards - the simple, clean black and white images communicated so much to me about each vehicle. When I designed my first RPG (which was a military mission simulator where you could basically play GI Joes), I used the cards as the visual references for each vehicle as I statted them out. I still love these iconic designs, so I continue to use them for vehicles. Above is the design for the ship I shared a few days ago... which is now called the Madrygal Escort Ship.
Also, as I write, I have found a sweet spot for myself with technology. All of the really good technology is thousands of years old. In the game world, you're coming out of a dark age, and are re-discovering the starships and bots that belonged to the Naru, who are long-since dead. This keeps some of the vibe of 'finding old stuff' that sort of makes fantasy my favorite genre. It also makes it easy to include starships and bots into the game for new players. I always struggled with the idea that you are level 1, but you also have a few million credits to buy a starship. However, ancient starships are just sitting around in junkyards, buried in the wastes, and secreted away in old cave systems. You happen to find one, and bingo, instant ship. Bots work under a similar idea - they are all thousands of years old, and are programmed to find and attach to sentients. If you roll well at level 1, a bot found you and bonded. Congrats, you have your own R2-D2 or C-3PO. However, I also left an opening for bots to get total independence and go all Ultron, so that opens up some possibilites as well. You cannot buy a bot - it has to find you.

Review & Commentary On Ships of Clement Sector 16: Rucker-class Merchant For the Clement Sector Rpg, Cepheus Engine rpg, & 2d6 Old School Science Fiction Campaign

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 01/05/2022 - 16:53
"Independence Games is proud to present the sixteenth entry in our line of products dedicated to the starships of Clement Sector. Ships of Clement Sector 16 covers the Rucker-class merchant vessel which is the most commonly found ship in Clement Sector.  Building on the information found in The Clement Sector Core Setting Book, Ships of Clement Sector 16 lovingly details this mainstay of Clement Needles
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Vault of the Warlord (No Artpunk #7?)

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 01/05/2022 - 12:11

Number seven(?) in an eight-part series. 

This is a compilation of the best eight entries from Prince’s recent No ArtPunk contest. Basically, you had to use published monsters, magic items, etc, with one unique allowance allowed in each category. Settle in, I’m reviewing one adventure at a time. Also, I admit that an orgy of women, wine, bread, circuses, and self-absorbed loathing kept me from reading Prince’s commentary earlier. So I’m going in to this blind. Let’s see what “winning” entries look like, shall we?

Vault of the Warlord By Justin Todd 1e Levels 1-3

This twenty page adventure features a dungeon with thirty rooms as well as a nearby town and wilderness area. It’s got a Deathtrap vibe, but not an unfair one. A good example of pushing your luck, over and over again. Smart play yields rewards. It’s also a little light on the evocative text.

What a strange little adventure. Strange in a good way. It feels like one of those dungeons of old. Multiple entrances ,lots of whit to fuck with. Almost verging on a funhouse vibe, but never crossing the line in that territory. I can see analogies to Tomb of Horrors, without as much Deathtrap. 

We get a small town nearby. A temple the party can take over and get worshippers, a wise woman and her witch sister. A thief to fence shit … that may screw the party over. And the local lord who “will house & feed a man, provided he submits to bathing.” Specificity. That’s what he town has. Little details like that the DM can riff off of. Just enough description to run it and riff. Which is the way I like things in town. The town provides rumors to a cursed dungeon, and off to th wilderness the party goes. To find a number of interesting encounters, from a bandit gang, to Karl the Ogre … who is a troll cursed to not harm men except in self defense. A tribe of giant beavers has build a great dam … and underneath is the dungeon. If you get them to drain the lake, or do it against their will, you will get a new dungeon enctrance. One of several scattered throughout the region, from traditional entrances to others like the beaver lake or one guarded by Karl. It all kind of works together. There’s a kind of mellow vibe to the writing, but the encounters make sense and have just enough detail to generally bring them to life, with a few exceptions.

The dungeon proper is basically a giant room with several doors off of it, and several side corridors with rooms off of them. It’s an interesting design, and reminds me a bit of Mordenkainen’s Fantastic Adventure. There are flooded areas and partially flooded areas … or maybe not depending on your beaver damn experiences …

 Formatting is good and easy to use and scan. The encounters are interactive. Some sodium bricks for your flooded water journey. Or finding a coffin with a staked vampire in it … and some magical swords at his side. What to do what to do? The pushing your luck thing. You know what’s gonna happen. Nother vampire has stakes through her eyes and is weakened … a continual threat. A ceiling held up by an immovable rod. You want the rob, don’t you? Treasure can be generous … but it’s always got something going on, like the vampire, or the ceiling, or swords that are catatonic until something else happens. You’re gonna have to work for shit. It’s the Hidden Depth that is sometimes talked about … but not the depth that is esoterically twelve layers deep. It’s accessible and approachable by the party.

It is the writing that I’d like to comment most on. It’s terse. Maybe too much so. The situations are interesting, and they work together to give you a good sense of the place, but the individual encounters can lack quite a bit. 

“There is an enormous set of Drums of Panic stored here.” Well, ok. Not much really interesting or evocative about that description is there? Either for the room or for the drums? Or, maybe something like “This area contain the ruined bodies of several cultists, with only tatterred robes and skeletal or desiccated remains.” That’s in a room with the title “Profane Temple.’ You need to run with that. Or “hundreds of corpses are piled & stacked here …” These are not bad words in and of themself (though I could take exception to the “this area contains …” padding) but there is just nothing more beyond that. I could use just a sentence more, on the context the object is in, and maybe a descriptive word or two more for the object itself. 

Oh, and some rooms have something that could be considered either read-aloud or a DM overview. It’s cringe. “The air is stale & fetid. Too-cold water laps the knees. Death visited this place.” Uh huh. That’s a little fantasy novelist try-hard. There ARE zombies under that water, which is a classic encounter, and one of them has a jewel in its gut. Yeah for gutting monsters like I am 13YO again! So, great encounters, but the writing needs to be bumped up a notch.

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru, with a suggested price of $10. Proceeds are going to the Autism Research Institute.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Review & Commentary The Type R Subsidized Merchant Operators Manual For the Clement Sector rpg , Cepheus Engine rpg, or Your Old School 2d6 Science Fiction rpg Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 01/05/2022 - 04:51
"Lifeblood of the interstellar economy, the 400-ton Subsidized Merchant works the trade routes hauling everything from live cattle to processed diamonds – in bulk. Few other cargo ships have the Type R’s versatility and capacity. It boasts a 200 ton roll-on/roll-off cargo deck, a streamlined hull allowing to touchdown exactly where that cargo is needed and a 20-ton launch for fast passenger Needles
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First Impressions of The third edition of The Anderson and Felix Guide to Naval Architecture For The Clement Sector Rpg, Cepheus Engine & Old School 2d6

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 01/04/2022 - 18:51
 The third edition of The Anderson and Felix Guide to Naval Architecture came my way from Independence Games & this came ahead of their Janurary Sixth release according to John; "The third edition of Independence Games' starship building book, The Anderson and Felix Guide to Naval Architecture, will be available in PDF on January 6 at Drive-thru RPG and the Independence Games webstore.As with Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Squarehex 2020 Review and 2021 Plans

Oubliette - Tue, 01/04/2022 - 09:36

2021 Review

Considering the the ongoing impact of Covid, I'm pretty pleased with how things went in 2021. Sales of The Black Hack were solid, but we ran out out of print copies in June and so funded a reprint with a Kickstarter campaign. Stock of The Black Hack will go back on general sale in early January 2022 and we should have enough stock to last another 18-24 months. The Black Hack in PDF form clicked up enough sales to become a DriveThruRPG Adamantine best seller, which is quite an achievement when you consider that only 136 other titles have managed to reach the same status.

We ran 2 other Kickstarters during 2021. The first was an intentionally small project to print some Dungeon Geomorph mapping pads. The second (Dungeon Master's Little Black Book) was also intended to be a small project. However, it smashed its goal and went on to get over 1800 backers, which is more backers than we've had for any previous project. The welcome success of that project generated a lot of extra work. I did have another small project ready to go, but I had to shelve it to focus on The Black Hack reprint.

2021 saw a tentative return to conventions. Squarehex had a stand at both the UK Games Expo in August and Dragonmeet in December. We were anxious about returning the the shows, but thanks to the rules in place we felt safe at them. It also helped being part of an island block of stands with our friends at All Rolled Up and Patriot Games.

2022 Plans

The first job of the New Year is to put The Black Hack books and boxed sets back on general sale. At the same time I'll attempt to tidy the Squarehex webstore up a little. There's also a fair bit of admin work I'd like to do including a full stocktake and reorganising our storage, show stock, and getting new convention signage.

We'll be back with more Kickstarters. My list of potential projects now runs to several pages, and there are at least 8 that could potentially be selected to run this year. In no particular order they are:

  • Another dungeon geomorph project
  • The Lichway
  • The Black Hack Classic Characters book
  • A small notebook project
  • A Black Hack adventure/s
  • Another Little Black Book
  • A game box project
  • 2.5D Dungeons

I expect that we'll run 2 or 3 from that list and there's always a chance that something else will come along that manages to jump the queue. I'd also like to print some more mapping paper pads, but the rising cost of Overseas postage is making it increasingly hard to distribute them.

Italian fans of The Black Hack will be interested to learn that we have signed a license deal for an Italian Edition of the game. I'll share more details about it when it's ready to launch.

If they run, we'll be back at conventions in 2022. We've booked a stand at the UK Games Expo in June already. We also hope to be at Continuum (local to us in Leicester) in August, and Dragonmeet in December.

Thank you to everyone that supported our work in 2021, I hope we can tempt you back with something new this year.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Review & Commentary On Afterday: 2D6 Adventure After the Apocalypse From Michael Brown For The Cepheus Engine & 2d6 Old School Science Fiction Rpg Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 01/04/2022 - 07:26
 Everyone who goes to the Southwestern United States loves ghost towns & the remains of mines from the centuries of the Old West. The tourist industry thrives on them out there and by default players love 2d6 post apocalpyse adventuring & playing. And when wants to visit a failed colony world in the Clement Sector?! There are a number of 2d6 options on the table for the Cepheus Engine. But Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Box Breaking 281: 3 Level Brigantine Ship from CZYY

Gamer Goggles - Tue, 01/04/2022 - 02:38

In this video Matt opens up the 3 level Brigantine ship bundle from CZYY and then assembles it. This kit is perfect for so many TTRPg’s its not funny.

Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2022
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Guest Post: Trollopulous Reloaded Sessions 4 and 5

Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog - Mon, 01/03/2022 - 15:05
Ray gun designed by Brian Elliott.

The previous session featured the party on an extended float trip down the river to Trollopulous. Using 1 to 1 time this river journey was not yet complete by the time Session 4 began. So, the players rolled up new characters and had the pick of the map as a starting place. It so happens that one player had chosen to play a dwarf and that there was a dwarven village in the mountains a couple hexes to the southwest of the Adventurers Aid Society Octagon. The players were curious to see how things had turned out at the Octagon, which a couple sessions ago was the site of a mass battle between invading interdimensional giant beetles, the Shoggoth Ambassador Hastoth and his snake men assistants, and the golden mercenaries of the Three Regiments, so they chose to start at the dwarven village. The new first level PC are:

  • Steiner Goldnose dwarf fighter
  • Ricki female elven fighter/magic-user/thief
  • Ambergris – human druid
  • Ovardub — monk

So, the new PCs, wet behind their ears set out to see what the beams of light in the night sky to the northeast are all about. The journey through the mountains is uneventful. Coming out of the mountains the party stops to look down at the grassy plain in which the Octagon resides. What they find is that the whole area is, well, changed in a shocking manner. Where once there sat a modest caravanserai now is the site of a massive construction project. Lines of giant beetles trundle about bearing large basalt blocks in their mandibles. Already the site around the Octagon is adorned with multiple growing towers and sprawling hexagonal lower building structures. 

Making their way down to the endless activity they cautiously enter the newly growing city of beetles. One of the beetles stops its activity and contacts them telepathically, “Greetings worthless vessels. You are welcome here but please try not to interfere in the construction. It is imperative that our domiciles be constructed quickly. Even now, more of our race prepare to flee our enemies and temporarily inhabit this unusual abode.” Thus begins a short question and answer period with the giant insect in which they learn.

  • The Yithians have inhabited the giant beetles as more suited to the current environmental situation.
  • They are distressed to learn that their ancestral enemies, the primordial ones and their shoggoth servants already have made a foothold in this coordinate of spacetime.
  • Because of this they plan to flee as soon as possible. Their tenure here will be transitory and temporary – perhaps lasting as little as ten thousand years or so. 
  • They are not hostile if not interfered with. 
  • The party is welcome to scrounge around the remains of the Ambassadors of the Five Cities camps (destroyed in the past battle)
  • The AAS is still open but currently the proprietors are desperate for clientele.

Scouring the site of the Ambassadorial camps the party finds several sets of golden plate armor, a number of ray guns abandoned by the defeated snake men as well as a substantial box of jewelry. Rolling on the jewelry tables (DMG p. 26) identifies a good dozen pieces of rather high valued items. The players are surprised at their easy find getting ready to leave the area. Nonetheless they buy one of the higher priced pieces for several thousand gold pieces. Tucking the piece in their pack the former rulers of the AAS say, “So long suckers, don’t take any wooden nickels” and head out of town. This leaves the players realizing that they now have to lug the pile of gold back to the dwarf village. Which, grumbling they do with no rolled encounters for the journey.

And that was session 4. Short but sweet in that the new PCs gained sufficient treasure to level with zero risk to themselves. Sometimes it’s like that. 

Session 5 (9/16/21) begins with the same players deciding what to do next. They have options now. They can go back to the “A Team” in the outskirts of Trollopulous and the invading army. Or, they can stick with the “B Team” back at the dwarven village. They choose the B Team. During the down time the village has been busy reworking the golden plate armor to fit dwarves and building boats to explore downriver. In addition, the dwarfs have been keeping an eye on a settlement of Ogres they had discovered. But, the thing that really got attention is the dwarf guard scout who came running in shouting “Giants! Giants!”

It is giants. Six fire giants ambling through the mountains. However, the brutes pass the dwarf village obliviously. The party decides to follow them. And, follow them they do for several days at least until the fire giants come to Hobgobiton.  There, like the Hill Giants before them, the Fire Giants extort a good lunchtime snack from the Hobgobs and keep heading south. The PCs decide to give it up and backtrack the giants path back north – perhaps the giants have a hidden lair that can be looted while they are away. They make their way back north through the mountains only to lose the trail as it heads north into the desert wastes of the Tharks. Frustrated, they return to the dwarfs.

Next, they decide to check out the group of dwarfs that has been staking out the ogre den. On the way they are surprised by a large group of extremely friendly Picts. The party distrusts their intentions and flees. Otherwise they get to the stakeout unscathed. 

Looking at the Ogre lair, it is domestic. The dwarfs inform them that a couple ogres head out each day hunting and the woman and children ogres mostly stay inside until the hunting party comes home with dinner. They decide to try to capture the ogres with a pit trap. The dwarfs quickly dig a deep and wide hole and disguise it with boughs and dirt. They set up a campsite nearby and the monk poses as a camper cooking his meal over a smoldering fire. Meanwhile the party and the dwarves lay in wait. The smell of cooking draws the ogres to the camp. But, they are wary, the brutes can smell the dwarves. “Fee Fi Fo Fum, I smell the blood of dwarven scum!” The trolls stop short of the pit and demand the monk tell them where the dwarves are. 

It takes some taunting, but the ogres eventually charge the monk and are captured in the pit. The dwarfs come out of hiding and surround the pit. One defiant ogre tries to climb out and gets filled with arrows which convinces the other to beg for his life. The remaining ogre relays to them that their tunnel leads further into the mountain and warns that they don’t want to go down there. There are darks elves, spiders, and goo down there. He also describes to them two other possible entrances into the realm of the dark elves. Then the dwarfs summarily execute the talkative ogre, and the party returns to the dwarven village to contemplate their next moves. 

The Lands of Trollopulous

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

He's Not Bossk

The Splintered Realm - Mon, 01/03/2022 - 14:13

I know that Boba Fett is everyone's boi, but my favorite bounty hunter was always Bossk (Greedo would be number one, but his death was so inglorious...) I like the design of Greedo better, but Bossk just struck me as the bounty hunter you would NOT want on your tail. I mean, nobody is afraid of Dengar, but Bossk has 'boss' as the root word. Dengar is an anagram for Er Dang. It's no contest.

That said, this is not Bossk, just a bounty hunter who will be appearing in the core rules as an NPC. I don't know what his name is yet, but it's not Bossk. I don't know why you keep saying that.

City of Bats

Ten Foot Pole - Mon, 01/03/2022 - 12:08

Number six(?) in an eight-part series. 

This is a compilation of the best eight entries from Prince’s recent No ArtPunk contest. Basically, you had to use published monsters, magic items, etc, with one unique allowance allowed in each category. Settle in, I’m reviewing one adventure at a time. Also, I admit that an orgy of women, wine, bread, circuses, and self-absorbed loathing kept me from reading Prince’s commentary earlier. So I’m going in to this blind. Let’s see what “winning” entries look like, shall we?

City Of Bats Dashwood Labyrinth Lord Levels 4-6

This eighteen page adventure details two levels of a dungeon with about fifty rooms. Excellent maps, a delightful interactivity, and a casual depth to the encounters makes this one a great thing to pull out at the table.

This is the kind of adventure you hope to run across. Some person sitting in their basement cranking out rocking good adventures with no effort. That’s what this feels like. Like someone just sat down and said “I’m writing an adventure for tonight” and just cranked it out in a hour or so. I don’t know that it took an hour, but it feels that way. Not in a rushed way. But in a kind of naturalistic way. No pretension. Handwrought skills. Just gonna draw a map and then type out some keys.

The maps. The maps are GREAT! They are just two, one for the upper level “Cave of Mists” and then a second for the “City of Bats”, that the cave of mists acts as the Door to the Mythic Underworld for. Just a piece of graph paper and a pencil and some person cranking it out. It feels … right? It feels like there’s some room to breathe in here. I mean, it’s still just a couple of small maps, with sixteen rooms on the first level, but the interconnecting hallways, secrets, branching rooms and loops make it all feel right. Level two continues the themes, with rivers, statues, pools, rooms withing rooms. These are excellent maps that looks like someone just sat down and cranked it out in a few minutes … cranked out an excellent map, that is.

The dungeon keys are interesting.You get mossy floored caves, misty caves, bat guano and fluttering bats. Everything is going on swingingly. Keys are short and sweet, generally, with things like “A group of nine man-sized wooden sculptures depicting twisted half-man half-animal hybrids stand in a circle. The sculptures are coated in bat guano and other filth.” Ok, no problemo! I can get behind that! And then you reach the lizardmen. The first solid stake in the ground.

“Five Lizardmen stand guard in this cave. When first encountered they will be roasting skewered cave locusts over a small fire and gambling for jade beads. Light and noise coming down the tunnel will alert them, and one of their number will immediately go to warn the rest of the tribe at area 10.”

They are doing something in their room. Theres an interesting scene being painted for the DM in the a few words, but a few words that paint a great image. There’s a reaction … (and later an order of battle for the lizardmen.) The next room is their lair. “The cavern is illuminated by yellowish light cast by giant fireflies held in reed cages. It is home to a small tribe of Lizardmen who dwell in the side-caverns. The tribe’s warriors, clad in crude hides and smeared with black warpaint, will swarm out of their holes and attempt to encircle the party, baring their fangs and hitting their weapons on the stones.” Alright! Swarming out! Baring fangs! Hitting weapons! Primitive posturing! I can get behind that! That’s what fucking lizardmen do! And then, maybe, you meet the idol they call their god. The one that booms at you for tribute. And then, if pushed, gives up and is like “Hey, alright man, chill. Yeah yeah, I’m not an idol, I just pretend to be one cause it’s an easy life.” WTF?!?! It’s fucking magnificent. It doesn’t use the words I did, it makes sense in context. It’s brilliant.

And that’s what this adventure does. It just throws these simple little things at you. They seem simple. But they also seem RIGHT. They seem both classic and fresh all at the same time. It’s got a basic D&D flair to it. Not the kiddie D&D basic, but the OD&D basic, the kind of weird, brought to life, without being gonzo. The cave behind the waterfall, symbolically, again and again and again.

I could go on and on. Great treasure. Splashes of greatness there. A room with giant flies in it … big ones. And then a Chasme flies out. Fuck yeah man! Cause that’s how an encounter like that goes down! It’s all so very NATURAL. It FEELS right.

I do have a complaint. It’s in single column. If this were double column it would be less stressful on the eyes/cognition to scan. I know, I know, that’s the most trivial of things. But it’s also true. Which doesn’t mean you shouldn’t run it. You absofckinglootly should run this. It’s awesome, in the same way as that first level of Darkness Beneath is awesome.

That’s two great adventures in this volumen, so far, making this the buy of the year at $10.

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru, with a suggested price of $10. Proceeds are going to the Autism Research Institute. A subtle dig?

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Review & OSR Commentary On Ships of Clement Sector 10-12: Workhorses by Michael Johnson from Independence Games For The Clement Sector Rpg, Cepheus Engine & Old School 2d6 Science Fiction Rpg's

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 01/03/2022 - 07:36
 "The workhorses get it done!Ships of Clement Sector 10-12 compiles the tenth, eleventh and twelfth volumes of our popular PDF series. Included within this book are the Lee-class merchant vessel, the Fedpost mail courier, and the Broken Hill-class Prospector. We have also included the Wraith-class Intruder and the Venture-class Troop Transport, variants of the courier and the prospector Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs


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