Tabletop Gaming Feeds

Stay Home, Play Games! Mega Sale of Cryptozoic Tabletop Games

Cryptozoic - Tue, 03/17/2020 - 15:08

We're offering MAJOR DISCOUNTS on our tabletop games through the end of March. You can get Rick and Morty games, entries in the DC-Deck-Building Game and Epic Spell Wars series, and more. Free shipping in the continental U.S. for orders over $50! Pick up some amazing games on our eStore and chill at home with your friends and family!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The hard facts of Covid 19 (Coronavirus)

Bat in the Attic - Tue, 03/17/2020 - 12:40
I hope everybody is keeping safe. As I am not involved in the medical profession or politics there is little I can do other than follow the guideline that have been outlined by various health departments and help my family to do the same.

However the situation is confusing to many so last night I thought to put some of what I learned  about writing toward outlining the threat that Covid-19 (Coronavirus) represents.

Hope this helps everybody understand what we are facing.

  • In a normal flu season for every individual infected 1.3 additional people get infected. Of the people who got infected less than .1% died thus giving 35,000 to 40,000 annual death in the United States due to the flu.
  • The H1N1 virus circa 2009 was around 1.5 people infected for every person who came down with the virus. Fatality rate was three time higher at around .3%
  • In contrast for Covid-19, for every person infected 2.2 (Jan 2020) to 2.7 (Feb 2020) additional people will get infected. Of those people who get the disease 3.5% will die.
  • Different age bracket respond differently with those 70+ have been suffering a 16% fatality rate due to Covid-19
  • Covid-19 numbers slightly more deadlier than to that of the 1919 Influenza virus which has an infection rate of 1.8 and a fatality rate of 2% to 3%

This based on data using standard epidemiology procedures in place for decades.

Furthermore these are fatalities, an order of magnitude (10x) more cases do not result in death but do require medical intervention and hospitalization.

In the case of the flu the annual flu shot means that actual number are far less than just multiplying the fatality rate by the population.

For my small rural town which has a population of 30,000 (city and the two surrounding townships) this means the following

  • During a normal flu season (Nov to April) we can expect around 30 flu related death. The actual number will be less because of the flu shot. We can also expect 300 cases requiring hospitalization spread across those months. The actual numbers will also be less because of the flu shot.
  • With Covid-19 which has no vaccine at this point, my town can expect 900 deaths probably spread across three months. More seriously we can expect 9,000 severe case requiring medical intervention like hospitalization.
  • This compounded by that fact that in the case of the annual flu the onset of the disease is 1 to 4 days. For covid-19 the onset period is 3 to 14 days. A person can pass on the infection during the onset period for both.
  • Moreover the fact without further measures to help the medical system handling Covid-19 cases this means all the other things like those having complication from the annual flu, trauma, infections, seizures, cancer, etc will have problem getting proper treatment thus driving up their death rate.

My town can't handle that. Nobody can handle that which is why we saw in Wuhan emergency hospitals being erected overnight.

What we can do is slow down the spread so these 9,000 cases and 900 death are spread across a longer span of time. So that those cases and the other cases get needed medical attention. And just maybe a vaccine will be developed or enough of a quarantine is place so that the cases start declining.

Be safe and I hope the above helps you make an informed decision about what you and your family needs to do.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

D&D’s Inconspicuous Phrases That You Notice Once You Master the Rules

DM David - Tue, 03/17/2020 - 11:29

Despite using common language, the Dungeons & Dragons rules feature such precise wording that a close reading answers most questions and foils many schemes to break the game. You can tell that the designers dreamed up plenty of min-maxing exploits, and then engineered text that prevented any shenanigans.

Sometimes the implications of the game’s precise phrasing take experience to spot.

For example, the description for alchemist’s fire says, “Make a ranged attack against a creature or object, treating the alchemist’s fire as an improvised weapon.” That text includes plenty to unpack. Alchemist’s fire is treated as an improvised weapon, so unless you’re a tavern brawler, you don’t add your proficiency bonus to attack. Because the throw counts as a ranged attack, you add your Dexterity bonus to your attack roll. Most players miss the next implication: Ranged attacks add your Dexterity bonus to the damage roll. The specific rule for alchemist’s fire changes the general rule for when a ranged attack inflicts damage. “On a hit, the target takes 1d4 fire damage at the start of each of its turns.” As with any other damage bonus, the one for Dexterity only adds to the attack once.

(For another example of how a close reading of the rules differs from the common interpretation, check out the strict method for rolling damage from a magic missile.)

As I learned the D&D rules, I noticed phrases that once seemed innocuous, but that now reveal importance.

For example, consider the phrase “that you can see” in spell descriptions. Many spells require the caster to see the target of an effect. Invisibility rates as the game’s most potent defensive spell because so much magic requires sight for targeting. Sometimes the phrase “that you can see” turns against the players. Spirit Guardians lets casters spare any number of creatures they can see from the spell’s effect. Any invisible or otherwise out-of-sight allies must suffer the guardians’ effects.

Many monsters can cast spells “requiring no material components.” This enables a flameskull to cast Fireball despite lacking pockets full of bat guano and sulfur. (Flameskulls also cast without somatic components—an essential accommodation for their lack of hands.)

Monsters able to cast spells “requiring no components” gain a significant advantage: These creatures can cast spells without being interrupted by a Counterspell. “To be perceptible, the casting of a spell must involve a verbal, somatic, or material component.” With no components, no one notices the casting until it finishes.

The monsters able to cast without components mainly fall into three categories:

• psionic creatures like githyanki and mind flayers
• constructs
• slaad

I understand the allowance for psionics and constructs, but what makes slaad so special?

Many character features allow extra attacks “when you use the Attack action,” which creates a limitation that often goes unnoticed. For example, a monk’s extra unarmed strike requires an Attack action, so a monk cannot just take the Dash or Dodge action and then use a Bonus action to get some licks in. This same phrase prevents two-weapon rangers from casting a spell, and then making an attack with their off-hand weapon.

Most extra attacks delivered “when you use the Attack action” cost a Bonus action, but the barbarian’s Form of the Beast feature lets you make extra claw attacks as part of your Attack action. This enables such barbarians to rage and to still make that extra attack.

The D&D rules overload the terms “attack,” “melee,” and “ranged,” giving them different meanings in different contexts. That can fuel confusion. The Attack action usually includes an attack (unless you choose to grapple). But sometimes you can make an attack with a Bonus action, often “when you use the Attack action.” Spellcasters can take the Cast a Spell action, and then make a spell attack with something like a Fire Bolt. Spells like Booming Blade and Green-Flame Blade have you to make a melee attack (and not a spell attack) with a weapon as part of the Cast a Spell action.

No wonder the 2nd edition of Pathfinder attempts to cut the fog by calling a single attack a strike.

“Melee” and “ranged” can describe types of weapons and types of attacks. Usually the weapons and attacks stay in their lanes, but when you hurl a melee weapon it crosses into oncoming traffic.

A melee weapon, such as a dagger or handaxe, remains a melee weapon even when you make a ranged attack by throwing it. Normally a ranged attack adds your Dexterity bonus to damage, but the thrown property can change that general rule. The thrown property says, “If the weapon is a melee weapon, you use the same ability modifier for that attack roll and damage roll that you would use for a melee attack with the weapon. If you throw a dagger, you can use either your Strength or your Dexterity, since the dagger has the finesse property.”

When used to make a ranged attack, melee weapons that lack the thrown property count as improvised weapons. They add your Dexterity bonus to the attack and damage rolls, and deal 1d4 damage.

If I were king of D&D, my edition would adopt “strike” for a single attack, and I would consider phrases like “close attack” and “distance attack” in place of the overworked “ranged” and “melee.”

Sometimes a close reading of the D&D rules leads to interpretations that might differ from what the designers first intended. Perhaps lead designer Jeremy Crawford got questions about sneak attack, reviewed the rules, and then thought, I didn’t mean that, but it still works.

Your rogue can use the sneak attack feature “once per turn,” but it’s not limited to your turn. During a round, rogues can sneak attack on their turn and again on someone else’s turn, typically when a foe provokes an opportunity attack.

For spells like Wall of Fire and Blade Barrier, the distinction between turns and rounds also becomes important. These spells deal damage the first time you enter their effect on a turn—anyone’s turn. This means that if a monster gets forced through a Wall of Fire on consecutive turns, they accumulate more damage in a round than if they had just stayed in the fire. I suppose you get used to the heat.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Black Pudding 6 Print Edition Out Now!

Oubliette - Tue, 03/17/2020 - 01:02
The print edition of Black Pudding 6 is now available to order. They may be ordered using the Paypal button below (if all you want is a single copy then this gives discounted shipping as the packed weight is under 100grams). Please make sure you select the correct postage option for your location.

Black Pudding 6 BP5 UK £5.00 GBP BP5 Europe £5.75 GBP BP5 Rest of World £6.50 GBP

If you've not got copies of the previous issues in print then there is also the following special bundle with world-wide shipping included for £30. For a customer in the US this should save around £8.00 on the normal cost including delivery if the items were ordered via Squarehex. The bundle contains:
  • 1 copy of Black Pudding Issue 1
  • 1 copy of Black Pudding Issue 2
  • 1 copy of Black Pudding Issue 3
  • 1 copy of Black Pudding Issue 4
  • 1 copy of Black Pudding Issue 5
  • 1 copy of Black Pudding Issue 6
  • 1 copy of Fish in the Pot One Page Dungeon Zine
  • 1 copy of the B/X Monster Reference Index

Black Pludding 1-6 Special Bundle Worldwide Shipping £30.00 GBP

Copies may also be ordered from the Squarehex site using the following link:

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Decaying Mile High Club - Using Castles & Crusades With Gary Gygax's S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks For A Post Apocalyptic High Fantasy Campaign

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 03/16/2020 - 23:38
"An unraveled dream of new worlds turned nightmare; lost in the deep beyonds, the Warden is your home, your world, your end."Imagine your going about your daily life & the world you know erupts in nuclear fire. Your descendants awaken in a new universe inhabited by mutants & monsters! So its been another day where I've been out on the road but S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks by GaryNeedles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

In Search of the Brazen Head of Scrum Con

Zenopus Archives - Mon, 03/16/2020 - 20:45

Brazen Head illustration by John Sears of the 1000 Foot General
In seems incredible that Scrum Con 2020 was only two-and-half-weeks ago, in those halcyon pre-pandemic days.

In my Post-Op report I said I would write more about the game I ran, which was a session of In Search of the Brazen Head of Zenopus. The con program listing is shown above, with great Brazen Head art by John of the of the 1000 Foot General. It was scheduled to be at Table 14 in the Spring Room, but the game was actually ran in the upstairs Fenton room at the Civic Center; see the "dungeon map" of the site in this post.

This scenario is a sequel to the original Zenopus dungeon, set forty years later and using Holmes' characters from the Maze of Peril as pre-gens. 

IIRC, this was the fifth time that I have run this scenario. The four earlier occasions were: an initial playtest with my Local Group; a first con run at North Texas RPG Con in 2018 (with Chris Holmes playing!; pictures by players are here (Allan G.) and here (Noah G.)), and two sessions last year at Gary Con X; the first of which is written up here. I was supposed to run it again at Gary Con this year but the physical event has been canceled. I'd like to run it as part of Virtual Gary Con (badges and seats in available games are free to all!) but I have no experience with on-line games. I will play in at least one game at VGC in order to start gaining some experience in that milieu.

For Scrum Con, the game had a full table of players; with all of the pre-gens in play: Boinger, Zereth, Murray, Lady Hortensa, Sir Geoffrey, Brother Ambrose, Bardan, Olaf & Haldor (played together), Maximillian the Centaur and Sunna. I think this has happened only once before, in the first game I ran at Gary Con last year.

Olaf & Haldor character sheet and "table tent", photo by Ellen Levy
I'd like to share a full run-down of the game, but I'm still keeping the details secret to preserve certain surprises. So that will have to wait until some point in the future, perhaps after I publish it in some form.

I will say the Scrum Con group played their characters strategically. David H., playing Boinger, made an extremely innovative use of a found magic item, which made for a very memorable encounter. This group was also the first group to enter a certain part of the dungeon, so it was fun to get to playtest that area for the first time. Here is another photo of the game, different from the one I posted in my earlier post:

Running In Search of the Brazen Head of Zenopus, photo by Ellen Levy
The group included at least four folks who are members of the Holmes Basic Facebook Group, none of whom I had met in person before. Thanks to everyone who participated; it was great to meet and game with you!

If you would like to see more photos of the con, there are over 400 (!) here in a post on the blog Scrum in Miniature, written by our prime motivator, Joe.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

25% Off Coupon Code Now Available!

Two Hour Wargames - Mon, 03/16/2020 - 19:43
Here's a 25% off coupon code for the next few weeks.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Weird Revisited: Middle Earth with More Pulp

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 03/16/2020 - 11:00
"Know, O prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Númenor and the gleaming cities, and the years of the Fourth Age, there was an Age undreamed of, when realms of Elf, Man, and Dwarf lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars. . . Hither came Aragorn of the Dúnedain, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a ranger, a wander, a chieftain, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the thrones of Arda under his feet." - The Red Book of WestmarchI posted that bit of Howardian remix on G+ yesterday goofing around, but it's a serious idea: What would Middle-earth be if presented in a more pulp fantasy (not just Robert E. Howard) sort of way? You could do a really comprehensive overall, sure, where maybe only the names remain the same, but I think a few tweaks here and there would make a big difference. Just take a look at things that are already pretty pulpy: 1) a fallen age following the sinking of a "Atlantis"; (2) Orders of beings with some more advanced and others more degenerate than others; (3) a lot of ruins strewn about; (4) a lot of wilderness separating civilized areas; (5) Magic (to the extent it is practiced by Men--i.e. humans) seems the province of sorcerers who are engaged with evil forces.

So let's start with Eriador, also called the Lone-Lands, which is pretty cool, because that's where the stories do, and see how it goes. Eriador is definitely a "Points of Light" place; a former advanced kingdom where most of the cities have fallen into ruin after a war with a Witch-King.

Witch-King Cultists: When a guy named the Witch-King used to rule, I think there probably should be hidden enclaves (or whole villages) fallen to his service and maybe worship of Sauron or Morgoth. They probably also engage in sacrifices commiserate with their Satanic cultist behavior.

The Rangers of the North: The Dúnedain who struggled against the Witch-King were descendants of Numenoreans (like Conan was a descendant of Atlanteans). After their defeat they become badass wilderness types organized into tribes or bands, I'd guess. They're about as much "barbarian" as Conan is, except they're in tight with elves. They roam the wilderness and hunt orcs and trolls (and probably those Witch-King cults). They could be part frontier lawmen, but also a lot like the settlers described in Howard's "Beyond the Black River":  "They were all gaunt and scarred and hard-eyed; sinewy and taciturn."

Replace the Picts in those Pictish Border Howard stories with orcs or Hill-men, and you've got it. Or replace Solomon Kane in any of a few of his stories with a lone ranger (heh), and that works as well.

Woses: Speaking of Picts, a couple of Howard's Pict stories are perfect inspiration for the mistreated, more primitive Drúedain. Check out "The Lost Race." Here's a perfect description:
"Scarce above four feet stood the tallest, and they were small of build and very dark of complexion. Their eyes were black; and most of them went stooped forward, as if from a lifetime spent in crouching and hiding; peering furtively on all sides. They were armed with small bows, arrows, spears and daggers, all pointed, not with crudely worked bronze but with flint and obsidian, of the finest workmanship. They were dressed in finely dressed hides of rabbits and other small animals, and a kind of coarse cloth; and many were tattooed from head to foot in ocher and woad" Hill-Men: Again speaking of Picts, in either Howards frontier stories or some of his other Pictish yarns where their degeneration is more sinister (after Machen) and less sad, the Hill-Men can be those sort of Picts. A little degeneration won't hurt. They're really likely to be those cultists mentioned above, too.

The towns: As to the civilized or more settled areas of Eriador. I strongly support MERP's idea that Tharbad (before it was a ruin) was a decaying city of cutthroats and thieves. A standard Conan tavern ought to fit in well, in any of those towns, too. Just substitute "Brythunian" with "Breeland" and you're good to go.

A Free Adventure & A Keltic Campaign Sword & Sorcery Set Up

Swords & Stitchery - Sun, 03/15/2020 - 17:48
"Magical mirrors often hold more than you’re bargaining for. An adventure for a group of 1st and 2nd level characters."This guy is in so much trouble its not even funny. Will o whisps are very unforgiving. Time to roll up a new PC.Footprints 22 | Masthead by ZhuThe Grove of Ghost-lights by Markus Holzum While the entire world melts down in virus induced panic, we've been doing Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Elves from the Broken Sword

Sorcerer's Skull - Sun, 03/15/2020 - 14:00

The elves of Poul Anderson's The Broken Sword are like the standard elves of D&D to the extent they both share similarities to Tolkien's elves (in the case of Anderson's book, it's because they share the same sources), but are very different in other ways: they are haughty and cruel, more classic faerie-like, invisible to human's without witchsight and vulnerable to iron.

Here's an elven subrace for 5e that is a bit more like Anderson's version than the standard D&D ones:
Ability Score Increase. Your Charisma score increases by 1.Elf Weapon Training. You have proficiency with the longsword, shortsword, shortbow, and longbow.Cantrip. You know one cantrip of your choice from the wizard spell list. Charisma is your spellcasting ability for it.Fleet of Foot. Your base walking speed increases to 35 feet.Iron Sensitivity. Iron weapons do +1 damage against one. You cannot wear iron weapons or armor, or even touch it without taking 1 point of damage per round.

Retro Review & OSR Campaign Commentary On Jungle Tomb of the Mummy Bride By Levi Combs From

Swords & Stitchery - Sun, 03/15/2020 - 00:34
"Tales of the cursed pyramid and the sleeping tomb of the Mummy Bride have long been a traveler’s tale, passed along by wayward explorers and greedy plunderers alike. Deep within the verdant jungles of the south, amidst a Green Hell of impenetrable jungle, savage cannibals and ancient myth, lies the shattered remnants of a once-powerful civilization and the terrible gods who ruled over them. Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Why Ants?

The Splintered Realm - Sat, 03/14/2020 - 20:28
I think it's a fair question. Of my three 'properties', Army Ants is the most niche. It's got the smallest audience. It doesn't have the potential broad appeal of fantasy games. It doesn't have the competitiveness (and money-making ability) of supers gaming. It is, consistently, my lowest-performing major 'brand'.

So why the heck do I keep coming back to it?

It's a fair question, and one I ask myself a lot. Why wouldn't I work on something that people are more willing to pay for? Why wouldn't I develop a game that has a larger potential market? I think that there are two primary reasons...

1. Themes and Story. This is the big one. Army Ants keeps confronting me with the same themes that have always been interesting to me: the role of the individual in a society, sacrifice and friendship, grit in the face of adversity. Good vs. evil. These are hard-wired into the heart of the Army Ants world, and I get to continually refine these in new directions.

In addition, I conceived of an Army Ants 'super narrative' about twenty years ago, and I've never had a chance to tell the whole story. When I sit down to write about it, I'm not 'making things up'. It's all there, already largely formed in my subconscious. I'm just telling you a story that's already happened.

2. It's me. My fantasy game will never (ever) be more than a shadow of the grand-daddy of them all. I think it's a great, simple, clean knock off. But, at the end of the day, it's a knock off. It gives me a chance to re-create the game I loved growing up. That is powerful. But, every time I walk into a game or book store, I cannot help but marvel at the quality and quantity of content for D+D that I will never be able to replicate. The supers game is the same way, but with a different set of limitations. My game world (which is a big part of what I think makes a supers game tick) is never going to be more than a mashup of and reaction to the big two comic book universes. At the end of the day, that game is attempting to emulate someone else's material, not to forge my own.

Army Ants doesn't have any of those limitations. Nobody is doing Army Ants better than me. There is no external yardstick that I'm inevitably falling short of.

The other nice thing is that with Army Ants, I'm lingering in the shadows of some of my favorite worlds. Tolkien was mocked by the scholarly community for writing about hobbits and dwarves. Richard Adams and Stan Sakai have crafted stories around rabbits. Dave Sim did 300 issues about an aardvark. These are some of the people I most admire as a creator, and it feels like Army Ants is my world. It's where I want to spend my time. 

Two More Freebie Adventures & How To Create A Mini Sword & Sorcery Swamp OSR Campaign To Go!

Swords & Stitchery - Sat, 03/14/2020 - 19:54
"The Frog Idol has stood in the Black Mire for ages untold – an idol of an ancient and forgotten god who now only manifests through this ancient rock in a forgotten place. However, with the conquest of the dwarven citadel of Kuln by the giants, adventurers have been seen again in the city of Coruvon. And from Coruvon, the Black Mire is always in sight. This adventure is designed as a Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Black Roads & Deodanths of Destruction - Play Session Report Cha'alt/Godbound Campaign

Swords & Stitchery - Sat, 03/14/2020 - 03:24
Today's  Godbound/Cha'alt game has been an adventure unto itself. The Corona virus scare has made my gaming & even blogging very interesting in Connecticut. Half of my day was gathering supplies,shopping, & then finally settling in for my usual Friday night game. In tonight's game I have a gang of Deodanth acting as a  hit squad warriors to take out the party. The Deodanths are working for the Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Weird Revisited: Adventuring in The Time of Plague

Sorcerer's Skull - Fri, 03/13/2020 - 11:00
This post originally appeared in 2010, but recent events brought it to mind...

A little light reading about the Plague of Justinian the other day (and the plague of no home internet access I continue to suffer) got me to thinking about the use of epidemics or even pandemics in gaming. Obviously, succumbing to infectious disease isn’t the most adventurous way to die, but plagues, particularly big ones, have a tendency to cause a great deal of social, economic, and religious upheaval, which is the perfect backdrop for an rpg campaign, or fodder for adventures.

First a few terms. An “epidemic” occurs when the outbreak of new cases of a particular disease exceeds the expected number for a given population. This is, as the definition suggests, somewhat subjective. A “pandemic” is when epidemic conditions exist over a wide geographic area--possibly even the whole world.

The most famous historical pandemic is probably the Black Death which affected Eurasia, and peaked in Europe around 1350. Low-end estimates have it killing a third of Europe’s population. The traditional culprit was thought to be bubonic plague caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, though their are some new theories.

The societal effects were profound. Depopulation meant fewer people to farm, and that coupled with livestock plagues, and climatic changes lead to famine and starvation. Fearful people blamed convenient scape-goats--often Jews--and Jewish communities were wiped out in some places. Fringe religious groups like the Brotherhood of Flagellants became more widespread.

The Plague of Justinian (541-542 CE) is also thought to have been caused by bubonic plague. This plague may have weakened Byzantium enough that Justinian I was unable to reconquer Italy, shattering any hopes of reconstitute a whole Roman Empire. It may have also weakened Byzantium for its coming face-off with the Arabs a century later.

Y. pestis isn’t the only malefactor out there. Smallpox, influenza, cholera, and typhus caused pandemics before the the 20th century. Measles, yellow fever, and dengue fever never had the same spread, but have caused localized epidemics. Of course, in a fantasy world plagues might be more exotic, even magical in nature.

I can think of three broad ways a plague could be used in gaming. The first is plague as background color. Carts of dead, or oddly dressed plague doctors might just be part of the general ambience of a setting--particularly one with a grubby, "real" Middle Ages feel. It could be treated seriously, or darkly humorous.

The second is plague as apocalypse. As its been pointed out before, there is a post-apocalyptic element to the implied setting of D&D. Perhaps the apocalypse isn’t just a remote event, but ongoing? This could cast the player’s not as pioneers on the frontier, but as defenders of the fire of civilization. This might or might not have implications on the sort of adventures had, or it might just influence the tone.

The third is plague as campaign focus. Maybe the point of the whole campaign is defeating the forces of evil behind the plague? It could be introduced early, as a minor background element, but as more people succumb to the disease it grows in importance. Eventually, finding a cure might become the PC’s central concern, but only after its grown “naturally”( or unnaturally).

Two Freebie Adventures & How To Create A Mini Sword & Sorcery OSR Campaign To Go!

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 03/12/2020 - 19:18
"The adventurers find themselves outside of a set of caves in the Dragon Teeth Mountains. They do not remember how they got here or why they came. But they feel drawn by the psychic energies from within the cave and feel compelled to explore them. This is an AD&D psionics adventure for 4-6 characters of from 7th to 10th level of experience. At least one or two characters from the party should Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Weird Revisted: Demonland

Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 03/12/2020 - 11:00
Art by quiteproustianThe promiscuousness of infernal beings is well-known, so it isn't surprising that by-blows of their trysts are found among mortals. While rare in most of the world, those with infernal blood are the majority of the populous in Demonland1, a city-state across the mephitic Wastes from the Country of Sang. Why so many descendants of infernal bloodlines should be found in one place is a mystery, but perhaps the area had a sulfurous air of hominess for their grandsires and granddams.

Demonland proper is built upon a cluster of small islands in a lake formed by hot springs. The boiling, caustic, malodorous waters are a perfect defense --though they also make life less pleasant for the inhabitants. Demonland’s potable water comes from filtered rainwater collect in cisterns and also by magical purification of the water of the lake itself. The city is only accessible by boat and all goods and visitors make the trip over by ferry.

Demonland is nominally ruled by a Duke (or Duchess), and though this ruler’s power is theoretically absolute, it is most commonly exercised in throwing lavish revelries at which the true rulers of the city go masked. These princes (and their masks) represent the seven capital vices exalted in Demonlander religion and culture. The prince of each vice is officially appointed by the Duke but in practice is more or less elected by general consensus, as the Duke shrewdly defers to the inclinations of the mob. They serve for an indefinite tenure, usually a year and a day. The princes are meant to most perfectly embody their vice, and would-be candidates campaign vigorously (all except the candidates for Prince of Sloth, of course) for the title by engaging in the most audacious (and public) displays of sinfulness to capture the jaded hearts of the populous. The princes hold absolute authority with regard to the practice of the vice they personify and make legal proclamations and levy taxes or duties that might be pertinent as they see fit. They are allowed to keep a percentage of any monies collected for themselves.

Diabolism is the state religion of Demonland. It inverts the morality of most human faiths, promoting vice and condemning virtue. Self-interest and the pursuit of pleasure are valued over altruism and self-denial; Greed and vanity are extolled, and charity and modesty condemned. Demonlanders, however, are only a trifle less likely to fall short of the ideals of their faith than folk elsewhere, so their practice of immorality is as prone to lapses as the practice of morality in other lands.

Art by Arthur Asa1. The correct demonym is "Demonlander." Never call a Demonlander a "demon" as this is both inaccurate and rude. "Tiefling" is just as bad.

XQ1 The Castle that Fell from the Sky By Steve Robertson & Jimm Johnson Published By The Scribes of Sparn

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 03/12/2020 - 06:33
"Even in the far gulfs of space, the struggle of Law against Chaos, Good versus Evil is eternal. But wherever evil is not extinguished, it will revive to exact vengeance on those who would keep it at bay... ...On the fringes of the realm, where civilization wanes and adventures begin, rumors are whispered of a castle that fell from the sky. Some say it has poisoned the land where it fell Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

[REVIEW] On Downtime and Demesnes

Beyond Fomalhaut - Wed, 03/11/2020 - 21:58
Downtime and Demesnes
On Downtime and Demesnes (2019)by Courtney C. CampbellPublished by Hack & Slash Publishing
Old-school D&D has been fairly well supported by adventures over the last decade. Rules and character options, we have had more than we needed (we honestly didn’t need that many). This book targets a fairly neglected niche: campaign-level play. This is the stuff that happens between the characters go on adventures – when they spend their well-earned money, advance character and party goals, and gear up for the next expedition. In modern models of play, a lot of this has fallen by the wayside; the role-assumption-vs-adventuring dichotomy has taken hold too firmly in peoples’ minds. You are either supposed to be doing silly voices, or you are supposed to be heaving skulls (silly accents optional).
I suspect many old-school games also forgo this element, or simplify it to “okay you buy equipment, you go to the cleric, you ask the sage, what about you?” This is all right. However, OD&D, Ready Ref Sheets, and the Dungeon Masters Guide hint at a game that expands the scope of D&D into domain management, trade, diplomacy, hireling management, and similar activities… something D&D’s “complex wargaming” precursors like Blackmoor and Tony Bath’s Hyboria were already doing. It is a loss that most “OSR” rulesets – even the better ones – have largely stuck to copying the rules or inventing their own, while failing to cover the true scope of expanded play you can find in the AD&D rulebooks.
On Downtime and Demesnes is a supplement meant to introduce these elements to your game. (The default system is B/X, but the lessons apply just as well to all the other D&D variants out there.) Its approach is to create easy, straightforward procedures to turn downtime activities and strategic-level play into gameable content. This is undoubtedly the right way to do it. The guidelines the book offers are not as hard as ironclad rules (game mechanics), but they are also not vague like general guidance – they are somewhere in-between, a tool to navigate game situations in a fair and interesting way, a bit like dungeon crawls have procedures for random encounters, treasure allocation, or light sources. The end result should provide a challenge, have a meaningful stake, and produce a better game experience. As the book suggests, only significant or interesting forms of interaction are worth the attention (a wise principle regarding spending game time), and the subsequent guidelines tend to stick to this maxim.Laying the GroundworkAccordingly, the book covers all the varied situations that may come up during downtime. This is a comprehensive work, in that it offers either a procedure, a random idea generator, or at least basic advice for most things that could reasonably come up in a realistic game situation. Healing from sustained injuries – there are guidelines for that. Earning an income – here is a way to handle it. Amassing a library of exotic books for future benefit – yes. Hiring specialists or launching the career of a secondary character to step in the main PC’s footsteps – it is there. Investment in mercantile ventures? Mining? Clearing terrain? Building stuff? Breeding bizarre monstrosities to terrorise the land? Yes, yes, yes, yes and yes.
These guidelines are of varied complexity. None of them would make play burdensome, and most tend to be something you can resolve with a few player decisions and random rolls. Earning extra XP by carousing is a 1d8*100 roll, deducted from gp and added to XP, followed by a saving throw to see if there have been complications. Sacrifices to dark gods can net you gold, XP, a magic item or the services of an evil creature, depending on the implied value of the sacrificed person/animal. Spending a week bragging about the party’s adventures nets 5% more experience (but you have to roll maintenance). Racketeering gains 100 gp per level per month on a successful Move Silently roll (but has a small, unspecified odd of attracting unwanted attention). A few guidelines are on the level of mini-games – designing your own fortress and clearing/developing the land around it is more involved, as it should be.
Making it Come TogetherI believe some areas are underserved by this otherwise useful book. I was excited to read the guidelines on political influence, but it only outlines what influence entails, and how you can gain it – not how you might use it in concrete terms, what you may gain through influence (and how much), or what happens when two influence conflict or simply overlap. It seems to be the beginning of something, a thought experiment that was never properly finished. This is the case with a few more interesting guidelines – the author pitches an intriguing what-if, but doesn’t give a satisfying answer. There is an extensive set of tables to ideas and guidelines to build ships with various capabilities and unstandard quirks, but no system for sea battles or just sailing adventures to put these capabilities to the test. The end results are a bit fragmentary and scattershot, even if it is very strong on the idea level.
Where the general procedures are fairly universal, the “random ideas” are oddly specific. A list of 10 bizarre pet stores includes a shop selling attack chickens, an ant farm, and a balloon animal store. Do you really need one of those? If yes, how many times?
Then we come to a curious flaw that seems to permeate the whole work. All of this seems to take place on Horror World. I can’t put it otherwise: there is such a strain of pessimism and negativity about mankind running through the book that it seems deeply misanthropic. The philosophy, in turn, messes with the systematic outcomes. This is an implied setting where bad things happen, people are rapacious and evil, and you are screwed from day one. It first becomes visible in the random tables. An early one, “100 Obnoxious Peasants”, should have been rightfully amended “…who Will Ruin Your Life”. These village bumpkins are not annoying but funny louts – these are peasants who will flirt with your characters only to rile up their whole clan against them (94), offer them friendly handshakes while unwittingly infecting them with the plague (86), or buy them a beer while trying to provoke them to say something treasonous (99). Then there are “100 Noble Patrons”, more appropriately “100 Noble Patrons From HELL. Here, we have a lady who invites the party for dinner to pick their mind, only to beat them to the score with a self-sponsored party (03), another lady who hires adventurers to awaken her evil god under the guise of making trade deals (96), a baron who invites adventurers to his castle to use them for flesh golem parts (35), another lady pursued by killers who will try to befriend you (27), and a baroness who runs a charity for orphans, sacrifices 10% of them to devils, and “If killed she arises as a vampire due to a wish she got from hell.” (09) You would think I am cherry-picking, but these are just two sequences of random rolls – most (almost all) of these peasants and patrons are literal or social deathtraps if you interact with them. Or not interact with them, because many will become extremely vengeful and dangerous anyway if spurned, and will come after you if you give them a wide berth.
Random Goblins Destroy Your Life's WorkCertainly, nothing like a corrupt, dangerous fantasy world to generate adventure opportunities. Sometimes it is appropriate – sure, goblins are nasty little evildoers, so 12 horrid goblin pranks are sort of useful (although, being so specific, they have much less use than the procedural elements). But in a bunch of these mini-games, the only winning move is not to play, and that pushes the players towards disengagement, non-interaction, and a foul kind of cynicism. Would you play Russian roulette with one chamber? Yeah? How about five chambers? This is like the social equivalent of a “negadungeon”, those stupid things promising to wreck your campaigns and the player campaigns therein if you play them. Fortunately, this particular mean streak does not invalidate the book, and is much less present on the procedural level than the “idea generator” level. But there, you can run into nasty stuff in seemingly inconsequential situations. Perhaps you were happy to inherit something – but you are fucked, because it is a necklace of decapitation, or a peculiar curse. The odds are really bad, and that makes for dull gaming.
So here is an enjoyable book (handsomely illustrated by the multi-talented author) filled with a whole lot of highly useful guidance for running campaign-level sessions, either to expand on the existing action, or to enter new domains of play. The procedures it introduces are clear, elegant, low-maintenance, and appropriate. In this respect, Downtime and Demesnes is an excellent resource and a great idea mine. It also has aspects which are half-baked, or damaged by a very peculiar view of how your average D&D world was supposed to function. These elements, good and bad, are mixed together in a single volume. You will need to exercise judgement to decide what to use from it (or how to use the flawed content in a fruitful way – this is a distinct possibility). It should be fairly easy. But it should have happened in the writing phase.
No playtesters are credited in this publication.
Rating: *** / *****
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Appendix N Introspection - Robert E. Howard The Kull stories

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 03/11/2020 - 16:09
“A wizard of the Elder Race. He lives here in Valusia, by the Lake of Visions in the House of a Thousand Mirrors. All things are known to him, lord king; he speaks with the dead and holds converse with the demons of the Lost Lands.”The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune  (1929) by Robert Ervin HowardA Kull short story. First published in Weird Tales (vol. 14, no. 3, September 1929).Robert E.Howard's Kull Needles
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