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Intrigue, Horror, & Lovecraftian God Sacrifice in the Western Wastelands - Olathoë' Session Report Eight

Swords & Stitchery - Sun, 01/21/2018 - 07:30
So during tonight's game the PC's moped up the last of the Rhan Faced Doppelgangers groups, each of these groups operates with a spotter, a telepathic link to the hive mind, & a shifter who imitates the target. The PC's learned of an insect cult operating fifty miles outside of the Outpost of the Western Wastelands in an abandon temple of the Huldra ("hidden beings") after blowing away a ton Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

War in Europe

Greyhawk Grognard - Sat, 01/20/2018 - 18:54
At last! The crown jewel in my game collection has arrived.

When I was a kid, SPI's monster game War in Europe was one of my favorite games. We actually played the full campaign game all the way through - my best friend Tom dismantled his model train set in his basement so we'd have a table large enough to fit the maps. It depicts World War II on a regimental/division level (the game comes with 3600 counters), with a 20-mile hex map of Europe that takes nine 22" x 36" maps to show the whole thing. Turns represent a week.

It truly is a monster game.

I got rid of mine some years ago, when I was moving a lot, and decided I wasn't ever going to play these sorts of games again. Like most of my collection lost in that ill-considered decision, I've been slowly rebuilding, and now I finally have the Big One. I got it on eBay for a surprisingly reasonable price (less than the reissue from Victory Games will cost when it's back in print) plus over a dozen erratas, expansions, and so forth. It's even partially unpunched!

The box has a dinged corner, but other than that it looks to be in great shape. I can't wait to play one of the smaller scenarios (the big campaign game will have to wait until I'm able to reclaim the spare bedroom from its status as junk room). Here are some pics of my copy:

And here's a stock photo of what the whole thing looks like with all the maps put together (with a full-sized newspaper for scale):

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

LSR Actual Play

The Splintered Realm - Sat, 01/20/2018 - 17:11
Here is an example of an actual play experience for Legends of the Splintered Realm. The game is finished. I want a day or two to read it over before publishing it. It will be available at in a few days...
Two heroes, Grimsby and Teothas, have entered the lair of a mighty hydra. As it rises from its shallow pool, the heroes draw weapons and prepare for combat.
Grimsby (Lawful Dwarf Myrmidon 3) Atk +3; Def +2; Dmg +3; Amr +5; Hits 6Abilities: Fortitude (ignore one attack per turn); Resilience (advantage on Amr rolls); Precision (advantage on Dmg rolls with weapons); Specialist, axes (Advantage on Atk rolls); Shield (+1 Amr).Gear: Enchanted axe; enchanted banded mail armor; 2 potions of healing
Teothas (Lawful Elf Champion 3) Atk 2; Def +3; Dmg +3; Amr +5; Hits 6Abilities: Defender (3 points to distribute); Scroll Use; Evasion (advantage to Def rolls); Shield (+1 Amr); Mysticism (advantage on all spell casting rolls).Gear: Enchanted sword; Enchanted chainmail armor; potion of haste; Scrolls: haste; hold
Hydra (Lvl 4; DT 7). The hydra is a 5-headed serpent that bites with each head each round. For each hit that the hydra suffers, there is a cumulative 1 in 6 chance that 1 head ceases to function, and the hydra takes one fewer attack each round. Due to its long necks, a hydra can bite foes up to 30’ away.
The heroes roll for initiative vs. the hydra. The hydra has a default result of 7 (its DT). Grimsby rolls 2+3=5, and Teothas rolls 5+3=8. The order will be Teothas, the hydra, and then Grimsby.
Round 1Teothas knows this is going to be a fight. He uses a free action to activate his defender ability on Grimsby. Grimsby will take +2 to Att (now +5), +1 to Def (now +3). With his action, Teothas will use his scroll of haste on Grimsby, giving the dwarf an extra action each round. Hopefully, he has just made Grimsby into a little machine of destruction…The hydra gets five attacks. It will make two at each of the heroes, with a third randomly selected. I will say 1-3 is Grimsby, 4-6 is Teothas. I get 2. Grimsby is getting attacked three times. Grimsby rolls three Def rolls vs. DT 7, and gets 1 (automatic failure with 1 hit damage), 3+3=6 (a hit), and 4+3=7 (avoids the bite). Grimsby is hit 2 times. He rolls Amr to soak the damage of 7, and gets (3, 4) on the first roll, so 4+5=9 (soaking this hit altogether) and (2, 2), so 2+5=7, soaking this as well. He suffers 1 hit total, leaving him at hits 5. Teothas rolls two Def rolls vs. DT 7 and gets (2, 3) on the first roll, for 3+3=6 (he is hit) and (3, 5) on the second roll, for 5+3=8, dodging the second bite. Teothas is hit once. He rolls to soak, getting a natural 1, suffering 1 hit. He is down to hits 5.Teothas gets to act, swinging his axe two times due to haste. He rolls (2, 6), for 6+3=9 (a hit vs. DT 7) and (1, 1) so an automatic miss for this attack. He hits once. For damage, he rolls (3, 5), getting 5+3=8 hits. This is enough to deal 1 hit to the hydra, bringing it to hits 6. It rolls 1d6 to see if a head is severed, and gets 2. It still has all 5 heads, since only a 1 would sever a head after it sustains 1 hit damage.
Round 2Teothas uses his hold spell scroll, even though he is hesitant (since this is a great spell to save for a rainy day…). He rolls his Lvl (with advantage due to his mysticism ability) and gets (3, 1). This is a result of 3+3=6, so he fails to hold the hydra, and the spell is gone. Drat.On its action, the hydra will continue to bite. It rolls 1d6 to see who the extra head goes after and gets 4. Teothas this time. The hydra attack Grimsby twice, and Grim rolls a natural 1 and 3+3=6. He is hit twice, and takes one automatic hit, down to 4. He rolls Amr to soak those two hits, rolling (3, 5), so 5+5=10 (he soaks it) and (2, 1) getting 2+5=7, and barely soaking this bite as well. His armor is so powerful (between the magic of his armor, the shield, and the enchantment from Teothas) that it will require a pair of 1s on damage for him to take damage on an armor resist roll. Teothas rolls 3 Def rolls, getting (5, 5) for 5+3=8 (a miss), (6, 5) for 6+3=9 (a miss) and (2, 2) for 2+3=5 (a hit). To soak damage, Teothas rolls a natural 1, meaning that he suffers 2 hits. He is down to hits 3.Grimsby attacks twice, rolling (5, 5) for 5+5=10, and (6, 3). The 6 is an automatic success with +1 hit dealt. For the first hit, Grimsby rolls damage of (5, 4) or 5+3=8 (1 hit damage) and (4, 3) or 4+3=7, another 1 hit damage. Grimsby deals 3 hits this round, leaving the hydra at 3 hits. It must roll for each head, and gets 5 on the first roll (a 2 or lower is needed), 2 on the second roll (3 or lower is needed, so a head is severed), and 5 on the third roll (4 or lower is needed, so no head is severed). The hydra now has hits 3 and 4 heads remaining.
Round 3Teothas throws an arcane bolt, rolling (6, 6). This automatically hits, and deals +1 hit damage. He rolls for damage and gets 2+3=5. The armor soaks the rest of the damage, but the 1 hit leaves the hydra at 2 hits. It rolls to see if a head is lost, and gets 1 (5 or lower was needed). Another head falls limp, and the hydra has 3 heads remaining. Each hit it suffers will now automatically take out a head.On its action, the hydra attacks (5 on the roll) Teothas twice and Grimsby once. Teothas rolls (4, 3) for 4+3=7, dodging the first bite. For the second bite, he rolls (5, 2) for 5+3=8, dodging the second. Grimsby takes on one head, rolling 2+3=5, getting hit. On his armor roll, Grimsby rolls (5, 4), and gets 5+5=10, easily withstanding this hit.Grimsby gets to act. He thinks about drinking a healing potion, but he feels pretty good about their odds if they just keep pressing the attack here. If he’d taken damage, he probably would be drinking a potion. As it is, he swings twice, getting (3, 1) for 3+5=8, and (2, 2) for 2+5=7. He hits twice. With the first hit, he rolls (5, 2) so 5+3=8 (1 hit to the hydra) and (6, 1), so an automatic 1 point. The hydra loses 2 more heads (down to 2) and has 1 hit remaining.
Round 4Teothas looses an arcane bolt, rolling (6, 3). This is an automatic success with an automatic 1 point of damage. The body of the hydra collapses into the pool, and the heroes are victorious.
For treasure the heroes roll D6 for gold, and get 3. They recover D6x4 gold coins from among the refuse of the cave. They roll and get 1x4=4. Oh well. Each hero takes 2 gold coins.
For minor treasure, they roll a 6, and it drops a minor item. Rolling D6, I get 1; this is a scroll. For the type of scroll, I roll D6 and get 3 (a common scroll). For the scroll, I roll D6 and get 5, a scroll of passage. Teothas takes this.
For an enchanted treasure, I roll D6 and get 4+4=8. This is the DT, so the heroes find an enchanted treasure as well. Rolling D6, I get 6. They find a rope of climbing. Grimsby claims this.

They defeated a level 4 beast, so each hero also collects 2 XP. If this was the final encounter in a quest, they would have earned an additional 40 XP, or 20 XP each. 
DebriefThe synergy of Teothas' spells and Grimsby's abilities created a powerful combination. Grimsby was very difficult to deal damage to, and was able to attack quickly. Without these magical abilities, the encounter is likely to have ended much differently. As it is, the heroes still took considerable damage, and were pushed pretty well by a moderately powerful beast that they were equitable to.

Appendix N: Now in Audiobook!

Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog - Sat, 01/20/2018 - 16:54

Check it out…!

Appendix N is now available in audiobook format!

I am so stoked about this!!

Here’s what I imagine happening. Somebody that doesn’t read blogs and that doesn’t have time to read books is going to put this on. Probably somebody that played D&D twenty years ago, but drifted away from it when their high school buddies moved away.

This guy’s going to be in his car listening to this… and he’s going to have never heard the words of Robert E. Howard, H. P. Lovecraft, Fritz Leiber, A. Merritt, Leigh Brackett, or Jack Vance read out loud before. But there in the space of a few days during his daily commute… he’s going to hear them all one right after another.

At some point… his mind will be blown so many times… he will be irrevocably changed. And he suddenly be thinking two thoughts simultaneously:

  1. Why didn’t anyone tell me?!
  2. I gotta read more of these guys!!!!

And just like that he’ll be ruined. He’ll cruise through the fantasy and science fiction section at Barnes & Noble just on the edge of rage. He’ll prowl used book stores. He’ll be aghast when book store clerks don’t have any idea who Lord Dunsany is. He’ll be completely unable to look at contemporary television and movies the same way again. He’ll start planning an all new D&D campaign, contemplate publishing a novella on Amazon, and he will absolutely mystify his friends with his arcane knowledge.

Now… if only I could persuade Arkhaven to do a comics adaption of Appendix N, I’d really be in business!!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Hammer Haus

Ten Foot Pole - Sat, 01/20/2018 - 12:15

By Seth Kenlon & Klaatu Einzelganger
Mixed Signals
Levels 1-3

Mrs. Wyverstone has a simple job he needs done. She has a home she wants built. The foundation has already been laid, but her building crew has abandoned the job. She needs a crew to go in and finish the job. She says any able-bodied idiot can do it. So why is she hiring adventurers?


This forty page single-column linear adventure details the parties attempts to build a house(!) for an old woman. It is, essentially, just linear event encounters. Single column, a railroad, unorganized, it still manages to not score WORST EVAR by giving the DM some advice. Barely.

Man, where to start? The lady who who owns the tavern is building a house and needs some workers to complete it. She’ll pay you 1000gp, parceled out over the project, to do the job. Inflation seems to have hit Pathfinder pretty hard. I don’t think the size is ever mentioned, but the mason does the walls in one day, by himself, and then does the roof and door in one night, so it must be pretty small. 1000gp for a hovel when you own a tavern is pretty rough! But, enough sillyness!

Encounter one. You hammer in the last few nails to finish the framing. It’s a DC17, with failure meaning it takes five blows to drive the nail. Five hammer dings will summon an angry spirit that attacks. (Seems the build site is on a graveyard …) The spirit isn’t stat’d, instead the DM is given the advice of “use whatever stats are appropriate to the level of the party.” Uh, No. That’s your job, Mr. Designer. I “bought” this adventure because I didn’t have time. It’s your job to provide me the tools I need to run the adventure. Uncool, not stat’ing the thing. Further, the DM is supposed to have a number of undriven nails appropriate to the parties APL. Again, no advice given. YOU DON’T GET TO FUCKING DO THIS. Just stick in a small table telling us how many for what APL. It’s your fucking job as a designer!

Oh, oh, the main villains identity can change! The woman is, of course, and evil witch. Unless the party catches on too fast. Then it’s the mason that’s evil, or … and get this … it’s her husband who’s been gone for six years. Yes, Mr Not-appearing-in-this-adventure and never mentioned before is the bad guy who swoops in at the last moment! Nope. Again, a TERRIBLE design principal. You don’t get to change the ground under the party. You don’t get to run an encounter “until the party is almost defeated.” You set the fucking scene and run it in a neutral manner, with an eye towards fun. The players HAVE to be able be make meaningful decisions and they CAN’T do this with the DM just doing whatever the fuck they want whenever the fuck they want.

The inn’s rates and services are scattered through the adventure. The inn appears at the beginning. And then after day one there’s another little section on the inn and it’s pricing and services. And then at the end of the day two section there’s another little section on additional prices and services. Perfect. Make the DM hunt for information.

At one point the characters fall through the ground in to a little crypt complex. There’s no room/key format, the first couple of rooms are described in one big text block that you have to dig through to figure out what goes with where.

This shitshow does, however, do a few decent things. There’s a flowchart at the beginning to tell you how the adventure works. That’s a good choice for an event based adventure … even if it is unneeded here. It also has a pointer to some free resources, for an inn layout and NPC’s, which is a nice little touch. That’s a good value add. Finally, it offers some advice on the hook. “Building a house may be the least sexy thing your party would choose to do.” No shit. But, it does present some advice to get the party involved, a couple of NPC’s talking about eerie things at the bild site, etc. It’s a nice nod to trying to provide resources for the DM at the table.

I know it’s $0. It’s not worth it. I like the absurdity of the telegraphed villain … because I like shit like that. But the rest of the adventure, man .. .I don’t think I could ever run something like this for people.

This is PWYW at DriveThru, with a suggest price of $0. The preview gives you the entire adventure, since it’s free. Note page 13, which shows the “free text” room descriptions.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Below The Blood Soaked Battle Fields - Gary Gygax's D2 "Shrine of the Kuo-Toa" (1978)

Swords & Stitchery - Sat, 01/20/2018 - 06:37
"Having put down a rising of giants, it was discovered that the motivating force behind their depredations was that of long-forgotten evil: the Dark Elves. Determined to seek out these creatures, a body of doughty adventurers mounted an expedition to learn the strength of the Drow and bring retribution to them."So I mentioned the second part of the Hundred Years War campaign idea using Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Are You Going to GaryCon?

Greyhawk Grognard - Sat, 01/20/2018 - 03:39

This year will mark my first time going to GaryCon. I'll be there hawking my wares as BRW Games, so this will be your opportunity to pick up all the Castle of the Mad Archmage and Adventures Dark and Deep goodness.

Special convention-only thingy: I'll be there with a number of printed versions of products that are usually pdf-only. Like the Necromancer class, the Treasure of Welthorp adventure, etc. These are convention exclusives, and I'm not going to make a lot of 'em. So get 'em while they last. As always, they'll come with pdf versions.

But if you're going to be there, here's what I really wanted to tell you. I'm running games!

I'm also going to be running two games of Castle of the Mad Archmage, using 1st edition AD&D rules (with a few modifications, ahem).

The first session will be on Friday at 7:00. The second session will be Saturday, also at 7:00. I wanted to keep Saturday open to play something myself, but it was not to be.

And yikes, but I'm driving out there and back from New Jersey in one straight, twelve-hour shot each way. shudder

See you there, I hope!
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

What is Avremier, Really?

3d6 Traps & Thieves - Fri, 01/19/2018 - 13:47
While it is important to convey Avremier as a physical setting with places, people, critters, dungeons, geographic features, and loot - there are vital aspects that define its essential nature.

With the release of only three supplement booklets, Avremier has already been hailed as "different," or even, "unique." For this project, both are desirable qualities. Still, there is a great deal more to come.

Yet, so much of the theme or force of an adventure comes from conflict. That's fairly universal. Good vs. Evil. Light vs. Dark. Law vs. Chaos. Man vs. Nature. That last one was the basic starting-point for Avremier. Most of that is now in the past of the setting - the time of the Harrowing. And, while Good vs. Evil is a classic struggle, there are other forces at work in Avremier that have more influence.

Order vs. Entropy. Not Law vs. Chaos. That's not accurate enough. It can be labeled or trivialized as such, but that would be wrong. For the purpose of this project, Law is a method of defining and standardizing Order. Order is a force. Law is a philosophy. Order is the arrangement of atoms. Law is naming and diagramming those atoms. By the same token, entropy is not chaos. Entropy is fundamental change. Chaos is disarray. Chaos is a concept. Entropy is the potential dissolution of our entire reality. In some settings, Law and Chaos are "cosmic forces." In Avremier, Order and Entropy are fundamental states of being. The difference is crucial. If Chaos wins, it's bad news for Law. If entropy prevails, it's bad news for everything with a physical form.

Light vs. Dark. Again, we are not talking about Light-as-Good or Dark-as-Evil. In Avremier, Dark is pretty much the natural state of things. Light must be created, and maintained, and nurtured. Light is an act of will to push against the Dark. For the most part, Dark doesn't need to do much. You can never really destroy the Dark. Look around the universe - Dark is essentially winning. Lucky for us, Dark isn't greedy or hungry. Right? Light and Dark form the "vertical axis" of Creation for Avremier. It represents trasferrence of energies. Light rises and Dark sinks - at least that's the simplified version. Makes it easier to diagram.

Man vs. Nature is pretty much how the terrestrial Avremier setting came to be. Humans arrived and the forces of Nature resisted their advancement - to the near-extinction of the human race. History tells us that only the intervention of the gods of humanity prevented that extinction. That's another vital point. The closest thing Avremier had to deities before humans showed up was the Manifestations of Nature, quite literally the personifications of the seasons and their passage. The fact that humans brought gods with them is a hallmark of the Avremier setting. Of course, now we have Man vs. Other.

A dwarf or an elf doesn't care much about your geneaology or gender. Your religion, if any, is rather baffling to them - but they are trying to understand. As a human, you are Other. You are an alien. You have no elemental spark or affinity. You breed fast and die young - like an animal. If you weren't so dangerous, you would be an object of pity. The human race in Avremier is often pitted against itself. In the compromises it is willing to make. In the paths of progress it pursues. In the respect shown to others and respect earned in return. It is a challenging time for humankind.

So, Avremier can be seen as a proving ground. Or, even a crucible. Certainly a focal point. The center of everything.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

A Supers Campaign Idea from the Vaults

Sorcerer's Skull - Fri, 01/19/2018 - 12:00
Re-organizing some old gaming stuff (i.e. moving from one closet to another). I came across a campaign intro document for a Mutants & Masterminds game I ran maybe 10 years ago. The idea was a universe where characters from virtually every comic book publisher existed in the same world and there was no "sliding timescale," so characters than first appeared in the 60s for example were in that era.

I don't have it in digital form anymore, but here's a scan of it:

GURPS Now on RPGNow and DriveThruRPG

Greyhawk Grognard - Thu, 01/18/2018 - 23:31
For those who are fans of Steve Jackson's GURPS (Generic Universal RolePlay System), good news. SJG has just released a ton of content on RPGNow and DriveThruRPG. Everything's in pdf, but that's what all the kids these days are using. I understand they're adding new titles all the time, so if your favorite book isn't up there yet, it probably will be soon.

Do check it out!
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Operation Unfathomable Players Guide

Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 01/18/2018 - 13:00

One of the stretch goals in the Operation Unfathomable kickstarter was the Players Guide. Like all the other, Operation Unfathomable material it's nearing completion. It's one I've been involved with in some small ways, and I got a look at the rough layout of yesterday.

The guide will include:

  • A compilation of the Operation Unfathomable one page comic strips that were created as promotional material
  • New Races: Underworld Otter and Wooly Neanderthal
  • New Classes: Citizen Lich and Underworld Ranger
  • New Spells & Equipment

Lovecraftian Gods,Gorillas, & Classic Monsters In The Underworld - OSR Monster Commentary

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 01/18/2018 - 07:46
  So I've been looking looking to classic mythological sources again for some classic OSR action. For most folks this would the latest releases but for me I tend to fade back into the earlier adventure & resource  influences of the OSR. I've been looking into a few the earlier releases from several pioneer publishers including Goblinoid Games & Brave Halfling Publishing for some of my Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Diary of a Lich

Ultanya - Wed, 01/17/2018 - 20:38

          Vita non est vivere sed valere vita est -
       Life is more than just being aliveOne of the things I have pondered over the years is what intelligent undead do with all their spare time. Especially powerful wizards such as a lich. Sure, they continue researching magic, or devise traps to protect their possessions. The latter would be especially true when dealing with their phylactery. What if the lich out of sheer boredom began penning a diary or journal?

This could be something interesting for the PCs to find. The book could be loaded with all sorts of adventure hooks and campaign information. Next to its phylactery, it may be the single most important personal possession of the lich. Surely the PCs would make a life long enemy by taking it or happening upon it.

This could also make for a wonderful table prop by using a real book and hand writing the entries. It may be a tad laborious on the Dungeon Master’s part, but the players will love it. I was just looking at several leather-bound journals at Barnes & Noble and they would be perfect. The pages could easily be aged with some instant coffee staining. Moreover, if you make a mistake while writing just tear out a page. It may look even more authentic and raise all sorts of questions for the PCs.

Below I have created some sample entries to get you started:

-Campaign date- It has been months since I could articulate my fingers to write. Therefore, I’m using the Mage Hand incantation to pen this entry. Undeath is a curious thing indeed. I feel numb most days. Then I have brief episodes of feeling. Or perhaps it’s just deep memories. My research will continue.

Demilich by William Owsley-Campaign date- I think years have passed. Time has no meaning to me now. My last entry is curious. Did I really think I was feeling anything? Now I know better. Life makes me angry now. I want to snuff it out like a candle flame. Life is short and wasteful. I accomplished little then. My peers made sure to remind me of that. 

-Campaign date- Most of them are gone now. Their end will never be solved. I wanted to experience pleasure. Their deaths bring me none. But my mind still understands revenge. Their spell books have been buried away. Their families will never find them. Only four Shadow Oaks exist in the forests of the world.

-Campaign date- Oh my, that last entry must have been one hundred years ago. Today a company of thieves entered my abode. They begged for their lives, proclaiming to just be adventurers. The elven woman was a talented wizard. I commended her on dispelling one of my enchantments. To bad I had to disintegrate her. I would have enjoyed discussing arcane treatises. They did leave me all these lovely magic items. I will place them in the invisible chest – making a note in case I forget.
-Campaign date- I have been experimenting with using a grain of sand as a potential phylactery. In fact, I’ve become quite obsessed with this idea. My last several attempts were unsuccessful. I need to find sand that originates from inside an elemental volcano. I will send servants claim such a place.

-Campaign date- I just found this old tome in my library. I wonder who authored all this nonsense? Is this a trick? Why is everyone always trying to trick me? I will find whoever the interloper is!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Treasures of the Greyhawk Wars

Greyhawk Grognard - Wed, 01/17/2018 - 18:30
In the much-maligned Greyhawk Wars game, there are quite a few nuggets of Greyhawk lore to be had. The most are obviously found in the Adventurer's Book, which details the history of the wars and the events leading up to them. But in the game itself there are also some items to be found. I'm going to concentrate on a handful of magic items that don't seem to appear anywhere else. (I should note that Greyhawkery noticed some of these a few year's back, which post I found while researching this article.)
  • Bigby's Bottled Breath: Make 1 free attack (strength 3) on every enemy unit before battle begins.
  • Bowl of Storms: Apply a +2 bonus to the strength of one of your units in a sea battle.
  • Drawmij's Dagger: Cause 1 automatic hit on one enemy unit of your choice during the first round of battle.
  • Dura's Deadly Poison: Flip 1 enemy hero to its activated side. [Essentially this takes the hero, which is a band of adventurers, out of service for 1 turn, which equals an entire year.]
  • The Edge of Corusk: Apply a +1 bonus to the strength of one of your units in battle.
  • Gloves of the Paladin: Heal 1 hit suffered by one of your units.
  • Rary's Bulls-Eye Bow: Cause 1 automatic hit on one enemy unit of your choice during the first round of battle.
Here's how I would stat these items up for 1st edition.

Bigby's Bottled Breath: This item appears as an ordinary potion bottle with a stopper sealed with an elaborate "B" in wax, but otherwise appears to be empty. If the stopper is loosed, a powerful jet of wind will be loosed for 1 segment, which can be aimed by whomever is holding the bottle. Any creature in a path 5' wide and 20' long must make a saving throw vs. paralyzation or be pushed back 10 feet and take 1d6 hit points of damage.

Bowl of Storms: When filled with sea or fresh water which is then thrown up in the air, this enchanted bowl can be used to summon a fierce but short-lived tempest. The storm will be only 100 yards in diameter, and can be centered anywhere up to a half-mile away. Any ships caught within the storm will take 1d4 points of hull damage and will be blown in a random direction to the perimeter of the storm. The storm will last but 10 minutes, and the bowl can be used only once per week.

Drawmij's Dagger: This weapon is normally treated as a dagger +2. If the wielder is in a position where the only obvious means of escape is blocked by an enemy, however, it will become a dagger +4.

Dura's Deadly Poison: This most potent potion is renowned for its deadly effects. Anyone who ingests a vial of the poison must make a saving throw vs. poison or be slain instantly. Even worse, however, is that within 1d6 rounds, the body itself becomes so toxic that anyone coming into contact with the flesh must themselves make a saving throw vs. poison or also die 1d4 rounds later (although their flesh will not have the same toxic effect on others). It is thus useful for wiping out entire groups, as even an innocent check of a victim's pulse can spell doom.
The Edge of Corusk: This singular blade was created in the heart of the Corusk mountains to aid a Frost Barbarian in a quest to find the Five Blades of Corusk and free the imprisoned god Vatun. That quest failed, but his blade lives on. It is a longsword +3, and can summon an ice storm (as per the spell) once per week. 
Gloves of the Paladin: These enchanted gloves allow the wearer to heal wounds by laying on hands, as if he or she were a paladin. Once per day, the gloves can heal two hit points of damage for every level of the wearer. The wearer must be of Good alignment; if someone of Evil alignment attempts to wear them, that person will take 2d6 hp of damage. Neutral characters simply cannot activate the gloves' magic. They will magically adjust in size to fit anyone from the size of a gnome to an ogre.
Rary's Bulls-Eye Bow: This enchanted shortbow has a normal +2 bonus to hit and to damage, but three times per day, on utterance of the command word (which is engraved on the bow in Baklunish), it will automatically hit one target, as small as a coin, as long as it is within long range. (Note that this cannot be used to inflict more than the usual amount of damage to a creature, instant kills, etc.)

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Damnation & The Final Confrontation In Q1 Queen of the Demonweb Pits By Gary Gygax & David C. Sutherland III

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 01/17/2018 - 17:33
"How different things seem now from when you undertook the crushing of a few rebellious hill giants! What seemed a simple adventure has turned into a major expedition. Much time has passed since you discovered the conspiracy that led you to the frost giants, fire giants, and eventually to the long-forgotten Drow. Through your encounter with the dark elves, you have found the true source Needles
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The Oracle at Gula

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 01/17/2018 - 12:14

By Joseph A. Mohr
Old School Role Playing
Levels 10-13

The King of Zanzia is greatly concerned about the troubles in his land and he summons the greatest adventurers that he can find to take a perilous journey to see the Oracle at the Temple of Gula to find answers to what ails the land.

This thirty page adventure has about sixteen or so rooms in a two level temple in the mountains, with the actual adventure text taking up about nine pages, once you’re past the “getting-there wandering monsters.” You’re trying to get to an oracle to ask some questions. Linear dungeon, straight-up “challenges” and fights in every room, and muddled text results in something atrocious. (Also, I had to spell atrocious three times to get it right.)

Backstory: four or five pages with the hook mixed in. IE: the worst sort of backstory, forcing you to read it so you can run the adventure. King Dipshit think something is up in his kingdom, shit been going down a lot lately, and wants you to go ask the oracle whats up. It’s a two week journey on horseback through the mountains, and you get a decent wandering monster table, with several of the encounters described. I like wanderers that have more than just a name, but the three or four paragraphs that each get here is a bit much. A couple of sentences, to set a scene and get the DM’s juices going, is really all that’s needed. Otherwise you’re facing the same issues that you have in long encounter descriptions: fighting the text to find the important bits. And for all the bullshit you go through you … a 20 acre plot. That’s what, one step above serf?

The maps are small and hard to read. DON’T USE FUCKING A CURSIVE FONT. Don’t use it in on your map and don’t use it in your adventure text. It’s fucking impossible to read. And the grid lines on the map are in a heavy blue, obfuscating the numbers and just lending the entire thing an air of “oh god, why the fuck am I even trying to read this.” Level one is a big open room while level two is COMPLETELY linear. One room after the other connected by a line. Not. Good.
Roome one of the temple complex. The statue blocking the door asks you “What do you seek?” If you answer knowledge it moves. Any other answer has some stone golems animating to attack you. Oh, and if you answer knowledge then then the statue says “then face my challenge to prove your worth” and the same enemies attack. So nothing you do matters.

Walk around a big room, proving your worth, repeatedly, until you face all of the challenges, and then a door appears, allowing access to level two. Level two is a linear map. You go in a room, right a monster, etc, and then go to the next room to repeat. This is not adventuring.

Why you would want to suffer through this is beyond me.

This is $3.50 at DriveThru. The preview is six pages and all you get to see is backstory. Joy.

mother fucker, and now my copy/paste isn’t preserving para breaks between google docs and wordpress. Grrr…..

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Wednesday Comics: Storm: The Slayer of Eriban (part 6)

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 01/17/2018 - 12:00
My exploration of the long-running euro-comic Storm, continues with his adventures in the world of Pandarve. Earlier installments can be found here.

Storm: The Slayer of Eriban (1985) 
(Dutch: De Doder van Eriban) (part 6)
Art by Don Lawrence; script by Martin Lodewijk

Storm and Nomad race toward the royal box with the guardsmen on their heels. They effectively take the ruler hostage to get his attention. They are surprised to find young Tilio there--and even more surprised and he reveals himself to actually be Renter!

Storm tells Renter they've got him beat. One false move and they'll kill the ruler, depriving the young assassin of the ability to complete his graduation assignment. Renter, however, reveals a surprise:

Ember has been drugged and put into the Barsaman game!

Storm snatched two shields from the guards and improbably uses them as improvised "snowshoes" to cross the molten floor of the arena. He gets there just in time to catch Ember. His shoes begin to sink quicker with more weight, so Nomad is forced to relinquish the captive royal to help Storm out.

Renter takes over threatening the ruler to keep the guards at bay. One of teh guests in the bos has a surprise of his own. He removes his mask, revealing himself to be Renter's teacher. He delivers another revelation:

The royal family realizes this is the son stolen from them. Renter is in utter disbelief, but ultimately he can't bring himself to kill his father. His teacher reports Renter has failed his graduation exercise. As a horrified Renter is embraced by his mother, the teacher leaves. Storm, Nomad, and Ember make their escape, aided by both the turmoil in the royal box and the turmoil in the stadium caused by the escaped prisoners. The Barsaman games are suspended indefinitely.

They make it back to the ship. To their surprise, Renter is there waiting. He tells them he sent Tilio away with some money. Renter trained all his young life to be an assassin. He doesn't know what to do with himself now. He asks our heroes to place him in the regeneration capsule and set him adrift, where he can dream, maybe to the end of time.


Why Middle Earth has been working for me

Bat in the Attic - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 15:03
Since the beginning of summer I been running a Middle Earth Campaign using Cubicle 7's Adventures in Middle Earth. My friend Tim's blog post reminded me that I haven't blogged on the campaign in a while.

One of the initial reason I was attracted to Dungeons and Dragon in the late 70s was due to my love of not only Lord of the Rings but the history that was revealed in the Return of the King appendices.

DnD offered me a way to take that love and actually turn into something more concrete than scribbles on a paper. Because Tolkien's history described realms rising and falling, naturally I was open for the players to do the same. Leading to me to be the referee that let players "trash" his campaigns.

The disappointment of Iron Crown MERP
As the hobby and industry expanded I looked for material to help me with this. I found it easier to use things that were grounded in the medieval side of fantasy. Then layered the level of magic I liked on top of it, Harn and Ars Magica I found particularly useful.

During this time Iron Crown published their Middle Earth Roleplaying System or MERPS. I really wanted to like this RPG and their supplements but they paled compared to the quality of Harn, Ars Magica, and Pendragon material I had. Everything except for Pete Fenlon's maps which were great.

The main problem with the game and supplement is that they didn't feel very Middle Earth to me. Yeah they had the names, characters, and locales but they lacked that spark that Tolkien infused the books with.

Over the years I collected two dozen MERPS books which remained unused until I gave them to a friend who really like the game and Middle Earth in the early 2000s.

During that time Decipher released the The Lord of the Rings Roleplaying Game. Then Cubicle 7 released The One Ring RPG. I looked at both and felt they were more interested in having the referee tell Middle Earth stories to his players rather than helping the referee bring Middle Earth to life as a place for the players to experience.

I know a subtle point but to me the distinction is important. When I referee I am not into telling my stories. My goal is to bring a setting to life so that the players felt they actually visited another place and did interesting things that were fun.

Adventures in Middle Earth
Then came along Adventures in Middle Earth also by Cubicle 7. I wrote a review of the first book in this post. Because it was rested on the foundation of DnD 5e, I knew that there was a limit to the amount narrative mechanics it could have. After reading it, I was intrigued because of how they reworked the classes, eliminated DnD style spell,  and turned feats into virtues More than just a Middle Earth RPG, it was a very much a low fantasy RPG using the mechanics of DnD. And completely avoids the issues I had with MERPS which to me always felt like DnDish fantasy, routed through Rolemaster, dressed in a thin Middle Earth outfit.

So I wanted to run it to see how it played, and so started a campaign. I started buying the supplements. It is in the supplements that Cubicle 7 kills it. It doesn't matter if it is the AiME version or the ToR version they make killer supplements for ANY Middle Earth campaign. And the stats are presented with light enough touch that they are easily adapted to your RPG of choice.

And their initial focus on setting the RPG in Wilderlands is brilliant. In the Return of the King appendices we know shit went down in the Wilderlands, both Dale and Erebor were attacked by the forces of Sauron. We get a paragraph of details and that it.

This means that a Middle Earth campaign can be set during the time period of the Lord of the Rings where the players are truly the heroes that matter. The members of Fellowship of the Ring may have ultimately ended Sauron and the war but dozens of other locales has their own struggles and victories. To be specific the various ToR and AiME products are all set between the Battle of Five Armies and the beginning of the Lord of the Rings novels.

The actual supplements are some the best adventures and campaign guides I seen outside of Harn, Pendragon, and Ars Magica. They range from regional supplements, books of adventures, to a pendragon style grand campaign spanning decades. And when they expanded to other reasons like Rivendell, Rohan, and Bree, the authors done a great job of opening enough of a crack that what the players do matter but still make the events of the novels plausible. For example Rohan regional supplements (Horse Lord of Rohan) and the associated adventure book (Oaths of the Riddermark) all focus on helping Thengel, the father of Theoden, the King of Rohan from the novels.

Next up is a Moria boxed set which I can't wait to see. It been a while since I bought into a RPG line wholesale and Cublicle 7 has earned my dollar.

The Campaign
I will blog more about what I am doing in my AiME campaign but I want to point out one thing. The biggest difference I am noticing is the pacing of in-game time. At first the alternating cycle of fellowship phase and adventure phase seemed seem too much like a straight jacket akin to the metagaming mechanics that other games use to in a vain attempt to create a "narrative" in the campaign.

But then I found it makes for a great way of abstracting the downtime between adventures. I am always a fan of what most hobbyists call down time activities. For example in my Majestic Wilderlands Thursday campaign  one player is always using the magic item creation rules, while another is busy lining up trade deals.

What make AiME fellowship rules nice that they are not all meat and potatoes activities (trade, crafting, training, etc). About half of them are what I call pure roleplaying focused on interacting with NPCs. Here is a partial list.

  • Gain a Cultural Virtue
  • Gain an Open Virtue
  • Gain New Trait
  • Heal Corruption
  • Influence Patron
  • Meet Patron
  • Receive Title
  • Open Sanctuary
  • Recovery
  • Research Lore
  • Secure a Supply of Herbs
  • Tend to Holding
  • Training

Added to this are version regional undertaking. For example a couple of sessions back the PCs made friends with a group of Woodsmen living next to the Old Ford across the Anduin. That settlement has a special undertaking called Guard the Old Ford. Which offer the possibility of earning a bit of rare coin from the tolls levied on travelers.

Wrapping it Up
Again I am having a great time and now that I have several months under my belt I will be posting on some of the interesting things I learning running a Middle Earth campaign.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Maze of Peril Ch 1, Scene 4: "Tromping Through the Wilderness"

Zenopus Archives - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 13:28
This post is part of the Tales of Peril Book Club, indexed here.

This is the first scene in the novel that takes place outside of the Green Dragon. The story skips ahead past "three days of tromping through the wilderness", as Zereth puts it, and shows how the party finally locates the entrance to the Underworld that Murray has heard of. As Holmes wrote in the Basic rulebook, "Many gamesters start with a trip across country to get to the entrance to the dungeon" (Personally, I'd love if we all started using the term "gamesters" more often).

The scene begins in a forest clearing on a cold, misty morning, where the party has resumed their so-far fruitless search. In addition to Boinger, Zereth, Bardan, and Murray, the party includes two "hired men-at-arms" (see descriptions below), horses and a pack mule carrying tools, including a shovel. These additions are the results of the planning at the Green Dragon in the previous scene, where "horse power" and "mercenary men-at-arms" were discussed, among other topics. Holmes' first-ever published D&D article described his rules for generating such men-at-arms; see "Warrior-for-Hire", which appeared Alarums & Excursions in early 1976. Also, in the introduction to the Zenopus dungeon in the Basic rulebook, Holmes recommends that a small party employ "one or more men-at-arms". 

Here we see Murray in action for the first time; at the Green Dragon he was an unseen observer. The first impression is of a prickly personality. Murray grumbles about the weather, snaps at his companions, and grunts an angry reply at Zereth when teased.

The party works together well to find the entrance. Murray identifies the clearing to search, a man-at-arms finds a stone of interest, Boinger locates a stone slab under the soil, the men-at-arms clear a ten-foot-square area off this slab, Bardan identifies a hollow beneath the stone, and finally Zereth finds a door in the slab.

We learn that Boinger wears sandals in town "to protect his feet from the grime and much of the town roads", but not in the forest where he likes to feel the leaves under his bare toes. Barefoot, he works "his way through the brush", feeling "a change in the consistency of the ground underfoot", which he describes as "hard and smooth just under the dirt". This speaks to an otherwise undescribed ability for halflings in D&D: detection by foot. I'm giving this skill to all halflings from now on.

Bardan identifies a hollow space under the granite, in line with the standard dwarven abilities given in OD&D Vol 1, which include noting "slanting passages, traps, shifting walls and new construction in underground settings". There's a similar dwarf-elf 1-2 in the Example of Play in the Holmes Basic rulebook, where the dwarf says, "There's a hollow space under the floor here somewhere", and then the elf is sent to check for a trap door.

Zereth examines the slab intently, as if performing a standard D&D check for secret doors, but he also has a "faint blue glow" emanating from his palms. It's unclear whether he has cast a spell (Knock or some sort of Detection?) or if this is just Holmes' way of describing the innate elvish ability to find secret doors (which in OD&D is twice as often as humans). In the first scene of this chapter we saw a similar blue glow emanate from Zereth's hand when he heated Boinger's drink to demonstrate his magical powers.

While Zereth searches Boinger and Bardan whisper wagers on which disturbed earthworm will re-bury itself first; this is a nice moment showing the camaraderie between the two.

Eventually Zereth touches an "individual depression" and the stone splits and opens to reveal a ten-foot hole, exposing a stone stair leading down. An entrance to the Underworld, as promised by the chapter title, "Entrances".

The scene ends with Murray urging everyone to "prepare for the descent". In the next scene, the party will finally enter the legendary Underworld.


Murray: Wears a blue robe, which is the same color as the wizard on the cover of the Holmes Basic set. He has a four foot long staff that he keeps in a "duffle" while riding his horse.

Men-At-Arms: Both are brawny, at least one is tall, and one is named Olaf. More on that name later.

Boinger: As noted above, he wears sandals in town or on roads, but goes barefoot in the forest.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

On Overloaded Abundance

Hack & Slash - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 11:15
There is too much.

My daughter wanted music on the way home. Her in her carseat, "MUSIC!" she shouts. Can you imagine still having yet to hear Bowie or Radiohead? Knowing what I know, her excitement seems reasonable. I have music, burned on these tiny silver rings, hours and hours. Flipping through them, I saw "New Music" and thought about how nice I was to myself.

Upon insertion, the verberating tones of "On Call" ring out, I realize the new music I made to listen to is 10 years old. That's not new. What's new? Just how much music have people made in the last decade?

Let me tell you how much.

So much.

This is the world. Even if you are into a hobby, there's so much of so many of everything! This is the future writ large. Worlds unknown. Not metaphysically either. Take, for example, this gentleman, who spent his hours slaying the Dragon of Chaos, by determining through experimentation what the results of 100 Alkamos runs are. The fact that you may not even understand what an Alkamos run is, proves the point. New games and releases used to happen on Tuesday, with 20 or so titles. Now there are 100 new steam releases every day. There are 15,000 Dungeons and Dragons related releases on That database isn't getting smaller.

I mean, this is great. It's the universe endlessly reflecting and iterating on itself. But it can be a little overwhelming.

That's where the robot helpers come in.

I don't store things discreetly anymore.  How does a drive with music on it, or a DVD collection even work in this new world? Now, if I want to listen to music, I go to the music page and I type in the music I like.

Then it knows me, and what people like me like. And it gives me what I want. We are going to have to trust the computer, and that's terrifying*. But it's a lot of work keeping up with what's new. The people I follow on whatever platform, I follow because they are interested in what I am, and they use their time to present their explorations into the unknown. Yet now, the past has become so much larger with so much content because we do more and more each year. Every exponentially larger production of "content" slips into the past, year, after, year, after year. . .

What I'm saying is follow me on twitter (@Hackslashmaster). No. Wait. That's not what I'm saying at all. What I'm saying is that this is awesome?

Yes. This is awesome. And really, that's what this space and time is about. I am a complete person, but that's not really relevant to my hobbies. An issue I've been wrestling with these last few years is how to interact on social media. I am certain I am not the only one.

But the thing is, a knife is a knife and a fork is a fork. I tune into Star Wars for space opera. I like things. Especially when they are flawed. This blog, G+, twitter, facebook, they are about fractions of me. But the parts that are contentious and complicated, those that think deep and politically, those that seek change and desire—there is too much.

So maybe that doesn't go there.

I've been in freefall. I thought it started recently after crises. The insight from the crisis was that I'd always been falling. Terrifying as that is, after all the screaming and nashing of teeth, it's pretty fun. You might as well enjoy the terrifying descent. Those in the past only spent their time with so few ideas, in small communities or from people who wrote books. Now we have a chaotic flood of more everything than anyone, individually, can hope to process.

I'm enjoying the journey. I hope you are too.

Megadungeon #2 is finished and in pre-press! 
If you liked this article, you should feel completely free of any guilt if you're not supporting me on Patreon! Or, if you're not into that, I really suggest you check out Megadungeon and some of my other publications!

*I mean, clearly we had better be on the guy who's setting up and running the damn computer no?
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