Tabletop Gaming Feeds

Not Brand X: Dracoheim, 3d6 in Order, Fantasy Vietnam, and the Beating Heart of SF/F

Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog - Tue, 11/19/2019 - 22:25

Fantasy (Misha Burnett) American Fantasy — “That’s what I set out to do with Bad Dreams & Broken Hearts. Dracoheim is not on any version of Earth–the Settled Lands are on a world with a different year and a different climate than Earth, the physical/metaphysical laws are different there. Yet the setting is recognizably American (despite a sprinkling of UK terms to describe the government and courts). Dracoheim is Los Angeles in the middle of the 20th Century in the same way that the Shire is rural England at the end of the 19th Century.”

Books (Jon Mollison) Bad Dreams and Broken Hearts — “Erik Rugar makes Harry Dresden look like a chump, and makes Discworld look like a set from Scooby-Doo. Imagine if Bright wasn’t so preachy and had some solid romance subplots. It’s that good.”

D&D (E. Reagan Wright) The 3d6 Grease Trap — “Guys who run Big Boy D&D understand that how a character is rolled has no impact on the way the game runs. The best DMs do not craft worlds and challenges for characters, but for players. The sandbox gets stocked with high challenge areas and low challenge areas. The wheels of the campaign churn away with neutral efficiency. It is up to the players to determine which is which by throwing bodies at the campaign with the same reckless abandon as a Soviet lieutenant yeeting prisoner units at German machine gun emplacements.”

Brand Echh (Jon Del Arroz) Is Publishing Just A Scam For Power? — “Alan Moore is right. Editors don’t have taste. Publishers don’t have taste. They have no idea. It’s why the comic stands are filled with crap, it’s why there’s nothing even worth picking up when you make a Barnes & Noble trip. Everything that’s worthwhile is on the new frontier of self-publishing.”

Brand X (Kairos) The Fap Cult — “One thing both cults have in common is their elevating of personal preferences over the good. Fundamentally, they do away with the concept of objective value altogether and seek validation solely from their choice of weird sexual hangup or entertainment product. Nor will they countenance neutrality. You must join in their liturgies and partake of their sacrifices. Just try pointing out that transsexuals are mentally ill or that Big Brand X is a shame ritual that bilks money from paypigs for the pleasure of insulting them.”

Short Fiction (Rawle Nyanzi) The Persistence and Promise of Cirsova — “Though fiction writing in general is a tricky business, one stands to make more through a series of novels than through any number of short stories. I often wonder if he is wasting his time due to the poor economics of the enterprise, and yet, he continues to publish. The short story used to be the beating heart of SF/F, but now, it is little more than an appendix; through continual publication of short stories, P. Alexander may be able to revive the form.”

Brand Zero (Cirsova) Rawle Nyanzi’s Brand Zero and a Look at Some Cirsova-Published IPs — “The short version of it is a mindset to put fully behind the failing corporate fiction brands that continue to disappoint and instead focusing on new brands, new properties, either by creating them or supporting them. Talk up these new IPs instead of spending time and effort on complaining about how let down you are by the old brands. Brand Zero has picked up a lot of traction in the last few weeks, but it’ll be interesting to see if it gains real momentum beyond a few writing circles.”

Fantasy F***ing Vietnam (Brain Leakage) Kitbashing D&D: Skills, Resolution Mechanics, and Combat — “Every patrol to and from the Keep should be a tense cat and mouse game, as the PCs watch out for goblin ambushes, senses alert for any sound or sign that the enemy is near. Meanwhile, they’re trying to move like ghosts through the underbrush, staying to the darkest shadows they can find. Every snapped twig or dropped water skin should cause their little hearts to race, wondering if they’ve just given themselves away.”

Canceling Fantasy (RMWC Reviews) Pink Slime Review: The Man Who Came Late — “In short, everything about the world and characters that made them unique and loveable, from the magic to the culture to the weirdness to Holger’s blockheaded goodness, are stripped away and replaced by stewpots, housework, and boring people living boring lives. Faerieland and the forces of Chaos have been replaced by something far more sinister: ‘Realism.'”

Brand Zero (Paul Lucas) BrandZero Reviews of Indie and Self-Published Authors — “Here you go folks, copies of the reviews I’ve posted to Amazon for the work of independent and self-published authors. All of these people publish work that at least verges on the Weird, however you want to define it, and some of them roll around in Weirdness, completely naked. This is my small attempt to help support non-mainstream creators by focusing on them and not on the products of large media companies – naming no names. Go #BrandZero!”

Appendix N (The Charmed Circle) What’s in Your Appendix N? (Memories of the First Books #4) — “Appendix N was a list, written by Gygax himself, enumerating the works of fantasy and science fiction which were influential in the creation of Dungeons & Dragons. These were the books which shaped Gygax’s imagination, what he brought to the creation of the game, and what the game would become over time. Some of the authors are considered icons of the field, and some of the works are seen as classics. Others are less known, obscure, even out of print. All of them are, in a sense, part of the game’s DNA.”

From the Comments (Sacnoth’s Scriptorium) The New Arrival: APPENDIX N (The Book) — “As other reviewers have mentioned, his reviews revolve around creating strawmen who somehow ‘hate’ classic sci-fi/fantasy (because it is too politically incorrect or features male protagonists) and then he encourages the reader to ‘fight the power’ and read the classics anyway. It’s nonsense, none of these authors are ‘condemned’ by his mythical ‘them’ who are out to destroy fantasy and keep him from reading books about ‘heroic’ characters like himself.”

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

On The Table: Melee and Wizard!

Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog - Mon, 11/18/2019 - 00:42

I tell you, these games are something else.

Long, long ago I heard rumor of them in the introduction of GURPS. Elements of Melee and Wizard are of course baked into the classic Second Edition GURPS Basic Set and first edition GURPS Fantasy. But strangely enough, the group of high school buddies that went hog wild playing Car Wars and Ogre and Illuminati somehow never went beyond doing anything else beyond creating a few 100 point characters with those gaming materials that were supposed to be Steve Jackson’s magnum opus and the ultimate testament to his design genius.

But now today, thanks to these beautiful editions of Steve’s groundbreaking fantasy microgames, we could finally appreciate his astonishing contribution to the development of fantasy role-playing games. Hoo, boy! What games!! The best thing about them, of course, is that there’s nothing you can do with them except play them. And wow, is it ever easy to dive in.

I will caution people that pick these games up that the fighter cards that I think came with the Legacy Edition are NOT the way to introduce Melee to people. No, the CORRECT way to be initiated into The Fantasy Trip is by creating a figure of your own with no idea what you’re walking into. (Pregens considered harmful!)

My opponent picked a counter out of the stack and decided to run with Rapier Dandy– ST 10, DX 14(13), IQ 8, MA 10, Rapier 1d, Cloth 1 hit. (We later figured out that this figure was a girl. Haha!) Not wanting to throw the weird rules into play at once, I countered with Cave Man– ST 14, DX 10, IQ 8, MA 10, Club 1d. Needless to say, Cave Man got cut to pieces fairly quickly. Rapier Dandy got in a solid hit that gave Cave Man a -2 on his next strike. An 8 or less is not easy to pull off! A followup blow knocked him down into the -3 penalty for low hit points. This was an elegant demonstration of Melee’s death spiral mechanic where once you start losing, things go from bad to worse very fast!

Of course this one on one fight was rather simple– two figures closing to melee range and then trading attacks does not require a hex grid in order to adjudicate. If the whole point of this game is to repudiate the godawful combat systems of classic D&D which have absolutely NO TACTICS involved whatsoever, then this game really needed to step up its game.

So we tried again this time with Rapier Dandy being joined by Archeress “I”: ST 11, DX 13, IQ 8, MA 10, Longbow 1d+2, Short Sword 2d-1. Together they would take on Longsaber Shortie– ST 10, DX 14(12), IQ 8, MA 8, Saber 2d-2, Leather 2 hits– and Knife Girl: ST 11, DX 13(12), IQ 8, MA 10, Saber 2d-2, Main Gauche 1d-1, Cloth 1 hit.

In the opening my pirates ran across the board at maximum move, giving up their melee attacks to close the range. Then… Rapier Dandy managed to not only flank Knife girl but also engage both Knife Girl and Longsaber Shortie by placing them both in her three front hexes.

This meant that rather than engaging the Archeress and forcing her to was tea turn changing weapons, it was Knife Girl that ended up losing an attack while getting ganged up on by both of her opponents. (Doh!) My figures dealt their share of blows, I suppose, but the Melee death spiral soon returned as both my figures bought it. All because of a careless mistake on their positioning in the opening turn. Doh!

Rapier Dandy had now won two arena combats, thus gaining an attribute point to spend. She went up to DX 15, making her even more dandy than she was to begin with.

At this point I suggested we try out Wizard, but after a few minutes of perusing the spell list my opponent countered that we should try running his Melee figures against a mixed team of both a Wizard and a Melee figure. This is not surprising, really. Not even players settling in to a brand new B/X D&D campaign bother reading through the full spell list, much less take the time to think through some kind of spell use strategy. Expecting a new player to do something like that with Wizard over a couple of beers is a really big ask, even for a long time microgame addict.

Therefore I created Knife Girl II out of a desire to get that main gauch into play. I also produced Belboz: ST 10, DX 13, IQ 11, MA 10, Staff 1d6, Blur, Magic Fist, Staff, Avert, Clumsiness, Confusion, Fire, Summon Wolf, Summon Myrmidon, Illusion, and Rope.

Knife Girl II again charged across the board. Belboz hung back and created the illusion of a wolf. The next turn I’d hoped to cast a second spell, but Archeress “I” had a greater DX and went first in the attack face. She hit and did five points of damage! That combined with with the two points I’d spent on the wolf was enough to put me in the -3 to DX zone. The death spiral was rearing its ugly head yet again!

Meanwhile, on the other end of the arena, Knife Girl II got cut down by Rapier Dandy. My wolf bit back and finished off Rapier Dandy. My wolf then flanked Archeress “I” while Belboz played the dodge option. Archeress “I” needed a 12 or less to hit with her bow, and she let fly… mercilessly killing Belbox. The wolf illusion then promptly disappeared, ending the game. Ah, if I could have survived that one attack, the Archeress would have had to change weapons and attack the wolf with her shortsword. Doh!

The moral of the story here is that a good archer has MANY advantages over a wizard character– namely, that archers can make ranged attacks without having to spend strength to do it!

Not quite the outcome I expected. On the other hand, we both immediately began discussing tactics for working around this problem and what we would do differently the next time we played– the hallmark of solid game design! And there will be a next time, too. These games are just too danged charming not to play obsessively!

Besides, Archeress “I” went up a level in DX after that third game and is itching to do it again!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

(Pathfinder) Dark Days in Stoneholme

Ten Foot Pole - Sat, 11/16/2019 - 12:14
By Jonathan McAnulty AAW Games Pathfinder Level 3

Waves of supernatural darkness sweep over the subterranean city of Stoneholme, quenching lights and bringing with it foul creatures of shadow. After heroically defending a group of dwarven children from being ravaged by a group of these shadow beings, the PCs are approached by Shtawn Deppenkhut—one of the king’s own advisers—and are offered the task of finding the source of the darkness that threatens the city. The PCs investigation takes them through the Underworld to hidden caverns, where demon worshipping priests offer living sacrifices in an attempt to plunge Stoneholme into everlasting darkness, a first step in destroying the hated city once and for all, but as it turns out the priests aren’t the only ones behind this unfolding plan to destroy Stoneholme.

*Withering Sigh*

This thirty page adventure details an eleven room dungeon in the underdark, and a couple of linear city and “journey there” combats. It shows no understanding of formatting or organization, other than the stat block. Wanna fight? That’s all you’ll be doing here.

Evil McEvil-man hires the party to look in to some evil. He’s got an evil plan and, for some reason, hires the party to meddle, no doubt to further his evil plan. This is like, what, the six billionith time an adventure has done this? Whatever. It’s all crap anyway. SO you save some dwarf kids from baddies in the streets, get hired to look in to a warehouse, and from there get hired to go through the underdark to kill some goblins in their lair. Then you find evidence that … some fellow dwarves were behind it all! Oh the humanity! Errr, dwarfmanity.

The typical massive amount of stat block place is present. Also present are HUGE amounts of poorly formatted DM text. Just long paragraph blocks full of words running on and in to each other. The paragraphs are all left justified as well, so you can’t really tell where one ends and another begins. Excellent for for making your content as incomprehensible as possible. Seriously, this thing has NO idea how to format a paragraph or convey information. To quote Gauntlet “I have not seem such bravery!” or something … 

Information is repeated time and again for no reason. Dwarf construction is weak-ass stuff, wil recent constructions breakings. Huh. I thought the trope was the opposite? Shadow rats, which could be cool, get no description at all and instead are just black looking rats. There was some real opportunity to generate horror and mystery with them, but no. Not to be. At multiple times in the adventure there are DC check gates. AT the end, find a DC14 letter to reveal the dwarven conspiracy, the rest of the adventure/dungeon essentially just being a pretext for this skill check. I wonder what would happen if the party failed it and the DM didn’t fudge it? That would be fun.

This is just crap on top of crap. Linear design. Fight a monster because it’s in your way and you’re on the way to that final skill check. Combat after combat. Tactical information but no real exploration or interactivity. Boring ass writing that’s not evocative at all. Absolutely NO attempt to make the text usable by the DM at the table, instead just vomiting words with no thought or care to their presentation.

This is $7 at DriveThru. The preview is six pages, but you don’t get to see anything of the adventure, just the preamble. As shitty a preview as one could possible provide while still providing a preview. These things just scream “Look! I paid for a pretty background text and art!” while giving you absolutely no idea how useful the actual adventure is. 


https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/145615/U01-Dark-Days-in-Stoneholme?1892600

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Last Three Days of Kickstarter

Two Hour Wargames - Sat, 11/16/2019 - 02:36
Only three days left on the 10 game Kickstarter. Just a few pledges away from unlocking the Bigger Games Stretch Goal! 
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Review & Commentary On M.A.R. Barker's Empire of the Petal Throne Rules By TSR From M.A.R Barker's World of Tekumel

Dark Corners of RPGing - Thu, 11/14/2019 - 17:42
"A rich, complex world and a complete set of rules, Empire of the Petal Throne includes rules for character generation, magic, monsters, adventuring, societies and languages. It is set in the 2,354th Year “After the Seal” – the accession of the first Emperor of Tsolyánu, just before the events chronicled in Man of Gold, the first of several novels written by Prof. Barker. Included with the rules is a four page set of charts and tables, errata for the original game, a map of the City of Jakalla, a b&w map of the Five Empires, and a citizenship document for Tsolyanu, the Empire of the Petal Throne!"


Technically speaking Empire of the Petal Throne by M.A.R. Barker is a current game in print due to the machinations of the Tékumel: Empire of the Petal Throne Foundation. The set of rules that I'm going to be talking about today is the original Dungeons & Dragons Style rules set. If you wanna use Tékumel: Empire of the Petal Throne setting elements in your favorite rpg table top rules set then The Tekumel Sourcebook - Swords & Glory Vol. 1 for the classic material is the route to go. 



The world of the five empires is a complex cultural painting completely different from the high fantasy worlds of Dungeons & Dragons. Tékumel  is a setting created from within the fertile imagination of MAR Barker. Its vastly different from the original Dungeons & Dragons settings of Greyhawk & Blackmoor. How this is a quasi Middle Eastern, Indian, Mayan settings &  locations with ancient science fantasy overtones. The whole setting makes it clear that at any moment your player's PC's could be sacrificed, murdered, etc. in terrifying different realms of dungeons & ruins. Even though this game uses the familiar character generation, classes, etc. as original Dungeons & Dragons, EMP is vastly different because of its language, principles, & don't get me started on the cultures  of the game.  M.A.R. Barker was a brilliant weaver of tales, creator of setting, & definer of his world. Those who get invested are in for a ride.
For original Dungeons & Dragons players & DM's the trade cities provide a fertile place where you can plunk down your player's PCs. Adventuring means citizenship with lots of minor advantages. Within moments of plunking down in town PC's might wander into trouble or vast ruins that make the Undermount look like a pile of rubble. EMP is a mix of urban & dungeon crawl with lots of monsters not seen by the average Dungeons & Dragons players. They will learn to fear the smell of cinnamon there are vast numbers of alien races, weird creatures, robotic lifeforms & other strangeness left over in the depths of the underworld. Their waiting to say hi & murder your  adventurers.
The Empire of  The Petal Throne Rpg review on Drivethrurpg by Brit B. brings up a very important point with reference to the monsters;"Simple but striking black & white illustrations are frequent, which is good since I’m pretty sure you don’t know what a Pé Chói is, but you will soon. Each monster has about a paragraph of description for inspiration and a basic stat block. There’s a hex map of the main country along with ungridded maps of the main city, Jakálla, and the five empires to get you started. It is old school in my favorite sense, they give you the basics and let you run with it."
Its the sense of flavor that melts like candied Middle Eastern wax of imagination from the annals of Empire of the Petal Throne.  Jakálla has such setting flavor for me as a trade city that it reeks of spices, intrigue, incense, & adventure oozing through the cracks of its flag stones. Sorcerers & priests around every corner with their own sinister agendas. 
A word on combat, this is a 1975 game & the combat is a lethal affair with players expecting a high mortality rate. The game is more tool kit then actual whole cloth game that modern gamers might not be used to. Expect to die in unexpected & sinister ways of mayhem with monsters & NPC 's involved. Everything you need is contained within this book, so get those character sheets ready!  Jakálla or one of the many other trade cities await your PC's!  Do I think that Empire of the Petal Throne is fantastic? Yes I do but this is the rules set that I grew up with & so there's a bit of nostalgia on my part. Is it perfect? Not by a long chalk folks but for me & many others its a fantastic entry & exit point for the world, setting, & game of the Petal Throne. 

So why haven't I reviewed Jeff Dee's Bethorm: the Plane of Tekumel RPG from Uni games? Well that's a separate review completely coming up. 
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Cryptozoic Announces Release of CZX Super Heroes & Super-Villains

Cryptozoic - Thu, 11/14/2019 - 14:00

Cryptozoic Entertainment and Warner Bros. Consumer Products, on behalf of DC, today announced the November 22 release of CZX Super Heroes & Super-Villains. The CZX super premium trading card release features thick, glossy cards with gold Deco Foil and imagery from movies starring DC’s characters, spanning from 2005’s Batman Begins to the recent Shazam! The unprecedented list of Autograph Card signers is led by stars Gal Gadot, Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Ezra Miller, and Jason Momoa.

 

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Campaign Thoughts With Original Dungeons & Dragons, Adventurer, Conqueror, King's Barbarian Conquerors of Kanahu, & A Side of Cha'alt

Dark Corners of RPGing - Wed, 11/13/2019 - 18:20

So I've been going through an  original Dungeons & Dragons recon to connect with my roots. I'm taking a vacation from the original Swords & Stitchery blog. Because while I've got lots to say my attitudes lately about the sales & marketing of the OSR have left me very jaded. Rereading OD&D has led me back to my love for M.A.R. Barker's  Empire of the Petal Throne. Empire of the Petal Throne's background leaves a lot of room to play around.  I'm sticking with the original Nineteen Seventy Five rules for EPT because these are the rule set that I cut my teeth on. They differ a bit from Original Dungeons & Dragons but not by much. The rules can be used to drop a party of OD&D adventurers onto one of the trade cities scattered across Tekumel surface.



"Tekumel, the world of fantasy and adventure. The setting for this fantasy campaign game is an alien planet, Tekumel, where a cosmic cataclysm stranded human and extra-territorial invaders eons past. A hostile world of poisonous flora and fauna, with intelligent and vengeful native races! Mankind and its allies must battle for survival with nothing save Medieval technology — but magic aids them . . . and there are certain supernatural powers which may intervene.
The game contains three large full-color maps and 8 1/4" x 11" book with a brief history of Tekumel, rules, descriptions of various races and creatures involved, and more. Share in this exciting fantasy world by playing EMPIRE OF THE PETAL THRONE."
1975 ... TSR 1005 "
Taken from Wayne's Books section on Empire of the Petal Throne 

Now I've been involved with short run ninety day campaigns over the last five years or so due to the demands of work. This means an actual beginning, middle, & end of campaign regardless of the outcome. Over last couple of years since 2016 I've been quietly involved with the Godbound rpg. It works best with original Dungeons & Dragons I've found. But it also works well with M.A.R. Barker's Empire of the Petal Throne game from TSR. The good news is that I've got a ton of material sitting in notebooks for this..
When I started in on this one of the resources that I originally didn't have were Cha'alt by Venger Satanis nor Adventurer, Conqueror, King's Barbarian Conquerors of Kanahu. 



What I'm going to be doing is attacking this campaign from a totally different avenue. I'm going to be using some of the original time line from Empire of the Petal Throne. So we'll see if the players notice this turn of events as things start getting weirder. 
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

CZX Super Heroes & Super-Villains: Sketch Card Preview, Part 4

Cryptozoic - Wed, 11/13/2019 - 17:00

Please enjoy the fourth preview of Sketch Cards from CZX Super Heroes & Super-Villains

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Cryptozoic Will Showcase Latest Tabletop Games at BGG.CON 2019

Cryptozoic - Wed, 11/13/2019 - 14:00

Cryptozoic will showcase recently released tabletop games at BGG.CON 2019, November 20-24 in the Hyatt Regency Dallas. At Booth #404, Cryptozoic will demo and sell Rick and Morty: The Morty Zone Dice Game, DC Deck-Building Game Crossover Pack 8: Batman Ninja, DC Deck-Building Game: Rebirth, Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: ANNIHILAGEDDON Deck-Building Game, and Spyfall: Time Travel.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Necropolis of Nuromen

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 11/13/2019 - 12:28
By Justin Becker, Michael Thomas Dreamscape Design Blueholme Level 1

… introduce a group of 1st level characters to the thrills of Underworld exploration as they attempt to unravel they secrets of the evil necromancer’s lair and deal with some bandits, too.

Yes, this line is for you.

This 22 page adventure features a two level dungeon with about thirty rooms. Classic encounters harken back to a time when D&D was fresh. Inconsistencies, and twice as many words as needed, require highlighting and notes to use it as intended. 

Sweet cover. And that cover is indicative of the mood created by the adventure. There’s a malaise, or ennui, presented in parts of the adventure. A feeling of weariness. Not in the designers, but an intentional effect in the setting they have created. The cover, the Harry Clarke illustrations (does ANYONE do elves better?) the elves wearying leaving the world, the downfall and doom of the mage Nuroman; the elements combine with the writing style to produce this effect. A magical world of folklore, a weariness in it. It’s done well.

The elements present in the encounters are classical ones. Bottomless pits, rushing underground rivers, skeletal arms wielding swords, or skeletons dicing at a table. There are statues to fuck with and riddles to learn secrets to elsewhere in the dungeon. A sparseness of creatures is balanced though by the wanderer table, and I suspect we could all learn a lesson from this. Is all monsters were lair creatures, and sparsely populated, then the wanderers push the party forward, limiting their careful explorations. Ten creature encounters, about half of which are avoidable and/or triggered by a careless party. There’s a good mix of interactivity and creature encounters, with roleplaying possibilities present in a few and others, as noted, avoidable. 

There’s a decent amount of treasure, probably the correct amount for a Gold=XP game, as well as other rewards like stat bonuses and being labeled “Elf friend” by the elves. It’s always good when the party receives accolades when they choose to be good. Magic items are all generic book items and that’s a major disappointment. Not OD&D, but book monsters and book magic treasure means Holmes. Which is what Blueholme is, but it could have been better.

The adventure is plagued by two major issues: excessive trivia and inconsistent details. The later first.

Early in the adventure there are sections describing the forest, the town, the people, the road, and so on. Buried in that is a small section describing a rocky hilltop, ruins, and a black hole in the earth. Then it quickly switches to another rando forest section, leaving those two paragraphs behind. Later on when the dungeon environs proper is reached we get a second, much weaker, description of the area. It has none of the mystery and melancholy of the first section. It doesn’t feel like a writing or editing mistake, but rather a layout issue, lie someone took one of the most effective “dungeon entrance” description and just pasted it in at random earlier. All of that melancholy is lost in the actual dungeon entrance section, which is much more genero ruins oriented. To continue with the entrance, the hole is described as 100 feet deep with last fifty feet choked with rubble. But then, the actual “room one” at the bottom has none of this. It’s not the bottom of a rubble filled pit. It’s a room with a river running through it and you can see the remains of the bridge collapsed in it. And the map shows a room that is, essentially, devoid of rubble. The adventure does this repeatedly, the map and text disconnected and different parts of the text disconnected from each other. Perhaps the two designers did not marry their individual efforts well? Double Doors, mentioned in the text, are single doors on the map. Doors that can’t be closed are represented as standard door symbols. The different elements just don’t make sense together. This, then, is basic consistency checking that an editor can provide. I can be hard on editors, but MOST adventures, even bad ones, can pass some basic consistency checks. 

The encounter writing, proper, is full of trivia. I suspect the adventure could be trimmed of at least half its words and the end result would be better for it. I am, frequently, met with a common response to his criticism: “More is better, right?” and it’s cousin “The DM might need it.” No. These are not true. Excessive detail gets in the way of the DM actually running the adventure during the game. It requires a highlighter, notes and a ton of prep work beforehand. If the trivia were NOT present then the DM can focus on the elements of the adventure that actual impact the play of the game. Scanability it much easier. Everyone is happier. 

The devil, of course, is in the definition of “Trivia.” What is trivia vs what is needed to run the room, or add flavour to it. Because, of course, we want all of the flavour with none of the trivia. Room 3 is titled “The Old Armoury.” Given that this is a ruin, and that has been properly established, and that it happened in an instant, what would you, gentle reader, then make up about the room, in play, if that’s all you had to go on? The first line of the “The old Armory” is “Here Nuroman’s guards stored their shields, armor and weapons.” The adventure does this over and over again. It will introduce a room and then tell us that the Kitchen is where food was prepared. We know that. It’s a platonic quality of ‘Kitchen.’ This is a classic example of superfluous text that gets in the way. (In fact, I think the classic online example wherein I was introduced to the concept did indeed involve a Kitchen. On rpgsite?) A centipede “that has crawled in through some unknown fissure.” Again, detail unneeded. This is an attempt to explain WHY, and those attempts are (almost)always unneeded. It’s a giant centipede in a dungeon. Vermin need little explanation, except perhaps in extreme circumstances and even then perhaps only if it provides some springboard for the adventure. Coins litter the ground “where they fell from their owners frayed purses.” Worldbuild, history, justifications for what IS. “The magical bones must be defeated before the treasure can be had.” Yes, and while technically correct we do not have a line in each room that says “the door must be opened before someone can walk through it.” Padding, conversational padding. I’m not heartless, throw in some goodies every once in awhile, an aside, or something. But too much and you clog up the text, as is done here.

We do get abstractions though. A scabbard is ‘macabre.’ That’s a conclusion. A good description would make the DM and/or players think “man, that’s macabre!” The challenge is to NOT resort to a conclusion and to communicate ‘macabre’ in a terse manner. This is GOOD detail, the kind that impacts play. The adventure needs more of it. At one point there’s a key hanging on the wall. Only it’s not recognizable as a key, just as the lock it fits is is not recognizable as a lock. That’s it. Nothing more. What does the thing look like? What does the lock look like? Nothing. That’s exactly the sort of thing you SHOULD be spending your word budget on, the things that directly impact the adventure and it’s actual play.

What this all leads to is a foul smelling room, that is then described in two paragraphs as an elegant dining room. Halfway through the third paragraph we’re told it’s befouled with harpy excrement. Well shit, that’s the sort of detail that goes in the first paragraph. Things immediately noticeable should (generally) go higher up in the description where the DMs attention will immediately be focused and thus be able to communicate it to the players. While they interact and ask questions the DM is scanning the next section of text. You can’t make a DM read four paragraphs of text, during the game at the table, before they describe a room. It takes too long and it’s too much to hold in your head at once. 

I will make one more Monday Morning Quarterback observation. In one particular room there are skeletons at a table, engaged in a dice game. It you touch the dice they come to life and attack. BORING! They should instead invite the players to dice with them. Then, things could devolve in to a combat. A bit of the ultra-violence is always an option in an RPG, but it’s almost always advisable to have something else BEFORE that, or that leads to that. Plan B, stabbing the fuck out of something/someone, is always an option. It’s the fact that a Plan A also could exist that gives RPG’s some of their charm.

I’m not gonna Regert this, but it’s close. If only the writing could be gotten under control in more places.

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru with a suggested price of $3. There’s no preview, but it is Pay What You Want, so essentially you could just buy it for $0 to get a preview. 


https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/110292/BLUEHOLMETM-The-Necropolis-of-Nuromen?1892600

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Found Inventory Sale: Convention-Exclusive Vinyl Figures and Trading Cards (NOVEMBER 19)

Cryptozoic - Tue, 11/12/2019 - 17:00

We’re having a Found Inventory Sale to sell our remaining exclusive vinyl figures and trading cards from various conventions directly to our fans! Figures include Golden Goddess Wonder Woman Movie Collectible, Black & Gold Batman DC Lil Bombshells, and Black Dragon Cryptkins. For trading card fans, we’ll have convention-exclusive packs based on Outlander, Steven Universe, and Rick and Morty!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

You get a Stretch Goal! And you get a Stretch Goal! And you...

Two Hour Wargames - Mon, 11/11/2019 - 21:55
Already funded and only a few pledges away from our Bigger Games Stretch Goal!On our Kickstarter. Everyone regardless of pledge will get the larger game Stretch Goal if we hit or exceed $6000! Tried to update the rewards after launch, but I couldn't. We're almost there!


 
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Mystery at Morfurt

Ten Foot Pole - Mon, 11/11/2019 - 12:15
By Todd Pote Arcana Creations S&W Levels 1-3

Hey, I was told I’m not supposed to be ashamed and embarrassed to note I have a Patreon. It still feels wrong. If you join, then you get to read my daily musings about my continual guilt over the subject, self-doubt, and procrastination. That sounds like fun, right? https://www.patreon.com/join/tenfootpole?

Several children have gone missing from the village of Morfurt and they seem to have disappeared without a trace. The villagers fear that evil has returned to the ruins of an old abandoned tower. Answering the plea for help, the Earl of the region dispatches a party of adventurers to investigate.

This 28 page adventure features a twenty room dungeon in an old tower. It has three themes: abandoned, hideout, and old secret area. That’s a good mix, but the massive read-aloud, history trivia, heavy mechanics, and low treasure make this quite skippable.

You spend some time poking around a village, and then eventually wander up to an old tower ruin. Inside you hopefully find a little hidden path and make it past the “ruined” appearance to the part of the tower used by a gang of slavers. Eventually you’re confronted with a dark hole in the floor and/or bars over an underground creek, both leading to a secret area that has several obstacles and the only real treasure.

Read aloud is MASSIVE. Half a page in some cases. That’s poor design. It’s overly descriptive, trying to describe too many things in too much detail for an “initial” burst of data about a room. “There’s a 12 inch by 6 inch by 18 inch chest in the room.” No, the room is decked out bedroom, or there’s a small trunk under the table. Done! Individually, a detail may be ok but then you layer detail on top of detail on top of detail, in the read-aloud, it very quickly violates the Keep It Short principal. Further, it detracts from the back and forth between the players and the DM that is a key to a successful D&D experience. (Hmm, does this go for ALL rpg’s? Or just “exploratory” ones?)

Similarly, the DM text gets VERY long as well. Trivia and mechanics, for the most part. The ogre like saffron on his desert. The innkeepers other daughter lives in the nearby village of Kraughton. The bars were built ages ago by the priests that used to live here. These add nothing to the adventure at all, but they do detract from the ability to run, making it harder for the DM to find the text they actually NEED while searching past this trivia. Yes, many things COULD be useful, but unless you can make a strong case of it being useful at the table then Fuck. Your. Worldbuilding. I’ve got a game to run. Now. And it’s in the way. 

Have you ever wondered how much you can get for pumice stone? Well let me tell you, at least 200gp is you mine the vein in this adventure! At one point there are bars and we’re told each can take 15 points of damage before they break. Of course, this isn’t in a combat situation so the mechanics are entirely superfluous. Inclusion of unneeded mechanics, again, clogs things up. Further, let’s say it DOES matter to the adventure … do you still need it? Is it enough to note the bars exist? I suspect the answer is No, you don’t generally need it. Unless it’s key point in the adventure where the party is trapped and time is short and the situation tense; a constructed vignet. Otherwise we run in to that garbage from other official adventures where each door and object in an adventure had a break DC and hit points. And man, is that ever fucking tedious …

And then there’s other decisions made that are mind boggling. There’s a couple of timeline events embedded in descriptions in the village. In one home/business we’re told that in two days time her child will be the next to disappear. Why not remove this to a separate timeline area instead of embedding it in a room description where you have to hunt it down? I’m not looking at the Weavers Hut while I run the adventure, I should be looking at a timeline or reference table. And in other areas there’s a maddening lack of detail. One room is full of a pile of bodies/bones, and yet no mention is made of it at all in the text. Every fucking party that goes in is going to look at it … but no aid to the DM is given. Then there are the confusing text descriptions. The text tries so hard to make things clear, in detail, that the minutia gets in the way of actually understanding what’s going on. At one point there’s a dry, slick streambed, in a channel I think, but you’d never know that from the text description. And after reading it three times, I’m still not sure of the layout. The amount of treasure is quite low. Maybe 2k and almost all in the final hidden area. This could be confused for a Milestone system adventure instead of one for Gold=XP systems.

There multiple areas, abandoned, hideout, hidden, are nice, especially the inclusion of a hidden area with a treasure for those that push past the boundaries of the hideout world. There’s a detail or two that is nice also, especially in the “abandoned” section, with skeletal arms sticking out from under rubble and so far. Putting monster stat blocks in a sidebar is a good idea, but you have to deliver on the RA and DM text also to make it a usable adventure.

This is $5 at DriveThru. The preview is four pages and shows you nothing except some long boring droning background data. A good preview needs to give you an idea of what you’re buying, which generally means at least a few encounter descriptions. 


https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/288397/Mystery-at-Morfurt?1892600

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

On the Table: Combat Showcase

Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog - Sun, 11/10/2019 - 01:02

This little gem of a game supplement hails from the heyday of Car Wars, when the Deluxe Edition and Dueltrack were both out in all their upsized glory. This collection of designs marks the point where the game transitioned away from being a role-playing game about driving and shooting to being an arena combat game where the best vehicle designer one. Not everything in the book would hold up– the Variable Fire Rocket Pod which debuted here would later be nerfed into uselessness. But the concept of easily photocopied record sheets of dedicated fighting vehicles was still solid.

One of the neatest designs inside is the Challenger. It’s a metal armored vehicle with three linked rocket launchers, an explosive spike dropper, and loads of component armor. It’s fireproof– as long as you don’t penetrate the metal armor or target the tires. It can take a LOT of punishment– as long as you aren’t sporting big guns like the ATG or the blast canon. It can also dish out some serious firepower. The only downside is the heavy duty transmission. This thing has just plain horrible acceleration and top speed.

The main thing… it looked like something different from the other cars we’ve recently played. It also looked like the sort of vehicle that would be fun to put up against its doppelganger. So it got dropped into our Amateur Night campaign.

In the opening pass we got up to speeds in the 40 to 50 mph rang. We needed twelves to score a hit on the opening salvo and my opponent actually connected, even rolling a 6 on the damage dice. One point of metal armor gone and the first obstacle counter was laid down!

We cruised into point blank range and my opponent then failed a control roll while executing a D1 bend. Thanks to the opportune skid, I could position myself to tag him with a T-bone as he went by. Driving past, the hazard caused by the obstacle counters would put me into a fishtail that would result in a skid of my own. We both came to a stop simultaneously and then began the painstaking 2.5 mph acceleration to lurch back towards each other again.

Maneuver was no longer much a factor as we reached speeds between 5 and 10 mph. We burned through nearly all of our ammo. Obstacles littered the arena floor. Half my front armor was gone. I whittled away at my opponent’s right side and then his left. What little internal damage I scored mostly went to my opponents component armor surrounding his power plant. My opponent blew through the component armor on my rockets, damaged one with a single hit and took out another altogether.

I had maybe four or six rounds of ammo left at this point. My opponent was hoping to go past me and then maybe force me to waste those last couple shots on his back armor. Unfortunately, my pivot brought my two rocket launchers into position for a solid shot against his weakened side armor. I scored well on damage, penetrated both the metal armor and the power plant component armor and– incredibly– managed to set him on fire to boot.

This was a fairly lucky outcome for me as I could easily have missed, rolled a minuscule amount of damage that the armor could have ignored, hit the driver’s component armor instead, or even just rolled a 3-6 for the fire check. In a game where two’s and twelves had both been rolled, it was pretty exciting. And I have to say, we were both weirdly invested in the results of every single round of fire leading up to this.

My opponent bailed out of his car and began fleeing the scene. Continuing characters are rare enough in this game I opted to let him live for the rematch rather than run him down. He managed to escape before his car could explode, so autodueling fans were on the edge of their seats for the final finish. I think the networks got their money’s worth with these two cars!

Here are the stats for our two continuing duelists:

Borf: Three points in driver skill, eight points in gunner. Four prestige. One kill. Possesions: one S’most with two points of damage to each of the tires, one point of damage to each internal component, 7 points of damage front, 8 points of damage left, 7 points of damage right, one point of damage top, and 1 point of damage to the underbody. Five FT shots fired.

Poindexter: Two points in driver skill. six points in gunner. Five prestige. One kill. Possessions: one Challenger with 6 hits to front armor, 2 hits to left, five hits to front left tire, 2 hits to front right, 2 hits to back left, and 4 hits to back right. Front component armor destroyed, 2 hits to driver CA, and 3 hits to power plant CA. One RL destroyed. One RL at 1 DP. Four RL shots remaining.

Whoever wins the next match will go up to Gunner-1 and will also have enough salvage money to repair whatever vehicle we end up driving for the third round. Though I think the networks should give you a brand new version of one of your best winning car for free and then let you keep the salvage value of everything else– at least in a series of these one-on-one games.

For the final match, we wanted something to create a different feel from the ram car, flamethrower trike, and metal armor slugfest. We decided that linked APFSDS ATG’s, HDFOJ, FT, IFE, spoiler, airdam, and acceleration 10 would do the trick. See you next time for the finale!

 

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Only 2 Days left!

Rebel Minis - Sat, 11/09/2019 - 13:13


Only 2 Days Left with our Kickstarter for Cthulhu's Miskatonic University School Enamel Pins! We are working with Grape Robot to promote this! Take a look at pass the word please! 

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/rebelminis/cthulhus-miskatonic-university-school-enamel-pins


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

(5e) Sinner’s Manor

Ten Foot Pole - Sat, 11/09/2019 - 12:05
By James Eck Mind Weave 5e Level 1

*sigh*

This nineteen page adventure details a four level manor with about twenty five rooms in about five pages. It’s just combat encounters in a non-keyed long paragraph descriptive format. Combined, of course, with counter-productive skill checks. A few interesting details show some potential, but this is just Yet Another Garbage Product.

And I’m the asshole. I’m the jerk faced jerk because I protest the torrent of shit and vomit that erupts like a firehose in to my face. How bad is this adventure? It’s got three stars on DriveThru, THAT’S how bad. 

So, old manor house in a town. Abandoned for multiple centuries. Rumored to be haunted. Over the years people have gone in to never come out. Still standing intact. Some dude in the town is obsessed with it and wants you to investigate it out so he can move in. Inside are the seven deadly sins. You go from room to room, finding one and then fighting it. That’s the entirety of the adventure. A straight up hack right out of the worst that 4e ever produced. Maybe worse; those had terrain.

I’m pretty sure that 5e still pays lip service to the three pillars concepts. Combat, roleplaying, and exploration. This is just combat. Nothing more. Any joy or wonder that D&D has is entirely non existent in this adventure. There’s nothing to explore, nothing to interact with. It’s just rooms with combat.

Oh, I’m sure it THINKS its exploration. But there’s nothing truly to discover or interact with except the monsters. 

And the format, oh my. The section headings in the text are by floor, and then by room. So, First Floor and then a subheading Kitchen. Of course, the map is numbered and doesn’t have the room names. This means the room numbers are put in to the text of the paragraph and you have to look there. Further, those subheadings? There’s not one per room. The Serving Room, not described, is mentioned in the Kitchen subheading but not elsewhere. This is not an isolated event, most rooms don’t have any description at all and are just mentioned in passing.

Why are they mentioned in passing? Why, to pad out the text by describing the doors on the map. The north door is open and leads to the Kitchen, for example. You know, THE THINGS A FUCKING MAP TELLS YOU. 

A house, with windows, yes? That you can look in? The text makes a point of telling us repeatedly that kids throw rocks at the glass. Well, no windows on the map, or even a hint of them in the descriptions. There’s absolutely no thought at all that has gone in to thie as a real environment. Mostly.

There IS a decent idea or two. A fireplace has ashed out on to the floor and there are ashy bootprints across a rug, as if someone was pacing. Oh course, you see the someone probably before you see the bootprints, and they attack you immediately, so the impact is lost, but the idea for a creepy descriptive thing is a good one. Broken glass from windows on the stairs. Again, a pretty good detail. 

These little bits show some promise, but they are VERY few and VERY far between and do very little to redeem the lack of interactivity and terrible format.

And you don’t even get real treasure. You’re told to put in a CR2 hoard. THAT’S THE FUCKING JOB OF THE DESIGNER! That’s is LITERALLY why we’re paying you. (Or, well, turning to a pre-written adventure in the case of a $0 or PWYW adventure …)

Oh! Oh! I almost forgot! Skill checks! It’s full of useless skill checks! In fact, the skill checks run COUNTER to the adventure. In general you make a skill check in this to determine how some rando body you find died. And the details are creepy. But if you don’t make the skill check then you don’t get the creepy. Is that the point? To NOT creep out the players?  No, of course not, you want them shitting themselves with fear. But you hide that behind a skill check. 

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru with a suggested price of $1.You get all nineteen pages in the preview, so it’s a good preview. Page four of the preview (page two of the text) shows you the long-form descriptive stye that is indicative of the writing in this adventure.


https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/292525/Sinners-Manor?1892600

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Talomir Tales - Caravanserai Coming Later this Month

Two Hour Wargames - Sat, 11/09/2019 - 02:23

Haldor seemed to have worn out his welcome in Demeskeen. Or at least in his mind he had and that was good enough. He surveyed the tavern. Kurinthian Warriors, Barylistani Caravan Guards, Demeskeen Army and he swore that little lady in the corner was a Wererat. Well, not right now of course. Not in public, but get her alone and who could say.  “Yes, it’s time to go. I wonder what Brigana is like this time of year?”
************Talomir Tales - Caravanserai lets you travel the fantasy world of Talomir as a Caravan Guard. Or maybe you want to lead a Caravan getting paid well for your services. Or maybe you just want to join a Caravan for protection, opportunity or adventure. 
Caravanserai contains the Talomir Tales Core Rules as well as 16 linked Encounters.Look for it later this month.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Weird Revisited: Five Kooky Cults

Sorcerer's Skull - Fri, 11/08/2019 - 12:00
I came upon this post when searching for another one. I had forgotten some of these (this post was original presented in 2011), so it seemed worth a revisit... 

Here are a few minority religious groups seen at least as bit odd (if not outright dangerous) by the majority of the City's citizens:


The Abattoir Cult: Secret followers of the sinister and bloody-handed Lord of the Cleaver. A liturgical text (anthropodermically bound) honoring this obscure eikone is known to exist in a private collection in New Lludd. His cult tends to crop up in districts devoted to meatpacking or slaughter pens and is associated with the emergence of serial killers.

The Temple of Father Eliah Exalted: This Old Time Religion sect preaches racial and gender equality, chastity--and the godhood of its prophet, Father Eliah Exalted. The Temple owns a number of groceries, gas stations, hotels, and other business. These are ostensibly held by acolytes but seem mainly to enrich the Father. The Temple is politically active and the Father’s support can sway elections. Many are suspicious that Exalted’s powers of oratory and occasional miracles suggest that he is one of the Gifted or perhaps a secret thaumaturgist, but proof has been hard to come by.

Serpent-spotters: An informal collection of people forgotten by society--mostly poor and elderly spinsters and widowers--who are convinced that the monster that appeared in the Eldritch River 30 years ago, and supposedly delivered secret prophecies to City fathers, will return, heralding the apocalypse. On days individually chosen they hold vigil in Eldside Park. They hope to be present at the time of the serpent’s return so it will reward their faith with a ride on his back to a watery Paradise.

The Electrovangelic Church of the Machine Messiah: A worldwide movement dedicated to building the perfect construct to manifest the Messiah and usher in a new age of mechanical spiritual perfection.

The Followers of the Rabbit: Not an organized religion, but instead a collection of superstitions and cautionary urban legends forming a secret liturgy for some folk working along the boardwalk of Lapin Isle. They hope to placate the godling of the island, the dark personification of the rabbit in the moon--the man in the rabbit suit that is not a man.

Stretch Goals Corrected and Lowered! Article on Kickstarter

Two Hour Wargames - Wed, 11/06/2019 - 19:40

 When I dropped the funding goal on the Kickstarter to $3,000 at the last minute before launch I forgot to adjust the Stretch Goals. Much better, check them out!

Here's a nice article on  the Kickstarter. 

10 Game Kickstarter


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

CZX Super Heroes & Super-Villains: Sketch Card Preview, Part 3

Cryptozoic - Wed, 11/06/2019 - 17:00

Please enjoy the third preview of Sketch Cards from CZX Super Heroes & Super-Villains

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

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