Tabletop Gaming Feeds

A Few Things

The Splintered Realm - Wed, 05/13/2020 - 11:53
An assortment of things:

1. Erik Tenkar (of Tenkar's Tavern fame) has shared that he has some health issues going on. I am praying for him, and hope you do, too. He's a good guy, and I hope he has a speedy recovery.

2. Aldo created a fantastic fillable character sheet for Sentinels of Echo City. It's linked to the left. You'll want to download that :)

3. If you are having any trouble with your discounted copy of Tales of the Splintered Realm, please let me know (mtdesing at roadrunner dot com). If you purchased the pdf, you should be getting the print edition for a base price of $10. In the 'thank you' message from drivethrurpg, there is a copy to the direct link for the discounted version. If you cannot find that, I'll send you the link directly via email. For some reason, drivethru is not super excited about helping me sell games on a different site. I would use their POD builder, but the last time I tried I found it impossible to use. Maybe it's better now...

4. I am VERY grateful for the all of the enthusiasm and support people have shown for my projects over the last few weeks. It's been a lot of fun to log on every day and see what people are doing with the games.

5. I am THIS close to being done with my doctorate in educational leadership. I am on the FINAL review stage, and have one more set of edits to do to my dissertation and I should be truly and absolutely done with that beast. Whew.

The Tomb of Raven Darkmore

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 05/13/2020 - 11:11
By Joseph Mohr Old School Role Playing OSRIC Levels 9-12

Raven Darkmore is the legendary Grandfathr of Assassins. He has ruled the night for the last forty years. Now he has been laid to rest. The location of his tomb has been a mystery until recently. A pair of thieves have found the location. Unfortunately, one of them died, trying to explore the tomb. His partner decided that he needed a little help. He has contacted the party offering to lead them to the tomb for a share in the treasure. But not everything is as it appears. The thief leading the party to this tomb is not trustworthy. And the tomb is not as empty as it might seem.

This 27 page adventure describes a small 23 room tomb dungeon with a “central star” layout. It stuffed full of high level baddies, all living in harmony, waiting to kill the party. And is in single-column format. And is dull.

Do you think your life has meaning? Let us assume you were locked up, today, in solitary confinement for the rest of your life, with little to no agency in your life from now on. Let us contrast that to the life you have now, or, perhaps, what you imagine to be #BestLife. Is one more meaningful than another? Can the choices and outcomes of either life be declared to be meaningful … because there can be no meaning, making everything, essentially, the same, and the struggle against the absurd what brings value? But, what if there is no struggle? What if you are not aware of it? Sometimes, reality has a way of slapping you around and challenging those beliefs of your. Reality, in this case, in the form of The Tomb of Raven Darkmore.

Blah blah blah. Grandmaster of Assassins dead, buried in a tomb, thief dude finds it and recruits to you help him loot it. He will, of course, betray you and, of course, the GM isn’t actually dead but is hanging out inside with all of his assassin buddies. As in, there are ten 10’ squares with ten high-leve dudes in the room, about half assassins. If you follow the DM advice then they just backstab instead of doing their assassinate strike. Oh, and then there’s the ghost that hangs out in the tomb. And the two bad-ass vampires running around. And the mummy lord priest. And the Death Knight. All in a small tomb complex laid out like a central star. No one really cares that you’re there, or hunts you down, or really cares that anyone else is there either. They just hang out in their little rooms, waiting for someone to come visit so they can attack. 

This is the problem with tomb adventures. This is the problem with ihg level adventures. A static environment with unintelligent undead for low level adventurers is not the same as a high-level adventure with intelligent (super intelligent) undead. If this were a low level adventures, returned, then it would just have the “I am a boring tomb adventure” problem to solve. But, as a high level adventure, is has to solve all of the high level adventure problems also, and it just doesn’t try at all. They are all just there, waiting. 

And I didn’t even mention the two assassin patrols or the black pudding or the hang of displacer beasts wandering around. There are, of course, a lot of traps. 

It’s all in single column. It’s gots continuity errors. The ghost loves his wife, but I guess he never leaves his own tomb to go find her missing bones? Plus, her tomb is LITERALLY on the other end of the room, an open room. And her locket is in her crypt. But he’s never gone over there to find it? And then, when her bones DO show up, later in the adventure in another room, they are labeled as HIS bones, not hers. It’s like no one tried.

A chapel to a forgotten god. A tomb with an alter to the same god. That’s the detail you get. Nothing special. All abstracted. Everything boring and generic, when it exists at all. The descriptions are all facts and mechanics. Both doors are locked with extremely complicated locks (-50% to picking.) Of course. “The coffins of the king and queen lie side by side in death. Dominik and Eliza were king and queen of a minor kingdom that once existed in this area. They died nearly 400 years ago during a war that engulfed this region.” That’s your room description. Enjoy. Abstracted detail. Non-existent detail. This is like a randomly generated dungeon. Just roll on the DMG chart and put the monsters in and slap a trap down in each room.

This is not D&D. Oh, I know, one true-way-ism and all that fuckery. Why bother writing an adventure when you could just randomly roll on tables to produce the same thing? 

The highlight of the adventure is Ghosty McGhostface, who will help you, maybe, in the final fight, maybe, if you find his wife’s bones. Maybes. There are essentially no room descriptions. Maybe one room has “murals of his best assassinations.” Everything else is backstory and trivia, when it has descriptions at all. 

Love bland descriptions with an emphasis on mechanics? Do I have an adventure for you!

And, of course, there’s no level range given on the cover. Or in the product description. Why bother? Three stars on DriveThru. Ouch!

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru, with a suggested price of $3. The preview is six pages. For that, you get to see the level range, on the title page, as well as two pages of wandering monsters in the wilderness. Bad preview. Previews need to show you something of the meat of the encounters, what you will actually be buying.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Wednesday Comics: The Fourth World Reread Week 3

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 05/13/2020 - 11:00
I had intended to talk about Mister Miracle #6 and Funky Flashman this week, but I just read Forever People #8 (on sale February 1972), and I feel like that better encapsulates the oddness of what Kirby was doing with the Fourth World saga.

There is a lot going on in this issue. A man known as Billion-Dollar Bates lives out in the desert with a barrier and deserted town guarded by para-military private security. He's involved with a Satanic cult called "The Sect" who has a ritual space beneath his mansion and wears weird looking masks. He's holding a group of prominent citizens against their will with some "power."

If that isn't enough, someone is infiltrating Bates' compound, wearing the masks of the Sect, and killing his guards. Then the Forever People show up.

Ultimately, we discover that Bates (like time-lost Sonny Sumo) has the "Anti-Life Equation," the innate ability to control minds. Unlike the virtuous Sumo, who worried about ever using the power, Bates has made himself wealth and powerful--and still has the desire to gloat to others about his deeds. It ends badly for him:

The inflitrators are Darkseid and his minions. And accident keeps Darkseid from the Anti-Life Equation: bullets through Bates. This is the second time Kirby has introduced the Equation in the flesh, and the second time he takes it off the table. Presumably he feels if it's ever here to stay he's reached the climax of his story.

With his ribbon tie, big cigar, and jowled face, Mister Bates is a rich man caricature. His very name hints at the self-gratifying nature of his use of the power and the way he has lived his life. He also fancied himself a "wheeler dealer," he tells his captives, but then the Sect revealed the true nature of his power. His life blessings almost literally derive from Satan.

The weirdest thing in this issue is, when confronted with the Forever People, Darkseid starts sort of playing drill sargeant and lines them up to berate them. Later Darkseid reveals it was a ruse to throw the Forever People off-guard, suggesting he fears them a bit. It's not at all how Darkseid is portrayed in the modern DCU.

The Ruined Tower of Zenopus is on sale this week

Zenopus Archives - Tue, 05/12/2020 - 21:51

DMs Guild is having a "Play It Forward" promotion through this Sunday (May 17th), which gives each author of a purchased product 100% of the revenue instead of the usual 50%. Furthermore, many products are 20% off, and the Ruined Tower of Zenopus is one of these selected items, which means it is currently only $1.59!

Product Link:
The Ruined Tower of Zenopus on DMs Guild

Click here to read reviews of the RTOZ by various bloggers

Ad design by the 1000 Foot General
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

New Video - What's a Possible Enemy Force ?

Two Hour Wargames - Tue, 05/12/2020 - 19:38
PEFs; what are they and how do we use them?

PEF Video
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

LULU Update

The Splintered Realm - Tue, 05/12/2020 - 17:35
The print editions are live on Lulu - and just FYI, Lulu has a 15% off print editions coupon ONEFIVE that ends at midnight on 5/14, if you want to take advantage of that, too.


Print Copies In Hand

The Splintered Realm - Tue, 05/12/2020 - 15:52
A few print copies of Tales of the Splintered Realm arrived at my doorstep this morning! I will be reviewing it and setting up the discounted copy today, creating the codes, and contacting people who have purchased the pdf with a direct link for the $10 version. This book is gorgeous. I'm so happy with it.

Review & Commentary On AX4: Ruined City of Cyfandir by Simon Forster, & AX6: Sepulcher of the Sorceress-Queen (SoSQ) crowd funding effort by Autarch For The Adventurer,Conqueror, King Rpg

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 05/12/2020 - 14:52
"Two hundred years ago, the elven capital of Cyfandir fell to the savage assault of the Great Dragon Aisoth, self-proclaimed goddess and sovereign of the lizardmen who followed in her wake. The elves, occupied with the Argollëan War, were unprepared for the attack and the city fell swiftly. The elven residents fled, many dying at the claws and teeth of the lizardmen who waited in ambush in the Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

How Dungeons & Dragons Gained Feats

DM David - Tue, 05/12/2020 - 11:30

At a Dungeons & Dragons game, I overheard a player explain that feat was short for feature.

That’s not right, but I kept quiet for 2 reasons:

  • I don’t want to be the guy who butts into conversations to say, “Well, actually…”

  • I like the feature explanation much better.

Using “feat,” a word for a stunt, as a game term for a character feature or talent bothers my wish for precise terminology. Back in the third-edition days, this word choice annoyed me to such an embarrassing degree that I griped about the misnomer on the Wizards of the Coast D&D boards. That post probably only exists on a backup tape labeled “GLEEMAX” in magic marker.

How did we end up with feats?

Designer Monte Cook explains that feats came from the development of the third edition’s skill system. Two ingredients from D&D’s history contributed to skills.

The designers aimed to combine the two threads. “What we saw was that there were certain skills that we wanted to put into the game, but they were unlike the others because there wasn’t a check involved,” designer Monte Cook explained in an interview. Some of those proficiencies granted an ability to use things like shields, but others unlocked stunts that a character learned to do.

The design team called those stunts “heroic feats. As the game element developed, the team dropped the heroic bit. “Feats opened up a way for us to give cool character powers and abilities that weren’t skills and that weren’t tied to your class.”

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Rogue's Gallery

The Splintered Realm - Tue, 05/12/2020 - 01:55
The text for the first supplement is written. It is an overview of Boondock's Hideaway, which is the 'tavern' of the superhero world, populated by criminals. It's got a very intentional Legion of Doom HQ vibe, but it also has its own things going on. The next step for the book is the creation of a motley assortment of villains who tend to hang out in the Hideaway. I've been trying to come up with unusual, unique villains as I go, but a) that's tough, and b) this may not be the place for that. I almost think that for this supplement, I am better off hewing closer to familiar tropes as I stock the common criminals who linger here. I would like it to feel like a combination of Spidey and Batman's rogue's galleries, giving an assortment of level 1-3 villains to throw into the mix. I like the way that Reputation has been playing into my design work; villains come here to see and to be seen, and reputation is the currency of the place. The more infamous you are, the better access you get, and the more other villains tend to linger in your shadow. None of them are the mastermind sort. Here are my rough outlines for some villains:

- A boomerang or baseball throwing guy- athletic, trick weapons, maybe a utility belt, some gimmick. Boom-A-Rang was alluded to in the core rules, so maybe he can appear here.
- Light suit of battle armor with a bug theme. Killer Cockroach or something like that.
- Fox-themed girl with claws and sneak, and maybe empathy or even charm powers. Foxy Lady seems a little too on the nose.
- Electrical themed minor villain (a la shocker). Surge Projector?
- Green Goblin, Hobgoblin, and Jack O Lantern are my favorite Spiderman enemy trope, so I want something like that. Maybe go headless horseman theme but make the 'horse' a sky cycle of some kind? Throws explosive pumpkins. Carries a sword? I could call him Sleepy Hollow. Meh. Horseman of the Hollow is better....
- Just some basic muscle. A 'light' brick who carries a weapon like a wrecking ball or a crow bar or something like that. Pretty straightforward. I could maybe make three of these and call them the Destruction Crew or something. There is the wrecking crew in Marvel, and this is basically a variation on those guys. Maybe they have some synergy when working together? Like they each get +1 to attacks and damage when within 30' of one other, and each gets +2 when within 30' of both others. That would be something, and adds a little strategy to battles with them.

Charity Bundle at Drivethrug RPG

Bat in the Attic - Tue, 05/12/2020 - 01:38
The situation with Covid-19 virus has effected all of us. Some more than others. As the crisis was developed One Bookshelf sent out an email asking for contribute to a charity bundle. The publishers were given a choice of one of three charities: Doctor without Borders, No Kid Hungry, and World Food Programme.

Kelly Anne, my wife, and I talked it over and went with No Kid Hungry with the Majestic Wilderlands as my contribution.

Each bundle has dozens of titles and for $20 you get a several hundred dollars worth of product. By a strange coincidence, Columbia Games contributed Harnworld to the same bundle. So if you are interested in the Harn by my recent series of post on Harnmaster, you will not only get Harnworld but my Majestic Wilderlands as well.

You see all three bundles at this link.

Hope you can contribute if you can. Stay healthy and stay safe!
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Issued Apology To Erik Tenkar & More Free Castles & Crusades Goodness With The Updated & Expanded Castles & Crusades Crusader's Companion

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 05/11/2020 - 17:24
So let's start off with an email from Robert Higdon, "Not familiar enough with your Blog to understand why the dig at Tenkar, but he is in the hospital right now with a heart condition, so perhaps he can be excused for not covering the issue."  The 'dig' in question was this; "Apparently I managed to sneak this order  in before the great Lulu controversy of 2020. Evil races not being Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Bring Me Her Bones

Ten Foot Pole - Mon, 05/11/2020 - 11:00
By Dirk Detweiler Leichty Games Omnivorous OSR

Young king Agenor, for peace and wealth, sold his soul to the Green Sun – and such has been delivered for sixty-six years. Now old and fearing the far hells, the king has turned his worship to the BEAST, purchasing extended life with gruesome sacrifices. The BEAST, still hungry, and seeing the beauty of the king’s daughter Europa, became infatuated, saying “bring me her bones, which I will devout, and she will be my wife,” and promised in return that the king would never die. But the princess could not be found …

This 56 pag digest-sized art-punk thing is probably not an adventure, but rather a genre-neutral city setting with a meta-plot going on that the party can experience while going about their normal fucked-live schemes being schemed. Or, maybe, you can play it like a indie-rpg thing, with this being the adventure/ Who knows. Well, i do. It’s not a fucking adventure. It’s a fucking setting. Which is ok, I like settings, especially city-settings. But not when I think I’m buying an adventure.

This is system-neutral. There are not really stats and things are described in such a way that the city could be used in just about any setting. As long as you can have an Monaco-like city with a king and are ok with a couple of mythical elements, like a devil and maybe an elemental spirit, then you can use this in anything from modern-day New York (a super power CEO? The Mayor?) to sci-fi principalities to CoC to fantasy. The fantastic elements are not really forward and a lot is open to interpretation. A religious sect, collecting tithes aggressively? Ok; pretty genre-neutral. A coven? Ok, could be real could be fake. There ARE fantastic elements, the king has sold his soul at least twice to two different beings and  some nature spirits make minor appearances, as well an esoteric wishing well or two. But it’s not in your face. The veil has not yet been torn aside and the world, as you know it, is still how you know yet … until you start to probe the surface …

There are ten random-ish things that can happen, each a page, and each with some variation. These are controlled by a die drop astrology chart that handles seasons and phases of the moon and constellations in the sky, etc. Yes, seasons. With encouragement to keep track of days so seasons can change, and guidelines on the party being able to perform four “actions” per day. You can see how this could play out in both an indie-rpg like game and also as a backdrop setting for a larger RPG games. It’s a die drop table for rando stuff with the word “ASTROLOGY” plastered above the top. 

There are twenty locations on the “map.” And by “map” I mean “typical art-punk art piece that calls itself a fucking map BUT DOESN”T HAVE FUCKING KEYS ON IT. Instead it has little pictures of buildings. You get to flip through the little book until you find the little picture. Or, search the map for the little picture of the place you want. Fuuuuuuuuucccccck You! Someone made the decision to not dirty the map with a key. WRONG. FUCKING. DECiSION. And, this is where art punk gets its bad rap from.

The adventuring environment, though, is a good one. King Asshat sold his soul to someone. Then he sold it again to #2 “the blue eyed prince”, in exchange for his daughter. Who has run away and is in hiding in the city. He, his family, and his guards look for her, along with a lot of other people. There are cults to the two entities, weirdo other things, the princess showing up as a jockey at the horseraces, and other things. There’s a FUCK TON going on.

In what way, you might ask? One of the first tables in the book is “A place to stay”, describing your lodging, rent due at the start of each month. Your landlord: 1) More like slumlord. 2) Over-nurturing aunt. 3) Debauched partied. 4) Spuy for the king 5) Devout christian. 6) Royal guard sergeant.   That sets the tone for the book Things you can work. Three words, each, and yet NPC’s so packed with flavor. This is what every NPC in every game should be described like, something you can hang your fucking hat on. Who the fuck cares how much rent it, or that fish soup is the special, or frank moved to town 26 years ago. “Over-nurturing aunt” … that’s something I can fucking work with at the table! Something I can play with, and build upon. That’s what a fucking NPC description should be!

And a lot of the encounters, locations, and the random building generator is like that. It gives you, in a quick brief hit, something to build on. Not specifics, not detail. No, eait, yes, detail and specifics, but not overly explained. Instead something evocative and short that you can riff on. Something that you can integrate in the ongoing situation easily. A principal or idea, but one terse and full of flavour .Really well done. 

So, not an adventure. And maybe not even a city setting. More like a meta-plot for a city, with some key figures and locations to spice up your own city. And it’s FUCKING GREAT as that. But, not an adventure. This could be an interesting type of product, meta-things to weave in to your existing campaign, city, location, etc. No rating, because it’s not an adventure, but it is something I’ll keep and weave in to my home campaign city, immediately.

This is $10 at DriveThru. The preview is three pages. Page “3” of the text has that landlord chart and a brief overview, but the rest of it is the astro-chart stuff. A pretty piss poor preview. I’d have liked to have seen a page with the NPC/wanderer encounter and/or a location encounter so people could know what to expect.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Weird Revisited: The Hidden Country Setting

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 05/11/2020 - 11:00

A significant number of works of fantasy take place in some sort of lost or hidden realm within the real world: Oz (at times), Neverwhere, Pellucidar, the Savage Land, Fraggle Rock, Hogwarts, and some versions of fairyland are all around here somewhere. This sort of setting doesn't seem to have been often used in fantasy rpgs, at least outside of modern/urban fantasy.

There are probably reasons for this. The Medieval(ish) nature of most fantasy gaming suggests a historical(ish) setting. The scale of most rpg settings would preclude them being tucked away in some corner of Earth. Perhaps there's also a fear with the modern world close by it would be too easy for it to intrude.

These seem to me to be only relative contraindications. Most gamers (at least of the old school variety) are comfortable with plenty of science fictional or science fantasy elements that violate the pseudo-historical milieu  The scale may be sort of a problem (though Burroughs never let that stop him in Tarzan's Africa--and a Hollow Earth could have plenty of space) and a smaller scale setting isn't necessarily a bad thing.

This sort of setting opens up some new elements: Lost-like underground bases complete with enigmatic video instructions, modern world epherma as treasure, secret societies working in both "worlds." Pretty interesting stuff, I think, with a lot of potential.

5150 Send Lawyers, Guns and Money - Down the Rabbit Hole

Two Hour Wargames - Sun, 05/10/2020 - 22:26
I had a cover and an idea of what the book would be about but seriously once I started writing it; well, it took me to places I hadn't thought of when I sat down to get started. Heck, I can't wait for it to be over so I can play it.

Here's one of Billy Pink's Crew. Waiting for the rest of the artwork to follow.
Fast Eddie
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Sword of Shannara

Deep Sheep - Sun, 05/10/2020 - 18:09
It was 1977. The Holmes Basic Set for D&D came out that year as well as the Monster Manual. The AD&D rules were still being worked on and would not come out until 1978 and 1979. The Sword of Shannara, a novel penned by a young Terry Brooks fresh out of college, released to great popularity, excepting many fantasy roleplayers. They said The Sword of Shannara was just a shallow copy of Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and in some ways they were right. But in many other ways they were wrong.

This review covers only the first quarter of the novel and in its broad strokes, you will find it very similar to the Fellowship of the Ring. But although Sword of Shannara is very inspired by Lord of the Rings, it still goes its own way. It dispenses with Tolkien's poetry and gives us more action. You could even say that Sword of Shannara is the D&D version of Lord of the Rings.

Let's state the differences first. There are no hobbits in Shannara. Shannara is a world similar to ours after an apocalypse that made man evolve into gnomes, dwarves, and trolls. Elves were always around in our world but they now they no longer hide themselves. The Warlock Lord allies himself with gnomes and trolls and flying creatures called Skull Bearers. But the biggest difference is that there is no ring. There is a sword and, at the beginning of the story, the Warlock Lord has stolen it.

So while there is a fellowship of men, dwarves, elves, and a magic-user that forms after the two young men escape from Shady Vale, the quest is different. They have to find the sword. Then they have to figure out how to use the sword. And then defeat the Warlock Lord with the sword. Is that much of a difference? Yes. They are not hiding a ring as they travel to the land of Mordor, while the ring plays with everyone's hopes of power. They are on a mission of desperation. A mission that more resonates with D&D adventures than Tolkien.

I'll post more as I continue reading. What are your thoughts about The Sword of Shannara?
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Dachshund Dungeon

Ten Foot Pole - Sat, 05/09/2020 - 11:11
By Nick LS Whelan Self-published OSR Level ?

Send your players to visit the cordial society of the Gentledogs. Presently they’re beset by a moral quandry: trying to live up to their own values while pressed on one side by imperialist forces from the Underdark, and on the other by a treasonous wizard attempting to engineer a fascist coup

This eight page adventure features a fourteen page dungeon described on one page. It’s full of intelligent dogs. Pugmire, then, I guess? But it implies it is not? And the dogs have guns? Anyway, it’s all Stonehell style, with a few intro pages and then a half page map with a page of keys. The key descriptions are pretty ok, focusing on what they need to. But I have to ask: why? And to what end? It feels hollow.

These little dungeons are always hard to review. Both from a size and a page count aspect, but, not this one I think. 

So … Pugmire, I guess? Pugmire is OSR now? I mean, the dungeon has a backstory, it’s full of intelligent dogs, they have rifles and pistols in a kind of 19th century England landed gentry kind of way. There’s no level range mentioned anywhere on the cover, description or product … It’s clearly D&D-ish with morale .. .but something else called the Hatespark? The backstory implies that the dogs were created by a wizard though just to guard the dungeon. So … I have no fucking clue what is going on here. Lets’ make them Mushroom-people with swords and bows and take care of the entire thing.

The backstory is a bit humorous. To quote: A couple hundred years ago a wizard who could feasibly be described as “good” defeated one who was “bad,” but could not kill her. This is the kind of DM writing I can get in to. It’s Just a few little enhancements to the verbange and punctuation and you bring so much more to an otherwise generic backstory. This is great, and it’s a good example fo what I mean by focusing the power of your writing and brining detail and specificity and colour without adding a lot of words. 

And then there’s the  hook-ish/intro to the dungeon. There’s a tunnel in the sewers. It’s long. No one knows where it goes. It takes two days to traverse it to get to the dungeon. Smarter than your average sewer adventure; the sewer is just the front door.

Five and a half pages in to an eight page adventure and we get a small fourteen room map on half a page. A couple of loops. A crevice running through a couple of rooms. It’s serviceable, not stellar.

And then the room keys start, all on one page … with room for art at the bottom. I’m going to bitch a bit about things left unsaid in this adventure, and I feel like there was some internal constraint that the room keys only take a page. Which is too bad; the problem with all one page room keys is that they are limited by their format. Basically the judgement comes down to “Is it good … FOR A ONE PAGE DUNGEON? The “for a one page dungeon” has to be added on to every statement. Why do that? The one-pagers are, essentially, performance art. Why constrain yourself if you don’t have to? (Says the six page dungeon man.) 

The room keys are pretty good though, at lest when it comes to conveying evocative flavour through terseness. The first room is “1. Metal hatch opened by a wheel. Pipes to the left and right expel sewage into the tunnel.” I can visualize that. I can run that. It’s at least three details: hatch, pipes, sewage, all in one line of text that takes us less than the full width of the page. Or maybe “Chugging water pump pulls water up from underground streams. Bedroll in the corner, dirty plates stacked beside it.” Short, terse. These could both be better, but they ARE a great example of how a terse room description can be both scanned quickly and be evocative at the the same time. It’s not really mundane detail. It’s not really trivia, or useless backstory. It’s focused on the meaningful parts of the room and at least an ok description of them. (Ok, of course, being a high compliment from me.)

Treasure and creatures, though, suffer from this format. They tend to be more abstracted. Treasure are described, such as “L: White lace hemmed with gold is draped along the walls. These curtains are delicate, religiously significant, and valuable.” That’s your treasure. For a generic adventure I’d say that’s pretty well, and given the dog-stuff and rifles, I guess not assuming a system is a good thing. It’s also feels abstracted to me, with the conclusions of the curtains rather than a description of the curtains, and I never like that. In addition the creatures are somewhat lacking in motivation. You get a half page or so write up on the races, but the specific creatures lack motivations. They feel like they wait in their rooms, behind a glass wall, for the party to look at. There doesn’t feel like there’s any tension. There’s one “baddie” of note, at the very end, but even he comes off like not having any tension. This could have been a dungeon that was a political boiling pot, ready to explode. Parts of the intro imply as much. But then, the rooms don’t do anything to help that along. Eight dogs discussion philosophy. Ok.  It reminds me of that chess room in Dwimmermount, where nothing happens.

The whole thing needs a good SHOVE. 

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru, with a suggested price of $2. The entire thing is in the preview, all eight pages, which is GREAT. You might check out the room keys and jusge the writing for yourself. I think it’s tending toward the good side of the evocative spectrum, which, I also think is perhaps the hardest part of writing adventure keys.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

OSR Review & Commentary On The Book of Manos: A Grimoire of Handy Spells By James Mishler, & Jodi Moran-Mishler

Swords & Stitchery - Sat, 05/09/2020 - 05:22
"The Book of Manos: A Grimoire of Handy Spells is a 16-page PDF that expands upon the classic “hand” and “fist” magic-user spells, providing a legendary historical context in which to fit them; guidelines on their use; 21 new magic-user spells; six new Manos-based magic items (including the infamous relic, the “Hand of Manos”); and not one but three Manos entities that a magic-user can evoke to Needles
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OSR Review & Commentary On Troll Lord Games Castles & Crusades Monsters & Treasure of Aihrde 3rd Printing By Stephen Chenault

Swords & Stitchery - Sat, 05/09/2020 - 03:36
"Within Monsters & Treasure of Aihrde lies a veritable host of legendary monsters. Each entry comes fully detailed with descriptions, habits, treasure, combat, special abilities, details on culture where needed, as well as a special section on each monster’s place in Aihrde. Over 170 Monsters! A mountain of Special Magic Items! Enhanced Character Content!'Despite a typo on the back cover Needles
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AD&D Session 7: The Overbearing of the Crystal Men

Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog - Sat, 05/09/2020 - 01:01

Session six is about where I normally reach creative exhaustion with an rpg campaign. The desire to try some other obscure system is one threat that must be overcome. One or two players being on the low energy side could easily sap my will to continue at this point. But AD&D is great. Everyone knows what it is. The campaign can easily handle new people coming and going, sure. But I’ve got to say, it sure seems like people really want to play this. None of us has any clue how any given session will go. And people just really want to go back in. It’s a real enthusiasm that is very hard to say no to.

I am still a bit worn down from the futility of attempting to plan for a session. My brilliant campaign idea went out the window the first session. My lovingly made one page dungeons have sat unused for weeks as the players stomp through my ridiculous campaign world doing random stuff. What can you do in such a circumstance? Oh, that’s obvious!

I open up the session with a flat, “what do you do?” Somebody points out that they have a lot of options. They can go back to the ruins in the jungle that are two days journey to the north. They can check out whatever is going on in the south where a group of large creatures headed some weeks back. They can tackle the dogmen yet again. They can explore the sinkhole that they discovered previously. And they can go investigate the weird laughter that they heard in the northeast section of the sewers. Five adventure scenarios to choose from.

The players decide to go after the dogmen. It’s been seven days since their last foray into the dungeons, though. So there’s no telling what’s going on down there. I make up a quick D12 table with the three outcomes I think are most likely– a 1-3 option, a 4-7 option, and a 5-12 option. I get a twelve and imagine in my head what has happened during the week. The AD&D rule of having one game day pass for each real day creates pressure for the players to complete objectives while they have the chance. Opportunities can just evaporate due to inaction! Which is sorta where we ended up this time. The hostages were all dead by now, for instance. The value of the haul is thousands of gold less and the chance of having grateful first level adventurers joining the party’s retinue is off the table. Ya snooze, ya lose!

The party has mass quantities of flaming oil this time. The had trouble deciding how to carry it all. They spend a lot of time working out the ideal marking order for the sewer section where they can go three abreast. They find a door that they forgot about and try to open it. I dutifully check for wandering monsters. Somebody made a map and explained where they were, though. So they continue on toward the lair of the pug-men.

They send the half-orc Fàgor up to check things out and he doesn’t see anything with his heat vision. The party rolls up to the entrance and see that the pit is wide open. They concoct a scheme to cry out as if they just fell in so that the pug-men will come investigate. They ham it up and I check for wandering monsters– a one! I check my tables and see what investigates.

The party is surprised to have something come up on their six in all this. Before they can really react, the cleric back there took some damage and the two remaining men-at-arms got dropped– the torch in the back goes out! The players wail away on these things and I tell them they are hard. Hitting them makes a clanging sound.

As things evolve, there are two competing plans. One is to throw flaming oil onto the bodies of the two men-at-arms who were each carrying five vials of the stuff. The other is to fall back a bit and (somehow that I can’t really imagine) throw the monsters into the pit. This stops the game as one of the players suggests that we use the grappling rules on page seventy-two. I have never played these things in anger– I’ve never even heard of someone playing these things in anger. But somehow we ended up on the Overbearing Table where it turned out to be rather easy to knock an opponent to his knees and/or knock them flat. There is not much defense for this except to be big and win initiative.

Anyway, I let the player responsible for this narrate it from his perspective, one tweet at a time:

  • Real time game report. The thread: I have spent 48 minutes making sure none of the players are culturally sensitive.
  • We have purchased 30 oil flasks and are determined to kill Dog men. Furries beware.
  • We are hunting the Dog Men in their home. We believe they may be holding men captive in their lair. Which them being furries can mean only one thing: Sodomy.
  • We are now fighting a group of Dog Men. We set a trap for them but some snuck up from behind like the perfidious snakes they are. The Henchmen are actually earning their pay.
  • My character Funk holds the front with the cleric. The rear guard are now taking on the dog men and are missing. Darkness is rising, fear grows. DM: “These things are hard.” Oh snaps….
  • These are not dogmen. These are something made of stone. The darkness has deceived us!
  • We are luring them towards us with a pit in front of us. We are bringing them to death, flaming oil flasks being sent. Destruction everywhere. The half orc was hit but his momma hit him harder in grade school.
  • They are healing the half orc. We voted to only heal half of him.
  • SESSION DONE Lesson for the day is dont trust mute on your mic when talking to your wife. If they DM rolls heavy on you bust out obscure rules and wreck his evening. Godspeed you beautiful animals.

One of the men-at-arms turned out to still be alive, lying in a pool of filth and flammable oil. He is the last one of ten! During the fighting I needed to roll the paladin’s henchman Gilbert’s strength. He got a 17!

The players go into the party room were they fought dog men before. They are all gone. Man, that fight would have been scary if the crystal men were blocking the exit and the dog men were coming out of their caves from the other direction. Some day!!

The players search the party room and Fàgor finds this hidden recess in the wall. There is a pouch in there, but he won’t reach his hand inside. He takes a spear and wedges it out, standing such that any flaming jets of acid shooting out of the wall. The bag falls on the floor. He carefully dumps out its contents attempting to avoid inhaling any strange dust that might be in it. Inside is a bunch of gems.

Two players gotta leave, so their characters escort the surviving man-at-arms to safety, healing everyone else before they leave.

The players explore the other two rooms of the dogmen lair. One is full of skinns and rags. The other has shackles, chains, and an iron maiden. They open it up and there is a body inside that had been there for a week. (I check to see if it is a Swolecerer clutching a spellbook… the dice say no!)

The remaining party heads west in the sewer for about half an hour. They get bored and come back to the door they found earlier. They try to open it. Another wandering monster turns up, this time it’s (rolls dice) some kind of slime that (rolls dice) lands on top of the paladin. One of the players gets really excited about this, pausing the came to consult the Player Handbook. What color is it, he wants to know. I am loath to just say “green”, but finally I tell him. He says the paladin can just cure disease to get rid of the thing. I’m incredulous, but consult the Monster Manual and sure enough… it all checks out. Three combat rounds would have been the end to the paladin’s plate mail, but under these circumstances, he just comes out with a bit of a polish.

Party drops a half-naked Brother Pain down into the sinkhole. He notes two tight passages, one to the northwest and the other to the southwest. The players mull it over and decide that exploring the second level of the dungeon at close to half strength is not a good idea. Nobody bothers them as they head back to Trollopulous.

Aulis Martel the Acolyte (8 hits) [Delves 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6a, and 7] XP: 753 + 351 + 54 + 766 + 8 + 255 => [Frozen at 1500 until he levels!]

Brother Pain the Acolyte [Delve 3b and 7] XP: 351 + 54 + 255= 660

Torin the Runner (7 hits) [Delves 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 6b, and 7] XP: 753 + 351 + 54 + 766 + 8 + 80 + 255 = [Frozen at 2250 until he levels!]

Arthur the Gallant (7 hits) [Delves 2, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6a, 6b, and 7] XP: 122 + 753 + 351 + 54 + 766 + 8 + 80 + 255 = 2389

Gregg the Acolyte (10 hits) [Delves 4, 5, and 7] XP: 54 + 766 + 255 =1075

Fàgor — (12 hits) Half-Orc Fighter [Delve 7] 255 (His name means “astonishing hero” in orcish. For real!)

Funk — FIghter — Also worships Issek (at best a saint) [Delve 7] 255

Gilbert (Strength 17) and Sullivan: [Delves 2, 4, 6a, 6b, and 7] (122 + 54 + 8 + 80 + 255) / 2 = 259

One shell-shocked man-at-arms: — (7 hits) [Delves 6a, 6b, and 7] (8 + 80 + 255) / 2 = 171

Experience: 804 XP for killing monsters. Gems worth 1000 + 5 + 50 + 50 + 500 + 50 + 90 = 1745 gold pieces value. Total XP is 2549 divided 10 ways.


Day 1: The Hole in the Sky

Day 2: The Thing in the Sewer

Day 7: The Big Score part I

Day 8: The Big Score part II

(Day 9-14 — player characters all carousing¹; Keebler Khan fully recovered) <—- I day of real world time = one day of game time!)

Day 15: The Drums of the Dog People

(Day 16-21: More carousing, fasting, panhandling.)

Day 22-25: Altar of the Beast-women

(Day 26-31: Resting)

Day 32-33: The Pugs of Slaughter

(Day 34-39: Resting)

Day 40: The Overbearing of the Crystal Men

The graveyard:

Dorkorus — Half-elf fighter/magic-user/thief — Half brother to Keebler Khan, talked with a lisp! Killed by a pug-man in the Trolopulous mega-dungeon.

Dairage — Elf fighter/magic-user — Killed with his shield spell one, valiantly taking down the leader of the pug-men so that the party could have a chance to escape certain death!

9 Hapless men-at-arms!

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