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'The Wish Echoed ' OSR Readings - Illusionists, Dragon issue#12 & Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 03/24/2021 - 19:53
Recently the Astoninshing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea humble bundle came into my greedy hands & upon rereading AS&SH some very interesting things came to light.  Sometimes you've got to go back to the well & in this case it was Disney+'s Wandavision ( watched the entire run over a friend's house. Because I absolutely refuse to give Disney the time of day. This has nothing to do with Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Night of Blood, Warhammer adventure review

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 03/24/2021 - 11:31
By Jim Bambra, Lindsay Law Cubicle 7 WFRP 4e "Relatively new characters"

It’s a dark, stormy night, and the forest creaks as foul creatures howl through the undergrowth. As freezing rain slices from the roiling sky and attack threatens from all sides, the desperate adventurers stumble upon the warm glow of a fortified inn. But everything isn’t as it seems, and soon the unwitting heroes face deceit, betrayal, and horror as they strive to survive a terrifying Night of Blood.

This eleven page adventure details a small inn that has been taken over by cultists posing as the innkeeper & staff. It sets up some interesting situations and has some decent specificity and flavor, but could use a little less abstracted generalities and a little more traditional formatting. It comes to me as a request to review.

It looks like this adventure appeared in a 1987 edition of White Dwarf, and then was updated and released as a separate product in 2018 for the 4e version of the WFRPG. This explains the original writing credit (Bambra) and the updated one (Law.) I’m not sure how he original went. This one has some issues.

There is some great color in this adventure. That, and the setting up of situations, is one of its great strengths. It starts with the party caught out in a forest road, in a storm, at night. You can hear the braying of the beastmen in the distance. The braying gets closer, and closer. And then it stops, they having brought down the deer they were chasing. The party, of course, doesn’t know this. They are just shitting themselves by this point, this early in the adventure! They see an inn in the distance. The gates in the walls are locked. The ferryhouse, unlocked, shows signs of a struggle and blood, if investigated. Getting in through the side doors of the walls, the party hears unhappy horses from the stables through the storm, and sounds of laughter and mirth from the inn. 

What the adventure does very well is create tension and go back and forth between creating suspicion and plausible explanations. The horses could be loud because of the storm. The laughter in the inn dies when the party knocks on the door … which is to be expected. The innkeeper is portly and gruff, having well to do guests staying and not wanting the parties kind tonight. The roadwardern inside asks the party questions. A worker mops the floor. And … theres a mutie in the stable hayloft munching on the dead stable boy. The worker is actually mopping up blood. The portly innkeep is a fat mutie. The roadwardens outfit  has bloodstain at the base of his back. The floor upstairs to the common room is wet … hmmm, are those remnants of carpet where the hallway wood is now? Was a carpet just pulled up? 

Suspicion. Plausible deniability. Things that makes sense. With alternative facts …

 The adventure does this sort of brooding and tension building very very well. 

It also does a great job with its monster descriptions. Short and good. A beastman with a cattlehead (with a great little illustration) andmutie descriptions that are both short and decent enough to run with. A great description of a little situation and enough personality and mannerisms for the DM to run with it pretty well.

And it makes a lot, A LOT, of bad decisions.

To begin with, the location key. You get the standard numbered map. In a nice surprise, there’s a little key on the map to tell you which room is which. Room 11 is the stable, for example. But, then, the adventure text doesn’t use the numbers. It uses the room names. SO you have to go find “Bedroom” in the text. And it’s not in alpahbetical order. Instead it’s in some kind of plot order. The party will be outside first, as they approach the inn, so the ferry and stable are outside he inn, and the party might explore there first, so those descriptions come first. Then, in some fucked up decision that only its mother could love, we get a background/introduction section that explains what is going on in the rinn, what has happened and what will happen, kind of. Then we get the main floor inn descriptions. Them ots assumed the party goes upstairs to sleep, cause thats where the loose plot is taking us, so we then get the description of the upstairs of the inn. Then, more plot/timeline stuff and the cellar of the inn is described. It’s a completely fucke dup way to describe the place. Yeah, I get it. I get what is trying to be done. Butit’s nonsense. The monsters/staff/etc are all mixed up in there. This experimental formatting is NOT good. Room/Key format is not perfect for every adventure, but it DOES help you find things easier. Unlike this mess.

It’s also a little handwavey in areas that I think could have emphasized better. Cutting down the word count (A LOT) would have focused better what’s remaining, in the DM’s head. Emphasizing the storm and the chaos/sounds it creates would have gone a long way. As would more advice on playing up suspicion and plausible deniability. Teasing the entire thing out just a bit more. Maybe an order of batt;e/advice section for how things could go down in a couple of situations, just a few sentences each. 

In short, it’s an open ended situation. That’s GREAT. But it could have been focused on that and provided some hints to the DM about how to run that and be organized around that, with better break outs of the NPC”s, clues, and little events like the blood mopping. Instead you get this fucked up little plot thingy going on instead of a proper timeline. ANd then it ends with the cops showing up and taking the worst read possible on the situation and the party getting a decent chunk of XP for explaining to them. This partis totally handwaved, with almost no more words than I have typed here. A little more on the cops would have been much appreciated, especially given the XP reward it comes with. 

It’s a nice try, and I see the potential it has for a great night of gaming. Good concept here and one of the better “fucked up roadside inn” situations, but severely missing some things. 

This is free at DriveThru.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/259967/WFRP-Old-World-Adventures–Night-of-Blood?1892600

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Wednesday Comics: DC, March 1980 (part 2)

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 03/24/2021 - 11:00

Continuing my read through of DC Comics output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! This week, I'm looking at the comics at newsstands around December 20,1979.


Action Comics #505:
Bates and Swan bring us a tale of a puppy-eyed, hairy hominid from space, who charms children and can wallop Superman. In a twist I did not expect, the creature turns out to be a synthetic being from Krypton. The story is continued to next issue. I kind of dug this one.

Adventure Comics #469: The Starman story here has a bit more of classic space opera vibe than the previous installments, which is a welcome change of pace. The Plastic Man story is the same old stuff. I can't say I'm really excited about either of these features.

Brave & the Bold #160: With Superman and Batgirl teaming up early this month, now it's Batman's and Supergirl's turn. Burkett and Aparo have Batman do some mentoring with Supergirl, which works well. The story suffers from a bland villain who doesn't seem like he'd be a challenge for Batman, much less Batman and Supergirl.

Green Lantern #126: O'Neil and Staton ended last issue with an impending Qwardian invasion of Earth, and now...well, we get the Shark. Sure, it turns out the Qwardians are employing the Shark, but it seems unclear why they would need to do so. It seems like it's just stalling before the main event.

House of Mystery #278: The cover story by Jay Zilber and Rubeny goes out of its way to make the parents of a kid with the power to pull things (weapons mostly) from out of the TV the bad guys, when anyone would be sensibly worried about the kid. The other two stories have sort of dumb morals: truth-telling isn't always good, and old people can be bad, too!


Legion of Super-Heroes #261:
Conway and Estrada complete this LSH undercover circus mystery. Doesn't seem like it really warranted a two-parter. The basic idea was good, but the story is lacking.

New Adventures of Superboy #3: A nerd jealous of Superboy and Clark Kent, uses a device to project back his mental energy to make himself cool in the past. What's interesting about this one to me is that it clearly sets the present of Metropolis in "winter 70-80," with this story in Clark's high school years prior.

Sgt. Rock #338: Rock and the boys from Easy try to take a few days R&R at a ski lodge, only to be menaced by ski Nazis. We get the almost obligatory, semi-honorable German commander, though that doesn't mean he makes it out alive. There's more continuity than I remembered: Kanigher has this issue pick up directly after the events of last issue.

Super Friends #30: Grodd and Giganta are employing a ray to change humans into gorillas as a bid for world conquest. Fradon's art is charming as always.

Unexpected #196: The first there stories in this are nonsense, but Mike Barr and Vic Catan Jr. present a somewhat clever twist on the sell your soul to the Devil plot in a story about a doctor willing to do anything to stop a deadly, global pandemic.


Unknown Soldier #237:
A rabbi, a black guy, and the Unknown Soldier cross German lines dressed as the Magi. It's not a joke; it's a Bob Haney Christmas story! Like many war stories of this period, it tackles racism, but also has a extra bit of "all men are brothers" holiday oomph to it. It's silly in ways, I guess, but one of my favorite war stories since I started this project. The second feature is pretty good too. I liked the art by Tenny Henson.

Warlord #31: I talked about this issue here.

Weird Western Tales #65: An anti-war story is unexpected in a Western book, but it works reasonably well. Conway's story also picks up right after Scalphunter bids farewell to Bat Lash following their team-up last issue.

This month, we also had two digest books: Best of DC #4 was a quartet of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer stories (who knew DC had so many?), and  DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #1, which featured four reprints staring the Legion of Super-Heroes.

Review & Commentary On an English translation of the Free Hyboria Gazetteer By Omnibius Translated By Colin Wilson For Mystara

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 03/24/2021 - 06:38
 "Hyboria, in Northern Brun is one of the least known areas of Mystara and there is very little information available in more-or-less official accessories or on the web.  The Hyboria Gazetteer By Omnibius covers the vast stretch of icy Sword & Sorcery wasteland & its environs. "Sometimes one finds Sword & Sorcery goodness in some most unexpected places. Case in point tonight we stumbled upon a Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

How to Improve Your D&D Game by Posing Difficult Dilemmas

DM David - Tue, 03/23/2021 - 11:14

As a game master, my favorite moments during session come when I sit idle as the players’ debate the tough choices open to their characters. Each option balances hope with a price. All the options lead to consequences that will spin the game in a different direction. Watching these discussions, I know the game world has come alive. No one tries to metagame what they’re supposed to do. Later, when those same players wonder what might have happened if they had chosen the other path, I bask in that moment.

If players just wanted to follow a story, they could have read a book. In role-playing games, much of the players’ fun comes from making choices and then experiencing the consequences as the game spins into a new direction. A hard choice lets players reveal their characters, reminds players that they control their characters’ fates, and turns the game world into a vibrant place that reacts and changes.

Occasionally tough choices spring naturally from the twists of your game, but you can plan your game to pose more dilemmas for players.

What makes a good dilemma?

Dilemmas have consequences

Much of the fun of making game choices comes from seeing the effects. If the adventurers get a call for help from a fishing town threatened by raiders, the hard choice comes when they learn of a far more lucrative job: The cunning Lady Redblade wants a magical curiosity retrieved before her rivals can snatch it. When the curiosity proves to be a dangerous artifact, the hard choice comes when the players must decide whether to hand it over. Every GM can tell such choices matter, but the consequences must ripple into the game. If the players spurn the town, it burns (even if you prepared for a rescue session). If the players betray Lady Redblade, she treats them as enemies (even if your plot assumed she would remain an ally). If players seldom see their actions lead to repercussions, they learn that their actions hardly matter.

Still, consequences don’t make a good game. If you put a dracolich behind door number 1 and a pile of +5 swords behind door 2, you just offered a choice with consequences. But your players will still drop out of your crummy game.

Dilemmas require information

If you play Dungeons & Dragons long enough, you hear of a Monty Haul dungeon master who loads treasure on players. The name comes from the Monty Hall, host of a game show called Let’s Make a Deal. He handed out so much treasure that every bumblebee and Raggedy Ann left his studio with a vorpal sword. Sometimes, Monty offered contestants a choice of whatever lay behind three doors that concealed prizes ranging from a toilet plunger to a Chrysler Cordoba. Guess a door makes a dull decision, but Monty’s game entertained by creating dilemmas.

After a contestant picked door 1, but before revealing its prize, Monty would pull out wad of cash and count off bills that he offered in exchange for the unseen prize. Now players faced a dilemma.

Interesting choices start with information.

If the players must decide whether to travel the low road or the high road, the choice only merits a coin flip. But suppose on the low road, the hag Auntie Boil always demands some small, wicked deed of those who travel her swamp. On the high road, frost giants guard an icy pass, but one may owe the thief a favor. Now the choice becomes interesting. Players can expect their choice to take the adventure on a different spin.

Menus of choices like these let players reveal their characters or steer the game toward their own preferences. I like offering such options near the end of each game session so I can prepare for the road ahead.

Dilemmas defy correct answers

Sorry Monty, but choices with one right answer don’t count as dilemmas.

Such choices might serve as puzzles. Suppose the PCs want to pursue the Dread Baron, but wonder whether to follow the low road or the high road. If they see he left his fur boots in his tower or if they find an invitation from Auntie Boil tied to a bird in the rookery, then they know which road to take.

Puzzles like this enhance your game, especially if you occasionally allow the players to miss the clues. Virtually every adventure spins clues and other leads into the threads that draw players along. But such clear answers only offer a choice between continuing the adventure or dropping out. If players know which road to take, they gain no sense of freedom.

In a dilemma, every option brings a price

In the choice between the high road and the low road, each option brings a price: The high road means calling a giant’s dept and hoping a he will honor it; the low road requires some wicked deed.

“To craft a good dilemma,” Wolfgang Baur advises, “Don’t give the players any good options.” (See “Dungeoncraft – Temptations and Dilemmas” in Dungeon issue 148.)

Clever players may still find good options—players relish the chance to crack an unsolvable problem, but you don’t need to hand them a solution. And definitely don’t hand them a fight. Usually, a good dilemma puts PCs between forces too strong for an assault. If you make Auntie Boil or those giants look like a problem that just needs a few smacks with a warhammer, you created skirmish rather than a dilemma.

Creating dilemmas

The limits of loyalty and time can easily create dilemmas for players.

As player characters gain in renown, powerful non-player characters will begin to request or demand their loyalty. If Lady Redblade and the Master of Eyes both want the players to retrieve the same magical curiosity, then the players choose more than an ally—they choose an enemy.

The limit of time can create many torturous dilemmas. The players must understand that accepting Lady Redblade’s job means risking that besieged town.

We DMs tend to offer quests with no particular urgency. This spares us from having to rework a mission because the game world moved on. The fishing town perpetually waits on the verge of doom until the players arrive to save it.

Sometimes though, time must force the players to choose which fires to fight. This does more than test the players. Such dilemmas make the game world seem like a dynamic place that moves and changes even when the PCs turn away.

Let’s Make a Deal

Suppose you know that the paladin in the party would never spurn the townsfolk for Lady Redblade’s bounty. Now you can play Let’s Make a Deal. The heart of Monty’s game came when he started counting off the hundred-dollar bills that he would exchange for whatever prize lay behind door number 3.

For the paladin’s help, the Lady can offer that magic sword he covets. “So armed, imagine the good you could do.” If she offers to send her own men to aid the town, will the party take her job? After closing a deal, what happens when the party learns that the man assigned to rescue the town is corrupt and possibly incompetent? Do you betray the Lady and your word, or do your leave the townsfolk to their uncertain fate?

Let players feel powerful sometimes

Don’t turn every decision into test of the characters’ limits. A few tough choices add to the game, but people also play to feel powerful enough to sweep away trouble with an stroke of the blade and a fireball. Read the mood of your players.

Still, even if you work to put players in dilemmas, hard choices can be hard to create. That’s what makes them so delicious.

Related: Strong Moral Dilemmas in D&D and the Unwanted Kind that Keeps Appearing
Dungeons Masters Can Make Fake Choices for Players, But Should You?

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Some Stray OSR Sword & Sorcery Thoughts on - The Bundle of Holding Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea rpg

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 03/23/2021 - 06:21
 So its Saint Jude's & its kids so its pretty much an automatic purchase  for me as a DM from New England right?! Yes I own all of the pdf's already & yes there's been quite a fewAstonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea  game sessions that have been run over the years at my table top its Saint Jude's so into the cart this goes.  So is AS&SH still worth getting after all this time?! Even Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

'The Harvest Begins' - Elves, Stormbringer, & The OSR God Cycles

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 03/22/2021 - 18:52
 Sometimes one has to wait for a Kickstarter to end then wait a month for the supplement to get published to really access the full weight of its impact on the market place. Not so with the classics & in this case Frank Mentzer's Immortals box set has been playing with my mind. And here's the line that's been doing it;"The Player's Guide to Immortals lays out the basic information needed to Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

[BLOG] Great Tables of D&D History

Beyond Fomalhaut - Mon, 03/22/2021 - 14:10

...very pleased to meet youThe random element in D&D gameplay is one of the great, underappreciated design features of role-playing games. We rarely question its presence, and only notice it when it is absent from a particularly contrarian ruleset. Things could have gone differently: if RPGs had emerged from experimental theatre, randomness would presumably play a much lesser, even marginal role. But random chance in game, character generation, and game prep, is at the heart of the role-playing experience, responsible for a lot of its variety and unpredictability. “Roll a saving throw against poison” is one of the tense moments in any adventure – for a moment, the whole world stops as the fate of adventurers hangs in the balance, and great things are decided by the roll of a 20-sider.
Random and semi-random methods have added a curious layer of chance to running the game as well. The GM runs the game, but even with a pre-written adventure, he does not know exactly what game he will be running. What if the players blow a few crucial rolls and they cannot get through a particular locked door? What if the bad guys roll terribly, and a dangerous foe goes down in a few rounds of desperate melee? What if a random encounter is taken as a major clue, derailing the course of the campaign? These factors, even beyond player decisions, make sure we are kept guessing – and hopefully at the edge of the seat.
And of course, random generation is useful in preparing adventures, from the general framework to the room- or encounter-level descriptions. Random tables – used intelligently – take our mind where it would not go without prodding. What the computer people call “procedural generation” can determine a lot of incidental detail in a lot of CRPGs beyond the basic RNG – going all the way to the construction of random landscapes and political systems. But computers have not been given an imagination yet: they work fast, but they can only regurgitate and combine; they cannot truly create and interpret. And so, tabletop gaming’s random tables remain wedded to a combination of random rolls and the human personality. Your take on “ruined tower, giant snails, archives” will be different from mine, and from one random “seed”, we would build radically different worlds.
Of course, not all tables are created equal. We may try a lot, but we will gravitate to a few which are particularly useful.Some are plain better, more useful than others. This is why I present here my personal list of favourites, all of which I have used extensively due to their usefulness and longevity. No distinction is made here on the basis of age, nor official or unofficial status: tables are a meritocracy. However, there is no order to the choices in this final selection: all are great in their own way, and to rank them further would not be useful. So!
* * *
The Concept Generator: The Locations (Overview) Table (Tome of Adventure Design)

It would take long to sing the praises of the great ToAD, this modern classic of utility products, so let it suffice that its over 300 pages of tables is an inexhaustible mine of what the author, Matt Finch calls “deep creativity” – half-formed idea fragments which emerge into full-blown game material. Like Charles Foster Kane’s Xanadu, its treasures are endless. Someone in the middle, there is a four-page 1d100 table for the generation of random thrones. There is enough in that table alone to create and stock The Dungeon of Thrones, if you wanted to. That’s the kind of book the ToAD is. But there, among the tables for “complex architectural tricks”, “corpse malformations”, “religious processions and ceremonies”, and “mist creatures” – which I am sometimes using – there are some that come up all the time (such as a table collection for generating individual-, item-, location-, and event-based missions), and one that is beyond useful. And this is actually the first table in the book: the “Locations (Overview)” table.

The Locations Overview Table

This is a four-column 1d100 table to create basic concepts for major locations (there is one for dungeon complexes, dungeon rooms, and strange features, of course – the book scales down nicely). It could work as a module title generator, of the “Adjective Noun of the Adjective Noun” variety. I have been using this particular table since its original appearance in Mythmere's Adventure Design Deskbook, vol. 1., and found it a great companion for coming up with the initial building block of future adventures, or just interesting places to scatter in a campaign world. Consider these examples:
  • Moaning Chapterhouse of the Bat-Sorcerer
  • Collapsing Edifice of the Many-Legged Burrower
  • Dilapidated Castle of the Bitter Apparition
  • Aerial Cliffs of the Hyena-Keeper
I am not saying every one of these results does something for me right now, but three or four rolls almost always provide a basic framework to build on. I can imagine the Moaning Chapterhouse of the Bat-Sorcerer as a place in a campaign inspired by Clark Ashton Smith’s Hyperborea stories, and the Dilapidated Castle as a locale in a chivalric high fantasy/fairy tale setting. The other two, as the average result tends to be, is weird fantasy; the Aerial Cliffs are great, while the Collapsing Edifice just gives me “centipede monster lair”, and that’s not much added value. The other three, I could use. Sometimes, I take a folded paper sheet, and fill one page with random idea seeds that seem to fit my current mood, then build an adventure around them (The Singing Cavernsfrom Echoes #01 was partially built with this method).
Of course, there is something about this table I have not noted yet: it is not just one table. It is followed by another identical d100 table with different keywords (Sinister Grotto of the Howling Wolves… OK, this is not much – but how about Fossilised Pagoda of the Mist-Pirates, the greatest wuxia OSR adventure never written?), and a two-column table that uses the “purpose approach” for truly weird but sometimes quite cool results (Skin Altar, Time-Well, Spider Separator [?], Perfume Pools [that’s a winner]). That’s a lot of stuff to work with. You could fill a mini-setting with adventures based solely on these tables, because why not.
* * *
Muddle's Generator

The Wilderness Workhorse: Muddle’s Wilderness Location Generator

Yes, this is an internet tool, and you can try it for free, so go ahead. The ToAD, exhausting as it is, is not much focused on wilderness play, and its tables in this section are cool but just not as varied as the dungeon chapter. Muddle’s wilderness table is a good alternative. It combines nouns and adjectives into a list of 50 locations for your wilderness adventure. A lot of these results will be irrelevant to your current project, but you can check these and delete them, then replace them with a new batch of entries, repeat until you have the precise 50-entry roster you need. Here are the first few from the selection I got this time:

  • Deep Hills of the Elder Piller (sic)
  • Mausoleum of Adamantite Drows
  • Dreary Treasury
  • Inner Tomb
  • Skeletonelder Hole
  • Slimefist Tower

A lot need to be weeded out (I have developed a soft spot for Awful Peak, it is staying), and the vocabulary is much more limited than Mythmere’s thesaury(Sorry! Sorry!), but it is quick, cheap, and often does its job. You can use it to build. Deep Hills of the Elder Pillar sounds like the place where people possess a lot of good ol’ folksy wisdom, much of it involving goat sacrifice and non-euclidean things, Dreary Treasury is a place offering an interesting internal contradiction, and Inner Tomb either lies deeper in the wilderness, or it is a tomb with a hidden sub-section. And we have a cultist hideout at the end, I believe.

But that’s not all! Muddle’s set also has a dungeon room generator that’s almost as decent,  and you can force it to select by theme. The other tools are less useful, although the deity generator might make Petty Gods a run for its money (Grundermir Ratvoid, Dread Fiend of Bad Breath; Malumdrim Biscuitfinger, Queen of Ants; Asheeltrym Grumblespoons, Lord of Bannanas (sic); Mulelroun, Godess of Apples; and Grelderthul the Beautiful, Queen of Aggression is certainly a pantheon).

* * *

The Implied Setting: Outdoor Random Monster Encounter Tables (AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide)

In the book that has everything, everyone will find something. Gary’s magnum opus is less methodical guidebook than an occult tome that teaches you, the fledgling DUNGEON MASTER, that horizons are infinite, and the true scope of the reaches far beyond a few narrow possibilities. Last evening, we looked up its advice on underwater combat after two characters fell into a deep pool inhabited by a water spider, and I am sure the “how much damage will I take in my armour type if I transform into a specific lycanthrope type” table has been useful to someone, somewhere – at least once in history.

When the DMG’s readers are asked which is the most important section in there, the teenage munchkin will say “Of course it is the magic items table! Here, have a vorpal mace and two Wands of Orcus!”. The journeyman will point to the dungeon dressing appendix – it is useful indeed – and the old-schooler will at once point to Appendix N for its listing of AD&D’s thematic roots, which we all know is better than the stupid dreck everyone else is reading. The connoisseur of obscure gems will note the “Abbreviated Monster Manual” from Appendix E. Bad people who need to be put on a watchlist will cite “the Zowie Slot Variant”. These are not bad answers, but for my pick, I would go with Appendix C, AD&D’s outdoor encounter system.

You encounter 2d6 Catoblepas

Random dungeon dressing and treasure tables help you fill your rooms, and Appendix N will help you develop a refined taste in genre literature; Appendix C gives you the most practical tool for AD&D’s implied frontier setting. We can appreciate the points of light concept because it gives us our points of light in the practical sense – not as aesthetic, but also as practical procedure. Random encounters, particularly when also used to populate wilderness areas, as in a hex-crawl, give you the gameplay texture to make expeditions in the outdoors varied, fun, and very hazardous. That is, they give you the everyday reality of travelling between two points on the landscape. Here is an expedition of six encounters moving between two cities separated by plains, then hills, a stretch of forest, more hills, marsh, then plains again, assuming one encounter occurring on each stretch:

  • Plains: Men, nomads (150), with 13 levelled Fighters between 3rd and 6th level, a 8th level Fighter leader with a 6thlevel subcommander, 12 guards of 2nd level, plus two lesser Clerics and a lesser Magic-User. Assuming the nomads do not force you back in town, or just take you as captives, we can move on to…
  • Hills: Elves (140), with 10 levelled Fighters of 2nd or 3rdlevel, 3 Magic-Users of 1st or 2nd level, and 4 multi-classed elves (4/5 level, plus a 4/8 leader). Let us not consider the giant eagles in their lair – the elves are bros, anyway. We share lembas and move on.
  • Forest: 2 Giant weasels, which are 3 HD creatures. Luck was with us, unless the encounter occurs by surprise, since giant weasels suck blood at a rate of 2d6 Hp/round. They have no treasure, but their pelts are worth 1d6*1000 gp, each enough to hire 100 porters for 10 to 60 months of work, or an army of 50 heavy footmen for the same time span!
  • Hills again: 16 Wolves, the basic unit of fantasy wildlife. They are 75% to be hungry when you meet them. Of course, they are hungry this time, too.
  • Marsh: this is a great place to meet a beholder, catoblepas, or other high-level monsters, but instead, we get Men, pilgrims (60), 9 Clerics of 2ndto 6th level, and a 8th level Cleric with a 3rdto 5th level assistant. There is 60% of 1d10 Fighters (random level, 1st to 8th), and 30% for a Magic-User of 6thto 9th level, but they are not here right now. Still, these badasses are travelling in the world’s most dangerous terrain type except mountains. Don’t screw with.
  • Plains again: 1 Huge spider, which is a good roll on 1d12, and fortunately, it is not the calf-sized 4+4 HD type, but the dog-sized 2+2 HD type. The only downside is that they surprise 5:6, which is a bad value, considering their poison is deadly.

Just a random encounter, bro!

After this trip, you start to appreciate those sexy harlot encounters in the city (and hope if it comes to worse, it is 8th to 11th level Thieves out for your purse, and not a Weretiger or a Goodwife out for your blood), and you start understanding why those points of light remain points, not larger blots, or why those pilgrims travel in groups of 10-100. It also puts your mind into a different frame than level-balanced games with random monsters numbering in the 1d4 or 1d8 range. You can’t fight all those roving death armies, and besides, it does not pay (weasel pelts excepting). You learn to scout, you learn to run, you learn to leave behind food to distract your pursuers (this scales up from rations to pack animals and fellow adventurers – as the great Grey Fox once shouted back to a companion stuck in a bad situation, “What ‘party’? The party is already over here!”), bribes of gold or good, old-fashioned bullshitting to tip over that reaction roll. You learn to grovel before that dragon, planning future revenge. You learn to plan an ambush to plunder that lair you just discovered, and carry away the best valuables. Welcome to the AD&D World Milieu!

* * * 

The Chad Sword & Sorcery Milieu: Ravaged Ruins (Wilderlands of High Fantasy / Ready Ref Sheets)

Wilderlands of Highly AwesomeSo you got to know Appendix C, and suddenly gained a new understanding of AD&D. You are on a different level. Here is where it gets stranger. From the OD&D era, Judges Guild’s Wilderlands setting presents a truly bottom-up sandbox setting of minimal detail and high weirdness – recognisably D&D fantasy, but more “Appendix N” and Frazetta than the comparative classicism of Greyhawkor Steading of the Hill Giant Chief. The “High” in Wilderlands of High Fantasy might stand for something else than “Tolkienesque” here, even though the setting also has a generous helping of Tolkien pastiche – right next to old-school Star Trek, classical mythology, pulp fantasy, and Dark Ages Europe/Near East mini-kingdoms. It is just general fantasy enough to kick you out of your comfort zone when it turns out the Invincible Overlord has captured a stray MIG fighter, or that the dungeons under Thunderhold, castle of the Dwarf King have half-buried railway tracks and a gateway to Venus on their fourth level. The described Wilderlands is filled with odd, short idea fragments and juxtapositions, a few throwaway lines like

  • “Villagers charged with a centuries old oath to the ‘King of the Lost-Lands’, maintain an eternal bonfire atop a crag to warn ships off the hidden reef.”
  • “In a well hidden crypt is a ring of Brathecol, one of the kings of old Altantis. (sic –  ‘Altanis’ vs. ‘Atlantis’ is one of the strange ambiguities of the setting)) A stone golem is  guardian of the crypt which appears as a monolithic block of limestone.”
  • “The crystallized skeleton of a dragon turtle is buried on the sandy beach. The skull houses a giant leech.”

However, there is also a procedural Wilderlands that lives in its weirdo random tables and guidelines, which were collected in the supremely fun Ready Ref Sheets, Volume I (no second volume was released, but the first one is a great look into OD&D, and remarkably easy to obtain). Here you can find rudimentary rules for taxation, trade and mining – but the most useful table is the self-explanatory Ravaged Ruins. This table generates wilderness locations to scatter across your hex maps, and let your players wonder about the fallen glories of past ages – something that already establishes one of the major themes of the Wilderlands. The table is relatively small, a simple two-pager with results drawn from archaeology... at least at first glance. It generates a basic ruin type, with nested sub-tables to determine the specific subtype – there are not that many results, but the number of combinations is at least decent. Supplemental columns also establish the condition of the ruins, their covering (definitely archaeological in sensibilities), state, and the monsters guarding the ruin. And it gets weird, as seen in these six rolls:

  • Statued fountain, found in a large crater, covered with vines, crumbled and decayed, protected by lycanthropes.
  • Bones, above ground and covered with slime, partially operational, no guardians. (What does partially operational mean in the case of a bone pile? Mediocre Judges will frown and reroll. Superior Judges will find an explanation. Perhaps this is a bone mine of extinct creatures, still excavated by locals as trade goods or building material? What of the slimes?)
  • Sea-horse carriage, partially sunken and buried in a thicket, dangerous operational, protected by insects.
  • Periscope inside cavern, covered in rocks, collapsed and tumbled, mechanical guardians. (Wait a minute! We are not in Middle Earth anymore, Bilbo!)
  • Man o’ War inside cavern, dangerous operational, protected by trap. (It has to be a fairly big cavern for that… and what if we roll it for a place far, far from a sea coast?)
  • Asphault (sic) road, partially covered in thickets, corroded & eroded, protected by giant types. (So this setting has old, overgrown, eroded asphalt roads.)

Ravaged Ruins


Something, even a random detail, becomes a theme through repetition and exploration: and this is the Wilderlands’: picking through the remnants of older ages, part Dark Ages, part Classical Antiquity, part fallen star-faring civilisation. Antigrav sleds, nuclear submarines and re-entry capsules lie wrecked in ancient ruins guarded by dragons and mechanical guardians next to crystallised skeletons and eroded old idols; the grand works of past cultures lie abandoned in dusty deserts and frozen tundra. There are rat chariots pyramidal palaces. What is this place? In a compact, two-page table, Wilderlands of High Fantasy speaks louder, and in a more game-relevant way, than a full supplement. Yes, this table can be exhausted through use, but by that time, you get the Wilderlands.
* * *
The Panic Button: The Table of Despair (Original D&D Discussion / Fight On!)

Not every great table is enormous, and this one is just a throwaway forum post by korgoth. However, The Table of Despair is a great gameplay innovation, and a high achievement of old-school design. It becomes useful when the characters don’t get the hell out of Dodge before the curtain falls; when someone is separated from the main party for longer than healthy, or when someone flees in blind panic. You roll on the table and weep, mortal. Those are not great odds – in fact, they are downright crummy odds – but this is Jakkalá, and they may in fact be the best odds you can get. All that for a fistful of káitars!

The Table of Dessssspair!

Aside from its chuckling evil glee, the table communicates the danger of the Underworld very clearly. The results are appropriate, and should be pronounced in a booming, hollow voice. It is not applicable to every campaign, and it is a bit repetitive, but it is a work of simple genius. I have included a milder variant in Castle Xyntillan (“The Table of Terror”), which is derived from Helvéczia’s “Through Branch and Bush”, but all of these trace their lineage back to korgoth’s now classic post.

* * * 

The Carousing Table

The Equation Changer: Party Like it’s 999 (Jeff’s Gameblog)

Curiously, very little of the definitive old-school gaming blog has seen print; Jeff Rients just wrote tons of material he gave away for free. And 2008 was a great year, even by the Gameblog’s standards. These carousing guidelinesare not radically new, since they build on older principles which go right back to Orgies, Inc. (The Dragon, 1977) and even Dave Arneson’s First Fantasy Campaign (Judges Guild, 1977), already in vogue by 2006-2007. But Jeff’s take is the iconic, recognised version; he was not there the earliest, but he was there the mostest. It is simple: at the start of every session, you can just throw away a bunch of gold pieces in wild parties, and earn the same amount in experience points. There is, also, a random table to add risk and complication to the downtime activity. The party may have just been looking for some good fun and easy XP, but a few bad rolls later...

  • Brother Otto wakes up with the hangover from hell, cramping his spellcasting.
  • Nick the Knife accidentally burned down the inn, and everyone in town knows.
  • Sir Wullam wakes up and finds himself with the symbol of the Brotherhood of the Purple Tentacle tattooed on his... oh no! Oh nooooooo!
  • Sorceric has a minor misunderstanding with the guards, and is hauled in for six days in the lockup.
The adventure has not even started yet... or has it just started?

At least this inn is not on fire, RIGHT, Nick?

The carousing rule inverts D&D’s core equation, the 1 gp = 1 XP rule. Here, you do not gain XP for treasure you find, you gain XP for treasure you spend. AD&D’s model – which, mind you, works great, although for different reasons – hoovers up excess gold from the campaign through training costs (most of my current Hoard of Delusion party is stuck at their current level, having the XP but not the gp for training), and introduces the strategic dilemma – do we spend it on advancement or other useful stuff? It is also quintessentially 80s action movie – our hero, experiencing hardship, goes to the gym or the old karate master to bulk up for the tougher challenges coming his way. The inverted model removes money through living it up through excessive partying. OD&D’s upkeep rule is a predecessor (1% of your current XP total per arbitrary time period), but Jeff’s carousing table turns it into a mini-game and a source of new mini-adventures. You can also see Ffahrd, the Grey Mouser or Conan doing this, more than them learning new moves under the watch of a wise old instructor. Of course, it is just a table of 20 entries, with a comical aesthetic. But it is a hell of a beginning. I have my own 64-result downtime complications table from the Helvéczia RPG: here are four results for late 17th century picaresque adventures:

  • One of Father Gérome Gantin’s noted enemies has vanished from town, and everyone is eyeing him suspiciously.
  • Bettina von Vilingen, the noted scoundrel, finds herself the elected mayor of a tiny podunk village.
  • Sebastiano Gianini, Bettina’s partner in crime, has indulged in sins better left unmentioned, and loses 3 Virtue.
  • Domenico Pessi, retired mercenary, survives a close encounter with Death, but to correct the mistake, the Grim Reaper is once more on Domenico’s trail...

* * *

The Dipper: The Monster Determination and Level of Monster Matrix (OD&D vol. 3)

For our final table, let us return to the roots: OD&D’s random monster chart. OD&D has often been called badly designed (and until its mid-2000s revival, it was mostly considered a historical footnote), but what it is is badly written, and barely if at all explained. The design itself, taken at face value instead of handwaved or second-guessed, is surprisingly tight – blow the dust off of the covers, and you find yourself something that hangs together quite well as a game. We have already mentioned AD&D’s wilderness encounter charts – here is a simple, elegant and universal matrix for running expeditions into the Mythic Underworld.

The Dipper

The matrix cross-references level depth – the basic measure of zone difficulty – with a 1d6 roll to select a random chart, followed by a roll on the chart itself. It is trivial, but it is quite different from modern random charts, which usually go for weighted results for every level. The matrix mixes up the results by occasionally introducing lower-level (more powerful) monster types to the first dungeon levels, or hordes of low-level types for the depths below. Dangerous monsters travel up from the depths, and weaker creatures band together to establish strongholds and outposts in the deeper reaches. Consider the following expedition, going down to Level 3 and back, with two encounters on the average each level (it is not stated, but usually implied that the number of creatures appearing will be worth one dice per baseline, adjusted upwards and downwards):

  • LVL 1: 6 Kobolds (LVL 1)
  • LVL 1: 3 Lizards (LVL 2)
  • LVL 2: 1 Hero (LVL 3, a 4th level Fighting Man)
  • LVL 2: 1 Manticore (LVL 5 – ooops!)
  • LVL 3: 2 Superheroes (LVL 5, 8th level Fighting Men)
  • LVL 3: 9 Gnolls (LVL 2)
  • LVL 2: 2 Ogres (LVL 4)
  • LVL 2: 3 Thaumaturgists (LVL 3, 5th level Magic-Users)
  • LVL 1: 2 Goblins (LVL 1)
  • LVL 1: 1 Swashbuckler (LVL 3, 5th level Fighting Man)

Although basically meant for on-the-run wandering monsters, this little chart comes into its own during stocking dungeons. Follow the general stocking procedure for rooms along with the room treasure charts on p. 7, and you will soon have something fairly serviceable for a starting effort. It is quick and a lot of fun. Of course, for established monster lairs, I would use a higher “No. Appearing” – perhaps not the 40-400 goblins of the outdoor charts, but at least 1d8*5 for a start – if it’s got treasure, it can defend it. You can also expand the monster listings, or “slot in” alternate subtables while preserving the master matrix. You could have one for mediaeval fantasy, desert tomb-raiding, undercities, or what have you.

The AD&D Matrix

Now, I am not 100% happy with this table – chalk it up to personal preference, or the benefit of hindsight. I do believe it goes too deep. Six levels of difficulty should be enough, for a neat 6×6 matrix. Second, it is weighted towards the more powerful encounters, dredging up deep horrors as soon as you enter Level 3. On Level 2, you are more likely to encounter Level 3 monsters (Wights, 4th and 5th level NPCs and Giant Snakes) than Level 2-ones; on Level 3, you will regularly meet Mummies, Wyverns, Hydrae and Balrogs. On the other hand, fun low-strength critters are phased out too soon – Orc, Skeletons, Bandits and the like disappear after Level 2. That is too steep for a good difficulty curve. In our LBB-only, reasonable by-the-book Morthimion campaign, I have adjusted things by using the Level 1 charts for the first two levels, Level 2 for the second two, and so on: that was more than enough for a modern OD&D game (i.e. one played casually, not obsessively every day, every week, as people would do in the 1970s). I also tended to bump treasure values up by one row for largely the same reasons.

E..excuse me, is this Level Two? I thought this was Level Two

All that said, the OD&D monster table is an excellent example of compact, elegant design. With a few alterations – cut it down to 6 levels, rebalance a little, increase encounter numbers for some monsters – it would be powerful even in our day and time. I would adjust it just slightly, but keep the “dipper” aspect. AD&D’s equivalent dungeon encounter chart (Appendix C) is certainly more balanced, but missing some of the cool chaos introduced by its predecessor. It is weighted a bit too much towards “slog” instead of “swing”. Somewhere between the two, I believe we could find the perfect monster encounter chart.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Incandescent Grottos, Dungeons and Dragons adventure review

Ten Foot Pole - Mon, 03/22/2021 - 11:33
By Gavin Norman Necrotic Gnome OSE/BX Levels 1-2

A bubbling stream cascades into a hole in the earth, leading to a series of underground watercourses and scintillating grottoes. Adventurers who delve within may discover odd mosses and fungi, a ruined temple complex, and the lair of a crystal-eating dream dragon.

This 56 page adventure features a two level dungeon with about sixty rooms. Multiple factions and lair areas combine with some weirdo dungeon stuff (in the more traditional definition of weirdo dungeon stuff) to crate an excellent example of The Dungeon As A Weird Place To Go Down In To. A more sensible Operation Unfathomable, or something similar to the The Upper Caves in Fight On. The classic OD&D dungeon.

There’s an airy forest glade, wide and clear. A dream like atmosphere, where time seems to dawdle and a cheery stream running through the glade, bubbling over rocks. There’s a hole in the ground. The stream flows in to it, all misty waterfall style. There’s a pool at the bottom. There’s a rough cut set of stone steps going from the surface down to the pool. 

That, gentle readers, is a classic dungeon entrance. You get this idyllic little scene, with hints of otherworldliness, like the waterfall mist and the dawdling time. And then, the hole, with rough steps leading down. THE MYTHIC UNDERWORLD AWAITS. You know, as a player, that shit is about to get weird. Your heart beats a little faster. This is the waiting line to the ride at a Disney park. It sets you up for the experience to come. It’s done GREAT in this.

The map is a series of zones, on two levels. Different factions live in each zone. There’s some VTT maps, for this day and age. [As an aside, while I don’t VTT, I do appreciate it. It’s a recognition that a substantial number of people DO vtt, and they need/want a map suitable for the fog of war feature.] The map is clear, easy to read, has great details on it to help fire the DMs imagination. It’s keyed easily, has an underground river (!!! Always a staple of beginning dungeon!) Monsters are noted on the map. I like it. Glynn Seal is doing great work. I don’t know how the fuck they are pulling of the writing matching the cartography so well, but its working for me.

There’s a fine summary up front, a loot summary, a summary of the factions and what they think of each other. Wanderers doing something without them falling in to the gonzo end of the pool. The rooms use a boiled keyword format, with section heading following up on it. I think it works well, as I’ve said in the past. I might quibble with the monsters not being in the initial description but rather in large sections later on, but, maybe I just need to get used to it. There are extensive cross-references, so if the key says the monsters are heading toward the BLACK TOMB then it also tells you (#44) so you know where the fuck to have them going without having to dig for it. The rooms also have notes like what you can hear down a corridor to the next room, and so on. Nice. These sorts of details are present throughout, giving the DM exactly what they need to run it. 

A quick shout out to some of the art. The trogs herein are depicted as tall thin pot-bellied Gollum-types in hot pink. Reminiscent, in a good way, of the Kuo-toa. Other art has style that is reminiscent of … Adventure Time? I don’t know. I don’t know art. I probably just insulted someone. Anyway, it all fits in well with the MYTHIC WEIRDO (but not so weirdo as Operation Unfathomable) UNDERWORLD vibe. And, for the record, I fucking love OU.

There’s a degree of detail present in the rooms which is quite interesting. They are loaded with things to poke, prod, look at, touch, and interact with. Some of it is the classic interactivity that I’m looking for in an adventure (statues to twist, buttons to push, as the platonic examples) but others is just things to look under, in, read, and so on. The rooms are fucking loaded. A crystal grotto (lets fuck with/mine crystals!). Some of which are 2’ long, grey andkeening gently (weee special crystals to fuck with!) A sandy floor (eeek, whats under it!) with glowing purple moss BLANKETING the walls (note the word choice, blanketing, to evoke the imagery in the DM), a carved archway to the east of imposing stone (carvings? Of what?!) and a heavy stone fallen door to the west (with writing underneath it!) A spy fucking hole in the wall, with a metal grate. That is also crawling with bugs, spiders and centipedes. Oh, and then also the room has kobolds doing some shit. Like, what the fuck man, it’s like a magical fucking wonderland for the party! Even shitty book treasure like +! Arrows get a little detail, like “iridescent feather fletching”. Sweet! See, not hard at all to spice things up!

The rooms might be getting a bit long, but, whatever. THIS is what I want the baseline of our hobby to be. The fucking formatting and ease of use issues are essentially taken care of. The writing is evocative enough to be good. This then allows for concentration on the interactivity, the plot and that most elusive of all things, THE DESIGN. This should be the minimum acceptable baseline for our hobby.  Yeah, it’s pretty transparently the shit I continually harp about that they solved. And?

GnWell, Gnthe Gnomes Gnhave Gntheir Gnshit Gndown Gnpat Gnby Gnnow Gnit Gnseems. GnThree Gnreleases Gnand Gnall Gnthree Gnfiring Gnon Gnall Gncylinders. GnDare Gnit Gnbe Gnsaid Gnthat Gnthe GnUG Gnis Gna Gnpublisher Gnto Gnbe Gnrelied Gnupon? 

It’s $7.50 at DriveThru. The preview is nine pages long. You get to see several rooms, so you know what kind of encounters and writing and formatting to expect. Great preview.


https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/348878/The-Incandescent-Grottoes?1892600

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Sentinel Comics RPG Session 1: "Itsy Bitsy Spiderbots"

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 03/22/2021 - 11:00

Roll Call:

Action Jack: Man of Action--Man Out of Time!
Fibbit: Manic Pixie Extradimensional Dream Girl!
Infranaut: IR-Powered Celebrity Hero!
Il Masso: The Rock-Solid Hero of Little Italy!
Space Racer: Cosmic Speedster!

Supporting Characters: Zauber the Magnificent (flashback only)

Villains: Spiderbots (first appearance)

Synopsis: Individually, enjoying a day in Empire Park, our heroes are startled by an attacked of spider-shaped robots emerging from the sewers, which seem to be particularly targeting them. Our heroes destroy the robots, and join forces. During the melee, Fibbit catches gets images of a peculiar industrial building and a man dressed as a magician, who ages before her eyes. Space Racer had a flashback to a vague memory of a dead world, somehow displaced in time.

Action Jack recognizes Fibbit magician as Zauber the Magnificent, a magician and crime fighter from the war years.

Fibbit also warns the others that she also sensed a malevolent force in the direction of the spiderbots' origin--and it seemed to sense her back!

Again, The Giants! Collated

Sorcerer's Skull - Sun, 03/21/2021 - 14:30

Art by Jason Sholtis
Back in 2017, I did a series posts doing adventure sketches re-imaging Against the Giants. Here's the complete list:

Wedding of the Hill Giant Chief

Sanctum of the Stone Giant Space God

Glacial Gallery of the Frost Giant Artist

Small Islands of Wonder, Society and Magic Part II

Bat in the Attic - Sun, 03/21/2021 - 14:20

Part I

In my previous post I discussed the status of magic at the beginning of history within my setting, the Majestic Fantasy Realms. Here I will discuss the aftermath of the Dawn War and how it gave rise to the first great era of magic. 

Prior to the Dawn War all magic was arcane and ritual based. The gods were known as the Lords of Creation and functioned as guides, teachers and coaches rather than as a source of divine mystery. Their roles were to prepare the two races, humans and elves, for the roles they were to play in the newly created world. 

As recounted in the last post, the demons were imprisoned in the Abyss with the chromatic crystals and as a result magic in a concentrated form was cycled throughout the world. Providing a source of energy to cast spells within seconds instead of minutes.

Faith, Signs and Portents.

The Lords of Creations decided that their close presence to the mortal races was one of the primary causes for the rise of the Demons. After the Abyss was sealed, they withdrew from the world and only interacted with those who followed their philosophies. Communicating through signs and portents, they sought to teach through faith instead of direct instruction. In doing this they changed from being the Lords of Creation into gods with religion and faiths.

Their clerics became the first true spellcasters in the world. Those who developed or had the strong faith found they had power as well. They were given divine insight to use the new sources of magical power coursing throughout the world. Through meditation and prayer they could memorize specific spells. Developing the forms in their mind. Then while casting filling the forms with magical energy and finally releasing the form and energy as a spell. As the cleric became more experience their divine insight developed to allow them to cast more potent spells. 

However, power had a price, and that price was belief and faith. Belief in what they were taught and faith that it was right and real and not madness or the whisper of demons rising from the Abyss. Without faith and belief, there was no divine insight, without divine insight the ability to cast spell within seconds disappeared.

As religions developed and took hold, the Cleric became the dominate spellcaster overshadowing the old arcane ritual casters. A major contributing factor was the Shield of Faith, which made Clerics invulnerable against spells and rituals cast without a god's divine insight unless the spell manifested something in the physical world like fire, ice, stone, or lightning. In many cultures the ways of the old ritual based arcane spellcasting was lost. Except for one group, the Elves and their allies.

The Elves and Wizardry

Within a few generations only the elves preserved any memory of the time before the Dawn War. Like other cultures, the god also only spoke to the elves in signs and portents. But among the elves and their allies it did not developed into a full blown religion but into various philosophies one committed their lives too. Those who committed to one of the divine philosophies also received the divine insight to learn and cast spells within seconds. 

But because elves still remembered, they and their allies also still practiced and more important continue to develop the old arcane rituals. They learned how to cast rituals with divine insight separate from the forms they created in their mind with their daily meditations and prayers. They could cast divine rituals without a having to write them into ritual book.

And the elves and their allies developed a way to casting arcane spells within seconds called wizardry. Through a complex series of meditations, rituals, and study, Wizards could internalize spell forms to fill with energy to cast at a moment’s notice. However, it took practice and further study to be able to do their more than once a day and with more potent spells. Even then the Wizard were very limited in how many spells that could be internalize and the process of internalizing a form took years even decades. An issue that wasn’t present with divine insight. 

Wizardry did not spread far beyond the elves and cultures allied with the elves for two reasons, the laborious study involved which was fine for immortal elves but took up much of a human’s lifetime. The second and more tragic, was that many rejected interaction with the elves and their allies when elves began to contact others cultures again a thousand years after the Dawn War. The worldview of the elves and their allies was seen as godless to cultures dominated by religion. 

Hedge Mages and Arcanists

Magic in concentrated form flowed through everyday life. It would manifest in physical objects known as viz only to dissipate at dawn the next day. Creatures, some known as monsters, developed ways of harnessing magical energies to better survive. Outside of the elves, religion and the clerics were dominate but over the centuries people both within a faith and outside were continually rediscovering arcane magic and ritual spellcasting. Most times it was a curiosity and limited to a few weak rituals. In some cultures an underground tradition of Hedge Mages developed who lived on the fringes of society and passed down hard won rituals from master to apprentice over generation. Mostly making a living by brewing potions and elixirs for the few who found them. When the culture’s religion found out about them the reaction was nearly always negative and many died after being called heretics and apostates. 

Some religions allowed orders of arcanists to develop and catalog arcane rituals under the strict supervision of the religious hierarchy. Arcanists were rarely a separate order but instead a specialty among scribes, librarians, and record-keeper. 

The Dawn of the Magic User

As the centuries rolled on and history unfolded, chance and circumstance allowed cracks to form in the dominance of magic by clerics. In the next post I will conclude this series by talking about the events that lead to the rise of the magic-user.

The MechanicsFor Swords and Wizardry the cleric is as written. I have a few additional wrinkles like the Shield of Faith which acts as a form of limited magic resistance in the Majestic Fantasy RPG. 
Viz is the same as spelled out in the Basic Rules for the Majestic Wilderlands RPG. One viz allows the cast to cast a 1st level spells without losing it from memory or using a spell slot (if a wizard, see below). It also reduces the cost of creating a magic item. But a spellcaster can only keep so much viz intact without it dissipating at dawn. Generally equal to half their level rounded down plus their intelligence or wisdom bonus.
The Wizards works similarly to the D20 Sorcerer where the spellcasters do not have to memorize spells but instead learn spells known and cast them any way they want until their spell slots are used up for the day.
For Swords and Wizardry I went with the following table instead the one with the D20. They can cast arcane rituals with a spell level equal to 1/2 the high level spell they can case (rounded down). So Wizard can begin to cast first level arcane rituals at 3rd level when they learn how to learn and cast 2nd level spells. 
Spells Per Day
Spell Known


Part 3
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

'The Consequences Of Gods & A Sword' - Elves, Stormbringer, & The OSR God Myths

Swords & Stitchery - Sat, 03/20/2021 - 18:42
 "Ever wonder what happens to powerful heroes after their adventures legendary, and they have passed in to the realms beyond? Now you can find out with the D&D Immortals Set.The Player's Guide to Immortals lays out the basic information needed to convert you mortal player characters to Immortal status. It also explains new game mechanics, as are many aspects of the character's new existence"Its Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

OSR RPG's On The Brain - Through Sunken Lands and Other Adventures Rpg By John Cocking, & Peter S. Williams From Flatland Games Diving & Digging Down Further

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 03/19/2021 - 20:02
 "Travel with us through sunken lands...In the common rooms of the great city’s countless inns, in the bathhouses of the merchant quarter, and before the altars of a thousand gods, brave and desperate adventurers meet and make plans. They leave every day and seek their fortunes in the Sunken Lands"Lots of times, we want to play a roleplaying game but just don’t have the time for all the prep workNeedleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

'And The Cosmos Bore Witness' - Sword & Sorcery OSR Thoughts on 'X4 Master of the Desert Nomads' By David Zeb Cook , Michael Moorcock, Lamentations of the Flame Princess rpg, & More

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 03/19/2021 - 06:04
" To arms! To arms! The battle lines are drawn as desert men and inhuman tribes wait poised to strike on the fertile and rich lands of the east. The call has gone out through the civilized lands. The armies have been raised to match the invading foes from the west. Nobles and peasants have joined swords to greet the foes.But Fate or Chance has decreed another role for a small few. No glorious Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

On Talkin' Crit

Hack & Slash - Thu, 03/18/2021 - 19:05

 Do you want to see me talking 'crit about my job? I'm an incorrigible gossip. Which of my hot takes will get me canceled?


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vZeOP9SZuX0

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/agonarchartist/bestial-ecosystems-created-by-monstrous-inhabitation/posts
Hack & Slash 

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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

OSR Matters - The Origins of Elves, Moorcock, & The Forces Beyond

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 03/18/2021 - 18:31
 Do you really know who or what your PC's are adventuring with?! How well do you really know the Elven race of original Dungeons & Dragons or Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition?! According to Wiki ( that reliable font of knowledge cough, cough) ; The elf is a humanoid race in the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game, one of the primary races available for player characters, and Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

What I Want in A Superhero Rpg

Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 03/18/2021 - 11:00


When it comes to superhero rpgs, I've played and enjoyed a few of them over the years starting with Villains & Vigilantes and going through the Marvel Superheroes Roleplaying Game, DC Heroes rpg, Champions, GURPS Supers, and Mutants & Masterminds. I've owned and read numerous others, including Heroes Unlimited, Wild Talents, Silver Age Sentinels and ICONS. I'm about to give the Sentinel Comics rpg a whirl.

I don't think I've ever found the perfect supers game for me, though. At least, not perfect for what the 2021 version of me wants out of one. These are the things I think I'm looking for:

Low to Medium crunch. I'm not interested in rules heavier games like Champions or GURPS currently. I would suspect medium crunch games would probably give the best balance between covering what needs to be covered, but not doing too much.

Emulates comics. I'm interested in something that supports creating the sort of thing we see in comic books (or superhero film) not "a world with superheroes." Some of my following points sort of flow from this one.

"Every member of the Justice League gets to do something important." Older superhero games, to me, make the mistake of wanting to tailor attributes/power levels to benchmarks, winding up with disparate power levels. Sure, things like Karma/Hero Points address some of this, but in comics it mostly seems that power levels wind up being more about how characters tackle problems than whether they can tackle them. The Fantastic Four beats Dr. Doom, but so does the Punisher (or close enough). They just do it in different ways.


Heroic Normals are viable. Because of the ability score benchmarks, guys like Nick Fury or the Challengers of the Unknown tend to come out pretty samey in abilities because the normal end of the scale gets shortened. A system that gave them more variation would be nice. Of course, if you wanted a campaign of these folks, one could just play a nonsuperhero game, so this perhaps isn't as important to me as other points.

Variable Villains. Ever noticed how villains tend to be tougher or weaker depending on the hero or heroes their dealing with? I suppose it could be argued the heroes change and the villains stay the same, but anyway it might be nice if supers rpgs had mechanics for this difference.

Powers not overly detailed, but not quite freeform. Honestly, I lean toward more of a "just tell me what is does take", but you need to certain mechanics attached to powers to use them in the game, and you also need suggestions for people modeling powers, so for that it seems like completely freeform isn't the way to go. 

Supreme effort. This is one supers games seem to consistently pick up, but it bears repeating. There should be a means of a hero giving it that extra oomph in a dramatic moment.

There's probably something else I'm not thinking of, but that's all I've got now.

'If This Be Our Last Battle Ground' Sword & Sorcery OSR Thoughts On X5: "Temple of Death" (1983), by David "Zeb" Cook, Michael Moorcock, Lamentations of the Flame Princess rpg, & More

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 03/18/2021 - 02:20
 "Sent on a desperate mission into an unknown land, you must seek out one called "the Master" and his Temple of Death. There is little time to waste, as you must act before the Master's armies destroy your homelands. But to complete your task, you must battle fearsome guardians, travel through a hostile kingdom, and discover the secret of the Master. Can you survive his defenses and win?"This is Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Saint Patrick's Day Serpents With The Magicks of Corum & Beyond

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 03/17/2021 - 18:05
 "A New World for StormbringerThe balance between Chaos and Law has tipped. Barbarian hordes sweep across the land while civilization decays in doomed castles. Eldritch beasts terrorize the innocent. Arcane technologies are all but lost and foul Chaotic magic corrupts land and sea alike. In the age to come a cursed Prince will seek his destiny across this dying world. His path will be vengeance, Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

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