Tabletop Gaming Feeds

Collated Gyre

Sorcerer's Skull - Fri, 10/04/2019 - 11:00

Since they don't have a specific tag, I figured I should collate the the Gyre-related posts so far for folks who might have missed any. So here they are, in no particular order:

Ain't No Gods in Gyre
The Silver Metal Face of Gyre
Three Policlubs of Gyre
The Monster Makers of Gyre
The Etherspace of Gyre
The Highway Across the Outlands
The City at the Center, Reprise
The City at the Center

Commentary & Running Arduin's Vault of the Weaver Adventure Collection By Dave Hargrave & co-written with Paul P Mosher

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 10/04/2019 - 03:33
Its been a long time since Vault of the Weaver from Emperors Choice Games and Miniatures Corp  was held in my hands. This collection of adventures is seminial to Dave Hargrave whose work holds such an infamous & yet wonderfully long shadow in old school gaming. So what is Vault of the Weaver?!  Vault of the Weaver  basically collects the infamous & classic modules of the three Arduin rpg Needles
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Whatever Is Not Nailed Down…

Torchbearer RPG - Thu, 10/03/2019 - 15:00
Tiziri by Jordan Worley

Hello friends!

Luke and I have been considering the Thief playtest class we put up years ago now. We’ve made some modifications to the level benefits based on our own playtests. Take a look and let us know what you think!

Human Thief

Born on the streets, thieves were brought into a tough life. Their cradle was the gutter, their bread was the cruelty of strangers and their guardians were brutal guildmasters. Forced to survive amidst the uncaring in the cities and towns, some urchins deem the adventurer’s life to have better odds and at least a small hope of escape from destitution and a life ended on the gallows. They bring cunning, bravado and hard-won skills valuable in any group of scoundrels.

StockHuman ClassThiefAbilitiesDistribute 8 points between Will and Health; neither may be lower than 2 or higher than 6.SkillsCriminal 3, Manipulator 3, Scout 3, Sapper 2, Fighter 2; Plus choice of Criminal +1, Haggler 3, Pathfinder 3, Peasant 3 or Survivalist 3.TraitDevil May CareWeaponsBow, crossbow, dagger, hand axe, swordArmorLeather Devil May Care

Thieves are rakes and libertines. Their swagger and ability to spit in the eye of danger helps them win admirers and keep a steady hand when others would shake in their boots. It can also lead them to take foolish risks to protect their reputations.

Thief Level Benefits Level 1

Thief: You may wear leather armor and cannot use a helmet or shield. You can wield bows, crossbows, daggers, hand axes and swords.

Level 2

Concealed Pocket: The thief has an additional torso inventory slot that can only be used to conceal a small Pack 1 item or small weapon (like a dagger or sling). If someone tries to search the thief, the thief may roll Criminal vs. the attempt to keep the item hidden.

Improvisational: A bit of wire, a sliver of metal, a shard of bone — a thief always has tools available for tests regarding traps, escaping, picking locks and the like. If you already have tools, you may spend a check to improvise supplies (+1D) for the test.

Level 3

Surprise Attack: Add +1s to any Feint action (in addition to any weapon or Might bonuses) when leading or helping with a Feint action in tight, dimly lit or claustrophobic fighting conditions.

Pickpocket: A thief always has a ready source of cash in town — from certain involuntary donations to the purse. Resources is minimum 1 rather than 0. If Resources is 0 in town, advance it to 1 immediately. If Resources is 1 or higher, the thief may make a free Criminal test in town to alleviate one of the residents of some of their extra cash. Success generates 1D of cash. The cost of failure is up to the GM.

Level 4

Good Ear: By listening at a portal, entryway, door or gate, a thief can gain useful information. Make a Scout test with +1D vs. those on the other side to listen. This test does not cost a turn. Success indicates number and type of opponents or odd and distinctive sounds ahead. May be used once per adventure phase.

Fence: When selling loot in the market or stolen goods to the Thieves Guild, test Haggler versus your vendor. This test does not increase your lifestyle. If successful, increase the sale value by +1D of cash. You can conduct these transactions even if the market in town is closed (but not if there’s no market in town at all).

Level 5

Steady Hands: +1D to tests when setting or disarming traps. Once per adventure phase you may check for traps without taking a turn. You may only be helped by other thieves or characters with appropriate Nature descriptors.

Friends in Low Places: +1D to Circles for finding thieves, beggars, criminals and adventurers. In addition, if ever accosted in town by a thief or legbreaker, you may make a Circles test at +1 Ob to determine if you know them and are on good terms. This test does not increase lifestyle.

Level 6

Thief’s Apprentice: You gain an apprentice. The apprentice helps you with your default class skills (Criminal, Manipulator, Scout, Sapper, Fighter). Add +1D to your roll when your apprentice is helping. To help in a conflict, you must assign the apprentice a point of disposition. The apprentice has three available inventory slots and requires a portion of food and water in camp.

Symbological Dilettante: You’ve seen all manner of weird inscriptions. +2D to the Scholar skill to decipher runes, symbols and strange languages. A thief who has learned the Arcanist skill may use it to case from spell scrolls. Increase the obstacle to cast by 1.

Level 7

Leverage: You have dirt on a lot of people. Increase Precedence by one. [Consider this a teaser for something else we’re working on!]

Expert: Increase your rank cap for Criminal, Sapper or Health (choose one) from 6 to 7. You may advance from rank 6 to rank 7 with seven successful and six failed tests.

Level 8

A Life in the Shadows: Suffer no penalty for dim light and only -1s in darkness. You can act in darkness normally (without conflict restrictions) provided you can smell and touch. You still can’t read or use a map in darkness.

Protection: Make a Manipulator test to put a town institution under your “protection.” If successful, the institution will make regular payments (+1D cash when you enter town) or provide services (free of lifestyle cost).

Protection Racket Factors Size of Town+InstitutionBusy Crossroads (1)Popular Establishment like a tavern
or accommodation (1)Bustling Metropolis (2)Weak Guild (1)Religious Bastion (3)Propitiate Temple (2)Remote Village (3)Strong Guild (2)Steading (4)Patron Temple (3)Wizard’s Tower (4)Ruling House (3) Level 9

Heroic Ability: Choose Criminal, Manipulator or Sapper. The chosen skill becomes “heroic.” When rolling this skill 3-6 indicates a success (rather than the standard 4-6).

Transformed: Change one Nature descriptor to climbing, hiding or stealing. You may use the level benefit to replace a lost Nature descriptor.

Level 10

Luck of the Devil: When acting alone or at the forefront of the test for a thief class skill (i.e. you’re the one rolling the dice), you may choose a twist or condition for a failed test. In a group test, you choose which character is hit with the worst condition. Make the choice for twist or condition before the GM describes what the twist would be.

Spider: Once per town phase, you may do one of the following:

  • Assign an institution you control or that is under your protection to the town watch for the duration of your stay.
  • Appoint a friend or enemy to an office in a town institution.
  • Modify a town law with a new restriction (must/must not) or penalty that remains on the town’s ledgers going forward.
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The Etherspace of Gyre

Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 10/03/2019 - 11:00

Gyre, the city at the center of the multiverse, has a ghost. It envelopes the city like an invisible fog or unseen shroud, bunching and gathering in centers of commerce, thinning out in the lonely, post-industrial stretches. In its unfathomable complexity, it is more solid--more real--than the city to which it belongs. It's only ether, but ether is more tangible than ideas, after all.

The ghost is a network arising from the interconnected computers of Gyre. It's a bubble of ethereal space floating in the Astral Manifold, somehow built around the city. Like most things about Gyre's construction, no one remembers at all how it came to be there. Inside this etherspace, the data of Gyre takes on an emergent if abstract form perceivable by human minds, but not constructed by them. It's a memory palace without an architect.

In addition legitimate users, rogues slink through the pale mists, between the bright-edged, corporate data-monoliths with their constellations of vibrating, platonic solid programs, glowing like neon wrapped in fog. In the shadows, they snatch will-o-wisp secrets and pick the fractal locks to chest full of ones and zeroes that become gold in the real Gyre.

The Ethereal Plane proper has no access to Gyre's etherspace, nor do any of the Outer Planes. Officially. There are persistent rumors that hackers based in any number of planes have created backdoors, dug ether tunnels, into etherspace for their own purposes.

Matters of Divinity - The Angels of Original Dungeons & Dragons As Well As Advanced Dungeons & Dragons

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 10/03/2019 - 05:06
Its about ten thirty at night & its after work, I've been doing a lot of thinking tonight about The Dragon magazine. I grew up playing original Dungeons & Dragons as well as  Advanced Dungeons & Dragons during the height of the Satanic Panic. The whole nine yards of my soul being up for grabs,suicide, & the whole cloth gamit  was shrieked on various television programs, religious phampletsNeedles
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Weirdness In The Desert - Cha'alt & Breaking The House Campaign

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 10/02/2019 - 18:31
"The Black Pyramid is like nothing you've ever seen before.  Unique design, purpose, feel, magic items, NPCs, monsters, factions, motives, agendas, strangeness, the works! There's a decent amount of setting detail besides dungeoncrawling - space opera bar, domed city, mutants, weird ass elves, desert pirates, a city ruled by a gargantuan purple demon-worm, and much more!" I've been Needles
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Happy Dave Arneson Day - Campaign Commentary On DA2 Temple of the Frog by Dave Arneson, & David J. Ritchie.

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 10/02/2019 - 16:03
"Green Death... That's what old hands call the Great Dismal Swamp. For centuries, this tangled maze of sluggish watercourses, stagnant ponds, and festering marshes has defended Blackmoor's southwestern frontier. Large armies and smaller parties have disappeared altogether inside its vast, dripping, claustrophobic corridors.Among those who have dropped from sigh in this arboral hell is youngNeedles
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Wednesday Comics: The Joker

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 10/02/2019 - 11:00
A new Bronze Age Book Club podcast is up: The Joker #7.

Listen to "Episode 6: THE JOKER #7" on Spreaker.

If that's not enough Joker for you, then check out The Joker: The Bronze Age Omnibus that collects the entire series this issue is from.

The Story of the Adventurers & the Achaierai For Dave Arneson Game Day 2019

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 10/02/2019 - 00:34
Blackmoor is beset!"On every side the storm clouds gather. To south and east, the Great Empire of Thonia plots to end Blackmoor's independence and reclaim its lost province. To the west, the implacable Afridhi are on the move. To the north, the evil Egg of Coot prepares to cross the thundering sea and once again bring fire and sword into the heart of the small kingdom. Beyond the realm of theNeedles
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More Commentary on Jeff Grub's Manual of the Planes For Advanced Dungeons & Dragons First Edition

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 10/01/2019 - 20:45
"...from Arcadia to Pandemonium, from the plane of elemental Fire to the Astral plane, vast new worlds of adventure are now open to players." A vital source book for players and DMs of all levels of experience, the Manual of the Planes details the manifold worlds of the known planes of existence. This book describes the inhabitants, rulers, and environments of these worlds, as well as rules Needles
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Astral Matters - Jeff Grubb's Manual of the Planes, Dragon Magazine 159, Voidjammers, & The Free Adventure ZA6: Journey to the Astral Plane By Joseph A. Mohr All For Advanced Dungeons & Dragons First Edition

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 10/01/2019 - 18:15
I wrote about the Ethreal plane with the origins of the Xill today. And yes its Dave Anreseon day but I'm taking a bit of time out to speak about one of my favorite articles of Dragon magazine. Confession time, I was never that much of a Spelljammer fan. Too bad there wasn't an Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition article about something akin to Spelljammer but totally separate?!Gasp Needles
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It Came From A Cold Hell - The Ecology of the Xill in the Fiend Folio & Beyond

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 10/01/2019 - 15:44
The following is based partially on my conversation with DM Raj yesterday & his experiences with the Xill in all of their alien glory in his own games. Make no mistake he makes his player's PC's fight for every inch of space dungeon & salvaged treasure from the depths of his Spelljammer campaign. There are sprinkles & seeds from other OGL sources as we'll see. So let's get back to the FiendNeedles
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How Dungeons & Dragons Got Its Ability Scores

DM David - Tue, 10/01/2019 - 13:35

The earliest character sheet for the game that inspired Dungeons & Dragons includes 8 character traits: Brains, Looks, Credibility, Sex, Health, Strength, Courage, and Cunning. The character comes from Dave Arneson’s Blackmoor campaign, which launched in 1971. See A History of D&D in 12 Treasures from author Jon Peterson.

The sheet organizes these traits under the heading, “Personality,” and measures of personality dominate the list more than abilities like strength and health. The Blackmoor campaign represented Charisma with three scores—Credibility, Looks, and Sex, as in “sexual prowess.”

Blackmoor evolved from miniature wargame campaigns. These games only represented individuals when they served as commanders for military units or as leaders of countries. When the referee needed to determine how well a commander followed orders or honored an alliance, measures of personality such as courage and loyalty mattered. One early campaign adopted a system for generating life events such as marriages and sickness for important characters. You can imagine how health and even sexual prowess could factor in such a game. Abilities like strength never figured in play.

Blackmoor started with players controlling single characters who would act in political intrigue and as leaders in battle, so the game emphasized traits for personality and leadership. The characters could fight solo or learn magic, so Strength, Health, and Brains found a place in the game.

In the Blackmoor campaign, Dave used ability scores as the basis of tests that resemble modern saving throws or ability checks. “Players would roll against a trait, Strength for example, to see if they were successful at an attempt,” writes Blackmoor scholar D. H. Boggs. For example, on page 28 of The First Fantasy Campaign (1977), Dave describes how characters had to roll under their Dexterity score to remove their armor before drowning in Blackmoor Bay.

That example cites D&D’s Dexterity attribute, a score the original Blackmoor characters lacked. If Dave and his players used ability scores for saves, how did the rules omit a score for dodging? For his game, Dave also borrowed the saving throw categories from Chainmail—a 1971 set of rules for miniature-figure battles. Boggs speculates that these types for Dragon Breath, Spider Poison, Basilisk Gaze, and Spells covered enough cases to make a Dexterity attribute unnecessary.

How did Blackmoor’s personality traits turn into D&D’s six ability scores?

In 1972, Dave introduced his Blackmoor campaign to Gary Gygax, the author of Chainmail. Dave’s game transformed bits of Chainmail into something new and irresistible—something that broadly resembled D&D.

Based on Dave’s demonstration, feedback, and notes, Gary added his own contributions to make the D&D game that reached print. Dave recalled that Gary and his Lake Geneva group “had a lot more spare time than I did and they had a lot of ideas, so they came up with their own version of the rules.”

In the case of ability scores, Gary reworked the Blackmoor attributes into D&D’s. For example, Gary never favored simple, informal terminology like “Brains” and “Health,” so he opted for Intelligence and Constitution.

Gary consolidated Credibility, Looks, and Sex into Charisma. (Later, Unearthed Arcana and other roleplaying games would experiment with splitting Charisma back into traits for charm and beauty.)

Gary’s early games paired players with gangs of followers, so Charisma helped recruitment and retention. As play styles turned away from henchmen and hirelings, Charisma became less important. The 1977 Basic Set provided no rules crunch for Charisma.

On the Blackmoor character sheet, Cunning looks like a late addition. In both Dave and Gary’s pre-D&D campaigns, Cunning became the prime requisite for clerics. “Cunning” suggests a faith-healing charlatan more than a priest who’s spells worked. Still, the first cleric character, as played by Mike Carr in Dave’s Blackmoor game, had working spells. So eventually Cunning turned to Wisdom and became a measure of spirituality.

Unlike fighters, wizards, and thieves, the cleric lacks a clear archetype in the fantasy tales that inspired D&D. Instead, the class draws inspiration from bits of Christian priest and crusader, from Friar Tuck and Van Helsing. These clerics made an awkward fit in the pulp-fantasy world of D&D and lacked a place in other games. In 1975, when TSR adapted the D&D rules to different settings to create Metamorphosis Alpha and Empire of the Petal Throne, the games dropped clerics and their Wisdom attribute.

Instead designers saw a need to measure a character’s mental toughness with a sort of mental counterpart to Strength and Constitution. Metamorphosis Alpha swaps Wisdom for Mental Resistance. Empire of the Petal Throne replaces Wisdom with Psychic Strength.

Apparently, these games led Gary to see a need for a similar rating for D&D characters. Instead of adding a new attribute, Gary broadened Wisdom to include willpower. The Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook grants characters with high wisdom a bonus to saves against “mental attack forms involving will force.” Only a strained definition of wisdom includes willpower, but until then Wisdom only served clerics. The broader scope gave Wisdom similar weight to the other attributes.

Years later, Wisdom would gain an association with perception. Games without Wisdom tend to associate perception with Intelligence.

Dexterity arrived to the game last. Gary must have felt that Strength needed a counterpart for characters wielding crossbows, so Dexterity showed aptitude for ranged weapons. After the original books reached the public, the Thief entered the game and took Dexterity as a prime requisite.

Even though the original D&D release turned the scores from measures of personality into measures of ability, the game still says that the scores aid players “in selecting a role” like one of those personality tests that help students select a career.

When Gary wrote D&D, he never explained how to use ability scores for checks. In his own game, Gary preferred a loose method where he decided on a character’s chance of success and improvised a die roll to match. For saves, Gary just elaborated on the system from the Chainmail rules.

So according to D&D’s original rules, ability scores counted for little. The abilities barely deliver any game effects: At most a +1 to hit or an extra hit point per die.

These slight effects mean that early D&D characters in the same class all played much the same. But ability scores ranging from 3 to 18 seemed to promise bigger game effects than a mere +1. With the release of the Greyhawk supplement in 1975, Gary began linking more game effects to the scores: High strength meant more damage, high Wisdom and Intelligence yielded more spells, and so on.

With that development, D&D started down the road to the modern game, which builds on ability scores as the foundation for every check and save.

The awkward role of Wisdom in fantasy role playing.

Ability Checks—From the Worst Mechanic in Role-Playing Game History to a Foundation Of D&D

For 25 Years, D&D Put Saving Throws In Groups Made For Just 3 Creatures and 2 Spells

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Failed Monster Designs

Roles & Rules - Tue, 10/01/2019 - 08:28
Although I have written about bad monsters in RPGs, you can identify another type I have sometimes written about: the failed monster, whose basic idea is OK but whose mechanics are off. Either it's too weak or too strong relative to expectations, or just not a good join-up between concept and implementation.

Some examples, from AD&D first edition, with my writings about the first three:
  • Ghosts are super-powered, with “zap” effects like aging and possession, but aren’t really true to the variety of their source material. It's a similar failure to golems. There should be lower-level hostile living statues (as in Basic D&D) and lower-level hostile hauntings.
  • The gelatinous cube as a 4 HD bag of hit points just doesn’t, er, gel.
  • Piercers can be much improved. 
  • The carrion crawler with eight attacks is an overpowered paralysation machine. It hits plate and shield on a 14. Good luck!
  • The slithering tracker is an undescribed, underdeveloped monster – really, more of an effect -- of consummate unfairness.It tracks you invisibly, paralyzes you in your sleep, and kills in six turns. There is no way to set watch for it unless you're willing to prod sleeping comrades every hour for a reaction.
  • AD&D dragons are borderline failed. Certainly their implementation in 70’s-80’s D&D, with fixed HP and breath weapon damage, substitutes “special” for “scary,” and has been repudiated by every edition since and even some retro-clones.
  • Harpies are mixed-up with sirens. There should be just normal shitbird harpies. Charm-harpies should be more powerful than they’re given credit for, with squads of charmed minions.
  • The oddly specific horror story of the night hag is hard to use in actual adventuring. Like the Fiend Folio’s penanggalan and revenant, the hag’s description is focused on her threat to a lone civilian. It's assumed the party is supposed to barge in upon and rectify the haunting and draining by the hag, even though the victim by definition has to be exceedingly evil.
A common theme in these and other failures: indecision about combat encounters. There's a desire to make monsters about more than a line of stats, to make fighting them a matter of strategy and decisions as well as lining up and whaling on them. But these work better as rules than as haphazard monster effects. That way the strategy can generalize, and be inverted, working for both sides. Just some examples, some of which I've written on:
  • Monsters can be scarier, and true to life, by coming into close combat where your weapons are less effective.
  • Little monsters can, and must, climb you. You can also, and must also, climb big monsters.
  • Flying monsters should be annoying as hell.
  • Immunity/resistance to weapon effects. No flesh, can't slash. Nothing hard, can't bash. No vital points, can't pierce.
  • Monsters with that one weakness. Puzzle monsters, in a word; murderous locks with murdering keys.
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Legacy of the Linnorm - Commentary onThe Vikings' Dragons By Jean Rabe- The Linnorm From Dragon Issue# 182

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 09/30/2019 - 19:15
So this morning's visit with DM Raj along with the rug rats was both informative & very much a trip down the nostolgia lane. But it did prompt me to dig out my copy of Dragon issue#182 & refresh my memory about the scourge of dragon kind the Linnorms. Now the article is very well done by writer Jean Rabe & it was meant to highlight the new second edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Viking Needles
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Recollections of DM Raj, Dragon magazine issue 183, & The Taking of 'Rathgarus The Skull Taker'

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 09/30/2019 - 16:15
Getting together with friends or family is often something that gets down to time. DM Raj just left my house about five minutes ago. We only see each other when time & schdules allow. Now I've know Raj since middle school. He actually played in my uncle's AD&D/Basic hybrid campaign starting in '86. But Raj's real speciality has been & continues to be his passion for the Advanced Dungeons &Needles
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here are some Inspiration cloud giants

Blog of Holding - Mon, 09/30/2019 - 15:46

This week I’ve been working on boring-but-necessary pieces of the Inspiration app to get it ready for playtesting, such as a way to share a dungeon’s random number seed so several people can test/play the same dungeon.

But for this week’s post, I want to give you a gameable slice of the app, translated into random tables that you can roll on with real dice.

Below are the Inspiration encounter tables for the cloud giant. It’s a high level monster, so it’s not as exhaustively detailed as a more commonly-encountered critter like a kobold or a hobgoblin, but on the other hand, I like cloud giants, so it’s not sparse either.

table { border: solid 0px black; border-collapse: collapse; } td { padding: 3px; } tr:nth-child(even) {background: #ebcec3} tr:nth-child(odd) {background: #f0eeee}"

table 1: signs of nearby cloud giants in the hills/mountains: roll d20

1-3: huge footprints 4-6: rhythmic thumping or crashing; the distant footsteps of a giant or giants 7: a trained griffon circling overhead 8: a trained wyvern circling overhead 9: gardens with huge crops: carriage-sized pumpkins, wheat stalks higher than a human, etc 10: a ground mist that makes the terrain look like the surface of a cloud 11: a distant voice or voices lifted in echoing song 12: giant beanstalk, ladder, trellis, or stairway that leads up to a giant cloudy realm 13: DC 14 Nature check: in a cloudy sky, a single cloud is traveling against the prevailing wind 14: huge, weathered steps carved into the side of a steep slope; the steps are five feet tall each. The steps lead to huge shrine containing a black obelisk, which is a symbol of Memnon, an evil giantish god 15-20: no signs

table 2: behavior of a single cloud giant in the hills/mountains: roll d20

1-4: Hunting or patrolling near its lair. It can detect trespassers within 100 feet with its Keen Smell, identifying their species but not pinpointing their location. If it sees or smells trespassers, it will order them to surrender or die 5-6: sleeping in its lair; its Keen Smell trait may wake it up 7-8: in its lair, bored, eager to talk to strangers 9: hunting with a trained griffon: the griffon flies overhead and attacks travelers, and the cloud giant follows the sounds of battle 10: in its lair, reading a lost book of poetry by a famous author. The book is valuable and weighs 50 pounds. The giant is so intent on its reading that it has disadvantage on perception checks and its Keen Smell trait is inactive 11: shirtless; exercising by uprooting and tossing trees and rocks. It occasionally stops to flex and admire itself in a clear pond 12: giving secret orders to a hill giant to lead its tribe against a nearby settlement. If trespasser are hiding within 100 feet, it may stop and sniff the air, alerted by its Keen Smell 13: writing love poetry, reciting each line aloud; it’s stuck and can’t think of a rhyme. “Your lustrous eyes make my soul take flight… your hair… is a fright? is alright? is white?” It will kill intruders unless they supply a good rhyme 14: in its lair, watching a human juggler in a giant bird cage 15: ordering a stone giant to make a fine statue in its honor; busy giving exact details as to the statue’s appearance 16: in its lair, ordering captive dwarves to make jewelry. If you’re within 100 feet: it may stop and sniff the air, alerted by its Keen Smell that trespassers may be nearby 17: training a wyvern as a guard animal 18: moaning in despair because another cloud giant doesn’t love it; it will reward anyone who can write a poetic and passionate letter 19: it tries to capture trespassers and hold them for ransom, sending its pet wyvern to deliver ransom notes. Its Keen Smell lets it detect trespassers but not pinpoint their location: if it can’t find trespassers, it talks to its pet wyvern about how it can’t stand eavesdroppers but is always happy to offer gifts and hospitality to visitors. It has no intention on following through on these promises 20: in ambush on a cliff over a roadway: a trade caravan is approaching

table 3: behavior of 2 cloud giants in the hills/mountains: roll d20

1-3: tracking you by smell; attack on sight, meaning to capture and question you 4: watching two hill giants fight for their amusement 5: each with a griffon circling overhead; hunting an orc tribe that has been raiding their lands 6: each with a peryton on its wrist like a hawk; hunting for sport. One of the giants is carrying a wriggling sack containing captured humans or halflings 7: attempting to tame a savage, captured roc 8: giving detailed orders to a fire giant smith for suits of armor suitable for their nobility and magnificence 9: ordering a frost giant to lead its tribe against a human settlement or kingdom 10: taunting human knight prisoners: offering escape to whoever will betray their comrades 11: gambling: a rich pot of gold sits between them [note: this encounter always comes with a treasure hoard] 12: gathered around a scrying pool which they use to watch events unfold, betting on the outcome of human politics and wars 13: looking for prisoners that they can pit against their pet remorhaz, betting on the outcome 14: muttering in low voices, planning the secret assassination of a storm giant 15-20: roll on table 4

table 4: behavior of 3 or more cloud giants in the hills/mountains: roll d10

1: a noble and courtiers in their magnificent lair [note: this encounter always comes with a double-sized treasure hoard] 2: a war party on its way to attack a rival cloud giant force 3: a war party on its way to attack an ancient dragon 4: combining their magic to create a solid cloud: it has the stats of an airship 5: conspiring against the storm giants: discussing whether to enter open rebellion or to continue secretly fomenting dissent 6: nobles come together in luxurious surroundings for a dance: the intrusion of smallfolk at the dance would be embarrassing to the hosts 7: in open defiance against the storm giants, they’re planning to conquer human land: they’re launching messenger griffons to tell their allies that the time for war has come 8: wrestling and performing other contests of strength 9: swooping down to attack on their cloud 10: an outdoor cloud giant wedding, officiated by a cloud giant priest of Annam. The wedding is attended by a dozen frost, fire, and stone giant vassals.
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Cryptozoic Will Showcase Exclusive Collectibles and Trading Cards at L.A. Comic Con 2019

Cryptozoic - Mon, 09/30/2019 - 13:00

Cryptozoic Entertainment will sell products in all categories and offer numerous exclusive collectibles and trading cards at L.A. Comic Con, October 11-13 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. At Booth #1637, Cryptozoic will feature Mera Holiday Edition, a Cryptozoic-exclusive DC Bombshells: Series 3 variant, for the first time anywhere, as well as L.A. Comic Con-exclusive vinyl figures from popular lines like Cryptkins™. In addition, it will sell limited prerelease quantities of the Wonder Woman: Princess of Themyscira Statue. For trading card collectors, there will be exclusive packs based on Outlander, Steven Universe, and Rick and Morty.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Sunken Temple of Chloren-Var

Ten Foot Pole - Mon, 09/30/2019 - 11:07
Peter Racek Wolfhill Entertainment OSR Levels 1-4

Plunged deep beneath forsaken swamplands centuries ago, the Sunken Temple of Chloren-Var now waits to be rediscovered.  Untold fortune, magic, and ancient secrets await those brave enough to enter the Sunken Temple, but only if they can thwart the unrelenting evil which lurks within its dismal halls.

Uh, so, yeah, this is a thing.

This one hundred page adventure features a dungeon with about seventy rooms. MASSIVE amounts of read-aloud lead to an adventure that is nigh incomprehensible. This is then combined with a “generic” system of play, based on D&D, that seems more like a fantasy heartbreaker. Light on treasure, I’m still having a hard time figuring out what is going with it after going through it multiple times.

I don’t know where to start with this. You go to an inn to find no room in it. Then someone gets killed and you get their room. In it you find a hook to the sunken temple. I guess the motivation is redeeming the dead guy by doing what he failed to do in the dungeon? 

What follows is fifty to sixty pages of read-aloud. In italics. I know I’m prone to hyperbole, but I’m not fucking around. It’s about fifty or sixty pages of read-aloud. The vast VAST majority of the text in this is read-aloud. In italics. 

First the italics. It’s hard to read. Italics works fine for a phrase or to call attention to one part of the text but it is TERRIBLE for long stretches of text. It’s hard to read. Box it, shade it, indent it, but don’t italics ong sections of text. It’s a major usability issue.

Of course, then there’s the length of the read-aloud proper. MOUNTAINS of it. There are page long sections of read-aloud. Every room is full of it. It’s unbelievable; I don’t think I’ve ever seen a product like this before … maybe in Sword of the Bastard Elf or Ocean of Lard? But those were Choose Your Own Adventure things … and it feels like even THEY didn’t have this much. 

It’s bad design 101. People don’t listen to read-aloud. I’ll point out again that WOTC study that found that players stop paying attention after two or three sentences of read-aloud. Clearly designers haven’t gotten the message. 

I know the arguments: zero-prep. Easy to run. But man, there’s far, far, easier and better ways to accomplish that. Slapping “Players React” in the middle of a p[age of read-aloud is not the way to immerse folks and have a good game. There’s so much read-aloud, and it forms in to such a wall of text, that’s it hard for the DM to figure out what is going on inside of this place. Further, when the read-aloud TELLS the players what they feel and think, that’s bad read-aloud. There’s no cohesiveness readily apparent to help the DM run this. After a few runs through the text I’m still having trouble figuring out how the place is supposed to operate.

There’s bolding & indents, which shows an attempt to make things more readable. But it doesn’t work well. The room headings are bolded also, so all of the bolding runs together in places giving an even more wall of text vibe. And Wall of Text is a usability issue. A major one.

The system used here is generic, and based on D&D. It feels more like the old Role Aids generic than it does the Eldritch Enterprises generic. I can’t figure out why the choice was made. You didn’t want to include the Labyrinth Lord license? Deeper in to this, there are new systems for fear, lighting (to the extent that its DM advice includes discouraging light spells and the party bringing in torches and oil. Uh … No.) new systems for locks and searching. There’s more than little fantasy heartbreaker going on.

And it’s random, in places, for the sake of being random. Where are the secret rooms? Roll for it! What are some key plot elements? Roll for it! Why is this? It would have been much simpler to just write a standard adventure, I don’t see this sort of randomness complementing the adventure at all. It’s similar, I guess, to the random elements to Ravenloft. 

This is a curiosity only, to see how far read-aloud can be pushed in an adventure. It’s got very low interactivity, with the party fighting skeletons and couple of puzzles. Treasure is very light for a Gold=XP system, as core OSR is. Let’s hope future offerings are better,

This is $6 at Drivethru. The preview is sixteen pages. In spite of this, you’re going to get no sample rooms, so it’s a failure. Scrolling to the end, you do get to see the (VERY long) intro, and all of the read aloud, which IS an excellent indicator of the sorts of room formatting you’re going to get. Look on my Read Aloud ye mighty and despair!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Weird Revisited: The Two Cities of Hoborxen

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 09/30/2019 - 11:00
I think this post from February of 2011 may be one of my favorite Weird Adventures related posts...

On some moonless night in the City, you can look across the Eldritch River and see on the other bank a shining, alien city with buildings that look as if there made of blown glass and infused with a pale, fluorescent glow. In the morning, you might look again at the same place on the far bank, wondering if the strange city had just been dream, and you’d see the gray smokestacks and worn docks of humdrum Hoborxen, and you’d be sure you that it had been.

And you’d be wrong.

Since the earliest days of Ealderdish settlement, strange things have been seen and heard in the area that would eventually become the city of Hoborxen. These irruptions from elsewhere have only increased over the centuries since. Now, in the night, the working class neighborhoods and decaying waterfront of day Hoborxen are intruded upon, and sometimes replaced, by an otherworldly city of tall spires, all its buildings made of something resembling glass, warm to the touch like the mantle of a recently lit lantern.

Every night, some part of Hoborxen is replaced by the intruder--sometimes only a single structure, other times an entire neighborhood. On nights of the new moon, Horboxen is entirely replaced. The city begins to appear at dusk, as if emerging from an unseen but evaporating fog, or coalescing from the dying light. The strange glow of its structures rises slowly; it's brightest at midnight and wanes toward dawn.

No human inhabitants of the alien city are ever seen, but it's not completely deserted. Fairy-like creatures--obscenely jabbering, cinereous, and moth-winged--sometimes buzz about its streets or lewdly call from high perches. A low growl, a sound as much felt in the bones as heard, periodically reverberates through the streets, and some explorers have claimed to heard a woman crying or laughing softly.

Exploration of the glassy structures usually turns up everyday detritus from Hoborxen, most of which is of little value. Sometimes, things lost elsewhere in the world turn up here, but again seldom anything of real value except perhaps to the one that lost it. It’s a common tale among adventurers that there's a great treasure haul somewhere in the city, but no one has retrieved anything more than a few enigmatic, otherworldly trinkets.

Would-be treasure-hunters should weigh the likely gain against the potential dangers.  A number of people entering the areas of the alien city are never seen again. 

The people of Hoborxen are inured to these nocturnal visitations, and rarely remark on them, though addiction, violence, and suicide are more common there than in neighboring towns. No one knows where they go when they’re elsewhere. “Nowhere,” they say, and shrug and turn away.

Some thaumaturgist muse darkly that there may come a time when Hoborxen will be gone entirely, every night. And after that, will the incursion spread?


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