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Your help is needed for Jim Kramer of Usherwood Publishing

Bat in the Attic - Mon, 09/16/2019 - 16:52
OSRIC along with the Basic Fantasy RPG ignited the OSR as we know it today. Jim Kramer is part of the OSRIC community and through his company, Usherwood Publishing, offered a print version of the OSRIC rules as well as his own works.

Jim and his family need your help. The OSRIC community explains,
You may know Jim Kramer from his Usherwood Publishing modules & supplements, or his work helping produce works like OSRIC and Knockspell. You probably didn’t know Jim had multiple brain surgeries to remove tumors, and the battle has gotten much harder. To help Jim and his family during this difficult time, a group of his friends, collaborators, and first edition enthusiasts banded together to make this fundraiser fanzine, where all royalties go directly to Jim and his family.To this end the Saving Throw fanzine was created.  You can look over the table of contents and buy the Saving Throw fanzine from this link. Or look over his store and if something interests you buy something from there.


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

5e Inspiration: a DM app

Blog of Holding - Mon, 09/16/2019 - 14:42

Over the past year or so, I’ve been working on a phone app. It’s a DM tool: it’s meant to be a sort of Random Dungeon Generator as a Dungeon Map for your entire campaign world. I’m tentatively calling it “5e Inspiration.”

0% preparation, 100% inspiration

5e Inspiration is a tool for populating your game world with people, locations, monsters, and treasure. It can be used to supplement, aid, or even replace your game prep.

I’ve been using it to suggest random encounters, random NPCs, and random treasure to fill out my high-level, story-based, plane-hopping D&D campaign.

On the other hand, my buddy Rory has been using Inspiration for the past 6 months to randomly generate entire dungeons and wilderness treks in a procedurally generated West Marches campaign. Rory can both DM and play a PC because he has no foreknowledge about what the party is going to find when they leave town or descend into a dungeon.

5e Inspiration can also be a sort of an “in emergency, break glass” option for when you just don’t know what to do next. Maybe your players just wandered off the edge of the map. Or they just came back to town and are staring at you, waiting for the next adventure hook. Maybe it’s time to reveal the campaign villain and you lost the scrap of paper with his name on it, and the only name you can think of at the moment is “Smerdley.”

5e Inspiration also enables true solo D&D. With the app as DM and you as player and referee, you can play a complete game of D&D on your own. You can spelunk dungeons, wade through swamps in search of lost idols, pick up rumors in town, and race across city rooftops pursued by angry guards. The app provides the dungeons, swamps, rumors, and rooftops.

5e Inspiration also includes a dice roller and a built-in SRD reference, so you can DM with only your phone.

what this app is not

5e Inspiration is NOT an index of dozens of random generators. As a DM, I don’t want to browse or navigate through menus to find the table I want. You know what’s not fun for players? Watching the DM play with their phone.

In my vision, EVERYTHING YOU NEED IS ON THE SCREEN WHEN YOU LOAD UP THE APP: map, terrain, monsters or NPCs with their own agendas, and treasure, all suitable to your party’s level and location. If you don’t like the suggestions, reroll for new ones.

This app is NOT a D&D Beyond competitor. D&D Beyond is a complete D&D rules reference, aimed at both players and DMs, with an ever-expanding library of official content.

While my app includes a searchable SRD reference, its main function is to suggest D&D scenes that you can drop into your game session. It’s purely a DM tool. And it’ll have an ever-expanding library of unofficial content.

The app is NOT a strict recreation of the 5e random NPC, random encounter, and random treasure rules. That would be a useful app, but it would be a weekend project, not my obsession for a year.

Those 5e tables were a starting place. I’ve expanded and varied each of those, through obsessive brainstorming and editing every day for months, until the original rules are perhaps a tenth of the content in the app. I’ve created something that’s probably too big to be printed as a DND book.

For example:

  • the 18 pages of character name tables in Xanathar’s Guide are nice, but my name list is about 4x longer. Besides NPC names by race and class, you can also use the app’s name generator to come up with villain names, noble names, magic item names, ship names, books of forgotten lore, etc.
  • I’ve taken each Monster Manual SRD monster and added lots of details that can help you run an unplanned encounter: clues that they’re nearby, what they’re doing now, who’s with them, and tables of monster-specific details like alternate vampire weaknesses, bandit gang names, and the like. It’s sort of like having an extra page to each Monster Manual entry: something like the information in this mockup I made for hags. For every monster. 10 signs of nearby hill giants! 15 variant mages! 60 kobold behaviors! 10 fomorian deformities!
  • What’s more, I’ve added more than a hundred new monsters.
  • While I was at it, I wrote lots of new traps and wilderness hazards to complicate your journeys.
  • I’ve taken each of the 350+ SRD magic items in the DMG, and I’ve given each of them variants; I’ve created an average of 6 variants per magic item. Some items, like the generic +1 magic weapon, have more than 50 new variants. Each time your players find a treasure hoard, they’re likely to find something they’ve never seen before.

  • I have insanely detailed random encounter tables that can produce an astronomically huge number of distinct encounters, because repetitive encounters are boring. A party could probably spend their adventuring career in a single niche terrain, like tundra or desert, and never find an encounter that felt “samey”.

    join me!

    Over the years since I started this blog in 2008, I’ve posted hundreds or thousands of dnd things: new magic items, spells, monsters, house rules, rules analysis. If you like any of that content, this app is the mother lode. There’s probably more in the app than I’ve posted in 10 years on this blog.

    I’m unreasonably excited about this project.

    And it’s going to be free.

    It’s the DM tool I need, and I hope you find it useful too.

    Over the next while, I’ll post samples of the content in the app, along with my design notes.

    If you’re interested, you can sign up for the beta test. Sign up here!

    Here is more to read about the Inspiration app:

  • Dungeon exploration in the Inspiration app
  • Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    The Village and the Witch

    Ten Foot Pole - Mon, 09/16/2019 - 11:14

    By Davide Pignedoli

    Daimon Games

    LOTFP

    Levels 2-3

    This fifteen page supplement has some tables in it that lets the DM generate a witch, a village, and some opposition to the witch in the village, as well as some witch events. It’s not an adventure but rather a situation-builder (in fact, I think the designer uses almost the same words.) I think it’s good at what it does.

    I only review adventures … but sometimes I buy the wrong thing, mostly because it’s in the wrong category on DriveThru and I don’t really read the descriptions. And sometimes I’m feeling curious and go for something adjacent. Like this supplement.

    A theme I haven’t touched on in awhile is how different adventures have a need for different sorts of organization. Exploratory things, like dungeons and so on, fit the room/key format really well. As free text they work less well. And room/key doesn’t necessarily work well at all in other, non-exploratory situations, like a social adventure. Understanding what sort of adventure is being written, or what a specific portion of the adventure is trying to do, is key to getting the right format … which in turn is key to helping the DM run it, a major goal of the designer.

    And that’s what this supplement is doing: it’s providing the DM the tools they need to build a situation in a village that has a witch in it. There are seven or so tables that describe what’s going on in the village, organized via die drop. The die drop helps determines the layout of the village with the results of the dice being the structures and situations involved. Thus we get a little information about the village, the basic layout of the place, major features, the witch details, and who opposes the witch. The tables, taken together, are excellent as inspiration and for building a situation. And that’s what they are trying to do: build a situation. This ain’t Seclusiums “they have green eyes” bullshit. It recognizes the dynamics required to create tension, and therefore adventure. The booklet tells you several times that Things Have Reached A Boiling Point. The tables help with that. The opposition is dynamic on the tables. The witch events are dynamic. The tables are designed to strategically locate open gas barrels in a village where everyone lights their cigarettes with a blowtorch they carry. This is not passive. It’s meant to create a situation FOR PLAY and create a situation it does!

    A couple of quirks about the supplement. It doesn’t go out of its way to get the party involved. It’s more like “you see a mob” or a burning building, ro someone complaining, or so on. Thus the hook tends to be curiosity, although the motivations of the witches allies and of the witches opposition may also lead to them trying to get the party involved. It feels natural … but it’s also one of the more … reachiest reaches in using the tables for inspiration. It’ also could have used a summary sheet of the tables. They are spread out over the book, one or two per page. The surrounding fifteen pages of text and art do a good job of adding content to the tables and setting up the appropriate vibe to get the DM in to the mood, as well as providing some examples of how, say, the village priest is an ally to the witch. That’s all great. But, if the core tables were on one page then it would pretty trivial to crank out a village on the fly when the party reaches it. Or even attach it to my DM screen or put it in my binder. Which gives me an idea … what if EVERY village had a witch in it with things boiling over? What fun! 

    I don’t have a problem with tables. I love The Dungeon Dozen, the rear of  the 1e DMG is great, and I use tables sometimes to generate ideas for an adventure or a room. The brain tends to work best, IMO, if given a couple of things to work from. “Make a village to adventure in!” is a big ask. But, if you seed the task with a few random rolls, well, the brain is good at making connections between things. This recognizes that and takes advantage of it.

    I’d have no problem paying for this as a supplement. It’s not an adventure, so I don’t feel I can slap a Best on it, but it’s certainly worth checking out if you want a village generator that gives you not Tavern Names and General Stores but playable situations.

    This is $3 at DriveThru. The preview is five pages and shows you some intro/framing pages and then all of the core tables for the die drop. You’re seeing the core of the generation in the preview. 

    https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/251586/The-Village-And-The-Witch?1892600

    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    Ain't No Gods in Gyre

    Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 09/16/2019 - 11:00

    Belief is a virus. On the levels above those of heavy matter, the multiverse is an ideaspace, susceptible to co-opting or conversion by belief alone. The Outer Planes and their competing attempts to rebuild the Godhead are engines of it, and the City at the Center of the Multiverse, Gyre, is the one place with no agenda in the big game It has to keep their seductive memes suppressed at all costs, or the strange loop that enforces it's existence would broken, and possibly the stability of the entire multiverse with it. Again.

    That's why Gyre's real ruler, not the corporate committees or the concerned citizen boards or even the occasional winners of the city's haphazard elections, works hard to keep belief out. There is a strict "no gods" policy, for instance. Gods are strange attractors for belief. The lost, outcast, or psychological vulnerable, have been known to fall for them on sight. So they're all banned. There have been attempts by rogue theists to instantiate a god in the city (in one case the smiling cat mascot of a fast food restaurant), but the Lady was on to them before they could power it up. Four manifestations of her twisted the whole block into a Klein bottle and tossed it into the Astral manifold.

    The thing about sentient beings is they tend to want to believe in things, and even the Lady can't be everywhere. So registered policlubs are allowed. These tamed belief systems, whatever their intentions, only serve to strengthen the city's loop because they wouldn't exist without it. If one steps out of line despite the safeguards, well, they get disappeared too.

    Though Gyre's citizenry complain about the policlubs, they are also a source of entertainment. Most have some sort of media presence from talk radio to slick television shows. Major street clashes between clubs tend to be televised events associated with gambling. 

    The Good End, Part 1

    The Disoriented Ranger - Sun, 09/15/2019 - 14:22
    It's rare these days that I wake up with time on my hands and have a blog post waiting at my fingertips. I still didn't for this, as I really should be writing something else today. However, it actually is a topic that occurred to me on several occasions this year alone and I guess I have an opinion on it. So the topic for today is: what makes a good end for stories and what are the machinations for it? Let's see where this will be going.
    Lots of bad endings ...
    The appliance of this topic for role playing games are obvious. However, where it really hit home for me the last couple of months was with a book that read really, really well for all its 1000 pages and fucked up really hard in the last 50 pages or so. I felt betrayed. It was the cruelest thing. Up until that end I would have recommended it to friends. How the author decided to end it, though, killed the whole experience for me.
    Maybe I should go into an analysis of why I thought that ending was bad (or what book we are talking about), but for now, a specific example of something that is not universally hated as bad would make the argument anecdotal and that would be of no use here, right? You all know what I mean (if people are interested, I can share specifics in the comments, though).
    That said, there are a bazillion examples in pop culture right now, most popular among them would be the last episodes of Game of Thrones. So bad, that millions of people signed a petition to re-shot that hot mess. Or the end they are producing for the original Star Wars saga. That would (arguably) be another great example (my guess is they'll kill it for good with The Rise of Skywalker). The third season of Glow also qualifies as it had NOTHING to do with the original show and was a waste of time so cringe-worthy, it cemented my decision to cancel my Netflix account for good.[source]My impression is that this is a trend for the worse right now. Maybe the decades-long pop cultural rehashing of the same old themes finally proves to be a downward spiral (who would have guessed?). Or the capitalist impulse to always produce new content actually forces creatives to start at ground-zero zeitgeist every time and hinders innovation in a way that popular stories stopped growing in mainstream and stagnation always carries the danger of running foul (or rather, nothing stagnates ever ... if it's not moving for the better, it starts moving for the worse).
    Whatever the reason, it is a phenomenon worth analyzing or at least talking about. I get weary when I start seeing a new tv show and like it, because the end could ruin it for good. It's gotten so easy to produce a frame that makes content just, well, bingeable, that we not only created a new word for the process, we also started neglecting the messages stories transport and the end is always the tell in that regard.
    Going by the above, there are several reasons for endings to be received as "bad" (or even where endings begin, for that matter) and all have the obvious common theme that the [drum roll] Suspension of Disbelief is disrupted to a degree, where the experience ends up being disappointing.
    The good end no one liked
    Let's start with the low hanging fruits, the movies or books or tv shows that run over long times and maybe even with lots of time between parts or seasons. Something you will see or read over long periods of time. Notable examples would be the Matrix trilogy, Star Wars Episodes 1 to 3, the third season of Twin Peaks or the last books of Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea books (originally a trilogy, the author went ahead and wrote a sequel 6 years later, where she tried to re-write the original and changed the tone significantly).
    And people don't like it. Or rather, popular opinion is against them although, in those cases, the results aren't necessarily bad, just different. If something popular has too much time to fester in the pop cultural mindset, the perception of it changes. Or maybe ownership of the ideas changes. The artist gives something to the public and it keeps developing from there on.
    So when the artist picks up a story years after it's initial release, he'll have to challenge the new beast that the story is with his own interpretation. There's a couple of popular examples where this worked once or twice (Terminator 2 and Aliens 2 come to mind), but usually, the result is hated and only reception over time will show if a sequel like that has merit or not.
    In a sense, it means that the sequel is banned to the fringes again, away from mainstream, and people willing to invest the time to analyze and talk about a sequel like that, will dig for the nuggets and carry them back into mainstream consciousness.
    Staring down mainstream since 1990  [source]The Episodes 1 to 3, for instance, weren't as bad as the initial reaction may have you believe, the Matrix trilogy is a coherent story, just not the one people wanted and Lynch's Twin Peaks is so far away from the mainstream perception of it, that it will take years to digest what he did in season 3 and Le Guin changed as a person and arguably didn't write a sequel but used the world of Earthsea instead to express her new world view, but reception was good nonetheless.
    See, these works have merit, but you have to take a closer look, you have to work with the artist here. Some people think, that just because they consumed a work often enough that they can consume it without investing further thought, it must follow that sequels will be just as easily digestible. Those are, however, two different versions of reception. Maybe this deserves a little excursion ...
    Consuming versus conscious reception
    This is the most important distinction you will have in this argument. It's the two ends of a spectrum we succinctly call entertainment. It describes not the level of commitment (as people can get very committed about just brainless consumption), but the level of analysis you are willing to invest into something.
    There is no judgment either, sometimes you just need to see a well-scripted show about baking. Done right, it is a form of meditation. Or you like just aspects of something, so you see it just for those bits. I've had run shows in the background, giving them maybe 20% attention while doing something else, just to get the whole picture.
    However, when I sit down to see something and I like what I see, I tend to be on the other side of the spectrum. I will give it my full attention, not chatting, not  checking my mobile every ten seconds, I'm all over the thing: analyzing, connecting, interpreting.
    The mindset with which you go into the experience is what will form your opinion on it (consciously or not). So if you go to see the next Tarantino with the expectation that you will get a rumination of Pulp Fiction, or if you go to see what Tarantino did next, makes worlds of a difference (and is a stigma many authors and writers have to overcome after their first success).
    The problem is, we tend to fall more to the consumption side of the spectrum the more familiar we made ourselves with a certain oeuvre. That's where, in its extremes, fandom makes an entrance, that's where stories change ownership, in a sense. Music is another good example for this, with a way higher overturn. Once a musician is pinned down to be successful at a certain type of music, they'll have a hard time doing something else with the same success.
    We need to be aware of this pattern to understand how reception works and what a response to something means in its context. Or rather, how the level of introspection and objectivity changes the perception of a work and therefor has to be judged within that spectrum. In other words, trust the critique that shows thought beyond the assumption what an artist should have done to succeed as he did with his previous work.
    You don't even need to know where the artist is in his life right now or what person they are, you just have to accept that they most likely moved on and will express that in their work with the form they found to express themselves. Only then you can have an attempt at a proper interpretation if the work is successful or not (not commercially, though, that's a different story yet again ...). It's also a good way to create a position towards other opinions you may encounter.
    Your perception will furthermore change over time, obviously, so there is  lot to be taken into account before getting a true grip on what works and what doesn't (for you and in general).
    Okay, end of excursion. Where were we ...
    The bad end
    A bad end constitutes that independently of where you are at the spectrum described above, you end up being disappointed. Like, you could be just on the consumption side of the spectrum and it rubs you wrong for some reason. But then again, as you shift your perception towards a more conscious reception, you may find yourself coming to an understanding after all. If that still fails, however, you might have a bad ending on your hand, getting worse as others chime in to express the same opinion (because to a degree this is still about taste and level of cognition).
    Ultimately, the general insight if something is bad (or good) is the result of multiple shared efforts over time, especially if the continued progress of a work is geared towards innovation instead of mirroring the success of a former work.
    The question is, now, what we can learn from decades, nay, centuries of documented reception. Because we don't always have to start at the beginning, we can (should) stand on the shoulders of those who successfully took a closer look and shared their insights. We can see what went wrong and take a stab at guessing what went wrong and where. Considering all the above, we can also make fair assumptions as to what constitutes a bad ending in general and why.
    I've named some popular examples at the beginning. We also see J. K. Rowling right now revisioning her past work for the worse. It's a good example how not knowing when to stop can also make for a bad ending.
    Common themes here are (1) rewriting of the established work (in a sense the attempt of the artist to prevent his story from being changed or advanced by the public), (2) the ignorance of the established which then changes the experience significantly (a really common theme there is establishing characters as intelligent and then having them make very dumb decisions, another example would be ignoring established archetypes ... Han Solo, anyone?), and a third big mistake would be (3) to make the final message of a story a lie.
    The third point is the most tricky one and the hardest to catch. It's those endings that just "don't ring true", as the saying goes. It's where the antagonist is beyond humanity and acts in a way that fits, for instance, an effort of propaganda (How To Train Your Dragon 2 is a sad example for this).
    It's also when the Suspense of Disbelief is kicked to the curve and the end is not authentic in the way the story was set up. It's where external forces (like the studio or organisations) change the arc of a story for, say, commercial reasons (like, every cut down version of a film ever) or to fit a certain ideology (Disney had Rogues One changed and re-shot significantly after they felt that the original result had been too much of a war movie).
    [source]The thing is, we grow up with stories, among them stories that are successful for thousands of years and there are reasons for that success. We recognize as a collective whole if something is worthy or not, and with more success the more time we have to take a look. You see right there the default line of failure: to be commercially successful you have to turn stories fast without paying too much for it.
    Rather new, inexperienced writers, then seasoned but expensive writers, rather starting from scratch and hoping for a quick success than building and expanding something established with innovation ... I could go on. And if something works, it needs to stay the same, it needs to be "All Ages", as if it is a good thing that stories can't grow with us.
    There are so many misconceptions how stories have to work just based on capitalist assumptions that favor a short success over a true success, it shaped whole industries, and we see it fail more and more often. As I said, over time those things will be recognized as lies (or half-truths, if you will).
    But it gets worse. You have read so far, but it was all to set up this one, final point (I've already hinted towards it): we have become so well versed in making things easily consumable. The right filters, the right music, the right tone, the right people, a symphony of the recognizable REGARDLESS OF THE STORY BEING TOLD. And that's very dangerous. Look at Harry Potter (glorifying a superiour elite as the better people) or Glow (turning full woke) or 13 Reasons Why (glorifying mental illness) or Ready Player One (blatant nostalgia cash grab) or even the Marvel movies (idk ... empty and unproductive entertainment to print money, I guess). Just lean back and let it happen. It doesn't matter what we are telling you, just enjoy the how.
    That's a really ugly trend and a lot of ugly endings for lots and lots of famous franchises. Right now everything that Disney touches seems to turn to shit, Netflix seems to be in trouble for spending shit-loads of money for inferiour quality, Doctor Who is losing its fanbase, mainstream comics have a hard time right now ... I could go on and on and it always comes down to bad storytelling and bad endings.
    Anyway, I guess I made my point.
    The good end
    It's been a long time that I went off the rails for that much of text without having a clear picture of the pay-off it all could have. Of course we are still talking games here and how to make the endings in the stories we tell more satisfying. The whole tirade above is to be understood as an attempt to show the patterns that form opinions about stories as well as misconceptions about creating them in differentiation to what we can know and should use to tell stories. As I said before, we don't need to invent the wheel everytime.
    So, with having all that on the table, we can talk about how to create good endings. Or better yet, how to bring a story to one of its potential conclusions ...
    Holy shit, I don't know how to end this. The irony.
    I thought this'd work out for sure ... [source]Actually, that part deserves a second post, because we need to come at this from another angle when talking about games. For one, with role playing games the ones creating the story are also the audience and what constitutes a bad end for a lot of people could work for a select group of friends. The focus shifts and with that the problems or how to address them.
    This post, however, should help you recognizing bad endings and bad storytelling and how all that connects or how you stand towards all of it and conclusions you could draw from that. I guess that is something (if I actually managed it). If you have any thoughts on this, I'd be happy to hear them. Don't expect that second part very soon, I'm afraid. It'll take me a while.

    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    The SF Reconquista: Muscular Christian Science Fiction, the Deus Vult in Space… Cruci-fiction!

    Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog - Sat, 09/14/2019 - 14:54

    Deus Vult in Space (Jon Del Arroz) The Craziest Day Of My Career — “Justified is officially a break out hit. It’s doing the numbers the big boys sell. I’m not completely surprised at how well it’s doing, as an action-packed military science fiction with a strong male lead, promoting Christianity, is something that is a universal truth in what people desire. Heroism. Bravery. Honor. Loyalty. Love. Chastity.”

    Deus Vult in Space (Brian Niemeir) A Sea Change in Science Fiction — “There is a vast underserved market of predominantly male, Christian readers who’ve been ignored by the witches in oldpub, the nihilist nudniks in newpub, and the milquetoast Boomers in Christian fiction for decades.”

    Deus Vult in Space (Bradford Walker) “Justified” & The Pulp Reformation — “This is not just the return of the Pulps, but their full restoration. Read the old stuff and you’ll see the very Christianity on display, but not explicit as having a Templar as the hero. All of the morality, the conflict, the temptations, and so on are built off of a robust and thriving Christianity assumed as the norm for Civilization.”

    Deus Vult in Space (Liberty Island) An Author Interview with Jon Del Arroz — “The way we transform culture is talking about the culture we want the culture to transform to.”

    Deus Vult in Space (Alexander Hellene) Cruci-FictionSo what is ‘Cruci-Fiction’? Nothing short of unabashedly Christian fiction that still has explosions and fights and guns and blood and guts and action all of that good stuff. What it doesn’t have is a groveling, mewling, weak depiction of faith, or an embarrassment on the part of its writer for being a Christians and featuring Christian themes and characters.”

    Deus Vult in Space (Rawle Nyanzy) I Am Proven Wrong (by the Almighty) — “There are more Christians and Christian-adjacent folks than weebs. Weebs and mech fans don’t read novels, so it was a mistake to try and market to them. There is a vast difference between an untapped market and an uninterested market.”

    Westerns (JD Cowan) The Prince Returns — “The most fascinating part of the book to me is that it is more or less completely unknown despite its obvious quality. I have found no reviews online for this. There has never been an adaption that I’ve been able to track down.”

    Appendix N (New Pup Tales) John Carter: A Cornerstone of Pulp — “While I could see how Burroughs would come up with some of the Red Martians technology, their airships seem like a logical leap from the airplanes and blimps of 1912, I was blown away by the fact that Mars had a factory to produce its oxygen.”

    Reconquista (Brian Niemeier) A Confident Masculine Christianity — “Even if you’re not a Christian–even if you’re an atheist, only God-fearing artists who hope in Christ have a chance against the NY and LA death cultists who spread the Left’s anti-faith.”

    Commies (LA Review of Books) Mutate or Die: Eighty Years of the Futurians’ Vision — “A single writer cannot make change alone, but must be supported, along with other writers, by the institutions of publishing: magazines, editors, readers, and people putting their money behind publishing houses, book reviewers, cultural taste-makers, bookstockers, awards…”

    Clown World (The American Catholic) John W. Campbell Was Not a Fascist — “Beyond the usual SJW insanity this silliness demonstrates a complete forgetting of why we honor people. We honor them not because they share in the common virtues and vices, opinions and prejudices of their times, but because of something notable they accomplished.”

    Appendix N (Castalia House) Sensuous Science Fiction — “There is a narrative that sex in science fiction did not exist before Philip Jose Farmer came along. Sensuous Science Fiction blows holes in that narrative. Seven stories contained therein including stories under pseudonyms by Edmond Hamilton and Jack Williamson.”

    Weird Tales (RMWC Reviews) Pre-Tolkien Fantasy: The Abominations of Yondo and The Voice in the Night –“What’s been most interesting to me about this exercise has been in how the lines of what is ‘Fantasy’ get blurred the further back in time you go. Weird fiction, horror, ghost stories; those are all integral parts of what Fantasy is…. The problem arises from those who wanted to be the next Tolkien. Ponderous doorstoppers with twenty book series that lie unfinished at their creators’ deaths, Dry and dusty histories of the world and long names with gratuitous hyphens and apostrophes chained within them.”

    Short Fiction (Cirsova) Realities of Short Fiction Economics — “The scarcity of short fiction comes in name recognition, not the fiction itself. There are a gorillion amazing stories, but for instance, there is only one Sky Hernstrom–with only one Sky Hernstrom creating a limited supply of Sky Hernstrom stories, the value on those stories becomes a premium. If I can pay Sky more for a story than another guy because I want to be the pub carrying Sky Hernstrom stories, then that’s where the value comes into fiction, not through the slush pile of great undiscovered and unpublished fiction we see every year.”

    Weird Tales (PulpRev.com) Thoughts on Jirel of Joiry — “In Jirel’s stories we see reflections of the classic feminine virtues: adaptability, stoicism, emotional intelligence, reckless daring in facing overwhelming odds for a higher end, devotion to faith and duty.  Jirel of Joiry embodies the greatness in women. Her femininity is front and center, the core of her being. It is an approach utterly alien to the fiction of Current Year….”

    Old School Gaming (Daniel J. Davis) The Implied Apocalypse of Dungeons & Dragons — “It’s interesting reading through the AD&D rulebooks now. Like I mentioned last week, I don’t have any personal nostalgia for this edition. So it’s not like I’m viewing it though rose-colored glasses. Even so, it’s hard not to come away with a feeling that something incredibly cool was lost in the transition to the slicker, more polished game I grew up on.”

    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    Spiral Isles

    Ten Foot Pole - Sat, 09/14/2019 - 11:36
    By Jere Hart, Shane Walshe Stygian Studios 5e/OSR Dead PC's

    The adventure is designed to give dead characters a chance to return to life, or as the framework for a campaign into the underworld.

    This 57 page pointcrawl details an underworld location in which the party can attempt to return to life. It’s large, with locations having as much detail as a Wilderland hexcrawl. Like Wilderlands, the DM needs to bring significant abilities to bear to flesh the locations out. But it DOES provide the sort of unified cohesion that is missing from many hexcrawls. This place is themed and consistent. It’s easy to recommend … if you know what you are getting yourself in to.

    There are 21 islands in a little spiral island chain. Each island has three or so locations on it. There are some ferrymen that will follow certain routes between islands, generally each island being connected to three or so other ones in this manner. Oh, and you’re dead and a ghost. If you manage to collect enough lifepoints you can, at the last island, make it through the magic door and come back to life. And there are a lot of other spirits between you and there to beg, borrow, steal, and kill you to take your lifepoints away. And a few to help you.

    I always got a bit of a baroque vibe from Blue Medusa. If you lighten up with that vibe a little and combine it with Planescape and Sigil and turn THAT setting down by about a factor of five or ten then you’ll have something akin to what’s going on here. And maybe some Hunger Game Capitol turned down some also. 

    You wake up in the middle of an island. It’s PACKED with other souls. Shoulder to shoulder. Too much jostling and the people on the edge fall in to the void, forever lost. If you stand still enough, they say, you will be rescued. One end has a small coral with some mindless people in it. Eventually it fills up and a large Spanish galleon shows up and hauls them away. You can see some ferrymen off shore … you’re told not to trust them. Crowded, crammed in, ignorant, this is how you start. But of course you were adventurers and not like the people on the island. As you work your way up the island chain you encounter thugs, villages, towns, cities, the mob, rebels, rumors, cultists, swindlers, and just about the whole gamut of society. The further you travel, the more lifepoints you must have, the “wealthier” you are, and richier/more cosmopolitan the islands become. The goal is the last island, which has a door you can pass through if you have enough, bringing you back to life. 

    Along the way are factions. Thugs. Thug rebels. Rich people galore with their motives. Governors of the regions, organized guard groups, cultists, The Real Rebels, and Mayor, pulling the strings. It is from this, the factions and dynamics, that a significant tension is created. A wants X and B is trying to stop them. Who are you helping? Are you joining a faction? Are you working against another one? Or are you just trying to ignore them all and keep them from manipulating you so you can get your loot and get out. Hey … they all have a lot of loot … (loot being a way to gain lifepoints.)

    It’s a city adventure with all of the massive social intricacy and subplots that bring. It’s a hexcrawl/pointcrawl, with the openness that brings. It’s pretty fucking kickass, and reminds me a lot of that Mothership adventure I reviewed recently, Dead Planet.

    The ideas presented, the settings and scenarios, are great, with the writing a little flat. It a bit too workmanlike in its descriptions, not trying hard enough to really convey the evocativeness of the situations encountered. That makes it a little harder than I’d prefer to really run with and make my own. Still, it’s got terse writing and it’s easy to grasp the overall situation of the many locations easily. 

    There’s a myriad of little mini-systems and other details that pop up, all pretty well handled. At times it does seem like some weird heartbreaker of a system, but it doesn’t go too far overboard. 

    I would note, that for a huge expansive setting, the NPC table only has about twenty entries. You’re gonna need to think fast on the fly or do your own NPC table ahead of time in order to come up with the, inevitably numerous, NPC’s the party tries to interact with. Flavour is the name of the game here and some serious margin work to include more on most of the pages would have been a nice touch and an opportunity lost.

    It’s a hexcrawl-type product, in hell, that does the planes better than just about any other product, even if it’s not really a planes adventure. If you go in expecting a hexcrawl type product then you should be satisfied. it’s also got a lot more in common with OSR type adventures than it does the bland railroads that seem to dominate 5e. It’s got conversion notes for both 5e & OSR.

    This is $10 at DriveThru. There is no preview. Naughty designer! No cookie for you! How are folks supposed to know what they are buying? You can get an idea of the layout, in miniature, from the kickstarter pages but it’s not enough to see the actual content. Major miss.

    https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/279703/Spiral-Isles?1892600

    (And I’m not a gonna mention the fact that the Armory is missing a list, however brief, or its contents … when turning weapons in to mana/lifepoints is one of the major themes of the adventure.)

    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    Further OSR Commentary On The Free 'Old Mars' Downloads For Your Old School Campaigns

    Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 09/12/2019 - 16:31
    So I'm making some notes and doing some adjustments to my Old Mars material, this means cracking open one of my favorites by Leigh Brackett, Clark Ashton Smith, and C.L. Moore. Here's some thoughts and ideas for background on my next cycle of 'Old Mars' adventure setting material. For me cracking open a copy of Sea Kings of Mars from Thrilling Wonder Stories v34n02 (1949 06) is pretty much Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    OSR Commentary On The Basic Dungeons & Dragons Adventure 'M4 Five Coins For A Kingdom' By Allen Varney For Your Old School High Level Campaigns

    Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 09/12/2019 - 15:16
    "In an instant, the city of Lighthall vanishes from you very midst! In its place come five coins of amazing powers - power to transport you to a realm of fantastic worlds and incredible magic. In this realm, islands float in air and vast armies battle at the brink of oblivion. The return of Lighthall depends on the defeat of one man: the evil enchanter, Durhan the Conqueror.Surrounding himself Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    Journey's End (for now), the Wilderlands of the Fantastic Reaches has been released!

    Bat in the Attic - Thu, 09/12/2019 - 15:01
    I am pleased to announce the release of Wilderlands of the Fantastic Reaches. This is the fourth of four products covering the eighteen maps that encompasses the Judges Guild Wilderlands setting. This product covers four of the maps as detailed below. The four sets combined will cover a region equal in size to Western Europe providing years and decades of adventuring for you and your group.

    Unlike many setting products, the Wilderlands sketches out the overview and history in light detail. Then presents a comprehensive list of local detail in a compact format that is customizable. This eliminates much of the tedious work involved in creating a setting and allows the referee to focus on the campaign and the grand adventures the players face as their characters.

    This is presented as two products both in PDF and Print on Demand.

    The first product is a 44 page guidebook containing a brief overview of and commentary on Maps Fifteen to Map Eighteen of the Wilderlands along with lists covering details on Villages, Castles, Lairs, Ruins, and Islands.

    Due to the extensive use of monsters from the supplements to the original edition, this release details 7 monsters and provides full statistics suitable for use with Swords and Wizardry and similar RPGs.

    The Guidebook for the Wilderlands of the Fantastic Reaches also includes charts, tables, and rules concerning the Triumphant Grand Tactical mapping system used by the Wilderlands, how to build strongholds, and establishing baronies. In addition information has been added on the demographics of the Wilderlands along with new rules governing pastoral and nomadic cultures. Because Tula, the City of Wizards, plays a prominent role in this region, rules for potion and magic item creations has been included. Finally as the Isle of the Blest straddles the corners of four maps, a combined map and list has been added as a bonus chapter. This includes the background originally written by Scott Fulton in Pegasus #3.

    Included with the Guidebook are letter sized blank map of the Wilderlands that can be used to take notes during a campaign. A PDF with the map legend. A letter size black and white guide to the placement of each of the 18 maps within the Wilderlands.

    Finally a giant sized preliminary version of the master map that I used to crop the individual maps from. With the right printer this can be printed as a full scale map 5 feet wide and 8 feet long. With the PDF you can selectively copy out regions as complete maps that overlap the borders of the 18 maps. After the release of the final set of maps this file will be updated as a layered PDF allowing for custom maps of the Wilderlands to be copied or created.



    The second product is a set of four maps:  Isles of the Dawn Map Fifteen, Southern Reaches Map Sixteen, Silver Skein Isles Map Seventeen, and Ghinor Highlands Map Eighteen. When ordered via print on the demand they are printed in two overlapping halves each on a 12" by 18" poster. In addition each map is presented as a 22" by 17" PDF file.

    The maps have been redrawn from the original in a color style. Instead of the distinct symbols of the original maps, terrain has been drawn as a transparent fill and vegetation represented by colored areas. This allows both terrain and vegetation to overlap. Representing more accurately the complexity and diversity of the Wilderland's geography.

    This release is the final book in a series of four covering the Wilderlands of High Fantasy.

    A preview PDF

    The Wilderlands of the Fantastic Reaches Guidebook

    The Wilderlands of the Fantastic Reaches Map


    Bundles

    I now offer bundles of all four sets of guidebooks and maps at 25% off buying separately. There are four bundles two sets of print or PDF for the guidebooks, and two sets of print or PDF for the maps. DrivethruRPG doesn't allow maps and books to be mixed in the same bundle (or order).

    Wilderlands Guidebook Bundle (PDF)
    Wilderlands Guidebook Bundle (Print)
    Wilderlands Map Bundle (PDF) 
    Wilderlands Map Bundle (Print)

    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    OSR Commentary - High Level Play, AD&D Deities & Demi Gods, & Operatic Old School Campaigns With 'Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung)'

    Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 09/12/2019 - 14:54
    So another GenCon is on us & social media is a buzz with the latest Con news, numerous pictures, etc. All my best to my young friends & family that are there.The amount of buzz coming out this year's GenCon reminds me of  Eighty Four & the year I learned about some important lessons on campaign management.If you're following me on G+  then you probably know that I've twisted my ankle pretty Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    It’s Dangerous to Go Alone! Take This. (Part II)

    Torchbearer RPG - Thu, 09/12/2019 - 13:00
    Loot by Rebekah Bennington

    Hello friends!

    Here is some more gear that might help your adventurers survive the dangerous world of Torchbearer

    You’ll find more new items in the previous post in this series:

    Availability indicates the type of settlement in which a piece of gear can be purchased. It’s a hierarchy from greatest availability to most-restricted availability:

    • All Settlements
    • Remote Village
    • Busy Crossroads
    • Bustling Metropolis

    For instance, if something is available in a Remote Village, it can also be found in a Busy Crossroads or Bustling Metropolis. 

    ItemCostInventoryAvailabilityArmorBuff CoatOb 3Worn/torso 1Bustling MetropolisCoat of PlatesOb 3Worn/Torso 1Bustling MetropolisClothingScarfOb 2Worn/neckAll SettlementsWool SweaterOb 2Worn/torso 1All SettlementsContainerFrame PackOb 2Worn/torso 3Busy CrossroadsPurseOb 1Worn/torso 1
    or Belt 1Busy CrossroadsEquipmentChalkOb 1Pack 1Busy CrossroadsSquare-Backed
    HatchetOb 2Pack 1 or
    Hand/carried 1Busy CrossroadsFoodPickled HerringOb 3Pack 2All SettlementsSack of FlourOb 2Pack 6 or
    Hand/carried 2All Settlements Descriptions Buff Coat

    A heavy leather coat and skirt made from hide. Acts as leather armor but can be used twice per conflict rather than once.

    Chalk

    Used to mark areas. Counts as supplies for Cartographer, Dungeoneer, Pathfinder or Scout when appropriate. Three uses.

    Coat of Plates

    Overlapping metal plates riveted inside a leather garment. Acts as leather armor but deflects spears, arrows and bolts.

    Frame Pack

    A sturdy wooden frame with straps to which one can lash items. Frame packs can hold up to 8 slots. Counts as a factor in Fighter and Dungeoneer tests.

    Pickled Herring

    A small cask of herring in brine. 1d6+1 preserved rations.

    Purse

    A leather or cloth bag that can hold two slots of coins or gems only.

    Sack of Flour

    A large sack of flour. Supplies for 3d6 Cook tests.

    Scarf

    +1D to resist or recover from the effects of cold and draft.

    Square-Backed Hatchet

    +1D to Laborer tests for clearing brush, chopping wood and pounding nails.

    Wool Sweater

    +1D for resisting the effects of cold and wet.

    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    Warriors of Eternity

    Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 09/12/2019 - 11:00

    I came across these quickstart rules for Warriors of Eternity last week, a "Sword Dream" game that says it's "inspired by your favorite old school action fantasy cartoons," and it does have a light Masters of the Universe vibe. It's somewhat ruleslight, but looks like there's enough there to get the job done.

    Get the quickstart document here.

    New OSR Lovecraftian Adventure Campaign Location - Olathoë The Eternal

    Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 09/12/2019 - 04:36
    When the stars started coming right & old Earth  began to grow weird & hoary in its ways. The skies were filled with the terrible light from the star Polaris & Aldebaran shone in the East was there a strange rending as the whole cloth of reality split open once again. The seas boiled & the land buckled as Olathoe in the land of Lomar came back into the world of man with a vengeance! The long Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    Sword & Sorcery Hex Crawling, Campaign Comprise, & Vault of the Dwarven King From Maximum Mayhem Dungeons Actual Play

    Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 09/12/2019 - 03:11
    Sometimes you've got to go back to basics & in this case its working out the internal adventure elements of our 'Old Solar System' campaign. So last night I popped a couple of beers with a friend & watched Ralph Bakshi's Fire & Ice. When your getting into Fire & Ice your getting into some of the top talent in the fields of animation, fantasy artwork, film production, artwork, etc. including Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    More Operatic Campaign Design Memories & Commentary With X13 Crown Of Ancient Glory by Stephen Bourne

    Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 09/12/2019 - 02:54
    So last night I was watching some 'Jonny Quest' episodes with my father on a Wednesday night, hey that's just how we roll in my family folks. But it got me thinking about X13 Crown of Ancient Glory which came out in '87. Crown of Ancient Glory is a weird little module, it gives a taste of ruler ship to PC's as a future taster for ruling your own kingdom in other words domain level play. Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    OSR Commentary - HP Lovecraft's Polaris & the Peoples of Lomar For Your Old School Campaigns

    Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 09/11/2019 - 20:09
    So I'm pulling out all of the stops now in my plane traveling  Tegel Manor game. I was informed last night that more players might be joining our game. DM Steve suggested that I follow the 'Disney Avengers formula' in other words the small fish monsters get replaced by bigger fish monsters. I've got just the Lovecraftian  replacements for them thanks to Jim Garrison's Heretic Works blog. Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    PRESALE: Metallic Gold Harley Quinn DC Teekeez Vinyl Figure (New York Comic Con Exclusive)

    Cryptozoic - Wed, 09/11/2019 - 14:55

    Harley loves the finer things in life . . .  especially gold! Here’s your chance to own the Metallic Gold Harley Quinn DC Teekeez vinyl figure created exclusively for New York Comic Con 2019! You can make sure you get this limited collectible by purchasing it now and then picking it up at Cryptozoic’s Booth #244 during the convention.

    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    Gellarde Barrow

    Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 09/11/2019 - 11:18

    By Michael Moscrip NGR NGR No Level Given

    GELLARDE BARROW is a small site based adventure about the joys of robbing from both the living and the dead, wacky hijinx are bound to ensue.

    This twelve page adventure details a small barrow tomb with ten rooms in about four pages. Decently interactive with evocative descriptions in places, it does tend to bog down descriptions with minutia. It seems to enjoy testing the limit of how many words you can have in a paragraph and still have it usable. It’s a nice adventure, especially considering it’s a new author, but gets rough to use in places. 

    The dungeon is small but has several nice features. The creatures inside ALMOST act like factions. Some bandits. A hippo. Some stone golem-like things, and a root monster. And, of course, the undead. While they are not really factions their own little zones feel unique to them and it FEELS like they have some relationship, no matter how small, to some of the others. This, along with the evocative nature of the text, makes the place seem like it has a lot of depth.

    The text descriptions in the various rooms do a good job working together to form a kind of cohesive vibe. The same-level stairs inside are steep . 10’ raise in 5’ of space. That conjures up a certain type of picture in your head. A corridor thick with tree roots, giant trilobites, and the undead rising up THROUGH their stone sarcophagus with an erie green glow. This place does a pretty job of both feeling like an ancient barrow (and I LUV barrow adventure) as well as feeling like a classic dungeon crawl adventure. 

    Interactivity is pretty good also. There’s levers to pull, water to raise and lower. Hallways full of tree roots and caskets to break in to. The key here is, I think, the anticipation. There is an element of the unknown. Of barriers and obstacles, things to play with and challenges to overcome. Most adventures just have combat, maybe with a skill check somewhere. This, however, does things right by having a mix of things in the dungeon. It’s SO much more interesting, as a player, to be able to squeal with horror and delight as things are uncovered and your actions have reactions and/or consequences. 

    Topping things off is a great magic item: a wooden mallet that lets you hammer two things together. ANY two things. Like nailing an incorporeal ghost to a wall … with suitable example provided in the adventure. The item is described not mechanically, with a skill roll or plus to hit, but rather by what it does: nailing two things together. This is MUCH more mysterious and wondrous, and is the right way to do things with magic items. 

    On the down side, the headers used for rooms is some kind of weirdo font, hollow, and not the easiest to read. A little Order of Battle, especially for the bandits, would have been nice also. They are just generic bandits, as described, and could have used a gimmick, like royal tax collectors or orphan fund or something to give me a little extra. 

    But, the length of the text itself is the main issue. It’s using a traditional paragraph format but it’s also trying to be smart about it. It bolds the major features and puts the text after those words in order of things that might be important about it. This essentially mirrors a common format I like to encourage beginners to use. It falls down a bit though because of the sheer amount of detail that some of the rooms engage in. If A then B. If B then C. There are hold 1” deep every 3” along the roofline except on alternate Tuesdays. This is getting in to Trap/Door porn, the condition where some designers seem to believe that a two paragraph description of every trap and/or door is needed. There’s also an element of disconnectedness in places; the first room goes through the description of a large chair as the main feature of the room … only to later note that there may be a bandit asleep on the chair. Now both the chair and bandit are bolded, so your eyes will be drawn to it, but somehow this feels wrong and/or confusing.

    Speaking of confusing … parts of the dungeon can be flooded. WHICH parts I’m still not sure. There are text descriptions with “the corridor to the best of the room X up to the height of stair Y” and so on. Reading it twice I still don’t get it. A little shading on the map would have done wonders to show the potential for water. Again this looks like a Dyson map and it feels like people just take his maps and don’t alter them much if at all. The map needs a little context, that would have pretty much eliminated my (continuing) confusion.

    This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru, with a suggested price of $3. The preview is four pages and, alas, showing you nothing of the encounters. Bad Zz!


    https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/280259/Gellarde-Barrow?1892600

    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    Wednesday Comics: Obscure Indies

    Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 09/11/2019 - 11:00
    Inspired by Cartoonist Kayfabe, I impulse-bought some black and white indie stuff off a ebay recently. I got some good deals, though I didn't quite achieve quarter bin level value. Here are some highlights:

    Warlock 5
    I managed to get the whole run of this, though I haven't read anything but the first issue yet. It's a story of an eclectic group from across parallel dimensions (a cyborg, a dragon, a armored knight, a street punk, the usual) who are engaged in a conflict for control of a mystical grid located in an unnamed city which is a nexus for interdimensional travel. It's written by Gordon Derry and has generally pretty great art by Denis Beauvais. It was published by Aircel, a Canadian publisher eventually gobbled up by Malibu (who was in turn gobbled up by Marvel, ultimately). The reviewer in Space Gamer/Fantasy Gamer #83 summed it up: ""The lure of this book is that the reader is unsure of exactly what is going on. Lots of magic, guns, swords, robots, babes, motorcycles, and very nice art."


    DragonBlade and She-Drak
    These two super-obscure indies (there's virtually nothing on them on Grand Comics Database) are from 1991 (so far as I can tell) but resemble 80s black and white boom indies in a lot of ways, not the least of which is being in black and white. They are published by Comax, which seems to be an imprint used by cartoonist F. Newton "Butch" Burcham for some of his work. Mostly, Burcham does stuff in the Frazetta sort of vein: a few muscular, barbarian warriors, but an awful lot of scantily-clad, curvy cavewomen and the like. However, these two titles are actually superhero fare (though you would be forgiven from perhaps thinking otherwise from the cover). They tell the parallel stories of two astronauts who were part of an mission that fell into a blackhole to emerge in the Megaverse. There they are guided in gaining powers by a mysterious and powerful alien in a Marvel Comics sort of vein named Phiddeus Phoom. DragonBlade, She-Drak, and presumably Robo-Beast and Night-Flight were to appear together in the a comic called Mega-Force, but I can't find any evidence that actually came out.


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