Tabletop Gaming Feeds

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

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

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

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

10 Favorite Nuggets From Monte Cook’s Your Best Game Ever

DM David - Tue, 11/12/2019 - 12:10

Roleplaying games have benefited from decades of advice for players and game masters. Every year, several new books offering help to roleplaying gamers reach print. Meanwhile, bloggers like me and countless others post advice and hope someone finds it useful.

With all this coaching, who needs more? For my part, I look for topics that haven’t gained much discussion and gather the best suggestions.

Monte Cook brings credentials earned through a long career in roleplaying games. In 1988, Cook started working for Iron Crown Enterprises on their Rolemaster and Champions games. By 1992, he started working for TSR where he penned Dead Gods, one of the greatest D&D adventures since 1985. He served as a lead designer on D&D’s third edition. For his Monte Cook Games, he designed roleplaying games such as Numenera, Invisible Sun, and The Strange. Among living RPG designers, Monte surely rates as the most famous and acclaimed.

This year, Monte published Your Best Game Ever, “A tool book, not a rulebook—for everyone who plays or runs roleplaying games.” When this book of advice reached Kickstarter, it rated as a must for me.

The finished book brought a couple of surprises. First, the campaign touted a long list of contributes from roleplaying game pioneers like Jennell Jaquays to famous voices like Matthew Mercer. I expected a compilation of advice from the contributors. Instead Monte stands as the book’s primary author, with the contributors seasoning the book with short sidebars. This makes a happy surprise because Monte brings a singular voice of 30-some years experience, which gives the book a clear, consistent feel. Second, outside of starter sets, few books of roleplaying advice aim to help beginners. Your Best Game Ever starts as a primer for new players, and then builds to help veteran gamers. This old enthusiast kept noting favorite quotes and even pages.

I chose ten passages from a 240 page book to give a taste of the content inside. But as I read and scribbled notes, I kept thinking that Your Best Game Ever rates as a book I want to come back to again and again. Highly recommended.

1. Lean Into Failure (Occasionally) (p.58)

You play games to win, and you win an RPG by succeeding at your goals (defeat the villain, get the gold, get more powerful, and the like). But if you’re a player focused on story, you need to look at things a little differently sometimes, because to win an RPG from this perspective is to tell a great story. And sometimes the best stories arise out of failure or defeat.

2. Anticipating Where the PCs Will Go (p.99)

A good GM knows where the PCs will go and what they’ll do before they do. However, the GM doesn’t force them to go anywhere or do anything. How on earth do you accomplish that?

Players have their PCs go where things sound most appealing, interesting, or fulfilling of their goals (wealth, power, information, the recovery of the kidnapped duke, or whatever). And you are the one who controls the places and things that fit that description.

Sometimes, you can subtly encourage the PCs to go in a certain direction or do a certain thing (because you’ve got stuff prepared for that choice). You do this by observing and learning what the players are likely to do. Once you figure things like that out, you can guide the players and they won’t even know you’re doing it.

3. Leading Questions (p.128)

GMs should be very aware of when they ask leading questions. Now, my point here isn’t to encourage you to avoid them—just to be aware of them. Sometimes, leading questions are valuable tools. But most players will read into a leading question, so don’t use them unless you want a player to read into them. This leading question is probably the most powerful in the arsenal: Are you sure you want to do that?

4. Speaking for the Group (p.129)

Sometimes one player will attempt to speak for the group, saying something like “We turn on our flashlights and go inside the warehouse.” If that happens, just go with it. If the other players don’t object, it makes things a little easier and moves them along a little faster. You don’t have to get confirmation from all the other players. It’s their duty to pay attention and interject with “Wait, I don’t want to go into the warehouse,” or “I’ll stay outside while everyone else goes in” if that’s how they feel.

5. Answering Questions (p.129)

Sometimes a player will ask a question that they shouldn’t have the answer to. Questions like “Are the police in this town corrupt?” or “Where do criminals fence their stolen goods around here?” Rather than saying, “You don’t know,” try instead asking the player “How will you go about finding the answer to that question?” Doing that turns their question into a forward-moving action. It becomes something to do, and doing things is more interesting than asking the GM questions.

6. Pacing Within a Session—Important Moments (p.132)

Sometimes, though, it’s worth taking a bit of time with an important moment. An audience with the queen, the appearance of an elder god, or flying a spaceship into a black hole are all scenes where it might be okay to take your time. In fact, the change of pacing will highlight the importance of the moment and can, all by itself, convey the gravity you want. But here’s the thing about slower pacing—you have to fill up the gaps with something. In other words, it’s okay to slow things down, but if you do, you need more evocative description, more intriguing NPCs, or more exciting action.

7. Pacing Within a Session—Unimportant Moments (p.132)

A GM who is adept at pacing will take this a step further, to the point of perhaps surprising the players, at least at first. If there are a couple of rather low-powered guards at the entrance to a high-tech complex and the players announce their intention to take them out quickly, the GM might just say, “Okay, you knock out the guards. What do you do with their unconscious bodies?” No die rolls, no game mechanics.

That will catch the players off guard at first, but it’s going to tell them about the difficulty of the challenge and the importance of the encounter. In an instance like this, the GM knows that PC victory is a foregone conclusion, and rather than taking ten minutes to resolve the rather meaningless encounter, they simply get to the heart of the matter, which is what the PCs do immediately after the fight—do they try to hide their infiltration or charge right in? Because the GM knows that decision will affect the rest of the session far more than how much damage they can inflict on a low-powered foe. Plus, it saves session time for the challenging encounters to come.

8. Enduring Player Agency (p.136) If you put a PC in a situation where their abilities don’t work, you’re taking away their agency. Rather than negate their abilities, require them. If a character can phase through walls, don’t set up the villain’s fortress so that the walls prevent phasing. Instead, make it so that phasing is literally the only way the PCs can get in. By requiring that ability, you’ve rewarded the player for selecting it.

9. Even a Simple Game Is Fun (p.142)

The events that occur because of ideas generated by the players rather than the GM, and events that come about because of the inherent randomness of the game, are far more likely to make or break a session than the ideas the GM provides.

My point here isn’t to contend that the GM doesn’t matter. As someone who loves running RPGs more than almost any other activity, I’d never say that. What I’m saying is don’t put too much pressure on yourself as you’re getting ready to run a session, particularly if you’re a new GM. I’ve made this point many times, but I’ll make it again: RPGs are about group storytelling. It’s not all on you. It’s on the group as a whole.

10. Character Death (p.230)

Sometimes in RPGs we gloss over the effects of death in the story, but that’s not entirely believable and means missing out on great narrative opportunities. If a character dies, talk about how that impacts the survivors. Have a funeral in the story. Track down their next of kin. Build a memorial. Do something to recognize that the characters in the group are very likely close friends and would react as people who have lost someone significant in their lives.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

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

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


 
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Mystery at Morfurt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Vault Job

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

Our Land of Azurth 5e campaign continued last night with the party meeting with the former mayor, Gladhand in an underground hideout. Gladhand wants their help ousting the new mayor who has apparently becoming something of a despot. Gladhand claims to have a stash of gold he can use to hire mercenaries, but he needs the party to get it for him.

He had entrusted the money to the Sly Took, a member of the Raccoon Folk Thieves Guild and operator of a vault where people can keep valuables they want to stay hidden. The vault is protected by a cadre of elite rat folk mercenaries and apparently some vicious weasels--and has very high security.

The party is unsure whether they should help Gladhand or not. While the current mayor was supported by another adventuring party who the group feels has stolen their thunder, they know Gladhand to be something of a crook, and the vault sounds pretty difficult to get into. Ultimately, the greedier members of the party carry the day, and they at least agree to look into the job.

Waylon uses some underworld contacts to inquire about stashing some money and potentially some magic items in the vault. He uses this visit to case the joint as well as he can. Security is indeed high, with traps, arcane locks, and requirements for 3 magic key charms for each one.

Unsure of how best to approach things, the party contemplates a frontal assault, while acknowledging this seems like a bad idea...

TO BE CONTINUED

On the Table: Combat Showcase

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the stats for our two continuing duelists:

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

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

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

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

 

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Only 2 Days left!

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


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

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


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

(5e) Sinner’s Manor

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

*sigh*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Talomir Tales - Caravanserai Coming Later this Month

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

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

Weird Revisited: Five Kooky Cults

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

[NEWS] Castle Xyntillan: Announcement and Preview

Beyond Fomalhaut - Wed, 11/06/2019 - 20:24
Castle Xyntillan (cover by Peter Mullen)

“The immense, rambling complex of Castle Xyntillan has stood in its mountain valley for many years. Built over several generations, it has now been deserted by its former owners, and left to time and the elements. However, that is not the end of the story, for Xyntillan’s fabulous treasures and Machiavellian deathtraps continue to fascinate the fortune-seekers of a dozen lands – and never mind the ghost stories!”
I am happy to announce the (now truly) forthcoming publication of Castle Xyntillan, a funhouse megadungeon for the Swords&Wizardry game. Xyntillan will be a 132-page hardcover, describing the three massive levels of the eponymous haunted castle, from the soaring tower of the Donjon to the inky depths of the Oubliette (and beyond). The module will ship with four map sheets with both GM’s and player’s cartography by Rob Conley, cover art by Peter Mullen (whose work, above, should speak for itself), and interior illustrations by Denis McCarthy, Stefan Poag, Peter Mullen (again), and The Dead Victorians. The hardcover set should sell for $40 plus shipping, and should be available at the end of November or very early December – allowing ample time for delivery before Christmas. And now, the details!
With Castle Xyntillan, my goal was to create a classic-style megadungeon based on the following design principles:
  • Versatility: The dungeon should be suitable for different game groups and play styles. It can make for fun one-off expeditions and convention games, it can be played as its own campaign, or ­it can become the tentpole dungeon of a broader campaign setting. It can be played with permanent groups, or a “West Marches”-style player and character pool. It is designed for levels 1 to 6, but otherwise, anything goes – from smaller parties relying on stealth and infiltration to more hack-and-slash affairs involving a small army of disposable flunkies, Xyntillan should offer a fun experience – at all levels of experience.
  • Open-ended exploration: The dungeon should accommodate many different approaches to exploration. Multiple entrances and an open structure built around interconnected sub-levels provide several possible paths through the Castle, including two- and three-dimensional exploration puzzles, hidden sections, and fabulous rewards secreted in secret places. Of course, openness also involves a healthy level of risk management: dangerous areas are not usually cordoned off from nosy characters, and the dungeon is not broken down into neat “levels” of difficulty; rather, it is the players’ responsibility to decide when to push their luck, and when to retreat to safety.
  • Open-ended gameplay: Groups (and players) with quite different interests should all find something to their liking. Whether they relish combat or prefer furtive exploration; confront Xyntillan’s denizens with sword and holy water in hand or play them off against each other; go for the choice treasures or seek the castle’s deeper mysteries, it should be possible. Likewise, GMs with different ideas should be able to customise it to their liking with little effort. Nothing is prescribed, but many things are possible – and Castle Xyntillan is a framework that enables and invites experimentation.
  • Complexity and interactivity: Rooms should offer many things to discover and mess with. While some are straightforward puzzles or traps, there are many which involve (or benefit from) a bit of lateral thinking and experimentation. They also have a depth that should not be overwhelming in play, but offer opportunities to come up with daring plans and unexpected combinations – especially when the players start leveraging multiple things in different rooms to their advantage.
  • Variety of challenges: While it does not pull punches, Xyntillan is not a hardcore killer dungeon – it is deadly, but resourceful groups who think on their feet should do well, and, if things go bad, have opportunities to cut their losses and run to fight another day. Not everyone and everything in Xyntillan is out to get you – or, at least, not immediately. However, those looking for trouble will soon find it.
  • Ease of use: The material should be easy to understand and use at the table, and the GM should never be lost in a sea of information. Accordingly, the room key uses a nested bullet point structure, starting from an overview of each room and proceeding towards the finer details and interaction possibilities (a two-page example is provided below). Bolded keywords are used to help navigate the text, which is also carefully cross-referenced for easy navigation. Map slices are placed close to their point of use to reduce page flipping. The map is extensively labelled for ease of use. Finally, the physical book and the accompanying maps are planned to be sturdy and user-friendly. It is printed and bound locally where me and my printer can oversee the production process at every step.
  • Surrealism: Xyntillan is founded on dream logic and loose association instead of strict realism or full narrative consistency. It should be entertaining, fascinating, and always a bit mysterious. As a funhouse dungeon, it is full of the improbable – but there is a method to the madness. Likewise, it is not a serious affair, but it is not a “joke module” either – it is intended to be a storehouse of the macabre and whimsical, where the jokes write themselves – there is no background laugh track.

Careful... careful.....In summary, the goal was not to make the biggest dungeon (a goal I have, frankly, always considered stupid), but one that’s just the right size, comfortable to use, good to handle, and built to last. Castle Xyntillan also has a (perhaps unfair) advantage: in one way or another, I have been working on these materials since 2006, from my sections of a never-published Tegel Manor manuscript to the finalised module, and there has been abundant time to contemplate, revise, add to, remove from, and playtest the adventure. It has been tried in many different contexts, and with many different groups. It has taken a long time, probably more than it is rational to develop a dungeon. It is, in one word, polished. It is, also, that thing I have been rambling about all these years. And I hope you will also find it to your liking.
For now, here is a two-page example from one of the easier-to-find sublevels: Castle Xyntillan Sample (4 MB PDF).

Q&A (Additions)

"Sounds good but I see nothing about factions. I want factions!"
"Xyntillan has no formally spelled out "factions", but it does have the remnants of the eccentric and corrupt Malévol family, who have their own agenda (represented by a global escalation mechanic) and internal disagreements. There are also (very loosely described) outside parties with their own interests in Xyntillan.

It is up to the GM and the players to decide what to do with this, but the emergent potential is there, and some suggestions are offered in the Introduction. During our playtest, reaction rolls and morale played a significant role, and negotiation with the dungeon denizens became an important source of information, shady bargains, and allies of convenience."

"How large is the dungeon?"
"WRT the size of the dungeon, it is large enough to sustain its own campaign, and to feel like you are exploring something substantial. It is large enough to result in emergent complexity, which is a major appeal of megadungeons. But it is limited in the sense that it should not take over your gaming life (something that has frustrated me about other megadungeons), and it is basically built around three large, loosely "levels" (a sprawling ground floor, various upper floors, and a dungeon level - all with more or less hidden sub-sections and plenty of interconnections). I had a second dungeon level under development but scrapped it because it felt too much." 
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Stretch Goals Corrected and Lowered! Article on Kickstarter

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

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

Here's a nice article on  the Kickstarter. 

10 Game Kickstarter


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

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

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

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

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Temple of the Bear

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 11/06/2019 - 12:16
John Fredericks Sharp Mountain Games Labyrinth Lord Levels 5-8

Explore the TEMPLE OF THE BEAR in hopes of rescuing a hostage. There they will confront an evil wizard and his minions who hope to bring back a forgotten, evil cult.

This thirty page adventure contains a dungeon with fifteen rooms and a couple of outside encounters in about nine pages. It’s just long-form paragraph descriptions of each encounter location. Low interactivity, poor usability, uninspiring descriptions. The usual trifecta.

The DriveThru description does not have a level range. The cover does not have a level range. What does have a level range? The back cover. Which is only available once you purchase the adventure. It’s not even clear to me why these things have back covers. Isn’t that used for marketing purposes in game stores/bookstores … and don’t these products exists only as PDF’s? So the designer is slavishly following some template without regard to the actual purpose? And it results in a blind buy without knowing the level the adventure is for? 

Villagers are missings. The party, I guess, is somehow motivated to look in to it; the pretext doesn’t really exist in this one. Except … someone missing is the mayors daughters boyfriend. She’s 18. The mayor lets the party take her with them on the adventure. WTF? Seriously? I’m NOT giving my 18YO daughter over a group of murder hobos! Didn’t he see The Last Valley? Jesu Christo! 

From there we switch to the road in to the forest … which only leads to the dungeon, so if you kep following it then you’ll arrive there. Big mystery, I guess? Anyway, you get attacked by owlbears because forced combats are evidently a thing in Old School D&D. Oh, wait, they are not? There’s a thread on a forum RIGHT NOW about character death in D&D and the impact of forced combat mindsets? Oh. Well, bad design then I guess.

Oh, wait, fuck, no, I forgot. The town? It notes how it’s a good starting location for the party/campaign. Note again the level range if 5-8. I guess you’re either starting at 5-8 or you bought this adventure for the two paragraph town or the designer has, once again, not given thought to the context the information is being presented in. 

Information in the encounters is relayed in long form paragraphs. Multiple paragraphs per room. With lots of padding. Ensuring that you need to scan everything to run the room. And that the adventure text will be padded out. To nine pages. In a thirty page adventure. “First bob will do this and then he will do this and then he will do this and then he will do this.” Yes. Perfect. Exactly the sort of writing I expect.

A certain trap takes three paragraphs to describe. It’s giant jaws that snap down, kind of like a giant half-open bear trap. Three paragraphs. 

An evocative description in this is “After encountering the monkeybears, the party will come upon the Old Shrine. This area has a stone altar, a broken pillar, and broken stone benches.”

Interactivity is confined to traps, monster fighting and a ghost you can talk to. 

Monetary treasure in this adventure consists of 77gp and a 20gp gem. That’s a joke, right? This is a Gold=XP game, right? LabLord? Yes?

This time I promise I promise I promise I’m going to remember the name Sharp Mountain. Next time I promise I promise I promise I won’t tell myself “its been awhile, maybe they are better now? I should check in …” No. No I should not.

This is $2 at DriveThru. The preview is five pages and shows you nothing of the adventure, so you have no way of understanding the encounter quality before purchasing. Which, while bad for the consumer, is great for the producer


https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/292194/The-Temple-of-the-Bear?1892600

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Wednesday Comics: Two Collections from Roger Langridge

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 11/06/2019 - 12:00
Roger Langridge is Harvey and Eisner award winning comics writer and artist from New Zealand who tends to work in a quirky cartoon sort of vein (though he has written Thor and did a sort of surreal strip in Judge Dredd Magazine called Straightjacket Fits). Here are a couple of his works I've read that I would recommend:

Criminy
Written by Ryan Ferrier with art by Langridge tells the story of the Criminy family who looks sort of like Bosko (and sort of like the Animaniacs) who get into a series of fantastic adventures after their are forced to flee their island home by invading pirates. Criminy is aimed at younger readers (though might be more intense in places that strictly kiddie comics), but enjoyable by older ones, too.

Popeye vol. 1
IDW's 2012 Popeye series was written by Langridge with art by several different artists who do pitch perfect renditions of the Thimble Theatre characters to match the stories recalling the classic Dell Comics of Sagendorf. There were 3 volumes, all now available in hardcopy or on Kindle/Comixoloyu.

Box Breaking 262: Misfits Market Madness Vegetable box 1

Gamer Goggles - Tue, 11/05/2019 - 20:50

This is our very first Misfits Markets Vegetable Box. This is the Madness size (the big box). Inside you can find everything from the staples of cooking to the things you may never have eaten before. They are all #organic

Here is what I have done with this box so far. We have used the lettuce in salads. The onions and celery were used in a variety dishes. I roasted the beets (used the greens in a salad), potatoes and the squash. The apples were just eaten and the parsley was used in about five dishes the best one being a herb crusted pork tenderloin.

If you want me to get more detailed just post a comment on the YouTube video.

Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2019
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Cryptozoic and Cartoon Network Enterprises Announce Release of Rick and Morty: The Morty Zone Dice Game

Cryptozoic - Tue, 11/05/2019 - 14:00

Cryptozoic Entertainment, along with Cartoon Network Enterprises, announced the release of Rick and Morty: The Morty Zone Dice Game. Based on the Season Four premiere episode of Adult Swim’s hit series Rick and Morty, which airs November 10, the previously unannounced roll-and-write game is in stores now. 

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

8 Fast Facts About D&D’s Magic Missile Spell

DM David - Tue, 11/05/2019 - 11:18

1. Dungeons & Dragons co-creator Gary Gygax introduced the Magic Missile spell in the original game’s first supplement, Greyhawk (1975). “This is a conjured missile equivalent to a magic arrow, and it does full damage (2-7 points) to any creature it strikes.” After that sentence, the description tells how higher-level magic users shoot extra missiles.

2. Gary took the idea for Magic Missile from the 1963 movie The Raven. The movie ends with a wizard duel between Vincent Price and Boris Karloff. Karloff flings bolts of energy at Price, who brushes them aside with a flick of his hand.

3. The exchange that inspired Magic Missile also led to the Shield spell, so the original Player’s Handbook (1978) explains, “This shield will totally negate magic missile attacks.” This property remains in fifth-edition D&D.

4. The original description of Magic Missile led players to dispute whether casters needed to make a to-hit roll. J. Eric Holmes, the editor of the 1977 Basic Set, opted for yes. His rules explain that casters must roll the same missile attack as a longbow. Gary settled on no. The Players Handbook states that the missiles “unerringly strike their target.”

Magic missiles always hit without allowing a saving throw, even though in the Dungeon Master’s Guide (1979) Gary stresses the importance of saves. Player characters “must always have a chance, no matter how small, a chance of somehow escaping what otherwise would be inevitable destruction.”

5. D&D’s fourth-edition designers seemed uncomfortable with a spell that always hit without a save, so the edition’s original version required an attack roll. When D&D fans griped that fourth veered too far from the game’s roots, the designers appealed to nostalgia by again making the missiles always hit. The 2010 rules update announces the change.

6. In fifth edition, wizards can add missiles by casting Magic Missile with a higher-level spell slot. In earlier editions, higher-level casters gain extra missiles for free. Back then, magic users started as weak characters who only launched one missile when they cast their day’s only 1st-level spell. But wizards steadily gained more spells, and higher-level spells, and even their first-level spells like Magic Missile gained strength. At higher levels, wizards boasted much more power than any other class. Gary Gygax felt comfortable with dominant, high-level wizards so long as they suffered through lower levels as feeble magic users. Today’s designers strive to match the power of every class at every level. Part of that balance comes from attaching a price to extra missiles.

7. In fifth edition, the missiles strike simultaneously. This means the strikes count as a single source of damage for things like resistance and that 3 magic missiles striking a character at 0 HP does not count as 3 failed death saves. A concentrating spellcaster hit by multiple missiles makes one Constitution save against a difficulty class set by the volley’s total damage. See 9 More Fifth-Edition D&D Rules Questions Answered by the Designers.

8. Strictly by the fifth-edition rules, when you cast Magic Missile, you roll 1d4 and use the result to set the same damage for every missile. This stems from a rule on page 196 of the Player’s Handbook. “If a spell or other effect deals damage to more than one target at the same time, roll the damage once for all of them.” The interpretation comes from lead-designer Jeremy Crawford. In practice, Jeremy allows players to roll separate damage for every missile, just like Gary did in 1975.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Kickstarter now Print n Play Too! Save $$

Two Hour Wargames - Mon, 11/04/2019 - 22:32

One of our Euro-friends asked about offering a Print n Play version on the Kickstarter where you can print your own games. It's cheaper and saves on postage. Check it out
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

DIRECT SALE: Snow Gryphon Cryptkins: Series 2 Vinyl Figure

Cryptozoic - Mon, 11/04/2019 - 15:58

She may part-eagle and part-lion, but she loves the cold! Snow Gryphon is a variant of the Gryphon Cryptkins: Series 2 vinyl figure. This limited edition collectible is a Cryptozoic Exclusive, only available on the Cryptozoic eStore while supplies last!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

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