Tabletop Gaming Feeds

Review & Commentary For The Cult of the Blue Crab From Studio St. Germain For Your Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 09/11/2019 - 05:11
"The small city of Shallow Bay is plagued by a gang of smugglers who sell contraband alcohol and luxury foods to the people. The mayor’s expensive lifestyle has depleted the city coffers and the head of the city guard orders his men (or some mercenaries, whichever role the players want to take) to investigate the smugglers and put an end to their activities. Unbeknownst to most, the Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Free OSR Mega Resource From Dragon's Foot ~ L5A: The Kroten Campaign Guide and Package For AD&D First Edition And Your Old School Retroclone

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 09/10/2019 - 20:20
Get It Right HERE This is a one hundred and fifty seven mega resource for free! This AD&D resource details  The Town of Kroten and the near by environs in glorious detail. I'm taking a short break from AS&SH to do a review. According to the introduction : This manual describes the Town of Kroten and the nearby area, which is located on Lendore Isle in the World of Greyhawk. Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

OSR Commentary - Deeper Truths of the Hyperboreans In The Old Solar System

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 09/10/2019 - 18:51
So let's speak about the once & future Hyperboreans beyond the North Wind shall we. The Hyperboreans tales pick up after the departure of Iceland in AS&SH. Into their declining decades long  kingdoms in Zothique just before the appearance of the Silver Death in Clark Ashton Smith's Isle of the Torturers. "Between the sun's departure and return, the Silver Death had fallen upon Yoros. Its Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Rob Kuntz & Arneson's True Genius

The Viridian Scroll - Tue, 09/10/2019 - 16:24
TLDR: this book is a hot mess, but buried in it is an interesting, if IMO flawed, perspective. 

CaveatThis is my reading of Rob Kuntz' book: Dave Arneson's True Genius. It was not an easy work to unlock. Any errors in representing it are mine. I am very critical of Rob Kuntz in this summation and review, even though I found some of his thoughts "interesting." I don't want anyone to interpret my dislike of this work, or its execution, as in any way devaluing Arneson's contribution to D&D. It has been established in very authoritative forums (like Peterson's Playing at the World) that Arneson contributed a number of critical, innovative, and formative ideas to role-playing in general and D&D in particular.
Who is Rob Kuntz?Rob Kuntz, as a teenager, lived with Gary Gygax's family. He was there when Dave Arneson demoed Blackmoor to Gary in 1972 and was an early playtester, taking part in Gygax's Greyhawk campaign of the same year. He literally saw the birth, a good portion of the evolution of D&D. Rob also worked for TSR from its founding through 1977.
Part 1: Assertions About GygaxIn Arneson's True Genius, Rob Kuntz makes the following claims:

When Gygax used Arneson's ideas to design D&D, he did irreparable harm to Arneson's legacy and the entire potential future arc of the hobby by:
  • "Redacting" Arneson's ideas. Gygax built a marketable system of role-playing by taking what was already established – wargame rules – and adding to them some of Arneson's ideas that were groundbreaking but neutralized through systematization. Kuntz refers to this as "enchaining" D&D and reducing it to a "market +1" state. Meaning Gary used Arneson's ideas to make the next predictable market thing.
  • Setting the precedent for the industry. The fact of D&D's success created inertia that moved the entire hobby community in one direction and defined the role-playing industry. This financially-proven groove meant that other possible futures were left unexplored, e.g. one that extended from Arneson's way of playing the game. 
  • Discouraging others from creating. When Gygax created AD&D, he moved D&D from an open system – which encouraged players to invent – to a closed system – an "official" rules set that discouraged innovation and established TSR's intellectual property. This was directly contradictory to an Arneson's open and flexible system ideas.
  • Doing all of this in bad faith. Gygax (like Arneson) never played D&D by the rules he set forth. In selling the D&D rules to the world, Gygax actively suppressed the true style of play in which he and Arneson indulged themselves and their players.

My Impressions of the Book and the Above ClaimsDave Arneson's True Genius is frustrating to read because of its poor organization, vague ideas, and ridiculously stilted and ornate language. Some paragraphs are so convoluted that I had to guess at their meaning after several failed attempts to decode them into English. The entire book has only about 55 pages of actual (widely-spaced, large font) text, and they contain the same half dozen ideas repeated throughout. 
The argument that Gygax damaged Arneson's ideas, and his future potential, and hoodwinked us all by selling us a set of rules that falls short of the Platonic ideal of a role-playing game is academic, rhetorical, and immature. It boils down to crying over what might have been. This is especially silly when one realizes that Arneson had decades in which to present an alternative by a) fully describing his original play style and b) building on it. Arneson failed to do either of those things in any way that engaged or inspired a significant portion of the community.
In assuming that the move to a closed set of rules (with AD&D) was solely about denying the creativity of DMs, Kuntz misses that it enabled a more communal, common play experience and the production of adventure modules (some of which Kuntz helped write). Otherwise he makes a fair point about the shift in corporate attitude regarding extensive "home rules."

As for the accusation that Gary never played his own rules as written, I say "a designer designs." It's no wonder that both Gygax and Arneson sessions were more "R&D" than "QA."

Part 2: The Garden of Eden When he is not blaming Gygax for putting D&D on the wrong path from the outset, Kuntz is lauding Arneson's genius, ascribing to him amazing feats of intellect without actually describing most (any?) of them. In trying to imagine what we missed due to Gygax's nefarious activities, Kuntz suggests that any forward trajectory from Arneson's conceptual model would essentially end in a recreation of "the human brain." Any "throttling" of the system would damage its potential.

If we were to indeterminately throttle his [Arneson's] conceptual model into the future what we would note as an end result would be akin to a massive array of information having multi-functional processes interconnecting at all points. Eventually we would have the workings of the human brain (Kuntz, 41).
It sounds like Kuntz is talking about artificial intelligence or perhaps a Futurama-like visualization of Arneson's brain in a jar. It's a game of passive-aggressive keep-away in which Kuntz tells us we have done/are doing RPGs all wrong while simultaneously telling us it's virtually impossible to describe the right way – the Arnesonian way. "... what system(s) organization transpires in their [TSR/WotC D&D] place would be anyone's guess (Kuntz, 40). [Emphasis mine.]

To read him in a more charitable light, the best possible role-playing system would be one that exists only in the heads of every DM running a game and would be entirely unfixed – free to evolve and iterate as needed. Kuntz calls this the "Garden of Eden" state. Mechanics are fluid and the hivemind of players both allows for expansive movement by invention and contraction by a general consensus of best methods.

To me, this is the real meat of the book. The thing I was waiting for. Perhaps the best way to read Arneson's True Genius is to just start on page 40 and end on page 48.

My Thoughts on the GardenThis Garden of Eden argument reminds me a bit of Dawkin's Selfish Gene (1976) in which he invents the term meme (with a meaning quite different than it has in today's social media) and discusses the way songbirds communicate ideas through imitation and innovation without losing an innate quality of sameness. I kind of wish Kuntz could have made his argument (only) along those lines. Had he simply defended role-playing as an activity owned by everyone – and left off blaming Gygax for bottling spring water – he might really have been saying something important.

As it is, Kuntz' writing reads like an academic fever dream that would be "like, really deep, man" after the joint has been passed a few times around the circle. He is reluctant (unable?) to quantify anything about Arneson's genius and leaves it almost entirely to broad, unsupported, and ultimately meaningless declarations.

Sadly, I would have to say this book is an embarrassment and possibly does more harm to Arneson's legacy than good. And yet, if you can get past all of its flaws, there is at least one clever thought in Kuntz' rambling manifesto.

AftermathThe final few pages of the book are an attempt to debunk Arnesonian D&D as a derivation of Chainmail and/or Brauenstein. The conclusion is that they were influences, but not ingredients, and I'm fine with that. The argument isn't worth reading.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

PRESALE: Bizarro DC Lil Bombshells: Series 3 Vinyl Figure (New York Comic Con Exclusive)

Cryptozoic - Tue, 09/10/2019 - 14:55

He’s like the Man of Steel… only a lot more bizarre. This is your opportunity to own the Bizzaro DC Lil Bombshells 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 event.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Holmes' 1983 review of the Call of Cthulhu RPG: Rediscovered and republished in Bayt Al Azif #2

Zenopus Archives - Tue, 09/10/2019 - 12:45
Cover art by Jensine Eckwall
A major announcement for Holmes enthusiasts: in 1983 Holmes wrote a review of the then relatively new Call of Cthulhu RPG (by Sandy Petersen), for the inaugural issue of the short-lived Gameplay Magazine (February '83 to April '84), a periodical similar to Dragon but with much more of a general gaming focus. I was completely unaware of this major piece by Holmes ⁠— one of his last in the field of writing about RPGs ⁠— until recently when the long-lost article was rediscovered by Tony A. Rowe of the Cryptic Archivist blog. The original 1986 author bio for the Maze of Peril novel mentions that Holmes had articles in several magazines including Gameplay, but after finding a computer game review he wrote in a later issue (detailed in the Holmes bibliography) I had assumed that was all he had written for that publication. Not so. The review, which is a two full pages as originally published, is written in his characteristic engaging and genre-fan style and includes anecdotes and advice based on CoC games that he himself had run, as well as providing more fodder for a Holmes "Appendix N"

And now, with the permission of Chris Holmes, I am thrilled to announce that this article is once again in print in the second issue of the Cthulhu RPG magazine Bayt Al Azif, along with brand new illustration by Chris of a scene from one of those actual-play stories (!), and a half-page of commentary on the review by myself (bringing the total to 3 full-pages):

Bayt al Azif issue 2
(link includes my DrivethruRPG affiliate number)
Both digital and hardcopy are available through the above link. This second issue is longer ⁠— 108 pages ⁠— than the the first, and once again includes a wide variety of articles of interest to the Cthulhu RPG enthusiast, including multiple scenarios set in different eras. Here's a screenshot of the Table of Contents:

Thanks to Tony for locating and scanning the original article, to Chris for agreeing to reprint it and providing accompanying art, and to the editor Jared Smith for accepting it for his magazine and doing the layout.

See also the earlier post about my article for the first issue of Bayt al Azif.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

D&D’s Animal Companions and Familiars—Choosing the Right Pet For Your Character

DM David - Tue, 09/10/2019 - 11:16

Many Dungeons & Dragons players love animal companions for their characters, but the game’s fifth edition suffers uneven support for the archetype. Only specific character builds gain access to pets, and creating a character with an effective companion often requires a deep understanding of the game. For instance, of all the game’s class archetypes, the Beast Master ranger earns the most criticism for being too weak. To make beast masters able to hold their own, players must make some canny choices. More on that at the end.

The best route to an animal companion depends on what you want your companion to do. The more capable the pet, the more limited your options. A friendly mascot for your adventuring party hardly requires anything, but a pet capable of battling alongside a higher-level character confines you to just a few character options.

Ask yourself what you want from your pet. This post tells how to find the right creature companion.

For a friend or mascot, befriend and train a creature. In a tweet, D&D lead designer Jeremy Crawford writes, “Want your D&D character to have a pet or companion? Here’s a little secret: You don’t need special rules for this. Through roleplaying and ability checks (most likely Animal Handling or Persuasion), you can have a buddy, as long as your DM is OK adding a creature to the group.”

Dungeon masters: When players encounter hostile animals, the characters may try to make friends instead of fighting. Players love turning an angry beast into a mascot or companion to the party. Players attracted to this strategy love seeing it succeed. Treat the creature as a non-player character. As with any tag-along character, the best such animal companions prove useful, but never overshadow characters.

For a horse or similar mount, play a paladin. At level 5, paladins gain the ability to cast Find Steed which summons a spirit that takes the shape of a horse or similar mount. At level 9, Find Greater Steed brings a flying steed such as a Griffin. This mount lasts until you dismiss it or until it drops to 0 hit points. You and your mount can communicate telepathically.

The Find Steed spells share a feature and flaw with many of D&D’s pets. Rather than gaining a live companion worthy of an emotional attachment, the spell brings a spirit. The spiritual steeds boast the intelligence of Maximus, the determined horse in Tangled, but I wish for personality to match too.

In an interview, D&D Designer Mike Mearls said, “Some people really like the feeling that a companion animal is a flesh and blood creature, but there are a lot of advantages to presenting it as a spirit companion or something similar.” In fifth edition, the designers mainly chose the advantages of spirit companions.

Still, nothing says your spirit mount can’t show personality. Perhaps particularly brave and true horses serve in the afterlife as a paladin’s steed. Now I want to play a paladin who struggles with temptation paired with a horse whose spirit mission includes dragging my hero out of the tavern before he has one too many.

For a scout, helpful distraction, or spell conduit, learn Find Familiar. I’ve seen enough familiars in play to witness their utility, but before researching this post, I still underestimated their power. For the price of learning a mere 1st-level spell, Wizards gain a scout, an extension to all their touch spells, and a battlefield helper. If players made better use of familiars, the spell would count as broken.

Find Familiar lets you summon a spirit animal in a variety of forms: bat, cat, crab, frog (toad), hawk, lizard, octopus, owl, poisonous snake, fish, rat, raven, sea horse, spider, or weasel. Just about every animated sidekick matches something on the list of familiars. Want to play like an animated Disney hero with a wise or comical critter for a companion? Sadly, familiars can’t talk. The designers really missed an opportunity here. Even players who claim they can’t do voices can do a toad voice. It’s so fun.

Still, your sidekick can help. Try these uses:

  • Use your flying, creeping, or swimming critter to scout, while you watch through its eyes. My players used a familiar to explore five levels of the Tomb of Nine Gods while the party stood safely in the first hall. Doors stopped the creature, but so much of that dungeon stands open.

  • Use your flying familiar to perform the Help action on the battlefield, giving allies advantage on attack rolls. Eventually, an annoyed monster will smack down your bird, but that’s one less attack on friends, which may save a 50 gp healing potion. Re-summoning the familiar costs 10 gold, which counts as money well spent.

  • Use your flying familiar to target touch spells from a distance. For clerics who heal through touch, gaining a flying familiar might justify the cost of a feat. Play a grave cleric with a raven familiar.

  • Use your familiar to channel damaging spells like Dragon’s Breath. Familiars can’t attack, but with help, your little toad can spew acid in a 15-foot cone.

To gain a familiar, select one of these options:

  • Wizard: Learn Find Familiar
  • Warlock: Choose the Pact of the Chain
  • Warlock: Choose the Pact of the Tome and the Book of Ancient Secrets invocation. You get two level 1 rituals, plus the ability to inscribe any class ritual.
  • Bard: Choose the Lore archetype and use the Magical Secrets feature to learn the Find Familiar spell at 6th level. Or at level 10, any bard can use Magical Secrets to learn the spell.
  • Any Class: Take the Magic Initiate feat to get a 1st-level spell.
  • Any Class: Take the Ritual Caster feat to get any ritual spells.

For a more dangerous familiar, play a Pact of the Chain warlock. Warlocks who opt for the Pact of the Chain can choose an imp, pseudodragon, quasit, or sprite as a familiar. These hardly count as animal companions. But unlike animal familiars, these creatures can attack—although after level 9 their bites and stings and tiny arrows amount to little. All these creatures fly and most turn invisible, so they make particularly good spies and spell conduits.

For an unusual mount, play a Beast Master ranger and a small character. Neither a familiar nor a paladin’s steed count as true animals. For a flesh and blood animal companion, opt for the Beast Master ranger archetype.

A small beast master such as a halfling or gnome can ride their medium animal companion as a mount. Ride a wolf for its pack tactics, 40-foot speed, and cool factor. Ride a giant wolf spider for its climb speed, poison bite, and creep factor. Ride a giant poisonous snake for its brazenly phallic implications.

For a partner in battle, play a Beast Master ranger and a creepy, crawly beast. Beast masters’ animal companions earn a reputation for weakness. At level 3, when the companion arrives, the poor beast has merely adequate hit points. As the party levels, the creature will have fewer hit points and worse AC than the wizard, despite having to fight in melee. Meanwhile, the wizard’s familiar makes a better scout.

The Beast Companion class description suggests taking a hawk or mastiff as an animal companion. D&D designer Dan Dillon says that such choices set players up for failure. Beast masters should not take beasts with a challenge rating below 1/4. If you want such a pet, follow Jeremy Crawford’s suggestion and train a creature to be your friend. Or spend a feat learning Find Familiar.

Unfortunately, warm, fuzzy, charismatic beasts like lions, tigers, and bears have size and challenge ratings that disqualify them as animal companions. If you want a furry friend, wolves rank as decent and panthers as adequate. But the very best companions make some folks say ick. For a pet that makes an able battle partner, choose one of these options:

  • A flying snake offers a 60-foot fly speed, flyby attack, and poison damage.
  • A giant crab brings decent AC, Blindsight 30 ft., grappling, and a swim speed. Plus, I understand such companions perform calypso-flavored musical numbers.
  • A giant wolf spider boasts Blindsight 10 ft., a climb speed, and poison.
  • A giant poisonous snake offers Blindsight 10 ft., a swim speed, and poison.

Dungeon masters: As special non-player characters, allow rangers’ animal companions to fall unconscious and roll death saving throws when reduced to 0 hit points.

With the D&D rules as written, animal companions lack the armor proficiency required to wear barding without suffering disadvantage on attacks, checks, and saves. Nonetheless, I doubt allowing a few extra points of AC breaks anything. Besides, cats in armor look adorable.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Adventures On Old Mars Inspiration & Thoughts - A Castles & Crusades & Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Hybrid Campaign

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 09/09/2019 - 19:45
To say that Jason Vey isn't a prolific son of a gun is doing a disservice to him, & someone over the weekend pointed out that Jason had done his free Warriors of Mars booklet for OD&D.  And that's fine but I'm looking a mix of Castles & Crusades & Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. Why?! Because of the fact to quote an internet source, "The shared lineage and resulting Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

DC Bombshells Trading Cards III: Sketch Card Preview, Part 1

Cryptozoic - Mon, 09/09/2019 - 16:00

In anticipation of next month's release of Cryptozoic's DC Bombshells Trading Cards III, we're excited to present our first preview of Sketch Cards from the set! 

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Halls of the Bonelord

Ten Foot Pole - Mon, 09/09/2019 - 11:08
By Alexander Langlet Stealth's Modules & TRPG Content 1e levels 1-3

… Pillage the Halls of the Bonelord, an ancient king who’s name has been lost to time. …

This five page adventure is a dungeon with twenty rooms. Single column, It is one step removed from being minimally keyed. There’s a decently evocative sentence or two here or there, but is short on mundane loot and interactive content.

Well, I say “short on interactive content”, but … to its credit the adventure does not have every monster attack as soon as the party opens the door. There’s snake, shadows and skeletons that only attack when the party fuck with them/their room. In some cases this causes to arise that most delicious of things: zany party plans to get the treasure. A long abandoned alter, covered in dust, obvious loot on it … and a shadow flitting about. Fuck yeah I’m goon try my luck! Or a large snake, coiled around some loot. Or some skeletons guarding a massive set of double doors. This is some fine examples of exploratory D&D play. Pushing your luck is tied to the resource mechanic in Gold=XP systems. And I fucking love temptation (and, as a player FALL FOR IT EVERY SINGLE TIME.) Beyond a few instances though, there’s not much here beyond some combat. And that’s too bad. Interactivity means more than combat and those few examples of pushing your luck are not really enough, I think, to support a twenty room dungeon.

Treasure is low here, there’s not much at all. Which I always find weird in an OSR game. The goal of the game is to get the loot and I think there’s an implicit agreement between the DM and the players that there WILL be loot in the dungeon, especially in a single isolated level like this. If not then the DM will, I think, fall short on players in a classic Gold=XP style. What’s in it for me, as a player, if you remove the gold from gold=XP but keep the system? There is a decent amount of potions and a wand … maybe I’m just discounting the XP from those too much.

The main baddie is a 3HD AC3 skeleton. That’s a fearsome combo for lower level players, but probably ok with some running away. There’s also a room with 60 cubic feet of green slime in it. Yes, CUBIC. A 20×30 room 10’ high filled to the ceiling with green slime. My mind is furiously working out all of the possibilities with that much green slime at my disposal …

There’s a sentence or two that’s a good start to some room descriptions.  “Piles of dry and cracked snakeskin are scattered in this room …” or a dry & dusty room with two skeletons with polearms guarding a set of double doors. A sack is tattered and a bowl engraved with opals. A bock of grey stone with a black cloth draped over it, a silver bowl and fist-sized gem on top and everything covered in dust. It’s not bad. Not enough of the rooms do this and it’s inconsistent in the rooms that do.

The room content is close to being minimally keyed. In one room a couple of kobolds stand guard armed with slings and staves. That’s the extent of the room description … Vampire Queen turned from stat block to sentence.

Low loot, inconsistent description, low-ish interactivity … at least its not padded.

This is $1 at DriveThru. There is no preview. Put a preview in. Even if the adventure costs $1. Even if it’s 2 pages long. Give us a view of what we’re buying!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Highway Across the Outlands

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

Climb up the walls of the city, passed the rookeries of the poor and dispossessed and the ramparts where the city guard stand bored but vigilant, and look over the side and you will see more gray nothingness, occasionally pixelating and deresolving to show the more abstract astral manifold beneath, same as if you looked up at flickering spark that passes for a sun. But if you take a corkscrew ramps below ground to one of the city's gates and pass through the checkpoint, quickly the gray mist would recede behind you, and you would find yourself on a highway in an immense desert. This is the Outlands.
The Outlands is the phase boundary between the city and the Outer Planes. Its existences preserves the city's ambivalence, keeps it from being conquered by some conceptual force or another. Its desert is vast, but it is more its indifference that keeps strongly held ideas at bay. The Outlands and its few inhabitants are stubborn.
The highways that stretch from the city gates run through alkali saltpan, scrub plans, and stretches of sandstone buttes. There are a few settlements along the way: outposts and waystations run by those too noncomformist for city life or exiled for some other reason. There are also bands of evangelists and missionaries from other Planes working to convert travelers, though these will die out eventually, either in conflict or by loss of faith. Some of them get violent in their death throes, though. Most Everyone else is a traveler or trader, headed one direction or the other--or a bandit. Though the highways are most often lonely (that is their nature, not a description) many convoys and caravans pass along them, and they all ripe for the taking.
At the edge of the Outlands are the Border Towns. Their appearance vary from town to town, but they control the flow of traffic from whatever plane is on the other side. All are fortified borders, no matter how benign the appearance of the Plane on the other side, indeed the most benign are often the most dangerous.

1d10 Random Weird & Ancient Tombs and Contents Table For The Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea Rpg System

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 09/09/2019 - 10:10
1d10 Random Weird & Ancient Tombs and Contents Table  This ancient and weathered necropolis stands definitely against the elements for hundreds and hundreds of years now. Upon certain nights of the year the great wrought brass door stands slightly a jar and from within a howling and growling of great beasts can be heard. The tombs occupants have long ago have been sucked into the nameless Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Appendix N Sword and Sorcery Fantasy Classic Download -The Tale of Satampra Zeiros Clark Ashton Smith

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 09/09/2019 - 10:06
 Grab It Right Here From the 1932 issue of Weird Tales, this one is a must read for both the regular dungeon master and those running Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea. This story has so many of the classic elements of the Hyperborean cycle by Smith. The story is very Dunsanian in its prose, exacution and substance. The story gets right into its world and drags you in asNeedles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Adventures On Old Mars - A Castles & Crusades & Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Hybrid Campaign

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 09/09/2019 - 05:45
One of the thought exercises that I've been tossing around is the option of using Castles & Crusades plus Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea to run an Old Mars game adventure or two. This has been on radar even since DM Steve spoke at length about the Serpent Men becoming a problem on Old Mars. I'm thinking about using the Castles & Crusades Siege engine systems to power the Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Newbie's 1st Encounter - Working Grave

Two Hour Wargames - Sun, 09/08/2019 - 16:24

Officer Jones has his 1stEncounter. He has to arrest someone. Here’s how we do it:·       I roll 1d6 to see where the arrest will occur. City Hall Area or the Financial District. It’s City Hall.·        Seeing how this is the Grave Shift, the people and things Jones will run into are way different than the middle of the day. I roll and find out it’s a Zhuh-Zhuh Shaker. Zhuh-Zhuhs AKA Monkey Boys are big fellows with a bad temper. Shakers are high up the ladder socially so wonder what this will be about. I roll again and find out he’s a Corporate Exec. ·       I roll to see how many of them there are and get 2.·       I see that the Leader is a Rep 4 People 4 Savvy 2 and his friend is a Rep 4 People 3 Savvy 3. Not sure if any of them are carrying weapons, won’t find that out until things go wrong – if they do.
This stuff is already figured out when playing one of the 16 pre-generated Encounters and each can have up to 3 PEFs to resolve. Each pre-generated Encounter has so many other variables that no two will ever play out the same. 
I decided to play this out with the counters and Battle Board included in the game but I could have used minis if I had them.
 Anyway, back to the arrest and that starts with the Intimidation Table.
·        Jones starts with 2d6 versus his People Skill of 4. But he’s also “Logical” so he loses 1d6! I roll a 3 and pass 1d6.·       Monkey Boy passes 2d6 versus his People Skill of 4 so tells Jones to “Bite off!” and the two Monkey Boys resist. I roll on the Packing Table and luckily neither one is packing heat so its melee time. I roll to see if its lethal (1 – 5) or non-lethal (6). I roll a 6.
Time to get physical!
Rolling on the Action Table, Jones passes 2d6 and so does the Zhuh-Zhuh Leader but they have the Advantage so they go first and charge Jones before he can draw his weapon. End of first round Jones uses Star Power and still suffers a -1 to Rep. So does 1 Monkey Boy.

Second round of melee and Jones passes 2d6, Monkey Boys only 1d6! Down they go, out of the fight! Jones cuffs both of them and puts them in the back of the patrol car. Off to jail.

So what did Jones earn for this first Encounter? Let’s start with Street Cred. Jones is a rookie so he’s not Bent or Straight Arrow yet and since he was successful (read the Monkey Boys the Riot Act after they were unconscious) he ended up gaining a +1 to his Street Cred.
He gained 2 Increasing Rep d6 for taking out the two Zhuh-Zhuhs  (captured), but 3 Decreasing Rep d6 for using Star Power for a net of 1 Decreasing Rep d6. Not a good start to his career but at least he has one Voluntary Encounter coming up. Think he needs to do some Chillin' at Dekkar's Place - get a drink maybe some friendship and even do a little gambling
One thing I did learn is that with the Logical Attribute Jones will Interact and Intimidate People at a -1d6 disadvantage.  Might have to try a little Sweet Talking in the future.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

OSR Brain Storming - Using Castles & Crusades Monsters & Treasure Book To Create An Instant OSR Adventure Location

Swords & Stitchery - Sun, 09/08/2019 - 16:23
For me everything begins with a good monster book & I tend to build the dungeon around it. Today I want to create a Cthulhu Mythos style dungeon location with a twist or two. Fortunately I happen to have my copy of the Castles & Crusades Monsters & Treasure book.  Lately readers of this blog know I've been on a Castles & Crusades rpg kick, I dusted off my Monsters & Treasure book on a Sunday.Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Lovecraftian Ecology Of The Serpent Men of Old Mars

Swords & Stitchery - Sun, 09/08/2019 - 05:02
Deep in the jungles of Old Mars the cold & evil alien eyes of an old enemy of mankind stirs. Where strikes the serpent men few can say. But their plague of evil once again comes for they have become a plague upon Old Mars! For Serpent Men are awesome monsters of the Lovecraftian Mythos.   Going all of the way back to 2012 I did a piece on Serpent Men on this blog. Since that time I've used Needles
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Throwing together OSR Valusia For An Upcoming OSR Adventure

Swords & Stitchery - Sun, 09/08/2019 - 05:00
I need a set of barbarian kingdoms for an upcoming game & was looking across some of the maps of  the Dragons foot site. One of these is a free map of Valusia & it sort of looks perfect for a country  of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. Or it couple be used as a Sword & Sorcery kingdom possibly ala Robert E. Howard's Kull. How a version of King Kull's Valusia got to Needles
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Lost Civilizations

3d6 Traps & Thieves - Sat, 09/07/2019 - 21:15

In a fantasy setting, lost civilizations can represent or encompass so many possibilities beyond some exotic and empty ruins in the wilderness. Simply deciding how the civilization vanished opens possibilities and adds new dimensions. This essay explores some of those possibilities.
Curse: A great and terrible malediction was pronounced upon the entire region or population. Possibly from a deity or high priest. Could have originated with an artifact or relic. Maybe just a powerful spell. Because of this curse, the entire region is under a pall of misfortune that only an equally powerful source of benediction can lift. Those who enter or explore the region risk suffering the curse themselves. The specifics of such a curse are nearly limitless, and can be used to explain some bizarre trait or resident of the region. Is there a perpetual shroud of darkness over the area? Did the curse transform everyone into some kind of monster that now infests the site? What happens when/if the curse is lifted? Is the civilization restored? Would this be a good thing? Would the deity or object that bestowed the curse return with renewed wrath?
Disease: A terrible plague wiped out most, or all, of the populace. Such an end would probably leave the structure of the civilization wonderfully intact – at the loss of all living creatures. While the dead would litter the streets, those streets would be otherwise undisturbed. A paradise for archaeologists and looters brave enough to risk the disease. But, such a disease is unlikely to linger for hundreds or thousands of years. But, what if it has? What if the pathogen lurks within one or more dead bodies? Or, the water of a well or cistern? Or, the remains of a sacrificial animal/victim that offended the gods – leading us back to the Curse option? Perhaps the disease has evolved or mutated over time – even becoming sentient. This sentient disease could be looking for new hosts to take it out into the world.
Earthquake: Natural disaster is a classic reason for the decline or loss of a civilization. In the case of an earthquake, there won’t be much left intact. Ruins will be broken and tumbled. Much of what would be considered valuable is likely buried and crushed. Exploration might require the use of excavation tools and many strong backs. It might even be more difficult to find the ruins in the first place as they could be at least partially buried by the surrounding terrain. If the region is particularly unstable, others might have decided to avoid it altogether. 

Famine: A bad drought or blight could have brought one civilization down, but another could also have come along since – and been wiped out in the interim. Or, the newer civilization could be in decline. Perhaps the land can only sustain so many consumers. Perhaps the fertility of the region is cyclical. Dependent upon seasonal floods or infrequent storms. One civilization might be built atop the ruins of another. Or, yet another civilization on top of those.  
Fire: A conflagration massive enough to wipe out an entire city would certainly destroy many potential treasures or records. Still, structures of stone could remain standing – at least in part. Also, those who managed to flee the disaster could have settled nearby, or been assimilated into other civilizations. Their blood may be mingled with current natives of the region. Traces of the destroyed civilization may still exist – even as only oral records or salvaged artifacts (the non-magical kind). Deciding whether or not the original fire was magical would also identify the type and extent of damage to the city itself.
Flood: Possibly the most fun with a flooded ruin is deciding whether or not the site is currently underwater, whether in whole or in part. Even more interesting could be a formerly drowned civilization that has just recently resurfaced. Brand new ruins that no surface dweller has seen or set foot in for generations. Also, with a flooded ruin, you can give the players a limited number of choices for exploration without the stigma of railroading. Just leave the areas worth exploring above the waterline. Putting ruins underwater also makes it harder for the players to survey the field in advance. If the ruin is above water now, is it likely to flood again? While the PCs are exploring? Will there be any warning? Is there a time limit for safe exploration? Will there be slowly-rising flood waters adding even more drama to the adventure?

Invasion: This civilization fell to a conquering force. Possibly a force that chose not to occupy their conquest – for one reason or another. Outer walls and fortifications might have been destroyed, while dwellings and other buildings were left mostly intact. This ruin could be within the borders of the conquering nation – but left to crumble quietly into history. Any survivors could have been integrated into the conquering nation as slaves or citizens. Traces of that heritage could survive to this day. Perhaps even someone of a noble or mythic bloodline that is prophesied to return the fallen civilization to its former glory.
Meteorite: Depending on how close to the impact zone this civilization happened to be at the time, there might not be much left at all. Maybe another civilization was built around the impact point. Is the “falling star” still there? Does it have unusual properties? Has it somehow enhanced or altered the civilization? Or, is there nothing more than a crater? Or, a crater with a meteorite at the center? Or a crater lake filled with water, with a submerged meteorite at the center?
Planar Portal: So many possibilities with this one. From which side was the portal opened? Did someone from the lost civilization create or discover it? Was it opened for exploration? Was it opened to bring something through? Was it intentional? Is the portal still there? Is it still open? Did the portal open from the other side as a means for extraplanar invasion? Was it torn open in some kind of disaster/accident? Is it a threat to the surrounding landscape? Where did the people go? Did they go through the portal? Did they flee the region? Is the ruin being slowly consumed by the portal? Does the portal distort reality in proximity? Does it alter the flow of time? Is the environment beyond the portal seeping into this world to change the very form of nature? Can the portal be closed?
Tsunami: Kind of like a flood, but far more destructive. A disaster of this magnitude could easily destroy more than one coastal city. Remains of such a civilization could be found miles inland, hurled there by the force of the raging waters. Again, it is entirely possible that newer civilizations could have been built upon such a site. Also, was the tidal wave a natural phenomenon? Was it caused by the action of a titanic sea creature? Divine wrath? Would those who knew of the godly extermination risk building upon the same ground – or even nearby?

Volcano: The ruins of Pompeii really capture the imagination. Could this ruin be equally well-preserved? Or, did a deluge of molten lava wipe most everything from the map? Is the volcano still active? Would anyone dare rebuild? Is there need for a presence to keep the volcano mollified, lest it erupt again? In my own setting, I have a ruined city inhabited by golem-like “ashen undead” that haunt the site. These creatures are animate humanoid remains covered in layers of ash and stone. They seem to be intent upon rebuilding the city.
Just by considering how a civilization or habitation was lost or destroyed, many questions just seem to answer themselves. Opportunities arise. Obstacles form. Danger lurks. Adventure looms. And, for me, that’s really the point. I enjoy running scenarios in a setting that sometimes completes itself in unexpected ways. Where nothing is ever truly lost.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Castles & Crusades & B5 The Horror On The Hill By Douglas Niles

Swords & Stitchery - Sat, 09/07/2019 - 18:44
I've been doing a great deal of thinking about Castles & Crusades today & specifically The Codex Slavorum by Brian N. Young.  This question came to mind, "Is the setting of  Ravenloft even necessary?". Short answer is not at all. While Ravenloft is a fantastic setting but the dungeon master has so many more interesting tools at their disposal. If I dive into the realm of Gothic horror I Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs


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