Tabletop Gaming Feeds

On The Best Books Released for Dungeons & Dragons Part I

Hack & Slash - Mon, 02/04/2019 - 13:00
Dungeons and Dragons has been around long enough to complain about back pain. A lot of things have been published in the last several decades, when it comes down to studded leather brass studs what are the best books ever published for fantasy role-playing games?

Midkemia Press CitiesThis one was out of my grasp until recently. Though out of print, they offer the .pdf from their website. Though requiring more rolls then more modern players might expect, it's an engine that allows you to customize encounters for different kinds of cities. As a resource for exploring large fantasy cities, it's a plethora of interesting encounters, plots and dangers, just from walking around your local burg. It makes exploring a large strange city into a series of small dramas and personalities, that both you and the players can discover through play. It's a way to make cities as interesting for the players as Dungeons.

It has extensive city creation tables that include chances for rare buildings. Although not necessary to build a city in the amount of detail it provides (down to individual storefronts) it does allow you to answer the question is there a jeweler/clockmaker/physician et. al.

The other fascinating part is the downtime system which takes characters that are staying back or not actively adventuring with various downtime events. There's an option for smarter or wiser characters to avoid or seek danger. Following is a comprehensive table of adventure and events, from being offered dangerous missions, to falling ill, to having your living quarters infested by pests.

It finishes off with a mission generator, a tavern/inn generator, rich occupational background tables, street traffic density,  a dice conversion table, and a stable generator.

Pretty good for a resource from 1981.

Aurora's Whole Realms CatalogueYeah, but what about knife boots!
Aurora's was ostensibly a shop in Faerun, but what this supplement was, was what a world filled with adventurers as a career would end up producing. If they were thieves that needed to infiltrate, wizards who needed to stock a lab, clerics on the lookout for new ways to serve, this little book had a bit of everything.
The entire book is devoted to equipment lists. This makes it about the best setting supplement ever produced for the Forgotten Realms. You could run a game with this book in play and it provides more direct setting information useful in play then any of the many books with dry histories and texts.
From ale to cheese, wine to jewels, diversions, storage, hardware and clothing; the book is filled with what you would expect a society would sell, if beset by monsters and filled with powerful gods, crafty wizards, stealthy thieves and brave fighters.
It contains dozens of useful and interesting items, infra-vision lanterns, special thieving helmets (with ears that are not at all ostentatious) that allow you listen, book safes and quick access scroll cases, among many others.

1st Edition Dungeon Master's GuideGygax in the prime of his life poured his soul into this book toiling away, and at the end he had crafted an artifact. I've been reading this book for over 30 years now and every time I open it, I still find something I've never seen before. I've also lost things in it, only to discover them much later, hidden in pages I flipped through dozens of times.
There is no other book like this in existence. It is unique, a vision of one man. The pattern of his thought and knowledge laid bare, every paragraph a facet of an endlessly complex gem. But this is no shaggy dog. Every time you return to it, it provides new insight, new revelations. Not because anything new is there, but because you have changed.
It's pretty brilliant. If you haven't ever really read it, what are you waiting for?

Encyclopedia MagicaSometimes there's too much and you want a pause button. This collection of leather-bound volumes contains every magical item created anywhere from Original D&D till the late 90's at the dusk of second edition. It has a huge random table in the back, so that when you roll up a magic item, there are tens of thousands of results.
What's really interesting about using it in play, is that so many of these items are strongly tied into whatever their history is. It makes the treasure interesting, unique, usually requiring some adjustment to use in play. But it also interjects unexpected problems and surprises. Once they found a spellbook linked to a dragon. A great treasure, but also great risk.
The fact that it also encapsulates twenty-five years of magic items gives a capsule into the design of magic items over time. Plus it's really fun to roll on the d10,000 table for magic items.

Wizard Spell CompendiumThis is similar to the last collection and indeed, collects every spell printed. What's interesting about this, is that it is Vances 1,000 lost spells. Assigning random spells, and only providing new spells randomly from this list, creates a different kind of magic system, one where spells are capricious, unknown, and of wildly varying power. Not allowing players to pick spells from the book, but instead seek them out, and carefully select those spells which they are able to learn (remember the limits of spells per level and chances to learn!) creates powerful, but unpredictable wizards.
In games not focused on combat, but instead adventure or survival, having dozens of variations and types of spells lead to an eclectic toolkit that becomes a signature for the wizard.
It also outlines the entirety of "Dungeons and Dragons" magic theory, with all the official schools of magic covered, from shadow magic to chronomagic for masters of time, elemental magic, all the way to the incantrix and more.

Judge's Guild Ready Reference PapersThe Judges Guild was playing a lot of Dungeons & Dragons back in the day. This is a giant reference hodgepodge, used in play for their settings. It's a lot like a selection of house rules, but functions more as an expansion, providing more, well, everything.
It covers everything from social levels, decade appropriate sexist tables of women, proclamations, boons, wills, crime and punishment, poisons, justifications for uncalled for aggression, wizards guide to enchantment, movement obstacles, hirelings, encounter tables, flora, construction costs, and more.
That's a lot of stuff for 1978. It's dense, arcane, interesting and eclectic. If you're running a campaign, you won't make it through the whole 60 pages without coming up with one change you'll want to add into your campaign.

Forgotten Realms Boxed Set 1st EditionSince the Forgotten Realms has been taken from Greenwood, set on fire, and then handed back, laden with weight of ages, mary and marty sues teleporting around and impregnating gods who are hiding as bears, eye rolling in its baroque ridiculousness, it's hard to remember it's so popular, based on the strength of this particular supplement.
This works as a useful tool for a dungeon master to run a campaign. It has two books. The first covers the calendar, language, names, currency, religion, and maps and short descriptions of settings.
The second book is full of nothing but rumors, ideas, and other inspiration for belabored Dungeon Masters. This book can provide years and years of play with this straightforward setting, filled with a selection of colorful personalities, and most notably, a long section on events and rumors occuring every month over the course of two years. There's even a little mark for which ideas Ed Greenwood had marked for further expansion. A fun game is looking back and seeing where each of those ideas finally ended up.

Come back tomorrow and check out the second part of our "Best Books Released for Dungeons & Dragons." None of these links are monetized.  
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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Fall of the Toad Temple

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 02/04/2019 - 12:00
Our 5e Land of Azurth game continued last night, with the party still exploring the Toad Temple, looking to stop the depredations of the cultists--and searching wardrobes.

There were a number of smallish sacks of money in wardrobes.

Mostly avoiding conflict because a (pre-planned) uprising of the townsfolk was creating a diversion, the pary sneaked through the levels of the temple. Ultimately, they find the Power Plant and subdue a Apprentice Powerman. With the proper persuasion, he reveals that the "shifting" of the temple is controlled by the Main Computer. He also lets it slip that they are originally from the future, and they do not want to return there.

Luckily, the Computer Room is just across the hall. Unluckily, the Computermen have herd the ruckus and barricaded themselves in.  As soon as the party breaks through, the Computer Supervisor and his apprentice open fire with ray guns. Finally remembering they have already picked up ray guns themselves, the party returns fire. The apprentice goes down instantly.

The Supervisor, believing they have go to destroy the computer, fights to the last, but eventually falls.

The party uses the high priest's ring and a keyboard to speak to the computer. Strangely, both the keyboard and the screen are in Azurthite Common.

They command the computer to take the temple back where it came, but program a delay, so they can escape. Random encounter rolls are in their favor, and they make it out of the Temple just in time to see it ripple and disappear.

The tyranny of the toads is at an end. The party is reuinited, but has little time to celebrate their victory. Phosphoro appears and reminds them of their promise. He activates his staff and whisks them away to the future--where Rivertown lies in ruins!

Exquisite Dungeon

Fail Squad Games - Mon, 02/04/2019 - 04:22

Yesterday while we were waiting for some of the usual gang to arrive at The Dungeon Tower FLGS it occurred to me that we were trying to run a long-run campaign in the game store. It’s something that one would run at home with a solid regular group, not a place where people come and go from one week to the next. Or where new gamers just want to sit in for a couple of hours.

How to solve our problem?

I recalled Gary Gygax’s Tomb of Horrors. It’s less an out-right campaign adventure and more of a “See how long you can last” challenge. There were a few other stories I heard from Ernie about the Dungeon Hobby Shop where people would drop in and just want a quick game for various reasons. We needed a solution that let us drop in, game, and if others were an hour late or didn’t come, we could still have a game.

The Inspiration

In 1925 Yves Tanguy, Jacques Prévert, André Breton and Marcel Duchamp created an art exercise called “The Exquisite Corpse”. A paper is folded into thirds. The first artist draws on the top, folds it to hide the section leaving only small hints to end lines for the next artist, and likewise for the third. The end creation is a surreal and abstract whole creation. I knew Herman wanted to get a break from GMing and I was getting my fill of waiting for people to maybe or maybe not arrive.

We threw most ideas of an on-going campaign out the window. We also threw large portions of organized adventure out the window. It was decided that we’d have a blank slate world with just some core elements. Similar to my Lands of Lunacy setting, we’d embrace the chaos void. Characters would be allowed to drop in and out without story-logic explanation. If nothing else, a chaos shadow would sweep away the character. 

Game Masters can rotate at any time or at any natural pause. The GM (previously a player or guest) after the first one has the little story threads left to pull and create a game in an improv fashion. The world as a whole gets built one hex a time as each GM establishes new things. GMs can even rotate mid-dungeon if they like. The end larger creation ends up being an  adventure and campaign. Even if it’s a bit ‘abstract’ it still creates the game world.

Characters and Levels

We are keeping a stack of Pre-Gens available. Players can also generate one on site, but the game continues while they work. Generally speaking, the party has an “adventurer level” as we move along and each GM picks up the torch. As players drop in and out some level adjustments need to be made.

Running on Improv

Running an improv adventure is a real challenge, but in the Exquisite Dungeon a GM can run as few as a handful of encounters or as many as a few sessions. The GM can run off-the-cuff, a portion of a module, or something they googled during the break. In some way it should make sense according to the story threads of the previous GM.

This removes a lot of GM pressure and allows us to game with new visitors to the shop and regulars. We also get to keep our gaming muscles active and ideas flowing. One of the core reasons for us playing more is to become more familiar with the 5E system and its nuances. If your group tries the Exquisite Dungeon approach, I’d be interested in hearing about it below.

~Lloyd Metcalf

The post Exquisite Dungeon appeared first on Fail Squad Games.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Keyed City State of the Invincible Overlord PDF

Bat in the Attic - Sun, 02/03/2019 - 22:42
Since the fall of 2018 Steve Wachs of Red Pub Games has been working on a new version of the City State of the Invincible Overlord PDF. This version has the text of original entries formatted as notes on the map. Just hover or click over a named location and the text will appear. This will be useful a quick reference if you use a laptop, tablet, or mobile device as a referee aid during a session.

Steve put a lot of work into this. The original CSIO has several hundred entries of different location. In addition Steve spearheaded a community project to come up with description of previously undescribed locations.

For example the Misty Passage Saloon in the village outside of CSIO.

Cronyn Wildhair MU, NG, LVL:4, HTK:9, AC:9, SL:5, STR:13, INT:7, WIS:15, CON:14, DEX:10, CHA:13, WPN: Dagger

Dolmay the Mouser, bartender, FTR, N, 3 LVL, 16 HTK, AC 9, Dagger; Zahra Brighteyed, cook, TH, NE, 3 LVL, 12 HTK, AC 9, Dagger; help Cronyn.  They may all (20%) be off adventuring for 1-4 weeks.   Skeleton crew runs in their absence.  Frequented by Caravan Drivers, Fighters, Merchants, and Sailors, NA 4-24, 1-4 LVL.  Specialty is fried fish and ale, 2 gp.  425gp, 687sp, and 2 Ioun Stones in Catoblepas Head mounted above bar.  Disturbing it causes it to fall, 2d6 crush damage. 

Rumor: The ship The Briny Beholder, laden with golden treasure, ran aground south of River Torn and north of Sea Rune.  All attempts at recovery have been thwarted by Giant Crabs.

Everybody who has gotten a copy of the PDF of the CSIO map will have their file download updated.

All that Steve asked for are physical copies of the CSIO and Wilderlands material I produced and that it be released free to the backers of the CSIO project.

For those who haven't gotten the map or the PDF use the following link.

City State of the Invincible Overlord, Color Map
remember the PDF option for print is  free so pick Print+PDF not just print.

Wilderlands of the Magic Realms
This should be coming out in late February/early March. I will be including some of the underwater and sailing rules and encounters found scattered throughout various Judges Guild supplements. The Wilderlands of the Magic Realms and Wilderlands of the Fantastic Reaches have maps that are dominated by oceans and seas.

In addition there will be an extensive list of open content monsters as the last two Wilderlands booklets incorporated creatures from the later supplements of the original rules. And many of these creatures don't have open content equivalents or are found in less well known sources.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Hellion [ICONS]

Sorcerer's Skull - Sun, 02/03/2019 - 15:00

Prowess: 5
Coordination: 6
Strength: 4
Intellect: 4
Awareness: 5
Willpower: 5

Determination: 3
Stamina: 9

Specialties: Athletics, Martial Arts, Investigation, Stealth

Something to Prove
"I'm nobody's sidekick"

Hellfire Bands (Strike Device Bashing): 6
      Extra: Burst, (Degrades, Burnout)
Swinging Device: 3

Alter Ego: Robert Chase
Occupation: Graduate student, musician
Marital Status: Single
Known Relatives: Nick and Nora Chase (parents, deceased)
Group Affiliation: Former partner of Devil-Man
Base of Operations: Arkham
First Appearance: (as Imp) STRANGE DETECTIVE COMICS #42; (as Hellion) ARMCHAIR PLANET PRESENTS #71
Height: 5'10"  Weight: 175 lbs.
Eyes: Blue  Hair: Blond

Robert Chase is the son of Nick and Nora Chase, Occult Investigators and friends of Devil-Man. When they died to the reckless actions of a group of cultists, young Robby was seriously injured and Devil-Man gave him the "invitalizing draught" (which had heightened Devil-Man's own physical abilities) to save his life. In his identity as Kurt Ward, he became Robby's guardian. Devil-Man began training the boy, who soon debuted as the first Imp.

When he entered college, Robby's activities as Imp decreased. He began to want to separate himself from his mentor, with whom he had began to disagree on methods. The final break was over the use of the Hellfire Bands, which Devil-Man felt were too dangerous. Robby took on the new identity of Hellion.

Agents Of Blood & Fate - OSR Commentary On CM3 Sabre River (Basic) By Bruce Nesmith & Douglas Niles

Swords & Stitchery - Sat, 02/02/2019 - 19:57
"You are a guest of the count, one of your allies and the strongest man in the region. Your sojourn has been pleasant, a nice change after weeks of battle. Suddenly the courtyard below your window is filled with the noise of galloping horses. More guests? You yawn as you look out. But these people arriving look more like tax collectors than guests. You decide to give your attention to Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

(5e) The Shadow over Dunsmore Point

Ten Foot Pole - Sat, 02/02/2019 - 12:19
By John R. Davis Self Published 5e Level 1

Well, fuck me. I just bought and reviewed Moans of the Dead again. And almost bought Fungus Forest again. Looks like something is up at DriveThru.

This 68 page adventure is more of a small regional setting/sandbox than the typical 5e fare. Centered around a village, there are a variety of plots and several dungeon locations to explore. This is a notch above the usual fare, being crafted and more open-ended than I used to seeing in 5e adventures. That’s a pleasant surprise, and I was going through it I found myself rooting for it. Alas, the issues with organization, summaries, and wall of text are too much more me to even have No Regerts

Pretext pretext pretext, the characters are in a village. Therein they learn about several things going on, maybe get asked to do a few things, and the longer they stay the more happens. This is both because of the timeline of events and the picking up of more rumors, etc. Pretext pretext pretext, relatives, and the usual assortment of crappy hooks. But … got a military or mason background? You’ve been tasked with surveying the old lighthouse by some officials and picking up whatever supplies are left. Nice! The regional government actually doing something with the tax dollars for once!  And maybe it gives the party a little authority also … that hook has legs!

It’s a sandbox, just a village with several locations around it that the players will learn of, and several plots to uncover as they learn more about the life and history of the village. There’s a short little timeline to note events that may happen and a little DM checklist to note all of the various interesting things that the party could learn about / get wrapped up in. Like … 18 different things! Explore the Ruined Fort. Explore the town and notice that there are a lot of ‘twins.’ And so on. The timeline is good. The DM overview list is a good idea. The entire sandbox thing it’s got going on is GREAT. Some of the NPC’s are described in like, three words each, attributes they have like  young, full of enthusiasm, inexperienced, and so on. It tries to use bolding and bullet points in places and, generally, rooms/descriptions don’t overstay their welcome.

So, it’s trying. And it’s trying REAL hard. It knows what it SHOULD do. It just can’t figure out how to do it.

There’s a short table that tells us how many residents, workers, and adults are in each location in the village. Ok …. Is that relevant, beyond mere trivia? So while the idea of presenting the information in a table is great, it’s not really relevant to the adventure to have it at all.

The map of the village is numbered. But, in my experience, that’s not how PC’s explore a village. They don’t go up to a building and say “ok, what’s next door to this building?” They say things like “I want to find the inn”, or the tailor, or the general store, or whatever. But the village buildings are numbered. You have to go digging though the text to find the [general store] and then find the number and then go look at the map.

With a few notable exceptions (the inn, I’m looking at you) the village locations are pretty focused. Just what you need to know to run it and just what relevant to the adventure at hand with little to no trivia. But … inexplicably there’s read aloud for each location. Dry, boring, read aloud that doesn’t really add anything to the adventure. I guess the designer thought they needed read aloud for each?

The timeline, and indeed much of the text, doesn’t cross reference information. So that little DM checklist I mentioned? It doesn’t really point the DM to any place to learn more about the twin situation. Or the page number of the old fort. Or lighthouse. You have to go digging through the text again. If you reference something then provide a number or page cross-reference so the DM can orient themselves.

And this brings up the overall sitch. I’m not really sure what is going on in the village. All of those 18 things … I’m not sure how they work together (or don’t.) There’s no real overview or summary. That DM checklist could have done the heavy lifting if it had pointed the DM to places to learn more. Instead you have to pretty much read and re-read the adventure until you’re as familiar as the designer. Not cool.

Some information is provided in terse bullet form. Other places the bullets are long. Other places REALLY needed to be broken up in to bullets. The initial caravan trip in to town, wna dhwt athe PC”s know, is a great example of this. Everything is buried in various paragraphs. If it had been bulleted out it would have been easier to scan and find, especially in relation to PC inquiries.

Which brings me, again, to the lack of cross-reference. The Reeve says something to the effect, at one point “i don’t know, I wasn’t reeve then.” This begs the question: who was Reeve so we can go annoy them? Nope, nothing provided for the DM, even though this is the most natural follow up question of all.

Some of the maps are small and hard to read. The read-aloud, besides being generic bad, does things like “The stonework looks recently damaged.” No! No! No! That’s not something you tell the party when the walk in the room. That’s something you tell them when they investigate. The back and forth between DM and PC is a key part of D&D, the interactivity. By saying things like “You look under the table and see a box” in the read-aloud you are taking that away, and this adventure does that repeatedly.

The wanderers do things. It’s a real sandbox location. It tries, hard. It doesn’t commit the sins that most 5e adventure do. But, it’s like the designer hasn’t seen these writing techniques in practice, or is somehow focused on the wrong things. The mere fact that it’s a non-trivial sandbox, for 5e, get’s it a long way up the rankings, in my books, but I just can’t bring myself to push it over the edge in to Regerts. The lack of summary/orientations, and a slipping in to a kind of wall of text writing style obfuscates the adventure enough that it makes be not WANT to read it. And that makes me a little sad because I can tell there’s something here.

This is $5 at DriveThru. The preview is 15 pages, although it doesn’t really show you the heart of the adventure, only the (mostly) useless preamble stuff. The lower left side of page ten has the caravan intro, and you can see how it could be better organized as bullets, etc. Page eleven has the timeline, and you can see how cross-references to pages would have helped immensely in following things. Thirteen is the village map .. needing some named in addition to numbers, maybe? Fourteen are some in-voice rumors that are pretty good, while the last page, fifteen, has a good example of bulleted information on the right and left columns, including that DM Overview that is SORELY in need of cross-references to solve the summary/orientation/overview issue.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Kill the Brain Bug! 5150: Bugs Breakout AAR

Two Hour Wargames - Fri, 02/01/2019 - 23:40
Part Five

Short and not so sweet.

5150: Bugs - Breakout coming this weekend.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

OSR Commentary On The Gamma zine Kickstarter For Gamma World 1st edition By Throwi Games

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 02/01/2019 - 16:11
So anyone who knows me knows that I'm a post apocalyptic guy.  I've known Thom Wilson of Thowi Games has been quietly plugging in away locally for years on OSR. His stuff is some of the best kept secrets in the gaming community. Now he's diving in deep into the vaults & bunkers of the post apocalyptic OSR fanzine scene with his latest Kickstarter. With adventures like A Dish That Serves NoNeedles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Introducing The Grind

Torchbearer RPG - Fri, 02/01/2019 - 15:23

Do you need even more Torchbearer in your life? The cool cats at Mordite Press, makers of ‘Wicked dope Torchbearer Sagas content’ are at it again.

Today, as part of Kickstarter’s RPG Zine Quest, they launched The Grind, a Torchbearer zine packed with stories, one-page adventures, adventure ideas, monsters, items, town locations, NPCs, and more.

Check it out!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Solar Trek: The Archon's Return

Sorcerer's Skull - Fri, 02/01/2019 - 12:00
sourceThe discovery of the long lost generation ship Archon by Enterprise in 2263 underscored to the General Assembly of United Federation of Sol why sophont AI was to be feared.

Though records of the its launch are nonexistent (either destroyed in the chaos of the third World War or lost in the rapid changes in data storage formats that followed), its design, computer systems, and the cybernetic implants among its passengers suggest Archon (ICV-189) was a generation ship launched toward Proxima Centauri b in the early 21st Century. Its habitat areas were home to several diverse communities, among them some religious minorities, including a (ironically) technology-rejecting traditionalist Christian sect.

Archon would never reach Proxima Centauri. Federation forensic teams have been unable to determine what calamity happened first: the death of a number of crew in an accident, a breakout of hostilities among the colonists, or a malfunction in the vessel's artificial intelligence. Whatever the cause, several habitat regions were lost and others became isolated, armed camps. One of the crew took radical action that restored a semblance of peace, but at a cost. Programmer Nicholas Landru put the computer in charge.

At some point, the course of Archon was changed. It re-entered history again in the Sol System, where it was intercepted by Enterprise. What they found in the only functioning habitat area was a society resembling a late nineteenth century agrarian community with the inhabitants completely unaware they were on a vessel. Despite appearances, the members of the community were extensively managed and condition by cybernetic implants controlled by ship's AI, whom they referred to as "Landru." There were dissidents among them,  individuals presumably for whom the neurochemical conditioning was inadequate, who looked to the return of the "Archons" (a distorted memory of the vessel's crew) to save them.

The Enterprise crew in the habitatUnconcerned with cultural contamination, Captain James Kirk of Enterprise destroyed Landru. He was criticized in some academic circles, but both Space Fleet and Federation inquiries absolved the Captain and his crew of any wrongdoing.

The Archon's passengers have been resettled in a protect area so that a Federation team can slowly work on integrating them into society and undoing Landru's conditioning.

Adapting B4 The Lost City (Basic) By Tom Moldvay With A Cultclassic Twist or Two For An Old School Mini Campaign

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 02/01/2019 - 04:14
A crownless king who reigns alone,I live within this ashen land,Where winds rebuild from wandering sandMy columns and my crumbled throne.My sway is on the men that were,And wan sweet women, dear and dead;Beside a marble queen, my bedIs made within this sepulcher.In gardens desolate to the sun,Faring alone, I sigh to findThe dusty closes, dim and blind,Where winter and the spring are Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

[REVIEW] The Ruins of Quinstead

Beyond Fomalhaut - Thu, 01/31/2019 - 22:06

The Ruins of Quinstead (1994)by Roland O' Connell (only credited as R.O.C.)Published by Gamer’s Group PublicationsLevel 1-12 (but see below)
Depicted: the castle that's NOT
actually in the moduleThere is no mistake about the year. This is an authentic third party AD&D module from 1994, recently made available again as a PDF on DriveThruRPG. Of course, it is careful not to call itself AD&D and get sued by TSR, Inc. – it is the kind of thing where you might encounter, say, a Level 2 Zealot with 13 Dps, owning a Vial of Curing Potion and a Level 1 Cloak of Guarding. Nobody is fooling anyone. In a way, it is a direct challenge to the TSR Overlords: as the introduction states, “As an avid supporter of the fantasy role playing games, I became discouraged by the lack of quality in the modules I was purchasing. Several of my gaming counterparts also felt this same dissatisfaction. The modules published by Gamer’s Group Publication come from a group of experienced role players who enjoy creating and playing fantasy role playing scenarios. (…) The original the Ruins of Quinstead adventure was created in 1980 by a novice game-master for use with the fantasy role playing system distributed by TSR industries. [sic] As this novice game-master improved his skills and knowledge of fantasy role playing games, the adventure underwent several modifications in an attempt to create a truly enjoyable gaming experience. The result, is the product you have just purchased.
I wonder if this could be one of the first game scenarios to have bragging rights about taking a deliberately old-school stance. It is there if you look at it carefully:1) It identifies the problem (that the craft of adventure writing has declined radically, and TSR was pushing worthless junk on gamers);2) It draws on a better tradition (1980-style dungeoneering);3) It adapts that tradition through experience into something combining old and new ideas.4) It is produced and published independently of AD&D’s existing owner.How’s that for an “Old School Renaissance”? Are there earlier third party modules with a consciously declared back-to-the-roots message? Here is a puzzle for the Acaeum sleuths!
This, however, is an adventure review, so let’s have at it.
The Ruins of Quinstead takes you into the dungeons beneath the cursed castle of Quinstead, once owned by an evil marauder who had in the end met a tragic fate. As it happens in Not-AD&D, the castle is once again showing signs of habitation, and adventurers are tasked to learn what’s happening. In 44 pages, the adventure presents a three-level, 76-room dungeon (the castle itself is left undescribed), from a humanoid-inhabited entrance complex to more varied fare down below.
There is a lot of content in the dungeon, and when comparing it to modern old-school offerings, it is immediately apparent how much larger dungeons used to be in the past. Quinstead’s two main levels are both substantial, with 31 and 36 keyed areas, respectively. It is not megadungeon-sized, but it is a proper labyrinth calling for exploration, discovery, and lots and lots of combat. Interestingly, there is a notable difficulty spike between the levels: the first one is suitable for a large beginning party, but as you go deeper, it becomes downright brutal with high-level undead, demons, and save-or-die traps. You either start higher than first level, level up those characters quickly, or you should expect a break in play before tackling the dangerous areas on the second and third levels.
This split is also apparent in the quality of the content. Unfortunately, for all the old-school credentials, the entrance level is largely one humanoid-infested barrack room after another, with hordes of low-level humanoids and lovingly described “cabinet contents”-style fare. Boxes with 10 neatly folded blankets and 60 candles, crates with 12 weeks’ worth of mouldy food, or an iron box with hams, a 5 lb. sack of flour, and a jar of pickles (but “hidden at the bottom of the box is 250 gc’s”). This is the kind of thing that grounds adventures in reality in small quantities, and turns them dull when there is too much of it. And there is definitely too much of it.
Another issue with the setup is that the module tries to tell a story in a way we now largely recognise as The Wrong Way To Do It. The adventure is liberally peppered with roadblocks preventing completion until the characters find the proper keys hidden somewhere else, decipher an obscure clue, or do things in a specific way. There is an unfolding tragic backstory which is very AD&D in its execution, but the drama is largely between NPCs, with the characters as helpers and perhaps just spectators. In the end, the adventure becomes much more linear than you would think from the map, because you have to turn every stone to find the next progression token, and do it in sequence. This in turn exacerbates the module’s weaknesses – you can’t skip them until you find the damn keys.
On the other hand, the second and third levels suddenly become more interesting. The encounters are more varied, with a better roster of monsters, a higher number of “specials”, and more interesting locations. There are distinctly themed subsections with their own mapping style and challenges. There is an underground arena, a vast chasm, a vampire named Jennifer, treasure vaults, upscale living quarters, and undead/troll caverns. Perhaps it was written later, or mid-to-high-level AD&D just fired up the author’s imagination better, but this part is a substantial improvement, if ­ a bit heavy on brutal traps (if your Thief doesn’t die here, he is good). Nothing earth-shattering, just good, solid dungeoneering.
So in the end, this might be a first. Unfortunately, it is not the best. You could improve it by opening it up so it is not as linear and scripted, but you will still be left with the radical jumps in encounter difficulty, and a lacklustre first level. It stacks up well when we compare it to early 90s TSR modules, but why would you compare something to Swamplight or Terrible Trouble at Tragidore?
(And a random observation: the first level is oriented differently than the other two, so check that compass before you give your players directions.)
No playtesters are credited in this publication (and the author is only credited by his initials so the TSR goons don't break his legs).
Rating: ** / *****
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

OSR Campaign Commentary - The Cha'alt Kickstarter By Venger As'Nas Satanis

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 01/31/2019 - 20:53
Venger Satanis has learned a painful lesson in publishing sometimes, 'Listen to your audience or else.'. Day after day of blogging I've had my ass handed to me with the up & down of OSR & game blogging over the years. The best approach is to sometimes say the Hell with an idea or adventure concept in gaming. But now Venger's latest Kickstarter has the author/designer going back to his Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Cryptozoic Announces Release of Cryptkins: Series 2 Vinyl Figures

Cryptozoic - Thu, 01/31/2019 - 20:45

Cryptozoic Entertainment today announced the February 15 release of CryptkinsTM: Series 2 vinyl figures. The second set of 2.25-inch figures based on Cryptozoic’s popular original IP features Kraken, Cerberus, Unicorn, Gryphon, and Blue Dragon, among many other creatures that have been the subject of folklore and tabloid headlines.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Of Family and Spirits (Part II)

Torchbearer RPG - Thu, 01/31/2019 - 14:00
A part of The Viking’s Bride frieze by Walter Crane, 1883

A few weeks back we explored using the Ættir in Torchbearer games set in the Middarmark. In particular, we took a look at Ran Deepmind, ættir of the Ageiring clan led by Jarl Stigand.

Ran, though much diminished by the near obliteration of the Ageirings in the Battle of Sølvfjord nine years ago, seeks to guide her descendents back to greatness. But the Ageirings have many enemies standing in the way of the young jarl’s path back to power. Perhaps the most immediately dangerous are the Tualings, a clan of Græling outlaws with a score to settle.

The Tualings

The fractious and temperamental Tualing clan have inhabited the uplands of Sudstrond for centuries, with a reputation as troublemakers. Tualing legend holds that long before the Bjornings blighted the shores of the Middarmark, when Græling kings and queens ruled across the land, Tua the Unruly was outlawed and cast out of her clan to prevent a blood feud after she slew her husband’s uncle. She and her closest kin made their way north to the lands west of the Gull Pass, where they established a steading, Tuasgard.

Over the centuries, Tua’s clan expanded to encompass four more steadings, making them one of the most influential local powers. The Ageirings say that many years ago, Stigand’s ancestor, Val the Bold, purchased the Tualing steading of Bikkasgard to establish the fort of Valborg at the mouth of the Gull Pass. The Tualings, on the other hand, maintain they were cheated, forced to give up the steading at spearpoint by Jarl Val’s huskarls. Whatever the truth, the Tualings have regarded the Ageirings with suspicion and hate for long years.

Following the Battle of Sølvfjord, a handful of hot-headed Tualing youths killed Valborg’s steward and occupied the fort, until Stigand’s huskarls returned with the jarl some years later, slaying some and driving out the rest. Furious, the jarl declared the clan outlaw. The Tualings’ neighbors, sensing an opportunity to seize valuable fields and pastures at the expense of their querulous Græling cousins, burned the Tualing steading of Larasstad, slaying most of the people and claiming their lands. It is now a haunted place.

The Tualings retreated to their remaining steadings and declared a blood feud against the Ageirings and their supporters, which they have waged ceaselessly and ruthlessly in the decade since.

It should be noted that as Grælings, the Tualings all have Feuding nature. Having formally declared a blood feud against the Ageirings, they have become terrible foes, as any actions taken in furtherance of the feud falls within their nature.

Tua is a canny spirit, but prone to eruptions of temper whenever she believes that she or her descendents have been slighted. She bestows her favor on descendents who are proud, devious and unstinting in support of their kin. She is determined to destroy the Ageirings.

Tua the Unruly, Ættir of the Tualings The Tualing Regalia

The Tualing clan regalia includes Tua’s beaten bronze brooches strung with glass beads, a set of pitted iron shears, Tua’s loom, a fine steel battle axe, and an ancient ard plough.

Most of the regalia is generally kept at Tua’s shrine at Tuasgard, but the ard is brought to the other Tualing steadings of Finnaby and Abbranvad for the plough rites.

Player characters can be born into the Tualings or join the clan through marriage. Any member of the Tualing clan may use a piece of regalia in a ritual (Ritualist, Ob 3) to connect with Tua. When so connected, Tua can speak through that character’s mouth in furtherance of her belief or instinct. Likewise, she can provide help to characters that have performed the ritual, so long as they remain in contact with the regalia. She can only help within the context of her nature descriptors and if her belief or instinct apply.

With her nature reduced to 4 due to the burning of Larasstad, Tua is somewhat weakened, but her clan retains three steadings and remains numerous. Like Tua, her descendents tend to be devious but tempestuous, prone to act impulsively and aggressively if angered. They are tight-knit and will stand against anyone and everyone in support of each other.

Like Ran, Tua has an agenda. She wants Stigand slain, Ran’s shrine burned and her regalia destroyed. She wants to reclaim Valborg for her clan. And then she wants to make the Græling clans that burned Larasstad pay. But vengeance upon the Ageirings comes first.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

What is the best OSR system for RPG novices?

Bat in the Attic - Thu, 01/31/2019 - 13:22

One forum I frequent is the RPGPub. Recently a question was asked,

What is the best OSR system for RPG novices?

I gave some system recommendations and then I realize I been looking at the answer to this question wrong.

Given that nearly all of the various editions of  classic DnD and OSR retro clones are of comparable complexity. Especially in what you have to do get a campaign going. The answer is all of them and none of them.


Because system doesn't matter, it all depends on the referee being a good teacher and a good coach. So use whatever system that works with the way you think and operate and focus on learning to teach and coach.

I throw in coaching because in sports the athlete is expected to execute strategies and procedures that are mostly in real time. A good coach not only explains those strategies and procedures i.e. teach, but guide the athlete through them the first few time until the athlete is able to do them. Afterward the coach will help the athlete practice to improve their skills in regards to whose strategies and procedures. Much of this occurring in real time with the athlete doing whatever their particular sport requires them to do.

While not as physical, the interplay of the players describing what their characters and the referee making a ruling often by using a printed system of rules means there some overlap what you do to teach a beginning athlete and a novice to RPGs.

So hence, focus on being a good teacher and coach. As for the rules use whatever works for you as a teacher and coach.

The OSR logo is by Dyson Logos
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs


Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 01/31/2019 - 12:00

Last year I did a series of superhero-themed posts on Google+ inspired by Wold-Newton essays and with the conceits there was only one Earth (encompassing both the Marvel and DC and possibly other "universes") and the world tended to work like our own, despite its somewhat altered history. This served to both ground the characters in history, making them more "realistic" and making history stranger! The name for the series was taken from Mark Gruenwald's 1979 fanzine alternate comic book realities.

With Gplus in its death throes, I exported those posts and they are now blogposts here. Only a few of them are currently visibly, but if you want to check them out, follow the Omniverse label at the bottom of this post.

Adapting B5 Horror On The Hill As A Campaign Jump Off Point With a Cult Classic Twist

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 01/31/2019 - 03:57
"Between the sun's departure and return, the Silver Death had fallen upon Yoros. Its advent, however, had been foretold in many prophecies, both immemorial and recent. Astrologers had said that this mysterious malady, heretofore unknown on earth, would descend from the great star, Achernar, which presided balefully over all the lands of the southern continent of Zothique; and having sealed the Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs


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