Tabletop Gaming Feeds

Flip Through: Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica Dungeons and Dragons

Gamer Goggles - Fri, 12/28/2018 - 01:17

In this Flip Through Matt takes a serious look at the Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica . He starts by bringing you up to date with the history of Ravnica and the tenth district before focusing on guilds.


Click here to view the video on YouTube.

I’m so happy to see the world of Magic the Gathering infiltrate Dungeons and Dragons!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Of Family and Spirits

Torchbearer RPG - Thu, 12/27/2018 - 14:00
A part of The Viking’s Bride frieze by Walter Crane, 1883

Hello friends! Happy holidays!

It was probably ambitious on my part to try to do an interactive project over the holidays. Since I haven’t heard from anyone regarding the Robber’s Bridge submissions I posted last week, I’m going to hold off one more week before moving forward with work on the adventure.

If you’re interested in the project, click on the link above and tell me which options you like and which you don’t! Feel free to riff on the ones you like! If you want to see more interactive projects like this in the future, please contribute. Otherwise I’ll assume the interest isn’t there.

Spiritual Matters

In the meantime, let’s delve a little bit into the Ættir, a type of spirit described in the Of Trolls and Men chapter in Middarmark1Page 91. An ættir is a clan’s ancestral spirit. For all intents and purposes, it is the clan. As it fares, so does the clan, and as the clan fares, so does its ættir. Think of the ættir as a minor deity with her family serving as her worshippers. She serves as the conduit between the living members of the clan and the deceased ancestors.

Great! What does that mean and how can you use it in play? Let’s take a look at one clan’s ættir to get a better grasp of it.

Those of you familiar with the Middarmark know that the power of the Jarls of Sudstrond was smashed by Scefings in the disastrous Battle of Sølvfjord nine years ago2See Sudstrond, Middarmark, page 22.

The jarl’s 10-year-old son Stigand, left in his family’s hall with a handful of loyal retainers during the battle, was one of the clan’s only survivor’s that terrible day. At 19, Jarl Stigand has established himself at Valborg, a castle at the western mouth of the Gull Pass3See Stigand, Jarl of Sudstrond, Middarmark, page 22.

Stigand is the last scion of the once-powerful Ageiring clan, founded by Ageir the Raven, companion to Sigrun Shieldbreaker and first Jarl of Sudstrond.

Ageir may have won the jarldom for deeds of valor at Sigrun’s side, but it was his wife, Ran Deepmind, who shouldered the burden of administering the vast holding and its wealth. She, too, was responsible for maneuvering to keep the conquered Græling peoples of Sudstrond in check, forging alliances with some powerful clans while carefully setting the rest against each other.

In life, her leadership made the Ageirings one of the wealthiest and most powerful clans in the Middarmark. In death, she apotheosized as the ættir of the Ageirings. In the two-and-a-half centuries since, she has continued to protect and guide her descendants as the clan’s ancestral mother.

Ran is much diminished since the disastrous Battle of Sølvfjord 10 years ago: The entire clan, save only Stigand and his great aunt, Solveig, were lost. Most of the clan’s regalia sank or burned with the Ageiring fleet, and Ran’s shrine was despoiled when Ravnhallen, the Ageiring seat in Stortmarke, was overrun and given to the flames.

Half mad with grief and rage, she plots to guide her clan back to greatness.

Ran Deepmind, Ættir of the Ageirings The Ageiring Regalia

Once the Ageiring clan regalia was expansive: Ageir’s bow and cloak of raven feathers, the Raven Banner, a corselet of bright mail gifted by Sigrun herself, and more. Most of it was seized by the Scefings or was lost to the deeps of the Sølvfjord. Only a few pieces remain, a pewter-sheathed drinking horn, a fine bone comb and Ran’s samite shawl. They adorn Ran’s shrine in Valborg and are the clan’s last surviving connection to its ancestral spirit.

Any member of the Ageiring clan—whether by birth, marriage or adoption—may use a piece of regalia in a ritual (Ritualist, Ob 3) to connect with Ran. When so connected, Ran 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.

This, by the way, is one of the reasons family is so important in the Middarmark. Having a family means having an ættir, and having an ættir means having Otherworldly protection and guidance. Without family, you are at the mercy of any malicious spirit that chances upon you.

With her nature reduced to 3, Ran isn’t that powerful currently, but she’s canny and driven. You can bring her into play with Stigand’s aunt Solveig acting as her priestess. If the players want to take up Stigand’s cause, their characters must prove themselves to her. Their characters might swear to serve Stigand and join the clan that way. A character might marry Stigand or convince him to adopt them. If the characters join the clan, Ran becomes their ættir. One of them might even be entrusted with a piece of clan regalia.

Of course, Ran has an agenda. She plans to make the Ageirings the most powerful clan in the Middarmark. But first the clan needs to grow in numbers, wealth and influence, and she will see the characters as useful tools to that end. Ran’s first order of business is to move against the Tualing clan and its ættir, Tua the Unruly. We might explore the Tualings and their ættir in a future post.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

On a Thursday Trick: Mirrors

Hack & Slash - Thu, 12/27/2018 - 14:00
Mirror Trick (Category: Special, Restraints/Hazards)

Trigger: Mechanical: Light Detection
Mechanical: Interaction
Magical: Proximity
Magical: Touch

Multiple TargetsSave: Petrification/Polymorph
None Duration: Varies

Resets: AutomaticBypass: Special

Description: Mirrors are a powerful tool, frequently overlooked and forgotten by dungeon designers. Consider mirrored walls, at a distance, strange figures that are difficult to make out. In a room with mirrors, distances can be confusing and surprising. It can be difficult to locate a target.
A mirror trap can be simulated by simply having each appropriate mirror face present another location for monsters the players can see.

Mirrors at the end of hallways confuse mappers, and frequently draw aggressive reactions. Hide something deadly behind a mirror and wait for a panicky player with a crossbow to unleash it on a party.
Magical mirrors are always useful. A covered mirror could be a mirror of life trapping. Mirrors that travel to other mirrors, or hide reverse of rooms or dungeons, or act as scrying devices all have a precedent in fantasy.
Mirror opponents, duplicates but in reverse created by the mirror are a classic opponent. How does the character beat himself? There's even an old transcription of a game in the 70's where a journalist comments on encountering a mirror that made a fighter fight his reflection.
"Mirrors" can represental portals to a similar dimension, requiring you to take some action in this world to cause an event to occur in the other—pull a lever, push a pressure plate, smash an obstacle.

Detection/Disarming: The important thing with maintaining agency about mirrors is making sure that you describe to the player exactly what they see and how it responds to them. You should work this out ahead of time (as above). Intelligent characters will ask questions and draw the correct conclusions. Reducing solving a puzzle like this to a roll should only be used for people unwilling to engage in exploratory play due to insecurity.
Only use these tricks to protect optional treasure or areas. Don't ever require a trick or puzzle as described as above as necessary to advance play.

Consider also this trapped mirror from an earlier article, Tim Short's take on a mirror leading to a mirror universe, and this list of Mirror Effects from Aeons & Arguries.

The Tricks and Traps series examines original and classic traps discussing how to present the traps while maintaining the agency of the players. A complete list of sources and inspiration may be found here. The Tricks and Traps Index page contains a complete listing of all the tricks and traps on this site, or you may browse by tags.

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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

In the Cellar of the Silver Dragon

Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 12/27/2018 - 12:00

As I previously mentioned, I ran a short D&D 5e game for my inlaws on Christmas Eve. I ultimately elected to run "A Most Potent Brew," which I picked up on the DMs Guild. I thought it would be short and relatively uncomplicated, and it wound up being a good choice, having samples of exploration and puzzles as well as combat.

The setup involved a brewery (which I remained the Silver Dragon) where workman had inadvertently opened a whole into the buried lower levels of a forgotten wizard's tower. The monsters were mostly vermin: giant rats and giant centipedes. There was one unique monster, though, a giant spider with a fiery bit and web.

The party consisted of a fighter, a cleric, and a warlock, all first level. My wife (as usual) was the cleric. She let her parents take lead, but helped them with the rules and encouraged them when they dithered too long. Ironically, her character was the only one that came close to dying, having been heavily damaged by the fire spider, though some difficulty with a puzzled-based trap was a close call for the fighter.

A good time was had by all. The adventure had little novelty, but it was just about perfect for introducing rpg-naive player's to the mechanics and conventions of D&D in short session. A couple of observations, perhaps of interest: the oft-repeated old school saw of longer and more detailed character creation leading to player's not being sufficiently willing to let their character's die is, at best, only part of the picture. My inlaws were not involved with character creation at all beyond choosing their class, and they were very cautious and death-averse. Both being avid gamers, I suspect they equated death with loss and didn't want to lose. Secondly, so much of D&D mechanics are sort of legacy (ability scores as opposed to just their modifiers, for instance) and could probably be streamlined to make it easier for new player's to understand.

OSR Module Redux - EX1 Dungeonland (1e) By Gary Gygax For Old School Campaign Use

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 12/26/2018 - 17:05
"As adventurers, you may think you have seen everything: certainly your skills have brought you through unimaginable dangers. But now you suddenly find yourself in a place unlike any through which you have traveled: astounding, dangerous, and even amusing things confront you as you journey, both indoors and outdoors, through unique and wondrous realm of Dungeonland. "Let's get the basics out ofNeedles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

On The Corporation is Not Your Friend

Hack & Slash - Wed, 12/26/2018 - 13:00
Spider man, spider man, doing things a spider can,
spin that web, poison that man, oh no it's spiders-man

Spider-man, into the Spider-verse is the best movie I've seen since Lord of the Rings. It is an astounding tour-de-force. It's the first time I've seen something visually authentically new in cinema since the Return of the King. Also, it made me love Morales as spider-man.

I don't know that much about the Marvel universe. I'm a visual artist, I read comics, but mostly indy stuff? Lots of Dynamite comics, risque nudity, the type of thing that offends the weak minded.

When I was a kid I decided I was going to listen to whoever had the best arguments and think those things, the ones that were the best. But it turns out, there's actually a biological component to what I think. No matter how much a (for example) plutocrat explains their views to me, it turns out I'm not going to agree.

What's going to happen is that there will be a few more spider-verse movies and they will be good to ok, and then there will be a lot of them and they will be bad. I know this, because Sony owns Spiderman. And they are a corporation.

Let me explain: Let's talk about blizzard.

The Name is Blizzard. Activision-Blizzard.
In late 2007 Activision began the process of buying Blizzard. Bobby was put in charge.

I'll let him damn himself with his own words, yeah?

From the article titled "Activision: If we can't run a game into the ground, we don't want it." (This stuff writes itself, are you kidding me? That's a quote!?!):
"The games Activision Blizzard didn't pick up, he said, "don't have the potential to be exploited every year on every platform with clear sequel potential and have the potential to become $100 million franchises. … I think, generally, our strategy has been to focus… on the products that have those attributes and characteristics, the products that we know [that] if we release them today, we'll be working on them 10 years from now." - BobbyYeah.

So Activision eliminated the bonus program, dropping technicians to their below industry average rates, causing many developers to flee. Anyone who followed Blizzard's developers on twitter, would now be following people who no longer work at Blizzard. Personally, as a Hearthstone player, having Ben Brode steal some members of the team and leave to found his own company was where it impacted me.

Here is a list of major developers and programmers who have left just in the last few years, not even since the Activision takeover 10 years ago. Rob Pardo (creative director). Chris Metzen (Story Director), Nick Carpenter (VP Cinematics), Josh Mosqueira (Game Director Diablo III), James Waugh, Tyson Murphy, Craig Am, Ben Brode (Hearthstone lead), and hearthstone programmers, Jomaro Kindred, Yong Woo, Michael Schweitzer, and most recently, Mike Morhaime, the co-founder of Blizzard Entertainment.

Blizzard doesn't work at Blizzard any more.

Here are people describing work at Activision/Blizzard: "Siloed mentality. . . fear based culture", "Severe problems in management", "Lots of politics, pleasing egos on a constant basis." "Lots of pressure, way too much overtime."

Here's a story. There's a golden goose. Wait! There's a surprise.
Someday this goose is going to die.
A 'bidness man', not a bleeding heart artist like me, says something like this: "This goose is gonna die someday, so I better get as much gold out of it as I can." And they decide to dip into the nefarious world of microtransactions, loot boxes, in-game advertising and research on algorithms to prompt people to spend money by matching them with rich players to get stomped.

Because why build art? Don't you know that the goose is gonna die someday? Best to get as much out of it as you can.

The goalpost at blizzard has unquestionably shifted from, "Make and test games until they feel perfect." to "Let's exploit this for profit." and it shows. The last Hearthstone expansion has serious weird bugs that would be impossible to miss during playtesting—at least the way blizzard used to do it. The work is getting shoddy and it shows. Who is left to make sure it doesn't?

It seems stupid, yeah? Until, of course, it's pointed out that, even though it's a long shot, from their perspective it's better money-wise, to take the shot. Blizzard did it, right? It just made "Everquest but from Blizzard". That worked out real well.

The shot in question being a big f-u to everyone looking for a new diablo community on the internet with a new PC release, with the announcement of a skin of a chinese game written by a chinese software company to release a microtransaction-focused diablo-skinned arpg slot machine. You know the sort, 4$ to turn off ads, 6$ for the experience doubler, and then the gem packs.

Welcome to Diablo Eternal, written by the chinese market for the chinese.

So, in retrospective, much like the 19th century was about british imperialism, the 20th about the information age, the 21st will be about the rise of China. It's ok. They aren't going to go to war with anyone, except on the market.

So who knows? Maybe tapping the chinese market will make Activision a ton of money.

But what about Blizzard? What about what they stood for?

Me? I'd want to extend the life of the goose. Give it a little swimming pond, some free range spaces. I mean it's a goose, and geese are assholes. Seriously. Geese are dicks. I mean, I'm no speciest, but I don't want geese moving in next door, if you know what I mean. They will honk all night. Still, if it's laying golden eggs, who cares if it lives in a nice house with a swimming pool?

Henry Ford said "If the only reason to run a business is to make money, it's a bad business." So when activision takes over, policies change. The culture changes. People leave. The games do drop in quality. But Activision wants to acquire, and extract. After all, it's not like Blizzard was going to stay profitable indefinitely. Even if it did, it's just not enough money every month.

Not every corporation has the practices. Others love their game so much they enslave their workers like a medieval lord, forcing people to labor for over a hundred hours in a 168 hour week? Some companies like Steam are private, lean, and generate both revenues and power.  Others like Crate are made up of a group of people who love their jobs and lives, pouring their soul into the game.
Along Came A Spider To Sit Beside-herVenom, Black Cat, Silver Sable, Morbius the Living Vampire, Kraven the Hunter, Silk, Jackpot and Nightwatch. Those are all the movies Sony has planned for the Spider-verse in the next 24 months. I only know like 3 of those characters.

The animated movie was just a side project.

But already sequel plans are in place. A sequel with morales and gwen. That will serve as a "Launching Pad" for spinnoffs. Gwen/Spider Woman/Silk. Spider Ham.

They don't have an idea for a movie. They have an idea about how to produce a lot of content while people are excited. In their favor is that the people getting these projects care about the spider.

But here's the thing. As quality varies in the movies, shareholders will demand better returns, and that's when the rules come about what directors can and cannot do. With less freedom and more studio interference, director quality will decline, until they've squeezed every last penny from the spider-verse that they can.

And you know, good on them. But don't turn the corporation into your heroes. Maybe we shouldn't let corporations operate without concern for the well-being of people. It turns out the invisible hand will give people cancer if it makes 'em some money. This is why extremism is so bonkers. Of course you need both socialist and capitalist traits in a government for it to be successful. I don't care about someone making a few hundred million a year, but even libertarians—a political movement founded on the principle of freedom from government intervention, believe that the wealth concentration is an issue where injustice is being perpetrated and must be addressed.

Like the vast vast majority of humans are on board with this as a problem.

I mean, that's why the future of the Internet is in communities. They've become social entertainment, doors open in many houses at any given moment, time shared with people you care about who's jobs are communicating and building communities. Patron, Twitch, human organization is changing. That's why I'm following Overhype studios, developer of Battle Brothers. Because they are a pair of brothers, making a toy they love. They have money, but mostly they just want to make their little sandbox. I drift along with other fans who watch and stream the game, becoming a part of a tribe.

It turns out that people do things for reasons other than money. I'm not taking a choosing beggar stance, people should be compensated for their talents. But the fact is, if people have their needs met, they still will do things because they enjoy them. The fact that the very plutocratic policy these objectivist follow doesn't even heed the core maxim of the creator "Did you get your money by fraud? By pandering to men's vices or stupidity? By catering to fools, in the hopes of getting more than your ability deserves?. . . If so your money will not give you a moment's or penny's worth of joy."

We all know that isn't true. People making millions at activision or seeking to save and distribute twenty-five million dollars to executives, while stiffing floor people who are fired. They don't feel guilt about that. Just trying to get as much for them as they can.

But here's a crazy thing. Aggressive assholes? That's not something that's biologically selected for. It turns out, you are more reproductively successful if you have friends (said the uncountable bacteria encasing every human body.) So in the long run, we are seeing an evolution of humanity itself. It turns out, that evolution selects for community instead of aggression. What befalls the fox befalls us all.
While Belyayev and his team "didn't select for a smarter fox but for a nice fox", Hare said, "they ended up getting a smart fox."I'm sad about the future of Hearthstone, and glad we are going to get some good spider man films.
Have a great Christmas everyone!

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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Dead Planet

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 12/26/2018 - 12:19

By Donn Stroud, FM Geist, Sean McCoy
Tuesday Knight Games

There is a planet that no ship escapes. A place where death calls like a beacon amongst the waves of the living. This is the DEAD PLANET.

This 52 page adventure for spaceman games presents a small series of “one page” dungeons, ala Stonehell, all related to a theme: being trapped in orbit around a certain planet. Colorful and evocative, runnable, with a hefty portion of the writing directed at actual play, it walks the line of performance art without getting too much up its own ass so as to be unrunnable. I often say that sci-fi is my favorite but I don’t know how to run it. I can run this.

Well hell, I don’t know where to start. This thing uses the same format as Stonehell, or The Fall of Whitecliff. There’s a general description of an area, heavy on text, that supplements a “one page dungeon.” The idea is that you read the background text and then you can run that portion of the adventure from the one page. The extra text is inspiration, background, things half-remembered and maybe a back reference for when you are running the one-pager. Stonehell did this in a format that was quite regimented and therefore easy to follow. Whitecliff did this in a more loose format, formatting things depending on the circumstances of the one-pager, social, dungeon, etc. This thing walks to the line of usability/performance art, looks down at, and does a jig on it with its tongue hanging out waggling, eyes all googley, while flipping the world off with both hands. It’s gets about as close as you can to the usability/art line. Garish colors, different fonts, immersive quotes, page backgrounds … it reminds me of Black Sun Deathcrawl or #WeAllLiveOnPunjar in places. But, at its heart, it’s using the Stonehell format. Buying in to that, as I did in my Stonehell & Whitecliff reviews, means accepting the overview text and its relationship to the adventure at the table.

So, your ship gets sucked to this system and can’t jump out. There’s this planet, a moon, and a FUCKTON of derelict ships in orbit. That means there’s a section that describes the nearest derelict ship, a derelict ship generator system, a couple of one pagers about the moon, and a couple of one-pages describing the planet, including a kind of hex crawl.

This seems the correct place to mention a cult of survivors on the moon, cannibals, who ritually cul off parts of themselves for social status to feed the tribe, who also have a giant ship harpoon that shoot at ships to drag them down the moon. So, yeah, that’s kind of tone this thing has.

It does a lot right in terms of presenting information to the DM. Monsters generally lead their descriptions with the most important bits. Here’s a Glow Skull: “Brittle hyaline globes filled with phosphorescent liquid. Inside the globe, an internal skull can be seen moving within the green glow of the liquid.” That’s the first two of three sentences. It’s exactly what you need, as a DM, in order to run them.

SImilarly, the adventure provides the resources the DM needs when and where they need it. On the moon crawl there’s a short section called “how far can you walk?” There’s a timeline next to the section where the party has options on how to proceed. Huts on a plan? There a little table called “I search the bone hut.” How about that cannibal base? There’s a table focused on looting it. There’s a nice NPC summary sheet, with their quirks and goals easily seen, and thus easy for the DM to roleplay them. The emphasis on interactivity with the party, and resources to support that, is quite high. It’s almost like they thought about it and had that in mind when writing/designing/laying it out.

Did I mention the cross-references? Extensive page references exist in this. If it mentions another location, or person, or something then it also puts the page number next to it so you know where to go look for more info. That’s VERY good. In fact, one of the first such sections is “how do we get out of this system?” along with page references to the ways mentioned. Players love using scanners and sensors. The descriptions tell you what they say!

On that point, they don’t REALLY tell you what to say, the text in the sensors section gives you a general overview, allowing the DM to fill in what the characters actually get. Rather than prescriptive, it allows the DM to riff, with all the good that implies.

I like an adventure with some social elements. Hacking things is boring and its much more fun to talk to someone before you cut them down. This has that. Citing, again, the cannibal moonbase, they talk to you and ask you to surrender. Doing so brings a whole fuckton of interaction possibilities on the base. And … FACTION PLAY! That’s right, talking means you find different people with different goals and can support one side versus another and so on. This offers SO much more richer gameplay than just rolling to hit.

It’s open ended, non-linear, and fuck ton of good times.

Which is not to say it’s perfect. Like I said, it fucks with the Art School line a little much. I’m not willing to say it strays over, but it does it enough that I raise an eyebrow and I’m certain its going to be a bit much for some folk.

Likewise not every descriptions is a good one, leading with the most important stuff. Not every monster leads with the description, some rooms lead with a history, and a decent portion of other things are NOT oriented toward actual play. This is generally around the random tables used for treasure and ship generation, but not always.

This is $8 at DriveThru. The preview shows you the first “one page” dungeon, (a derelict ship, the closest one) proper, as well as the derelict ship generator. It may have been better to show the support pages for the dungeon in question, so as to get a better idea of how the various pages and sections work together, instead of half of one section and a general rando table.

The print copy is $15 at:

Oh, and I don’t know how I missed this my entire life [Ed: i do Bryce. You don’t pay the fuck attention.], but there’s this website called that sells print copies of this, and like a hundred other kick ass RPG things. This has GOT to be related to one of those metal-head DCC guys/artists.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Wednesday Comics: Hey, Kids! Comics Sales

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 12/26/2018 - 12:00
Christmas is over and the time of buying stuff you didn't get as gifts has begun. Comixology is running a number of sales on digital comics. Here's the big list of sales, including big sales from Marvel and DC. Most of these last until January 3rd.


Ten Foot Pole - Mon, 12/24/2018 - 13:36
  • By Keith Salamunia
  • Pinupsbyindi
  • OSR
  • Levels 1-5

… the adventurers are hired by a mysterious benefactor to aquire parts in a remote region, that ultimately leads to a seige to hold off an army of the undead.

Well, this is a thing.

This 24 page adventure contains a series of nine related one page dungeons. You collect some objects for your patron, and then defending a city from an undead army. The dungeons are linear and not written very well, but the art is nice. That makes sense because I’m pretty sure the designer is an artist.Any, the entre things is handwritten so … art was placed over usability.

Rule 1: It’s gotta be usable at the table. The font used in this is either a handwriting font or its actually handwritten. Either way, usability suffers. If I have to fight the text to get the adventure out then, well, I’m not gonna fight the text, I’m going to move on to something else. I get it. Artist. The One Page contests are full of artists. Cartographers are, on rpggeek, classified as artists. Great! Form + Function, right? (or so says Helmut, the proprietor of the Form+Function furniture store where I shop) Except when it doesn’t work, and it doesn’t work here. Hero needs to remember to keep his head down and designers need to remember that legibility is important.

The maps are linear with about six to eight rooms each. Do I need to explain why linear maps are bad? It doesn’t since the entire adventure is linear. Do adventure one. Then two. Then three. Keep going. No freedom. No original thought. For your convenience, consumption has been standardized.

The writing is the usual stream of consciousness stuff that one expects from the majority of products, with little thought given to organization or editing. Focusing in on the first dungeon, we get such gems as: “Family crypt full of coffins. When door is open Zombies will arise. If they are defeated a modest amount of treasure is in the coffins.” Note the multiple if/then statements. The back of my noggy noggy brain (all gone for beer and tobacco) is working on a theory that this and the linear nature or the dungeons and adventure as a whole is related to the same thing. A must happen before B. That is how adventures work, right? That shows up in map, the adventure plot, and the motivation for zombies and quantum nature of their treasure. I put three things to you, gentle reader. First, the quantum shit annoys me. Second, it is related to the original sin of linear plots. Third, it is sloppy writing that pads out the descriptions with filler words, clogging it up like an Elvis colon full of fried peanut butter and barbiturates. There IS treasure in the coffins. The zombies animate when the coffins are fucked with. The world exists outside the actions of the party.

Room four, in the same dungeon, is … something? “After unlocking The door ‘n, playas find an old coatroom.” First, quantum and padded again. Second, WHAT?!?! Playas? ‘N? WTF is that shit. It does continue with with one of the better room descriptions: A couple of old coats hang on hooks, the wallpaper is peeling, and everything smells damp. Tree roots are growing through the raimenents(? sp?) of the destroyed bathrooms. I don’t know why bathrooms are related to coat closets, but, whatever.

Room eleven tells us that a guard chamber contains old beds for warriors. Two ghouls still guard the room even in death. Nothing usable is in the room, except for a small bag of coin under the bed. So … the first clause is irrelevant, just say there’s a bag of coin under the bed. Again, padded, and another example of a writing style that is loose and not thought out or edited.  

The final room has the ghost of Lady Eris, a spellbook, a ruined philosopher’s stone, and a Deck of Many Things. A) NICE FUCKING JOB! Decks are wonderful and more designers should put fucked up magic items in adventures, no matter the level. The Deck represents everything wonderful about D&D. Free Will, good and bad effects, pushing your luck. Second, the goal of the adventure is to retrieve the Heart of Eris. I thought it was a gem, but I can find no reference to it, except in art which shows a red rock. I guess, though, it’s the heart of the ghost? Not clear. And Not Clear is Not Good Design.

The other dungeons are similar, and range from actual dungeoncrawls, like a tomb, to a wilderness, town, or castle defense section.

You got your art in my peanut butter. Normally I wouldn’t care, but, in this case, the test sucks. Mostly not particularly evocative, illegible, and unclear.

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru with a suggested price of $1. The preview is six pages. It shows the art style, and page four show you the first dungeon (which is why I concentrated on it in my review.) It’s representative of the dungeons, but, again, there are more event-drive “one pagers” as well.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Martian Massacre - OSR Play Session Report One

Swords & Stitchery - Sun, 12/23/2018 - 23:22
"The Earth is striking a blow back against the Martian invaders who have ravaged the Earth for years now. There are ghost cities of ancient Martian technologies but now there have been strange radio transmissions & after the Atomic War of 1960. The Earth has united to strike a blow against the invaders before another inter system war becomes a reality! " The year is the far future of Needles
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More D&D With the In-laws

Sorcerer's Skull - Sun, 12/23/2018 - 15:00
Headed to the in-laws for a couple of days and a bit of D&D may be in the cards. Having a newborn meant no family gaming last holiday season, but New Years 2017 my wife and I introduced her parents to D&D with a bit of Lost Mines of Phandelver--and a total party kill. We'll see what this second session brings.

The question is: What should I run this year? I need an adventure either 5e or easily adaptable (pretty much on the fly) that is navigable by new players and delivers some good stuff in just one setting.

OSR Review & Commentary On The Swords & Wizardry Adventure Behind The Walls By John Large From MonkeyBlood Design

Swords & Stitchery - Sat, 12/22/2018 - 21:10
"The adventure takes place in the north of Havenland, near to the Scrottish borders by the Kelderwater lake (see Hex M09 of The Haven Isles map). Ebeneezer Garbett, a local farmer from the mushroom-filled valley village of Otterdale, returned to the hamlet with tales of riches he had found. Now, no-one has seen him since, and he villagers are becoming ill with a strange fungal Needles
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WFRP – If Looks Could Kill

Ten Foot Pole - Sat, 12/22/2018 - 12:14

by Andy Law, Dave Allen, Ben Scerri
Cubicle 7
Beginning Players

Legends claim the Beast of Ortschlamm stalked the marshes near Ubersreik for centuries. But few believe it… When the adventurers agree to help Rutger Reuter, a charismatic, young merchant from Ubersreik, little do they realise what’s in store. What starts as a simple job guarding building supplies, soon turns to tragedy, horror, and murder. The Characters will not only need their wits about them to negotiate the double-dealing camp of Reuter and his business partners, but also the Beast they have unwittingly stirred…

This 28 page introductory adventure has the party as camp guards during a mill construction. A couple of good design ideas do nothing for an adventure that is meant to be read instead of played. Even among bloat/obfuscation adventures this one ranks high.

You start on a river barge and meet the dude that hired you. The barge overturns and a giant fish attacks. You go to a construction camp, meet the two other co-partners in the venture, and are asked to dig up some standing stones. The dude turns up dead and you’re tasked with following monster tracks in to the swamp. There you meet three villagers who killed the dude & faked a monster attack … being attacked by a real basilisk. Coming back to camp one of the co-partners has stolen the paybox and the other was behind hiring the crooked villagers to kill the dude. IE: two fights and a little roleplay.

This is published in the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying Product Identity Style. Which means a shitty font that’s too small and lots of italics for read-aloud. I can do without the font with legibility issues, the tony font, and the italics. All three make you feel like you are fighting the adventure to pull content out of it.

This is exacerbated by the FUCKING AWFUL organization of the text. Long paragraphs with details buried in them and seemingly endless number of them. It is CLEARLY laid out to be read and not to be used at the table. Bullets, whitespace, headers, organization, things to draw the DM’s attention to them while scanning … all are missing. It’s just one big text blob.

The NPC are organized like shit, two pages for the opening scene with your new employer, the co=partners mixed in later in their own shitty long text paragraphs. It is, essentially, a linear adventure with a couple of roleplay scenes separated by a couple of combat scenes. I don’t find that format particularly compelling and wish it would have taken a more open ended approach

It does do a decent job of presenting some dialog in the NPC’s voices, although better NOC formatting would have made this much more additive to their personalities.

It also does something pretty interesting with a skill check to find some treasure. An astounding success gets you the treasure. All other successes get you the treasure also, but with increasing difficulties. This ranges from rumors around the camp, or a pickpocket, or your employer showing up and watching you like a hawk. Turning the roll in to an opportunity to roleplay and add roleplay complications is quite good design.

It’s too bad this is so shittily organized/written to be read instead of played. The double/triple cross stuff with the partners is interesting, as is the digging up of the standing stone and some of the roleplay possibilities with the workers, the swamp villager crooks, etc. While a small and simple adventure those elements really elevate it. It’s just SOOOOO hard to wade through the text. At this point the product identity is just mimicking shitty cost-based choices form the 80’s and is not a detriment to the line.

This is free on DriveThru. The preview is four pages. The last page is the best example of whats to come. The italics, wall of text, etc.–If-Looks-Could-Kill

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

A Winter Solitice In Clark Ashton Smith's Zothique - Clark Ashton Smith Inspired Actual Play Session Report II

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 12/21/2018 - 17:43
Ambitious of their solitary reign, Whose many-pointed brilliance fills the sky, The silver moon doth rise in majesty, And with her splendor shares the stars' domain. Now as she takes her lucent course on high, Her light doth shroud all things in mystery And subtle glamour. As of realms unknown It seems—a radiance from worlds that lie Beyond our ken, and glimpsed in dreams alone. And in those Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Christmas Specials

Sorcerer's Skull - Fri, 12/21/2018 - 12:00

A few years ago, I managed to do three "Christmas Specials" in my two Weird Adventures campaigns (though I only did 2 write-ups): "Twas the Fight Before Yule," and it's sequel, and "Another Weird Yule." In 2016, there was a holiday related cameo in my Land of Azurth game.

I still haven't gotten around to doing the reskin of Slumbering Ursine Dunes involving the Weird Adventures version of the Tunguska Event, the mysterious Siberian cauldrons, a captive Father Yule, and talking bears, but I still think it would be great.

Flip Through: Sovietski for Rifts RPG

Gamer Goggles - Thu, 12/20/2018 - 19:52

In this Flip Through Matt takes a look at the Rifts World book Sovietski.  this book contains everything from prerift history to the  present day. There are a lot of new character classes for Rifts in this game, plus bunkers, and a slew of cybernetics. C’mon in!

Click here to view the video on YouTube.

I really like the approach that was taken with Sovietski.

You can support Through Gamer Goggles by getting your copy here:

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Adventure Design: Robber’s Bridge (Part II)

Torchbearer RPG - Thu, 12/20/2018 - 14:00

Pont Valentré

OK gang, the results from last week’s poll are in. Thank you to everyone who contributed! The entries are below. Check them out and let me know in the comments which ones inspire you. Feel free to riff on them. Next week I’ll use your input to finalize these answers and then we’ll move on to the next steps.

There are just a couple of boundaries that I want to place.

First, I want to keep the Ylfarings1See The First People, Middarmark, page 6 mysterious. They could have built the bridge and left it to be discovered by later humans. It could have been destroyed (by giants or otherwise) in a later age. I just don’t want to set anything down about their history. I’ll leave that for you in their games.

Second, when considering who currently inhabits this location, keep in mind that I want this to be a small dungeon. Think Skogenby or even smaller. Maybe it could even be expandable by treating each of the towers independently to create three linked adventures. For now, let’s keep this focused.

Who inhabited the adventure location originally? Who made it? Where was it? What happened to it?
  1. Originally created by the Ylfarings during a period of tension between them and a nearby Dwarven settlement. The Ylfarings antagonized a pair of giant brothers who took vengeance by wrecking the bridge. They smashed one span entirely and left several architectural weak points in what still stands. One brother’s skeleton is still visible in the water and on the shore nearby. The other brother might still be in the area.

  2. The Halflings built the bridge using the solid rock from their tunnels after a defensive “inundation” from a water lagoon. During the ancient times, the principal and route to the Halfling’s settlement was along a narrow corridor of land called “the causeway”.
    Being surrounded by water on both sides and fortified, the bridge was easily defensive in times of attack…Until the gnolls came over them.

  3. If it has fallen into disrepair and no one has needed such a helpful structure then it connected to groups trade that no longer exists maybe, So a generation from a bygone age

  4. During the time of the Lost Ages, the Ylfaring people created the bridge. They built a monument to a Young Lord, who’s name has been forgotten by the skalds. The Saaki found this bridge when they first arrived to the Middarmark and came south from the Endless Ice.
    The Saaki used it as a strategic position for countless generations until the Græling arrived and drove them from the land. Over time, this area and the ruins of the bridge have been forgotten. This particular crossing doesn’t get much use because there are better and safer routes along the Sølvveien proper.

  5. A charismatic veteran lord and their retinue of dwarven laborers, court wizard and vassals. It was custom made by a dwarven clan under the orders of the local lord. Growing rich and powerful after years of taxation the local count maneuvered the court to have the lord trialed and executed. Without a powerful leader the castle was overrun by the hordes of the wild.

  6. Human priests built a bridge for trade, they decided to charge a crossing tax, the greed it generated birthed a troll who burrowed in the structure eating travelers and inhabitants alike. They payed it gold even fed it orphans but finally destroyed the troll by tearing down part of the bridge entombing it and its treasure. Now locals believe it has returned…

  7. Its megalithic foundation was built by giants who used bones of a god they tricked. The tower bridge was built by a noble twins who ruled opposite sides of the bridge. Each side of the bridge is built with different stone, the south is said to be built with broken stone tablets of the giants tombs and the north was built with the remnants of the dead gods ruined temple. On one side the folk worshiped giants on the other side folk worshiped the dead god. The bridge was the only neutral place where they traded. Trade was good and the gold and silver was kept in the tower. but it only lasted a month before the two sides had a war that destroyed parts of the bridge plunging the tower and its treasure into the river and cutting off both sides from each other.
  8. Long ago, a greed-mad dwarf lord had the Six Sovereign Bridge built. It was called that because the lord decreed the crippling tax of one gold sovereign for each span of the bridge on each cart passing over them. The dwarf lord also had his engineers dredge the fords of the High river regularly.
  9. Lancer’s Lake, fed by the High river, became a hive of competing corsairs and escorting mercenaries as merchants sought ways around the toll. Eventually, the price of goods became so inflated that the Graeling lords (who still ruled Gottmark at the time), were forced to come together to denounce the Lord of the Bridge. They demanded the toll be lowered, or the fords left to silt up in the coming spring’s floods. Their emissary was sent back headless. This lead to a short but bloody war, and the destruction of the bridge. The greed-mad dwarf lord was flung, along with his ox-drawn golden “war chariot,” into the river. The High River has been colloquially known as the “Can’t-Breath-Gold” ever since.
What do the characters want to recover at the adventure location? Why would the PCs go there?
  1. The surviving Ylfarings tried to repair the bridge using the dead giant’s teeth as magical anchors in the weakest spots. It worked, but the Ylfarings abandoned the bridge a short time later. PCs have learned that the magic in the giant’s teeth can impart strength in buildings or walls that use them. They’re going to pry the teeth out of the surviving structure to sell them (hopefully without getting trapped in a collapse or two as they do).
  2. The thieves tax or plunder from those “crossing” the bridge and maybe the builders put the wealthy’s tomb into a place of power such as the foundation of the bridge but i think that should be minor
  3. Scefing bandits have raided a nearby village and stolen a precious necklace from a Græling Godi. Perhaps this necklace is connected to his clan’s ættir, and they need it back desperately.
    But, then, the party discovers there are deep secrets and curses to this location. From behind a stacks of barrels, the party finds a stairwell to the depths…
  4. There have always been stories of the hidden horde of the Greed-mad King. A recent drought has dropped the “Can’t-Breath-Gold” river to a trickle, and there is a report of a band of dwarves camped on remains of the bridge at night. They are digging in shifts at the base of one of the footings of the bridge.
  5. The hidden treasury, buried somewhere under the dungeon.
  6. Save lost children, find the trolls hidden treasure- restore the bridge
  7. Reclaim cursed treasure from the fallen tower/ drive out the river goblins/ find the broken stone tablets of the giants to read their secrets/ reclaim the bricks of the dead gods ruined temple to resurrect him
Why has the adventure location not be plundered already?
  1. Ignorance. The PCs have lost/secret knowledge that most don’t.
  2. New group to the area and as for the tomb need of knowledge of stone work and some labourers
  3. The Græling plundered it long ago. The bandits have been filling it back up with loot, unaware of the monsters below.
  4. The vaults of the towers have long ago been looted, the fortifications broken, the walls caved in, disassembled, or bored through by treasure-seekers. But the High River has always been just that – high.
  5. The lower levels are locked, an old armory and the wizard’s laboratory were overlooked by the horde. The clashing between civilization and wilderness made the old castle the failed project of a myriad of lords, always overtaken by beasts.
  6. Fear and superstition
  7. So many died on each side, many thinking the giants and the god cursed the bridge and river. Folk on both sides independently sometimes bring sacrifices to make sure they remain at peace and leave the place as it is.
Who or what inhabits the adventure location now?
  1. Bandits, or some other humanoid menace, who are slowly turning to stone due to the magic in the giant’s teeth. There’s a middle period in the transformation when their skin turns thick, but still flexible enough for movement. They also get stronger. Maybe their Might goes up or they get other stone-related powers. The PCs might also begin to suffer these effects if they hold onto the teeth for too long, requiring someone to lift the curse later.
  2. I like the idea that the bridge isn’t in use so much so now people traffic the river to move goods now that a new powers are in place, a faction of coastal people noticed their profits are diminished by those coming from inland to trade on the coast so a group is now using the bridge as a toll for people passing below it rather than crossing over.
  3. Scefing raiders on Level 1 above ground. In the depths: Brunnmigi, goblins, skeletons and undead.
  4. The treasure-seeking dwarves inhabit the remains of one of the towers, a draughty place, but with a good view of the surrounds. The leader of the expedition is a descendent of the Greed-mad King. Is the secret knowledge handed down from generation to generation accurate? Is the key he bears real? Will his companions turn on him?
    The far tower has collapsed into the river bed and is filled with a dwindling well of foetid water; home to a nixie and her clutch of eggs – could she know something about the vault? Are the dwarves digging under the wrong footing? The nixie is desperate for help, but dangerous and protective of her eggs.
    The middle tower stands free in the centre of the river bed, the arches broken away. It lists crazily, canted towards the nixie’s nest. A malevolent spirit lives inside, hiding during the day, but flying out at night hunting for blood or dreams or love. It would be a hell of a climb, but maybe the thing has something of value? It plagues the dwarves as they sleep.
  5. An orcish bandit clan has set as their headquarters for raiding. They charge a toll and are planning on rebuilding the bridge.
    Two griffons have nested atop one of the towers. The orcs ward them off by feeding then their victims.
    A chimera, the old guardian of the castle created by the court wizard’s still roams the dungeons below
  6. A Troll is entombed within but a goblin hoard who believe its just an old tale are posing as the troll using the ruined bridge as a base to raid nearby villagers.
  7. Both sides of the river is occupied by ancestors of the humans. But a band of river goblins who worship mud spirits have camped out in the bridge to take the gold but haven’t mapped out out how to get at it. They have been doing small raids on both sides to survive.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Monster Manual Taxonomy

Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 12/20/2018 - 12:00
A comment by Gus L of the now-dormant Dungeon of Sighs (though he recently started a new blog, I don't have the link at hand), led me to think about scientific classification of D&D monsters. Not useful for much perhaps, but a fun line of thought. I decided on the rules I would follow on the thought experiment and made several G plus posts along these lines, and got some good suggestions, some of which I incoporated in what follows.

Bulette (Geocacharias sp.)Bulettes are part of family of cingulate mammalsVelocifodiens.

True GiantsGigans is a genus of hominins with several extant species: G. horridus (hill giants), G. troglodytes (stone giants), G. gelidus (frost giants), G. igneus (fire giants), G. nubicolus (cloud giants), G. tempestatis (storm giants). Tentative identifications not completely accepted: fog giants (G. nebulosus) and mountain giants (G. rancens)

GoblinoidsCobalus is the genus of the goblinoids. They may be a separate subtribe (Cobalina) of hominins. Known species include:C. cobalus  (goblins), C. bellatorius  (hobgoblins), C. terribilis (bugbears), C. prodigiosus (nilbogs), and C. armatus (norkers)* 
*[Thanks to Paul V for this one.]

Wednesday Comics: 80s Moon Knight

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 12/19/2018 - 12:00
Moon Knight is often derided as an ersatz Batman and had sort of an inauspicious beginning as a gimmick villain for Werewolf by Night. The latter point on serves to show how good characters in comics are often only arrived at over time. The former criticism misses the point that Batman himself had antecedents, and comic book are full of completely valid variations on a theme.  Is it interesting, though, that Moon Knight's co-creator and the scribe on his seminal first series, Doug Moench, left the character to write both Batman books for the next three years.

Though the earlier appearances aren't bad, the character only really comes into his own in backup stories in the Hulk! Magazine. (These and other early stories are collected in the first volume of the Epic Collection.) That's where Moench teams up with Bill Sienkiewicz, who gives Moon Knight a silhouette and ghostly presence not unlike Neal Adams' Batman. Moench's stories are less superhero that pulp, with villains lurid for the printed page, but not really for 4 color comic. They are at once mundane and strange for that mundanity. This is the blueprint for the 1980 ongoing series.

Moon Knight finally gets an origin with an ambiguous hint of the supernatural, a set of cover identities, and a group of operatives. These last two schticks come courtesy of the Shadow, only Moon Knight's identities are suggested to be virtual alternate personalities--phases of the moon, perhaps--an idea only barely ever hinted at in the stories.

Most of the issues portray Moon Knight as a premier, perhaps even only, hero of a New York City still recovering from the seventies. Political machines, xenophobic terrorists, educated winos, and disgruntled vets stalk its streets. The rest of the Marvel Universe seems pretty far away, despite an occasional cameo or team-up.

Sienkiewicz's art begins as a bit like a rougher Adams, then looks a bit like Frank Miller (when like Miller, he is inked by Janson), before becoming more expressionistic and stylized. It isn't quite the Sienkiewicz of New Mutants until the very end, but he's on that trajectory. The art also conveys a bit of noir edge in later issues that might make one think of Sin City, but in a comic spinner rack sort of way.

While my favorite story (maybe because I read it as a kid), is the two-parter where terrorists dose Chicago's water supply with hallucinogens in #8-9, the storytelling gets more ambitious in the direct sale only later issues like the meditation on violence in #26 ("Hit It") that sort of reminds me of _The Spirit_ in its artifice.

Not all of the '80-84 series has been collected yet in color (though up to issue #23 has), but the third volume of the Epic Collection, Final Rest, is on it's way the 30th of this month.

Clark Ashton Smith's Wizards & The Mysteries of X2 Castle Amber (or Château d'Amberville) By Tom Moldvay

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 12/19/2018 - 06:50
Supreme with night, what high mysteriarch— The undreamt-of god beyond the trinal noon Of elder suns empyreal—past the moon Circling some wild world outmost in the dark— Lays on me this unfathomed wish to hark What central sea with plume-plucked midnight strewn, Plangent to what enormous plenilune That lifts in silence, hinderless and stark ? The brazen empire of the bournless waste, The Needles
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