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Deepfakes, Fraud, and Digital Personal Copyright

Dungeoncomics - Mon, 02/10/2020 - 13:00
This story opens in media res, in the middle of heart-pounding action as the US Congress passes a modification to the Communications Decency Act of 1996.

Where There’s a Will, OSR Adventure Review

Ten Foot Pole - Mon, 02/10/2020 - 12:25
By Jacob W. Michaels Raging Swan Press OSR Level ... ?

Standing on a dingy side street in Low City the Scythe has a reputation as a place for hard drinking and its entertainers. Nights at the Scythe are rarely boring—particularly when the legendary halfling bard, Dricolen Nimblefinger, is playing

Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?

Why yes, El Senor Lydon, Johnny Feelgood, Liz and I do THE THE FUCKING TIME. (Hmmm, looking this up, the lyric is “Johnny Light on.” I think it’s better as “Johnny Lydon.” Kind of a Peaches “My Chrissy behind is fine all of the tie” Chrissy Hynde kind of thing. That fucking earworm has been out of my head for a week now and I just put it back in. Great.)

This thirteen page adventure details … I don’t know … some vignettes in a town? It’s supposed to be a roleplaying adventure, uh, I mean “eventure”, but in reality it’s just some one of those hooks from a “101  hooks for your party!” products that’s been expanded in to thirteen pages. Just the hook. JUST. THE. HOOK.

Town adventures are one of my favorite things and this product line seems to be trying to do two things. First, no combat, andsecpnd  shit that happens in town during downtime, returning,etc. Not bad, especially the second. Shit going on in town helps cement the characters and who they are, with the players flexing themselves a bit and all them zany human relations. Plus, players seems to have more restraint that usual, not ALWAYS picking the “stabby stabby” solution. SO, good ideas! Town! Yeah!

And very VERY poorly executed.

This isn’t an adventure. It’s not even an adventure outline. It is, I don’t know, a hook? Imagine one of those “100 hooks” products and one line in it is “In town, get part of a map to a pirates treasure during a dead pirate captains wake.” That’s this adventure.

You’re in town, somewhere. You hear bells ringing. A notorious pirate captain is dead. You go see his body strung up at a town gate and met some other pirate captains. You go to a bar and the reading of the will, along with other pirates, and a bunch of map pieces get tossed out. That’s your adventure!

And it’s not even properly supported. There are a bunch of tables at the beginning to add local color to the town: rumors, street scenes, gossip and the like. They tend to be well done, although the street scene tables could be more oriented toward the pirate captain being dead instead of the usual “beggar with his bowl” shit. But, that’s the good part. It’s full of things like “the pirate tell tall tales” … without anything to get the DM started. It’s critically important in these situations to give the DM something to work with. Not a novel, a few words, maybe one sentence. Just enough to get going. But this don’t do that. And this happens repeatedly. There are these little two or three sentence paragraph that describe these HUGE scenes, like the stringing up and viewing of the body at the the gates. I finally figured out that these little things ARE the “adventure.” These two or three little sentences in their little scenes scattered around the test are what is supposed to occupy the players and their characters. But it’s unsupported. 

It THINKS it’s supporting them though. We get full write ups on six pirates including their history, and other details that mean little to the adventure. MAYBE, in an ongoing campaign, this kind of extra detail is worthwhile, and this IS meant to be a town thing, so, recurring. And there IS a decadent dive bar full of twisty passages, etc, that is more a “city bar location fluff” than “adventure location.”

So what you’ve got here is a fluff product that says it’s an adventure and is TRYING to be an adventure but succeeds in only being fluff. Don’t get me wrong, I like fluff. Inspiration is good. But it’s not an adventure. 

This is just an outline. And an outline of a hook, at that, that lasts thirteen pages. 

*bleech*

This is $3.50 at DriveThru. To its credit, the preview shows you the entire product. CHeck out page seven of the preview/five of the book. This is the “Traitors Gate” hanging scene. That column of text is all you get (!) to run it. A column should be more than enough … but this column tells you nothing pertinent to running this as a scene/encounter.


https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/300608/Where-Theres-a-Will-OSR?1892600

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Shadows on the Hill

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 02/10/2020 - 12:00
Our 5e Land of Azurth game continued last night with the party leaving Rivertown on their way to the Sapphire City and from there Virid Country. In the forests north of Rivertown, they encountered a an injured, cervine centaur-like creature named Tualla. Seeing the Sylvan Elf Shade among them, she asks for the party's help. It seems that something strange occurred in their ritual circle, and eruption of shadow, and the arrival of two umbral drakes.


The party agrees to at least investigate to see if they can help her people. After defeating a shadow-touched living tree, they around at the mound with its circle of standing stones. A fear grips a few of them, and all of them feel the touch of the unnatural, but they proceed.

Within the standing stones, they find a portal of roiling shadow, encircled by skulls--and the two wicked monsters. The mated pair of drakes taunt them, them knock over half the party unconscious with a breath weapon of cold shadow, then toy with them further, allowing the surviving members of the party to escape with their friends.

They rest with Tualla's people and strategize. The Sorcerer Bell recalls that Umbral Drakes are creatures of the Shadow Moon and are susceptible to celestial radiance. The party recalls that the shadow creature that might before was exquisitely susceptible to the energy weapons they carry. They begin to formulate a plan.

Fortified by the bards make (improving their constitutions), Waylon and Shade stealth into the cirlce of stones in an attempt to destroy the skulls around the shadow portal. The other party members spread out around the base of the mound, at the edge of the clearing to make distance attacks--or escape, if necessary.


Waylon and Shade walk right in the midst of the conversing drakes without being spotted, but Waylon's attempt to destroy a skull (a failure) brings their attention. The female attacks them viciously, but the group returns the favor with energy rifles and she only lasts two rounds. She does unleash her breath weapon on the two PCs in the circle, but their boost Constitution pulls them through.

As she dies, she warns her "toothless worm" of a mate that if he doesn't slay these "vermin" her ghost will haunt him forever.

Enraged, the male attacks. Dagmar uses daylight to disperse the shadows so he can no longer hide or travel between them. Kairon slows him to limit his attacks. The others focus their fire. Bell delivers the coup de grace with a chromatic orb.

The Dark Roads To DA 3 City of the Gods Dave L. Arneson & David J Richie - Cha'alt/Godbound Campaign Commentary

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 02/10/2020 - 00:42
"Set amidst the blistered salt flats of the Valley of the Ancients, the City of the Gods is a strange and deadly metal metropolis whose powerful guardians do not welcome intruders. Yet it is to this place of deadly menace that Blackmoor's leaders now send a daring expedition - to bargain for aid in the coming wars - or to steal the magic of the gods."I finally rolled in about five A.M. this Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Weird Revisited: Wild Wild West

Sorcerer's Skull - Sun, 02/09/2020 - 15:00
Robert Conrad died yesterday at the age of 84. This post from 2015 is a tribute to what I think was his best role...


Wild Wild West was conceived as "James Bond on horseback." That was a just-about perfect genre combo for the 1965, and a damn good one for today. The actual show was even cooler, particularly when it went color; it was the Old West filtered through 60s spy-fi style with Jules Verne science fiction thrown in. It's practically begging for an rpg.

The show's James Bond of the 1870s was James West, Secret Service agent, who rode around in a private train with his partner, gadgeteer and master of disguise Artemus Gordon. Bruce Lansbury, producer of the show, described it thusly (as quoted in Susan Kesler's book):
"Jim's world was one of two-faced villainy, male and female, countless 'Mickey Finns,' and needle-tipped baroque pinkie rings that put him to sleep even as he embraced their dispensers. There were inevitable trap doors, hotel walls that ground their victims to dust or revolved into lush Aubrey Beardsley settings next door, lethal chairs that tossed occupants skyward or alternatively dumped them into dank sewers that subterraneously crisscrossed countless cow towns of the period. And then there was that old Dutch sea captain, leaning in the corner of the swill-hole of a bar, who inexplicably winked at Jim as he entered … Artemus, of course, in one of his thousand disguises."Some highlights: a super-speed formula made from diamonds; an elaborate house full of traps made by a deranged puppeteer; a ground of assassins masquerading as a circus troupe; and of course, the genius dwarf, Miguelito Loveless.


(No doubt some of you remember the 1999 film of the same name. It's fine, in the way the 1998 Godzilla is fine.)

Anyway, in gaming Wild Wild West, a lot of folks would suggest Steampunk games first--but the Steampunk aesthetic is pretty much missing from the show, despite the superficial similarities in thumbnail description. Any Western rpg (or generic one) would work, I suppose--so long as it would support the Victorian super-science. The Western element is mostly cosmetic, though, Stripped of its trappings, it more resembles The Man from UNCLE at its core than say Wagon Train. I think a Western adaptation of the old James Bond game would be interesting with the spy-fi genre stuff it has built in. GUMSHOE might also be a good way to do it.


The Egg of Coot Forces & The Dragon's Lair - Cha'alt/Godbound Campaign Commentary Session Report Part Four

Swords & Stitchery - Sun, 02/09/2020 - 06:00
The Witch Coven of Garlghast & the Egregore set by Privateer Press (34035), make excellent substitutes for the witches of Egg of Coot.  The party was accompany my dragon king NPC's hover caravan in the  Cha'alt/Godbound campaign play session tonight. In tonight's game the party encountered the Egg of Coots scout army coming through the gateway into one of the Egg's base citiesNeedleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Appearance Of A Dark Tower - Judge's Guild's Dark Tower By Jennell Jaquays - Cha'alt/Godbound Campaign Commentary

Swords & Stitchery - Sat, 02/08/2020 - 19:17
"An Ancient Evil has overtaken a once holy shrine. Thus, a sleepy mountain hamlet becomes a focal point for mysterious disappearances and even stranger legends of what lurks beneath the village. Would any group of adventurous souls dare to probe the facts that lie behind the myths, or seek to right ancient wrongs, rescue secreted artifacts, or . . . even attempt to exterminate the sourceNeedleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Into 2020

3d6 Traps & Thieves - Sat, 02/08/2020 - 16:30
Wow.

Totally missed January. Just washed over me and left everything dirtier in passing.

Now - February.

Still working on stuff. All of it - to some extent. Oof.

Sadly, I seem to be having the most fun with a non-Avremier project. That's inconvenient. Focus-focus-focus.






Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Blackheart Amphitheater Review of Wizardawn

& Magazine - Sat, 02/08/2020 - 15:02

Blackheart Amphitheater posted a great review of the Wizardawn site.

The role player section of the site is very new (as in posted today) and so far it looks like the author is covering a variety of RPG ground. The site also has a maps and graphics section will bear watching.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

(5e) The Song of the Sun Queens

Ten Foot Pole - Sat, 02/08/2020 - 12:11
By Shane Ivey Arc Dream Publishing 5e Level 2

The adventurers have journeyed uncounted miles to the vast plains of the Sunlands. A merchant in a faraway city told them that a great treasure rests in an ancient, cursed ruin called Juakufa. Where can the ruin be found? What is the nature of the supposed curse? What dangers lurk along the way? What are the Hyena Giants? And what were the mysterious Not Heres? The adventurers may learn all that from the people who abandoned Juakufa long ago. But first, they must survive being guests of the Sun Queens.

An average rating of 4.5 on DriveThru?!? You just KNOW this one is going to be good!

This forty page adventure uses about twenty pages to describe, I don’t know, six encounters? Maybe? The rest is appendix and pregens. It’s got an Africa theme. It’s a fucking mess of a mess, almost incoherent in how the adventure is laid out.  

So, Africa theme. They ride around zebras. No joke. They hunt ostriches. They all get together to sing and dance for your entertainment. Yes. That’s right. No joke. Also, the friendly queen in the adventure wants to have sex with you since you’re an exotic foreigner. And she claws your back “during an intimate moment.” So, creepy African stereotypes and creepy sex shit. A perfect combo for your lighthearted D&D game. [For what it’s worth the African guy here at work says that the African version of “Everyone in Africa rides zebras” is that the streets are made of gold in the US. Immediately upon residence you become rich.] Ok, weirdo shit out of the way, there’s more than enough disgust with this adventure outside of these elements in order to call it bad, so, non-issue. [Oooo, what if it WAS a really well written adventure/good adventure, but was FULL of creeper stuff? What then? “The Supreme Court does not deal with hypotheticals, Sir!”]]

There’s some “you heard about a ruined city full of treasure” thing, but the adventure starts with the party on the plains of Africa and in the court of these two queens. Kind of. It’s hard to say. It’s ala a mess. There’s some description of the queens and their court and how they hate each other, and then an ostrich hunt. There’s no real “Arrival” or anything. It’s just got background on the “the Sunlands” and then launches in to “The Ostrich hunt” where your on the plains with the queens and a bunch of africans hunting ostriches. It’s jarring. There’s no pretext at all. Just: hey! Here’s scene one of the adventure and it’s not an introduction!” 

Another example of this sort of “things not said” issue follows immediately. The hunt is attacked. Now, the party is out riding zebras catching ostriches or out int the field kind of “beating” to drive them. The hunt is then attacked, the ostriches anyway, but some, I don’t know, bird monster things. But the SCENE is an advisor running up to the queen saying that the hunt has been attacked by some Ghjkdfgdfhgdef. Whatever, some foreign word that the adventure keeps dropping the fuck in because it thinks that I, the DM, wants to keep track of this shit in my head. That shit is for the players, not the DM. Anyway, the dude is yelling that a Ghdkfghdk is attacking the hunt. The hunt that is RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU.  That YOU ARE A PART OF. Do you now see it? The queen responds: “is it a HKDJHDDD?” No, bitch, it’s right there, look! Does it look like a Hhdjfhjdkfd?” Ok, so, not fair to the queen, it’s not her fault, it’s the designer and editors fault. It’s their weird kind of disconnect where it almost seems like two different people worked on this and a third blindly put it together without marrying the two writers content. And the fucking adventure does this REPEATIDLY. It’s a basic continuity issue. 

Good news though, you do get XP is you are good-aligned and save someone in the hunt. Yeah for enforced morality by the DM! I guess if you want to play D&D then you’ll play the fucking game the way this designer wants you to and FUCK YOU PLAYER if you deviate? 

There’s more singing and dancing by the happy africans and then the queen sleeps with the exotic foreigners.

You go visit a few villages. The locals sing and dance for you and tell you that you should leave all your gear with them since you are going to die anyway when you get to the ruined city.

The adventure is linear, with  a brief walk up a mesa, getting attacked by gnolls. Err, giant hyena people. The maps all fucked up and doesn’t show the encounters in the right place, one of them being off to the side. I guess no one cared to fix that mistake? Up top there’s a fortress. I GUESS that’s the ruined city you were looking for? It’s never mentioned that it is? Or that it’s your destination? I thought it was just a side trek, but no, it’s the object of your quest. Inside is a ruined keep with about, I don’t know, 25 rooms? Al are unnumbered, undescribed except for four. Three of those are just some dream sequence stuff where you hear a voice in your head and maybe a will o wisp does a hit and run. The last room has a devil in it for you to kill. Yeah! You freed the land from the curse and laid some ancestors to rest so they can be reincarnated as elephants! You get 120gp in coins and two objects worth a total of 65gp! I guess it was worth that ten day journey to get here. Plus that trip to Africa. How long was that boat journey here, and how much did it cost?

Anticlimactic bullshit, that’s what this is.

This thing has a couple of decent ideas. A ruined land/forbidden zone under a curse is a classic trope. WIll o’the wisps representing the souls of dead people is nice, as is their nature of just being on the outskirts of the scene/vision in the ruined fortress. All but one leave you alone, and he’s a bad guy/traitor, or, was, in real life.  A devil on a throne in the middle of te ruined fortress, sending you dream visions in your head, taunting you, while these dead people wisps float on the periphery, in a ruined and blasted Forbidden Zone? That’s great! 

It’s just terrible as implemented. It’s linear, essentially an empty adventure, ham handed in its culture use, and an INCOHERENT MESS when it comes to scene transitions. And I haven’t even mentioned it’s reliance on the “long text paragraph” to relate information; perhaps the most common sin in all 5e adventures.

This is $5 at DriveThru. The preview is four pages long, but only shows about two pages of text. You do get to see the intro. Literally “you journeyed here and are at the court.” And you get to see the transition to the ostrich hunt. So, VERY representative of the writing you’ll get.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/283114/The-Song-of-the-Sun-Queens-5e?1892600

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

After the Horsemen - Coming soon!

Two Hour Wargames - Fri, 02/07/2020 - 23:35
Coming later this  month. After the Horsemen, our Post-Apocalyptic set of minis rules gets an update. Eight years ago it made it's debut. Check out these Battle Reports.Out of Luck
El De Barge
The Originals
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Eggspectations & The Arneson angle - Dave Arneson, & David J. Ritchie's DA2 Temple of the Frog - Old School Lovecraftian Occult Tech Influences - Cha'alt/Godbound Campaign Commentary

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 02/07/2020 - 21:22
"Try to imagine this. A windowless room with just one exit. Inside it are people dressed in some hazmat suit like the ones we see on the crime scenes in some popular TV shows. These people have arranged the room, furniture and all, even some little animals, some pets. Then they go away, closing forever the only exit, so that they are certain nothing and no one will leave the room. All has beenNeedleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
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Gretel & Hansel

Sorcerer's Skull - Fri, 02/07/2020 - 12:00
Oz Perkins' Gretel & Hansel is based on the fairy tale, but is a different story in many ways. This blogpost will contain some mild spoilers for the film.


Like most fairy tales, Gretel & Hansel takes place in a vague time period that is not the present or recent past. Also like many fairy tales, the place is vague, though it definitely has a old world feel about it. The film has none of the lush atmosphere often present in fairy tales, however. This isn't Sleepy Hollow or even Company of Wolves. Instead, it has the post-apocalyptic spareness of The Road (though it reminds me more of McCarthy's as yet unfilmed The Outer Dark). It's woods are gray rather than verdant. It's habitations are rundown and depopulated. The only place that looks really lived in is the house of the witch, and well, she's a cannibal.

Gretel and her little brother stumble through this wasteland, accidentally take psychedelic mushrooms, and are eventually bedeviled by a witch or witches--a child, a mother, a crone. Where this version differs from the traditional tale (well, besides all the stuff described above) is that this is Gretel's tale, or the tale of how the Gretel & Hansel duo split. The Witch sees something of herself in Gretel and is looking for an ally. There is no gingerbread house. No trail of breadcrumbs to lead our heroine back home.

Like Perkins' previous horror films it is a bit of a slow burn, so it may seem sluggish if you are looking for more jump-scares. Fans of The VVitch should find a lot to like.

Mechanisms of the Gods & Appendix N - Old School Lovecraftian Occult Tech Influences - Cha'alt/Godbound Campaign Commentary

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 02/07/2020 - 07:24
The  Mighty Servant of Leuk-O which first appeared in OD&D Eldritch Wizardry doesn't have any of the back story that appears in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Second edition book The Book of Artifacts. I've been doing a ton of thinking & dealing with several folks today who wanted details on my  Cha'alt/Godbound campaign specifically on what's happening in Las Vegas. Why has the warp Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
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Tom Wham art on Gary Con XII Cups

Zenopus Archives - Thu, 02/06/2020 - 18:32
Gary Con XII cup featuring Wham's Awful Green Things From Outer Space
Luke Gygax recently revealed the designs for the "Gary Con Collectible Stadium Cups" for this year's upcoming event. There are five designs, all featuring art by Tom Wham, most well-known for his self-illustrated board games, but also one of the three artists for the Holmes Basic rulebook. Wham was responsible for three pieces of art in the rulebook, including the famous Skull Mountain. Wham is a regular at Gary Con (scheduled to run four games this year) and a few years back I played in a session of Dragon Lairds (co-designed by Jim Ward) that he refereed, after which he signed the Skull Dungeon in one of my Basic rulebooks! While I didn't know he drew that until a few years ago, I've been a fan of his work since the '80s when I bought a Steve Jackson Games pocket box edition of his classic Awful Green Things From Outer Space, which I still have.

There are five (!) cup designs this year: four for purchase (two "Bright Green Beer" and two "Bright Blue Soda" cups), which give beer or soda discounts, and one white cup that you get if you are a GM, which combines both discounts.

The green cup shown above features the three life stages (egg, baby and adult) of the deadly aliens from Awful Green Things. Their look has varied slightly over the years, but the adults appear similar to those on the cover of the 1979 TSR version, which you can see on his website.




The white GM cup also features art from Awful Green Things, namely the steadfast Znutar robot, Leadfoot. Similar Leadfoot art appears on Wham's website here.





The other green cup features a group of Penguins. This art is more mysterious, but I came across it on his website with the caption, "Penguins of Destiny". This led me to a Worthpoint page archiving an Ebay auction for the original art (images included below), which says: 


Offered for auction is a piece of original art from the great Tom Wham plus a piece of rpg gaming history from Jim Ward. The Penguins of Destiny was an rpg event created by Jim Ward back in the day, and the players got a small penguin figure signed by Jim Ward at the event. Recreated in a piece of original art by Tom Wham for the Gen Con auction in 2013, both are being offered together.
Wham's game File 13: the Game Inventor's Game in Dragon #72 (August 1983) includes the "Penguins of Destiny - the Jim Ward life story game" in the list of invented games.
















This blue cup features a running Snit from his other fondly remembered TSR game Snit's Revenge. This snit has distinctive bird-like feet, and I found it on one of the game tokens from the first boxed version from 1978:










Finally, the other blue cup features a flying dragon from Wham's more recent game, Feudality (2011). The dragon shows up on the cover of the game and on this page on his website (scroll to the bottom of the page).

See you at the con, hopefully with a Wham cup in hand! I'll be there and am scheduled to run two game sessions.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Crack & Lash Blackmoor & Beyond - Using A0-A4: Against the Slave By Lords David "Zeb" Cook, Allen Hammack, Harold Johnson, & Tom Moldvay For Your Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 02/06/2020 - 17:58
Taking a long look at that slave lords organization from A0-A4  Against the Slave Lords specifically the collected 'super module' that came out way back in 2016 or so. I think that slave lords is a perfect example of a Pulp era Swords & Sorcery secret villain organization. They & the organization's members are specifically like a revolving door of scum & villainy. The slave lords are Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
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Weird Revisited: Spacehunters

Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 02/06/2020 - 01:07
A variety of real life stuff has led to little time to prep the next installment of my Talislanta series. Instead, enjoy this post whose original version was presented in February of 2017.

Luis RoyoWatching The Expanse brought to mind a game I ran in GURPS perhaps decade ago. A "hard" science fiction thing using a lot of stuff from Transhuman Space put giving it more of a Cowboy Bebop spin: a little bit cyberpunk, a little bit 70s action film.

Howard ChaykinIf I ever ran a similar game again, besides using a system besides GURPS, I think I would draw more visually from '80s and 80's sci-fi, borrowing some elements from things like American Flagg! and 80s cyperpunk rpgs. The players' would still be ne'er-do-well, planet-hopping bounty hunters/troubleshooters but with a different skin.

Janet Aulisio

The Amazon Factor - - Cha'alt/Godbound Campaign Commentary With Shield Maidens of Sea Rune Produced for Judge's Guild By Bryan Hinnen & Dan Hauffe

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 02/05/2020 - 19:23
For my  Cha'alt/Godbound campaign everyone knows I've been looking over my own old school resources & dipping back into my notes & archives. But maybe I've been missing the one faction that's been right in front of me?! Let's talk about the nine hundred pound ten thousand strong army massing across Arizona that my PC's are gonna run into at some point. The unknown quantity in the mix of the Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
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Fen Orc on "The Master of Dungeons"

Zenopus Archives - Wed, 02/05/2020 - 15:36
Brubo the Hooded. Read to the end of Fen Orc's post to find out who he is.
Awesome post alert!

The Master of Dungeons

In this post the Fen Orc (formerly known as RPG Forge; I featured two of their posts previously) sets forth a new concept, "The Master of Dungeons", that could be added to any D&D dungeon near a city/town/domain setting. It will create more interactivity between the surface and dungeon elements, and interject all kinds of fun conflict and chaos. The post does an great job laying out the concept and then illustrating with a specific example designed for the Zenopus sample dungeon; I was enthralled as I read it.

The Master of DungeonsI was reflecting the other day about what a valuable resource 'dungeons' are and how odd it is that, in most campaigns, they don't seem to be owned by anybody. Which is peculiar, really, because dungeons are a powerful economic resource. Not only are they full of treasure, but magic items too.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Flying Fortress of the Celestial Order

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 02/05/2020 - 12:11
By Radulf St. Germain Studio St. Germain OSR? Generic? 5e? "Lower Levels"

The  city of  Shallow Bay  is preparing for  the greatest social  event of the year when  an eagerly-expected shipment of ball gowns goes missing. Rumors abound of goblins gathering in large gangs to cut off all commerce to the city. While  all seems like a routine job for adventurers there are hints of some sinister ancient evil pulling the strings in the background. Can the party save the Day of the Revered Ancestors and what will they find as they  become embroiled deeper and deeper into the machinations of the mysterious Celestial Order?

This 29 page adventure has a loose plot to it combined with a sandboxy format. Probably meant  for 5e, it’s presented without stats. Dripping with the kind of flavour I wish all adventures had, this things fatal flaw is its organization, an arrow that has taken down many a sandboxy adventure. I started to ask myself, during this review, “Man, is it worth it to highlight this thing and create some reference sheets?” That’s a good sign.

This thing has style! The city it is set in was founded by a Lich, overthrown many many years ago, with his phylactery rumored to still be around. The hook is a shipment of ball gowns in a caravan that gets raided … what will the local fops wear to the Day of the Revered Ancestors ball? (A little Lexx mixed up in your fantasy, maybe?) The elemental earth cult? It’s not an earth cult. It’s not THE cult of elemental earth. It’s called The Shallow Grave Consortium … and the leader sleeps in a barrow. The local bar, the Drunken Sailor, is known for its knife fights and shady dealings. The local guy who informally heads up the fisherman in town is not opposed to organizing a beating for those who show disrespect. There’s a flying fortress with a giant brass flywheel on it (it’s the air cult, chill out) and it’s been grounded, anchored via … a literal giant anchor with a huge fish … sculpture? swallowing it. And that’s not even described, it’s just shown in a little sketch drawing. Time and time again this thing hits with the sort of specificity that makes an adventure feel ALIVE. Fuck the generic Earth Cults and long live the Shallow Grave Consortium!

Over and over again. The NPC’s are given brief little bursts of flavour that a DM can hang their hat on. The cult leader is highly dramatic and listens to an invisible advisor. The raven spy looks down on beings who cannot fly. (Get it?! Get it?!)  People are described as corpulent, or noble matrons, or the Pointy Hat goblin tribe who wears … Wear huge pointy helmets and sport huge mustaches. They have no real boss.” The flesh golem that shows up is not a Frankenstein’s Monster, or even a Frankensteins Monster monster Frankenstein, but in the form of a giant snake. A noble matron thinks the mayor is a vain idiot. It goes on and on and on. The adventure elements are strong. It’s something that the DM can work with … if it does, at times, trend a bit to the absurdit side of the line, hopping over a time or two but not taking up full residency. 

It’s also trying to help the DM out. There’s a one page cheat sheet that describes the adventure. There’s a flowchart of events, since this is ultimately a sandbox plot of the villains trying to do something more than linear adventure. It even has notes on the flowchart of what happens if the current “activity” is foiled by the party. There’s DM advice in places, like suggesting fires in the windmill used to grind flour may result in an explosion. There’s even a couple of pages of tables at the end full of charts that can be used to create flavourful little houses in town, full of secrets and plots and the like. 

But, it’s TRYING to help the DM, and not actually doing so. The cheat sheet only really makes sense after going through the adventure the first time, so it doesn’t orient as much as summarize. The flowchart may be the best part, but the section headings it refers to could be labeled/organized stronger. For it’s attempts at helping it’s still kind of a glorious mess.

There’s a lot of repetition of information, and meaningless information at that. It’s using a kind of free text/paragraph format, with certain words in italics to draw the eye. That’s not the strongest way to organize, especially given the amount of extraneous text in the adventure. There’s a decent number of NPC’s, and some kind of summary sheet would have useful to help the DM during play. I don’t know how to say this and get it to come across right. The section headings and extraneous text weaken the adventure to the point where it’s kind of hard to figure out how to run it and what’s going on, and that’s with the flowchart and cheatsheet. This is a sandbox sort of issue, in general; finding a way to organize the material for quick reference during play in an unorganized play style is no small feat. 

This thing drips with flavor. It references some princes of the Apocalypse creatures, and is a better PotA chapter than a real PotA chapter. I’m keeping it as “generic” since it’s stateless, and the only stat reference is to reference some 5e monsters in the end in order to localize it. I might suggest the same for some LabLord creatures as well; it would be a helpful touch. Treasure, is, of course, light given the generic/5e flavour.

So is it worth it? Not to me. There’s just a bit too much effort in pulling things together. I will say though that St. Germain has their shit together with respect to flavour and “arc without having a plot.” You might even say there’s a nod to Rients with a flying fortress showing up to raid the town. Some serious work in massaging the text in to a format to make it more easily runnable at the table would marry that to the flavour and make it something decent to run.  I do, though, look forward to seeing future efforts by this designer to see if they can figure things out.

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru with a suggested price of $2. The preview is four pages. It gives you an overview of some of the factions, actors, and locations. For this sort of sanboxy sort of adventure it’s an appropriate preview, showing you the sort of information transfer, flavour, and organization you can expect. Take a look at it and note both the flavour and the extraneous text and how it’s not exactly the best at declaring where you are and what’s important.


https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/300908/Flying-Fortress-of-the-Celestial-Order?1892600

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