Tabletop Gaming Feeds

(5e) The Worthless Shrines – Part 2

Ten Foot Pole - Sat, 11/24/2018 - 12:14

By Daniel Casey
Levels 3-6

A promise from a mysterious mage, to grant any Wish if they discover the mysteries of long forgotten civilization, sends a party of adventurers into the far north…

What goes for ten dollars?
Well, whaddya want for ten dollars?
I want something different, I want something special.
Oh no, honey, not for ten bucks.

This 36 page adventure depresses me. It’s a linear plot-based thing, full of forced combats and do-nothing skill checks. Yeah, I bought it because of the cover, but I’m a stupid sucker for marketing and can’t ever learn my lesson.

First the goo, and it comes in two parts. The hook here is that you’re hired by a wizard professor to research/explore some mounds, with a Wish spell for each as a reward. Woah! That’ll make me sit up and take notice. post-oD&D doesn’t give out enough wishes. Neutral D&D means killing players, far more often than happens these days. But it also means resurrects, geas, and wish spells should be more common. Professor Dipshit is a moron, wanting to gain knowledge to rise on the colleges ranks … which appeals to me as an academic and as a guy who plays a lot of wizards makes me think “if you can cast five wish spells in a row, why not just wish yourself some knowledge/tenure?” Premise aside, the rewards are great. It’s the kind of hook that motivates the players rather than the characters, and those are the best kinds.

The magical treasure is also above average. Shambling Mound tap roots, a coutl feather, a faerie dragon wing cloak … they are mechanical, with advantages on saves and so on, but they also don’t drone on with multiple paragraphs of text describing them; one or two sentences and they are done. There’s an emphasis on monster parts, which both appeals to me and makes me wonder how many players still mine them? I suspect they will need some prompting.

Nothing else positive to say.

There are no maps. The directions and descriptions are all embedded in the text. This is shitty. A map is a wonderful thing, even a diagram/drawing would have oriented the DM better. As is, you have the text to find information. Here’s two examples of how the text attempts to provide a map: “Entering the mound, the party will immediately see several chambers branching off the central hall that meanders the length of the barrow.” and “The left chamber has two stone platforms upon each is a well- wrapped, ancient looking corpse.” Dude, just a picture with a pencil and include it. That would have much much clearer.

Which leads me to the next point: it’s ALL stream of consciousness plot based. You go from point a to point b to point c, being led by your nose, with the text not even provisioning much separation. It’s all just this happens then this happens then this happens then this happens then this happens. This is the hallmark of the DM TELLING A STORY style. AKA: one of the worst sins possible in adventure design. More so than most plot-based adventures, the text is a mess of stream of consciousness, making it hard to follow. It’s not organized AT ALL.

Finally, what would a shitty adventure be without meaningless skill checks? Not as shitty, self-evidently! Make a DC12 check to notice the path is getting overgrown, even though it becomes impossible to move through. Make a DC12 to follow a bears path .. or don’t find the pool of water you’re looking for. Make a DC15 to notice that …” they will realize the bear hadn’t just fought them making its way to the pond and that the plants around them are corrupted.” Actually, I have no idea what that text is trying to say/do. A satyr (who runs the bar in town; magical ren-faire much? I thought the world was supposed to be full of wonder. Next thing you know Drow will sleep on pallets and wool blankets) digs up an egg and you need a DC15 for him to explain what it is. What happens elsewise? Who knows! The adventure doesn’t continue!

It’s all confusing and not through out AT ALL. The satyr digs up the egg, but then it somehow becomes party treasure. What? SO he placed a shambling mound to guard it and then just gives it to the party, I guess. Oh, and there’s a magical couatl grove somewhere next to town, where the next part of the adventure takes place. But the Kenku village the town lawman is worried about gets no more mention. WTF man? PROVE RESOURCES TO THE DM. It’s the first rule of adventure design: help the DM run it.

I could bitch about a thousand small things, like including full stat blocks for NPC’s the party will probably not stab while choosing to bury their personalities in the text. Orient the adventure to the DM. If they are unlike to stab it then put it in an appendix, or summarize it, and put the fucking personality in the stat block so it stands out to the DM.

“4 will o’the wisps attack.” Really? That’s what it come to? A will o’the wisp is just a monster to hack down? There’s no soul. No leading them to the quicksand, or the dwarf smelling gold (one of my personal favorite will o’ moments I’ve seen.) or ANYTHING romantic or adventurous, just something else to stab.

Let me suggest that “kill the monsters and take their stuff” is a much more fitting tagline for modern D&D than it is for older styles of play. Older D&D embodies a spirit of romanticism that Blue Rose can only dream of in tortured opium visions.

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru, with a current suggested price of $1. There’s no preview, otherwise you’d never but it. Worthless indeed.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Domesticated Animals of Zarthoon

Sorcerer's Skull - Fri, 11/23/2018 - 12:05
While remnants of advanced technology exist on Zarthoon, a world in Centaurus, it exists side by side with the primitive. Many domesticated animals are relied upon by its people. Here are some of the common ones:

Vastidars are beaked, elephantine creatures, of which several varieties exist. This is a dwarf vastidar native to the sprawling Forest of Dhar on the continent of Thurvan. In addition to being smaller, it has a milder temperament than larger species, but you'd better keep a supply of hard-shelled jumbar fruit at hand.

Zurch are flightless saddle-birds. The males are often favored as mounts due to their bright plummage, but the mightiest warriors go for the plainer, but larger and deadlier females. Zurchs prefer a diet of grubs and the like but are indiscriminate eaters.

The hoon is the most loyal of beasts. They some are pampered pets, prized for the variety of patterns in their sleek fur, but most are working animals, defending their masters and guarding their homes.

Flip Through: Outbreak Undead

Gamer Goggles - Fri, 11/23/2018 - 03:23

In this Flip Through Matt Takes a look at Outbreak Undead. The Zombie survival RPG that brutally shortens your life. Published by Renegade Games Studio.


Click here to view the video on YouTube.

If you must play a survival game this is probably the right one to play if it’s a good day to die.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

OSR Thanks Giving Commentary - Greyhawk Show Down In The Old Mine - Unfinished Business

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 11/22/2018 - 19:42
 'The snows & mists around the world of Greyhawk part allowing heroes desperately needed elsewhere to journey to a far away land on another world! But will this be a town's salvation or our heroes doom?! Come with us now down the corridors to the ancient year of 1989 for a game session of the ancient past!' Happy Thanks Giving everyone & I've been wrestling with Greyhawk once again. Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Rebel Minis Black Friday Sale!

Rebel Minis - Thu, 11/22/2018 - 15:10
Our First Ever! Check it out:
Have a Great Thanksgiving!
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Thanksgiving Thank You!

Torchbearer RPG - Thu, 11/22/2018 - 14:00
Religious Procession by Kurt Komoda

Happy Thursday!

It’s a holiday today here  in the US, so I’ll keep today’s post short.

I and the rest of Burning Wheel Headquarters wish you and yours a happy Thanksgiving. We are thankful to all of you who support us in continuing to make games. We are thankful to all of the friends we have made through the years while doing this, and for the friends we hope to make in the years to come. We are thankful for all people out there that have taken and continue to take a stand against racism, misogyny, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and all other forms of intolerance. We are thankful for all those who stand with our LGBTQ+ family.

I’m writing this from my brother’s home, surrounded by loving family and beautiful things. I’m thankful for how lucky we are, while recognizing that so many other people, here and around the world, are suffering. They lack adequate food to eat and water drink. They’ve lost homes and loved ones. They suffer the injustices of poverty, illness and war. I am thankful for each and every one of you that takes some small step to help mitigate this suffering.

The world of Torchbearer can be a dark and unforgiving one, but it is also one in which we can triumph by working together and supporting each other for a common cause. I remain hopeful the same is true of our own world.

As a special ‘thank you’, here are a handful of magic items for which Torchbearer characters would be very thankful.

Amulet of Stars

An exquisite blue and white gem that seems to glow with an internal light, set in a cunningly wrought cage of silver filigree.
Effect: When things seem darkest, the light of this elf jewel inspires hope in all who gaze upon it.  Once per session, the bearer may hold the jewel aloft and anyone who can see it may take +1D to one test to recover from angry, afraid, exhausted, injured or sick.
Inventory: Neck/worn 1 or pack 1
Type: Magical jewelry

Delver’s Amulet

A pewter amulet on a fine silver chain. The amulet bears a sunburst symbol on its face. To those capable of reading auras, the amulet radiates faint magic.
Effect: When worn, the amulet grants +1D to tests to detect traps and +1D to Health tests to avoid the effect of a trap.
Inventory: Neck/worn 1 or pack 1
Type: Magical jewelry

Dowsing Rod

A forked wooden stick scrawled with arcane sigils.
Effect: Unerringly leads the user to the nearest potable water.
Charges: 2d6
Inventory: Hands/carried 1 or pack 1
Type: Magical equipment

Horn of Drenge

A large drinking vessel made from the curving horn of an aurochs, banded with beaten gold.
Effect: Any liquid poured into the horn becomes delicious, refreshing mead (effect as wine). The mead must be drunk from the horn; if poured into another container, it turns foul and undrinkable.
Inventory: Hands/carried 2 or pack 2
Type: Magical container

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Figure Forge: Lawmen Armoured Justice Posse

Gamer Goggles - Thu, 11/22/2018 - 01:32

In this Figure Forge Matt assembles half of the Armoured Justice Posse – Morgan Earp 3 lawbots and a heavy lawbot.  He does this in under 20 minutes.


Click here to view the video on YouTube.

I haven’t painted any of my models yet, but I don’t think these are going to be so detailed the I cant handle them.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Black Friday 25% Off Sale starts now!

Two Hour Wargames - Thu, 11/22/2018 - 00:22
Coming soon. Six Gun Sound - Devil's Elbow
If you're like me you might have Black Friday "commitments" so I figured, why wait? Use the 
coupon code and get 25% off of your order.  Only good through Sunday!

THW Webstore
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

OSR Commentary - Adapting Judge's Guilld's The F'dech Fo's Tomb adventure by Scott Fulton For Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 11/21/2018 - 19:56
"The Prophet said that the great Druid F'dech Fo would rise again to wreak vengeance and destruction on the people! You must find him; you must destroy him; you must end the curse! This product contains multiple adventures, new creatures, a castle, and a completely described barbarian village!" So over the last seventy two hours I've pulled out an old Judge's Guild adventure & Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Cryptozoic and Igrology Announce Release of Cult: Choose Your God Wisely

Cryptozoic - Wed, 11/21/2018 - 14:00

Cryptozoic Entertainment and Igrology today announced the November 28 release of Cult: Choose Your God Wisely. This 2-5 player board game is a worker/Priest placement game with a unique take on in-game currency: Followers. Players choose Gods and send their Priests to places in the Eternal City in an attempt to bring their deity victory over the minds and souls of humanity. Followers are gained and sacrificed and Altars are built to the different Gods as they clash in this new take on the genre.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

D.A.M.N. Magazine – Sprint/Summer 2018 – Demon Serpent of Balmosphos

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 11/21/2018 - 12:24

The Demon Serpent of Balmorphos, daniel j bishop
Daniel J Bishop
Low Levels

Derp! I bought a 116 page DCC magazine. Un-derp! It’s pretty interesting. I also have a headache this morning.

DCC magazine with the usual set of DCC magazine things, like patrons and a bestiary. It’s also got three adventures in it. One is quite short, and I shall not mention it again. A second, “Cannibal Tiger Women of Tsaru” is about fifty pages and involves several groups and areas, making it almost a hex crawl without hexes. (Great art though!) Dense, I’m not going to cover it. The third (which is the first in the issue) is the first part of a megadungeon.

“Demon Serpent of Balmosphos”, by Daniel Bishop, is a forty five room dungeon with two levels and four theming areas ,in about thirty pages. It pushes my buttons in read-aloud, italics, and verbosity, but never goes off the deep end. Usually. What it does have is that DCC charm, which is kind of like a good OD&D thing turned up to 11.

Daniel does a good job with sprinkling the text with little tidbits that make the dungeon come alive. Early on you find a boot … that still has a rotting left foot in it. Little bits like that are scattered throughout the rooms. They don’t quite fall in to the trivia category because they do such a good job in setting mood and conveying it to the party.

The read aloud runs from about three to six sentences, in italics. I don’t like long sections of italics, I think it’s hard to read. I don’t like hard to read. My eyes glaze over. This read aloud almost always starts te same way: with a sentence on dimensions. “The door opens into a dusty space some 30 feet wide and 40 feet deep, vaulted to a height of 12 feet.” Yes, it completionist, since the read-aloud is meant to read to the party, but it has NEVER made sense to me to put that shit in the text. You’ve got a map, right? Anyway, the read-aloud, except for those points, is not too bad. Toom two tells us “Jumbles of bones and cast-off bits of detritus lie in the corners of this area. The uneven flagstones sag in the middle of the floor, as though from subsidence in the depths. You can hear the distant trickle of water from somewhere deep underground. The whole area smells of dry reptile musk, rotting meat, and sulfur.” That’s pretty good. Smells, sounds, good use of adjectives. It absolutely creates a good mental picture and that’s what I’m looking for in a room description.

The DM text then follows, and uses paragraph breaks and whitespace to good effect. Each thing mentioned in the read-aloud generally gets its own paragraph. That makes it easy to scan to find things to follow up on as the players explore. IE: it’s helping the DM run the adventure, which is what its supposed to do.

Treasure and monsters are exactly what you expect of DCC: good. There’s this magic ring that may cause a devil to show up to retrieve it t some point in the future. Further, if you kill the devil, you get a respite for awhile while the bureaucracy of hell catches up. Hey! You just got some roleplaying notes for said devil! Perfect. Monsters also get some good descriptions. “The Balmorphos Serpent is a 50-foot long viper with hard brass scales and a head shaped like a blunt arrowhead. Its eyes glow red in the darkness. It smells of reptile musk, but its hissing breath reeks of sulfur (not unlike the smell of a struck match or rotting eggs) … transparent green venom drips from its fangs.” Great imagery, lots of USEFUL detail, meaning its oriented towards what the party will interact with and see/smell, rather than trivia on its background, etc. Bonus points: when you kill it a demon crawls out its mouth, getting larger. Then it bitches about missing it’s little lemurs first day of school before it goes home. Nice.

Which is a good transition in to the encounters proper. Written in a neutral format, not gimping players, things to talk to that don’t always attack and some semblance, because of the four themed areas, of factions. Daniel puts in some good advice for the DM here and there, mentioning things like how to remove giant snake skin and some hints about boiling water damage in a stream before the entire 10d6 damage is received by people who ignore the initial signs.

DCC adventures can be a bit linear, but this one, with 3.5 roots, is not. What it does lack, though, is a little attention to the warriors. DCC rooms needs a little bit more in them so warriors can perform Might Deeds. No chandeliers and barren rooms can make things hard on the warriors. Not every room needs to be a parkour playground, but more attention to this area would have been good.

Even with my read-aloud bitching I’m happy to pay for just this adventure.

This is $10 at DriveThru. The preview just shows you editorial and interview shit, and not any of the adventure text. BAD DCC WRITERS! YOUR PATRON IS DISPLEASED.–Spring-Summer-2018–Fisher-Cover

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Wednesday Comics: Cosmic Tales!

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 11/21/2018 - 12:00

I'm proud to announce friend of FtSS Michael "Aos" Gibbons has released his long-anticipated space-faring superhero comic Cosmic Tales Quarterly, available in a limited print run.

It's 48 pages of story and 3 pin-ups in glorious black and white with a cover colored by yours truly. Head over to Michael's blog, The Metal Earth, to secure your copy while supplies last!

OSR Commentary - The Alko Option Arthur Machen Mythological Campaign Madness

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 11/20/2018 - 22:17
“We lead two lives, and the half of our soul is madness, and half heaven is lit by a black sun. I say I am a man, is the other that hides in me?” ― Arthur Machen, The White People and Other StoriesPart of the problem with the OSR is staying fresh as every adventure idea, old school author, old module, etc. is snapped up & brought into another product, fanNeedles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

PDF Piracy

Bat in the Attic - Tue, 11/20/2018 - 19:34
Busy News day. So I logged on my publisher's page on RPGNow and found a warning from OBS about a pirate website with hundreds of RPG PDFs.

A couple of things

  • Don't lose your cool
  • See above
  • Don't use the DMCA link on that site. In the words of Admiral Ackbar. "It's a trap!"
  • Do a search for your products on Google and Bing. If a link appears to the fore mention pirate. Send them a DMCA request. I done it and it works relatively quickly. 
This is the link for the Google DMCA linkThis is the link for Microsoft Bing DMCA
Understand software, video, and PDF piracy is semi-organized. The new pirate site is especially slick which is probably why OBS reacted the way it did. However it existed at least a year prior. In addition there are various underground directories floating around that are updated regularly. The links are coded so that they don't show up on the search engines text functions. So the key is to keep those links off of the first handful of pages of search results. And that is not so hard to do thanks to the above links.
It sucks but it not as bad as it could be. 

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Cryptozoic Will Showcase Latest Games at PAX Unplugged 2018

Cryptozoic - Tue, 11/20/2018 - 14:00

Cryptozoic Entertainment today announced that it will showcase recently released tabletop games at PAX Unplugged 2018, November 30-December 2 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia. Cryptozoic will be at Booth #2956 demoing and selling its latest releases: Cult: Choose Your God Wisely, Rick and Morty: The Rickshank Rickdemption Deck-Building Game, and DC Deck-Building Game: Rivals — Green Lantern vs. Sinestro. In addition, Cryptozoic will feature popular recent releases Rick and Morty: The Pickle Rick Game and Pantone™: The Game.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

RPGNow folding into DriveThruRPG

Bat in the Attic - Tue, 11/20/2018 - 13:13
OBS just sent a newsletter to all publishers that due to little growth RPGNow is folding into DriveThruRPG in February 2019. That RPGNow links will redirect to their DriveThruRPG equivalent.

Also metal rankings will merge which frankly is a good thing overall as the separate counts were always a pain.

The full text

Dear publisher,

Starting in February 2019, all elements of the RPGNow tool pages and storefront will redirect to similar pages on DriveThruRPG.

You most likely know this, but since RPGNow and DriveThruRPG first merged as businesses back in 2006, they have shared all the same tools and digital inventory. On the front end, they looked and behaved like two separate sites, but essentially they have just been two faces of the same site for many years. The only real differences were the color schemes and logos.

You might have some questions about the coming change, so we’ve done our best to anticipate and answer them below.

How will this affect me?

In most ways, you’ll be unaffected. Your entire catalog of titles from RPGNow is already listed on DriveThruRPG (as it always has been), and you can log in to DriveThruRPG using the same account(s) you’ve always used on RPGNow, just as you could before.

Even your old bookmarks to pages on will still work: They’ll automatically be redirected to the same page on DriveThruRPG.

What about sales reporting? Will my past sales be combined?

Yes, as far as sales records and your titles’ metal rankings, we will be merging those together.

Starting in February, your sales records will show combined sales of each title across both the deprecated RPGNow site and DriveThruRPG, together. The number of unit sales will also be combined, so if you had metal rankings for titles on one or both sites, there’s a good chance you’ll find that your rankings on some titles will have increased on DriveThruRPG.

What about my Publisher Promotion Points and marketing impressions?

No worries. Your Publisher Promotion Points (PPP) are already shared across sister sites. They are compiled by publisher, not by site.

If you have used your PPP to purchase site impressions for banners or featured product messages on RPGNow, you will also be reimbursed, commensurately, for those expenditures on DriveThruRPG.

Why is this happening?

Here’s the big picture: In the 12 years since RPGNow and DriveThruRPG merged, the growth of RPGNow has tapered off constantly, while DriveThruRPG has continued to grow strongly, year over year, since it launched in 2004. We’ve reached the point where RPGNow rarely draws new customers or publishers and sells less than one-tenth the volume of titles purchased on DriveThruRPG.

To be honest, we have known this moment would come for years now. We’ve just finally decided it’s time to put the RPGNow brand out to pasture.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Why Gary Gygax Added Unrealistic Hit Points, Funny Dice, and Descending AC to D&D

DM David - Tue, 11/20/2018 - 12:15

In 1972, Dungeons & Dragons co-creator Dave Arneson introduced his Blackmoor campaign to co-creator Gary Gygax. The campaign stemmed from Gary’s Chainmail rules, but Dave’s game transformed the rules for miniature-figure battles into something new and irresistible—something that broadly resembled D&D.

My last post explained how Dave shaped a combat system that featured hit points, 2d6 to-hit rolls, damage rolls, and armor classes where higher numbers represented better protection.

Based on Dave’s demonstration, feedback, and notes, Gary added his own contributions to make the D&D game that reached print. In Pegasus issue 1, Dave recalled that Gary and his Lake Geneva group “had a lot more spare time than I did and they had a lot of ideas, so they came up with their own version of the rules.”

Gary changed Dave’s combat rules in 3 key ways:

  • Hit points became less realistic and more fun.
  • To-hit rolls switched to a twenty-sided dice, creating a new market for funny dice.
  • AC ratings flipped to make lower values better, forcing awkward, negative ACs on players.
Unrealistic hit points

Gary’s changes let characters gain hit points as they leveled. In Blackmoor, Dave wrote, “As the player progressed, he did not receive additional hit points, but rather he became harder to hit.” Dave based armor class on armor, but fighters gained better saving throws. By the Blackmoor rules, saves applied to weapon attacks, so fighters could avoid damaging blows. “Only Fighters gained advantages in these melee saving throws. Clerics and magicians progressed in their own areas, which might or might not modify their saving throws.”

In Chainmail, a hero fought as 4 ordinary soldiers and a superhero as 8. D&D translated this scheme by making heroes 4th-level fighting men and superheroes 8th level. When Gary reconciled Dave’s rules for hit dice with the notion of heroes that fought as several men, he probably decided to give characters more hit dice as they leveled. The mechanic seemed unrealistic. After all, nobody gets 10 or more times more durable through experience. But rising hit points helped power the game’s success. They boosted the positive reinforcement of leveling. Plus, heroes capable of unrealistically surviving many blows supported D&D’s combat-intensive, dungeon-bashing style. These advantages helped make the game so appealing.

Every “realistic” system to follow D&D echoed Dave Arneson’s original method of using hit points to measure a character’s body’s physical capacity to survive injury. In D&D, hit points rise as characters advance, and that turns hit points into an elegant damage-reduction mechanic. As characters level, they essentially reduce the damage they take from blows.

Using hit points for damage reduction boasts a number of virtues:

  • Combat plays fast because players do not have to calculate reduced damage for every single hit.
  • Although damage is effectively reduced, the reduction never makes a combatant impervious to damage.
  • Once characters gain enough points to survive a few blows, hit points provide a predictable way to see the course of battle. If a fight begins to go badly, the players can see their peril and bring more resources like spells and potions to the fight, or they can run. In a realistic fight, things can go bad in an instant, with a single misstep resulting in death.
  • Most attacks can hit and inflict damage, providing constant, positive feedback to players while everyone contributes to the fight. Realistic combatants do not wear down from dozens of damaging blows; instead each hit is likely to kill or maim. In more realistic systems like Runequest and GURPS, when two very skilled combatants face off, they block or dodge virtually all attacks. The duels turn static until someone muffs a defense roll and lets a killing blow slip through. This model may be realistic—it reminds me of those Olympic competitions where years of training turn on a single, split-second misstep—but the realistic model lacks fun. No popular sports begin as sudden-death competitions where the first to score wins.
  • Battles can gain a dramatic arc. Fights climax with bloodied and battle-worn combatants striving to put their remaining strength into a killing blow. No one likes to see the climactic battle fizzle with a handful of bad rolls, especially at their character’s expense.

Bottom line: Using hit points for damage reduction enables a combat system where you can hit a lot, and hitting is fun.

Funny dice

When Dave adapted the Chainmail rules for his Blackmoor campaign, he kept using ordinary 6-sided dice. He later explained, we had “no funny dice back then.”

The twenty-sided die may not have reached Dave’s corner of gaming yet, but Gary had funny dice and they enchanted him. At first, polyhedral dice only came from vendors in Japan and the United Kingdom, so getting a set required significant time and money. But by 1972, polyhedral dice started arriving from domestic sources. Gary recalled buying his first set from a teacher-supply catalog. In 1972, Creative Publications of California started selling 20-sided dice in a set of polyhedrals, and word spread among gamers. By 1973, Gary wrote an article touting funny dice. “The most useful are the 20-sided dice,” he explained. The original d20s came numbered from 0 to 9 twice, so most gamers rolled twice to generate a percentage from 1-100. Gary noted that gamers could do more. “Color in one set of numbers on the die, and you can throw for 5%—perfect for rules which call for random numbers from 1-20.” As an example, he mentions being “busy working up chance tables for a fantasy campaign game.” Gary found his new d20 so irresistible that he changed Dave’s 2d6 to-hit tables into D&D’s d20-based system.

Descending Armor Classes

As Gary reworked his attack table, he discovered that switching to descending AC numbers created a mathematical elegance. Game historian Jon Peterson describes how this system appears in a draft of the D&D rules. “If you were a first-level fighter rolling to hit, the number you needed was equivalent to 20 minus the armor class of your target. To hit AC 2, you needed an 18, to hit AC 3, a 17, and so on. Armor class descended to make it easy enough to calculate your needed roll that you wouldn’t even have to consult a table.”

If D&D had settled on this system, we might now be rolling a d20 to hit, adding the foe’s AC, and trying to reach a target number based on our character.

D&D reached players with a muddled system that kept descending armor classes, but hid any reason for the scheme. So players wondered why lower armor class represented better protection. Usually, bigger is better.

What happened?

When Gary expanded D&D to account for a greater range of levels than 9, he lost the mathematical simplicity. While the draft rules just present to-hit numbers for fighters up to level 9, the published D&D rules extend the table up to level 16 and beyond. To keep a steady advancement over a greater range of levels, Gary reworked the table and broke an elegant design. This left a system where players just used armor class to reference a row in a table and where intuitive, rising numbers could have worked just as well.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Fourthcore Crew Have a New Kickstarter Up: 5e Team Deatchmatch

Thought Eater - Mon, 11/19/2018 - 19:05
I was a big fan of 4thcore. Some of those folks have moved on and now do some cool stuff for 5e. It is weird, I just recently heard about some kind of upcoming 5e competition series that is going to be live-streamed, then a few days later I was made aware of this. My money is on this being waaaay cooler than whatever the other thing is.


It has already funded and the thing is apparently already written. These guys are endlessly creative and really know how to kill...errr challenge a PC. For more on what they do, check out their home base, DEFY DANGER.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Tomb of Harven Half-Skull

Ten Foot Pole - Mon, 11/19/2018 - 12:22

By Joseph Bloch
BRW Games
Levels 3-4

A hundred years ago, the pirate king Harven Half-Skull was buried with his ill-gotten booty in a secret tomb. Your band of adventurers have a map that claims to show the final resting place of the pirate king, and you’re off to claim his loot. But the dead do not rest easy…

This ten page tomb dungeon has twenty two rooms in three pages, and features undead and water themes, it being the tomb off a pirate king. Workmanlike in its design and presentation, it does a good job of emulating the style of the early AD&D adventures: short rooms with not much fucking around in the writing.

The pyramid tomb is a favorite of designers. Except this time it’s not a pyramid but a sea cave And it’s not egyptian but a pirate. But, still, tomb with undead, traps and some loot.

This adventure emulates the style of the older AD&D adventure, G1, S1, and so on. The descriptions are workmanlike and to the point. The rooms are not too complicated, te writing not that inspired, and everything with a briske style.Room six tells us “There is a colony of green slime on the ceiling at this point.” and that’s it. The underground river tells us that “This is a fresh-water river that flows into the sea a half-mile northeast of the tomb. Except in areas #7, #10, and #16-19, there is no air above the surface; the river completely fills the tunnels. It has a slow current moving from the southwest to the northeast.” I don’t know how to label this style. It’s not exactly fact-based, I tend to use that (negatively) for styles that emphasize things like “the statue sits on a dias 6.3cm high with a diameter of 2.6 meters.” It’s not expanded minimalism either; that’s reserved for people who offer too many mundane details in their room descriptions. This is, insead, a kind of, oh, I don’t know, baseline room description? It tends to the terse style, concentrates on what you need to run the room, mostly, and doesn’t tend to embellish much at all.

It is that lack of embellishment that I have problems with. Adventure writing is such a tightrope. There are so many ways to go wrong. The adventure does nothing wrong (mostly). It also does nothing to recommend itself. This style, and thus this adventure, does nothing to make me want to run it. It comes off ass … dry? Dry isn’t right, that’s a different design sin. I just don’t care about it. This is clearly not a disaster, I don’t feel cheated (as I usually do when I’m spouting profanity.) My expectations have not been crushed. I just don’t care about running this. I know there’s a segment out there that worships early T$R adventures and like this style. I don’t get it. It seems like nostalgia worship to me. I don’t need laser pistols, gonzo elements or grim dark to make me like something, but you gotta have SOMETHING … and that’s what this lacks. Something to make you want to run it.

I can quibble with some of the choices made. That green slime encounter is nothing special AT ALL. I’d like to see it kicked up a bit, a little more evocative, better word choices. Certain rooms (Fresco Room, I’m looking at you. You too Shrine Room) could use another pass at the editing to tighten up the descriptions. They either get too wordy or they don’t put the most important things near the top of the description. [Things the DM needs first go high in the description and expanded details go lower.] I don’t see an editor attached. If that’s the case then Joe did a decent job by himself, and clearly has some vision of what he wants, but lacks the outside eyeballs and detachment that a good editor can provide. Not that there are many good editors, so I’m speaking academically of course.

It’s pretty clear Joe understands how certain D&D elements work. There is a chamber you can only get to by following the (completely submerged) underground river … with a shelf high up with a body and a magic item. In another area there are keys hanging underneath a bridge the party crosses over. Rewarding exploration and people that go a little bit farther is good design. Likewise, he’s got a golden crown with jewels with magic powers … and has an EGO/is intelligent … and a bit evil. This is a great item. First, it;s the kind of thing that the part will keep and adds to the fun of future adventures as someone wears it around all the time, in town, in the tavern etc. Second, it’s intelligent, which again gives you more hooks in the future to play with. Third, its evil and so the party has some FUN moral issues to sort out. Arguing about orc babies is not fun. What to do with a SLIGHTLY evil magic item IS fun. Or maybe that’s just my obsession is the Eye and Hand.

I will say that there is something weird going on with the undead; I don’t think they are a challenge? This is for Adventures Dark and Deep, which I’m going to assume is an AD&D clone and follows AD&D turning. This is also for levels 3-4 … and has more than a few challenges with skeletons in it. Don’t they turn on like a … 4 or something, or auto-turn? That’s not really an encounter at all … but maybe its supposed to be that way? Turning undead in D&D doesn’t work, I think. Even at low levels skeletons are not a threat if you have a cleric. That’s too bad. They are a classic monster and deserve more love. Even Gygax knew they were broken, with his +1 amulets in the Borderlands.

Anyway, hey Joe, time to return from your vaudeville show. Now that you can emulate old D&D you might try kicking things up a bit. Kick up those rooms descriptions a notch or two. No need for more words, generally, just better word choice. That green slime encounter, for example. A little more evocative to make people excited to run it .. .by which I mean putting a strong image in to their heads.

This is $2.50 at DriveThru. The preview is one page and show you the first eight or so rooms. Which is exactly what a preview SHOULD do, giving you the ability to understand what you’re actually buying. You can check out the Fresco room, room three, to see what I mean about the need to tighten up the writing in places, and the rest of the rooms show the workmanlike writing style.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Champion [ICONS]

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 11/19/2018 - 12:00
art by Chris MalgrainCHAMPION
Prowess: 6
Coordination: 5
Strength: 9
Intellect: 4
Awareness: 5
Willpower: 6

Determination: 1
Stamina: 16

Specialties: Journalism

Earth’s Mightiest Man
Powers Granted by Otherworld Magic
Big Boy Scout

Damage Resistance 3
Otherworld Shield Belt Buckle (Device):

  • Flight 7
  • Damage Resistance 6
  • Life Support 4 
  • Super-Senses 4 (Extended Hearing, Enhanced Taste, Enhanced Smell, Extended Vision)
  • Super-Speed 6
Notes: Deprived of his magic shield belt buckle, the powers it confers disappear in 2 pages (Damage Resistance drops to 3). His Strength drops a point a page until it reaches 6.

Alter Ego: Thomas Trent
Occupation: Reporter/Radio Personality
Marital Status: Single
Known Relatives: Ethan and Sarah Trent (aunt and uncle, deceased)
Group Affiliation: Super-Sentinels
Base of Operations: Empire City
First Appearance: CHAMPION COMICS #1
Height: 6'2"  Weight: 220 lbs.
Eyes: Blue  Hair: Blond

While hiking in the woods near his home with his dog Galahad, young Tom Trent fell into the opening to a cave. Unable to climb back up the way he came, Tom discovered light coming from a narrow passage. He passed through it and came into another cave where strange monsters seemed to menace a gnomic figure, apparently asleep on a stone slab. Believing the little man to be in danger, Tom bravely ran through the circle of creatures, evading their talons and jaws. When he reached the stone slab, the monsters dissolved away.

The little man awakened and explained that the monsters were the embodiments of fears, and through courage, Tom had conquered them. The little man was Zyrd, an ancient wizard (later revealed to be one of many from the extradimensional realm of Otherworld) tasked with identifying and empowering champions against the forces of evil. Zyrd declared Tom worthy of being such a champion. In ages past, Zyrd had bestowed swords upon his champions, but he declared the age of the sword passed, so instead he gave Tom a shield, which he magically shrank down to the size of a belt buckle. This shield would be a source of magical strength and power for the boy.

When Tom placed his hands on the shield and mentally called upon its power, he found himself dressed in a strange uniform. Zyrd bid him go forth and use the powers for good. Tom did so, earning the name the Boy Champion, then later simply the Champion, as he grew up.

Zyrd would continue to act as an advisor to Tom, but the irascible and absent-minded wizard perhaps caused trouble as much as he helped. Later, Galahad also gained powers, including heightened intelligence, through a magical shield on his collar, but eventually retired to mind Zyrd full-time.

Tom moved to Empire City and became an investigative reporter and radio host, seeking to root out public corruption and champion the common man. He often worked with investigative reporters Grace Gale and Billy Dolan—and the Champion often rescued them from danger.


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