Tabletop Gaming Feeds

Incidents At the Isle of Dread - The Seas of Mystery & Rise of The Cults of Tsathoggua

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 03/06/2020 - 16:52
"Hundreds of miles from the mainland, surrounded by dangerous waters, lies an island known only as the Isle of Dread. Dark jungles and treacherous swamps await those who are brave enough to travel inland in search of the lost plateau, where the ruins of a once mighty civilization hold many treasures - and many secrets!"So off the California coast wreathed in perpetual storms, fog, & weatherNeedles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Red-Eyed Goblin

Sorcerer's Skull - Fri, 03/06/2020 - 12:00
A goblin made with Hero Forge, colors accurate to the AD&D Monster Manual, except the hair where I had to guess.

And here's a Hobgoblin:

Mystara, T1 The Village of Hommlet By Gary Gygax, B2 The Keep On The Bordlands & More Campaign Fodder

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 03/06/2020 - 02:54
"The Village of Hommlet has grown up around a crossroads in a woodland. Once far from any important activity, it became embroiled in the struggle between gods and demons when the Temple of Elemental Evil arose but a few leagues away. Luckily of its inhabitants, the Temple and its evil hordes were destroyed a decade ago, but Hommlet still suffers from incursions of bandits and strange Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Beyond Appendix N Mail Call - Night Land and Other Perilous Romances: The Collected Fiction of William Hope Hodgson, Volume 4

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 03/05/2020 - 20:31
Today has been mail call day! This isn't your usual mail call though. This is for the William Hope Hodgson Nightlands book that's been missing from the archives for a very long time. This past Christmas my wife grabbed me a first edition Hodgeson book for me. But who was William Hope Hodgson; "William Hope Hodgson (15 November 1877 – 19 April 1918) was an English author. He produced Needles
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Fans First: My Love of Outlander

Cryptozoic - Thu, 03/05/2020 - 17:59

In this third installment of our “Fans First” blog, I’m going to share a bit about my love and admiration for the Outlander TV series, and how it has inspired me to make great trading card products.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

PREORDER: Emerald Dragon Cryptkins Vinyl Figure (Cryptozoic Exclusive)

Cryptozoic - Thu, 03/05/2020 - 17:58

He’s green, loves coffee and rain, and hails from Seattle! This is your chance to buy the Emerald Dragon Cryptkins vinyl figure. This limited edition collectible is a Cryptozoic Exclusive, only available on the Cryptozoic eStore while supplies last!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

OSR Campaign Ho Down & Clark Ashton Smith Campaign Commentary

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 03/05/2020 - 17:26
 Cha'alt/Godbound rpg campaign that I've got going on centered around California, Nevada, & Arizona on a doomed Seventies or early Eighties  style Earth. The Cha'alt wave comes along through space & hits the Earth. It awakens the Lovecraftian forces that have been biding the eons away in places like the kingdom of K’nyan & the Hyperboreans who have been asleep deep within the Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

After the Horsemen Now on Sale!

Two Hour Wargames - Thu, 03/05/2020 - 17:20

And don't forget Death! Commonly referred to as the Four Housemen of the Apocalypse they rode through the land signaling the end of the world. What caused the end of world? Who knows? Who cares? The real question is...

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Scrum Con Ad for the Ruined Tower of Zenopus

Zenopus Archives - Thu, 03/05/2020 - 15:02

This is the advertisement for The Ruined Tower of Zenopus that was printed in the program for Scrum Con 2020! This sharp design was created by Second Saturday Scrum Club member John, who blogs at the 1000 Foot General. Read more about the adventure module in my earlier post.

The link in the ad ( goes to the DMs Guild page for the product. Coincidentally, they are having a 20% off sale for DM's Day, so the pdf is now only $1.79.

The entire Scrum Con program can now be viewed on Facebook here. There is also an ad for the second issue of Bayt Al Azif, edited by Jared Smith, which among lots of fantastic Call of Cthulhu scenarios includes a reprint of Holmes' 1983 review of the Call of Cthulhu, along with notes by myself. Read more about this here.

John also did illustrations and layout for the program book, which is a thing of beauty, including this neat dungeon map of the convention center. The editor of the program is Joe Procopio who blogs at Scrum in Miniature, and the photography is by Ellen Levy.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

D&D, Torchbearer and Colonialism

Torchbearer RPG - Thu, 03/05/2020 - 14:00

Hello friends!

For the past few years, and especially recently, there’s been a lot of discussion in online circles about colonialism, racism and D&D. Last year there was a 100+ page thread on RPGnet about decolonizing D&D. Lately, I’ve also been stumbling across apologia that attempts to disavow the existence of these things in D&D. Given Torchbearer’s debt to D&D, this is a topic Luke and I take very seriously.

I want to be very clear that I agree that D&D is embedded with colonialist and racist assumptions. I want to be equally clear that I’m not claiming Dave and Gary were racist or that D&D is some crypto-white-supremacist work. What I am saying is that unconscious support for colonialism and racism is systemic to American culture and so it is part of D&D whether Dave and Gary intended it to be or not.

It’s a part of Torchbearer too.

When I say ‘colonialism,’ here’s what I mean: Controlling a land, occupying it with settlers and exploiting it economically.

This is the heart of the American story–going west and taming the savage frontier. Except that “savage frontier” was not empty. It was full of indigenous civilizations. The original American colonies grew on settlements and farms that had been tended by indigenous people for generations.

In D&D (and Torchbearer) players assemble their adventurers and send them out into the unknown (to them at least). There, they fight monsters and seize treasure to bring back to civilization.

You don’t really need to even squint to see that these stories are cut from the same cloth.

But orcs and gnolls and drow are evil, right? That’s the difference, right? They have to be killed or driven off to protect civilization from their evil and rapaciousness. That’s a good thing! I understand that argument, especially in a game that explicitly tags peoples with a good or evil alignment. I’d give that point more credence if the same justifications hadn’t been used for genocide, enslavement and forced migration of indigenous peoples all around the globe.

Fellow game designer James Mendez Hodes has written on these topics at length. I highly recommend you check out this and this to start if you want to delve deeper. James also cites this piece, by Paul Sturtevant, which closely examines the concept of ‘race’ in D&D.

Look, the point is that D&D is problematic. Torchbearer is too, for many of the same reasons. There is a hateful narrative embedded in these games. Does that mean I think you shouldn’t play D&D (or Torchbearer)? No! Do I think it’s bad if you enjoy them? No! I do, however, hope that you’ll think about the narratives that you’re creating with your games and characters and try to minimize or rehabilitate the harmful aspects.

In Mendez’s second article linked to above, he provides some excellent ideas for reclaiming and rehabilitating the stories of orcs, which I think provides a good starting point. How would you decolonize your Torchbearer games?

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Weird Revisited: Different Dwarves for 5e

Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 03/05/2020 - 12:00
Relevant to my earlier post on vanilla fantasy...

The Tolkien-inspired, Nordic-derived dwarves of standard D&D aren't the only dwarven subraces out there. There is another dwarvish tradition: a more folklore and fairytale one. The dwarves of the Country of Yanth in the Land of Azurth are that sort of dwarf.

Compared to the average D&D dwarf, they tend to be more social and affable. They are fond of good food and drink and are renowned brewers. While they may be miners or metalworkers, they are not as oriented toward these tasks as others of their race, and are just as likely to loggers, woodworkers, or farmers.They have no more love or precious metals or jewels than humans.

Unless otherwise noted, the folkloric dwarf subrace has the traits of the standard dwarf.

Art by Jerad S. MarantzAbility Score Increase. Wisdom increased by 1.
Lucky. Like a Halfling's.
Size. Folkloric dwarves vary more in height than other dwarven races. Most are medium, but a few are under 4 foot and so small.
Dwarven Combat Training. They eschew the battleaxes and hammers employed by other dwarves, but are handy with the axe and short sword.
Tool Proficiency. Their choices for proficiency are smith's tools, brewer's supplies, cobbler's tools, woodcarver's tools, or cook's utensils.

Using Gary Gygax's Against The Giants G1- 4 With D3 Vault of the Drow & Queen Of The Demonweb Pits Along With Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea - As A Mini Campaign

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 03/04/2020 - 17:38
"Giants have been raiding the lands of men in large bands, with giants of different sorts in these marauding groups. Death and destruction have been laid heavily upon every place these monsters have visited. A party of the bravest and most powerful adventurers has been assembled and given the charge to punish the miscreant giants."G1-3 module picture taken from Wayne's book site. I get Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Temple of Asibare review

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 03/04/2020 - 12:17
By Dave Tackett Quasar Dragon games OSR Levels 2-4

Lying undisturbed for ages, this accursed tomb is discovered by the characters and a great evil is encountered. Will they survive this brush with darkness or will they become its latest victims. An OSR compatible module for any old school RPG or modern clone, The Temple/Tomb of Asibare is designed for character levels 2-4 or an especially harrowing first level.

This nineteen page adventure describes a twelve room temple/tomb with a vaguely middle eastern theme. Long read-aloud, mountains of backstory text in the rooms DM text, wall immune to everything but a Wish, this adventure has it all! Well, except treasure. So, not exactly an OSR adventure. More of a “Great example of how to not write an adventure” adventure. What RPG system is that? All of them Frank, all of them. Also, which one of you “gentle readers” suggested I review this? No christmas card for you this year!

Recall the new basic Bryce criteria for adventure success: Do I want to use my cheap yellow/beige mechanical pencil to stab my own eyes out when I try to run this? IE: is it bad? Evocative writing and interactivity might be “not boring” but making something not easy to use at the table easily earns you the BAD moniker. This is BAD.

You’re caravan guards. There’s a new building revealed out of the sand at an oasis you are stopped at. That night some other guards get killed. The next morning the caravan master asks you to take twelve(!) other guards and go inside to try and see what killed them. Ordered to your doom by those who control the means of production. Typical! And not even a bonus for your trouble!

The read-aloud in this adventure is BAD. It is LONG. Very long. Several reach a column in length. Read-aloud, is used, can’t be long. It has to be short. Why? Because people stop paying attention. You get a couple of sentences. 2, 3, maybe 4. No more. No one FUCKING CARES after that. They are here to play D&D not listen to DM monologues. No, listening to the DM is not the core D&D mechanic/loop. EVERY RPG thrives on the interactivity between the players and the DM. Back and forth. The DM presents. The players respond. The DM follows up. Then the players. And so it goes. Short. Bursty. Interactive. Long read-aloud breaks that cycle, people get bored, phones come out, and the DM wonders why no one is engaged.

The read-aloud in this adventure is BAD. It tells instead of showing.Instead of describing a locale, scene, event, it instead tells the players what their characters think and feel. “Every instinct tells you to run.” “By the flickering of your torchlight …” This is some hollow and false attempt to write an impactful encounter by making the players feel something. But it’s doing it by TELLING them instead of SHOWING them. You write a description that makes the payers feel a certain way, yo udon’t write a description that TELLS them tey feel a certain way. Besides, it’s also embedding actions in the read-aloud, assuming they are using torches, etc. This is never good. “You walk around the pyramid and see nothing”, again, in the read-aloud and again, assuming player actions and destroying the interactive loop of D&D. When you put extra descriptions in the read-aloud then you prevent the players from taking the actions with their characters. Instead of the read-aloud describing the first room and every detail of every aspect, instead the adventure should give a general overview and then allow the players have their characters investigate, with additional details coming out as they walk around and look at things. This preserves the interactivity loop.

The DM text in this adventure is BAD. Mountains and mountains of backstory in the rooms. This monster is here because of X, Y, and Z, which goes on for a paragraph. This is not what goes in to a D&D adventure. Or, to be more specific, this is not what should USUALLY go in to a D&D adventure. This sort of backstory, why the monster is there, why the trap was placed, what the room used to be used for, etc, is only of interest if it somehow drives the action of the adventure. The Why’s of things are less important than the current interactivity. The Why’s are for readers. The Why’s are a plot guide for  a series Tv writer. Interactivity is, instead, aimed at ACTUAL PLAY. That thing we’re supposed to be using this for? And the Why’s get in the way, clogging up the text, making it hard for the DM to find the information they do need during actual play. 

And then, at one point, you see a succubus in a circle. As a read-aloud, one of your twelve henchmen guar buddies walks over the circle and gets kissed out by her, drained. *sigh* I knew this was coming when I saw you had twelve buddies going with you. Not this, explicitly, but something like it. The NPC’s being dumb. 

There’s nothing to see here in this adventure. Just room after room of undead, etc, animating and attacking when you enter the room. All combat, no treasure is not exactly the crafty OSR play I am expecting.

Maybe my car will get hit by a truck today.

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru with a suggested price of $2. The preview is six pages and shows you the intro and several of the room keys. So, a good preview since it shows you some of the encounters, the core loop of the adventure, so to speak. Take a look at some of the read-aloud and bask in it.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Wednesday Comics: Bronze Age Book Club - Marvel Spotlight #33

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 03/04/2020 - 12:00
Last week saw a new episode of the Bronze Age Book Club podcast released Friday.

Listen to "Episode 15: MARVEL SPOTLIGHT #33" on Spreaker.

Using Gary Gygax's D3 Vault of the Drow & Queen Of The Demonweb Pits With Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea - A Mini Campaign

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 03/04/2020 - 06:35
"As a member of a bold party of adventurers, you and your associates have trekked far into what seems to be a whole underworld of subterranean tunnels -- arteries connecting endless caves and caverns which honeycomb the foundations of the lands beneath the sun. Your expedition has dogged the heels of the Dark Elves who caused great woe and then fled underground. "  I want to run D3 Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Of Spell Memorization and Phantasmal Forces

Bat in the Attic - Wed, 03/04/2020 - 04:07
Spell memorization seems straight forward for classic editions. You have a magic user or cleric who have some spells slots and then you pick some spells. However I discovered while writing material or running campaign that have a lot of NPCs magic users it gets rather tedious even picking spells for lower level magic users. Along with falling into a rut and picking the same spells over and over again.

Three years ago I figured that it would be good to come up with a way to randomize this for Swords and Wizardry.

I coded up the tables using NBos' Inspiration Pad Pro and tweaked the results until they look about right. After that I had everything I need to write up Random Memorized Spell Generation for the Majestic Fantasy RPG. Note that the I used the spell lists out of Swords and Wizardry Core edition.

In the 2017 post I talked mostly about the difference between random tables and random assortments. However I didn't get into how I weighted the tables.

It been my experienced that with all else being equal some spells are just more useful than others. That they are useful in more situation than other spells. So rather than assigning an equal chance to all the spells being memorized, I weighted the result based on my experience roleplaying and refereeing  magic users.

For example 2nd level spells for Magic Users

Common Level 2
1     Darkness, 15' Radius
2-3   Detect Evil
4     Detect Invisibility
5-6   Detect Thoughts
7     Invisibility
8     Knock
9     Levitate
10    Locate Object
11-12 Mirror Image
13    Phantasmal Force
14    Strength
15-18 Web
19    Wizard Lock
20    Uncommon Level 2

Uncommon Level 2
1-15  Continual Light
16-20 Pyrotechnics

Adjudicating the usefulness of spells
The first thing about the 2nd level spell list for magic users is that there is no single goto spells. For first level Charm Person, Magic Missile, and Sleep are very common. For 3rd level you have the ver popular Fireball or Lightning Bolt.

For 2nd level spells the most common I have taken as a magic user for my 2nd level spell slot is web. It effectively immobilize your enemy within in its area of effect and also serves as a barrier. However Detect Evil, Detect Thoughts, Mirror Images also all seen frequent use. The least commonly used spells in my experience are Continual Light and Pyrotechnic. The rest of the spells all have their uses in various situation.

So I am going to weight the odds of memorizing second spells like this.

1st Tier

2nd Tier
Detect Evil, Detect Thought, Mirror Image

3rd Tier
Darkness, Detect Invisibility, Invisibility, Knock, Levitate, Phantasmal Force, Strength, and Wizard Lock

4th Tier
Continual Light and Pyrotechnics.

The tough call is Invisibility, arguably it probably a 2 1/2 Tier spell. I wanted to use a d20 roll as the randomizer and keep the sub tables to a minimum. So I decided that Mirror Image had enough of an edge over Invisibility to warrant a 10% change as opposed to a 5% chance. The main reason is that Invisibility drops if you attack and Mirror Image lasts for the duration of the spell and potentially prevent crippling damage.

Feel free to rework the tables if your judgement call on various spells differ from mine.

Phantasmal Force
Another spell I will be re-evaluating is Phantasmal Force. I don't have the link but on one of the old school forums somebody did an analysis of the history of the spell.

If you look in Chainmail 2nd edition, the one that predates the release of Dungeons and Dragons on page 28 to 29 you have.

Phantasmal Force (Chainmail 2nd Edition)The creation of the apparition of a unit or creature for four turns, maxi-duration.
In Original Dungeons and Dragons you have

Phantasmal Forces (ODnD)The creation of vivid illusions of nearly anything the user envisions (a projected mental image so to speak). As long as the caster concentrates on the spell, the illusion will continue unless touched by some living creature, so there is no limit on duration, per se. Damage caused to viewers of a Phantasmal Force will be real if the illusion is believed to be real. Range: 24”.
Here it is a more general purpose illusion spells but still echoes it use in Chainmail. Swords and Wizardry adapts the above but added an limitation that the illusion can only be used to deal up to 2d6 damage. 
So I decided to alter the spell in the Majestic Fantasy RPG to the following. To keep it utility as an illusion spells but also to call back to its original use in Chainmail.
Phantasmal Force (Magic-User, 2nd Level)Range: 240 feet; Duration: Until concentration ends; MI: Yes; Art: Web;The caster creates a realistic looking illusion of a creature, object, or effect. When the illusion is touched or attacked, the character makes a saving throw. If the save is made, the character realize it is an illusion and the illusion is dispelled. If the save is failed, the character believes the illusion is real. 
Phantasmal Force can also be used to create a creature or effect that is capable of inflicting damage. Anything that is capable of dealing 12 points of damage or less can be created as an illusion with this spell. For example a wolf or a flaming pool of oil (does 1d6 per round). 
When a target is attacked they get a saving throw vs spells to see if the target know it is an illusion. Success means the illusion is dispelled, failure means the target believes the illusion to be real. Combat is then resolved using the normal stats of the creature. 
Focused Art: The illusion is more effective. Creatures or characters that can deal up to 18 points damage can now be created by this spell.
The changes make Phantasmal Force more like a Summon Monster spells except those interacting with or are attacked by the spell get a saving throw.
I think this removes a lot of the grey area for how Phantasmal Force is used in combat and increases the utility of the spells compared to its original wording.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Some Thoughts on Appendix Arabian Nights - AL-QADIM Zothique OSR - Planar Matters

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 03/03/2020 - 19:52
"In a lost land, that only dreams have known,Where flaming suns walk naked and alone;Among horizons bright as molten brass,And glowing heavens like furnaces of glass,It rears with dome and tower manifold,Rich as a dawn of amarant and gold,Or gorgeous as the Phoenix, born of fire,And soaring from an opalescent pyreSheer to the zenith. Like some anademeOf Titan jewels turned to flame and Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Celebrating 10 Years of Cryptozoic Games

Cryptozoic - Tue, 03/03/2020 - 18:00

When Cryptozoic first started in 2010, we were determined to be pioneers in creating high quality tabletop games based on beloved properties. Since then, we have been dedicated to creating products that fans of pop culture will love because we are fans too.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Scrum Con 2020 Post-Op

Zenopus Archives - Tue, 03/03/2020 - 13:41
Scrum Con 2020 Program designed by the 1000 Foot General
Scrum Con 2020 was a resounding success! 

A big thank you to the organizers (the Scrum Club), the hard-working GMs, the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society (HMGS), who supported the con with a grant, and all of the attendees who came out and played in the games.

Guest of Honor Zeb Cook running Star Frontiers. Source: the FB Album
A large number of photos are up in a album on the Scrum Con Facebook page
. Most of the games at the con are represented, and most are annotated with the names of the GM, scenario and rules system. So you can click through the gallery and see and read about what was played. There were two sessions, morning (10-2) and afternoon (3:30-7:30), with a few shorter sessions starting at other times. The games were an even split between Miniatures and RPGs. Update: there are now over 400 photos in a post on the Scrum in Miniature.

A familiar fiend appeared in Noah G's Dungeon Hack+ game
I've also re-tweeted a bunch of photos from the day, adding the #scrumcon2020 tag.

And there is another con report by John at the 1000 Foot General, a member of the Scrum Club who also ran a session of his Star Schlock game and also designed an impressive program for the con (photo above).

Registration Desk after the morning rush
The games were spread across three rooms in the new venue, the Silver Spring Civic Center which everyone seemed to like. Being a member of the Scrum Club, I helped out around the registration desk in the morning, while my son played in Dragon Hunt, a Blood & Swash miniatures game run by Eric Schlegel of the HAWKS (Harford Area Weekly Kriegspielers). 

The Flea Market was popular all day, with items coming and going, including an extra copy of Dragon Strike (TSR, 1993) that I sold, and a beautiful original Monster Manual that I picked up. Thank you to the Scrum Club members and auxiliaries who manned the fort there.

Food options were plentiful around the site; Cava was basically the closest, which is where we had lunch. After the con a number of us went to McGinty's Public House for dinner, a short walk up the block.

Me (in Sauron cap) running the Brazen Head
In the afternoon I ran In Search of the Brazen Head of Zenopus in the upstairs Fenton room. I'll write more about it in another blog post. 

At the same time my son played in A Dead Man in Deptford, a wild miniatures (Frostgrave) game set in an alternate reality Elizabethan London, where he was William Shakespeare! This was run by Jeff Wasileski. Below are a few shots I took of this game. The first shows the view my son had sitting at the table; he felt like he was actually in a town.

The picture below was taken just after his party recovered "a work of magical dramaturgy that would open the door to another dimension" in an attic and leapt out the window to escape a demon, leaving one injured and doomed member of their party behind to guard the exit. Nearby is a model representing the Globe Theatre!
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

How to Create Your Own Country for Tax Reasons

Dungeoncomics - Tue, 03/03/2020 - 13:30
An arcology is a portmanteau of "architecture" and "ecology." The original architectural vision for an arcology was an ecologically neutral, self-powering, self-feeding, and self-sufficient enclosed system.


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