Tabletop Gaming Feeds

Deep Pulp

Sorcerer's Skull - Fri, 10/05/2018 - 11:00
Currently, I'm alternating my reading time between two pulp science fiction novels from the 1960s: Lin Carter's Tower of the Medusa and Gardner Fox's Warrior of Llarn. Neither writer is hailed for their great literary accomplishments, though Gardner Fox made substantial contributions to Silver Age comic book history. Both write in a style that harkens back to the days of the actual pulp magazines (which, in Fox's case is where he got his start) and whatever their deficiencies can occasionally turn out a serviceable yarn.
originally published in an Ace DoubleCarter has a flare for world-building, if occasionally done in too formulaic and always pretty derivative sort of way. He has a "genius" of combining subgenres that no one had put together before: His Lemuria stories, for instance are basically Conan in a Edgar Rice Burroughs yarn. His Gondwane tales are a faux Vancian mix Oz, Flash Gordon, and the Dying Earth. Tower of Medusa here feels a bit like a C.L. Moore riff in conception: In a future interstellar civilization where less of old knowledge makes ancient tech seem as magic (or maybe it was a fusion of the two?) a tough guy thief and his side kick are coerced into a difficult job: the theft of a jewel called Heart of Kom Yazoth. The story reads more like Moore's husband Henry Kuttner in his early pulp stuff. It has none of Moore's atmosphere. Still, it's an above average Carter effort, I feel like.

Warrior of Llarn is a Sword & Planet yarn. Earthman Alan Morgan gets transport to a distant world by means as yet mysterious. He saves a princess and gets involved with a war between two civilizations. The level of technology of the world is a bit higher than Barsoom, and Fox provides a Dune-esque (a year before Dune) explanation for why people with energy weapons might still use swords. Like Fox's earlier Adam Strange stories for DC, the planet has suffered a nuclear war in the past, which is the cause of it's strange creatures and current lower level of civilization. Fox's story is old fashion, even quaint in many ways, but he's accomplished at delivering the goods. It is not boring.

OSR Commentary In Praise Of DA2 Temple of The Frog By Dave Arneson, & David J. Ritchie For Your Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 10/04/2018 - 17:45
"Green Death... That's what old hands call the Great Dismal Swamp. For centuries, this tangled maze of sluggish watercourses, stagnant ponds, and festering marshes has defended Blackmoor's southwestern frontier. Large armies and smaller parties have disappeared altogether inside its vast, dripping, claustrophobic corridors. Among those who have dropped from sigh in this arboral hellNeedles
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Okay, Cut to the Chase! Kickstarter - How Much?

Two Hour Wargames - Thu, 10/04/2018 - 15:07

The Kickstarter launches tomorrow. So what is it going to cost? Good question.
Each pledge level has two prices -  PDF (cheaper, but you print the game) and Printed and bagged, with the option to buy a printed for the game cardboard box.

Lowest pledge is for 1 PDF game - $30 and the highest is $350 and you get 18 printed games!  The "sweet spot" is 10 games as that gets you all of the Stretch Goals.

The Stretch Goals will get you FREE games and drive down the price of the 11th or higher game you want to buy.  You can buy one of each or 18 of one or any combination in between.This is a great Kickstarter to go in with your friends. Plus as we collect shipping after the project funds, each friend can pay for their own shipping, so even your faraway friends can join the fun.

The Kickstarter launches tomorrow - Friday the 5th at 10 AM US Eastern Time.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Constructing A Dark Sun and A Dying Earth

Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 10/04/2018 - 11:00
Art by Don DixonStill ruminating on my Dark Sun riff, I figure first things first: that dark sun. Smith and Vance provide the prototype. As the Smith writes in the "Dark Eidolon": "...the sun no longer shone with the whiteness of its prime, but was dim and tarnished as if with a vapor of blood."

Not that it needs to be even vaguely scientific, but the usual way people give this a scientific veneer is to have the Sun (or whatever star) have turned red giant in old age. In our solar system, current theory suggests the Earth will have been scorched by the Sun's increasing luminosity billions of years before it goes red giant and consumes the planet entirely, but again fantasy. Also, even a red giant star burns white hot, so would hardly be "tarnished as if with a vapor of blood," but that's seldom concerned sci-fi writers, and shouldn't unduly concern us.

Another option, rather than the very luminous red giant, is the small, dark, and cooler red dwarf star. It is true that our Sun (or any star) won't become a red dwarf as it's dying--in fact red dwarfs are very long lived--but hey magic or sufficiently advanced science, right?

A red dwarf wouldn't typically look red in the sky either, but it's light diffused through dust or clouds would definitely be more orangish, at least, and it would be dim enough that you could look at it and see flares and things on it's surface. Dim enough, and close enough, because the habitable zone of a red dwarf would be very close to the star, so an Earth like world would be huddled in like a person around a campfire on a cold night.

The thing about being so close to the star as that it would likely mean the world was tidally locked; It might well present the same face to the star at all times and have a dayside and a nightside. This could then be a world with a scorching day time desert and a freezing night time desert, but it also offers other possibilities. Of course, the planet could have a 3:2 resonance like Mercury, rather than a 1:1 tidal lock like the Moon, too.

So doing a little bit of calculation, and a little bit of making stuff up, here's what I came up with: An world tidally locked to a dwarf star. It's day side is a scorching desert, dotted with dead cities and desiccated sea basins from before whatever happened happened. On the day side over the equator, the sun would be white and a little over 3 times as large as the Sun is in our sky.  Further from the equator and the prime meridian (not as arbitrarily placed on a world where the sun doesn't move) the sun is lower in the sky and redder in color.

Moving toward the night side, the land would become a little less dry by stages until you reached the terminator (no, not that one) where there would be forest and jungle cloaked in eternal twilight and wracked by fierce storms caused by the meeting of the hot air from dayside and the cold air of the nightside. Here be monsters.

Most of the night side, lit only by the stars, is a cold ocean. As we all know places of eternal night are havens of undead, and so must it be here. And of course, sea monsters.

18 Game Kickstarter Launches Friday!

Two Hour Wargames - Wed, 10/03/2018 - 19:08
Launches Friday! Click for more info.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Witch & Switch?! Tegel Manor Session Report - Witches, Goblins, Slavery,& Machinations

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 10/03/2018 - 18:24
So last night the home campaign was going full tilt, I had all my players there & the events were going well. The PC's faced down a group of goblins & an orc shaman who was working for the Rump's bodyguard/witch NPC. She's a member of the Le Fey family/coven of witches that are ubiquitous throughout my campaigns. She bares are striking resemblance to Spencer's version of Morgan Le Fey. Needles
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The Big I - #3 Escort

Two Hour Wargames - Wed, 10/03/2018 - 16:41

Catch up on what happened earlier. Encounter #1 Find - The Big I  Encounter #2 Chillin' - The Big I
The old guy spent a couple of drinks worth talking to Spence and he convinced him to go with him the following morning. He had an errand to run in south Albuquerque and promised Spence payment if he went with him. What he didn’t tell Spence was that his two grand kids would be with him. 

This is a major change in the Story. With Bee being infected finding the "Cure" is now Spence's primary importance. Grandpa and the kids can come with the group or leave. Grandpa decides it's good to stay with the group for now. Spence figures the kids can help find Loot. 
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Under the Temple Crypt

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 10/03/2018 - 11:25

By Extildepo
Verisimilitude Society Press
Swords & Wizardry

This dungeon assumes that there is a temple somewhere with a mysterious walled-in doorframe in the basement crypt. The walled-in doorframe predates the temple itself and leads to ancient subterranean structures that hint of an older civilization as well as an expansive underworld.

This wight page dungeoncrawl has a twenty-ish room ruined city/underground area. It stands out for being mostly inoffensive, a wonder in and of itself these days. The writing is a mix of workmanlike facts and decent imagery, leading to an inconsistent vibe overall. A little polishing of the text would have elevated this quite a bit. Still, I’m not mad at it.

This one is close. It’s got a pretty decent “drop in dungeon” premise, being behind a bricked up doorway. The supporting map is ok, with lots of varied terrain, tunnels and hallways, under and over tunnels and so on, especially for its small-ish size.

This is just a basic little dungeoncrawl in a mixed dungeon, both in creatures and in setting, from caverns to mini ruined underground city portion. It’s quite successful sometimes in the writing. Overall you get themes of decay, dust, fallen stone block and crumbling ruins. This is built up through repetition and the artwork present, both of which are good techniques. Ornate pillars with stylyze reliefs of animals, large and sticky cobwebs hanging from pillar to pillar, slowing movement and obscuring vision. A green and purple luminescent glow emitting from behind a broken wall … thats room two and it’s a pretty good description. I can imagine it, and more, and because of that I can EASILY build on it for the players. There’s more than one room that reaches this great height of writing.

But it’s much more usual for the writing to be more workmanlike, and less evocative. “This crypt is typical of the times.”, “These dead priests still wear their ceremonial robes and stoles”, “This once opulent sanctuary is now a ruin.” or “The entrance to this building is open and arched.” It’s all very workmanlike, and more than a little bland. A bathhouse has pools of black liquid. BORING WORD CHOICE. Another room has a dozen large ceramic urns. Give it some life man! “This is the lair of a fearsome troll.” is not an evocative room description.

This extends to the creatures. There’s a giant spider who attacks. There are ghouls who attack. Various creatures. They just don’t have much life in them. Ghouls from a ruined city? Those should erudite ghouls, or an inquisitive spider, and so on. They need a little life to them. Not everything has to be something you can to, but it needs a adjective or adverb, some kind of descriptor to bring the thing to life.
So, it’s ok. It doesn’t overstay. It’s got a decent map and a few good descriptions along with some things to poke at that contribute to ok encounters. It tends more to the bland side, but, again, I have overly high expectations. It’s close. Some refinement, especially around word choice, would send it in very good territory.

This is $1 at DriveThru. Note that the level range is NOT in the product description, only on the cover. Boo! The preview doesn’t really show you anything more than the map.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Wednesday Comics: Mike Grell

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 10/03/2018 - 11:00

TwoMorrows just released a new retrospective on the creator of Warlord, Sable, and so many others, titled Mike Grell: Life Is Drawing Without An Eraser. The hardcover clocks in at 178 pages (full color) and is of course full of Grell art from his start on Brenda Starr, through his work for the Big Two and creator owned work.

There are chapters on all of his major works (the Legion, Warlord, Sable, Green Arrow, Shaman's Tears, and Starslayer) and own his work on the Tarzan newspaper strip and James Bond graphic novels. Interspersed are mostly reprint but still interesting interviews with Grell or collaborators. There's also a checklist of Grell's work in comics.

The hardcover has an additional gallery section in the back that the paperback lacks. This has several more Warlord images.

The Big I - #2 Chillin' Part Three - Hard Feelings

Two Hour Wargames - Tue, 10/02/2018 - 19:34

Part One
Part Two

In All Things Zombie - Evolution you can gamble with NPCs during a Chillin' Encounter.  The good news is it's a way to earn Increasing Rep d6 if you win. The bad news is it could cause Hard Feelings with the NPCs that lose. How do you know? Here's how we do it:

  • Roll 1d6 for each NPC Class you are playing against. So in this case, Survivors, Sheeple and Militia.
  • If the score is equal or less than the number of NPCs for the Class, they have Hard Feelings and will Confront you outside when you leave.  You could have a Confrontation with more than one Class, counting all of them as the common enemy. This is still part of the Chillin' Encounter and not an additional one.
There was 1 Survivor, 1 Sheeple and 2 Militia. I rolled 3d6 and, in order, scored a 4, 5 and 1. The Militia had Hard Feelings.

Game played quickly and added to the Story. Also another way to gain Increasing or Decreasing Rep d6. The nice thing about ATZ is the unexpected can happen as in the Militia acting first, even though they didn't have the Advantage, Luckily this was a non-lethal Confrontation. Could have been very ugly if they were using weapons.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Gary Gygax’s Thwarted Plans for Second-Edition Dungeons & Dragons

DM David - Tue, 10/02/2018 - 10:20

In 1985, D&D co-creator Gary Gygax wrote a column for Dragon magazine describing his plans for a second edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. “This task does not preclude later supplements, changes and yet new editions (a Third, perhaps a Fourth someday).” Imagine that.

By the time his plans reached readers in November, Gary had been forced out of TSR. Gary’s part in shaping D&D ended. TSR ignored his outline and would not start work on a second edition until 1987.

This left D&D fans to speculate how Gary’s second edition would have differed from version that actually reached stores in 1989.

Gary never sets goals for the new edition. He later explained, “The soul and spirit of the revised game would have remained the same. The change might have been likened to that from D&D to AD&D.” AD&D started as a collection of all the material published for the original game. Similarly, Gary’s outline for second edition dwells on compiling first-edition monster books and arcana into four core books. “Each is far larger than now, but the needed information is all under the cover of the appropriate tome.” (Gary added Legends & Lore to D&D’s usual three, core books.)

Most of Gary’s plans centered on selecting what parts of D&D merited a place in the new edition. By his reckoning, monks belonged in an oriental-themed campaign book and assassins should become optional. As for psionics, he wrote, “I’d like to remove the concept from a medieval fantasy roleplaying game system and put it into a game where it belongs—something modern or futuristic.”

He planned to remove rules for weapon-speed factors and weapons versus armor. Like virtually every AD&D player, Gary ignored those rules.

His offers few thoughts for new material, and none that threatened to change the game. He planned to tinker with monster hit dice, giving robust creatures more hit points and damage. Powerful individuals gained extra hit dice. “I suppose some will call that monster munchkinism.”

His best plans featured changes that reached D&D without Gary’s help. The original bard class forced players to gain levels in Fighter, Thief, and Druid before becoming a bard. Gary’s updated bard could start as a bard.

He planned a skill system that would have resembled a system he designed in 2006 for for the booklet, Castle Zagyg Class Options & Skills for Yggsburgh. This book supported a game called Castles & Crusades, a rules-light game that mixed some third-edition innovation with the spirit of original D&D. Gary’s skill system let characters trade experience points for skills that granted bonuses to checks. This approach offered advantages over the weak skill system in second edition. Best of all, with Gary’s skills, no one had to say “non-weapon proficiency.”

His plans included wizard specializations beyond illusionist and a sorcerer class that resembled today’s conjurer specialization.

Mainly, he planned to design some class ideas that he had floated three years earlier in Dragon issue 65. Then he had asked readers to rate his concepts. “Let me know which you like best, which least.” Two issues later, he reported a flood of responses.

The most popular notions, the cavalier and the thief-acrobat, reached print in Unearthed Arcana, but neither idea captured players’ imagination. Even these best concepts suggested that Gary had run short of compelling class ideas. Nevertheless, Gary still dreamed of bringing second edition the remaining classes:

  • Mystic: A cleric subclass focused on divination.
  • Savant: A magic user subclass specializing in knowledge and study. The class crossed the old sage class with divination and detection spells.
  • Mountebank: A thief subclass focused on deception, slight-of-hand, and persuasion. Gary’s short story, “The House in the Tree” included a character named Hop who describes himself as a mountebank. Hop comes across a fast-talking snake-oil salesmen, except some of Hop’s concoctions might actually work. The story appears in a collection of short tales about Gord the Rogue titled Knight Errant.
  • Jester: A bard subclass with jokes, tricks, and insults. “The class will be less than popular with fellow adventurers, I suspect, so that jesters will frequently have enemies and travel alone.” Jesters come from the same inclination that produced the sage—from an urge to design classes around every medieval profession without any mind to what might attract players to the class.

Even though none of these ideas seem compelling enough to merit a class name, I’ve seen some characters that fit all these concepts except for the Jester. Between class archetypes, skills, and spell selection, D&D now boasts enough flexibility to realize any of these class concepts. As for the jester, a bard could adopt the wardrobe, but why? Old-school blogger James Maliszewski asked, “What’s the appeal there? Perhaps I’m simply humorless and unimaginative but I have a hard time imagining either an adventuring jester or a need for a NPC class based around juggling, tumbling, and minor spellcasting.”

Next: How much would Gary’s second edition have differed from the version that reached gamers? Plus, would Gary have liked fifth edition?

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Big I - #2 Chillin' - Part Two

Two Hour Wargames - Mon, 10/01/2018 - 20:57
Part One

Spence and four NPCs will be gambling. Here are their stats.
Player At Start Rep Savvy Spence
5 5 Survivor
4 3 Sheeple
2 3 Militia Leader
0 4 Militia Grunt
3 4

To gamble each Character rolls 2d6 versus it's Savvy. 
  • Pass 2d6, they continue on. 
  • Pass 1d6 and drop one point of Rep - reach zero Rep and you're out. Gain 1 Decreasing Rep d6 per player in the game.
  • Pass 0d6 and you're out. Gain 1 Decreasing Rep d6 per player in the game. 

Here's after three rounds. Spence is feeling pretty good. Lucky for him the Militia Leader passed 0d6 on the first round!? The rest are not doing so well.
Player End of Round 3 Rep Savvy Spence Pass 2d6 4 5 Survivor Pass 1d6 * 3 3 Sheeple Pass 2d6 1 3 Militia Leader Out 0 4 Militia Grunt Pass 2d6 2 4
After 6 rounds the game ends, Spence wins and gains 5 Increasing Rep d6 - that gives him 3 Increasing Rep d6 so far! Spence leaves with Bee (2 Id6) and the new recruit, I'll call him Stan.

More to come. Can you say Hard Feelings?
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Black Pudding 5 Print Edition Out Now!

Oubliette - Mon, 10/01/2018 - 19:46
Printed editions of Black Pudding 5 are now available to order. They may be ordered using the Paypal button below (if all you want is a single copy then this gives discounted shipping as the packed weight is under 100grams). Please make sure you select the correct postage option for your location.

Black Pudding 5 BP5 UK £4.00 GBP BP5 Europe £4.75 GBP BP5 Rest of World £5.50 GBP If you've not got copies of the previous issues in print then there is also the following special bundle with world-wide shipping included. For a customer in the US this should save £4.00 - £5.00 on the normal cost including delivery if the items were ordered via Squarehex. The bundle contains:
  • 1 copy of Black Pudding Issue 1
  • 1 copy of Black Pudding Issue 2
  • 1 copy of Black Pudding Issue 3
  • 1 copy of Black Pudding Issue 4
  • 1 copy of Black Pudding Issue 5
  • 1 copy of FOSSIL B/X Character Generation
  • 1 Squarehex Adventure Design Booklet

Black Pludding 1-5 Special Bundle Worldwide Shipping £19.00 GBP Copies may also be ordered from the Squarehex site using the following links:

Black Pudding Issue 5Black Pudding Issue 5 Premium Bundle

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The Dragons Secret

Ten Foot Pole - Mon, 10/01/2018 - 11:08

By Jennell Jaquays
Fifth Wall Games & Miniatures
Swords & Wizardry
Levels 5-7

The Dragon’s Secret centers on a mystery from the past: villagers invited a gold dragon to bless and protect the region with her presence… for a little tribute… and a temple… and followers… and perhaps just a whole lot more tribute. When the dragon eventually went mad, she laid waste to the surrounding lands in a fiery rage, ending with her death at the hands of heroes. Except… they found almost none of her treasure. In time people forgot the cathedral’s location, but the legend of her missing treasure still inspires seekers to keep looking.

This 54 page adventure features a three level thirty room dungeon. A classic exploratory dungeon stuffed full of things, it manages to be both verbose AND scan well … generally. A few more cross-references and some rewording would push this beast in to very rare territory indeed. Also, it has the ducks/aardvarks, a featured Jaquayism, for those of you for whom D&D is serious business.

Classic Exploratory Dungeon. The rooms in this are stuffed full of things. It seems like every single room has three or four different things going on it. This isn’t the hidden depth of Kuntz, which is seldom realized, or the immediate gratification of a modern set-piece room with 12 terrain features to exploit. The rooms here remind me a bit of the classic examples from the 1e DMG … if they had more going on. You can poke and prod several different things in each room, or get poked, as the case may be. This turns each room in to a mini-adventure, with as much to do as the party cares to engage in. One small room is a square tower stairwell, opening on to a room at the top with a door that leads to the roof. Stairs count as #1 thing. The final rotation of the stairs are barricaded with thorny brush, heavy branches, fire sharpened stakes, etc. That’s thing #2. There’s also a secret door, but we’ll ignore that. The top of the stairs are rotten, that’s a “trap” and #3. Big pile of treasure in the a jumbled mess in the center of the room. That’s feature #4. And then there’s a bunch of piercers up in the rafters, that’s #5. Now, look, you could think of this as a room with a pile of treasure, a trap, and a monster. But that’s not how its WRITTEN. It’s both a cohesive room and yet it feels like there’s these separate elements to encounter and enjoy. Room after room after room does this. Secret side entrance. Gold dragon altar in the corner. Mechanical dragon if it sees you. Slide it aside to in a hole with treasure in it. But there are also centipedes in it under the treasure. And werewolves in the next room that can agro in if they hear you. It’s depth, it’s hidden, but it’s not obtuse and it’s LIKELY to be encountered. And, in both examples I cited. You can agro in creatures from the next room if you are loud. There are linkages between things. It’s a really, really good design. This is the kind of shit that I love to see. Exploratory, overloaded. It’s classic D&D at its finest.

The rooms are long. I’d say “a column” is average for a room in this, as the page count to room number would indicate. Rooms have a description, and then a backstory heading, a remarkables heading, a secrets heading, a curios heading, a denizens heading, a tactics/roleplay heading, and so on. I have theorized in the past that one could be verbose and still make something scannable. This comes about as close as you can get, I think. Th headings make it easy to locate (or skip, in the case of background …) the important sections of the room. You can the general description and relate it to the party and then, as they explore the room, your attention is drawn to the other various sections. It’s a tad mechanical, and I’ve seen terser formats that accomplish the same thing, but overall I think it works. It scans well, which means it helps the DM run the room, which is, ultimately, the purpose of all room descriptions.

Which is not to say it’s perfect.

My primary frustration is with one of the strengths, the rooms linkages. Gargoyles fly off to get help from the rest of their gagle. Yeah! Room linkage! Uh … which room is that gagle in? Or, noise from one room doesn’t really translate well in to what gets drawn in. That alter room has some werewolf treasure in it. They are in the next room. But you don’t know that. Until you come to that room entry. Thus what’s it missing are some simple cross-references. “The gargoyles fly off to get help [a8]”, for example. There ARE some attempts at cross-referencing, but this generally comes up in the case of the the adventure side quests and rumors, etc. They are GREAT there, and totally worth it and appreciated. But the rooms are missing it. There’s some great color in some of those, and more than enough to make this a pretty rich environment … if you put the work in. They are tacked on in the back and while each one references things in the adventure and adds a LOT of local/regional depth, they DON’T scan well and are, well, hooks to be developed by the DM. Prepare thy notepad! Wanted signs plastered all over for two criminals? Count me in on that color!

Finally, I’d note that the room descriptions, while good, are not great. I’m talking about the initial little description that talks each room, not the added section heading/expanded detail. The rooms don’t always start with the most important things near the top of the description and sometimes omit some things that seem important to the ‘hidden depth’ of the room. I’m not sure that knowing the werewolfs are two familiaes helps as the first room entry? There’s generally some good imagery, with light from dragon lamps, some missing and dark, illuminating a golden dragon statue, for example. But it’s also the case that some DM cues could be more obvious at the start of the room.

Wanderers are doing something (yeah!) but treasure is generally book items and boring +1’s and 150gp gems. I can has sads? I wanted more in that area. There’s also weirdly placed asides. I blame layout for this. I LIKE asides, like what makes THESE gargoyles special. But it appears deep in the adventure not near the first gargoyles. That makes you have to remember that you say it before. I don’t like membering.

Yeah, I’d pay $15 for this and I’d run it. Hyquatious Vaults, Blue Medusa, Guy’s work, Darkness Beneath/Upper Caves, and DCO all have their strengths and do things well. This falls close to Vaults and/or Guy’s work, being classic D&D exploratory, but with a FUCK TON more going on. Or, at least, FEELING like it is going on. It doesn’t feel as focused as those other adventures, which maybe is because of the room length or the overloaded nature of the rooms. I don’t know.

This is $15 at DriveThru. The preview is seven pages and TOTALLY lame. It doesn’t show any of the rooms at all. It’s important for people to understand what they are getting and showing how a typical room is written, in the preview or product blurb, is an important part of that.

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Weird Revisted: Clowns in the Clouds

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 10/01/2018 - 11:00
This post first appeared in December 2012. I have sorted wanted to use these guys in the Land of Azurth, but haven't done so yet.

There is, they say, a wandering, cloud island, that is home to clowns. These are no mere performers but the thing the mummers ape, fey and changeable beings not of this world.

Where the cloud island passes in it's maundering way, the clowns come down among normal folk, dropping from the sky under motley umbrellas, or sliding down shafts of light. They put on carnivals, perform farces, and throw out candies. After they have gone, people are sometimes found missing, particularly children.
Sometimes when the island passes, the clowns don't come down but instead drop candies of preternatural flavors and small items imbued with magic: a hand mirror, a short sword, a jar of skin cream, a pack of gum. There are rumors that these come in trade--or are perhaps stolen--from the Moon. There are tales spun of daring thieves sneaking on to the cloud island to rob the clowns' treasure stores, but as far as is known, these are just stories.
Other tales purport to come from people who have visited the cloud island and returned. These seldom mention  treasure stores, but do describe colorful tents scattered among cyclopean stone ruins (that may predate the clowns) and the rare tree, strewn with mists and carnival lights. The anarchic clowns careen between merriment and slumber. No clown ever seems to die, no matter what sort of violence is done to them. 
Sometimes, for reasons unknown, a clown falls from the island. These strange,sad creatures become wandering tramps, losing much of their magic and too often turning drink.

More Late Night OSR & Arnesonian Commentary On Dave Arneson's First Fantasy Campaign

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 10/01/2018 - 06:07
There's always been more to the hobby of table top gaming then, "clear the room, take the loot, & move on." Especially original Dungeons & Dragons which has remained consistent in its approach via the three little brown books in their wood grained box. I've used those books to run everything from Barsoomian adventures to full mythological campaigns involving deities from Mount Olympus to theNeedles
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One Weird Encounter After Another

Sorcerer's Skull - Sun, 09/30/2018 - 14:00
This is a page from Mercer Meyer's Little Monster's You-Can-Make-It Book from 1978. I figure it would make a decent one of those "drop die tables" all the kids were going on about a few years ago. Or you could just roll 2 4-sided die for X and Y coordinates.

You are on your own for statting most of these beings, But Mayer's books do reveal that the Yalapappas eats paper (including, I'm sure, pages from spell books and scrolls) and the trollusk is a collector of stamps. I always thought it would make a good halfling reskin, but he is a bit goblinish in appearace.

Late Night OSR Commentary On Dave Arneson & His Creations

Swords & Stitchery - Sun, 09/30/2018 - 07:05
When I think of Dave Arneson I'm always picturing in my head the young Mr.Arneson. The guy who was creating Blackmoor from the ground up all those years ago. Gary Gygax wrote & codified the rules of what would become original Dungeons & Dragons. His work on Dungeons & Dragons & its supplements became the foundation for the center piece of the table top hobby as we know it. Dave Arneson Needles
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The Big Eye - #2 Chillin'

Two Hour Wargames - Sat, 09/29/2018 - 21:48

Spence and Bee successfully interacted with another Survivor and told them about a club off of Academy near the old Starbucks and Whole Foods. The old Sushi place. Anyway, there would be only 3 PEFs to be resolved. I decided I'd use the Night Club Battle Board. It's not included in The Big I, but is one of the Boards that can be purchased. What's nice about them is they can also be used with 5150: No Limits, our Sci Fi rules, as well.

In ATZ - Evolution you roll to see what you have met. I decided that I would place the Characters in the club based on the numbers that could be generated by the scenario. This gave me three Militia, two Survivors and a Sheeple. I placed them in a logical way - bartender and other Characters about the club.

As Spence and Bee could only resolve 3 PEFs I would have to pick and choose who to deal with. First I went with the bartender.
FYI - I use Power Point for my games when I don't want to use minis.
Take the images of the counters and wash out the back.
Use the Battle Boards as images, pulling them from the PDF.

Another thing you can do with Character generation with ATZ - Evo. Instead of using the quicker way of generating Characters, going down the List from top to bottom, you can roll for them using the same List. I did  and scored a "5".  The bartender was Rep 4 People 3 Savvy 2. Here was a good opportunity to interact!

Well, being consistent, bad luck Spence passed 1d6 and the bartender passed 2d6. Interacting with Militia and passing less d6 means the bartender wants Spence and Bee to turn over their weapons. In this situation, I figured that was club policy and they would get their weapons back when they left. Taking it a step farther, I decided all NPCs in the club would be unarmed as well.

Well that left the Militia in the corner, a Sheeple and two Survivors. I decided to resolve the Survivors, but Bee would do the talking. The two took their drinks and sat at the table next to them.One was a Rep 4 People 4 Savvy 3 and the other Rep 3 People 2 and Savvy 3. The Rep 4, as it has the higher Rep, is the Leader. Bee passed 1d6 and so did the Survivor so he pretty much ignored Bee. Two PEFs down and one to go.
This is where I decided to use the rules as they were intended to be used, and my guess, often not used. Spence would do some gambling while Bee would interact with the Sheeple. There were 5 potential NPCs to gamble with so I rolled to see how many would gamble and scored a 4. Including Spence there'd be five gamblers. My plan for Bee went south, what's new, as the Sheeple wanted to play. As gambling is done versus Savvy, this could be fun for Spence as he has a Savvy of 5.

 Rolling for the players I generated.

Survivor  Rep 4 Savvy 3.
Sheeple Rep 3 Savvy 3
Militia Leader Rep 5 Savvy 4
Militia Grunt Rep 4 Savvy 4

But before I play the game, something fell into my lap. The other Survivor Rep 3 People 2 was now alone across from Bee. 3rd PEF and time to interact!
1st round - Bee passes 1d6, the Survivor 0d6. Bee gains 1 Increasing Rep d6. This also let's Bee attempt to Further Interaction.
Bee passes 2d6, Survivor 1d6 - Success. Bee gains a 2nd Increasing Rep d6. Now how successful was Bee? I roll 1d6 and score a 5. The NPC Survivor agrees to be recruited!
************I figure I'll stop here as this post has been pretty long. So far no one's been punched or shot, but it's been a great game as it is developing the Story. I couldn't have foreseen this at all and I'm liking it. Part  Two coming up in the next day or two.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

(5e) Escape from Wheloon

Ten Foot Pole - Sat, 09/29/2018 - 11:12

By Alan Patrick
Self Published
Levels 1-4

The walled city of Wheloon holds the criminal population of Cormyr. The residents
of that place are bound to it forever and cut off from the outside world. Inside, plans
are made and malcontents pool their resources – and outside, forces influence the
innocent to ensure that a dire plot can be realized without interference from the
knights and mages that guard the realm. Now you’re here with no memory of what
brought you to Wheloon, and all you can think of is finding out why!

This twenty one page town adventure sets new lows in adventure design. At the same time both railroady, taking away player action, and plot-based but with no fucking plot points. The usual issues with organizing the town incorrectly and useless detail. Lipstick on a pig indeed!

This is an Adept level DMSGuild adventure, an endorsement from WOTC of quality.

You wake up in town with no memories. You wander around, almost literally. Four scripted events happen. You somehow figure out how to get in to a smithy and have a fight. Done.

There’s nothing wrong with scripted events. They can add flavor to an adventure. There’s nothing wrong with THESE scripted events, at least in theory. In practice, just about every bad design decision that could be made WAS made. They are generally aimed at one of the members of the party and at the end of it you regain some memories and get awarded second level. Yeah, ok, I’m not going to quibble with that. But … in the very first one the PC has to make a DC 14 animal handling check. If they succeed they get the level award. All of the others just award the level. So, if, out of the blue, the party member decides to do an animal handling on a attack dog they MIGHT get a second level. I don’t mind this as a true award, but its written so you get some memories back if you do it, as well as the second level that everyone else is going to get. It’s bad design.

And in another some rando guide just has rumor dialog out of the blue. It’s just inserted and stuck in to the encounter. No intro. No NPC name. It’s a guide for fucks sake! But it’s written like … I don’t know. First it’s written as a guide. Then there’s this rando rumor dialog. Then there’s this implication that the guide just runs off. It like someone yanked out random sentences or paragraphs and those explain what’s going on.

And the railroading! It starts immediately. The DM’s announces that one of the PC”s has found the parities gear in one of the chests in the decrepit room they wake up in. WTF? Hey, that’s the parties fucking decision! Fuck the story your telling! It belongs to the players not the DM. And then when you walk outside you’re just told you’re in the city of Wheloon? And then you get to all make a CHR check and if you succeed you can bribe the guards. Again, WTF? Why the fuck are you dictating the hows and why of the parties interaction with their environment? Persuade, bribe, intimidate, there’s an near infinite number of choices … but the DC check is written out of the blue.

This happens over and over again. It’s like You’re sitting in an inn and the DM calls out “ok, everyone make a Arana check! Those of you who succeed channel the elder force and gain a level!” Wait, what? Why the fuck are we rolling? Shouldn’t the party ACT and then ROLL for success? (And that’s not even taking in to account the OD&D method of trying to succeed WITHOUT rolling.) The whole “ok, every roll for [esoteric skill] and lets act like you just used it” is nonsense, and happens repeatedly. It makes no fucking sense. In another place an NPC puts a ring on a party members finger, and then later takes it off. Uh, no, thank you very fucking much. How about you just roleplay my entire PC for me? How about you just roll a d6 at the start of the fucking night and on a 1-5 we win and on a 6 you roll again? YOU DONT TAKE AWAY THE PARTIES FREE WILL. Even for something that trivial. “Any character may attempt a wisdom check” … but why the fuck would they? You have to give the party some cue to interact. It’s like there’s no fucking roleplaying anymore.

Further, there’s no plot seeds, as far as I can tell. I guess you are supposed to remember something (when you roll a 1 on a d20, how many fucking times are you rolling the dice in this thing?) Somehow you’re supposed to figure out you go to this pond. And somehow you’re supposed to figure out you need a certain key. And somehow you need to figure out that the key is placed on a stone at the pond. There’s exactly one clue, I think, in a huge town map, that the pond is important. Third, the key you need is in building 8 with some duergar, according to the pond entry. Entry 8, though, a porter, has no mention or duergar OR the key. How the fuck did that make it by the editor? Oh, wait no, one of the scripted encounters is supposed to be there and IT has the duergar and THEY have the key. So, you mean, you meant the scripted encounter and NOT the fucking porter?

The town entries are numbered and there are 25 or so. Really? That’s the plan? That may be the shittiest way possible to organize a town. Yes, I know everyone does it that way, mom, bridge. What’s the plan with this? That somehow someone is going to want to go building 15, out of the blue? [Aside: entry #15 is labeled “Hawkmaster, a falconry.] Maybe they are looking for a falconry, and you should label it “Falconry?” Maybe you should arrange them alphabetically, by usage type? Are the party likely to go to the Bleue Beard Inn or are they likely to go to the Purple Dragon Knight HQ … which is in the inn? And the sites are almost all chosen at random … there’s no real rhyme or reason to most of them being included in the adventure. I mean, the mill? Seriously? Why the fuck would the party go there? What makes you want to include that entry over, say, the scribe?

Ok, a few good things. The big bad guy is rumored to be morbidly obese and cause people’s eyeballs to explode. THAT’S good detail. And the old mill, while useless, is rumored to grind other things at night … THATS a good bit of forboding. That’s about it. Most of the detail given, and the town entries are written in a useless meandering style. Trivia. “The identity of Lord Sarp has been lost to the decades” Perfect. Why the fuck does the party care about that? “Situated at the western end of the ferry that brings the convicted into Wheloon, the Wyvern Watch Inn serves as the receiving house for all new residents.” I FUCKING HATE THE SIBBY!

This morning while watching the Conan cartoon the voiceover said Conan battled the cruel wizard Wrath-Anon. I turned to The pretty Girl and said “don’t they mean: Warth-Anon, the wizard who sometimes does cruel things?” The designer and editor (copyeditor?) may not be bad people, but this effort is bad. VERY bad. You can tell what they wanted to do, but they fail at nearly every aspect of it.

The goal is to write something for the DM running it at the table. Terse, evocative, organized. This things needs ALOT of work to get there.

This is $5 at DriveThru. The preview is three pages and utterly useless, showing you nothing of the adventure or the writing.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs


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