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The Judgement of Rad

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 02/06/2019 - 12:17
Emanuele Betti Self-Published Basic D&D Levels 3-5

Things not always go the way they are supposed to. It’s not uncommon that an adventure, especially in a long campaign, can be greatly derailed due to a player who has got no experience, does not think an action enough or just screws things up for the fun of it. Whenever this kind of things happen, the Master must find a way to fix the situation and give the characters a way out of their trouble, and a second chance to succeed.

This eighteen page adventure details a twenty room dungeon and is to be used at some point in the game when your characters are jailed. Decent interactivity in the dungeon is marred by bad read-aloud and writing style issues. Good concept poorly executed.

This is an english as a second language adventure, from the Italian I believe. There are some grammar and wording issues in it, but all of my commentary disregards this. The issues are not with the translation, I think.

I have a soft spot for “special use” adventure. Use this adventure when someone dies, or use this one when someone is in jail, like this adventure. Yeah, there are some level variability issues, but I think the concepts they present are an interesting genre of adventure that is not well explored. You pull this one out when the party is in jail for a serious offense.

The conceit is that there’s a legal loophole: the party can submit themselves to the Judgement of Rad. The relatives of the victims get to set a quest and the party, given one light source and one normal weapon each, must complete the quest. If they succeed then Rad has clearly indicated that the parties motives were pure. If they fail, well, they were just gonna be killed anyway so no great loss. In this instance the relatives send the party down to a dungeon/well that has a great jewel, to be obtained for the relatives, that will likely kill the party anyway, so a win-win for the kinfolk.

The dungeon proper has a cursed monster, with the (cursed) jewel in its chest that moves around in a preset course, it changing rooms when the party does, as a kind of monster hunt gimmick. It’s a decent idea, and, maybe could have been supported a bit better by noting its path on the map instead of in text in the adventure. You know how I love to leverage a map to overload information for the DM.

The undead in the dungeon, previously killed by the monster/jewel, try to rip the hearts out of characters and eat it when they down a party member, since they had their own hearts done so. That’s a good detail. Breaking up the “i hit you/you hit me” stuff in D&D is almost always a good thing and I wish more adventures would give their monsters a little more character.

The rooms, proper, have some decent interactivity. There’s a crude shrine that will summon a ghost if you pray at it. Some toads hide under a bridge, and there’s a dead body under the water you can dive for … with hidden loot! I don’t talk about it much, but this sort of interactivity is, I think, what makes a good D&D adventure good. The play athe table stuff and the evocative environments are key components that, for me, must each not suck too much. If they are ok, or good, then the D&D adventure can go forward. But the interactivity of the adventure is what’s going to turn a middling adventure in to a great one, providing elements for the party to interact with.

This adventure pays little attention to those first two points. There are multiple points in the adventure with page long read-alouds. That’s hard to handle. Room that say things like “The room seems empty” in the read aloud … and then the DM notes tells us it’s empty. Things should never SEEM or APPEAR TO BE, they just are. Those weasel words just pad out an adventure. In places the read-aloud jumps the gun. It tells you almost everything you need to know about the room. The body is dried out, its missing its heart, etc, etc. The read aloud, if used, should be the initial impression. When the players go examine the thing THEN the DM can follow up with “the body is dried out” or “the heart is missing.” This back and forth between the party and the DM is a critical part of the D&D experience and when you put everything in the read-aloud you negate that core experience. Let the players DO something. Again, interactivity, back and forth between the players and the DM.

The entire preamble is about the prison and justice system. This is mostly specific to Galantri and is the usual “held in lead lined cells” sort of thing. Just removing it all would have been better. It also adds two other prisoners to the party … for seemingly no reason. I thought they would betray the party, but, no, in a refreshing change of pace they are just NPC’s. I have NO idea why they are there … although I do admit a couple of desperate prisoners trying to glomp on to the parties potential release is a nice effect. They just need a little more personality.

The entire writing style could use more whitespace formatting, bullets, etc, to make wading through the DM text easier. As is, it’s just not worth it to me to wade through the text to get the adventure out of it.

This is free on Pandius. And thanks to Dreams/Mythic Fantasy for turning me on to the Pandius site!

http://pandius.com/AX01_The_Judgement_of_Rad.pdf

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Wednesday Comics: Heroes of the Golden Age Reference Guide #2

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 02/06/2019 - 12:00

The pdf's for the Kickstarter of Heroes of the Golden Age Reference Guide #2 are out, which is a bit confusing because there wasn't a issue 1. It's actually a remaining of the series that started out as Heroes of the Public Domain, which I discussed previously.

Other than the man change, it is much the same as the first one. It has art by Chris Malgrain (who's name and work you may recognize from Armchair Planet Who's Who stuff) and entries on a number of Golden Age characters from Airmale (not a typo) to Tommy. This issue highlights just how many captains there were in Golden Age comics. There are seven in this issue alone.


If this sort of thing interests you, issue 3 will be not doubt Kickstartered as well, so be on the look out.

The Kree Sentry For The High Tech Mysticism & High Caliber Adventure Campaign & Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 02/05/2019 - 14:06
The alien Kree empire created billions of Sentry cybernetic life forms to guard all of their important caches of weapons, artifacts, & even spacecraft. These robotic sentries are capable of taking on many threats to their charges & should be used sparingly by dungeon masters. Kree Sentries are found through the remains of the Kree Empire & their former interstellar colonial protectorates. Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

10 Ways to Build a Character That Will Earn the Love of Your Party

DM David - Tue, 02/05/2019 - 11:15

In Dungeons & Dragons, rolling handfuls of damage dice feels like a good way to shine among party members, but know this secret: Other players usually overlook the damage you do. If you really want to shine, find ways to make other characters better. Make them hit on a roll that would have missed. Make them save when they would have burned. Make them happy you brought your paladin.

This post lists 10 ways to build and play characters that will earn the love of your party.

10. Build a cleric and prepare bless and aid

Between short rests and a choice of classes able to heal, D&D groups no longer require a cleric for healing. Clerics now can prepare some spells so useful that no one will gripe about the spell slots you should have hoarded for cures.

Bless lets up to 3 targets add an extra d4 roll to their attack rolls and saving throws. Unlike most 1st-level spells, which pale at higher levels, bless remains strong all the way up to a level-20 showdown with Orcus.

Players have enough trouble remembering their characters own abilities, so they sometimes forget even a buff as useful as bless. When you bless characters, loan their players a super-sparkly d4 to set beside their d20 and act as a reminder of who helped them shine.

Aid increases current and maximum hit points of up to 3 allies for 8 hours. This spell rates as one of the best to cast with a higher-level spell slot. Cast it once on your front line, or twice to give everyone in your party a boost.

Clerics and druids can also help friends with the guidance cantrip, the best utility cantrip in the game.

9. Build a wizard or sorcerer and a prepare haste

Fireball ranks as the 3rd-level spell strong enough to shape D&D’s power curve, but haste boasts nearly as much power. Against smaller groups of foes or spread out targets, haste works better. Just cast haste on the party’s most damaging attacker, typically the sharpshooter or great weapon master. They will relish the extra attack, and thank you every turn.

8. Build a barbarian who follows the Path of the Ancestral Guardian

Some support features work as reactions, making you watch the battle for chances to use the ability. Instead of waiting between turns with no chance to act, you stay involved in the fray. Such abilities bring you deeper in the game while earning the love of your party.

Barbarians who follow the Path of the Ancestral Guardian gain a feature like this. At 6th level Spirit Shield lets you use your reaction to reduce the damage that your allies suffer. Who needs a cleric when no one takes damage?

7. Build a fighter with the Battle Master archetype

Fighters with the Battle Master archetype can learn a couple of maneuvers that help allies.

Distracting strike lets you give an ally advantage on the next attack on a foe. I suggest putting an attention-grabbing marker on the enemy’s figure, so your friends remember to take their advantage.

Rally lets you grant temporary hit points to a friend in need.

6. Build a wizard in the School of Abjuration

At 6th-level, Abjurers gain the Projected Ward feature that lets you use your reaction to prevent damage to your friends. That’s immediate healing, and another ability that keeps you involved outside your turns.

5. Build a bard in the College of Glamour

The Bardic Inspiration feature lets every bard give friends a die that they can add to their choice of one d20 roll during the next 10 minutes. Set real, shiny dice next to the inspired players’ d20s, so they remember the boost—and remember who enables their success.

Bards in the College of Glamour can spend just one use of Bardic Inspiration to help a number of allies up to their Charisma modifier. Everyone inspired gains temporary hit points and can spend a reaction to move their speed without provoking opportunity attacks. In a tight spot, a bonus action plus Bardic Inspiration could make you the party MVP.

4. Build a wizard in the School of Divination

The diviner’s Portent feature rates as underrated. After a long rest, you roll 2 or 3 d20s and record the result. Then, when any creature you see is about to make a d20 roll, you can substitute one of your portent rolls. By tagging a foe with a bad roll, you can guarantee that save-or-die roll just means die. More to the point of this list, you can guarantee that a friend saves, lands their killing blow, or makes that vital check.

3. Build a rogue with the Mastermind archetype

Rogues who choose the Mastermind archetype can use the help action as a bonus action. Plus, they can help allies attack foes up to 30 feet away, adding combat advantage to attacks, both melee and ranged.

2. Build a barbarian following the Path of the Totem Warrior and choose a wolf totem spirit

As a wolf totem spirit warrior, while you’re raging, your friends have advantage on melee attack rolls against any creature within 5 feet of you. Unlike advantage-granting features from the Mastermind and Battle Master, this ability helps all your melee friends rather than just one.

1. Build a paladin

At 6th level, paladins gain an Aura of Protection that extends to every ally within 10 feet. Those allies gain a bonus to saving throws equal to the paladin’s charisma bonus. For most 6th-level paladins, the bonus starts at +4 and will rise to +5—roughly equivalent to advantage on every save.

Too few people play paladins, so when a level-6-or-higher paladin shows up with an aura, everyone gets a shocking reminder of how good paladins are. Adventure author Eric Menge writes, “That aura is the bane of my DM existence in my home game. No one fails saves.” I hear you, brother. Players under the aura shed magical attacks like Superman sheds bullets.

At 7th level, the paladin’s aura gains an extra measure of protection. As a player, I love the Aura of Warding, which grants you and friendly creatures resistance to spell damage. As a dungeon master, I tell everyone not to play boring, dumb paladins.

The paladin’s aura earns enough love to vault the class to the top of this list, but the class also brings enough healing to cure a fallen ally. Plus paladins gain the bless and aid spells listed in item 10.

Also, the Divine Smite ability lets you roll fistfuls of damage dice. I hear that can be fun too.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Lycanoid Mutates A Monster For Your Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 02/05/2019 - 04:28
Lycanoid Mutates No Encountered :1d6 Alignment: Chaotic Movement:120' Armor Class: 5 Hit dice:3 Attacks: Bite or  1(weapon) Damage: 1d4 or weapon Save:F4 Morale:9 Hoard Class:X XP:20  A product of Hodgkin's Law of Parallel Planet Development are these monsters who come from a world where WW II boiled down into the worst dirty Atomic War seen out side of Earth's past. Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

5150: Bugs Breakout! Now on Sale

Two Hour Wargames - Mon, 02/04/2019 - 21:26
 
The last of the 5150: Bugs Wars Trilogy has just been released. There's Bugs in New Hope City and the various groups have allied to kick them out. Play as Civilians Police, Gangers, Survivors, Planetary Militia or Star Marines. All have different goals, but all can agree...
The Bugs must go!
We're now offering all three Bug Wars books for one low price. Click here of more info..
Kill the brain; save the world!
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

[ZINE] 2019 Shipping Cost Changes

Beyond Fomalhaut - Mon, 02/04/2019 - 20:25
TL;DR version: Due to recent changes in postal tariffs, my store has switched to a flat $6.50 shipping fee as of 4 February. Shipping for single items will increase by 50%, shipping for two items will stay identical, and shipping for 3-5 items will be reduced. Customers are kindly asked to batch their orders into no more than 5 items each. 

Longer version: The entrepreneur’s life is an exciting one. Changes in the tax code, shifting regulations, economic cycles, and acts of Government introduce new challenges to overcome, and in the end, good old “creative destruction” sorts it all out. Here is a new one, and a post on what it means for you. Less fun than a pack of owlbears digging up your cabbage patch. 
Today, as I was bringing a handful of zines to the post, I was surprised to find shipping rates had increased overnight by a whopping 50%. Ooops. Price increases are a fact of life, but I didn’t see this one coming. Here is what happened.
  • In a price reorganisation scheme, the Post has eliminated several weight categories to “create a more transparent and customer-friendly structure, which conforms to the modernisation process of mailing services” (their words).
  • This included the 50-100 g category, which just happens to be the one I have been using the most, since the materials I publish weigh between 88-95 g apiece. This is how I set up my enterprise – I consider one below-100 g product “one unit”. Everything has been carefully set up to fit into into this specification.
  • What we have instead is a new scheme where we have one category for everything between 50 and 499 g (see Fig 1., below).

Postal prices, January to February 2019
In the “under 100 g” category, the price increase is a whopping 50%, so Worldwide shipping has just increased from $4.00 to $6.50 (European shipping is slightly lower, but the same principle applies). This change is bad news for most of my customers, who tend to be regulars buying single items (typically right after publication), and also tend to be located in North America and Australia (about 70% of my orders). Selling to them is my business model – and it is also something more: return customers are also a matter of professional pride. They tell me I should keep doing this – and I should aim high. 

Now then. There is no doubt the change sucks, but if you bear with me, there is a way to reduce its impact. 
You may note that there is now a single weight category between 50 and 499 g. This means it does not matter to the Post if the package is 100 g, 200 g, or 490 g. It is all $6.50 (or $5.4 in Europe). Compared to my old shipping formula ($4.00 for the first item, and $2.50 for each additional item), this is what the flat fee means:
  • If you order a single item, you pay $6.50 ($2.50 over the old price).
  • If you order two items, you pay $6.50 (NO CHANGE).
  • If you order three to five items, you still pay $6.50 (and you save $2.50, $5.00 and $7.50, respectively).
  • If you order six items, you still pay $6.50, but I would have to absorb the loss, since shipping jumps from $6.50 to $23.40! Instead, I will batch your order into multiple packages, since until I exceed 12 units, I am better off sending you two smaller envelopes at $13.00 than a single big one at $23.40. I hope the inconvenience will be a minor one.


This is kind of crazy, but it is the doing of the Postal Gods (I really should have been more diligent with those sacrifices).

What is the best solution for both you and me? Simple. Order two to five items on a single occasion. If you want to save some cash, wait until the next zine issue. Or… if you like the zine, buy a module to go with it. There will be a few in this coming year, and I hope they will be worth your consideration. I will remain a print-oriented publisher as long as it remains viable, but PDFs are an option, too. And in the US, Exalted Funeral is stocking my releases as well.
In the general sense, this is a hobby enterprise, and my intention with it is to take the high road of good, honest game materials, sold at an affordable and fair price. My strategy is to make things which are worth buying. As long as I can carry out this mission, I will feel good, and keep doing it.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Blood Soaked Messengers of Fate In Old School Campaigns - Greyhawk,Mystara, & Beyond

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 02/04/2019 - 16:52
I've been very busy all weekend with lots of folks & I talking about Greyhawk & Mystara. The these two campaign settings are incredibly important & the reason is simple. Events flow back & forth around the planes with echoes of why & how. Mystara & Greyhawk world settings about movers & shakers of power. So let's look at the fact that Ernie Gygax's Tenser is one of the original wizards of Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Sision Tower: Preview

Graphite Prime - Mon, 02/04/2019 - 16:41

Praise the Fallen focused on a place of chaos, now its spiritual successor, Sision Tower, explores a place of law...sort of.  It’s easy to make chaos dangerous and creepy, but can the same thing be done with something Holy?  This became my goal, although, it didn’t start out that way...
     Sision Tower is a vertical dungeon crawl using a non-traditional map.  So far, I've drawn about 30 pictures for it (Praise the Fallen had 7 or 8) and a solid majority of the writing is done.  Still far from finished, but definitely starting to come together. 
Here is some of the art...






Meanwhile, I thought this was cool...

http://hyperborea.boardhost.com/viewtopic.php?pid=16946
Back to work.




Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

On The Best Books Released for Dungeons & Dragons Part I

Hack & Slash - Mon, 02/04/2019 - 13:00
Dungeons and Dragons has been around long enough to complain about back pain. A lot of things have been published in the last several decades, when it comes down to studded leather brass studs what are the best books ever published for fantasy role-playing games?

Midkemia Press CitiesThis one was out of my grasp until recently. Though out of print, they offer the .pdf from their website. Though requiring more rolls then more modern players might expect, it's an engine that allows you to customize encounters for different kinds of cities. As a resource for exploring large fantasy cities, it's a plethora of interesting encounters, plots and dangers, just from walking around your local burg. It makes exploring a large strange city into a series of small dramas and personalities, that both you and the players can discover through play. It's a way to make cities as interesting for the players as Dungeons.

It has extensive city creation tables that include chances for rare buildings. Although not necessary to build a city in the amount of detail it provides (down to individual storefronts) it does allow you to answer the question is there a jeweler/clockmaker/physician et. al.

The other fascinating part is the downtime system which takes characters that are staying back or not actively adventuring with various downtime events. There's an option for smarter or wiser characters to avoid or seek danger. Following is a comprehensive table of adventure and events, from being offered dangerous missions, to falling ill, to having your living quarters infested by pests.

It finishes off with a mission generator, a tavern/inn generator, rich occupational background tables, street traffic density,  a dice conversion table, and a stable generator.

Pretty good for a resource from 1981.

Aurora's Whole Realms CatalogueYeah, but what about knife boots!
Aurora's was ostensibly a shop in Faerun, but what this supplement was, was what a world filled with adventurers as a career would end up producing. If they were thieves that needed to infiltrate, wizards who needed to stock a lab, clerics on the lookout for new ways to serve, this little book had a bit of everything.
The entire book is devoted to equipment lists. This makes it about the best setting supplement ever produced for the Forgotten Realms. You could run a game with this book in play and it provides more direct setting information useful in play then any of the many books with dry histories and texts.
From ale to cheese, wine to jewels, diversions, storage, hardware and clothing; the book is filled with what you would expect a society would sell, if beset by monsters and filled with powerful gods, crafty wizards, stealthy thieves and brave fighters.
It contains dozens of useful and interesting items, infra-vision lanterns, special thieving helmets (with ears that are not at all ostentatious) that allow you listen, book safes and quick access scroll cases, among many others.

1st Edition Dungeon Master's GuideGygax in the prime of his life poured his soul into this book toiling away, and at the end he had crafted an artifact. I've been reading this book for over 30 years now and every time I open it, I still find something I've never seen before. I've also lost things in it, only to discover them much later, hidden in pages I flipped through dozens of times.
There is no other book like this in existence. It is unique, a vision of one man. The pattern of his thought and knowledge laid bare, every paragraph a facet of an endlessly complex gem. But this is no shaggy dog. Every time you return to it, it provides new insight, new revelations. Not because anything new is there, but because you have changed.
It's pretty brilliant. If you haven't ever really read it, what are you waiting for?

Encyclopedia MagicaSometimes there's too much and you want a pause button. This collection of leather-bound volumes contains every magical item created anywhere from Original D&D till the late 90's at the dusk of second edition. It has a huge random table in the back, so that when you roll up a magic item, there are tens of thousands of results.
What's really interesting about using it in play, is that so many of these items are strongly tied into whatever their history is. It makes the treasure interesting, unique, usually requiring some adjustment to use in play. But it also interjects unexpected problems and surprises. Once they found a spellbook linked to a dragon. A great treasure, but also great risk.
The fact that it also encapsulates twenty-five years of magic items gives a capsule into the design of magic items over time. Plus it's really fun to roll on the d10,000 table for magic items.

Wizard Spell CompendiumThis is similar to the last collection and indeed, collects every spell printed. What's interesting about this, is that it is Vances 1,000 lost spells. Assigning random spells, and only providing new spells randomly from this list, creates a different kind of magic system, one where spells are capricious, unknown, and of wildly varying power. Not allowing players to pick spells from the book, but instead seek them out, and carefully select those spells which they are able to learn (remember the limits of spells per level and chances to learn!) creates powerful, but unpredictable wizards.
In games not focused on combat, but instead adventure or survival, having dozens of variations and types of spells lead to an eclectic toolkit that becomes a signature for the wizard.
It also outlines the entirety of "Dungeons and Dragons" magic theory, with all the official schools of magic covered, from shadow magic to chronomagic for masters of time, elemental magic, all the way to the incantrix and more.


Judge's Guild Ready Reference PapersThe Judges Guild was playing a lot of Dungeons & Dragons back in the day. This is a giant reference hodgepodge, used in play for their settings. It's a lot like a selection of house rules, but functions more as an expansion, providing more, well, everything.
It covers everything from social levels, decade appropriate sexist tables of women, proclamations, boons, wills, crime and punishment, poisons, justifications for uncalled for aggression, wizards guide to enchantment, movement obstacles, hirelings, encounter tables, flora, construction costs, and more.
That's a lot of stuff for 1978. It's dense, arcane, interesting and eclectic. If you're running a campaign, you won't make it through the whole 60 pages without coming up with one change you'll want to add into your campaign.

Forgotten Realms Boxed Set 1st EditionSince the Forgotten Realms has been taken from Greenwood, set on fire, and then handed back, laden with weight of ages, mary and marty sues teleporting around and impregnating gods who are hiding as bears, eye rolling in its baroque ridiculousness, it's hard to remember it's so popular, based on the strength of this particular supplement.
This works as a useful tool for a dungeon master to run a campaign. It has two books. The first covers the calendar, language, names, currency, religion, and maps and short descriptions of settings.
The second book is full of nothing but rumors, ideas, and other inspiration for belabored Dungeon Masters. This book can provide years and years of play with this straightforward setting, filled with a selection of colorful personalities, and most notably, a long section on events and rumors occuring every month over the course of two years. There's even a little mark for which ideas Ed Greenwood had marked for further expansion. A fun game is looking back and seeing where each of those ideas finally ended up.

Come back tomorrow and check out the second part of our "Best Books Released for Dungeons & Dragons." None of these links are monetized.  
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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Fall of the Toad Temple

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 02/04/2019 - 12:00
Our 5e Land of Azurth game continued last night, with the party still exploring the Toad Temple, looking to stop the depredations of the cultists--and searching wardrobes.

There were a number of smallish sacks of money in wardrobes.

Mostly avoiding conflict because a (pre-planned) uprising of the townsfolk was creating a diversion, the pary sneaked through the levels of the temple. Ultimately, they find the Power Plant and subdue a Apprentice Powerman. With the proper persuasion, he reveals that the "shifting" of the temple is controlled by the Main Computer. He also lets it slip that they are originally from the future, and they do not want to return there.

Luckily, the Computer Room is just across the hall. Unluckily, the Computermen have herd the ruckus and barricaded themselves in.  As soon as the party breaks through, the Computer Supervisor and his apprentice open fire with ray guns. Finally remembering they have already picked up ray guns themselves, the party returns fire. The apprentice goes down instantly.

The Supervisor, believing they have go to destroy the computer, fights to the last, but eventually falls.


The party uses the high priest's ring and a keyboard to speak to the computer. Strangely, both the keyboard and the screen are in Azurthite Common.


They command the computer to take the temple back where it came, but program a delay, so they can escape. Random encounter rolls are in their favor, and they make it out of the Temple just in time to see it ripple and disappear.

The tyranny of the toads is at an end. The party is reuinited, but has little time to celebrate their victory. Phosphoro appears and reminds them of their promise. He activates his staff and whisks them away to the future--where Rivertown lies in ruins!

Exquisite Dungeon

Fail Squad Games - Mon, 02/04/2019 - 04:22

Yesterday while we were waiting for some of the usual gang to arrive at The Dungeon Tower FLGS it occurred to me that we were trying to run a long-run campaign in the game store. It’s something that one would run at home with a solid regular group, not a place where people come and go from one week to the next. Or where new gamers just want to sit in for a couple of hours.

How to solve our problem?

I recalled Gary Gygax’s Tomb of Horrors. It’s less an out-right campaign adventure and more of a “See how long you can last” challenge. There were a few other stories I heard from Ernie about the Dungeon Hobby Shop where people would drop in and just want a quick game for various reasons. We needed a solution that let us drop in, game, and if others were an hour late or didn’t come, we could still have a game.

The Inspiration

In 1925 Yves Tanguy, Jacques Prévert, André Breton and Marcel Duchamp created an art exercise called “The Exquisite Corpse”. A paper is folded into thirds. The first artist draws on the top, folds it to hide the section leaving only small hints to end lines for the next artist, and likewise for the third. The end creation is a surreal and abstract whole creation. I knew Herman wanted to get a break from GMing and I was getting my fill of waiting for people to maybe or maybe not arrive.

We threw most ideas of an on-going campaign out the window. We also threw large portions of organized adventure out the window. It was decided that we’d have a blank slate world with just some core elements. Similar to my Lands of Lunacy setting, we’d embrace the chaos void. Characters would be allowed to drop in and out without story-logic explanation. If nothing else, a chaos shadow would sweep away the character. 

Game Masters can rotate at any time or at any natural pause. The GM (previously a player or guest) after the first one has the little story threads left to pull and create a game in an improv fashion. The world as a whole gets built one hex a time as each GM establishes new things. GMs can even rotate mid-dungeon if they like. The end larger creation ends up being an  adventure and campaign. Even if it’s a bit ‘abstract’ it still creates the game world.

Characters and Levels

We are keeping a stack of Pre-Gens available. Players can also generate one on site, but the game continues while they work. Generally speaking, the party has an “adventurer level” as we move along and each GM picks up the torch. As players drop in and out some level adjustments need to be made.

Running on Improv

Running an improv adventure is a real challenge, but in the Exquisite Dungeon a GM can run as few as a handful of encounters or as many as a few sessions. The GM can run off-the-cuff, a portion of a module, or something they googled during the break. In some way it should make sense according to the story threads of the previous GM.

This removes a lot of GM pressure and allows us to game with new visitors to the shop and regulars. We also get to keep our gaming muscles active and ideas flowing. One of the core reasons for us playing more is to become more familiar with the 5E system and its nuances. If your group tries the Exquisite Dungeon approach, I’d be interested in hearing about it below.

~Lloyd Metcalf

The post Exquisite Dungeon appeared first on Fail Squad Games.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Keyed City State of the Invincible Overlord PDF

Bat in the Attic - Sun, 02/03/2019 - 22:42
Since the fall of 2018 Steve Wachs of Red Pub Games has been working on a new version of the City State of the Invincible Overlord PDF. This version has the text of original entries formatted as notes on the map. Just hover or click over a named location and the text will appear. This will be useful a quick reference if you use a laptop, tablet, or mobile device as a referee aid during a session.



Steve put a lot of work into this. The original CSIO has several hundred entries of different location. In addition Steve spearheaded a community project to come up with description of previously undescribed locations.

For example the Misty Passage Saloon in the village outside of CSIO.

Cronyn Wildhair MU, NG, LVL:4, HTK:9, AC:9, SL:5, STR:13, INT:7, WIS:15, CON:14, DEX:10, CHA:13, WPN: Dagger

Dolmay the Mouser, bartender, FTR, N, 3 LVL, 16 HTK, AC 9, Dagger; Zahra Brighteyed, cook, TH, NE, 3 LVL, 12 HTK, AC 9, Dagger; help Cronyn.  They may all (20%) be off adventuring for 1-4 weeks.   Skeleton crew runs in their absence.  Frequented by Caravan Drivers, Fighters, Merchants, and Sailors, NA 4-24, 1-4 LVL.  Specialty is fried fish and ale, 2 gp.  425gp, 687sp, and 2 Ioun Stones in Catoblepas Head mounted above bar.  Disturbing it causes it to fall, 2d6 crush damage. 

Rumor: The ship The Briny Beholder, laden with golden treasure, ran aground south of River Torn and north of Sea Rune.  All attempts at recovery have been thwarted by Giant Crabs.

Everybody who has gotten a copy of the PDF of the CSIO map will have their file download updated.

All that Steve asked for are physical copies of the CSIO and Wilderlands material I produced and that it be released free to the backers of the CSIO project.

For those who haven't gotten the map or the PDF use the following link.

City State of the Invincible Overlord, Color Map
remember the PDF option for print is  free so pick Print+PDF not just print.

Wilderlands of the Magic Realms
This should be coming out in late February/early March. I will be including some of the underwater and sailing rules and encounters found scattered throughout various Judges Guild supplements. The Wilderlands of the Magic Realms and Wilderlands of the Fantastic Reaches have maps that are dominated by oceans and seas.

In addition there will be an extensive list of open content monsters as the last two Wilderlands booklets incorporated creatures from the later supplements of the original rules. And many of these creatures don't have open content equivalents or are found in less well known sources.


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Hellion [ICONS]

Sorcerer's Skull - Sun, 02/03/2019 - 15:00
HELLION

Abilities:
Prowess: 5
Coordination: 6
Strength: 4
Intellect: 4
Awareness: 5
Willpower: 5

Determination: 3
Stamina: 9

Specialties: Athletics, Martial Arts, Investigation, Stealth

Qualities:
Something to Prove
"I'm nobody's sidekick"
Hotheaded

Powers:
Hellfire Bands (Strike Device Bashing): 6
      Extra: Burst, (Degrades, Burnout)
Swinging Device: 3

Background:
Alter Ego: Robert Chase
Occupation: Graduate student, musician
Marital Status: Single
Known Relatives: Nick and Nora Chase (parents, deceased)
Group Affiliation: Former partner of Devil-Man
Base of Operations: Arkham
First Appearance: (as Imp) STRANGE DETECTIVE COMICS #42; (as Hellion) ARMCHAIR PLANET PRESENTS #71
Height: 5'10"  Weight: 175 lbs.
Eyes: Blue  Hair: Blond

History:
Robert Chase is the son of Nick and Nora Chase, Occult Investigators and friends of Devil-Man. When they died to the reckless actions of a group of cultists, young Robby was seriously injured and Devil-Man gave him the "invitalizing draught" (which had heightened Devil-Man's own physical abilities) to save his life. In his identity as Kurt Ward, he became Robby's guardian. Devil-Man began training the boy, who soon debuted as the first Imp.

When he entered college, Robby's activities as Imp decreased. He began to want to separate himself from his mentor, with whom he had began to disagree on methods. The final break was over the use of the Hellfire Bands, which Devil-Man felt were too dangerous. Robby took on the new identity of Hellion.

Agents Of Blood & Fate - OSR Commentary On CM3 Sabre River (Basic) By Bruce Nesmith & Douglas Niles

Swords & Stitchery - Sat, 02/02/2019 - 19:57
"You are a guest of the count, one of your allies and the strongest man in the region. Your sojourn has been pleasant, a nice change after weeks of battle. Suddenly the courtyard below your window is filled with the noise of galloping horses. More guests? You yawn as you look out. But these people arriving look more like tax collectors than guests. You decide to give your attention to Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

(5e) The Shadow over Dunsmore Point

Ten Foot Pole - Sat, 02/02/2019 - 12:19
By John R. Davis Self Published 5e Level 1

Well, fuck me. I just bought and reviewed Moans of the Dead again. And almost bought Fungus Forest again. Looks like something is up at DriveThru.

This 68 page adventure is more of a small regional setting/sandbox than the typical 5e fare. Centered around a village, there are a variety of plots and several dungeon locations to explore. This is a notch above the usual fare, being crafted and more open-ended than I used to seeing in 5e adventures. That’s a pleasant surprise, and I was going through it I found myself rooting for it. Alas, the issues with organization, summaries, and wall of text are too much more me to even have No Regerts

Pretext pretext pretext, the characters are in a village. Therein they learn about several things going on, maybe get asked to do a few things, and the longer they stay the more happens. This is both because of the timeline of events and the picking up of more rumors, etc. Pretext pretext pretext, relatives, and the usual assortment of crappy hooks. But … got a military or mason background? You’ve been tasked with surveying the old lighthouse by some officials and picking up whatever supplies are left. Nice! The regional government actually doing something with the tax dollars for once!  And maybe it gives the party a little authority also … that hook has legs!

It’s a sandbox, just a village with several locations around it that the players will learn of, and several plots to uncover as they learn more about the life and history of the village. There’s a short little timeline to note events that may happen and a little DM checklist to note all of the various interesting things that the party could learn about / get wrapped up in. Like … 18 different things! Explore the Ruined Fort. Explore the town and notice that there are a lot of ‘twins.’ And so on. The timeline is good. The DM overview list is a good idea. The entire sandbox thing it’s got going on is GREAT. Some of the NPC’s are described in like, three words each, attributes they have like  young, full of enthusiasm, inexperienced, and so on. It tries to use bolding and bullet points in places and, generally, rooms/descriptions don’t overstay their welcome.

So, it’s trying. And it’s trying REAL hard. It knows what it SHOULD do. It just can’t figure out how to do it.

There’s a short table that tells us how many residents, workers, and adults are in each location in the village. Ok …. Is that relevant, beyond mere trivia? So while the idea of presenting the information in a table is great, it’s not really relevant to the adventure to have it at all.

The map of the village is numbered. But, in my experience, that’s not how PC’s explore a village. They don’t go up to a building and say “ok, what’s next door to this building?” They say things like “I want to find the inn”, or the tailor, or the general store, or whatever. But the village buildings are numbered. You have to go digging though the text to find the [general store] and then find the number and then go look at the map.

With a few notable exceptions (the inn, I’m looking at you) the village locations are pretty focused. Just what you need to know to run it and just what relevant to the adventure at hand with little to no trivia. But … inexplicably there’s read aloud for each location. Dry, boring, read aloud that doesn’t really add anything to the adventure. I guess the designer thought they needed read aloud for each?

The timeline, and indeed much of the text, doesn’t cross reference information. So that little DM checklist I mentioned? It doesn’t really point the DM to any place to learn more about the twin situation. Or the page number of the old fort. Or lighthouse. You have to go digging through the text again. If you reference something then provide a number or page cross-reference so the DM can orient themselves.

And this brings up the overall sitch. I’m not really sure what is going on in the village. All of those 18 things … I’m not sure how they work together (or don’t.) There’s no real overview or summary. That DM checklist could have done the heavy lifting if it had pointed the DM to places to learn more. Instead you have to pretty much read and re-read the adventure until you’re as familiar as the designer. Not cool.

Some information is provided in terse bullet form. Other places the bullets are long. Other places REALLY needed to be broken up in to bullets. The initial caravan trip in to town, wna dhwt athe PC”s know, is a great example of this. Everything is buried in various paragraphs. If it had been bulleted out it would have been easier to scan and find, especially in relation to PC inquiries.

Which brings me, again, to the lack of cross-reference. The Reeve says something to the effect, at one point “i don’t know, I wasn’t reeve then.” This begs the question: who was Reeve so we can go annoy them? Nope, nothing provided for the DM, even though this is the most natural follow up question of all.

Some of the maps are small and hard to read. The read-aloud, besides being generic bad, does things like “The stonework looks recently damaged.” No! No! No! That’s not something you tell the party when the walk in the room. That’s something you tell them when they investigate. The back and forth between DM and PC is a key part of D&D, the interactivity. By saying things like “You look under the table and see a box” in the read-aloud you are taking that away, and this adventure does that repeatedly.

The wanderers do things. It’s a real sandbox location. It tries, hard. It doesn’t commit the sins that most 5e adventure do. But, it’s like the designer hasn’t seen these writing techniques in practice, or is somehow focused on the wrong things. The mere fact that it’s a non-trivial sandbox, for 5e, get’s it a long way up the rankings, in my books, but I just can’t bring myself to push it over the edge in to Regerts. The lack of summary/orientations, and a slipping in to a kind of wall of text writing style obfuscates the adventure enough that it makes be not WANT to read it. And that makes me a little sad because I can tell there’s something here.

This is $5 at DriveThru. The preview is 15 pages, although it doesn’t really show you the heart of the adventure, only the (mostly) useless preamble stuff. The lower left side of page ten has the caravan intro, and you can see how it could be better organized as bullets, etc. Page eleven has the timeline, and you can see how cross-references to pages would have helped immensely in following things. Thirteen is the village map .. needing some named in addition to numbers, maybe? Fourteen are some in-voice rumors that are pretty good, while the last page, fifteen, has a good example of bulleted information on the right and left columns, including that DM Overview that is SORELY in need of cross-references to solve the summary/orientation/overview issue.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/264028/The-Shadow-Over-Dunsmore-Point?affiliate_id=162942

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Kill the Brain Bug! 5150: Bugs Breakout AAR

Two Hour Wargames - Fri, 02/01/2019 - 23:40
Part Five

Short and not so sweet.






5150: Bugs - Breakout coming this weekend.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

OSR Commentary On The Gamma zine Kickstarter For Gamma World 1st edition By Throwi Games

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 02/01/2019 - 16:11
So anyone who knows me knows that I'm a post apocalyptic guy.  I've known Thom Wilson of Thowi Games has been quietly plugging in away locally for years on OSR. His stuff is some of the best kept secrets in the gaming community. Now he's diving in deep into the vaults & bunkers of the post apocalyptic OSR fanzine scene with his latest Kickstarter. With adventures like A Dish That Serves NoNeedleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Solar Trek: The Archon's Return

Sorcerer's Skull - Fri, 02/01/2019 - 12:00
sourceThe discovery of the long lost generation ship Archon by Enterprise in 2263 underscored to the General Assembly of United Federation of Sol why sophont AI was to be feared.

Though records of the its launch are nonexistent (either destroyed in the chaos of the third World War or lost in the rapid changes in data storage formats that followed), its design, computer systems, and the cybernetic implants among its passengers suggest Archon (ICV-189) was a generation ship launched toward Proxima Centauri b in the early 21st Century. Its habitat areas were home to several diverse communities, among them some religious minorities, including a (ironically) technology-rejecting traditionalist Christian sect.

Archon would never reach Proxima Centauri. Federation forensic teams have been unable to determine what calamity happened first: the death of a number of crew in an accident, a breakout of hostilities among the colonists, or a malfunction in the vessel's artificial intelligence. Whatever the cause, several habitat regions were lost and others became isolated, armed camps. One of the crew took radical action that restored a semblance of peace, but at a cost. Programmer Nicholas Landru put the computer in charge.

At some point, the course of Archon was changed. It re-entered history again in the Sol System, where it was intercepted by Enterprise. What they found in the only functioning habitat area was a society resembling a late nineteenth century agrarian community with the inhabitants completely unaware they were on a vessel. Despite appearances, the members of the community were extensively managed and condition by cybernetic implants controlled by ship's AI, whom they referred to as "Landru." There were dissidents among them,  individuals presumably for whom the neurochemical conditioning was inadequate, who looked to the return of the "Archons" (a distorted memory of the vessel's crew) to save them.

The Enterprise crew in the habitatUnconcerned with cultural contamination, Captain James Kirk of Enterprise destroyed Landru. He was criticized in some academic circles, but both Space Fleet and Federation inquiries absolved the Captain and his crew of any wrongdoing.

The Archon's passengers have been resettled in a protect area so that a Federation team can slowly work on integrating them into society and undoing Landru's conditioning.

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