Tabletop Gaming Feeds

Freebies: Skyfarer–A Sunless Skies RPG

Stargazer's World - Mon, 02/25/2019 - 08:07

If you are an avid fan of PC gaming, you have probably heard of Sunless Seas and its successor Sunless Skies. Both games have a strong focus on story and exploration. In Sunless Skies you are the captain of a locomotive exploring the skies. And that’s not where the weirdness ends. In Sunless Skies stars are highly intelligent … and dying. The Victorian Empire has built its own Sun and Queen Victoria reigns from the Throne of Hours, which gives her control over time.


If you want to explore the vast skies in a tabletop roleplaying game, don’t fret, Failbetter Games has you covered. Skyfarer is a Sunless Skies RPG which you can download for free. The game uses a simple d10-based mechanic and is focused on narrative gaming. If you expect complex rules and tactical combat, Skyfarer is not for you. But if you intend to tell exciting stories in a delightfully weird world, you definitely should check it out.

Related posts:

  1. Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies now available over RPGNow
  2. Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies
  3. Freebies: Renaissance

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Huge Pathfinder Bundle for $18

Stargazer's World - Thu, 02/21/2019 - 12:39

A friend of mine just pointed a pretty good deal out to me. In order to celebrate Pathfinder 10th anniversary, Humble Bundle is selling $505 worth of Pathfinder stuff for mere $18.

The offer is tiered with the lowest tier starting at $1 and containing the Pathfinder Beginner Box, the core rules, several sourcebooks and trial access to Pathfinder Online. The next tier starts at $8 and contains additional material like the Advanced Player’s Guide and the Villain Codex. The third tier starts at $15 and contains books like the Ultimate series of sourcebooks, Bestiary 2 and 3. Last but not least the highest tier starts at $18 and contains more material for Pathfinder, and also the core rules for Starfinder, Paizo’s new Science-Fantasy RPG.

Of course you can always decide to pay more. Each Humble Bundle sold supports charity. You can either choose the one featured by Humble Bundle this month, or choose your own.

Related posts:

  1. Humble RPG Book Bundle: Numenera
  2. Humble RPG Book Bundle Warhammer
  3. Bundle of Holding: Traveller New Era

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Twitter Update

Stargazer's World - Tue, 02/19/2019 - 19:35

This is a short update to let you all know that I’ve created a new Twitter account. From now on, my old account @StargazersWorld will be exclusively for blog-related stuff, while my personal account @LordStargazer is for everything else. Please note that it will probably take me a couple of days to get everything sorted.

Related posts:

  1. Leaving Twitter
  2. Twitter
  3. Twitter Trouble!

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

DCC Dice Meets FASERIP

Graphite Prime - Thu, 01/03/2019 - 03:16


I've said before how the Marvel (FASERIP) RPG was my go to super-hero system for years, so much so that it nearly ruined percentile systems for me -- I probably passed on a lot of good games over the years simply because I was so sick of rolling percentile dice.  These days I don't care so much, whatever works.
The other two super-hero systems that I like are DC Heroes (Mayfair Games) and Heroes Unlimited by Palladium.  Notice a trend?  All three are old-school games.  I would love to encounter a modern super-hero game that I liked, but I haven't (Mutants and Masterminds isn't bad, so I suppose an honorable mention...)  Most modern super-hero games seem to be "story-based"-- not my cup of tea.  Some of the games do look like nice products, so I'll give them credit for that.
The last Marvel game (Marvel Heroic) was terrible, not trying to offend anyone, it just was.  It's flaws?  1.  Being forced to not only play Marvel characters, but, Marvel stories as well.  Stories, I might add, that you've probably already read.  2.  No robust character creation rules, though I think something half-assed was added later.  People ALWAYS want to create there own characters.  The Marvel (or DC) universe should simply be a guideline, a sample setting, something you can use or not use.  3.  Typical story-game nonsense made it possible for Dare-Devil types to even have a chance to defeat Thor types.  This reminds me of the "every one gets a trophy" nonsense.  Sorry, Dare-Devil, you can't beat Thor, I don't care how well you describe it.  I understand, they're trying to recreate those clever little comic-book moments where Ant-Man and the Wasp defeat the Absorbing Man and Titania, but......no.  Roll some dice, the story will tell itself.  4.  The dice-step system using only d4 - d12 is extremely limiting, they should have at least included the d20 to give the game more depth, but that still only leaves a 5 or 6 rank difference between normal folks and godlike beings.  I'm sure it can be done...  And to be fair, there is (subjective) dice-pooling involved.....which, I'm never a fan of dice-pool systems where you inevitably spend too much time making the case to include certain dice in your pool and then spend time "interpreting" your roll.  
Anyway, that's just a little rant, if you disagree with any of it, that's cool.  To each their own.  I always say, play the games you love and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
What this post is really about, is this:

More specifically, those dice.

I've designed several complete super-hero role-playing systems.  Or rather, I've designed my own system and redesigned it several times over.  For whatever reason super-hero games, up until recently, were my favorite to design.  Probably because no system out there truly satisfied what I wanted in a super-hero game.

Yet I keep coming back to FASERIP.  Those seven abilities (Fighting, Agility, Strength, Endurance, Reason, Intuition, Psyche) perfectly describe super-heroes.  Add up the first 4 for Health, the next 3 for Karma.  Perfect.  I used to think the Talent system was lame and we craved more "skills," but now I don't.  The Talent system makes sense.  The Powers could have been better explained, and the character creation system could be better tweaked to include more detailed "archetypes," but should remain random.  There are ways to create randomly rolled characters without it being nonsensical.

Here's what bugs me about FASERIP:  No matter who you're fighting, your chance to hit remains the same.  Aunt May, who probably has Feeble (2) or Poor (4), Fighting, has the same chance to hit Captain America as she does a hapless child (not that Aunt May would ever attempt either.)  The system doesn't take into account the combat prowess of your opponent (unless they actively try to dodge, which rarely happened because it costs your turn.)  One thing that was beautiful about Mayfair's DC Heroes, is that your fighting ability (Dexterity) was directly cross-referenced with your opponents score to determine your chance to hit -- the height of logic.  But, you had to consult charts, and that can be a pain.  FASERIP has this chart flaw too.  Charts were big in the 80's.


Right, those dice...

I've often pondered how to play FASERIP  without using percentile dice and/or charts, or at least only one chart, and include a way to make the opponent's power-level relevant when you attack/manipulate.  Zak Smith came up with an idea on his blog (I can't seem to find the exact post.) 

http://dndwithpornstars.blogspot.com/
It involved assigning a number (ranging somewhere between 7-ish and 18-ish, like a D&D saving throw) to the FASERIP ranks and rolling 3d20 to hit that number.  One hit is a green success, two is a yellow, and three is a red, so you still need the small results chart atop the Universal Table.  Example, lets say Amazing (50) would be target number 8, you would need to roll at least one 8 on 3d20 to hit.  Pretty cool idea.

Fast forward to my recent purchase of Dungeon Crawl Classics and the special dice needed to play that game.  I was toying around with these dice to see just how well they roll and they're not bad, though some will keep rolling forever unless they hit a barrier.  I was thinking, why don't the games out there with dice-step systems (such as Savage Worlds) use these dice to improve or broaden their systems?  Does Goodman Games own these dice?  I doubt it.

My mind quickly went to FASERIP, maybe because Zak Smith had made another post where he talked about designing a super-hero system using a d4 - d20 dice step system.  As a fan, I'm sure it will be good.  But I find myself thinking, why not use the extra dice?

 http://dndwithpornstars.blogspot.com/2018/10/new-toys-new-toys.html 
Well, the answer's simple, you never want to force players to buy "funky" dice to play your game.  And OSR types (myself included) are plenty content with the dice we already have.  Still, it's too good an idea to ignore, so how about this?

Feeble  d3Poor  d4Typical  d6Good  d8Excellent  d10Remarkable  d12Incredible  d14Amazing  d16Monstrous  d20Unearthly  d24Shift X  d30
Don't worry about ranks above Shift X as they almost never enter the game anyway.  You could simply treat them as d30 with Advantage.
The numbers for Health and Karma are the dice numbers, so if you had all Excellent's, your Health would be 40 and Karma would be 30.

When you attack someone, it's an opposed roll, Fighting vs. Fighting, Agility vs. Agility, Psyche vs. Psyche, or a Power vs. any of these, there are multiple possibilities.  If you beat their roll it's a green success, if you beat their roll by 5 it's a yellow success, if you beat their roll by 10 it's a red success.  You obviously still need the effects part of the Universal Table, but that's just a quick glance, no biggy.

Damage could be a dice roll or a static number (static number would be better I think.)

Talents improve your rank by 1 or 2 as normal.

Higher level, Thor types would be prone to wilder results when they fight thus resulting in people getting "slammed" all over the city.  Regular humans would rarely "slam" anyone.  Perfect.

Feat rolls would be made against the GM's roll for the feat.  Example, jumping across roof-tops might be an Excellent level feat, so you roll Agility vs. the GM rolling a d10.  Certain feats might be automatic if they're below your level, unless your attempt is under duress.

Spending Karma equals to die type you're upgrading to, e.g., you have Incredible d14 and want to upgrade to Monstrous d20 would cost you 20 Karma, and you can never upgrade more than 2 steps.

I've run some samples based on some FASERIP characters, and this all translates very well.

I almost feel like writing up a rule-set, but beyond what I just did, there's not much more to it.  I might however, write up a new random character creation system for FASERIP, but that's for another time...

Meanwhile, I'm working on another OSR Dungeon and will be posting a preview soon.




Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

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

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

5TH EDITION TEAM DEATHMATCH KICKSTARTER

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

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Hundreds of OSR Blogs in an Easy-to-Read Format!

Thought Eater - Sat, 10/13/2018 - 11:55
The inestimable Ramanan S of Save vs Total Party Kill fame and originator of the Rammies, the only RPG award that has ever truly mattered, has given anyone that enjoys reading about old school gaming a great gift.

CHECK IT OUT
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

OSR Guide for the Perplexed Questionnaire

Thought Eater - Fri, 10/12/2018 - 22:17

You might see this questionnaire popping up a lot. I have enjoyed reading what other people had to say and thought I would add my two cents.

1. One article or blog entry that exemplifies the best of the Old School Renaissance for me:Hard to point to one but stuff like THIS gives me warm fuzzies.
2. My favorite piece of OSR wisdom/advice/snark


3. Best OSR module/supplement: Wow these questions are tough. I'll cheat a tad and go with Richard LeBlanc's d30 books .

4. My favorite house rule (by someone else): MUs being able to spontaneously cast from their spellbooks rather than prepare specific spells. Forget who mentioned it, but it allows for much more variety and creativity in play. 

5. How I found out about the OSR: When I got back into gaming I was looking at buying old 1st edition AD&D books and discovered that not only were people still playing it, they were making clones of it, adventures for it, blogging about it, etc 

6. My favorite OSR online resource/toy: Hmmm THIS is about as awesome as it gets. Also the Greyhawk weather generator

7. Best place to talk to other OSR gamers: Well that is kind of the question right now. I immediately fell in love with G+, but it is going away. I am optimistic with what I have seen on MeWe. 

8. Other places I might be found hanging out talking games: Here, G+MeWe, rarely on various forums. 

9. My awesome, pithy OSR take nobody appreciates enough: You cannot have a meaningful campaign if strict time records are not kept. I wrote that. 
10. My favorite non-OSR RPG: If you don't think pre-7th Call of Cthulhu is OSR, then CoC. If you do, then...maybe Savage Worlds.

11. Why I like OSR stuff: Nostalgia, creativity, DIY spirit, amazing talent, cool people, fun games.

12. Two other cool OSR things you should know about that I haven’t named yetTHIS spreadsheet, THIS Patreon. 

13. If I could read but one other RPG blog but my own it would be: Old Grognardia posts. 

14. A game thing I made that I like quite a lot is: I think I did a pretty good job with this adventure.

15. I'm currently running/playing: Running a weekly 1e/BX mashup game, playing in a bi-weekly Castles and Crusades game. Occasionally run a BX Stonehell game for my daughter. Jump into online games here and there when I can. 

16. I don't care whether you use ascending or descending AC because: Oh, but I DO care.

17. The OSRest picture I could post on short notice

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Let's Read Polyhedron: Issue 6

Thought Eater - Fri, 09/21/2018 - 16:07
You can check out previous posts in this series HERE.

Ok, let's see if Polyhedron can bounce back from a weak issue 5.


So I dig the Boot Hill sort of cover.

In the letters section someone writes in about a religious group trying to ban D&D from their school. Ah, memories of the satanic panic. What is interesting is TSR replies here that if you need help with "these sorts of problems" to write to them with "Attention: Duke" on the envelope. Maybe I don't know my TSR lore as well as others, so if you know anything about "Duke" and if their job was just dealing with crazy moms 24/7, let me know.

Where I'm Coming From references TSR's acquisition of SPI. Notes from HQ mentions how to become a Top Secret game admin for the RPGA, and again plugs the RPGA belt buckles (I want one).

Part 3 of the Jake Jaquet interview is terminally boring. They talk about calling the mag Dragon instead of The Dragon. Jake likes basic D&D over AD&D. There is a little talk about how computers could eventually influence the hobby but nothing is particularly prescient or worth mentioning.

Notes for the Dungeon Master basically talks about complaints about "realism" in D&D, something that has always seemed kind of silly to me. It is game about, like, elves and dwarves and stuff. This issue is a bummer so far.

Mercifully, Jim Ward manages to give us something worth reading with some Gamma World items. The Weapons of the Ancients include things like a Crystal of Seeing (glorified telescope) and a Holarator (used to project holograms). The flavor here is good and at least it is gameable material.

Spelling Bee spends a lot of time talking about adjudicating illusion spells. Dispel Confusion covers thief armor (no studded leather allowed), monks wearing bracers of defense (they can, but wouldn't want to according to the author...yeah right), and then a question/answer that really struck me as odd.

Someone asks about to-hit rolls for monsters with just hp listed. With AD&D, I always just used the max level on the HD chart as the base (16+ for AD&D), but here they say to divide the total hp by 4.5 for the HD and extrapolate from there. This would make many monsters/gods even more powerful...to the point where there would never be a point in rolling anything. Did anyone play that way? Like a Tarrasque would be a 66+ HD creature. I'm no mathematician, but using this system with the AD&D charts, the THACO would be 0 around 23 HD....so yeah, 66 HD would be what, THACO -21? I know its a tough monster, but sheesh. Weird answer imo. I looked at BECMI, knowing it deals with very high levels, and a 35+ HD monster has a THACO of 1, which is much more sensible. In fact, from 25-35 HD, all monsters stay at THACO 2. Maybe they didn't think this one through before answering, but they probably killed a LOT of PCs in the wake of this answer. Hey wait, now it is growing on me.



There is a solitaire scenario for Fight in the Skies. A list of some RPGA charter members. Tips on how to run your own D&D tournaments. The issue ends with another "Nor" comic.

Another not-so-good issue. Maybe #7 will be better.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Rub It Review: Al-Qadim

Doomslakers! - Tue, 09/18/2018 - 13:23
I have only played in a single game set in Al-Qadim and I have never ran any games in this setting. I didn't own a single Al-Qadim book until just a couple of years ago. But I remembered my play experience from 1994 quite fondly and I fell in love with this campaign world... so I started collecting it all. I'm still working on the collection, very slowly, as a casual hobby.

Anyhow. I've already said a lot about Al-Qadim in other posts. For this mini review I'm just going to link to all the posts I've made so far talking about Al-Qadim.

It's so damn good. Even though it has it's flaws... which are almost exclusively related to rushed production and recycling cover art and what-not. But on the whole...

https://plus.google.com/u/0/+JamesVWest/posts/WPed4KGepnb

https://plus.google.com/u/0/+JamesVWest/posts/8WvWK2D6snu

https://plus.google.com/u/0/+JamesVWest/posts/66wkWB9u1ux

https://plus.google.com/u/0/+JamesVWest/posts/HhpqdB2SZNK

https://plus.google.com/u/0/+JamesVWest/posts/STkSxc1wCVE

https://plus.google.com/u/0/+JamesVWest/posts/BWeRRUtALSA

https://plus.google.com/u/0/+JamesVWest/posts/CKzLpFoB1q4

https://plus.google.com/u/0/+JamesVWest/posts/ScCeHD191gu

#al-qadim
#salt
#djinn


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Troll Bridge Sketches

Doomslakers! - Sun, 09/16/2018 - 18:51
I worked on a new one-page module called A Trolling We Will Go. It was inspired by the old fairy tale of the three billy goats gruff. Plus I just love classic D&D trolls. Here's the troll, Urnt, as a work in progress.



And in Urnt's river lives a lot of very angry fish. In fact, each person slain by the angry fish becomes and angry fish.


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Classic-Era Waterdeep Products to Use (and Avoid) with Dragon Heist

Thought Eater - Sun, 09/16/2018 - 12:46
The D&D community is abuzz with excitement about the new Waterdeep module, Dragon Heist. Aside from maybe Curse of Strahd, there seems to be more chatter and anticipation surrounding this release than any other so far. There is already a steady stream of fan content coming out on the DM Guild site, but as Waterdeep is probably the most famous D&D city of all time (other than maybe the City of Greyhawk), DMs can also benefit from the classic-era products that came before. Here are a few to check out (and some to avoid).

CITY SYSTEM: HIGH USABILITY 



Known for its massive map collection of the city, the real strength of this set comes from its booklet. Filled with random tables and useful info to expand your campaign, this is in my opinion the #1 classic-era product for Dragon Heist DMs.


VOLO'S GUIDE TO WATERDEEP: HIGH USABILITY


The creative travel-guide presentation of this book serves it well, effectively humanizing (demihumanizing?) the city with flavorful entries. Compatibility with the City System map keys is a huge plus. Part of what makes this and the City System box so useful is that most of the material doesn't rely on then-current events.


FR1 WATERDEEP AND THE NORTH: MODERATE USABILITY


This was the Waterdeep bible for a while, and it is a good book. Much of it could find some use in your game, but a good portion is focused on then-current events. I am no Realms expert but I am pretty sure they have been like exploded and put back together a lot of times since this came out, and a lot of the NPCs have been dead and buried for years.


THE RUINS OF UNDERMOUNTAIN: LOW USABILITY


As I expect most Dragon Heist DMs will segue into the upcoming Dungeon of the Mad Mage, you can skip the original Undermountain. There is scant Waterdeep or Yawning Portal info to be found here.


FRE3 WATERDEEP: COMPLETELY USELESS



Don't be fooled by the title. This is one of the worst modules TSR ever released. This is a novel tie-in that makes the Dragonlance adventures look like sandboxes. The party doesn't even get railroaded to Waterdeep until towards the end. A couple of generic floor plans are all you might find useful in this turd.

Note: I don't own the City of Splendors box set, so I didn't feel comfortable recommending it. From what I understand, it reprints a lot of FR1 and the City System, so I never felt the need to seek a copy out. That said, it could be another good option, just keep in mind it might overlap a lot with other products.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Rub It Review: Dyson's Delves I

Doomslakers! - Thu, 09/13/2018 - 13:43
+Dyson Logos has been doing adventure maps for years. And they are iconic. So iconic, it's very easy to rip him off and maybe not even know it. That's because he has perfected a craft of simplicity.

Dyson's Delves I is a 152 page book you can score in paperback or hardback from Lulu (link below). From the back of the book: "Being a collection of cartography and detailed adventures hand crafted by Dyson Logos, cartographer and explorer."

One-third of of the book is a series of detailed adventures, generally taking up 2 pages each with a map and keyed area descriptions. In the OSR spirit, these adventures are scripted, merely keyed. The stats are given in classic D&D terms (basic/expert). The adventures are for low level PCs ranging up to level 5-6.

All of these delves are part of the same quasi-megadungeon and you can string them together into an epic crawl or use them individually.

The rest of the book is a series of awesome maps with blank lines for you to fill with your own adventures. Just write in the book, dummy! It's POD.

Obviously the thing that makes this book great is Dyson's actual maps. They are just nice to look upon. They are works of art from a person who as mastered their craft. They demand to be explored. But in addition to that, the keyed adventures herein are pitch-perfect for a good old game of D&D where you roll 3d6 in order and die at zero hit points. You can pop this book out at the table without any preparations and run a game, no problem.

http://www.lulu.com/shop/dyson-logos/dysons-delves-i-revised/hardcover/product-21797916.html

https://rpgcharacters.wordpress.com/maps/

Dyson don't screw around. His maps are featured in the latest D&D 5e offering from Wizards of the Coast, Dragon Heist!

http://dnd.wizards.com/products/tabletop-games/rpg-products/dragonheist


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

With Friends Like These...

Thought Eater - Mon, 09/10/2018 - 13:38


Gygax's The Village of Hommlet is widely regarded as one of the greatest intro adventures for D&D and for good reason. It is the template for thousands of adventures that followed, with its manageable "home base", down-the-road dungeon, and campaign-starter plot. One of the great things that doesn't get mentioned a lot is how it introduces several NPCs that are there just to befriend, then betray the players. This kind of diabolical double-crossing is highly effective when not overused, and can give campaigns a real cinematic quality, with a-ha moments and unexpected reveals. Here are a couple of other ways I have used friends and former allies against the PCs.

RISE OF THE MEATSHIELDS

It is not surprising that the 1e DMG spends so much time discussing the morale and treatment of henchmen and hirelings. After all, the term "meatshield" isn't exactly loving, and it reveals a long history of shoddy treatment.  How much abuse are they supposed to take? How many of their friends do they need to see die before they have mutiny on their minds? A well timed revolt can prove a disastrous reminder to the PCs that their actions have consequences. Henchmen can hold grudges just as easy as the villains of a campaign. This won't be appropriate for some tables, but if you have a group of players that flippantly churn through henchmen like butter, it could be a fun twist. They know the patterns and weaknesses of the PCs, and as the song says they "work hard for the money so you better treat [them] right". Their family members may also have revenge on their minds for lost loved ones; this can even allow for long-term plotting against PCs over years of game time.

I KNEW I RECOGNIZED THAT GUY

Undead are the gift that keeps on giving, especially when they kill PCs. PCs killed by undead will often rise again as undead themselves. Some very memorable encounters have happened in my games over the years when the party encounters a fallen comrade. This doesn't have to be driven solely as a combat challenge; you can play up the drama of seeing an old friend literally falling apart, or depending on the tone of your campaign, it could even be milked for comedy. Never let a dead PC go to waste.



Have you ever done anything similar in your games?


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Rub It Review: Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells

Doomslakers! - Mon, 09/10/2018 - 13:06
On my brief visit to Gateway Games in Cincinnati, I spied a copy of +Diogo Nogueira's Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells so I snatched it up. I had already picked up the PDF, but I had not really dived into the game. I didn't know much about it other than Diogo does wicked art.

A captive in the passenger seat on the drive home, I just started reading and was immediately impressed (while sunlight lasted, anyway). Spoiler alert: this is the best sword & sorcery RPG I have yet encountered. And I haven't even played it.

This is a digest sized 48 page RPG packed with great art and extremely focused, clear writing. I am a fan of games that can deliver their message in as few words as possible, like a good poet delivering the goods. Where I feel that some games do this a bit poorly is that they give you sparse text without enough visuals. The visuals are important, to me, to provide context. SS&SS gives you clear, simple writing plus a healthy heaping helping of art. The art, combined with the words, paints a picture of a world of heroic fantasy in the Conan and Lankhmar vein. Yummie.

Much like Lamentations of the Flame Princess' Rules and Magic book, this book dives right into the meat without any hesitation. We get 2 pages that explain fully how the game works, then we're into chargen with each of the three classes getting 1 page (with art). And that's all we need.

The game is OSR-friendly, but not a clone. Its attribute list includes 4 instead of the classic 6. Physique, Agility, Intellect, and Willpower are all you need in this game. It is a roll-under system that owes a lot of it's mechanics to The Black Hack. It has a clever set of rules for armor and shields wherein the damage die of the attacker is reduced based on your armor. The shield becomes an active tool rather than passive defense. Weapons are divided into size categories that determine their damage die. The encumbrance system is simply that you can carry as many items as you have Physique, which is a method I personally use so I'm happy to see it here.

The magic system is a Willpower test with a difficulty equal to the spell's power. There are 50 spells described in a few pages, and of course you can make up as many more as you like.

I am enchanted by this game. I grokked it immediately and devoured the book in one sitting, which is not something I usually do. Now, I am not necessarily a huge fan of actually using The Black Hack's system to create content or run games. This is NOT a ding against that game, nor this one. It's just that my personal play preference isn't aligned with roll-under as the primary mechanic. Like all RPG and OSR nerds, I'm stupidly picky and pedantic at times. But this game kicks too much ass for me not to use it at some point.

There's a lot more awesome to it, but you can go pick it up for yourself and see. Great game. Great presentation. Get it.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/198163/Sharp-Swords--Sinister-Spells?src=hottest_filtered

(NOTE: Although I'm a fan of games that deliver the goods in few words, I would not argue that this is the "best" way. I would argue instead that each game deserves the verbiage that best serves the game and sometimes that means more text rather than less.)


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Rub It Review: Star Frontiers

Doomslakers! - Sun, 09/09/2018 - 13:04
Hey, who doesn't love pseudopods and needler pistols? I know I do.

Picture a young JV, c. 1985. This 14 year old (soon to be 15) with big glasses and no romantic prospects has been holed up in his room with the classic 1983 D&D red box for months, generating campaigns without any players. He makes his way to Sophia's Bookstore at some point because he knows they have a rack of RPGs. There he witnesses many amazing things, including a Frank Frazetta art book that blows open his ideas about fantasy and this purple box set called Star Frontiers: Alpha Dawn. The cover is rad. Tubular. Totally awesome. It has a crashed ship. It has aliens. It has a pretty redhead.

James likey.

Somehow James manages to get this incredible treasure in his hands and takes it home. At my advanced age I'm unable to remember how this came about. It was at least a year before I got my first paying job and my family was poor. But my mom was (is) stellar so she did most likely witness my memorization and found the funds to drop $10 on it.

Now witness young JV in his room, in his gawdy looking 70s swiveling chair, opening this shining, glistening, purple box with utter reverence and complete magical charm all over his youthful face. Ah, the sorcery of discovery. Especially discovery of the vastness and coolness of Pan-Galactic space.

The game comes with two rulebooks, a big double sided grid map, a bunch of cool counters, d10 (two of 'em?), and an adventure module called Crash on Vulturnus.

The first rulebook is the 16 page Basic Game Rules in which we learn, well, the basics. It's like a short and sweet intro. I fully confess right here and right now I never actually read this one. I skimmed it, looked at the art, and went straight for the next book.

The 64 page Expanded Game Rules is where it's at. Here you get the full version of the game you just bought, not some condensed version for babies.

So this game is basically Buck Rogers and Star Trek mashed up. But it's got a spirit of its own. I have heard people compare it to Star Wars, but I reject that comparison. There is not anything remotely spiritual or mystical or prophetic here. This is a wild west game of lasers and credits. Sure, Han Solo would be right at home in Pan-Galactic space. But there's no room here for the Jedi order or ghosts. Hey, don't let that get you down, though. They DO have electric swords.

In this game you play the role of a mercenary, mechanic, scientist, spy, medic, pilot, or whatever kind of gig you choose to specialize in. It's a skill based game, so there are no classes. You choose between four races: human, yazirian (monkeys with glider wings), dralasites (amoeba people), and vrusk (bugs). As new PCs, your adventures will most likely involve working for the Pan-Galactic Corporation in some capacity or another.

It's a percentile system. All actions are resolved by rolling d100 and trying to get under a target (usually an attribute score modified by a skill or something like that). You get to use all kinds of cool toys ranging from the aforementioned electric sword to the vibroknife to the laser rifle to the gyrojet rifle. You can program robots, bypass security, and blow shit up with Tornadium D-19 (kaboomite). Oh, and if you get shot at with a laser pistol hopefully you will be wearing your albedo suit.

The weird thing about Alpha Dawn is that it has precious little to say about space ships. There are no rules in this box for flying them, for example. That fact lent this game a tremendously terrestrial vibe for a space game. I played this with cousins and school friends and most of our adventures involved running around the giant grid map of Port Loren, blasting holes in the city trying to capture escaped villains or battle sathar invasions. Space travel was always hand waved.

Of course this game is followed up by the second box set, Knight Hawks, which was ALL about the space travel and space combat. I didn't own Knight Hawks and I never got to play with it, so I have no nostalgic attachment to it. Back in 2012 I ran a couple games of Star Frontiers for some local friends, one of whom was a HUGE fan of the game and owned 100% of all it. My friend James Koti, may he rest in peace, was a giant Star Frontiers nerd and wanted to use all the shiny books. But I was just running a game for nostalgia and I only wanted to use Alpha Dawn. It was fun, but I suspect he really wanted to run with it much longer and much farther. In hindsight, now that James is gone, I really wish I had ran harder and longer with the game.

I ran it again for my Monday night pals, who I lovingly call the Doomslakers. That was a year or more ago. I ran the module Mission to Alcazzar, which I heavily modified. In our game, we spent at least 3 sessions on board the Nightrunner dealing with some very dangerous mining bugs, which were the central threat of the adventure as I ran it. The module is basically a very terrestrial hex crawl and has little in it to suggest space. Our adventure ended with a naked mad scientist riding an armored mining bug trying to kill the party. There was a lot of hand grenade action going on and of course all the robots in the CDC compound were set to kill.

A good time was had by all.

I love this game, and it's 90% because of nostalgia. I believe the system is good, but has rough bits I don't love as much. The way skills are figured is a bit wonky, I think. But hey, it all works. In the end I think my mom could not have spent 10 credits on a better product.

You can get this classic once again at RPGnow or DrivethruRPG:

http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/226710/Star-Frontiers-Alpha-Dawn


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Rub It Review: Lamentations of the Flame Princess

Doomslakers! - Sat, 09/08/2018 - 13:03
I scored a copy of the Lamentations of the Flame Princess Rules & Magic book a few years ago.

This is a good game. It's deliciously good. I know from listening to +James Raggi in an interview that he created the game merely as a tool or a means to an end. He wanted to publish awesome, evil looking RPG books and he just felt like having a rule set of his own to link them to would be best. And he was right about that.

I have to talk about this game as both a game and a book.

The book is about 166 pages in A5 format. It's a hardback. It has color illustrations and black and white illustrations, all of which are quite good and evocative of the sort of post-medieval horror that LotFP game books shoot for.

This is a beautiful, evil, lovely book. The cover by Cynthia Sheppard is pitch perfect. The binding is incredibly good and the whole god damn thing just feels right in the hand. I'm a guy who prefers full size books, mostly due to a combination of nostalgia and due to my 47 year old eyesight. But this is perfect. The layout by Mattias Wilkström really delivers the goods. When you open the cover, you get blood red endpapers on which are printed in white text a list of equipment and costs (in silver). The red papers at the back of the book print various useful tables, such as saving throws. Very nice.

Raggi does not waste words. There is no introduction, no forward, and indeed no comment whatsoever about what you are getting ready to read. After the table of contents, you are instructed on how to roll ability scores. And you're off to the races.

Like most OSR core games, this one has no explicit setting. The setting is merely implied. It is fantasy. It is D&D. It is also post-Medieval, and there is a section of the book where a few pages describe early firearms to help set that tone.

The system is core OSR. It has ascending AC, five categories of saves, XP tables, hit dice, and so forth. Unlike most clones or quasi-clones, this one has a skill system. It is a very simple one. You have nine skills, including bushcraft and stealth. Everyone has a 1 in 6 chance of success. Some characters, such as the Specialist (thief), can allocate points to improve their skills.

There are some clever bits to this game that I love, including the Specialist. But also, I love that really only Fighters get better at fighting. Everyone else doesn't. So go suck an egg, Cleric. Famously, this game creates the only first level Magic-User spell I know of that requires 9 pages to describe: Summon. What a great spell. It feels like a super compressed summary of Raggi's famous Random Esoteric Creature Generator. I bet having this spell makes games... weirder.

All in all, the core book delivers a tightly packed and concise RPG system you can use to run any D&D module or other OSR style adventure in a sharp little package. Although I find Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells to be preferable for sword & sorcery gaming (at least by impression, I haven't played it yet), LotFP is hands down a winner for S&S gaming as well.

Get it. And then get some of those delicious adventure books/sandboxes to go with it, such as +Zak Sabbath's A Red and Pleasant Land (another lovely damn book).


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Rub It Review: B/X Essentials

Doomslakers! - Thu, 09/06/2018 - 15:12
+Gavin Norman has given us a lot of awesome stuff over the years. I know I've used Theorems & Thaumaturgy in past campaigns to great effect.

Now we get B/X Essentials. And the name on the tin is what you get. This is the classic B/X game in all its wonder, re-organized into a set of comprehensive volumes. And man do they hit the mark.

These books are gems. The layout is superb. The font choice is dead on the money for pinging that B/X nostalgia. The tables are perfectly presented. All the rules of the classic game are teased out and written in concise packets for maximum clarity and usefulness. The art is deliciously perfect.

All of that and the books are dished out in deliberate modules... that is, you can use one, two, three, or all of them as you choose. Want a B/X campaign that is all neanderthal? Just use the core rules and monster books and add your neanderthal stuff. Want 1e spells? Just ignore the spellbook and use the rest. It's a brilliant move to publish these in volumes instead of a single volume, despite the utility of a single volume RPG. There is utility in modules.

Lovely, reverent modules.

Nicely done, Gavin. And I tip my hat to +Andrew Walter, +Sean Poppe, +Luka Rejec, +Michael Clarke, +Alex Mayo, and all the other artists who brought wonderful visuals to this project.

Now the quandary is set in my mind... do I make stuff with an eye toward Labyrinth Lord... or B/X Essentials? Oh what a terrible decision to make! Pity me. I guess I'll do both.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/220726/B-X-Essentials-Core-Rules?src=hottest_filtered


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Rub It Review: BEAN! the d2 RPG

Doomslakers! - Wed, 09/05/2018 - 15:10
BEAN!

I stumbled across this gem back in 2011 or 2012. I can't remember exactly. But thank the dark gods J. Freels decided to create such a fabaceaen masterpiece.

This game has it all. Swords, spells, monsters, and BEANS. This is basically all the fun of D&D with far simpler rules and you're playing the role of a talking bean. So there.

You take some beans. You mark one side of each with a "+" or something to represent a hit. You toss your beans. The other guy tosses beans. Whoever gets the most hits wins that contest. The difference between the beans is your damage or whatever.

It's GREAT. And I have stolen that basic mechanic for my own stuff many times. In fact, that mechanic was the core of the Rabbits & Rangers game before I went with Labyrinth Lord as the engine.

So anyway... Bean is a core fantasy RPG without a setting. Like D&D, there's an implied setting... a mix of elements common to bean worlds. You might flight a b'nork or get a magic sword from a b'nelf.

The game is supported by an array of adventures and a setting book describing the World of Bean, a Guide to Terrafavus! Hell... there's even a Beans in Space book. You CANNOT GO WRONG HERE.

Five beans.

http://jeffwerx.com/BEANpage.htm

http://www.rpgnow.com/product/89574/BEAN-The-D2-RPG-Second-Edition?manufacturers_id=2927


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Rub It Review: Barrowmaze

Doomslakers! - Tue, 09/04/2018 - 15:08
I picked up +Greg Gillespie's Barrowmaze Complete a couple of years ago. I was instantly hooked. I ran a short campaign as soon as I could. It included a luchador and a necromancer and ended with a 50% TPK (in the town of Ironguard Motte, not the actual Barrowmaze). Very satisfying.

Barrowmaze is a megadungeon, which means it is mainly a big fat huge collection of rooms designed to kill you. But it's more. It's a sketched out, robust setting that actually works. It gives you all the essential information you need in order to get a game going very quickly. It doesn't include a lot of flair and additional information about the setting that isn't immediately useful. It's quite lean in that sense... but not spartan. It's got some style.

What I love about this book is how easy it is to use. If you are going to run a short adventure for a one night gig you can just flip through the various barrow mounds and find one with a few rooms. Then just concoct a reason for the PCs to be there. They are hired by a wizard to go to the mounds and uncover a specific tomb. Start the game right there at the tomb. Bob's your uncle. The fact that the mounds are not all connected to the bigger maze means you can do in and out adventures, exploring the mounds as quickly or slowly as you like. Eventually, the PCs will find the maze and you can sink your teeth into that monster for the long haul.

(The third time I used Barrowmaze the PCs managed to navigate directly to the primary maze entrance on the first session. I wanted them to poke around in some mounds first... but that's not what happened...)

This is written for Labyrinth Lord and feels exactly like a first edition boxed campaign with a strong Fiend Folio vibe. The art is incredibly good. The cover is by the legendary Erol Otus! And check out this list of interior illustrators: Zhu Bajie, Alexander Cook, Ndege Diamond, Cory Hamel, Trevor Hammond, Jim Holloway, John Larrey, Scott LeMien, Peter Pagano, Stefan Poag, Tim Truman, Jason Sholtis, Stephen Thompson, and Tara Williamson.

The writing is tight and lean, allowing you to run the maze or the mounds on-the-fly without actually reading too much of it in advance.

This book costs a lot of dough. If you don't know Barrowmaze, you might see the price tag and say "nope". I totally understand. But the book is well worth the investment.

Oh, and if you like undead this will be like Disneyland for you. If you don't like undead and don't want to pay that much for a PDF or print book, maybe not so much.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/139762/Barrowmaze-Complete


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

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