Tabletop Gaming Feeds

Marked 20-sided Die

Zenopus Archives - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 13:40
TSR's original dice set was included in Holmes Basic, Gamma World and sold separately
In the 1970s, rolling 1-20 wasn't as straightforward as today. The original dice set available from TSR included a white 20-sided dice, but it was numbered (and pre-inked) with 0-9 twice rather than 1-20. So these dice were actually d10s, and were most easily used to generate percentiles by rolling the same die twice in row or by rolling two different colored dice together. TSR even sold a separate white and pink set of Percentile Generators.

But since the beginning D&D has always needed d20s, for attacks and saving throws. The earliest D&D rulebooks don't explain how to use the 10-sided die to generate 1-20, but by the time of Holmes Basic, there was a recognized need to explain this, as the rulebook teaches two different ways to roll 1-20 with these dice. One is near the end of the book in the section "Using the Dice", which isn't in the Holmes manuscript, and so was added by TSR. This method uses a secondary "control" die to determine if the number is 1-10 or 11-20:

"For example: to generate 1-20, roll the 20-sided die and 6-sided die, and if the 6-sided die comes up 1-3 , the number shown on the 20-sider is 1-10 (1-0), and if the 6-sider comes up 4-6, add 10 to the 20-sided die and its numbers become 11-20 (1-0)".

The other method is described in the main part of the text in the section on Saving Throws (page 14). This was written by Holmes as it is found word-for-word in the manuscript:

"Numbers can be generated as follows: Mark one set of faces on a 20-sided die by coloring with a red permanent marker on one of each faces — 0, 1, 2, 3, etc. The marked faces will be considered to have a ten added to them — 1 = 11, 2 = 12, 3 = 13, etc. Unmarked
0 = 10, marked 0 = 20. This die will also be used to determine the results of combat from the combat table."

The picture at the top of this post (from an Ebay auction that indicated the dice were from a Basic set) shows an example of this: the owner has colored half of the faces of the 20-sider in a red color. The white faces represent 1-10, and the red faces represent 11-20. As I mentioned above these dice were pre-inked, so one couldn't just color the two sets of 0-9 with different colored crayons, the faces had to be marked to differentiate them.

This method is referenced again in the section "Combat Melee":

"The probability of a hit is converted into a random number of 1 to 20 (the specially marked die is recommended)" (page 18) and "A 20-sided die must be marked or colored so that
one set of sides 0-9 is different from the other set. Count 0 as a 10. The marked set is then read as if 10 had been added to the roll (11-20), treating 0 as 10 or 20. This die is used for all combat resolution" (page 19)

Holmes probably learned this marked die method from other gamers, as there are earlier examples of it. For example, below is an auction photo from last year, for an auction you may have heard about, an original woodgrain D&D set that sold for over $20,000. Included with the set in the auction was a 20-sided die and a note (with the date of ~1974 given by the auctioneer). In the note we see similar instructions, with the white half of the die being 1-10 and the orange half being 11-20.

In 1979, the 1st edition DMG still assumes use of these 20-sided d10s in the section "Dice", on page 10:

"If a d20 is used either 1-20 (assuming the use of a standard d20 which is numbered 0-9 twice without coloring one set of faces to indicate that those faces have 10 added to the number appearing) or 1-40 (assuming that one set of faces is colored) can be gotten by adding 0 if 1 or 2 is rolled on the d4 and 10 or 20 (depending on the die type) if a 3 or 4 is rolled"

The structure of this sentence is complicated, but Gygax is saying to use d4 control dice to turn 1-10 into 1-20 (for an unmarked die) or 1-20 into 1-40 (for a marked die).

This was a short-lived era as other manufacturers began cranking out dice. 

At some point (I don't have a date but will update this post if I find it), 20-sided dice that were not pre-inked appeared, which allowed for coloring the two sets of numbers with different colored crayons. You still had to remember which color was low (1-10) and which was high (11-20). I have a dice like this that I received in an auction a while back (I can't even remember what it came with):

I also don't know when the first 20-sided dice that was numbered 1-20 first appeared, but the standard d10 appeared around 1980, possibly debuting at Gen Con that year

In the last printing of the Holmes Basic rulebook, dated Dec 1979 but certainly from 1980 as it is the third version with that date, the section on "Using the Dice" was revised to refer to "the assortment of 4-, 6-, 8-, 10-, 12- and 20-sided dice" (page 46), and the portion about the control die no longer refers to 1-20. Holmes' instructions for making a marked d20 is still found in the section on Saving Throws, however.

The Acaeum reports that some sets of Holmes Basic include a set of six dice. I've never actually seen one of these sets. It does seem strange TSR would revise the rulebook to refer to the 10-sided die without actually including it. But I'd like to see it confirmed that a set shipped this way versus having dice added later. A complicating factor is that Holmes Basic set was sold up until at least 1986 (I have a catalog from then listing it), so some may have had 6-dice sets added to them at later date.

Certainly by the time of the Moldvay Basic set and Dragon Dice, both from 1981, we have the standard 1980s set of six dice, including both the 10-sided die and the 20-sided die numbered 1-20.

See also:
Veteran of the Dice Wars
TSR Ads in Boys Life 1977-1982

And Jon Peterson's articles on the history of dice in D&D: 
How Gaming Got Its Dice
The Origins of Dice Notation
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Mortzengersturm Reviews

Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 04/20/2017 - 11:00
A couple of reviews for Mortzengersturm, The Mad Manticore of the Prismatic Peak have come out, and they have not escaped the notice of the manticore wizard himself:

Jack Shear over at Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque
Gus L at Dungeon of Signs

A Wayward Kickstarter - Call of Cthulhu: The Withering Dark - Playing Cards and Tarot

Tenkar's Tavern - Wed, 04/19/2017 - 16:54

Lets take a look at Call of Cthulhu: The Withering Dark - Playing Cards and Tarot Kickstarter.

Estimated delivery: April, 2014.

Last update: August, 2016.

Number of Backers: 1626

Monies raised: Over $116k

Pledged by your Tavern Keeper: $72

Received by your Tavern Keeper: Jack Shit

Quality of sample art: Awesome

So, what went wrong?

Shit happened. The updates aren't backer only, so any can read, but they detail enough in the way of personal events that, should you desire to read them, you have the link but I am not going to copy and paste. My summary is this - if you don't know how to manage money, run a business and are at risk for bouts of depression, Kickstarter IS NOT for you. Great ideas with piss poor planning and implementation as well as inability to cope with the associated stress leads to shit shows like this. While I feel for the creator, eight months of radio silence since dropping the "personal baggage bomb" eats away at whatever sympathy I have.

My expectations?

Gareth is more likely to deliver. Hmm, need to check up on him now...

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Commentary On C1 The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan Adventure & Its Free Old School Resources

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 04/19/2017 - 15:56
C1 The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan has an aura of pulpy danger that seems to call to players like moths to an old school flame. Hidden treasure, danger, & some very weird old school flavor seem to add to trap laden old school play. But what if you want to place it within your favorite old school home game campaign setting? What about a more pulpy sword & sorcery angle? Alright so let's Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Reminder - Tavern Chat Tonight (and Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day this Saturday)

Tenkar's Tavern - Wed, 04/19/2017 - 14:44

Yep, today is a Wednesday, so that means tonight is Tavern Chat Night! This Saturday is Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day, so I expect much of the conversation will be about S&W, but that can chance depending on who drops in.

You are dropping in, right?

Where: Here - using the Chatwing box on the right side of this page

When: 9 PM Eastern Time

Why: Because its a blast every week and we've been hosting this for years

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Secret Machines of the Star Spawn

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 04/19/2017 - 11:09

By Mark Taormino
Maximum Mayhem Dungeons
Level 6-10

Locals have been hearing whispers of strange happenings around the Ancient Volcano. Rumors over the last several years of an unspeakable evil that has risen up inside. An evil that “fell from the stars”. There is something wicked and devilish going on inside. Highwaymen report of strange creatures, mechanical monsters, horrible beasts and “little green men” that are roaming the land. You and your stalwart adventurers have decided to take on the challenge of plundering the mountain for the treasure within! Oh and get to the bottom of these dastardly stories as well!

My life is a living hell. This 44 page “adventure” is a linear railroad with aliens and technology. It’s written like your 7th grade dungeon master created it: adversarial with lots of tits. I actually went and looked up the designer to make sure it wasn’t the FATAL guy. It’s not. But he did make $3k from the kickstarter for this, and $11k from his latest kickstarter. This piece of shit is the closest I’ve seen someone get to WG7. I often cite expectations, and have a strict taxonomy. Put another way, I don’t give a flying fuck what you publish but you damn well better do a good job disclosing what it is so we don’t have to buy your crap.

I am supposed to start off saying something nice. The highlights. I’m struggling. It’s got a decent number of new monsters, themed to the adventure, nicely illustrated, and most with some interesting themed effects. One of the aliens has a “brain freeze” power, for example. One or two of the room descriptions, in read-aloud, are not terrible. A few of the encounters have an interesting set up. There’s a robot head you can pick up who talks to you and can operate technology/explain things. You can find his body parts and rebuild him. A somewhat interesting little NPC, a fun little side-task to accomplish. That’s good. One or two of the rooms have a decent description, like the room walls made up of thousands of gears of different sizes and directions and speeds, with a large black lever in the middle of the room. Jokes on you though, that lever, and entire room, does nothing. It’s just there to fuck with the players. Most of the descriptions … functional? But they tend to digress to being overly descriptive and long. In other words, the first couple of sentences gives a plain fact-based description of the room “This is a huge two hundred foot wide cavernous volcano chamber. It is divided by a jagged chasm where lava now ows. It is about forty feet wide and the lava ows into the deep underground realms beyond the volcano depths.” Functional, but not necessarily exciting. But then it goes on to describe more and more and more instead of just stopping. And that room is one of the shortest descriptions. The read-aloud can go on for paragraphs. Or columns. Or, in the case of the introduction/background: pages. This overly prescriptive description issue is key indicator that things are not in Adventureville.

And well they are not. The start map is a single linear hallway with rooms either hanging off of it or the hallway running to the rooms. No choice or decisions. The rooms are even better. Every one of the starting rooms. Six of the first seven rooms have monsters that either attack immediately or attack within one round. This is not an unusual occurrence. You walk in to a room you can’ avoid and the monsters attack immediately. That’s not a D&D adventure, that’s a caricature of a D&D adventure. The room encounters support this. “As the players enter the room the door they came through disappears!” We all know why, right? Because the designer has some “clever” or “fun” encounter that he wants to force the players into.

There’a creature you fight, the Dungeon Breaker, that, as far as I can tell, is never described anywhere.

One room has a teleporter. Each character is required to use it to continue the adventure. There is either a 50% or a 75% chance it will malfunction, the adventure mentions both numbers. If it malfunctions there is a 3-in-8 chance of instant death and a 3-in-8 chance of facing a BIG monster by yourself, and a 1-in-8 chance of being replaced with an evil clone. Do I need to explain this?

Up until now it’s just a bad adventure. Too much read-aloud. Linear. Almost nothing besides straight up combat. You could mistake it for a bad 4e adventure (or pre-DCC RPG Goodman adventures …) or something created by a 12 year old jr high kid. But then that 12 year turned 13 and hit puberty. And inflicted himself on others. The issue is not the prurient humor, or the tit-heavy sexualized art. I like to think of them as an exponent. If a good adventure is a “1” and you get a point added every time you do something crappy, then loud belches and cheescake are en exponent. 1, squared is 1, still a good adventure. 5, squared, is 25. It’s the icing on the cake that sends you in to suger coma. “Chocolate Thunder” is a black woman with a large afro in a tiny bikini who yells “Watch it sucka!” Ain’t nothing wrong with any of that. Everyone should have the balls to pull off that kind of style. But when in this shitty adventure its clear what the intent it, and it’s not positive. Likewise the tit-heavy gypsies. Or the mind flayer grabbing a womans tits with its tentacles. Or “the fat princess”

The preview on DriveThru will show you the art sample, as well as give you a hint of the humor style in the start of the barons page and half read-aloud on the last page of the preview. I’d read that last page, just to lighten up your day.

$3k on Kickstarter. Existence precedes essence, Bryce. Existence precedes essence, Bryce.
Existence precedes essence, Bryce. Existence precedes essence, Bryce. Existence precedes essence, Bryce. Existence precedes essence, Bryce. Existence precedes essence, Bryce.
Existence precedes essence, Bryce. Existence precedes essence, Bryce.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Wednesday Comics: Storm: Labyrinth of Death

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 04/19/2017 - 11:00
My exploration of the long-running euro-comic Storm, continues with his adventures in the world of Pandarve. Earlier installments can be found here.

Storm: The Labyrinth of Death (1983) 
(Dutch: Het Doolhof van de Dood) (part 3)
Art by Don Lawrence; script by Martin Lodewijk

The striped-haired spy has no time for Ember's questions. She leaves quickly so she won't be found out--and runs smack into a suspicious guard. Ember rushes out to help her. In the scuffle, the guard is killed. The spy isn't happy for the help as now they've got a body to dispose of. But it means they have to act now.

They raid the jails, overpowering the guards, and find Nomad. Storm has been taken away to the Theocrat's laboratory. The rebels are mistrustful of Nomad. When he threatens violence if they try to stop him from coming along, they reiterate they're willing to die for the cause. Ember points out that they should probably be more willing to live for it, as well.

Meanwhile, the Theocrat is explaining the cosmology of Pandarve. It seems the system has a white hole at its center instead of a sun. The matter emitted by it is what creates the atmosphere throughout the system. Marduk also reveals that the planet Pandarve itself is alive. He boasts of being her spokesmen to the people of the world--but he wants to be more than a servant.

Storm is the key. He is imbued with energy due to his travel through time. If properly harnessed, the Theocrat believes he can use it to control the universe. He's got his biological computers working on this:

He demands Storm stand in the center of a crystal antennae to catch the radiation coming off and analyzing it:


mass combat belongs in the monster manual

Blog of Holding - Tue, 04/18/2017 - 17:36

D&D started as a hack on a war game, which is why OD&D depends on, but does not provide, mass combat rules. The original game included kingdom management rules and prices for castles and armies. The first adventure module, in the Blackmoor supplement, had rooms that contained hundreds of soldiers. You were expected to break out TSR’s Chainmail war game to use these things. In fact, as you got higher and higher level, Gygax expected that more and more of your time playing D&D would actually be spent playing Chainmail. That’s sort of like if you went to a Scrabble tournament and they said, “Good news! You guys are such good Scrabble players that now you get to play Monopoly.”

D&D went mainstream because audiences liked the fast, immersive, co-op game of the imagination, and they didn’t latch onto (or even understand the references to) the slow, rules-bound, head-to-head, miniature-requiring war game. So, in later editions, the Chainmail references were cut. Essentially, D&D’s intended end game, conquest and rulership, was removed. The middle of the game, grinding for money, was extended, even though there were now no castles and armies to spend the money on.

And this is a big loss for D&D. In any edition, high level D&D is not a solid product. High level fights are swingy, monster variety is sparse. And, worse, with epic battles and kingdom-building mostly offscreen, characters can’t leave their mark on the game world, except by saving it from ever more powerful dungeon monsters. Players and DMs alike generally try to keep away from war epics, because running big battles isn’t something D&D does.

To fill the hole left by the removal of Chainmail and epic-fantasy play, TSR and WOTC churned out stand-alone battle supplements every few years:

-OD&D introduced Swords & Spells, which was an updated Chainmail with special rules for each of the D&D spells and monsters. It technically allowed battling lone heroes against 10:1 (10 soldiers to a mini) figures, although it recommended avoiding cross-scale combat as much as possible.

-Basic D&D included War Machine: a sort of spreadsheet where you came up with a rating of each army and then rolled a percentile die to decide the battle.

-1e and 2e both published an edition of Battle System. This was another entry in the Chainmail/Swords & Spells tradition, but it came in a box with cut-out-and-assemble peasant houses, which was cool.

-3e had the Miniatures Handbook. Again, its mass combat rules were along the lines of Chainmail, featuring typical war game rules for formations, facing, morale, etc, using d20 mechanics.

-5e has two sets of playtest mass-combat rules, some iteration of which will presumably see official publication some day. The first playtest has traditional wargame-style rules, with frontage, etc. The second boils down every army to a single “battle rating”, in the Basic War Machine tradition.

All of these games perpetuate the flaw that kept Chainmail from catching on in the first place: in order to play them, you have to stop playing D&D.

D&D is not a war game. All the design decisions that make a good war game lead to a bad D&D game, and vice versa.

-Because war games are played competitively, they must be fair. D&D campaigns can only achieve longevity when they are unfair in favor of the players.

-Because war games are fair: war games must have complete rules. You can’t make stuff up halfway through without favoring one of the players. So you can only make a pontoon bridge if there are rules for it. D&D rules are incomplete by design. There are no rules in any edition for making a pontoon bridge, but if you can scrounge up some boats and lumber, the DM will let you do it.

-Because war games are complete: war games must have detailed rules. A good war game models the rock-paper-scissors of archery, cavalry, and spearmen, and provides big bonuses and penalties based on terrain, flanking, morale, fog of war, high ground, and anything else that might conceivably come up. D&D, on the other hand, features abstract combat rules that look nothing like reality. Core D&D combat is a barebones transaction of combatants trading swipes. More important than realism is simplicity, because most of D&D is not in the combat engine but in the DM and player improvisation that happens at the same time.

running an epic battle in D&D

D&D is great at handling small fights – say, five characters fighting a few trolls. Why can’t the same rules handle five characters, the town guard, and a dragon fighting against a skeleton army, a lich, and a dozen trolls?

What if the first edition Monster Manual had contained stat blocks for a skeleton horde, a town watch, and so on? Think of the stories we could have been telling all these years.

My alternate-history army stat blocks are pretty simplistic, but that’s what I like about them. A requirement for war-game standards of rules completeness and detail has been holding back high-level play for years. A D&D combat is great because of all the rules that Gary Gygax didn’t include. Let me talk about the war game rules I think D&D can live without.

Casualties. When half your archers are dead, you can fire half as many arrows, right? Nah. Just as a D&D hero at 1 hp fights at full strength, A 100-soldier army, even at 1 hp, is still a 100-soldier army. After the battle, hit point damage can be translated into some ratio of dead, wounded, and fled, at the DM’s discretion.

Facing, frontage, formation. These rules appear in nearly every war game. We need that level of detail like we need the First Edition grapple rules.

Figure scale. War games are not designed for varying figure scales: every miniature on the battlefield needs to represent, for instance, 20 soldiers. A war-game fight between a lone hero and a 20:1 army unit is usually wonky or impossible. On the other hand, if every army is treated as an individual D&D monster, a tenth-level fighter can battle on fairly even terms with a troop representing 10 first level fighters, which can in turn battle a troll or a unit of 36 goblins.

Time scale. Most war games have realistic but D&D- incompatible turns of ten minutes or more. I’m sticking with D&D combat rounds. If a massive war is over within a few six- second rounds, that’s fine with me.

If anything, D&D-style fights can be too fast. To make it more likely that everyone gets a turn, I’ve added a special rule in my army stat blocks, capping attack damage so that no army can score a one-hit KO. This favors the underdog (and the underdog is usually the PCs). Still, this is a special exception and I wouldn’t be surprised if it were unnecessary.

Leadership bonuses. Many war games assign static bonuses to troops based on the abilities of their commanders. In a war game, which doesn’t allow for referee discretion, this is the best you can do. But in D&D, if a player delivers a speech and leads a charge, or comes up with a clever scheme, the DM can assign appropriate bonuses. The more the players act creatively, the more vivid the scene will be – just as in a standard D&D fight.

Spell rules. We do NOT want a Swords and Spells-style gloss on every spell describing its interaction with armies. Here are my abstractions:
1) Damage spells ignore area of effect. An 8d6 fireball does 8d6 damage.
2) “Condition” spells are all-or-nothing. If a Bless spell can target all the members of an army, it operates normally. Otherwise, it fails.

Morale, flanking, setting ambushes, charging, fighting withdrawal, high ground, and every special case I haven’t already mentioned. First and and Second Edition have explicit morale rules. In other editions, morale failure is by DM fiat. If the local morale rules (or lack thereof) are good enough for 10 goblins at level 1, they’re good enough for 100 goblins at level 10. The same principle, “use existing combat rules”, applies for flanking (present in 3e and 4e), charging (present in every edition but 5e) and so on.

Here are the stat-block templates I’ve used for turning any creature into an army of any size. I’ve done first and fifth editions (my current favorites).

(crossposted/lightly edited from here)

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Need a Dungeon Master?

Ultanya - Tue, 04/18/2017 - 17:23
So, you want to play D&D but there are no Dungeon Masters in your area. There are plenty of characters all dressed up with nowhere to go? Then it’s time to become the Dungeon Master yourself! For many people, just the idea of taking on this responsibility causes anxiety. I will be honest with you, it takes a tremendous amount of courage to step into that role for the first time. Studies have shown the only thing people fear more than their mortality is public speaking. Sure, you may be DMing for friends and family only, but it still involves putting yourself out there at the head of the table.

I’m here to tell you that none of that should dissuade you. Without a Dungeon Master the game simply cannot be played. Someone must be the organizer and do all the creative work to make the game come together. This is what happened when I was ten-years old, and I had no idea what I was doing. But let me tell you, wow was it fun! Thinking back to those earlier days, one of the reasons for my success was because we played with only a shadow of the rules.

A common theme I see in other blog posts about Dungeon Mastering is, “you must be an expert on the rules”, and I’m here to tell you that is a load of crapola. Please don’t let that stop you from taking up the Dungeon Master mantle. Without getting into edition wars, I recommend using a more rules light system for first time DMs. This will allow you to hand wave things more often. An important skill of a good DM is making rulings, not looking up rules. Furthermore, if you have a rules lawyer at your table, they are effectively disarmed in a rules light RPG.

Systems with complicated combat, or voluminous character options can end any fledgling DM’s career. Trust me, you have enough to keep track of with the adventure being played to worry about that sort of minutia. If those sorts of things appeal to you, they can always be re-visited later when you are more seasoned as a DM. Dungeons & Dragons is foremost a collaborative story-telling game. If you want work on an early skill, that is the one to focus on. Anyone can use charts, measurements, and roll dice. The ability to become any NPC, describe the environment, and shoot from the hip is what sets the great DMs apart from the rest.

Another valuable lesson I learned over the years is different personalities affect the ebb and flow of the game session. The one to be on the lookout for is akin to a jury foreman. They speak the most, are usually veteran gamers, and will play the session for everyone if permitted. As a fledgling DM, this personality may confound or exasperate you and the other players.

The best way to handle this situation is by establishing good DMing habits early. There will also be quiet or timid players at your table, or just less aggressive players then the jury foreman. It’s imperative to get into the habit of going around the table to ask everyone what their characters are doing. Don’t let the jury foreman speak out of turn, or rush other player’s decisions unnecessarily. Everyone deserves the spotlight, and it’s your job as the game referee to make sure that happens.

Foam dice make good stress balls...or objects to toss at players!The final thing I would like to offer some advice on is criticism. Over the years, I have gotten into the habit of asking everyone what they liked or disliked after a session. It’s a good idea to take the temperature of your group occasionally to make sure everyone is on the same page. For the most part after several decades now I have found this information invaluable. However, occasionally someone will feel the need to offer unproductive DMing advice. Interestingly, the source is usually someone who has never sat behind the DM screen in their life. Or alternatively, you can count on two hands the number of times they have.

Don’t let these experiences frustrate you into giving up Dungeon Mastering. I will tell you now it can be a thankless job, but you are very much needed to keep the hobby alive. Just look at any of the big game conventions for evidence of DM demand. Every year they are scrambling to find people to run games. Why? Because it’s much more work than just sitting down to play the game. As a DM, you are the coordinator, designer, production crew, and ALL the supporting characters.

If story and world building appeals to you, Dungeon Mastering is something you should try. The early stages of your DMing career will have some bumps in the road. But like anything in life, with a little perseverance the experience is very rewarding. Don’t let any of the potential issues I highlighted keep you from running a game session. Rather be on guard for them, have fun, and keep the hobby alive!

If you are a veteran player who reminisces about the days of old, why not take up the DM mantle? I love talking about games sessions from decades ago also. Old characters are like friends and we speak of their adventures with fondness. That said, there is plenty of time for new stories and your player experience make you perfect for Dungeon Mastering. Don’t just read about RPGs on social media, get involved again!

Also, if you are that veteran player attending a session with a new DM, take it easy on them. Don’t be a hindrance or take advantage of their lack of system savvy. If you truly want to have regular sessions to play, then being supportive is very important. This is especially true in the public game arena, where the RPG trolls sometimes crawl out from under their stones. Don’t let a troll sour a fledgling DM into potentially quitting the practice all together.

Dungeon Masters, we salute you! Thank you for running the game on behalf of the countless players out there. Remember relax, and don't sweat the small stuff. You will make make wrong decisions, blunder rulings, and misread your group occasionally. All that matters is that everyone had fun, because that is what this wonderful hobby is all about!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Free OSR Download For S4 "The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth" For Your Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 04/18/2017 - 16:02
So last night I was going through the Vaults of Pandius website for some research into one of my all time favorite modules S4 "The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth". Over the Easter holiday a fellow old school dungeon master clued me in on "Original Lost Caverns of Tsojconth - found in Karameikos? by Paleologos"  article. The basis of the article is very interesting to me, "The original version Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Some Thoughts on Gnomes for Swords & Wizardry Light

Tenkar's Tavern - Tue, 04/18/2017 - 14:56

It came up recently in a discussion online. You know the type.


Love them or hate them, there seems to be little middle ground, at least amongst those that discuss such things. Those that don't discuss such things literally couldn't care one way or the other ;)

Still, it got me to thinking about Gnomes in Swords & Wizardry Light. They've always seemed like an afterthought, somewhere between Dwarves and Elves in the "traditional fantasy RPG" evolutionary scale.

I like them, but in 1e they could be Illusionists, and Illusionist / Thieves rocked damn it! SWL doesn't have Illusionists, not does it allow multi-classing. Whatever shall we do?

I see them as particularly skilled in disarming (not necessarily finding) traps as well as opening locks. It just seems to be a gnomish thing to do, especially as they are often portrayed as a race that likes to tinker with mechanical (and sometimes Alchemical) arts. I'd go as far as give all gnomish characters, regardless of class, a 1 in 6 chance to disarm traps - which is a 5 in 6 chance of something going "bad". Which I also see as part of gnomish culture. Which bring me to...

An innate yet random magical ability - random in that the one time per day they wish to draw upon the ability, they must roll on a table much like a Wand of Wonder (you DO have an entry for the Crowdsourced Wand of Wonder, don't you? Prizes and everything). Might be good, might be bad, might just be awkward. It should still be entertaining.

Figure limit them to the Fighter and Thief classes, because really, who wants a gnomish cleric holding your health and life in their hands? As for magic-users, I don't see them having the focus.

Ah well, just thoughts at the moment. I'll refine these later ;)
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Some Commentary On The "Alpha Blue Rpg Campaign Manager" For Your Old School Sci Fi Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 04/18/2017 - 06:03
So Venger Satanis put together an  "Alpha Blue Campaign Manager"which basically let's you keep track of the sci fi elements of your Alpha Blue rpg sci fi references. This isn't that bad of a work sheet at all and in the words of the designer,"Specifically, I was imagining my sleazy sci-fi RPG Alpha Blue and how it's a mash-up of so many TV shows and movies.  It can be difficult to keep a Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Visit Cryptozoic Entertainment at 66th Philly Non-Sports Card Show

Cryptozoic - Tue, 04/18/2017 - 01:49

Who: Cryptozoic Entertainment + You
Where: Merchants Square Mall, Allentown, PA 18103
When: April 22-23, 2017
Why: Look at Cryptozoic’s new Trading Card products.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Torchlight - Cover Art Tease - Work in Progress - Craig Brasco

Tenkar's Tavern - Mon, 04/17/2017 - 21:29

+Craig Brasco sent me the latest "work in progress" of the cover art for Torchlight issue #1. I hope no one get's offended when I say "holy shit!" Alright, I need to write a short adventure to go along with this art. It screams for it. Or maybe I'm hearing the screams of the adventuring party. I'm not quite sure ;)

You can view some of Craig's portfolio here:
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

DC Deck-Building Game Multiverse Box Blog 2: A Convergence of Cards Both Old and New

Cryptozoic - Mon, 04/17/2017 - 17:29

The DC Deck-Building Game Multiverse Box is a fantastic place to store all of your cards from the DC Deck-Building Game and its expansions, as we explained a few weeks ago. While that alone would make it a great addition to your collection, we weren’t content to just stop there! The box comes with the exclusive Multiverse Crossover Pack, an expansion based on the epic DC “Convergence” comic book storyline.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

General Guidelines for The Tavern Community & What to Expect from Yours Truly

Tenkar's Tavern - Mon, 04/17/2017 - 17:11

As I'm getting inquiries of one sort or another multiple times a day via multiple email addresses and social media platforms, I thought I'd throw out some general guidelines and suggestions on what to ask, how to ask it and expectations you may have of me. In no particular order:

1 - Kickstarter - Please, do give me links and pitches to your RPG Kickstarter, especially if it is "Old School Gaming" in nature. I do tend to have a fondness for these. I may OR may not highlight it with a post. In the end, that is up to me. I make no guarantees and you shouldn't expect one.

1a - Kickstarter - I do not have an issue looking at pre-release Kickstarter pages if you are looking for feedback. I'll try to get to it in a timely fashion, but again, no guarantees.

2 - GoFundMe - as a general rule, you MAY get one post about your fundraiser. Do not ask for more than one. If you run serial GoFundMe's or the like, do not ask me to highlight any past the first. You MAY link them in the 2,000 Coppers community at G+ or the Tenkar's Tavern Facebook community yourself, but The Tavern is not the place for serial shakedowns of the OSR Community.

3 - Reviews - if my virtual review slush pile were physical, it would probably be two feet high. I literally make NO guarantees as to if and when a review will get posted at The Tavern. If someone wants to be a reviewer at The Tavern, let me know. Its an unpaid job and the articles will be using The Tavern's affiliate links, so really, you need to be a glutton for punishment if you want the job ;)

4 - Guest posters - I love them. I embrace them. I don't get many. Topics have to be "non-political" in nature and avoid attacking others. If you have a pitch, send it to me BEFORE sending me your article.

5 - Advice - I get direct inquiries asking for advice more times than you might expect. I am happy to give such, but remember, I am not an expert on ANYTHING. I have built my "Bully Pulpit" and it is nice, but my opinions and advice are not the be all and end all.

6 - "Investigative Reporting" - Note that I put that in quotation marks. There are certain topics / events / personalities / etc that strike me in a certain way and I find myself relying upon my experience gained in the last 12 years "on the job" supervising detectives and investigations. Can't always help myself - hobby and career do intersect at times, Now, just because you have found a topic / event / personality / etc something you might want to get the "investigative touch" does not mean I have any interest in it. By all means, send me your tips, but I investigate what I decide to investigate. As a general rule, I avoid politics and social justice - I'm not blowing you off when I don't follow up, I just don't have a desire to look into such.

7 - OSR Edition Wars - while I obviously have my system of choice, I embrace the whole of the OSR. Evangelize the systems you love but don't demonize the systems you don't. Unless its Pathfinder or 4e ;)

8 - Communications - as Dyson has told me repeatedly, I have too many email addresses. Well, add in G+, Hangouts, Slack, Facebook and Facebook Messenger and you have doubled the manners in which to contact me. If you don't get a response within 24 hours you may want to try a second method of communication. FB Messenger is infamous for not notifying my of initial requests to communicate.

9 - Comments - Just to note, I don't delete the comments of those that disagree with me, argue with me or even, God forbid, call me names. Hell, I hardly moderate the comments to posts at all, with the exception of deleting spammers. If you think I deleted or removed your comment without cause, reach out to me. There's about a 99% chance that you got mistakenly caught by Blogger's Spambot. If that's the case, I'll fix it. If I DID moderate your comment, I'll explain why.

The Tavern's Community is literally the reason I do what I do. Without each and every one of you, The Tavern would not be the success that it is. I post every day. In general, I post two or more times a day. It is time consuming but well worth it.

Thanks again to all of you!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

'Are You Not Entertained?' Commentary On An OSR Combination of DDA1 Arena of Thyatis & Chaosuim's Thieves World 1981 Box Set As Fodder For Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 04/17/2017 - 15:57
I got a chance to play catch up over the holiday with some very interesting old school dungeon masters whom I usually catch a beer or two with. We were talking about low level adventures & introducing sword & sorcery PC's into a higher level old school campaign setting without slaughtering them. There were some interesting discussions but one of the more interesting options that came up Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Deal of the Day - Starships & Spacemen 2e

Tenkar's Tavern - Mon, 04/17/2017 - 15:17

Looking for an OSR powered clone of Star Trek: The Original Series? Look no further - Starships & Spacemen Second Edition is today's Deal of the Day at RPGNow.

Normally $6.45 in PDF, for the next 24 hours Starships & Spacemen will be on sale for $3.87 - 40% off.
Boldly explore the galaxy in search of alien civilizations! You take the role of a Military Officer, Technical Officer, Science Officer, or Enlisted Man in the Galactic Confederation. Travel in a starship under your command, on missions of first contact, rescue, exploration, and more in a galaxy full of hostile aliens. Try to maintain the tenuous truce with the militaristic Zangid, and fight the Videni who may look like your Tauran allies, but do not adhere to a philosophy of peace and logic. Design alien humanoids with either "original series" or "next generation" sensibilites, or blend the two approaches! There are 100 forehead shapes that may be randomly rolled when a new alien race is encountered. This book contains:
Eight player races
Three main classes, with several subclasses
Rules for spaceships and exploration
many alien creatures
...and more!Remember, 5% of all purchases at RPGNow go to fund The Tavern. Tip your bartender ;)
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Guests for DInner

Ten Foot Pole - Mon, 04/17/2017 - 11:16

By Jon Aspeheim
Level 0-2

The ground collapsed and you fell into a cave, with no way of climbing up you have to find your way out through ancient catacombs. That would be bad enough even if the tunnels was not the home of demon worshiping cannibals, zombies and a mutated cat!

This short little ten page adventure has about eleven rooms of content on about five pages. It describes a small underground dungeon that is being used by a cannibal cult. It touches on some true gruesomeness that really brings home the evilness of the main villain. It’s also written in a mostly boring style that doesn’t really evoke the environment very well … at all. It’s pretty clear what the intent is, it just doesn’t get there.

While out in the woods, a sinkhole opens under you and you end up in a cavern, with no way back up. There’s a worked stone hallway leading out. Thus begins your adventure in to an Eli Roth movie. Walking around the complex you meet zombies, cultists, a prisoner, a demon statue with blood around its mouth, a pretty girl that’s been lobotomized, a villain that unfolds insectoid arms from his back, and a prisoner on a butcher table that’s had his arms and legs removed, having been eaten earlier.

You know, I’m a fan of showing instead of telling. If the adventure said “Lord Vazzo is evil” the players would hack him. A demon altar with blood on it? Ok, sure, he’s worshipping evil, but maybe it’s animal blood. They might let him off. Showing the players the girl he lobotomized and then showing them the prisoner they ate limbs off off, Cormac McCarthy-Road style, will REALLY cement Lord Vazzo’s sins in their psyche. This is an excellent, if gruesome, showing of evil instead of telling of evil. You don’t need to be gruesome, but it’s hard to argue that Lord Vazzo is evil after some encounters like this one has.

Vazzo is a non-standard villain, with insect legs that unfold from his back and a demon cat. Those touches are appreciated since they take what could otherwise be a boring old NPC evil bad guy and weird him up a bit. There’s also a prisoner to free and a demon state that you can pour blood in to the mouth of. Just enough to weird the place up a bit.

Unfortunately, the writing is not very strong. “Boring”, would be a better description, with only a few exceptions. The pool of water you fall in to at the start is “Really cold” and “very deep.” A table is described as being “a nice table.” Really, very, nice: these are not descriptive words. They are generic and don’t paint a good picture of the scene because of it. Ice cold. Bone chillingly cold, rattle your bones, bottomless, gleaming antique … these are all better descriptions than nice, very, and really … and I would continue to remind everyone that I SUCK at evocative descriptions.

While a scriptorium is “sparsely furnished with wooden benches and desks”, a good, terse description, others drone on and/or delve in to trivia useless to the room. “Some of the zombies Vazzo uses as patrolling guards are becoming too rotten and have left stinking trails in his library. He now keeps them locked up in here until he can decide what to do with them.” This tells us nothing except they are rotten, which could have been with a shorter and more evocative monster description. The descriptions are mostly boring, being medium-length descriptions that describe typical examples of a room of that type. Oh, look, a normal dining room. Noting the exceptions I mentioned, everything else is just flat and boring.

It does present some simple & short rules for Level-0 funnels for D&D, and a very small village description, four shops, with about one sentence each. A nice terse short village. A little short, but at least one of the descriptions has an interconnection to another shop. A couple of people in the dungeon have ties to the village; this should have been mentioned up higher so the party could encounter them before their horrifying reveal.

The two-page sample on DriveThrough will show you the very brief village and funnel rules, but unfortunately you don’t actually get a sample of the room encounter style.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Meet Mortzengersturm in pdf!

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 04/17/2017 - 11:00

The wait is over! Mortzengersturm, The Mad Manticore of the Prismatic Peak for 5e is out today on pdf. The adventure's got eight pregenerated characters (the one's I used in the convention game), about a dozen new(ish) monsters, and a center spread boardgame map!  The digital version contains some exclusive extras: Gus L's map of Yanth Country and a brief gazetteer, and a short excerpt from The Cloud Castle of Azurth.

Go get it!


Subscribe to Furiously Eclectic People aggregator - Tabletop Gaming Blogs