Tabletop Gaming Feeds

Operation Unfathomable

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 02/14/2018 - 12:15

By Jason Sholtis
Hydra Cooperative
Level 1-

BEHOLD!!! the Underworld in all its bewildering majesty as titanic Chaos godlings and their unsavory cults make genocidal war upon one another! EXPLOIT!!! a trail of dead horrors
supplied by the recent, doomed expedition of powerful heroes! SEIZE!!! eldritch artifacts and treasures far above your lowly station! PONDER!!! the mind-bending riddles and inscrutable anomalies of reality itself in an overwhelming cascade of cosmic secrets! THRILL!!!as you throw the gauntlet of your life into the smug face of the unknowable and embark upon this OPERATION UNFATHOMABLE!!!

I’m in LUV! mostly.

Unfair Advantage! Sholtis writes one of my favorite blogs, The Dungeon Dozen. It’s magnificently creative, when he’s not slacking off and not updating it. No pressure, Spudboy. Also, I tend to prefer the more simplistic & free-flowing forms of D&D, and this falls in to that genre.

This 110 page adventure contains 22 encounter areas in the cave world beneath your D&D game. Gonzo, fanciful, hyper-realistic, it is one of the most imaginative, and fun, things you will ever run. It also needs better use of bolding to call out important data and make the encounters more scanable, as well as a legible map. Still, it tends to marry the art to the writing to the layout in a way that very adventures do. IE: the art contributed rather than being filler. Easy to recommend.

The sorcorers-kings son has stolen the null rod from the Tower Impregnable and journeyed underground. The sole survivor of his expedition has returned mad, as has a guard group sent in. Guess what Level 1’s! You’re up!

What follows is a journey through the underdark unlike those seen before. This is firmly in the Weird side of the D&D spectrum, with little magical ren faire or pseudo-medieval to be found. I fucking love this shit. There’s little to no game balance present, it’s the brave little tailors vs The Strange. At heart, a pretty straightforward cave crawl looking for the pretext item, it shouts Come At Me Bro, at every turn, daring the party, over and over again, to engage. Enticing them. Luring them. Magnificent.

Fuck, back to facts. This was the results of a kickstarter, and started out in Knockspell Magazine #5. I reviewed that and loved it. The 22 rooms take up about 25 pages in the adventure, with about three rooms per page, except for the multi-room complexes, like temples. The appendices, taking up the last 25 or so pages, have the creatures and magic items, etc in them. The first fifty pages has a brief overview, the faction overview, and an extensive wandering encounter tables with monsters, strange stuff and so on.

The monsters are unique and magnificent. The magic items have a good mix of “normie” stuff, like potions of invisibility, and unique items. You even start out with some AND ITS NOT ODIOUS! I recall that giving each party member a random item was in vogue for awhile, as a manner in which to encourage creative play. The magic items given out here fit that mold, with a sword that can explode, Staff of the Magi style, offering up plenty of opportunities. The creatures and magic items are perfect, contributing to the overall weird vibe of the adventure and keeping the party on its toes. There’s no half efforts by just using book shit. This is the definition of the added value I’m looking for in an adventure.

I want to call out the art, specifically, also. I don’t usually do that. WIth very few exceptions I find that the art used in adventures are generally not evocative or inspiring. It’s filler. (And before the mob shows up, I’d like to note that I keep & display art while relegating almost all print material to PDF.) I don’t think art is generally used well. This is an exception. Almost every piece contributes directly to the evocative natures of the subject displayed. It helps bring the adventure alive by giving the DM even more inspiration than the printed word, which is what it should do.

Let’s talk NPC’s, including potential enemies encountered. From the pre-gens to the potential rival parties they come alive. The sullen guard sergeant sent with you to show you the way to the caves has already made funeral arrangements for himself. That’s fucking great. That’s a detail you can use. It makes me think he’s dressed in his finest, maybe has a coin in his mouth or has hired mourners. That’s what I’m looking for, detail that I can riff off of. This happens over and over again in this adventure. At one point there’s a terrified wooly neanderthal on a solo spirit quest. He asks questions like “What is good wooly neanderthal?” Perfection Personified.

The entrance to the caves is down a 1000’ ladder in a shaft. That’s a classic “entrance to the mythic underworld” right there. Fuck your 3e/4e/5e/Pathfinder set pieces, the parties gonna remember that ladder and climbing down it is going to set the tone and leave them scared shitless as they wander beyond. EXACTLY what its supposed to do.

Now that we’ve suitably inflated his ego, let’s talk about how Jason fucks up.

The map has a legibility issue. It’s got good terrain and level changes, lots of loops, and nice detail, but almost all of the text on it is impossible for me to read. I can read the numbers, but of all the text on the map, and there is a lot, I can only read “Start Here”, “Vault of Shaggath-Ka“and “Map of the Underworld.” Even if I take my glasses off and get close the text is fuzzy and hard to read. The PDF though DOES have the text hyperlinked, which is a nice touch.

The initial overview sections are organized well and use bolding to great effect to call out important details. It ALMOST disappears once the core of the adventure starts. It’s almost as if several different editors (or writers, whatever) were given different chunks and one person chose to highlight text with bolding while the others did not.

This is an issue because of … the text length. Jason can really get in to his descriptions, they are quite flavorful and easy to riff on, but at the cost of length. Length issues can be mitigated with organization and techniques like bolding. (IE: the highlighter.) The inconsistent nature of the bolding, mostly present in the (very sticky) summary and mostly absent wanderers/encounters, makes these sections more difficult to scan and run than I would be happy with.

Still, “Creative & hard to scan” is better than “boring and hard to scan” and “easy to scan but non -evocative.” I can fix it with a highlighter. I don’t WANT to have to fix it that’s the fucking writers/editors job, but I CAN. Well, I guess I could fix “boring” and “non-evocative” also, but then what the hell am I paying for in the first place?

This is $12 on DriveThru. The last couple of pages of the preview show you some of the weird “wandering stuff” you can encounter, and gives you a good idea of the writing style throughout the encounters.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Wednesday Comics: Valentine's Day

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 02/14/2018 - 12:00
Romance comics were a pretty big thing back in the day, and all the major publishers (including Marvel and DC) did them, but none of those have been collected, so far as I know--and they probably wouldn't appeal to the readers of my blog in any case. Here are a few comics with romance as an element that might.

Deadman: The Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love puts DC's disembodied former aerialist in a gothic mystery with a hit of romance.

Scott Pilgrim In Toronto, slacker Scott Pilgrim tries to date a cool girl, but first he has to defeat league of her evil exs. You've seen the movie, now read the comic that inspired it.

Sex Criminals Suzanne and Jon bond over an unusual trait they both share--their orgasms stop time! They decide to use this unusual ability to rob banks...

Wonder Woman: The Golden Age Vol. 1 Wonder Woman lives Paradise Island to bring love and peace to Man's World with her beau Steve Trevor. She seems to get into a lot of predicaments involving bondage.

The Horrors of WG4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun For Your Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 02/14/2018 - 08:52
A most bleak, mysterious, demonic, sinister, and gothic adventure just waiting for the PC's to stumble upon the horror of it! Deep within the complex of the Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth a hidden temple has been covered that might turn the tide of the Thirty Year War back into the Elven favor! An ancient, dangerous, and demonic horror worshipped by the Elves for millions of years might be Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Dan's Top 19 RPGs - #18 - Pendragon

19th Level - Wed, 02/14/2018 - 02:15

Today's game just barely meets the criteria of being a game I've played, having only played a few sessions - but I loved those sessions. King Arthur Pendragon, originally published by Chaosium (and kinda sorta having found its way back to Chaosium, the long way round).

Pendragon is a game about playing knights in legendary England, as seen through the legends of King Arthur. Its biggest influence is Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur. You typically build your character, assumed to be a knight, by first building his grandfather's and then father's history. The game itself is designed to follow your characters for decades - indeed it is expected your character will die in the course of play, either in battle or through old age. Every session is designed to advance your character a year. Finding a wife and getting an heir is therefore of prime importance for your character.

Pendragon uses a variant of the BRP system as seen in RuneQuest and Call of Cthulhu, though it uses d20s instead of percentile dice, though maintaining the roll-under mechanic of those games. It has a number of tweaks to support its style - for example characters have various traits and passions which influence the way they behave. For example, a lustful knight might have to make a check to stay faithful to his wife. A knight whose father was killed by Saxons might have to make a check to work with one. Combat in Pendragon is exceedingly brutal and healing is very, very slow - forget about resting over night, your character might take months to recover, months he does not have. And it is possible for a wounded character to get worse, not better.

The game also includes rules for maintaining your character's manor, courtship, childbirth, etc. It is a game fantastically faithful to its source material.

Like most Chaosium games, it has gone through many editions - and it's had a fair number of publishers. The 4th edition broke a little away from the laser focus on playing knights - it introduced rules for magic, non-knight characters, etc. Editions since then have gone back to a focus on knights.

Why haven't I played the game more? It's not quite meant for me. Truthfully, I'm not a huge fan of Arthurian legends. I like the story of King Arthur well enough, but despite multiple attempts, I've never been able to read Le Morte d'Arthur in its entirety. And it can be tough to find a group committed to a game of Pendragon - like I mentioned, I've only played it a little and I've never been able to do a full campaign. I'd love to adapt it some time - I've a hunch it'd make a great engine for A Song of Ice and Fire and I'm curious what the upcoming Paladin: Warriors of Charlemagne will bring, being based on Pendragon. I've also a hunch it'd make a great engine for a Viking RPG.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

On the Wizard

Hack & Slash - Tue, 02/13/2018 - 18:14
No Wizard is happy.

Imagine a doctor. Years of study. Chooses to become a proctologist. There's a reason. Yes, money, job security, comfort. Still, to devote so much time to assholes, looking at asses of mostly older men and women, thinking about what the health of a colon really means, nobody that has the opportunity to become a doctor would choose something like that if it didn't resonate with them at least a little.

So it is with wizards.

Whatever they are into, is not a topic of interest to most people. It's off-putting and strange. They didn't get to be so knowledgeable about such topics by wiling away their hours in idle pursuits. The study, social inexperience, and strange experiments and activities push them further apart from their fellow man. They wonder how much to care about the opinion of a person that can't even read.

You're a wizard
Magic never has the answer. Solitude, isolation, and the plain fact that magic is terrible for utility, why risk your very life toiling with such forces for such a meager payout? Magic leaves you destitute. Those with money or no future will seek tutelage from other powerful wizards, in exchange for either cash or servitude. Your habits of study and isolation leave you unclean—your spirit, hygiene, food even, are just annoying things that take you away from what matters.

And it does matter, when you finally bind the axial niffit from the dolorous realm to the resonant exoskeleton of the clockwork narix, allowing you to maneuver it under your control. You share your idea, only to be told the utility of such a thing is useless.

How do they not see the potential?

You have your awakenings, as all mortal creatures do. But revulsion and disgust on the face of the young man or woman you fancy, is it your stench? Unkempt hair? It doesn't matter. People speak in euphemisms. You are a 'magic-user'. You let go of the idea that you would spend hours, hours, every week engaged in such banal activities, just so other people found you palatable. What a waste! You have more important things to do.

The study of magic, is, at its core, based on a series of poor decisions. The energy for it comes from other creatures and other realms, filled with powers beyond the reach of men. Those willing to traffic in such knowledge often did not have better options. Unsuccessful sociopaths, power hungry criminals, those who would just as soon see you fail. These are your peers and sources of magical knowledge. Each as unseemly and untrustworthy as the next.

You start to realize what magic means. That people are really just harmonic wave reflections, made transparent by sacrifice of loric natodes. It is your will that you enforce upon the universe. Are people that do not even real? More and more you discover the limits, the forms and behavior that make up your so called "peers". They are revealed and controlled just as easily as a simple narix. Well, perhaps not a simple one, but. . .

If you're lucky, you have money, and can secure yourself a homestead and an apprentice far enough away from civilization for you not to be noticed. If not, you could find yourself a group of ner-do-wells and trade your services in hope of finding enough money. Allying with a group who's best plan was to sell everything they own; to roam around try to steal lost "treasure" from deadly monsters while hiding it from the government? You soon realize it wasn't the best plan. Like you, these people were poorly-suited for fitting in among civilized people. Except they didn't have intelligence to carry them. Assuming their poor judgement and ignorance doesn't get you killed, you put up with their abuse, because what does it matter what gnats say?

Finally, what's your success? Ultimate power and riches? Hardly. Now that magic's secrets are unfolding, you see the endless cost, and it becomes about tricks and techniques and resources to bear the weight of that cost. You see what you want, but just out of reach. Only another year or two of research. . . . If you're successful, you've created an isolated environment that allows you to actually do that research, and then just hope a bunch of armed and heavily armored thugs doesn't break into your home and murder you.

Finally, when magic gives you real power, when you've twisted and folded your very being that the cost for what you want is finally enough to bear. You look around and realize you are alone. Your path leaves you few friends and many enemies. You yourself have become old. You no longer recognize the land, the songs they sing are strange, and it feels as if you walk among a cardboard stage. Any who see you whisper and those that meet you recoil in fear.

You spend an age using your power to grant you all your lost desires. You form a demi-plane and within your dreams come true. Even you are intelligent enough to realize the base urges and simplistic ego structures that make up such a fantasy are empty and devoid of value. You live there for years after all the joy has fled.

Finally, assuming you avoid running to the unknown or other self-destructive behavior, you realize all that's left is your engagement with the mysteries of magic. All worldly concerns cease to be yours, your environment idiosyncratic, your only company, those few of your peers who have survived, but can't really be trusted. Your intermittent communications with them the only telluric enterprise that remains.

Eventually, you die while at work, as your body gives into the ravages of a life unbalanced.

This is the life of a wizard.
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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Kirkus Review on “Tharn, Dawn Warrior”

Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog - Tue, 02/13/2018 - 14:22

Via Spencer Hart, we have a rare look into how the fine folks at Kirkus Review react to classic red-blooded, all-American adventure fiction:

This is typical pulp magazine stuff in book form. It is a story of Cro-Magnon man, packed with violence, suspense, brutality, horror and incredible speed. It certainly keeps you reading. But plot, dialogue and characters show amazing disregard for even the little knowledge we have of prehistoric life. The author thinks nothing of introducing a sent of Roman palace and social life into the midst of this prehistoric jungle, or a twentieth century love motif like “”He could not help but compare that fine, healthy well-rounded figure with the pallid, artificial women of his acquaintance!”” But the major outrage of the book — and it is outrageous — is the positively lustful “”love interest””. If this is a book intended for young people, and the jacket suggests it is, then the numerous “”hot”” passages are utterly unsuitable. That is putting it mildly. This is certainly something new in juvenile writing and highly offensive. The author evidently thinks he is creating another Tarsan series, for he ends with a promise of more to come. I devoutly hope someone will stop him before an outraged public opinion steps in to bar the sale of such a book for the young.

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

PRESALE: Midnight Chupacabra Cryptkins Vinyl Figure (WonderCon Exclusive)

Cryptozoic - Tue, 02/13/2018 - 14:00

Now’s your chance to own the Midnight Chupacabra vinyl figure created exclusively for WonderCon 2018! This presale makes it possible for you to purchase this extremely limited version of Chupacabra now and pick it up at Cryptozoic’s Booth #1337 during WonderCon.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Do Dungeons & Dragons Players Hate Linear Adventures? Not When DMs Avoid Two Pitfalls

DM David - Tue, 02/13/2018 - 12:40

A linear adventure is written, or at least planned, so every play group follows the same plot thread, through the same scenes, to the same conclusion. In Dungeons & Dragons, linear dungeons set the pattern, with walls and doors that channel players along a single route. Without walls, a linear adventure only ever shows players one course of actions to a successful end.

At best, critics accuse linear adventures of robbing players of choices between scenes. At worst, critics say linear adventures require dungeon masters to abuse their power to shunt players along a railroad. Instead of steering the adventure, players follow a fixed story.

Despite the criticism, players don’t hate linear adventures as much as DMs think. We tend to judge harshly because we see the lack of options. But in a successful adventure, players never see the walls.

When the walls become plain, players may complain about a lack of freedom. Linear dungeons, with their obvious walls, always risk criticism. Adventures without walls can also flaunt a lack of options. Imagine an adventure where players follow a patron’s plan or a commander’s orders from scene to scene. Unless catastrophe upsets the plan—or assassins reach the commander—the adventure would feel scripted and less satisfying.

Linear adventures work best when success in each scene brings the clues that lead to the next scene. Then, for all the players know, a different choice in the scene or unseen clue could have spun events in a different direction. To players, each success leads to the clues needed to set a new objective. Players favor one choice over an overwhelming number of choices, and certainly over feeling stuck without a direction.

Make no mistake, players still like to face a few, clear choices. Linear adventures grow better when they include decision points that pose options. (Of course, such adventures no longer qualify as linear.)

For adventure creators, linear adventures bring advantages. They’re compact. Authors can devote their energy—and a published adventure’s pages—to developing content that reaches play. No DM with an ingenious dungeon room wants players to miss it.

The limits of a convention time slot makes linear adventures particularly common in programs like the D&D Adventurers League. Linear adventures can consistently fit in a convention time slot. Players in organized play tend to forgive the limits imposed by a 4-hour session, but some do complain when adventures reveal a lack of choices.

But organized-play adventures with more options draw complaints too.

Adventurers League administrator Claire Hoffman explains that when adventures offer more choices, some DMs gripe about prepping content that may not reach play.

Most DMs understand the value of extra prep, but some players fuss too. Those who enjoy the accomplishment of clearing a dungeon or of completing every quest feel frustrated when an adventure teases them with more options than they can explore. The Howling Void by Teos Abadia sets a brilliant example of a 4-hour adventure with a wealth of options. In an elemental node, Earth motes float like aerial islands. Players must choose which to visit. Teos explains that some players left the adventure disappointed because they could not explore every location. The adventure proved so fun that players wanted it all. Still, adventures shouldn’t cater to completists. Better to leave players wanting more.

Linear adventures may fall short of an ideal, but if they avoid flaunting their limits, players seldom mind. One exception bothers players. When the only choice suggests a style of game that players dislike, they will resist.

During these rebellions, the players telegraph what the want to do in the game. In a podcast, Mike “Sly Flourish” Shea explained, “If the king is speaking, and the barbarian charges him, maybe you ought to start the players in the dungeon.” Clearly players crave a fight. “I’ve seen it the other way too, where in my DM-head I’m thinking, now they’re going to fight 12 orcs, and the players are doing everything they can to negotiate with the orcs. ‘Just fight the orcs!’ But the players are telegraphing their desire to have an interaction.”

If your players dislike intrigue, and the next clue in a linear adventure suggests they infiltrate a masquerade, that’s when they rebel.

You can avoid such problems by setting up situations tailored to the style your players favor. If you know your players, such tailoring probably becomes natural. If not, then an ideal episode lets players choose styles. Let players enter the castle by infiltrating the masquerade, sneaking over the walls, or battling through a secret entrance into the dungeons below.

Players don’t hate linear adventures; players hate being driven into a style of game they dislike. Players who read gaming blogs may resist by accusing your adventure of railroading, but the rest will start a fight at the masquerade.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Hidden & Dangerous Corruption of S4 Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth By Gary Gygax For Your Old School Camaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 02/13/2018 - 08:12
"Find the perilous Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth and you may gain the hidden wealth of the long-dead arch-mage - if you live!" So the Thirty Years War has been raging across Europe, the gates of Fairyland have been flung open a few times & closed again by the machinations of a plethora of adventurers! The whole of the war has been taking on and out of circulation scores of adventurers by Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Cryptkins: They Do Exist!

Cryptozoic - Tue, 02/13/2018 - 04:05

Shipments have been arriving by the crate here at Cryptozoic Entertainment, and the entire office has been abuzz with excitement as we prepare to introduce Cryptkins to the world! Series 1 of Cryptkins will bring thirteen recognizable and menacingly adorable cryptid characters to life, including Chupacabra, Yeti, Bigfoot, Mothman, Cthulhu, and more!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Box Breaking 230: Pathfinder Battles Deadly Foes

Gamer Goggles - Tue, 02/13/2018 - 01:40

Matt Breaks open a brick of Deadly Foes. I must say I love miniatures. And the Pathfinder Battles miniatures are a great addition to any tabletop.

Click here to view the video on YouTube.

While I tend to try (key word there) and paint my minis I do like not having to paint everything all the time!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Cryptozoic Announces Release of Cryptkins Vinyl Figures and Launch of Cryptkins Channel on Quidd

Cryptozoic - Mon, 02/12/2018 - 22:00

Cryptozoic Entertainment today announced the March 15 release of CryptkinsTM vinyl figures and the immediate launch of the CryptkinsTM Channel on Quidd, the fast-growing platform for digital goods on iOS and Android. CryptkinsTM are Cryptozoic’s first original series of vinyl figures and are inspired by various creatures that have been the subject of folklore and tabloid headlines for decades. The CryptkinsTM Channel on Quidd will feature static and animated trading cards, stickers, and 3D figures based on both the initial 2.25-inch vinyl figures and future releases.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Greater than Games Announced Sentinels Freedom

Gamer Goggles - Mon, 02/12/2018 - 21:50

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASESt. Louis – February 7, 2018 – Greater Than Games today announced its collaboration with celebrated game design studio Underbite Games, based out of Grand Rapids, Michigan, to develop Sentinels of Freedom.

Sentinels of Freedom is a turn-based digital tactical game inspired by the upcoming Sentinel Comics: The Roleplaying Game, designed by Critical Hits studio in conjunction with Christopher Badell of Greater Than Games.

Prepare for a story-driven campaign (featuring writing from Sentinel Comics creator Christopher Badell and artist Adam Rebottaro) within the Sentinel Comics universe as you join forces with an ever-growing team of heroes to face a wide variety of villains. What seems like a typical bank heist reveals itself to be just the tip of a much more sinister plan! Create your hero, lead your team, and save the world!

Customize your Hero!
Choose the characters backstory, personality, power source, and archetype – each heavily impacting your final character. Heroes have “stances” that provide boosts to certain stats like enhanced dodging or even flight, along with powerful sets of abilities and can be fully customized to fit your playstyle.

Game Mechanics
Swapping stances between rounds allow you to prepare for upcoming challenges. As the game progresses, more abilities and stances will be unlocked. Heroes have special support actions and enemies can create formidable squads with even more powerful attacks and dynamic combos. The Vigilance and Support systems allow characters to react despite not being their turn. This could lead to hero trying to stay in cover or counter-attacking when an active enemy moves or performs an action.

What kind of hero will you be?

Key Features:

Create your Hero – choose backstory, archetype, powers, and appearance
Build your Team – select from the many available heroes and unlock more throughout
Character Personalities – heroes will have likes, dislikes, and preferences which influence the mission
Full story campaign – writers and creators from Sentinel Comics
Freeform movement – Turn-Based game that allows you to move anywhere
Squad dynamics – heroes or villains can work together for more powerful actions
Living Environments – multiple objectives, interactions and dangers
Learning AI – enemies will start to adjust to current tactics and also make long-term changes to strategy

Sentinels of Freedom will launch on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter Tuesday, April 3, 2018. The initial release is slated for Windows® and Mac OS®. Console releases will be announced at a later date.

Development Team

Cory Heald
Owner, Project Manager, Art and Design Support
Cory Heald has been working in the creative industry for over 20 years working with a variety of companies. Cory has done everything including 3D Modeling, UI\UX, animation, and game design. This wide range of experiences allows Cory to bring something new and exciting to all Underbite projects.

Levi Schneidewind
Lead Developer
Levi brings an incredible level of passion to game development. Leaving the office usually means just taking a break so he can continue his current tasks into the night. Beyond just working hard, Levi always looks for what “should be done” instead of “just getting it done”. With three titles under his belt and his awesome work ethics, Levi makes projects successful.

David Fritter
David has a humble and heads-down approach when developing and is constantly seeking new ways to improve projects at Underbite. David’s extensive background allows him to masterfully integrate different systems throughout the project.

Brian Olmstead
Lead Artist
Years of experience working on a huge variety of projects allow Brian to create fantastic art then develop a process others can use to reproduce the techniques. Brian is a workhorse from the start of the day till then end, headphones on and hunched over his Cintiq display.

Gab Schwall
One of our most versatile artists, Gab offers amazing art and a critical eye to concept art, UI\UX, and 3D modeling capabilities at Underbite.

Kevin Young
Speed and Quality define Kevin’s work.  Once a process is in place, he can crush deadlines while delivering spectacular results.

Cris Miles
Lead Designer\Technical Artist
From designing characters to combat mechanics, Cris excels at making the game not only work but making it unique. Everything Cris designs have a purpose and great thought behind why and how it should function. He brings a critical eye to every Underbite project.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Flip Through: Tomb of Annihillation

Gamer Goggles - Mon, 02/12/2018 - 21:49

In this Flip Through Matt Takes a look at Tomb of Annihilation for Dungeons and Dragons. Tomb of Annihilation has a story rooted and inspired by Tomb of Horrors.  I tried real hard not to spoil too much for you.

Click here to view the video on YouTube.

For me this book has been a trip down memory lane because Tomb of Horrors was one of my first gaming experiences

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Earthman Blues For Edgar Rice Burrough's Llana of Gathol For Your Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 02/12/2018 - 18:19
I got an email request for a bit of Warriors of the Red Planet action over the weekend from dungeon master Chris. Don't worry we'll return to the Lion & Dragon Thirty Years War action soon enough. So on Friday I dragged out some of my old Warriors of the Red Planet campaign notes & resources.  One of the campaigns that I miss is my Old Mars campaign setting & tonight I was going over one of myNeedles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Dumbest Generation

Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog - Mon, 02/12/2018 - 14:41

Watching the excitement surrounding Jordan Peterson’s common sense advice, I wonder sometimes how we could have gotten to this point.

Part of the answer to that is buried in the science fiction and fantasy paperbacks that were released in the sixties and seventies. But it’s also in the deep tracks that came out during the same period.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Beneath the Fallen Tower

Ten Foot Pole - Mon, 02/12/2018 - 12:19

By Denis McCarthy
Aegis Studios
S&W Light
Level ???

Fifty years ago, a magician known as Melchior the Despoiler, rumored to be consorting with dark forces near the town of Southfork was investigated by a troop of militia and a priest… all of who returned from his tower as undead attempting to slay their own families. They were defeated, and after a petition for aid, the Duke lent the village his trebuchet and his men leveled the mage’s tower. Shortly before this assault was mounted, Melchior’s apprentice Xander escaped with a few books, a wand and a magical blade. Now that Xander has died. His apprentice, Aurelia, together with her henchmen, have returned to find the master’s library. Unknown to them, goblins have been living in the ruins for 30 years…

This is a 26 page adventure describing a minimally keyed seventeen room dungeon. A healthy introduction to the region takes up the first twelve pages, which along with the single-column format explains the large page count for a minimally keyed product. There’s not really anything to it.

*) This doesn’t have a level listed. I’d guess level two or three. There are a decent numbers of monsters, including wolves and bugbears.

*) The wilderness map is hard to read. I like the charm of hand drawn maps, and would not want to raise the threshold of publishing by insisting on comp-drawn, but the maps HAVE to be legible. The wilderness map in this is barely so. The dungeon map is better, but I still struggle with some notations on the map.

*) Speaking of maps, the dungeon is a simple branching design. Turn right and its the older undead portion. Turn left and it’s the goblin portion. Exploratory Games, like S&W, tend to do better with Exploratory Dungeons, with loops and so on. “Quest maps” are simpler and more suitable for Quest Games. Yes, there’s crossover in the genres; don’t be an ass.

*) The dungeon is supposed to have four entrances, but they are not really noted. There are two stairs, and I think I can tell which is which from the text. I think also I thinkered out entrance three, from we.. Fuck if I can tell where entrance four is. More clarity in this area would have been appreciated.

*) Out in the wilderness the wanderers are sometimes doing something, which I appreciate as a cue to the DM in helping them run the encounter. There is basically one sentence describing things, like bandits acting as toll collectors, of a tinker with dubious goods to sell. This is about the minimum text that I would say “adds to the encounter.”

*) The dungeon is minimally keyed. “Guardroom – 3 goblins and 1 wolf” or “Goblin Quarters – 4 goblins” is generally the extent of the description. This does NOT meet my acceptable level of Value Add. Rolling on the random monster table from the 1e DMG does not qualify. At least have them doing something in the guardroom, or put a big bubbling boiling pot in the quarters.

This is $3 at DriveThru. The preview is seven pages. Near the end you can see the wilderness map I had issues with, as well as the wilderness wandering monsters, for better & worse.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Weird Revisited: The Wonderbuss

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 02/12/2018 - 12:00
This post originally appeared in February of 2011. It will show up in a couple more Weird Adventures posts after that...

Magical blunderbuss-type firearms were used by some wealthy Dwergen in their early conquest of the Strange New World. The weapons gave these sorcerously inept folk help against the shamans of the Natives and the thaumaturgists of rival Grand Lludd. Today, these antiques sometimes find their way into the hands of adventurers--in this world, and perhaps others.

Though they were manufactured in a variety of styles, they’re all muzzle-loading weapons with short, large caliber barrels and flared muzzles. They all can fire relatively normal projectiles of appropriate size (provided there is gun powder) , but their real power lies in specially designed spherical ammunition called “shells.” Interestingly, it appears likely that it was the prior existence of these magical shells which spurred the development of the gun, and not the other way around. No one knows who originally designed the shells, nor for what weapon.

Thaumaturgists (with alchemical aid) can manufacture new shells, but the process is tedious and expensive, so they tend to be rare. Sometimes, a supply is found in Ancient ruins or even other planes. The shells are classified by number, which denotes their effect. All shells of the same number historically tend to be of similar appearance, and modern manufacturers have kept with this tradition. Shells don’t not require gunpowder.

Magic Blunderbuss (Wonderbuss)
Dmg: 1d10 or special; Rof: 1/2 ; Range: 50’/100’/300’

Shells: (all spell references per the SRD)
#1: appears to be a lead ball, but too light for its apparently size. +1 weapon; Dmg. 1d12.  These are 80% of all shells found.
#2: brass-appearing. Casts two shadows, one distinct the other shimmering like heat-haze. Leaves a fiery streak when fired. 4d6 fire damage.
#3: appears to be a steel sphere etched with three 7-pointed stars. +2 to hit, 2d8 points of damage.  These are 5% of shells found.
#4: glass, containing a roiling green liquid. On a successful strike creates an Acid Fog as per spell.
#5: glass, faintly glowing and warm like the mantle of a lantern. Acts as the spell Sunburst, though it misfires on a roll of 1-2 on 1d6, and only does 1d10 damage.
#6: smoked glass. Faint moans can be heard within. Target’s soul is imprisoned on sucessful hit as per Magic Jar.
#7: silver and etched with glyphs which seem to shift when its not being watched. 1d10, deals double damage to lycanthropes, and extraplanar beings of evil. These are 5% of shells found.
#8: white, with the look of fine china, cool to the touch. Explodes for 5d6 damage in a 20 ft. radius.  Sleeping near (2 ft.) of one of these shells has a 75% chance of causing a ringing in the ears (leading to a penalty for rolls to detect things by hearing) lasting 1-4 days after removal of the shell from that distance.  Wrapping the shell in cloth will prevent this effect.
#9: appears as a flawless sphere of obsidian. Acts as a Sphere of Annihilation, though it can’t be moved, and exists only for 1 round before winking out.

Some scholars believe that more shell types are yet to be discovered.

Dan's Top 19 RPGs - #19 - D&D 4th Edition

19th Level - Mon, 02/12/2018 - 01:03

I gave a lot of thought as to whether to include the 4th edition of Dungeons & Dragons on my list. Of all the games on my list it's probably the one I have the most issues with. On the other hand, I really like a number of ideas that the designers of D&D 4e tried to do. They took some chances, broke a number of "sacred cows of D&D". Looking back, I think Wizards of the Coast would have been better off making D&D 4e a separate/non-D&D game. though I can understand not wanting to have products competing with each other.

What I really liked about D&D 4e was the way it gave all classes a bunch of interesting abilities - some usable at-will, some usable on a per-encounter basis, some usable daily. Characters had different roles which greatly influenced how they'd handle things in combat - some characters were great at slugging it out with multiple opponents, others dancing all over the battlefield. All the classes managed to feel interesting and have a good contribution to make.

As a Dungeon Master, I found games in D&D 4e extremely easy to prep, much easier than D&D 3.x games. D&D 4e introduced minions to D&D - 1 hp enemies, great for simulating the hordes of baddies often encountered in film and literature. These minions could be quite dangerous and could threaten high level characters, but they were designed to be fought in hordes. I loved the idea.

The implied "points of light" setting was also a nice touch. The idea was that some great empire/kingdom had fallen and their were elements of civilization survived, but they were isolated with dangerous wilds between them. It justified a lot of adventures.

That said, D&D 4e did have a number of issues. The first of which is something I've heard described as "the grind". Combat took an extremely long time to resolve. Usually, halfway through the battle the outcome would be clear but it would still take some time to play out. Second, the game relied on an ongoing series of Player Handbooks, DM Guides, and Monster Manuals. It felt as if you were purchasing downloadable content for a video game. Unlike some games with such a model, the game felt a bit incomplete as released.

Probably the largest issue with D&D 4e was how different it felt from what came before. It probably did change a bit too much.

Why am I listing it with all those issues? Probably because I did like a number of the things it did and tried to do. It was perhaps a misfire, but an interesting misfire.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Dan's Top 19 RPGs - Criteria

19th Level - Mon, 02/12/2018 - 00:41

I'm going to be launching a "Dan's Top 19 RPGs" series of posts. I was going to make it ten but with the name of this blog I couldn't help but go for nineteen. I'm hoping to get it done in about a month - it's been pretty hard keeping to a rigorous schedule the past several months, with family health matters and me getting close to completing my Master's degree while working.

This post will lay out some ground rules. The most important is I have to have played the game in question at least once, either as a player or as a GM. This will disqualify a lot of popular games - many of which I've used in some form - some of which I've used a lot of. I'll list them at the end of this post.

The other question is how I'll handle editions. If a game changes a lot between editions I will treat them as separate games. On the other hand, games that are refined from one edition to another will be treated as one game. For example, I'll be treating Call of Cthulhu as one game while there will be more than one D&D game on the list - moving from a 3.x D&D game to a 4e one would be doable but rather challenging.

I'm not going to be giving the games reviews, but rather I'll be giving my impressions of them - what I like about them, what frustrates me, etc. The ordering doesn't mean I dislike any of the games - I'd probably play any on the list and depending on mood I'd likely play a poorer ranked one over a better ranked one. And there's games not on the list I'd gladly play.

I do already have the list composed - I hope I'm not forgetting any that I should have included. When I wrap up I'll probably to a follow-up post of "oops, I should have included xyz..."

Closing, here is a list of games that would likely be on a "Dan's top games list", largely due to me not having played the game in question. For some I'm quite familiar with the game and have borrowed elements of it for other games but never actually played it.

  • Colonial Gothic
  • Firefly
  • Hero System (technically I have played it once but I don't fully grok it enough to feel comfortable listing it)
  • Marvel Heroic Roleplaying
  • Pathfinder
  • Savage Worlds
  • Star Trek (Modiphius)
  • Traveller
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs


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