Tabletop Gaming Feeds

What the Hell is Going On with the New Vampire Game? Pedophilia this Time?

Tenkar's Tavern - Tue, 06/20/2017 - 13:25

I'll be blunt - I haven't followed World of Darkness since the various first editions. So when this was brought to my attention by David Knighthawk from the GamersonGamers Youtube Channel I thought "no fucking way!"

Wow. Way.

Whatever drama Zak S. brought to White Wolf pales compared to these throwaway pedophilia pieces. You want bad publicity for RPGs? White Wolf has you covered.

Right. So, vampire kids "could be" 100s of years old. Or 5. Doesn't matter. Amelina is pedophile, pure and simple. You're meant to roleplay this character? In a campaign?

There is a line between edgy and sick. It isn't fine or thin. It isn't indistinct. Its pretty fucking solid.

Yes, its only a game. Maybe it should be marketed to pedophiles. I'm sure they are an ignored market.

But wait! Maybe its taken out of context. Nope. Its actually giving you context.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Challenging Your Players’ Skill Without Risking Frustration

DM David - Tue, 06/20/2017 - 11:15

The Zork II computer game from 1981 includes a locked door that you can open by solving a clever puzzle. The door has the old-fashioned sort of lock that lets you look through the keyhole and see the other side. Except here, the key is in the other side of the lock. You slide a mat under the door, and then poke the key out onto the mat. When you pull the mat back, you have the key.

Back when Dungeons & Dragons consisted of the original brown box, before skills, before rogues, before thieves, all the obstacles in the game invited that style of play. You overcame obstacles by immersing yourself in the game world, making decisions, and problem solving. See A Lack of Ability Checks Shaped How People Originally Played Dungeons & Dragons.

This style of play suffers from the same problem as the puzzle in Zork. When Zork II came out, I had only ever seen that sort of old-fashioned lock in my grandma’s house. And if you’ve never examined that kind of lock, the door puzzle simply leaves you stuck and frustrated.

In the old computer adventure games, when you became stuck and frustrated, you had to send money for a hint sheet, and then wait for it to arrive in the mail.

Fourth edition attempted to eliminate such frustration by emphasizing skill checks and skill challenges over concrete obstacles and over players’ problem solving skills. During this era, Dungeon magazine’s submission guidelines warned authors to create challenges for the characters, not the players. When every obstacle has a DC and multiple skills, then no one gets frustrated. If you find a locked door, you can pick the lock with Thievery, or break the door with Athletics.

No one gets frustrated, but no one feels engaged either. When the game only challenges character skill, the players never need to make meaningful decisions or engage the game world. They just look at their character sheet for the best applicable skill. This improves on playing guess-the-solution-I-thought-of with an inflexible DM, but the picking a skill and rolling is less fun than D&D can be.

The fourth-edition designers must have know this, but they emphasized selecting skills and rolling outcomes for a two reasons:

  • To add weight to the choices players make when they build characters. See The Pros and Cons of D&D’s Ability Checks.
  • To prevent inflexible DMs from hurting the game. Fourth-edition designer Stephen Radney-MacFarland wrote, “In the early days, DMs all too often felt compelled to demonstrate their cleverness and punish players for making ‘wrong’ choices—even a choice as simple and random as which passage to explore.”

Such inflexible, punitive DMs neared extinction decades ago. When Mike “Sly Flourish” Shea asked players to cite the traits of a good DM, flexible ranked first.

Dungeon masters can challenge players without risking player frustration, because DMs can allow creative solutions.

Have you ever noticed how the Tomb of Horrors makes the demi-lich only vulnerable to a short list of curiously-specific attacks?

The demi-lich Acererak’s skull can be harmed only as follows:

      • a forget spell will force the skull to sink down without taking a soul
      • a shatter spell thrown at it inflicts 10 h.p. of damage
      • a power word, kill pronounced from the an astral or ethereal magic-user will destroy it.
      • only a fighter with a vorpal blade, a ranger with a sword of sharpness +5, or a vorpal weapon, or a paladin with the like or even a +4 weapon can inflict damage on the skull
      • an exorcise spell will cause it to sink as a forget does
      • a dispel evil spell inflicts 5 h.p. of damage
      • a holy word pronounced against it will inflict 20 h.p. of damage
      • a thief slinging one of the large gems in the crypt will inflict 1 h.p. of damage per 10,00 g.p. of value, i.e. 1, 5,, or 10 h.p. of damage, but the gem is thereby shattered

A power word, kill does nothing, unless you happen to be ethereal or astral! How would anyone think of that? Also, the demi-lich is vulnerable to the destruction of very expensive gems. That messes with the players in the best(?) old-school tradition. Only someone immersed in that tradition would even consider the gem attack.

Once, I thought that this list exposed Gary Gygax as an inflexible DM working to punish players. After all, he devised the tomb to challenge—and frustrate—those “fans who boasted of having mighty PCs able to best any challenge offered by the AD&D game.”

Now, I see the list differently. I suspect Gary created Acererak with no vulnerabilities in mind, but as he ran the adventure, players invented attacks. If Gary judged them reasonable, he allowed them to work. When Gary wrote the adventure for publication, he listed the attacks he had allowed so far.

Gary Gygax had the wisdom to allow a creative solution. In the Foreword to Return to the Tomb of Horrors, Gary wrote, “In one tournament use of the setting, a team managed to triumph by using the crown and scepter found earlier as the ultimate tool against the demilich. As Acererak’s skull levitated, one PC set said crown firmly upon the bony pate; another tapped the regal adornment with the ‘wrong’ end of the scepter. Poof! Scratch one demilich, and give the tournament’s first place to the innovative team of players who thought of this novel solution. Russ Stambaugh, the DM for the group, was stunned. ‘Could that work?’ he asked. I shrugged, admitted I certainly hadn’t thought of it and that it was a stroke of genius that deserved a reward.

When I DM, I love to be surprised. One of the great joys of being a DM is crafting some trap or obstacle, leaving a couple ways to overcome it, and then watching as the players crack the problem with a third way. I’ve run campaigns for groups who proved so good at coming up with unexpected solutions, that I stopped worrying about planning any solutions. I just sat back and watched the players come of with something.

I have three bits of advice for refereeing game-world obstacles that demand player skill to overcome.

  • Watch the players for signs of frustration. Be prepared to let he characters uncover a new clue, or to just have something on the other side of that locked door come and open it.
  • It’s good to say yes, but avoid being too quick to accept implausible solutions. If a couple of players are deeply engaged in a predicament, and you allow any dumb idea to work, they just get annoyed. The last thing you want is a player arguing that something you allowed should fail.
  • Watch out for clever, repeatable ideas that break the game. I remember a player who regaled me with a story that he remembered fondly. His party defeated a dragon by enclosing it in a wall of force shaped like a giant fishbowl, complete with an opening on top too small for escape. Next, they created water above the opening, filling the fishbowl and drowning the dragon. I suspect that no version of Wall of Force ever actually allowed such shenanigans, but as a one-time trick, the stunt created a moment the players’ loved. I wonder what the DM decided to do when the players kept trying to repeat it. If you can use this trick on a dragon, the dungeon becomes your aquarium.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

1d20 Random Living Ships Table For The Old School Solar System And Your Home Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 06/20/2017 - 06:26
Out among the asteroids of the Old Solar system are ancient living relics not seen in a million years. Here are some living ships to bedevil and confound your players. " Man's conquest of the interplanetary gulfs has been fraught with many tragedies. Vessel after vessel, like venturous motes, disappeared in the infinite — and had not returned. Inevitably, for the most part, the lost Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Kickstarter - Far West - Far-gotten and Likely Never to Be

Tenkar's Tavern - Mon, 06/19/2017 - 23:00

On May 1st, Gareth updated on the Far West Kickstarter that he was dealing with "some serious family matters. I wanted to give you a light at the end of the tunnel, though -- the way things are looking right now, the obligations which are currently weighing on me will be resolved in the next couple of weeks.  At that point, I mean to get back on track and get this done and delivered."

That was seven weeks ago today. Nary a peep. I mean, sure he's been making convention and podcast appearances, but as far as his Kickstarter obligation goes? Nada

Well, i'm glad he has time to tweet:

If I recall correctly, Gareth stated in the past that tweeting doesn't take time away from his work on Far West. I believe him. You can take time away from work that you aren't doing.
Gee, just think, we are coming up on the 6th anniversary of the launch of the Far West Kickstarter.
Holy shit! Really six years! I wonder how many of those 28.6k tweets happened in those six years.
Its always good to know where you stand with a publisher as a customer. It was expensive but now I know...

#ConManKen - you are not alone :)
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Commentary On The Free OSR Resource Ben Ball's Hyperborean Encounter Tables! For The Astonishing Swordsmen of Hyperborea & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Rpg & Your Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 06/19/2017 - 16:59
I'm always looking for new resources for Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, its a sickness & illness with me. That pulpy edge that helps to define a game of AS&SH with monsters & the overall sword & sorcery weirdness of the game. Ben Ball is one of the prolific & solid writer/designer fans of the AS&SH line. He's come up with a dangerous set of encounter tables that I love Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

FBI Via FOIA Request Releases "Gygax Files" (Delta's D&D Hotspot Blog)

Tenkar's Tavern - Mon, 06/19/2017 - 14:07

I don't go to Delta's D&D Hotspot Blog often, but when I do - simply wow! Why did I go this morning? Because of a truly confusing and boring (pointless?) article on ENWorld about the history of the Fireball spell in D&D. Damn, so glad I looked at that boring article.

Delta has a nice breakdown of what's contained in the "Gygax Files" and boy, are they interesting. Yep, I am sure Lorraine was the unnamed supervisor doing the telling. Do yourself a favor and visit Delta for the write up.

I'll be visiting Delta more often it seems...

The screenshot above is from

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Against the Goblins

Ten Foot Pole - Mon, 06/19/2017 - 11:07

By Matt Kline
Creation’s Edge Games
Sword & Wizardry
Level 1-3

A foreboding dream of impossible foes; goblins with control over fire, disease, and death, leads to a tiny village on the edge of the wilderness threatened by three goblin tribes united by chaos and a legacy of hate.

This 65 page adventure has three goblin lairs near a village. There’s a terrible hook/pretext, and the writing is long and drawn out for what are, essentially, three standard goblin lairs. It rises slightly above generic by including a few extra features in a few rooms. Three lairs, two with 25+ rooms, stuffed full of goblins, means rough going for 1st levels and extended periods in the supplied village. The longer time in the village is refreshing, even if the three goblin lairs are a bit samey … just because it’s always goblins. As “generic first level goblin” adventures go it would be an uninspiring thing to fall back on … but I can’t get over the expansive writing that drags me down mentally as I try to imagine finding things while running the adventure. There are better choices.

The worst part of this thing is at the beginning and is something that can be safely ignored: the hook. You have a dream about fire and goblins and a certain village. You have it every night. If you ignore it you take damage … and eventually die from it. Look, I know there’s some give and take in hooks. We all pretend and compromise and find some pretext to want to take the DM’s shitty hook. But this kind of TERRIBLE advice on how to deal with people not biting is bad for adventure writing. Somewhere, someone is going to read this and think it’s an acceptable way to run a hook. Why the fuck this would be proffered as a solution is beyond me. “So, you don’t want to play D&D then?” would be better advice, as would pulling out a boardgame to play. I fucking hate this kind of shit. It’s not helpful for a new DM solving problems at the table and in facts hurts them. There’s no excuse for it. But, it’s easily ignored by most.

The intro and village take up the first seventeen pages, with most businesses getting a column or so of text. Given the amount of time the party will be healing, that’s not entirely inappropriate for a homebase, but I think it’s done all wrong. It focuses much more on trivia then on memorable bits. For example, some long-ish historical anecdote on how NPC Bob got his name/nickname. Long boring trivia, including most physical descriptions, don’t make folks memorable. The NPC’s need something to hang their personalities/peculiarities on. There’s a few side quests in the village, from killing rats (ug!) to wolves (ug!) to finding missing creates (ug!) Side quests are great, but something NOT hackneyed like rats in the basement. Further, the village has between one and THREE monster attacks night, from rats to wolves to zombies to bears and so on. More than a little excessive and would result in the town in a state of panic at that frequency. I think. Then entire village just comes off as generic, with the text expanded with boring trivia. There ARE a couple of investigatory bits, which can provide some assistance down the road. IF you find the goblins body then this other thing changes. Or IF you talk to the druid then she talk to the woodland creatures and you get a heads up on the goblin attack, and so on. It’s ALWAYS a good thing when the parties actions have consequences, especially when they see positive results.

The lairs are a small tower, some rate tunnels and a necromancer’s cave system, with the later two have 25-ish+ rooms in them. It’s mostly the usual stuff with guard rooms and so forth, with the text expanded upon with boring mundane details and and what the goblins usually do but not right now embedded history that is USELESS during a game. There are exceptions. A room with a dretch in a summoning circle, or a room with a pit in the middle. The latter, in particular is a good example of mixing up the terrain to make combat a bit more interesting. Chucking a goblin in a pit, or avoiding that fate, is great fun. A room described as having a table and chairs is boring mundane description if the room has nothing else in it. A room with tethering bookshelves described is potentially interesting combat terrain if combat happens there. The lairs are their best the bridges, ledges, pits, and summoning circles are in the rooms … things to make them more than just a room with five goblins … that takes a column of text to describe.

The random mundane treasure tables, and the few new magic items, are a delight and I would have liked to see those sorts of elements used more rather than the emphasis on the mundanity of the dungeon description and de rigueur text.

It’s $6 on DriveThru. The four page preview tells you almost nothing about the style of adventure you are buying, unfortunately. The last sentence of the last page, three, is fairly typical of the writing style throughout, with lots of detail about things probably don’t matter.–Wizardry-Adventure?term=against+the+goblins&test_epoch=0

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Strange Lights and Noxious Odors of Murk

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 06/19/2017 - 11:00
A Murkman, likely named Grundy
Murk is a marshy island of scrub and small stands of cypress, frequently shrouded in a malodorous, yellow-gray fog and inhabited by a dour people, aloof from the raucous society of Polychrome and the other inhabited Motley Isles. The people of the island may be one extended clan of pale and course-featured folk.

The Grundys (as they all seem to be named) are not of a piratical inclination, but instead harvest mussels and net fish that they trade with the Motley pirates for practical goods. They are also known for the product of  The disposition of the Grundys discourages visitors, though the ever-present miasma is likely more of a deterrent.

On some nights, variegated illuminations move through the fog, and its dullness is pierced by winking, dancing will-o’wisps. These lights are most prominent on nights of the new moon, when the sharp-eared also claim to hear strange music and other sounds of merriment emanating from the island.

Bill Webb Has Left the Country - Frogs Are Running Amok Sale - Deep Discounts!

Tenkar's Tavern - Mon, 06/19/2017 - 04:01

Yep, Bill, Krista and the tadpoles have left the country for a vacation abroad and they've left the other Frogs in charge of the company.

To put it plainly, Bill's loss is your gain.

There are TWO sales kicking off right now.

The first is a bundle: Monstrosities and 1975 for Swords & Wizardry for 10 bucks in PDF. I kid you not. Now, you need to go to the Swords & Wizardry Legion Facebook page to grab the coupon code that opens up the bundle pricing for you. If for some reason Facebook is your kryptonite, you can email Bad Mike at mikebadolatoATntrpgconDOTcom and tell him you want to join the Legion but Facebook is beyond your ken.

Monstrosities is my favorite monster book by far.  Each entry give you an adventure hook. One day I want to run a campaign using nothing but the hooks in Monstrosities and a little DM ingenuity.

1975 is simply an excellent old school adventure. I've run it twice to great success.

So, what is the other sale you might ask? Well, this is one that The Tavern CAN give you the code to open up your discount pricing:

The Slumbering Tsar is a massive PDF. Pricing on the PDF is normally 90 bucks but the following coupon code: IN-SANE-TSAR - will bring it down to 15 bucks. Yes, its Pathfinder only. Yes, I suspect I can convert this on the fly for Swords & Wizardry. Heck, at 15 bucks I'll sure give it a try :)

Endzeigeist has an in depth series of reviews of The Slumbering Tsar:
Conclusion for the whole Saga: Now, I had the time to digest the whole epic – and it’s better than the sum of its parts – tying everything neatly together sans artificial borders, adding player-maps,l getting rid of just about every glitch I complained about in above reviews, the final result is a milestone of the art of adventure-crafting and takes the word “epic” to a whole new level. Well worth every single buck spent for the module and #2 on my best-of of 2012-list, this epic tome is 5 stars+seal of approval and should stand on the shelf of just about any DM! If you haven’t yet, take a look at its 951 pages of glorious deadliness here.There you have it. Frogs run amok. Yes, I now swim in the Frog's pond but I make no commissions from these sales. They are simply damn good pricing for some awesome RPG products with that Old School Gamer sensibility.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

OSR Commentary & Review Of The 'Pay What You Want' Adventure HS3 Incursion of the Chain Devils For Your Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 06/19/2017 - 02:56
Three nights ago, strange lights and screams were heard from the local temple of Ishtar. Grotesque humanoids, wearing tattered clothes and wrapped with chains, emerged from the very walls, causing murder and mayhem within.Can the PCs save the temple of Ishtar from the incursion of the chain devils?I'm always on the look out for another Sword & Sorcery old school style title, so I began Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Call of Cthulhu Actual Play: The Haunted Landscape of Ka'tori

19th Level - Mon, 06/19/2017 - 02:33

Tuesday, June 15, 1920. Kingsport, Massachusetts

Evelyn Mercer, director of the Mercer Art Gallery had engaged the services of one of her occasional artists, Fredrik Tardiff, to solve a mystery in line with his experiences. Tardiff had been recovering from bouts with the supernatural - he'd returned from Greenland about a year ago after uncovering signs of the lost Hyperborean civilization. Spending the next six months pouring over the Book of Eibon he'd acquired was perhaps not the best idea for his mental well being but he had spent the past several months focused on mundane painting. Unfortunately, most of his former companions were unavailable - some having wisely retired from supernatural investigation, others taking advantage of Prohibition to pursue a life of mundane crime. He'd made the acquaintance of an antiquarian but he was apparently spending time abroad, currently in a yurt in Mongolia uncovering the history of an ancestor who had spent time living among the Khalkha. Grant Oil, Miskatonic Librarian by day and jazz player by night was available and he made a motorcycle ride to Arkham to pick him up.

Mrs. Mercer explained to Oil and Tardiff that industrialist Archibald Collins had acquired Paesaggio Sinistro di Ka'tori, "The Haunted Landscape of Ka'tori", painted by the mad Italian artist Timoteo Colasanti in 1503. Rebuffed by New York's Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art and Boston's Museum of Fine Art, he had chosen to show it at the Mercer Gallery.

The painted presented an alien landscape. Tragedy had befallen many of its owners, though the painting itself has miraculously survived all of these - the Great Fire of London, the wreck of the East Indiaman Doddington, the slave revolt at the Castairs Plantation in 1860.

And now Archibald Collins had vanished. And the painting... well the room in the gallery it was in was now filled by alien plant life which seemed to almost be a continuation of the plants in the painting. The pair examined it... It was as if a jungle had been in the gallery for years. A hostile jungle, as the vines snaked around Tardiff's throat though he was able to escape with Oil's help.

Archibald's wife, Rachel, explained that her husband had been obsessed with some manuscript he'd been studying at the Miskatonic University's Orne Library. Early yesterday morning he'd picked up some documents from their room but she hadn't seen him since they went to bed Sunday night - she recalled his actions slightly waking her from her slumber in the room they'd rented in the Harbor Place Hotel but she'd gone right back to sleep.

Traveling back to the Orne Library they found Collins had been researching the Colasanti Manuscript - having had a photostat of the brief document made of it. Moreover, it seemed he'd torn out the last page of it, one they could have used...

Manuscript of Timoteo Colasanti, circa 1503. Translated from Italian.
Night after night I dreamed of the realm of Ka’tori. A world like our own, but far more ancient and hiding great secrets of power. A world known to Eibon of old Hyperborea and Cykranosh. It is real, quite real. Pope Alexander VI, once Rodrigo de Borja, did all he could to prevent me from accessing the wisdom of Eibon so I could find lost Ka’tori. I have visited Ka’tori. Not just in my mind but in the flesh. I have used all my talents to make a painting so real that it can be used to visit Ka’tori. I have found an ancient tower of Eibon there – little more than ruins with the passage of aeons, but what I have learned from those ruins has given me power to dwarf that of the shepherd god of fat Rodrigo! On the second page of this manuscript I have drawn the chant required to make the passage depending on the position of the sun and the moon. But be warned – the chant will work and only one as powerful as I or Eibon should make this passage. I have used my fortune obtain the pigments detailed on the third page of this manuscript – if followed precisely any such painting will be nigh indestructible save for the solvent I have described on the fourth page.  I do not fear committing this to writing for only one who has dreamt of Ka’tori would know what to draw with the pigments. And only one as talented as I could give it the breath of life needed to bridge the ether between the worlds. Ulnagr Tsathoggua! Covfefe Yog-Sothoth! [No translation available]
With some work, Tardiff was able to translate the code that would open a passage to Ka'tori based on the solar and lunar positions. As the original charts were based on the Julian Calendar, it seemed possible that Collins may have neglected to account for that. In such a case, Tardiff believed the portal would still be opened but it would not close properly, occasionally opening for brief moments, explaining the strange plant life.

Returning to Kingsport early in the morning of the 16th, they found the plants were thankfully dormant in the cooler night air. Tardiff made the necessary chant and the painting turned into a portal, pulling them across the light years to Ka'tori. Both felt weak by the transition, Tardiff especially so.The portal on Ka'tori took the form of a stone archway. And no sooner had they arrived but they found themselves under attack by the plants. Oil readied his Great War rifle but did not need to use it - they were rescued by an elderly man and two younger men, all armed with torches. It turned out that the elderly man went by the name of Scipio and had been a slave in the Castairs Plantation back in 1860 - and had been a ringleader in the revolt. Most of the slaves had survived and had settled here on Ka'tori where the few remaining lived with their descendants.

Scipio explained they had no desire to return to Earth but they would gladly give information to stop the white devil who had recently arrived from Earth. Collins had slain one of their number and rose up his corpse as a type of zombie.

Oil and Tardiff made their way to Eibon's ruined observatory, little more than a ruined pile of rubble. Veterans of the Great War, they were able to approach stealthily, avoiding the zombie sentry (Tardiff with help from Oil). They heard Collins arguing with himself - enraged there were no tomes to be found here - apparently Colasanti had taken them all back to Earth. They worked there way into the observatory to confront Collins who was indeed now mad. Reason not working, Tardiff attempted to grapple him before he could get off any of his vile sorcery. Unfortunately Collins drained much of the life out of Tardiff, nearly killing him. Oil shot Collins in the head with his rifle, a shot that barely penetrated his magical protection. Before Collins could recover from the headshot Oil killed him with his bayonet and gave first aid to Tardiff. They found the final page of the manuscript on Collins' person and were able to gather the necessary materials to destroy the painting. Though sickened and weak, Tardiff was able to make it back to the portal with Oil's help.

Casting the portal spell again, they traveled back to Earth, another harrowing journey which nearly killed the weakened Tardiff. They used the solvents they had gathered to destroy the painting, cutting off the connection to Ka'tori. They explained to Mrs. Mercer and Mrs. Collins that regretfully Mr. Collins had expired and there was nothing they could have done to save him.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Kickstarter - Dungeon of Doom: Handcrafted Game Terrain by Dwarven Forge

Tenkar's Tavern - Mon, 06/19/2017 - 01:13

Yep, Stefan is giving us another Dwarvenite Kickstarter: Dungeon of Doom.

To be honest, this appears to be the one to back if you haven't backed his previous Kickstarters as it goes back to the classic dungeon. Yep, it looks amazing.

Guess what? Its raised over $1.1 million (goal was $100k) and has 23 days to go. Stretch goals galore to be sure.

I may not be backing on this one only because I have nowhere to store more Dwarvenite! Bad Barkeep! Bad!

BTW, watch the video. Stefan may be a ham, but he is a skilled ham ;)

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

And Mauvolg Makes Three...

3d6 Traps & Thieves - Sun, 06/18/2017 - 22:29
Another six months have passed and the third volume of the five-book Avremier 0e set is due to go to press very soon. I will confess, this was a tough one. Still need to finish the cover art.

Mauvolg has never officially existed in the setting, until very recently. For many years, it was quite a different place on the developing map. It even went through a phase as the cliched "evil empire." Wacky times.

Now, Mauvolg is the "second human domain." The land that suffered a great disaster and fell into the ground. Now, the place is mostly at the bottom of a really big hole. Mauvolg is a kind of eastern-flavored place - inspired by many different cultures and legends...adjusted and re-skinned to suit the Avremier vision. A place of floating halfling villages and huge riding birds.

Following the original homage-driven design aesthetic of the project, this volume showcases the druid and monk classes. Mauvolg is much less of a "western civilization" than Dhavon (the previous volume of the series).

Mauvolg was tough because so much of it needed to be written out. Very little of the content for this supplement existed in a format intended for the use of others. It is not a region I've been using much in my own games. To even my own players, most of this stuff is going to be new. That means it hasn't really been playtested. THE HORROR!

So, I shall let others judge the merits and flaws of the supplement at the end of the month. When it finally goes to press. When people other than myself get to see it all for the first time. Mauvolg is going to be different. Probably not as different as the non-human lands to come...but, definitely a contrast to Dhavon. Here's hoping I can pull it off.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Free Commercial Stock Photos - Pexels

Tenkar's Tavern - Sun, 06/18/2017 - 17:11
If you create adventures or gaming material, for your home group or as a self publisher, you need to bookmark Pexels.

Free to use commercial stock photos.

I can see this tree representing The Weep in The Misplaced Lands.

I WILL find a use for this cave.

 and this...

oh my!

Ht tip to +Keith J Davies
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Fiction Review: Thirteen Reasons Why

19th Level - Sun, 06/18/2017 - 15:11

This is a little out of scope for my blog but I'm aware a number of my readers are the same age as me - somewhere in their forties or fifties with adolescent children. This is a review of Jay Asher's novel which is the basis for the Netflix series of the same name.

Thirteen Reasons Why is the story of Hannah Baker, a high school student who committed suicide. She left behind a set of thirteen audio tapes, explaining why she killed herself and the people who contributed to that. She claims the recipients are being watched and if they don't listen and pass them on the tapes will be released publicly. The novel follows the most recent recipient Clay Jensen, who does not understand why he is considered part of the reason she killed herself, as he cared about her though was never as close to her as he wanted to be.

Hannah feels trapped and betrayed. She has the reputation of a slut, despite having only gone so far as to kiss a few boys and nothing more. She feels betrayed in friendships, was the victim of a peeping tom, witnessed a rape, and various other dark moments which the tapes detail.

The novel and the series have generated a fair amount of controversy, being accused of glamorizing a suicide. I've mixed views on this. I do not like the near-supernatural power she seems to exude in death, able to force these people to listen to her tapes and pass them on. On the other hand, it also shows some very realistic reactions to the event. Clay is crushed - not only is he crushed, he is angry, as he would have been there for her had she let him. They made out at a party shortly before her death but she then pulled away from him, for reasons he could not understand.

As an adult, it seems easy to view Hannah's suicide as extreme. She won't be in high school forever, she does have people who care about her. Though it's decades away, I still remember high school well enough to remember how it is very much your entire world and the thought of life after it seem foreign. Moreover, it is very likely she's suffering from depression and would have benefited greatly from therapy. She never does pursue therapy, though she does make one attempt to get help from a guidance counselor, though it is a last-ditch effort, after she has largely made up her mind - essentially, unless he can fix everything in a single conversation she is committed to ending her life.

Should parents allow their kids to read this (and watch the series, of which I've seen enough episodes to know that while not identical, they are very similar)? It's a tough call. My own kids had begun watching the show on Netflix before I was aware of it and while I generally give them a wide latitude in their reading and viewing, I'd've been hesitant about this one - especially with one of my kids suffering from depression and having had instances of suicidal ideation. I spoke about it with her therapist who wasn't a big fan of the show but felt that forbidding it would turn it into a "forbidden fruit" and instead encouraged me to also watch and/or read it so I could discuss it with my kids. I have completed reading the book and have been working my way through the Netflix series.

And I think that's where the critical point is - adolescents at risk for suicide absolutely should not watch the series in isolation. However, suicide is a real and large problem and it does provide a starting point for conversations. We've talked about what other options Hannah had, we've questioned whether she really gets closure from the events which hurt her by killing herself and releasing the tapes. From that perspective, it is a useful tool. And I'm very pleased with how damn angry it showed Clay - he was sad, but he was also pissed at Hannah as he absolutely would have been there for her.

While I'm not against physician-assisted suicide in the case of fatal and painful diseases, suicide is often a part of a mental illness, and in such cases it is the mental illness that should be treated.

National Suicide Prevention HotlineCall 1-800-273-8255Chat
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

I Call Upon the Great Gazoo!

Sorcerer's Skull - Sun, 06/18/2017 - 14:00
A lot of people don't like the Cleric class and its "my god gives me cool powers." Certainly, that sort of heavy divine involvement doesn't fit all settings, nor does the idea of granting the powers rather ran just performing miracles.

Another option would be the "personal genie" or guardian angel type character common to genre media. Jeannie and Shazzan are examples of this type, but I'm thinking more the smaller, invisible to most imp-type like the Great Gazoo, or in a less helpful mode, the impish would be side kicks of comic book heroes like Bat-Mite or Qwsp.

So when a cleric used a "spell" this would be this spirit/being doing stuff at their request. Why they would have such specific and limited interventions could be explained by them being "in training" or maybe just getting used to the Prime Material Plane.

(You might think this fits even better with the 5e Warlock and their Patrons, and I suppose it could, but their spells seem even less a fit than the clerics for this sort of setup.)

In media, this sort of thing is typically portrayed humorously, but it doesn't have to be. If you did portray it humorously, though, not having other characters be sure of whether the tutelary spirit actually exists or whether the PC is crazy might be amusing.

Swords & Wizardry Light Setting - The Misplaced Lands - Part 1

Tenkar's Tavern - Sun, 06/18/2017 - 04:07
Click to enlarge
I worked on this map last summer and then put it aside as Swords & Wizardry Light took on a life of its own. I am revisiting it now. There is no set scale. Scale can be set by determining the number of days to travel from the Imperial City of Azak-Nur to New Velgare to the east. Two days on foot makes for a fairly tight sandbox, ten days on foot makes for a fairly spacious sandbox. I'd opt for two to three days myself.

Descriptions of locations will often be light and open to interpretation. This is as intended. The Misplaced Lands are meant to be fleshed out as need as the campaign progresses, and no two campaigns in The Misplaced Lands will ever be the same.

Imperial City of Azak-Nur - Azak-Nur has all the trappings of a city belonging to a large empire - a small but well disciplined army, a large and powerful class of nobles, political machinations, a strong ruler in its imperial governor and a love of the arts. The furthest  eastern outpost of an empire that spans (or spanned) thousands of miles, few know there hasn't been contact with the empire itself in nearly 20 years. It is effectively a self governing state. It thrives on trade from the sea, the river and caravans.

Azak-Nur claims ownership of lands as follows - west, two days ride, north, midway to Lord Cyril's Keep and east to the western shores of the Chames Lake and the two miles east of the Lower Serpent River.

The Governor's Bridge is a large structure, made of stone and wide enough for two carts to pass in either direction without issue. It was built by and is maintained by the Imperial City of Azak-Nur. The toll is 1 copper on foot, 2 coppers for a horse and rider, 5 coppers for a cart and driver. Tolls are only paid to enter the city.

Miller's Hamlet may or not be directly within lands claimed by the Imperial City of Azak-Nur but for all intents and purposes it is an extension of the Imperial City. It just happens to be the corrupt extension. Smuggling, counterfeiting of coins and goods, strange cults, conspiracies and more are part and parcel of daily life in Miller's Hamlet. It is also the source of much of the Imperial City's milled grain (the surrounding land is fertile and well tended), as such little is done that may upset the delicate balance within the hamlet.

The Copper Hills are exactly that, at least to a point. There are active copper mines (and many abandoned mines) in the hills. Dwarves own and run most of the mines although goblins and others have been known to try an eek out a living mining tunnels the dwarves have abandoned. There is an active silver mine near the ruins of Old Velgare which is under heavy guard. There are also a some cairns scattered around the hills. Usually avoided, they are rumored to be both haunted and mark burial chambers of an ancient race.

Old Velgare - This city on the shore lies in ruins. When Velgare was a Kingdom, this was the seat of its government. It ruled lands west to the Lower Serpent River, followed the lakes and river's southern shores then west to what is now Last Son's Harbor. The war with the Empire (as represented now by the Imperial City of Azak-Nur) did not go well for either side. Thousands died, the city was leveled and the Empire fell back to the west side of the Serpent River. Much of the undercity is still intact and it is believed that fell creatures have started to inhabit the passageways.

Alright - part 2 will kick off with New Velgare, The Prism Tower and The Battle of Durbain's Folly.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

NUTS - Squad Leader Battle Report

Two Hour Wargames - Sat, 06/17/2017 - 21:02
NUTS Squad Leader? What the heck is that? More on that later, right now, here's a Bat Rep using those rules.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Expanding The Campaign Frontier With B10 Night's Dark Terror by Jim Bambra, Graeme Morris, and Phil Gallagher For Your Old School Sword & Sorcery Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Sat, 06/17/2017 - 16:27
Barely one day's march from Kelven, the uncharted tracts of the Dymrak forest conceal horrors enough to freeze the blood of civilized folk. Those who have ventured there tell how death comes quick to the unwary - for the woods at night are far worse than any dungeon. But you are adventurers, veterans of many battles, and the call of the will is strong. Will you answer the call, or Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs


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