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Free - GM's Monthly Miscellany: August 2017 (Raging Swan Press)

Tenkar's Tavern - Mon, 08/07/2017 - 15:32

GM's Monthly Miscellany: August 2017 - Nominally for Pathfinder, most of this release fits perfectly in any OSR campaign as much is system neutral.
Featuring material from some of Raging Swan Press’s newest products as well as classic releases of yesteryear, advice articles and material from Creighton’s on-going design of the megadungeon Gloamhold, the GM’s Monthly Miscellany series is a terrific free resource for the busy, time-crunched GM. This month’s issue features: 10 Ogres with Personality (System Neutral)
Needlebriar At A Glance (from Village Backdrop: Needlebriar) (Mostly System Neutral)
Oleander’s Sanctuary at a Glance (from Places of Power: Oleander’s Sanctuary) (Mostly System Neutral)
Goblin Crunch (from 100% Crunch: Goblins) (Skip)
3 Things Not to Include in Your Dungeon Design (System Neutral)The price is right - FREE!

Remember, purchases made via The Tavern's RPGNow Affiliate links help support The Tavern. Sure, this is free, but maybe you'l buy something with it. Just keeping you informed :)
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs


Gamer Goggles - Mon, 08/07/2017 - 15:13


Paizo Announces Line-up of Events for an Historic Gen Con
REDMOND, WA (August 7, 2017): Nearly a decade after Paizo Inc. released the award-winning Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, the countdown is now on to celebrate the release of the company’s newest game, the epic science-fantasy Starfinder RPG, set in the far-future of the world of Pathfinder.  Along with the release of Starfinder’s Core Rulebook and first Adventure Path, Dead Suns, at Gen Con (August 17 – 20, Indianapolis), Paizo will host a line-up of gaming events and activities for any Pathfinder or Starfinder fan attending the show.

Players can travel to the stars or explore Golarion with 24-hour gaming in the Sagamore Ballroom, including the now-legendary 1200-player Pathfinder Specials. Other events in the Sagamore include Pathfinder Society Adventure Card Guild Open Tournament, a new multi-table interactive Pathfinder Society Scenario, new quests, a pre-generated character special and three scenarios for Starfinder Society. Participants will receive collectible buttons, while supplies last.

Join members of Team Paizo and the Pathfinder and Starfinder creative teams in the Paizo seminar room for rules discussions, adventure path previews, and more, including:

Thursday, 2:00pm
Starfinder Adventure Path Q&A with Developers Rob McCreary and Jason Keeley

Friday, 12:00pm
Starfinder Rules Q&A with Creative Director James Sutter and Lead Designer Owen KC Stephens

Saturday, 3:00pm
Paizo 2017 and Beyond with CEO Lisa Stevens, Publisher Erik Mona, and Pathfinder Lead Designer Jason Bulmahn

Members of Team Paizo will be on hand to meet attendees throughout all four days of the show in the Paizo booth (#103) and hand out new collectible buttons each day. Attendees who shop in Paizo’s booth and spend $50 or more will receive a promotional Blue Knight mini, while supplies last.

About Paizo Inc.
Paizo Inc. is publisher of the award-winning Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, Pathfinder Tales novels, as well as board games and accessories. The Pathfinder world, in which players take on the role of brave adventurers fighting to survive in a world beset by magic and evil, is currently translated into eight languages, and has been licensed for comic book series, graphic novels, toys, and apparel. is also a leading online hobby retail store, offering tens of thousands of products from a variety of publishers to customers all over the world.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

These Violent Delights

Ten Foot Pole - Mon, 08/07/2017 - 11:17

By Darvin Martin
The Design Mechanism
Levels 1-2

When the son of an elven noblewoman goes missing, the characters are recruited by the Lady Nuathyn to find him, leading the party from the town of Gramby and into the mysteries of Grune Vel Wood. Is everything as it seems? And how will the characters cope with the moral choices ahead…

This 36 page adventure features a fourteen room dungeon after a small wilderness section. A son is missing and the party hired to find him, only to be faced with a “moral” decision at the end. It has some decently interactive room details but also goes in to to much history and backstory, leading to ¾ column rooms with long paragraphs full of meaningless trivia.

The sins are many, but let’s cover the decent parts first. Imagine the DM saying “the room has a mural on the wall.” What is it, you ask? “A mythic figure, king of the forest, Daren O’Reily, holding the sun in his left hand.” Anything else? You look closer? “The sun is covered in soot.” Something close to this is, I think, a great way to cover room secrets. The DM is providing hints and players picking up on it ask some follow ups and the secret is revealed: placing a fire up against the sun opens a secret door in the wall. This adventure doesn’t lead you to that interaction, that’s up to the DM, but it does provide the environment, in many rooms, that an interaction like this can take place … even if it take four fucking paragraphs to get to it. Secret doors outlined in fire if the players fill a channel with oil; it smells faintly of it. Swirling clouds of dust in rooms, or strange whistling sounds with normal explanations. I’m fond of this sort of secret, and have been since those holes in the wall in the DMG dungeon had bits of wood in them. This adventure provides that in several of the rooms. It’s an exploratory and interactive style of D&D.

There’s another nice social interaction encounter in the adventure which I think is a pretty good way to handle social rolls. While asking questions around town you could fail your roll. This doesn’t mean you don’t get information, but rather SOMETHING HAPPENS. This isn’t a “you get no information” fail, or a “not very good information” fail, but rather a fail that leads to more adventure. In this case, a drunk berserker trades blows with you. Then, if you do well against her, you might be able to recruit her! A die roll doesn’t lead to a boring fail/miss, but rather is used as springboard to MORE. More adventure. More complications … and not necessarily bad!

There’s also about a column of text in the beginning that outlines the NPC as well as the key points and timeline of the adventure. It tells you almost nothing interesting or important about the adventure, but I appreciate the style and I think bullet point style is a great way to present summary information to the DM.

And on the negative side: this adventure should be at least half as many pages as it is, and probably shorter than that. It is FULL of trivia. History. Backstory. Useless words. “The fireplace has ashes and the remains of charred wood it but nothing of interest.”


How about the price of tea in China? That has as much business as being in this adventure as does the empty fireplace description. How about some backstory about a wizard who tried to take over the dungeon and fell in love with a dryad and created some undead to guard some of the rooms? All so you can justify having a couple of skeletons in the fucking dungeon. YOU DONT NEED TO EXPLAIN THIS SHIT. Maybe it happened that way. Maybe the dryad created them. Maybe not. But it’s ONLY fucking relevant if its actually fucking relevant to something that’s going to happen in the adventure. If there’s no way for the players to exploit it, or it doesn’t add to the evocative nature of the description, then leave it the FUCK out! All you are doing is clogging up the fucking text and making it harder to find the information that IS relevant.

Bad read aloud introduction to the town that’s boring & generic. A page and a half meet & greet to get your assignment that falls in to the “exact dialog” trap, telling us our hostess wipes her wipes with a silk handkerchief and says “Thanks you for honoring my summons …” Ahhh, go fuck yourself. That’s the way YOU ran the intro. Your job, as the designer, is to provide the DM enough information to run it, hopefully in an evocative manner, in the shortest way possible. Maybe they will run it the way you did. Maybe not. Make a roll to find the secret grover so you can continue the adventure. Make a roll to find the secret door so the adventure can continue. These are terrible terrible design decisions, not to mention the traces of morality preaching. Leave the bear cubs you find to die in the forest or take them to town to sell? Well, I mean, not if you’re lawful or good, sez the dungeon. I guess logging is officially evil now also? Room dimensions in room descriptions, the list goes on and on.

The big morality play at the end is that the missing son is in love with a dryad, when you track them both down together at the end. Then some half-orcs, hired by the elf noblewoman, show up to kill the dryad. Do you help your explorers retainers, the half-orcs, or the lovers?

This is $3.75 at DriveThru. The preview is the first four pages. It doesn’t really show you anything other than the bullet point summary … which, while a good idea, doesn’t summarize the CORRECT things.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Now in Color

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 08/07/2017 - 11:00
I've been working on coloring the pregen portraits from Mortzengersturm, mostly to practice for coloring things for the Azurth Adventures Digest, but also just the have them in color. Jeff Call (the original artist) has not seen or approved my coloring job on his images, so blame me!

Here's Minmaximus the Mighty:

And here's Astra, Princess of the Star Folk:

1d6 Random Ancient Minor Weapons of War Table For Your Sword & Sorcery Adventures & Your Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 08/07/2017 - 05:47
Photo by Pleple2000 There are relics without past, present, or future that can wreck swaths of violence & horror. Things from the time of legend & mythology. They come from many places, eras, & are found buried with the Ancients. They come from a time beyond recorded time itself. They are the weapons of the gods, kings, royals, & warriors of extraordinary aspect. These are Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

#RPGaDay Day 7 - Most Impactful Session

19th Level - Mon, 08/07/2017 - 03:25

I'm going to be a little loose with my definition of impactful. I've made some friendships in games that are older than my kids, and that's certainly impactful. Though friendships grow and diminish over time typically.

Probably for me though was when a bunch of us got together in the apartment my wife and I used to live in in the late 1990s. It was me, her, and two of her co-workers, gathered together to play Star Trek by Last Unicorn Games. Though I'd gamed off and on throughout the 1990s with family and friends, I hadn't had a regular gaming group since the 1980s. That game kicked off a series of campaigns that has had me playing pretty much constantly, albeit with hiatuses here and there, since then. The members of the group have changed and it's transitioned to a pure virtual group, but I've been fortunate to have regular gaming since that point.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

#RPGaDay 2017 Day 6 - I Can Game Every Day For a Week - What Would I Do?

19th Level - Mon, 08/07/2017 - 03:12

At the risk of sounding blasphemous, I don't know if this is actually something I'd want to do - if I had that much free time I'd probably use some of it for gaming, but I'd also want to do other stuff with that time. Some stuff with family, some geeking out - I think I'd be sneaking in a marathon Civilization game... Don't get me wrong, it's a hobby I enjoy a lot but it's hard for me to imagine having that much time, which might make answering it a bit difficult.

But to stay to the spirit, I'd probably be interested in running a session of whatever regular campaign I'm currently doing and then finding time to sit in a variety of other games. I'm going to want someone to teach me how to play Shadowrun...
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

There is a Disturbance in the Force - ENWorld Homepage is Down, but Direct Links Work

Tenkar's Tavern - Mon, 08/07/2017 - 02:34

Yep, is down but works fine. Weird.

I hope if The Tavern goes down someone would tell me. I'd tell Morrus via social media, but I'm blocked on Twitter, FB and various social media.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Kickstarter - The Blue Vale: A Tabletop RPG in Augmented Reality (pay no attention to the man behind the curtain)

Tenkar's Tavern - Sun, 08/06/2017 - 22:00
I've been told I woke up on the wrong side of the bed today. Its possible. Of course, when I did a search on Kickstarter for "rpgs" this is the one that stuck out to me: The Blue Vale: A Tabletop RPG in Augmented Reality.

Now, forgive me if I am wrong (it happens) but isn't D20 just a type of tabletop gaming? Its not that they intersect, tabletop gaming overlaps D20.
Besides the D20-inspired roleplaying, I really wanted to incorporate combat card elements. We're using cards - recognized by the user's device - to provide certain advantages during the game, temporarily improving a character or group's stats. We'll be doing extensive testing after the Kickstarter to fine-tune the rules to support the best balance, but this keeps a powerful tactile component that's such an essential part of tabletop gaming.See, that's not necessarily tabletop gaming. That's card based gaming, but that's just one part of tabletop gaming. Warhammer, Euro-style games, board games, non D20 based RPGs - they don't use cards like Magic and others games do.

Now, there is a team of 8 involved in this project, which explains the $350k goal - everyone wants to eat. Spend a minute watching the choppy video and you realize what you are being shown is no where near being ready.

Here's the pitch for the game / setting:
The Blue Vale allows for solo, or, importantly, group play - from 2-5 players, typically, both locally (in the same room), or remotely (across the world). The journey begins in a quaint woodland village, like many fantasy stories. It could be Tolkien's Middle Earth - but if it is, it's nearly a thousand years later. Magic has become a commodity - like electricity - and though it is commonly in the world, few know how it works beyond vague generalities, much the same way as we "understand" how our cellphones and TVs operate. But something's wrong. A corporeal manifestation of dark fae magic has grown out of control, a sinister power slaking its thirst on the living and the dead. Like a haunting of a place after a traumatic mortal event, this psychic stain grew ever more powerful as it drew upon light and dark alike. It began reaching out to claim the lands in its deadly tendrils. As the power grows, it cripples the natural world - overtaking forest, village and stream with dark tendrils of choking undergrowth. It is a visage of sickness and despair, made sentient floral flesh. Poisonous root, noxious flower, and strangling vine grown from an undead tree. And so in our village, things aren't quite right. Life in The Village is good, if a bit monotonous and rough. The old folk say that the plants used to grow for longer, used to produce more fruit, tools used to last longer, roads used to be better maintained - but old folks everywhere like to complain. So who can know if it's true? Maybe things have always kinda sucked. Life in The VIllage is good. It’s not just true - it’s a saying. “Blauvel guut!” Shopkeepers say it to visitors, friends utter it to one another. Life in the Blue Vale is good! As signs of The Threat begin to appear in the forests surrounding The Village, our protagonist awakens to a strange, distant noise. She goes out to investigate and finds the People of the Wood beginning to stop their tasks and wander toward the edge of town, together staring into the woods, toward the mountains beyond. They are murmuring, seemingly to themselves - and appear nervous and afraid. A few return to their daily tasks, while the majority remain swaying and staring into the forest much of which seems to be shrouded in a curious black mist. After speaking to some of the People, our protagonist(s) then gather supplies and head out to destroy The Threat. As they travel across the hills, they notice that dark vines are choking the plants and the blue flowers that are synonymous with the Blue Vale are dying.I'm not sold. I think software where you could run a "virtual reality" RPG game would be awesome. I don't think this is it.

Did I mention the cards involved in this game are "random boosters?"

There's a lot to read but not much to excite.

$350K is a HUGE number to hit, especially for an unproven software content provider. $415 with 2 weeks to go isnt going to hit the mark. Heck, it isnt going to be in the same room.

Interesting concept, failure to execute...

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Mars Transfer, Tegel Manor, & Swords & Strangeness Action - An Actual Play Report For Tegel Manor

Swords & Stitchery - Sun, 08/06/2017 - 21:55
Things got hot and heavy last night in Tegel manor as the deeper mysteries of the manor & the lands surrounding it began to reveal some of themselves to the party. So after clearing a few zombies out of a hallway the party moved onto a minor library filled with specters doing research on a demonic crystal skull & a bunch of scrolls.The party parleyed with the specters rather then engaged Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Whay is This even a Thing? #RPGaDay 2017

Tenkar's Tavern - Sun, 08/06/2017 - 15:35

31 days of not all that insightful commenting on RPGs - is that really a thing these days?

I understand blog carnivals - everyone blogs about the same topic and it all gets linked. That's one post over the course of the month for each blogger - not one a day for questions that become pointless.

I'm going to answer all 31 questions today...

1 - Right now I need to shit

2 - The one that makes me lots of money

3 - Uhm, I read a lot

4 - Swords & Wizardry Light. Is that a trick question?

5 - What game?

6 - I'd be divorced. Rach has a shitload of patience, but not that much

7 - Huh? The ones with metal dice I guess

8 - The one you like to play

9 - The one you like to play

10 - The Tavern, of course!

11 - Bunnies & Burrows. Wait, its already happening...

12 - Are we talking rulebook or just parts of the line?

13 - My dice kept rolling off the table so I bought a dice tray

14 - SWL - again, is this a trick question?

15 - adapting? is this like houseruling?

16 - SWL - some of these are easy

17 - lots

18 - lots

19 - SWL ;)

20 - My friends

21 - SWL

22 - SWL

23 - SWL

24 - This question makes no sense. Charging more than PWYW is simply charging. PWYW is a tip jar. Some publishers have PWYW and priced items. I'm confused

25 - Depends - do I need to answer this "family friendly"?

26 - Life

27 - Dice, pencil and paper

28 - All - None

29 - anything by Kevin Crawford or Zach Glazer

30 - there are ones that haven't been done?

31 - I'm not even sure I understand the question? My gaming? The hobby? What

Yep, 31 questions, barely one blog post.

Sorry if I sound snarky, but what real purpose does this shopping list of questions serve? Most of these questions are answered by a sentence or less.

Anyhow, for those asking me if I'm going to participate - here ya go. I'm good 'till August 2018 ;)
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Dungeons of High Camp

Sorcerer's Skull - Sun, 08/06/2017 - 14:17
Art by Jim Holloway
Over the weekend I was reading Hero A Go-Go by Michael Eury. which chronicles superhero comics' response (and influence on) 1960s camp pop culture. It's a combination that didn't always work well; many of the works perhaps now seem more goofy kitsch, and some are really just unfunny parody or of superheroes. Still, when it works there is a certain charm to a lot of folks, as the revival comics Batman '66 and Wonder Woman '77 indicates.

I wonder why there hasn't been as much of concerted attempt at published camp works in Dungeons & Dragons? Certainly, farcical humor abounds at the gaming table, and a number of comedic adventures have been written (a lot illustrated by Jim Holloway), and there are humorous illustrations in the older AD&D books. But as far as I know their has never been a camp setting or camp-informed setting--unless maybe HackMaster counts? Maybe it's just too difficult a tone to sustain well throughout a written project?

The settings of some OSR-related folks seem to me to have elements of camp without going all-in: Jason Sholtis' Operation Unfathomable, Chris Kutalik's Hill Cantons, some of Jeff Reints stuff, and my own Mortzengersturm. Dungeon Crawl Classics with its "airbrushed wizard van" elements could be taken as camp, but I'm unsure whether that is the intention.

Art by Jim Holloway

1d8 Random Minor Smithinian Occult Items From The Tombs of Wizards Treasure Table For Your Old School Games

Swords & Stitchery - Sun, 08/06/2017 - 06:20
Long after the flesh has turned to dried rot the spirit often remains behind to safe guard the effects of those who have departed this mortal coil. But sometimes all is not as it seems; here are eight 'treasures' that are far more then they at first seem. The force of suns had waned beyond recall. Chaos was re-established over all, Where lifeless atoms through forgetful deeps Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

#RPGaDay 2017 Day 5 - Which RPG Cover Best Captures the Spirit of Its Game

19th Level - Sun, 08/06/2017 - 02:06

For me the RPG cover that best capture the spirit of its game is from the game that got me into the hobby - the Erol Otus D&D Basic Set cover. The treasure. The weird environment. The bold adventurers. And the dragon emerging from the water. It was very clear what the game was all about. 
I've two close runner-ups. The first is the first edition AD&D Players Handbook. Like the Otus drawing above, it captures what the game is all about. These aren't necessarily heroes, they're after the gemstone eyes.

Finally, Call of Cthulhu has had some great art. My own favorite is the cover to the third edition.We've got a mysterious castle/house the investigators are approaching. These aren't hardened warriors. Even without the slithering horror it's a creepy scene, full of menace.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

State of The Tavern - The Taps, They are a Changin'

Tenkar's Tavern - Sun, 08/06/2017 - 01:32

There are some changes in the works here at The Tavern. Layout may change a bit and we may add some "special guest" access.

+James Spahn , +Glen Hallstrom and myself are working on a post Save or Die project (note - Save or Die has made its save - new hosts(s) are already signed or signing up). The new project will be asking for input from The Tavern's Community shortly. This won't be one time input, either - The Tavern's Community will be an integral part of the larger whole. More very soon.

Clan & Hammer should be sneaking some peeks here at The Tavern in the next few days. Probably a class or two. I could be wrong though. It may be a Tavern ;)

I have a few Blogger Contact Form emails I need to respond to.

In the meantime I'm listening to Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash...

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

[BLOG] One Year On

Beyond Fomalhaut - Sat, 08/05/2017 - 22:11
I started Beyond Fomalhaut one year ago, and slowly but surely, it has been lumbering on ever since. Most people seem to do their “this year in gaming”-style posts around Christmas or New Year’s Eve, but I will henceforth be doing them this time of the year, as long as the blog lasts.
Fair warning: since this post is inevitably personal, there will be a lot of “I”s in there.
The State of the Blog
Blogger tells me I have 55 published posts including this one (and eight reviews reposted from TheRPGSite), which is not bad. It could have been more, and I have a lot of respect for people who can keep up a steady stream of good posts month after month, year after year, but I am not one of those people. I also do my shitposting elsewhere on the Internet, which cuts down on the dross a little.
Among all those posts were 24 reviews, 8 old and 16 new. I did some counting in a spreadsheet, and it turns out I’m a fairly consistent reviewer, since both my old reviews (from 2012-2013) and the new have hovered around a 3.0-3.1 average. The ratings went out like this:
  • 5 with the Prestigious Monocled Bird of Excellence () to Anomalous Subsurface Environment #1 (but that’s from 2011, and the review was a repost). So far, the only other products I’d put in this category have been The Tome of Adventure Design and Yoon-Suin.
  • 5 went to one new product, Secrets of the Wyrwoode. There is another one that looks like a candidate, but it’ll need more reading to decide.
  • 4 went to one old product and four new ones: Yngarr #1, Dispatches from Raven Crowking, Sunken City, and The Tomb of the Sea Kings. Along with the previous rank, these were the supplements to impress me this year.
  • 3 went to nine adventures, ranging from the evenly good (like The Phoenix Barony) to the uneven with good spots (like The Fall of Whitecliff). These are goodish, and you would be having a good time if you ran them at your table.
  • 2 went to seven adventures. I’ll be honest: this would include a lot more titles, but a lot of small adventures I picked up from RPGNow this year were bad in such uninteresting ways that I couldn’t be bothered (and mean enough) to tear them up in public. I feel there is a real problem with the “20 pages, overlong intro that doesn’t affect gameplay, dungeon with 10-20 rooms” adventure module.
  • 1 went to no new adventures, because I filtered out the real stinkers before I bought them this time.
Reviews have turned out to be fairly easy and fun to write, so I’ll be keeping up the habit, and I’ll keep focusing on the rough gems and dodgy homemade materials. There are only so many reviews the world needs about the high-profile releases, so unless I feel like I have something interesting to say about them, or they are really relevant to my interests, I’ll pass. Sometimes it feels like reviews are a cop-out from real blogging, and I’ll try to look into that.
Got this thing outThrough the year, I kept a campaign journal going, now at its 11th instalment. This has proven to be a tremendous amount of work, something I already learned with the City of Vultures campaign. It seems to get rather few readers, and ironically, they might come more from Hungary than the English blogosphere, but I have a soft spot for it. It is a way of sharing and documenting our collective memories of a fun game (with occasional missteps and frustrations), and I’d like to look back on it twenty years from now and say this is what we were doing. I will keep going while I can – so far, entries have been late, but never more than by one session, and that’s what I’m aiming for.
And I also had a bunch of discussion posts; fewer than I thought I would have as I was setting out. One reason I have always liked forums is that I prefer adding to existing conversations rather than coming up with a detailed OP – and half-assing it doesn’t feel right. That has carried over to my blogging, where you don’t really have a way to be reactive, so you just don’t say anything. There is another reason, too; I tend to feel I have mostly said what I had to say with regards to game theory, and would rather focus on the practical side.
One additional lesson that bears repeating here: flamebait sells, bigly.
The State of my Projects
One of the many reasons I dropped out of the old school gaming scene around 2013 was that I was starting to focus on gaming projects with a larger scope than it could be summed up properly in small chunks. It was also around this time that both of the big old school fanzines I was writing for, Fight On! and Knockspell ceased publication (and the two founding fathers of old school gaming who had been running them, Calithena and Mythmere both seem to have vanished). I didn’t have much to say in small form, and the places where I was saying it were gone. Therefore, I turned my attention elsewhere.
Got this thing out, tooOne of the results has been Helvéczia, my picaresque fantasy RPG. Helvéczia is about looking at D&Dish gameplay and aesthetics through the lens of swashbuckling romances, 17thcentury novels about lowlifes and scoundrels, local legends and the works of the Brothers Grimm. It started as a slightly out there campaign idea and quickly decided to grow into its own system, a mixture of the strange and the familiar. We published a great-looking boxed set and a short range of adventures with a printer friend of mine (the game is in part a love letter to the typography and cheap pamphlets of the 16th and 17thcenturies), and I’d like to bring it to a larger audience. I believe I have something worth saying with Helvéczia, a new look at historical fantasy gaming – even in context of the other stuff out there – and the updated, expanded English edition is the product of that. I have the rulebooks ready, and want to translate the adventures before I start thinking about moving it into publication. Not much progress through the year, but it is picking up again.
The second large project is Castle Xyntillan, which I have covered elsewhere. Xyntillan is the successor to my unplublished Tegel Manor manuscript; what started as an update of the legendary Judges Guild adventure has become a whimsical homage to it. Work here is still ongoing, but it is getting there.
In the meantime, I have published less via my blog than I meant to when setting out. Here is what I did: 
  • The Technological Table, a collection of vaguely sinister high-tech items.
  • The Smugglers of Cliff Point, a small lair dungeon from the remains of a never completed sandbox supplement.
  • The Ruined City, a transcript of my first dungeon module (very RJK of me).
  • In the Name of the Principle!, probably my favourite adventure I have ever written. Predictably, almost nobody gave a fuck.
  • And the manuscript for the German version of Cloister of the Frog God (including the grotesque and hilarious, never-seen-before wilderness segment), to be published in the fanzine Abenteuer.

I am mostly thinking a blog is not a good venue for publication. Stuff gets plussed on Google, a few comments come in, but posts sink like a stone and never resurface. This is one more reason to start a fanzine (homemade? POD? stone tablets?), which I am more and more eager to finally do, and will start thinking about seriously after at least one of the two big projects come close to completion – close enough to safely free up thinking capacity.
Still working on this oneRight, and then there are the two books whose covers I used to illustrate this article. This Spring, I published my long-delayed monograph, Reindustrialisation in Central Europe, a work surveying the regional transformation processes, outcomes and current challenges of industrial development in post-socialist Central Europe. This is something I have worked on for the better part of ten years; over successes, setbacks, reorganisations and personal losses. Sometimes writing it was a joy, and sometimes a burden I am happy (if a bit wary) to have finally put down. I put my heart and soul into it, and it simply feels right to hold it in my hands.
The second book, The Routledge Handbook to Regional Development in Central and Eastern Europe collects the results of a large research project on the various transformation processes of the macro-region, and where it all leads to. This one was a work of a large team, mostly from our research institute, and some abroad, and took a lot of fiddly work to coordinate and massage into a cohesive, unified whole. I took the first steps on this journey with my late mentor and boss, who died the same day I could tell him our book proposal got accepted; and the final ones with the help of my colleagues who had supported me along the way. The people at Routledge have done a tremendous job through the publication process (I was very much impressed by their professionalism and attention to fine detail), and I think the end result is solid, honest scholarship in a seriously good-looking, crisp package. I feel good about it, and that's how I hope it will go down with the readers. (As a matter of personal pride, I selected the cover images for both volumes, and think they came out very well.)
The State of the Old School
Slowly declining.
Roleplaying games are as strong as the creative networks around them, and you can see it in the various communities that there is less going on than it used to, either in discussion, publishing or actual play. It can be spun as “things have settled down to a normal level”, or “there is less but it is generally better”, but it is there. This is not a bad time to be – it is pretty good for those who are a part of the action – but look three years ahead, or five years ahead, and there are some mighty dark clouds on the horizon.
Very much a work-in-progress versionSometimes I think there are a few prestige products too many in this corner of the hobby. Coffee table books, bookshelf books, don’t mark them up books, Kickstarter perks, gold foil special editions. It doesn’t beat the asinine hobby of collecting original shrinkwrap in its ridiculousness, but seriously, folks, you do remember why so many of us got away from the gaming mainstream, right? Right? Are we still on the same page? Actually, is there anyone still out there? Helloooo?
Ahem. Sorry.
You can’t eat production values, is what I’m saying. I don’t mind if you have good art, but there is form, and there is function, function and function. Game-relevant content. Things that come right from some guy’s game table and it is so hot it’ll burn your hands when you slap it down your game table. Certainly, I have been guilty of it – sitting too long on something, overthinking, missing opportunities to just do it and publish, all of it – and all I can promise is that I’ll try. That’s why I want to do that fanzine.
Something I am seeing reflected in the reviews (mine and others’) is how few good generic AD&D modules get released. Something is missing. Whatever’s out there mostly turns out disappointing or just lacking the spirit. For all the old school scene’s roots in rediscovering older editions, I really haven’t found anything decently AD&Dish outside The Tomb of the Sea Kings (from the crazy tournament dungeon tradition) and maybe Sunken City (from the “I was actually there” tradition). I will keep looking, including checking out some older titles I missed out on, but this lack of good material is worth examining more deeply. What makes them hard to do? Why can’t people do them well? (Or, as an alternative explanation, why aren’t the people who know their stuff putting their skills to good use?) Has the Gygaxian spirit departed from gaming, if it was ever there in the last years? It also feels like a challenge, and yes, I’ll try my hand at it.
As it is, the most significant old school accomplishment of the year comes from unlikely quarters, and right at the last possible moment: Next Friday has come, ITZ has happened, Hell has frozen over, a golden baby can fly, and
Grimoire: Heralds of the Winged Exemplar is finally finished and available for purchase(for one week only, there is a five-dollar discount that will not be offered ever again).
This blog will dedicate more detailed posts to the most highly anticipated Wizardry-like of 1997 (and 1998, 2001, 2004, 2013, Next Friday, and so on), but for now, let it suffice to say that it is authentic, enchanting, Gygaxian (by way of that other giant of the age, D.W. Bradley), a little crazy, and yes, sometimes rough around the edges. It is rough and idiosyncratic because it is the real deal. For all the setbacks and vexations, the time of tremendous Incline is at hand!
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Pirates, Smuggling, Slavery, & Sword & Sorcery Strangeness - An Actual Play Report For Tegel Manor

Swords & Stitchery - Sat, 08/05/2017 - 17:55
So its Saturday & its time once again for my Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea game game tonight. The game might be delayed until Monday but this is going to be a wait and see issue because at the moment I'm swamped with work.So its a bit of a wait & see issue at the moment as I write this. But now back onto what's happening in Tegel Manor or my twisted version of it. YouNeedles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

What RPG Have I Played Most Since August 2016

19th Level - Sat, 08/05/2017 - 16:08

Yog-Sothoth is the gate folks. The past year has been a little bouncy, but I believe if I tally all sessions it'd come out with the most for Call of Cthulhu. That said there's been some variety. I finally had some success at GM-ing a Fate game, using Fate Accelerated for Star Wars. I also had a chance to GM the old D6 Ghostbusters which was great fun. I've had a chance to actually play some Apocalypse World Engine games which was a nice change of pace for me.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Podcast - Hobbs & Friends of the OSR #12 - Hex Talk

Tenkar's Tavern - Sat, 08/05/2017 - 15:07
As I've said many a time in the past year or so, my podcast listening has suffered with my lack of daily commuting. I'm not saying I wish I were commuting again, but I do need to set aside more time to listen to podcasts.

One of the better podcasts out there, especially if you dig the OSR is Hobbs & Friends of the OSR. Relatively knew to the podcast scene, +Jason Hobbs has hit the ground running. I've really enjoyed the conversations he's had with various guests (most of them return on a semi rotational basis)

Now, Hobbs & Friends #12 is not the latest episode (that would be episode #15 - Gaming with Kids) I was listening to the last when Jason mentioned a rant about the Three Castles Award (NTRPG), so I backtracked to episode #12. Its at the end of the episode (31 minute mark or so) and everything Jason said was spot on about this year's award ceremony (such as it was). The chariot racing trophies got more play and care than what is supposed to be THE industry award for the OSR. It made many of us cringe. It was the low water mark of a convention that set many high water marks this year - awesome new venue, new attendance high, an amazing selection of special guests.

There's much I could say, but Jason says it better than I ever could. Heck, one of his guests in episode #12 had a Three Castles Award nomination this year - not that you would have known. Sigh.

In any case, Jason has an eye on the OSR, warts and all as well as amazing discussions of game theory and gaming ideas. Give Hobbs & Friends of the OSR a solid listening to, you won't be sorry.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Dungeon Magazine #146

Ten Foot Pole - Sat, 08/05/2017 - 11:12

Escape from Meenlock Prison
By Tim Connors & Eileen Connors
Level 1

It’s rare I find a morally repugnant adventure. (And maybe interesting what I put in that category …)

A hot fucking mess of an adventure with one redeeming quality that’s not enough to save it. You are hired to go to a black prison and transfer two “disappeared” people to a different prison. I like to play NE and even _I_ have a problem with that! It’s hard to see the party agreeing. Anyway, the prison has been taken over by imposters, escaped prisoners. They get the party to go in and free their two buddies from some meenlocks, through deception. This causes the party to travel down a linear jail corridor, encountering prisoners on both sides, on their way to the “correct” cells. Thus each prisoner has a backstory, personality, and sometimes an interaction with another prisoner. Anyway, you fight some meenlocks and then go to the surface where the first set of imposters attack you. It’s linear and the highlight, the various prisoners, are not really given an opportunity to shine, given the constrained & linear nature of the adventure. It’ back loaded with the meenlocks and combat and really goes out of its way wit be convoluted, up to and including the “lets attack the heavily armed party when we see them again” logic of the prisoners. I like the having to put up k00ks in the dungeon idea, I just don’t think its implemented well here at all. And a black jail? Jeez. It’s like some Carcosa “we need to bloodily sacrifice 12 children to cast healing on you Bob. I’ve got there here, got at it and bathe in their blood once you slit their throats.”

Spawn of Sehan
A shit-ton of authors
Level 9

Part two of a three part series. I think it was the winner of the “design the shittiest series” contest? Sixteen room linear dungeon with nothing going on. The highlight is a succubus feigning damsel in distress. Sorry baby, we kill all prisoners and hostages on sight; it’s safer that way. Walk in a room, get attacked. Open an urn, trigger a trap. There’s nothing to this. Again. There’s no adventure, just encounters. I find this design style disgusting.

Serpents of Scuttlecove
By Richard Pett
Level 15

Part eight of the twelve part Savage Tide adventure path. Chick who hired you has been kidnapped by her (now) undead brother, since none of your party’s actions can be truly meaningful. Also, you seem to care that the pirates have some shadowpearls. The backstory setup takes about a million pages so you can be bored to tears by things that won’t matter. Where the fuck did these people get the idea this was a good thing? You go to piratetown to track people down, only to find your contact kidnapped, ambushes (CR11, you’re level 15. The adventure correctly notes the party could just kill everyone in town, but doesn’t deal with it well. IE: it’s a shittly designed adventre for level 15’s, unless they agree to play along.) It would be more fun as a direct assault, letting the players flex their might, instead of the linear shit-fest with forced encounters and the overreliance on conspiracies that high level adventures always seem to hang their flag on. A Death Slaad guard … oh how the mighty have fallen.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs


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