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Valor in the Prison of Despair

Ten Foot Pole - Sat, 09/19/2020 - 11:11
By John Josten Board Enterprises OSR Levels 5-6

Deep underground there is a prison where they keep some of the most terrifying monsters found in all of fantasy.  But these are predators, not prey.  How to keep them fed?  That answer is far worse than you have already imagined.  Are you ready to take on but prisoners and jailors?  If not, could it mean the end to the city?

This 76 page adventure uses about 24 pages to describe a one hundred room dungeon. Kind of. It’s basically just shit to stab and VERY long room DM notes. A textbook heartbreaker.

Look, no one is born with some kind of innate ability to know how to write an adventure. Adventure writing is technical writing of a special sort and it’s foolish to think that, BAM, right out of the gate, you’ll write a good one. Yeah, yo know where this review is going, don’t you?

I tend to focus on three main pillars of writing: interactivity, ease of use, and evocative writing, while bringing in that Special Sauce, Design, on occasion. All of these areas require some understanding of the purpose of an adventure (to be run at the table) and take some skill to pull off. None of them are gating conditions, but, in general, I’m much less forgiving if an adventure is easy to use (“it didn’t make me want to stab my eyes out”.) 

The chief complaint of adventures is that they are hard to use and require too much prep. This generally gets to the length of the text and in the encounters and how it is organized. This adventure gets it wrong in almost every way. It takes 1.5 pages, for example, to describe the gates in the dungeon: open, closed, controlled, and destroyed. One and a half pages. It goes in to detail not only on the description of the gates but also on the DM mechanics of opening a gate. This is crazy. I’m not messing with that. It’s too much to hold in your head and too long to easily reference, especially as presented in the text. 

The text relies a great deal on read-aloud. In italics. I will continue to harp on this point: long sections of italics, especially in a small font, are hard to read. If your own personal experience is not enough to convince you (after all, Mr. D, a demon might be deceiving you …) then there have been numerous academic studies stating the same thing. And yet the text here relies on LONG sections of it, in a small font. Essentially, th read-aloud. My eyes glaze over. I hate it. 

And then there’s the room text proper, mostly DM notes, that drone on and on about trivia. This room used to be. How the room is currently used but there is no one in this empty room to use it that way. The room “appears” to be something. It’s crazy how much of these rooms are padded out with text that makes no sense in the adventure. The designer is confusing text length, and a fully fleshed out description/purpose of the dungeon, with it being a “good” room/adventure. The purpose of the adventure is not an academic paper on the lifestyle of the dungeon inhabitants. It’s to run a great game at the table. In this regard, more is not More, More is Less. It makes the text long and hard to scan during play. It pulls the DM out during long pauses. The padding out of ineffective text, like “appears to be … “ just adds to the problem. Rooms that are a column or longer are not unusual. “It currently has no one in it.” Well no shit; the adventure tells us when there is. 

And, what is Interactivity? Is it stabbing shit? Is combat the only purpose of D&D, especially older D&D without its tactics porn to keep it company? To its credit the adventure does several factions and prisoners to talk to, but that’s only one part of good interactivity. There is no exploratory elements, no mystery, no wonder. No statues to fuck with and buttons to push. No fruit trees to poison yourself with. The resources to interact with, and perhaps exploit, are just not present. There’s a mini-game where you could avoid the big wandering monster boss in each section of the dungeon, but that’s not real great either. Room after room of boring and boring stabbing. 

Finally there’s the hardest thing, Evocative Writing. Good writing is hard, I will admit, and takes practice. “A huge ugly earthworm appears.”  Huge is a boring word. Ugly is a conclusion. Nothing make up good evocative writing. Use your thesaurus. Show, don’t tell. Agonize over your words to come up with a great, but terse, description. In fact, the earthworm is the exception, most monsters don’t even get descriptions in their entries, their appendix being just culture and history shit, boring to the players about to stab it. “The walls of the chamber are fairly smooth.” “There appears to be no one in this chamber.” A bizarre creature with huge legs. The entries do not come alive.

The designer clearly had a vision, witness all of the extra pages that describe background and how to play Old School. But they failed in their execution, byt a long margin. I would call this almost the textbook example of how to write an ineffective adventure. “Don’t do anything this adventure does.”

This is $5 at DriveThru. The preview is seven pages. You get to see the background and none of the room entries. Not a good preview; the preview should dhow s some of the actual encounters. That’s the purpose, to see if what the designer has written is worth our time. And, in spite of it being stat’d for OSR play, it does not tell us the level range before buying it. The level range is buried somewhere in the mountains of text inside of the adventure. I weep for the future.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/318051/Valor-in-the-Prison-of-Despair-aka-All-About-Wandering-Monsters–Game-Masters-edition?term=valor+prison?1892600

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

5150 Gaea Prime 1st Defense - Bat Rep - It's not only the Hishen!

Two Hour Wargames - Fri, 09/18/2020 - 21:40

 









As you can see it's very important to win the In Sight Test. The GP had their chance but flubbed it. FYI - I played without a Star, which made a difference for the GP force, as their Leader went down on the first fire.Gaea Prime 1st Defense - get it here.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Weird Revisited: Attack of the (Star Wars) Clones

Sorcerer's Skull - Fri, 09/18/2020 - 11:00
The cultural phenomenon that is Star Wars had an effect on comic books, even in its first decade. Despite my pithy title, it's unfair to call these guys clones exactly, but some sort of force is clearly with them. Since science fiction comics and Star Wars draw on some of the same influences, it's not always easy to know what is Star Wars inspired and what isn't. Chaykin's Ironwolf had a rebel fighting a galactic empire in '74--3 years before Star Wars. Still, if one looks at Chaykin's followup Cody Starbuck (also '74) the pre-Star Wars appearances have the look of Flash Gordon and the widespread swordplay of Dune. In the post-Star Wars appearances, costumes have a bit more Japanese influence and guns are more in play; both of these are possibly Star Wars inspired innovations.

Star Hunters (1977)
Empire? A sinister Corporation that controls Earth
Rebels? Sort of, though the protagonists start out forced to work for the Corporation
The Force? There's an "Entity" and a cosmic battle between good and evil
Analogs? Donovan Flint, the primary protagonist, is a Han Solo type with a mustache prefiguring Lando's.
Notes: If Star Hunters is indeed Star Wars inspired, its a very early example. The series hit the stands in June of 1977--a bit over a month after Star Wars was released.

Micronauts (1979)
Empire? A usurpation of the monarchy of Homeworld.
Rebels? Actually previous rulers and loyalists; a mix of humans, humanoids, and robots.
The Force? The Enigma Force, in fact.
Analogs? Baron Karza is a black armored villain like Vader; Marionette is a can-do Princess; Biotron and Microtron are a humanoid robot and a squatter, less humanoid pairing like Threepio and Artoo.

Metamorphosis Odyssey (1980)
Empire? The Zygoteans, who have concurred most of the galaxy.
Rebels? A disparate band from various worlds out to end the Zygotean menace.
The Force? There's Starlin cosmicness.
Analogs? Aknaton is an old mystic who know's he's going to die a la Obi-Wan. He picks up Dreadstar on a backwater planet and gets him an energy sword.

Dreadstar (1982)
Empire? Two: the Monarchy and the Instrumentality.
Rebels? Yep. A band of humans and aliens out to defeat the Monarchy and the Instrumentality.
The Force? Magic and psychic abilities.
Analogs? Dreadstar still has than energy sword; Oedi is a farm boy (cat) like Luke; Syzygy is a mystic mentor like Kenobi; Lord High Papal is like Vader and Palpatine in one.
Notes: Dreadstar is a continuation of the story from Metamorphosis Odyssey.

Atari Force (1984)
Empire? Nope.
Rebels? Not especially.
The Force? Some characters have special powers.
Analogs? Tempest is a blond kid with a special power and a difficult relationship with his father sort of like Luke. There are a lot of aliens in the series, so there's a "cantina scene" vibe; Blackjak is a Han Solo-esque rogue. Dark Destroyer is likely Vader-inspired, appearance-wise.
Notes: This series sequel to the original series DC did for Atari, taking place about 25 years later. The first series is not Star Wars-y.

Holmes Basic in Sunny Rolls the Dice

Zenopus Archives - Thu, 09/17/2020 - 13:41



Sunny Rolls the Dice (2019) is the third in a series of graphic novels about Sunny, a teen growing up in suburban Pennsylvania in the 1970s. It is co-created by Jennifer L. Holm, a Newberry Honor author, and her brother Matthew Holm, an illustrator, and is semi-autobiographical, inspired by the Holms' own childhood, particularly Jennifer's.

The first two books in the series are Sunny Side Up (2015) and Swing It Sunny (2017), and a fourth, Sunny Makes a Splash, is in production. I've currently read the first and third ones and greatly enjoyed both of them, but Sunny Rolls the Dice is a particular favorite for its loving treatment of Dungeons & Dragons in the 1970s. The series starts in 1976 and proceeds chronologically, so with the third book starting in mid-1977, it's the right time for Holmes Basic, and sure enough that's what Sunny encounters when she first plays D&D with kids in her neighborhood, appropriately in her family's newly finished basement rec room:



The Holms take pains to include details faithful to the era in which the series is set, and I'm impressed that here they appropriately show an early edition of the Holmes set that includes a Monster & Treasure Assortment Set 1: Levels 1-3 and a set of five polyhedral dice. In a minor nitpick that only an early D&D fan will notice, the colors of the accessories are off (the M&T Set 1 should be yellow - Set 3 was blue - and the dice are the wrong colors), but the illustrations are spot on, including a d20 showing a "0" instead of a "10" or "20".
The story also heavily features the original Monster Manual, and the back of the book includes a photo of a young Holm with her own copy. I get this; learning about monsters was what originally attracted me to D&D.
The appearance of D&D in this story is not just period window-dressing; the game is a pivotal part of the plot, as you may have guessed from the title of the book.
To hear the author herself talking about this book and her experiences with D&D growing up, listen to this recent Save or Die interview with Jennifer Holm. A big thank you to DM Carl at Save or Die for letting me know that Holmes Basic was featured in this book.

You can preview the first section of the book, up to the beginning of Sunny's first D&D game, over at Amazon:


(All product links include Amazon or DMsGuild/DrivthruRPG affiliate #s)
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Omniverse: Looking for Professor Zunbar

Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 09/17/2020 - 11:00
This Omniverse post first appeared on the lost G+ on February 20, 2018...

In 1954, Captain Marvel and the whole Marvel Family disappeared. Later stories would suggest the Sivana Family had finally gotten the upper-hand on their enemies and placed them in suspended animation. This version of events also suggests that the Sivanas were caught in there own trap, as well.

But were they? Later that same year, the exiled Prince Namor encountered an ugly, diminutive scientist with a scheme to create a race of amphibious humanoids. He already had a prototype, but the creature proved to be afraid of water! Zunbar hypothesized that transplanting key areas of Namor's brain to the creature could resolve the problem.

Even if Zunbar's physical appearance didn't suggest he was in reality Thaddeus Bodog Sivana, the mad nature of his scheme might give him away. Why Sivana should be operating under an alias at a time when his greatest foes had been defeated remains a mystery.

Of the Rakuli

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 09/16/2020 - 11:11
By Simon Miles Dunromin University Press OSRIC

[…] These days there are few that have ever heard of the Great Old Ones, fewer still that have heard of the Rakuli.  Learned scribes argue over the legitimacy of any trace of their ancient culture.  Their artistic relics and magical items are often misappropriated by lesser species.  They have passed into the mists of irrelevance. So what were they?  What happened to them?

And why are adventurers returning from the deep Darkworld telling tales of powerful entities and carrying strange and powerful items they have stolen from these new foes?

This 52 page supplement is not an adventure. It just details the history and culture of some evil ancient race. 

Note that it is in the Adventure section of DriveThru. Note that the blurb talks about adventurers returning. Note that the blurb says “there are adventure hooks …” implying that there is an adventure. 

There is not any sort of adventure in this. 

I am NOT amused.

I am VERY MUCH not amused.

This is an ongoing issue with DriveThru. Not only is poetic license taken with putting non-D&D in the OSR category, but the publishers/designers seem to revel in placing non-adventures in the adventure category. I’m guessing this is some kind of cross-listing ploy, in order to maximize the visibility of a product?

Whatever it is, it sucks. Now I’m stuck with this thing. Frankly, I’m surprised this doesn’t happen to me more often, given the frequency with which I buy. I guess I’m getting better at figuring out from the descriptions that things are not D&D and/or not adventures/cross-posted crap. (And to be clear, it’s crap because of the trickery, regardless of the quality.) It seems amazing to me that you can’t actually buy what you intend to buy anymore. I ordered a power supply for my kids computer last night … and the same thing popped up. Right size? Right rating? Right format? Who knows.

I’m convinced that the key is a generous return policy. In this case it’s Pay What You Want, but I wish DriveThru had a more substantial return policy.

This is Pay What you Want at DriveThru with a suggested price of $4.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/325933/SM14-Of-the-Rakuli?1892600

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

TSR vs. the Internet Part 2—From They Sue Regularly to Open Gaming

DM David - Tue, 09/15/2020 - 11:00

In 1994 TSR, the publisher of Dungeons & Dragons, struck two blows aimed at containing fan-created D&D content on the Internet. (See TSR Declares War on the Internet’s D&D Fans.)

First, administrators running servers offering D&D content received email from TSR representative Rob Repp. “On behalf of TSR, Inc. I ask that you examine your public net sites at this time and remove any material which infringes on TSR copyrights.” Because universities hosted most of these sites, the notices led to a quick wave of shutdowns.

Second, TSR insisted that fans who wished to distribute their D&D creations exclusively use a server run by their licensee MPGNet. Fans hated that loss of control, but the real blow came from a disclaimer that TSR demanded fans add to their content.

This item incorporates or is based on or derived from copyrighted material of TSR, Inc. and may contain trademarks of TSR. The item is made available by MPGNet under license from TSR, but is not authorized or endorsed by TSR. The item is for personal use only and may not be published or distributed except through MPGNet or TSR.

The last line seemed to imply that TSR gained the right to publish or distribute independent creations, and that proved most alarming. “This statement looks more like a release of distribution rights than a disclaimer,” wrote Jim Vassilakos.

Sean K. Reynolds would soon become TSR’s online coordinator. In an interview, he explains the roots of TSR’s online policy. “They came up with the idea that if you express something in D&D format, it belongs to TSR because TSR owns D&D.“

Jim Vassilakos took the full force of TSR’s legal assault. He edited The Guildsman, a roleplaying fanzine with D&D-related content, and then he distributed it online from a server named greyhawk at Stanford University.

Before legal notices forced the Stanford server to shut down, TSR’s affiliate MPGNet had copied the Guildsman archive, transferred it to their servers, and added the disclaimer, all without permission. This led Vassilakos to write MPGNet head Rob Miracle.

“You (MPGN and TSR) have basically taken a vast quantity of material from Greyhawk, including the six Guildsman magazines which total over 400 printed pages, and proclaimed yourselves as the sole distributor of this material. I think that, given this situation, you should be able to see clearly enough why people are upset at this unexpected turn of events. In any case, my contributors are telling me that they’d prefer that their material not be kept at MPGN under this sort of condition.”

Rob Miracle wrote a conciliatory response. “First, let me say that we took over Greyhawk so that it wouldn’t die. We had lost other great sites and didn’t want to lose probably the best site. I will do whatever you wish, because they are your files. Just let me know.”

Of course this dispute just samples the furor raging in the Internet’s community of D&D fans. Fueled by distrust of TSR, people considered ways the company could benefit from seizing control of so much online content.

Many creators feared that TSR would bundle their creations in a CD-ROM or start charging for online access. Did the disclaimer enable the company to reap profits without paying anyone for their work? The more conspiracy-minded worried that TSR would simply gather content and pull the plug, eliminating a source of competition. Certainly some folks sought free and illegal online copies of D&D products. The crackdown made such sources harder to hide.

TSR claimed good intentions. “I can tell you that the intent we had when we started working with MPGNet was not to derive revenue from that site,” Rob Repp wrote. “I find it unlikely in the extreme that a company with as sharp a legal team as ours is going to simply grab someone’s stuff and publish it without permission. I don’t think that’s lawful, and I’m certain the legal people would mention it during some meeting or other.”

Rob Miracle explained, “MPGNet has nothing to gain from offering this service other than the satisfaction that there is a net home for gaming material.”

Meanwhile, many wondered if TSR really needed to take such steps to defend their intellectual property. Some fans did extensive legal research. TSR cited drow as a monster of their own creation. Gary took the name from folklore, but few of the specifics. (See The Stories Behind D&D’s Iconic Monsters.) So did TSR own the drow? Perhaps not, but they surely owned mind flayers, beholders, carrion crawlers and other monsters Wizards of the Coast now reserves as D&D’s product identity. TSR couldn’t copyright game mechanics, but could they copyright terms like armor class and hit dice? TSR felt their steps were required.

Many gamers saw TSR’s defense of their copyrights and trademarks as overreaching. If fans saw it, then TSRs lawyers saw it too, and fans supposed that revealed a bad-faith strategy working toward a hidden agenda. Benjamin Lake wrote, “Imagine how much cash TSR would have if every copy of Ultima (for example) was taxed for using the concept of levels and experience points.”

Perhaps Rob Miracle began regretting his company’s affiliation. “There is no conspiracy. MPGNet has no hidden agendas and as far as we know, TSR does not have a hidden agenda.”

During the furor, one fan asked, “Does TSR regard it as illegal to play AD&D with a dozen or so people over the Net, as opposed to playing it with a dozen or so people in my living room?”

“We certainly do not,” Repp explained before adding a catch. “Saving up all the moves, however, and republishing them as a separate work would probably be an infringement.” Such a recounting of a D&D game resembles an actual play podcast or even a streaming game. This interpretation would forbid the content powering much of D&D’s current surge in popularity.

Rob Repp got tired of bearing the Internet backlash, and tired of fans pointing out how TSR fought copyright infringement now, but had used balrogs and hobbits without permission 20 years earlier when the company operated from Gary’s basement. Sean K. Reynolds explained Repp’s plight. “To put it bluntly, he pissed off a lot of people with his attitude and posts. Not all of it was his fault. TSR’s online policy was draconian and unproductive. Rob was just tasked with enforcing it, but not being a gamer he couldn’t relate to the fans’ side of the story.”

In May 1995, Repp posted to the AD&D mailing list announcing a job opening for an online coordinator at TSR. The job’s responsibilities included managing TSR’s web presence and AOL site. Reynolds saw the listing. “I felt I could do a better job of it than he was; he was making people mad when he didn’t have to.”

Reynolds got the job. Two days later, Repp quit. Reynolds landed in charge of the online policy that he had argued against. “My first act was to go to the lawyer and say, ‘What can we do about this? We have this policy. I think it’s kind of unreasonable—actually very unreasonable.’ We stopped doing the cease-and-desist letters threatening people posting their own monsters or whatever, and started focusing on people doing actual copyright infringement. Without actually changing the TSR policy, we just kind of mitigated our enforcement of the policy.”

Reynolds served as online coordinator for 2 years. “A lot of people badmouthed me for a long time because of that policy, but while I was TSR’s online coordinator not one website was shut down for D&D material that wasn’t an actual copyright violation (such as posting scans of books or artwork). Nobody was ever bothered by me because of fan material on their site.” In 1997, Wizards of the Coast bought TSR. “They had a much more benign and open idea of how to handle this sort of thing.“

The new owners of D&D would completely rethink the status of fan creations. D&D team head Ryan Dancey led this change of direction. He credits open source software for inspiring the change. In open source, programmers contribute free code that enhances the utility of software like Linux, the operating system that now powers the Internet. Through open source, the Internet community proved the value of their freely-distributed creations.

Dancey saw fan contributions as an enhancement to the D&D community that strengthened the game’s place in the market. Support from fans and other companies for D&D leads more people to play D&D. Dancey writes, “This is a feedback cycle—the more effective the support is, the more people play D&D. The more people play D&D, the more effective the support is.” Besides, the numbers showed that the D&D business made money selling core books. Why not let fans and other companies bear some weight of supporting the game with low-profit adventures, settings, and other add-ons?

Dancey’s thinking led to the introduction of the Open Gaming License and the d20 License. Using these licenses gamers and gaming companies could create and distribute products compatible with the D&D rules, and not just on the internet, but in stores.

At a glance, this new spirit of sharing seems like a complete reversal, but TSR’s disclaimer that allowed sharing on MPGnet hints at the modern licenses. Like the OGL license, the old disclaimer set a legal basis for sharing content. Unlike the disclaimer though, the OGL is irrevocable. If you place content under that license, it is perpetually under it. This leaves little room for a hidden agenda. In an echo of MPGNet, gamers can offer creations that use D&D’s brand, unique monsters, and worlds on a specific site, the Dungeon Masters Guild. This time though, gamers can sell their products. And presumably the DMs guild has an Internet link even faster than 1.5Mbps.

Related:
The Threat that Nearly Killed Dungeons & Dragons—Twice
The Media Furor that Introduced the “Bizarre Intellectual Game” of Dungeons & Dragons to America

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Demon Barber of Azurth

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 09/14/2020 - 11:00


Our 5e Land of Azurth game continued last night, with the party at long last making it to the Sapphire City at the center of the Land--merely a waystation on their trek to Virid Country in the West. They immediately heard tales of a strange disappearances, and people being returned with no memory, sometimes strange minor physical alterations, and really good hair-dos.

Naturally curious, the party seeks out the district's only barber, Tom Sorr. Tom is a nice enough guy, but the party isn't convinced he isn't involved, particularly after they note an aura of transmutation magic about him. They become even more suspicious when a conversation with his young daughter reveals he sometimes has a false iron tooth and sometimes he doesn't, and his personality changes as well.

Deciding to watch the doings at his shop at night, they first have to deal with a misshapen, lumpish creature, they attacks them in the street. They don't know what that's about, but they assume it's somehow related.

They tried to entrap Tom with an illusion of the creature, but he's appropriately scared, so they drop it, and he chalks up the vision to stress. A few hours after he and his daughter are in bed, another Tom with wicked arched eyebrows reopens the shop.

Kully and Shade go in from a haircut. When Kully is seated in the barber's chair, manacles clamp in in place, and he is dropped down into an underground area, with Shade diving in after them. Whistling a tune, the nocturnal Tom descends after them.

(This adventure is based on "The Barber of the Silverymoon" by Jason Bradley Thompson.)

A Shadow Over the Greatwood

Ten Foot Pole - Mon, 09/14/2020 - 10:53
By WR Beatty Rosethrorn Publishing S&W Levels 5-7

Trouble is brewing in the Rosewood Highlands. Wild Animals, usually timid and shy around the encroaching wave of human civilization, have become very hostile, attacking with no provocation whatsoever. More concerning is the fact that predators and prey are running in packs together. To top it all off, Old Joby swears he was some kind of beast-man up north of Gabon’s Ridge… and then he says a cougar was talking to the other day and then it exploded! (Of course, Old Joby is drunk a lot…)

This one hundred page sandbox region is stuffed full of interesting things, in a lower fantasy setting environment. Interesting areas and some above average writing combined with an organizational style that is not too bad, to create one of the more interesting sandboxes I’ve seen. Almost like a MERP region, but without the stuffiness and with actual adventure.

First off, I’m used to seeing large page counts padded out with appendices that are sometimes larger than the actual adventure. No so here. You’re getting at least seventy pages of locations and people, with the last thirty pages being monster descriptions, detailed new magic items descriptions, a monster summary sheet, and maps. This, alone, is refreshing. And then you get to the sandbox.

This region has some things going on. Chiefly there’s the animal isse, mentioned in the introduction blurb. But, along with that, are wise women, hags, a bear herder, caves, towers, dungeons, a couple of civilized area (with their own things going on) and the list goes on and on and on. 

The entire region feels ALIVE and REAL. There’s just enough specificity to breathe life in to things and make them seem that way without it going too overboard on the text length, bogging down the DMs ability to run the game. There’s a hill, and the locals in the village tend to give directions according to the hill. “Stay to the right of the Old Nob …” or “Through the swamp side of the Old Nob …” The villagers are common folk, and say common folk things, and get riled up in common folk ways. Argumentative meetings, Ghost Hill, hills barren of vegetation, hills that the locals claim they see spirits dancing on sometimes … Let’s talk the criminals to the bog mother and have her deal with them. Fancy some stewed potatoes deary? It’s hard to describe just how interesting this place is, and its those little details that both make it interesting and breathe life in to the setting. Not stodgy. Not bogged down. Life.

Rumors are in voice. Wanderers are doing things. There’s a little chart on who you might find in an abandoned house and what they might be doing. You can talk to people, and monsters, and maybe remove a thorn from one or two of their sides. Goblins are sheltered, unknowingly by the villagers, by a priest in the church. It’s fucking DENSE, man. Almost every single area, almost every single room/encounter, has something to bring it to life. 

Villager descriptions are brief, about one line or two. Locations don’t get bogged down in too much detail and generally have some interesting writing going on, evocative sentences and details. There are some order of battle notes for certain areas and monsters, where appropriate. There are a fair number of cross-references to keep the DM from hunting too much. 

It could probably do with a few more cross-references though. And some of the monsters could use some evocative descriptions, instead of just SPirit Goblins or The White Ghu, and undead knight. I didn’t really see distance notes, or a distance key on the hex map. 

And it’s big. Really big. Seventy or so pages crammed full. There’s a lot to pour over here. I’m not sure “study” is the right word; I do think you could almost run this without a read-over first, but pouring over it a bit WILL result in a more rewarding experience, I’m sure. But unique magic items, mostly unique monsters, and a place that feels ALIVE, even at first glance of the text, is something that you just don’t run across every day. Sure, the text could use a little work, pruning it back a bit would make it have even more clarity, but it’s not BAD in that regard, just not perfect. This one os worth the extra effort.

You could buy this and run the HELL out of it for many MANY sessions, and for only … $4? Uh, fuck yes, please!

This is $4 at DriveThru. The preview is ten pages. You get to see some of the village some of the wanderers, some of the regional encounters, and all of the other text in the adventure is similar, so it’s a good preview in that you get a good idea of what you are buying first.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/318409/A-Shadow-Over-the-Greatwood?1892600

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Bat in the Attic Kickstarter, Cover is Finished!

Bat in the Attic - Sun, 09/13/2020 - 18:01

 Richard Luschek turned in all four cover pieces. Without further ado here is the completed cover. 

 I hope you are as pleased with his work as I am. 

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Weird Revisited: Hwaopt

Sorcerer's Skull - Sun, 09/13/2020 - 14:30
This post first appeared in 2017...
Hwaopt are reptilian humanoids from a distant world. They have large eyes and their dorsal surfaces have tubercules and spines marked with splotches of drab colors. They have adapted to a trogloxenic existence, with the largest group dwelling in and maintaining a vast, library cave system, which may be the greatest repository of knowledge in the know world.

As their vocation would suggest, hwaopt are bookish creatures--to the point pedantry in the eyes of many. Their tendency to verbose lectures on obscure topics is minor social deterrent to other species compared to their odor.  Hwaopt use chemical signalling as part of their communication with others of their kind, but non-hwaopt often find these pungent scents unpleasant.

Hwaopt are generally nonviolent, perhaps even cowardly in the estimation of other races. This is not true of their degenerate, brutish relatives, the troglodytes.
Hwaopt Traits
Ability Score Increase. A hwaopt's Intelligence score is increased by 2 and Wisdom is increased by 1.
Alignment. Hwaopt tend toward lawfulness.
Size. Hwaopt are medium.
Speed. Base walking speed is 30 feet.
Darkvision. Accustom to life underground hwaopt can see 60 feet within dim light as if it were bright light, and darkness as if it were dim light for 60 ft.
Odor. Hwaopt scent glands deliver subtle chemical signals to other hwaopt. They can tell if another individual of their kind has been in a room or other enclosed location (60 ft. area) within an hour and make a DC 12 Perception to determine their general emotional and health state and whether it is an individual they have encounter before. Open areas, a lot of air movement, or other strong scents generally make this impossible. Other races tend to find hwaopt scents unpleasant, so they wear masking perfumes when they plan to be around other species in close quarters. Creatures with a keen sense of smell must make a DC 12 Constitution check or be poisoned until their next turn. A creature who succeeds their check is immune for 1 hour.
Languages. Hwaopt can speak and read the Common language of humans. They also speak their own tongue, a language whose grammar is notoriously difficult to master. Their scholar tendencies provide them one extra language.

AD&D Session 19: In Search of the Level Appropriate

Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog - Sat, 09/12/2020 - 17:01

I opened this session with a deluge of adventure hooks:

  • Some farmers come into town begging for help. Goblins have abducted their daughters. Won’t someone help?
  • A wizard duel on the outskirts of town created a massive crater that revealed a tunnel with a partially open iris valve.
  • An exhibition at the Tower of Ultimate Darkness has recently opened that highlights the contributions to Trollopulean culture by early second Aeon spiritualists.
  • Chaz has a map to two crypt locations in the Undead Quarter marked “Monster Group A” and “Monster Group B”. (DM Note: the intensity level of that area might drop low enough that spending the night in the party’s house there would not be so ludicrous.)
  • Way back there was a moderately high level swoleceror that disappeared into the sewers. He took his super nifty spell book down there and never returned. It might still be there!
  • I didn’t mention the ruins of Opar in the jungles or Mt. Glovermore, but there are of course still around waiting for the players to return.

Hours and hours of work went in to drawing up the twelve one page dungeons in each of these areas. But the players can only choose one to explore this session.

One of the clerics suggested rescuing the farmers’ daughters and then selling them to a pimp. The Undead Quarter was deemed to be too challenging to face right now and the lure of the swoleceror spellbook held no sway. Tower of Ultimate Darkness was so horrific last game the players had no interest in even a level appropriate variation of that theme. A fresh and newly opened dungeon environment seemed to the players to be the safest way to pick up some gold and experience points.

This was a much bigger group of players. Strangely, this cut down on the chit chat. There must have been some kind of behind the scenes coordination I was not privy to. One new player showed up wanting to run a cleric. I gave him my standard advice that he should play some shade of lawful and/or good and that playing as part of a real Catholic-like institution was the way to go. He went with this with zero push-back.

I tried to tighten the ship a little, having the players dump their flaming oil, torches, rations, and attributes into the chat. I never got around to reading it, though. The party’s caller took care of tracking time and torch expenditures in the dungeons which was a big help. Time and movement rates matter a lot in this game, but wouldn’t so much in this particular session.

The players go into the dungeon very quickly. It took less than half an hour to organize the delve. This is extraordinary for this campaign.

The iris valve at the entrance flummoxed the caller. He used his psionic strength to direct some clairvoyance at it. Finally he was persuaded that proceeding in was safe. As safe as dungeons can be, anyway.

Proverbs of Trollopulous: “Don’t go to the tenth floor when you’re only first level.”

They come to a door with a strange symbol emblazoned upon it. Lots of interaction here. The druid used shape earth to open up a passage around the door, shaping a statue of an owlbear in the process. There were monsters on the other side. The caller used his psionic powers to scout out the room– five tough looking creeps in there! Chaz sent his three dwarfs in there. This should have required some kind of loyalty check, but I handwaved it because these dwarfs had experienced nothing but fabulous amounts of win with this party so far. They go in, roll for initiative, and only Stoogie makes it out alive.

The players expect the monsters to open the door but they do not. Stoogie could not discover any mechanism on the other side that could open it. The players are concerned about leaving a potential threat to their rear but end up finally deciding to move on.

They come to a room with a trench filled with glowing blue rocks. The monk and the druid jump across it, taking one point of damage each. The druid totally wants to Leroy Jenkins this dungeon, but the rest of the party shouts him down. Everyone taking one hit of damage on the way in and one more on the way out just seems like a tremendous risk. The monk jumps back and the druid ends up circling around, finding another trench in the next room over.

The players find another strange door. Chaz the Elven Cutpurse successfully unlocks it somewhat. It shifts upward about an inch or two. Next every single character in the party rolls for bend bars / lift gates. Finally the monk is successful. In side the room is three zombies and no treasure. The players lose initiative and I am worried that the monk is going to just die right here bearing the brunt of these things’ attacks. Fortunately for him, the zombies always go last. The cleric successfully turned them and the party was able to light them up at a safe distance.

At this point, it was getting towards the end of the session and there was nothing really awesome that had happened. I handwaved the exploration of the rooms south of the blue trenches– many more similar doors as the the other two monster rooms. Also a stairway down. The players did not want to do down a level– they were committed to staying in a level appropriate area if they could help it. But boredom (and fear of the weird blue trenches) finally persuaded them to give the stairs a try.

They roll down there and I ask for a d6 roll. They tie with the monsters– it’s a mutual surprise situation. Some kind of lizard men. Things devolve into a melee once a couple of players get their dart attacks off. The druid cast flesh to bark, I think. Half-Beard the veteran manages to cast a net onto one of the lizard men. Half-beard was killed when the monsters got their licks in, though. All twenty of his vials of oil broke when he fell. (The players did not opt to light him up.) The next round, one of Fagor’s Orko-Turkish Wrestlers overbear’d the thing, knocking it down and stunning it. Enough lizard men got killed in the scuffle that they had to check morale. As they fled toward a sinkhole, the party cut them all down.

There is a chest of coins there. Man, I shudder to think what would have happened had there not been one. This had to get interacted with at length as well, resulting in a poison dart flying away into the air. Inside were 500 gold and 2000 silver. Low risk equals low reward!

The players make their way out of the dungeon settling for this extremely modest treasure haul. Two henchmen and a first level player character was deemed to be acceptable losses for this paltry sum.

Performance grading: Nothing stuck out this time due to the players being all business. However upon reflection, Parvis should be given only a “Fair” rating due to behavior unbecoming to a cleric. I considered a downgrade for the entire party due to overly cautious play, but the pitiful treasure haul seems to be a sufficient deterrent going forward.

Downtime Declarations:

  • Fluid the Druid: Training Petunia the Pitbull on subduing enemies
  • Parvis the Acoylte: Simping for the trollops.
  • Chaz: Engaging in enhanced interrogation of the captured lizard man; staging peaceful protests near the Undead Quarter
  • Minghoul Hightenmeyer: Borrowed 200 gold from Fluid the Druid in order to seek out a level zero henchman of some sort.
  • Rhedgar: Continues his job as a mall cop.

Treasure and Experience:

Dividing everything up, the shares came out to 63 gold each and 106 xp each with henchmen getting half that, of course.

Cast o’ Characters:

Malalip the Initiate — Level two monk. [Sessions 18 and 19] 2250 + 106 XP. All saving spent on training. 63 gold this time. Sole survivor of level 10 of The Tower of Ultimate Darkness.

Rhedgar the Swordsman — Level three fighter. [Delve 15, 16, 17, an 19] 4000 + 106 XP. Should be broke from training. 63 gold this time. Procurer of the fabled Boobs of Opar.

Fluid the Druid, Initiate of the 2nd Circle — Level three druid. [Delve 9, 10, 11, 14, 15, 17, and 19] 4000 + 106 XP. Should be broke from training. 63 gold this time. Procurer of the fabled Boobs of Opar.

Fagor the Half-Orc Swordsman— Level three fighter. [Delves 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 6b, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, and 19] — 4000 + 1816 + 106 = 5922 XP. His horns have grown incredibly large. Looks frightening and diabolical. Cloven hooves His name means “astonishing hero” in orcish. Member of the Order of the Knights of Trollopulous.

Gilgalad and Logan — [Delve 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, and 19] Plate mail and shortswords. 333 + 70 + 76 + 875 + 31 = 1385 gold and 362 + 35 + 95 + 264 + 908 + 53 = 1717 XP each!

Nasty and Dernhelm — [Delve 12, 14, 15, and 19] Just a codpiece and a spear. 333 + 70 + 76 + 875 + 31 = 1385 gold and 362 + 95 + 264 + 908 + 53 = 1682 XP each! (Trained for dedicated grappling)

Peero the Sweeper– [Delve 19 only] 53 XP and 31 gold. [Note 15 strength!] Has antique monocle from 5th aeon.

Chaz the Elven Footpad — Level two thief. [Delve 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, and 19] 1250 + 30 + 528 + 362 + 106 = 2276 xp (levels at 2500) Member of the Order of the Knights of Trollopulous.

Stoogie the Dwarf — [Delve 16 and 19] 181 + 53 = 234 XP. 169 + 31 = 200 gold.

Parvis the Wayward — Level one cleric. [Delve 19[*F] only.] 106 XP and 63 gold.

Incredible Psionic Dude — Level one magic-user. [Delve 19 only.] 106 XP and 63 gold.

Minghoul Hightenmeyer — Level one cleric. [Delve 19 only.] 106 XP and 63 gold.

Time:

Day 1: The Hole in the Sky

Day 2: The Thing in the Sewer

Day 7: The Big Score part I

Day 8: The Big Score part II

(Day 9-14 — player characters all carousing¹; Keebler Khan fully recovered) <—- I day of real world time = one day of game time!)

Day 15: The Drums of the Dog People

(Day 16-21: More carousing, fasting, panhandling.)

Day 22-25: Altar of the Beast-women

(Day 26-31: Resting)

Day 32-33: The Pugs of Slaughter

(Day 34-39: Resting)

Day 40: The Overbearing of the Crystal Men

(Day 41-46: Resting)

Days 47-48: The Song of Fàgor

(Day 49-70: In shock from an awesomely weird adventure. Sad!)

Day 71: The Woman in the Ice

(Day 72-76: Resting)

Day 78-79: The Return to Trollopulous

(Day 80-85: Carousing in a besieged Trollopulous.)

Day 86: “You Just Ruined My Story Arc”

(Day 87-92: Utterly exhausted!)

Day 93-95: The Schwérpunkt of the Pig-Men

(Day 96-101: Carousing)

Day 102: A Night in the Autonomous Zone

(Days 103-108: In Trollopulous)

Day 109: The Rave of the Monkey Goddess

(Day 110-115: Scouting out jungle and undead quarter)

Day 116: Snakepede Legion

(Day 117-122: Fagor leveling; Chaz protesting)

Day 123-126: Return to Sorceress Mountain

(Day 127-132: Narjhan leveling. Rhedgar researching sorceress woman.)

Day 133-137: The Boobs of Opar

(Day 138-143: Fluid the Druid, Narjhan, and Rhedgar all training)

Day 144: Spirit Cooking of the Rich and Famous

(Day 145-172: Fagor acquires Peero the sweeper)

Day 173: In Search of the Level Appropriate

The graveyard:

Dorkorus — Half-elf fighter/magic-user/thief — [Half brother to Keebler Khan, talked with a lisp!] Killed by a pug-man in the sewers of Trolopulous.

Dairage — Elf fighter/magic-user — Killed with his shield spell on, valiantly taking down the leader of the pug-men so that the party could have a chance to escape certain death!

9 Hapless men-at-arms! — Killed by the pug-men in the sewers of Trollopulous!

Arthur the Gallant (7 hits) [Delves 2, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6a, 6b, 7, 8, and 9] XP: 122 + 753 + 351 + 54 + 766 + 8 + 80 + 255 + 0 + 195 = 2584 [Looked like a member of ZZ Top] — Killed in the sewers of Trollopulous while bashing a baby wererat with his shield.

Catskinner the thug — Smashed to a pulp by a white ape in the swamps near Trollopulous.

Aulis Martel the Adept (8 hits) [Delves 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6a, 7, and 13] XP: 753 + 351 + 54 + 766 + 8 + 255 => Just leveled up at 1500 XP. Reduced to idiocy by a Guild Navigator in the basement of the party’s autonomous zone in the undead quarter of Trollopulous.

Torin the Strider — [Delves 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 6b, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 16] 2250 + 800 + 734 + 70 + 191 + 362 = 4407 xp (levels at 4500) [Looks like a member of ZZ Top] +666 gold from session 12, +141 gold from session 14, +338 gold from session 16 [Member of the Order of the Knights of Trollopulous] Killed by by giant bombardier beetles in the Jungles of Opar.

Simon the Thug Henchman — [Delve 12, 13, 14, and 15] Studded Leather and shortswords. 333 + 70 + 76 = 479 gold and 362 + 35 + 95 + 264 = 756 XP. Cut down by a six armed snake woman in the temple in the crevasse at Sorceress Mountain.

Hans Franzen the Swoleceror — (3 hits, Burning hands, Jump, Message, Read Magic, Zilifant’s Effervescent Protein Bomb, Bigby’s Discomforting Wedgy) [Delves 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6a, 6b, 8, 11, 12, 13, and 14] 2500 + 734 + 70 + 191 = 3495 XP. (Levels at 5000) [Looks like a member of ZZ Top], [Member of the Order of the Knights of Trollopulous] 1336 + 141 = 1477 Gold. Killed by a “Bone” devil as he opened the door to the Fire Escape.

Brother Pain the Acolyte [Delve 3b, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 14] [Looks like a member of ZZ Top] XP: 1500 + 191 = 1691, +141 gold from session 14. Killed by a “Bone” devil as he attempted to free innocent looking little girls from evil spirit cooking people.

Bill Murray the Prestidigitator — [Delve 16 only] Gold 338 and 362 XP. Killed by a “Bone” devil in the den of the spirit cookers.

Dronal the Bravo — Killed by a “Bone” devil in the den of the spirit cookers.

Biff the Bold the “Veteran” — Pinned to an ice wall by a “Bone” devil in the den of the spirit cookers.

Kathars the Veteran — Welcomed into the pits of hell by Mephistopheles.

Doogie and Loogie the dwarfs — [Delve 16 only] 169 gold and 181 XP each. Killed by beastmen in the underground complex.

Half-Beard the Veteran — [Delve 12, 13, 14 and 15] 666 +141 + 152 = 1009 gold, 734 + 70 + 191 + 528 = 1523 XP. [Member of the Order of the Knights of Trollopulous] Killed by a lizard man in the caves underneath the underground complex.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Desert Ange Fiasco

Ten Foot Pole - Sat, 09/12/2020 - 11:11
By Joseph Robert Lewis Dungeon Age Adventures OSR Levels 1-3

Today an enchanted flying ship, the Desert Angel, will attempt to cross the uncharted Great Sand Sea. The Vahid Trading Company has convinced enough merchants to fill its hold with silks and spices, as well as some other strange odds and ends.  But Master Vahid is very worried about the safety of his new ship and crew, as well as the cargo. He is looking for trustworthy mercenaries to provide security on the Desert Angel’s maiden voyage. Payment upon (safe) arrival!

This 25 page adventure is a delightful little railroad as you cross the desert on the trans-desert flying ship route. It has about fifteen locations/events to experience. Well organized, well written, interesting encounters that, for being arrayed like a railroad, give the party as much freedom as possible under the circumstances. A fun little romp.

So, camel caravans no longer! The first flying transport ship is ready to sail across the desert in record time, three days instead of three weeks and three times the cargo! And it needs some mercenaries to ensure it makes it and the cargo stays safe. Enter our level one caravan guards. Now, this is a caravan assignment I can get behind! It’s not just that it’s fantastic, but that it FEELS like something that will appeal to the players. I’d play it up all Trip to the Moon style, or at least the Tonight, Tonight version of it. A brass band playing. The mayor and town worthies in their finery. Dudes holding ropes to keep it down, banners and pennants, a key to the city presentation … that should appeal to the party! It is on donkey kong!

The adventure is laid out with a brief (very brief) description of the ship and a very simple sailing system; roll a d6 and add/subtract a few modifiers. Captain Alive? +1. Quartermaster alive? +1. Ship damaged? -1. Pretty easy. Then comes a few NPC’s. Captain, crew, merchants. Just a little note on their appearance and another on their mannerisms, in a format that’s quite to easy to follow and scan. If they have a secret then there’s a bolded SECRET section. Quite nice format and the NPC descriptions are interesting, evocative, and easy (and fun!) to imagine. And, really nice use of triple column layout. It gives lots of room, is easy to scan in the font size used. Good use of breaks, bullets, whitespace, sections … JRL has this format thing down. I’m not saying that this is the ONLY way to format an adventure, or even the BEST way, but it certainly does what it needs to do. Good job JRL!

The ship is sailing across the desert to another city, so, it’s a railroad. Kind of. The captain mostly listens to the party and what they want to do. So the party, or a sailor, will generally see something from the ship and then they can decide if they want to stop the ship or not. There are a few events and/or “random” encounters for the ship as well, but, for the most part, the party gets to decide if they want to stop at the huge pyramid made of solid gold. So, as much freedom as possible given that it’s a journey from point A to B. 

Speaking of that pyramid … it’s got a mummy inside. The walking, talking kind. And, she doesn’t fuck the party over unless they steal or lie. Nice lady, except for the dessication. The party can actually recruit her to join the ship; she’s interested in seeing the world. Another stop has an old hermit lady who wears a mask. She can cast warp wood at will, which can repair the ship. Yeah! She worships an elder abomination … but isn’t fussy/forceful about it. Wanna learn more? That mask hides a mouth full of tentacles; you’ll need a kiss. So … she’s a little crazy, but not in an evil way. And that comes across in an easy way, without mountains and mountains of text. 

Descriptions are great, short, terse and evocative. There’s a decent amount of interactivity, mostly from character interactions on the ship and some puzzle type things (like a laser trap in the pyramid … solved, in one way, by fucking with the white crystal at the top of the pyramid, for example.) 

It may be a bit heavy on the die rolls are times … or, maybe, it just seems that way. There are a lot of sailing checks to be made, to avoid hazards, and so on, and that can feel a little heavy sometimes. 

Otherwise, this is a nice solid little adventure. It’s as close to pick and play/zero prep as I think you can get. A quick scan of the intro page and you’re off! It’s a credit to the organization and writing abilities of its designer.

This is $2 at DriveThru. The preview is twelve pages and shows you the ship, the NPC section, and several of the encounters. I encourage you to check out the NPC’s on page 9 of the preview and the Day 1 section, with two encounters, on the next page. They are a great example of the formatting and writing style used throughout. Nicely done. 

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/322651/Desert-Angel-Fiasco-A-Dungeon-Age-Adventure-5e-and-OSR-versions?1892600

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Blood of Prokopius: Towards a Holmesian Dungeon

Zenopus Archives - Fri, 09/11/2020 - 19:57
Attention Holmes True Believers,

Interesting post alert! 
Today, the blog Blood of Prokopius has a post, Towards a Holmesian Dungeon, that is well worth your time:Towards a Holmesian DungeonWhat follows is not anything particularly new. Many of these ideas have been present within the hobby and explored throughout the years I have been maintaining this blog. My interest here is codifying what I consider to be the characteristics of a dungeon that can truly be called Holmesian - by which I mean a dungeon that puts into practice what the Holmes Basic Edition presents as Dungeon.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Outlander Trading Cards Season 4: Oversized Wardrobe Cards (eBay Exclusives)

Cryptozoic - Thu, 09/10/2020 - 15:18

Outlander Trading Cards: Oversized Wardrobe Cards feature actual fabric pieces used in the production of costumes worn by the stars of Outlander. The four limited-edition oversized cards each measure 4" x 6" and will be sold exclusively via eBay. Visit this page on September 14 to see the listings at the specified times.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Transhuman Space + 2300 AD

Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 09/10/2020 - 11:00

I think a mashup of Transhuman Space and Traveller: 2300 AD (later 2300 AD) would work quite well. They both share the trait of being relatively "hard sci-fi" rpgs. Both eschew world governments and the like for squabbling nation states continuing into the future. Both try to avoid most of the fantastical technologies of a lot of space opera.

There are a lot of differences, sure, but I feel like those differences could compliment each other. Transhuman Space's exuberant optimism regarding AI and biotech balances out 2300 AD's in places laughably conservative (and now dated) notions regarding future tech. Adjusting in the direction of 2300 AD's temporal setting (maybe meeting in the middle at 2200) would make Transhuman Space's rosy tech and space travel outlook look more conservative. Bringing in 2300 AD's stutterwarp drive and "realistically alien" aliens broadens Transhuman Space into interstellar science fiction, which is often more to the rpg crowds' liking than solar system-confined post-cyberpunk, while staying relatively true to the hardish sci-fi leanings of TS. Plus, 2300 AD has a star map and young space colonies ready for you.

Of course, you could do without FTL and keep 2300 AD's aliens and colonies. If you had things like Alastair Reynolds' "lighthuggers" and suspended animation sleep, you could still maintain 2300 AD style civilization, particular when you factor in Transhuman Space tech regrading brain downloading and bioroid bodies.

Level Up: Advanced 5th Edition

Blog of Holding - Wed, 09/09/2020 - 17:43

I have a new side hustle: I’m one of the lead designers on Level Up, a new 5e-compatible tabletop RPG being developed by the folks at enworld. My guess is they must have seen my article about ewers in D&D and thought, “We want the ewer guy.”

Some of my stuff is up on enworld if you want to read it. I posted a chart-heavy article about damage by character class. You can also download the first levelup playtest packet: I wrote the backgrounds section.

Level Up is the game’s development code name; we haven’t decided the final game’s name yet. My vote is “Ewers and Dragons.”

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Bat in the Attic Kickstarter, Funded!

Bat in the Attic - Wed, 09/09/2020 - 16:39
That was a strong finish and I appreciate everybody backing this kickstarter.

The deadline for this project is in November. The big unknown at this point is how long it will take to get proofs back from DrivethruRPG. With the current pandemic the times for cards and book shipping keep shifting. I will keep everybody up to date on the latest advisories as I get them. I posted the latest one (August 24th) at the end of this post.

Timeline

  • The draft is in the hands of my editor Emily. She is just starting her edits.
  • Richard Luschek is starting on the cover art. I have requested one of the pieces to be done in b/w for an interior illustration. More on that below.
  • When the editing is done I will update the quick reference cards first, apply the edits that Howard Bampton has graciously done, and post a release candidate for comment.
  • I will do the layout and cover.
  • While doing layout, order a print proof of the cards and release the final version of the quick reference cards. 
  • Post a release candidate for the PDF and wait a few days for comments.
  • Make any final corrections to the layout, and order a print proof of the book.
  • Post the Reward Survey to collect everybody's email address.
  • Release all DriveThruRPG print and PDF coupons to finalize the rewards.
  • Once I know the rewards are working I will release the products for sale.
  • First piece of art and additional content.


Richard Luschek has released the first piece of art to me. A b/w version of one of the cover pieces that I will be using in the interior of the book. This particular illustration will have a background and color added for the cover.


Creature being depicted is a Silurian. It not in the current draft so I moved it and the snake category it part of into the draft I submitted to Emily.

Click to see the full size versionI made a small 4 page booklet with Snakes and Silurians from the list of Majestic Fantasy Monsters. You can download the booklet from the below link

Snakes for the Majestic Fantasy RPG

(from DriveThruRPG) Printing & Shipping Update (August 24, 2020)

Printed books are currently taking roughly one month to be printed in the US (UK production is not delayed). In addition, due to Covid-related slowdowns, shipping can also take considerably longer than usual. Note, media mail shipments cannot be tracked and will not be replaced until 45 days have passed undelivered (or 60 days for deliveries to Australia).

Card printing and shipping is also somewhat slower than usual right now. Expect delays.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Lie of Destiny

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 09/09/2020 - 11:11
By Denver Cheney Self Published Modulus Level ?

In The Lie of Destiny, an adventure for the Modulus system, your players get to kick in the door on some cultists and piece together the clues for a chance to save the Great Library from being burned! Pursue the fleeing cultists down back alleys and capture them before they make their escape to the Howling Sea aboard a stolen ship! This adventure drops your players in the thick of an important quest as agents for the Crown. While the enemies are weak, they are numerous and have paranoia on their side. Your players will have to be decisive, clever, and good at working together to achieve complete victory in this scenario.

This 12 page adventure is actually just a series of linked combats for your combat-oriented RPG of choice. 

This isn’t an OSR adventure, but it does say up from it’s for Modulus, and it in the Other category on DriveThru. It also says “adaptable for any age of sail game”, so that’s why I’m reviewing it. And, by Age of Sail, it means “Any game that can have a boat in it.”

There is a very popular mini’s game by Games WOrkshop. It’s just minis combat. What if you took that, or something like that, and had a little minis battle scenario. Then at the end you added some statement like “you find a clue that they are also headed to the library!” Then you’d have a series of minis combats interlinked by some VERY light roleplay-y elements. That’s what this is. It reminds me of those interlinked scenarios from Star Fleet Battles, another minis game. Thus you have a “campaign” defined by “ a series of interlinked combats.” Essentially 4e, if the roleplay elements were even lighter in 4e. (It’s always a good day when you can work in a 4e slam.)

There’s some background, but mostly on the game world. You’re agents for the EMpire and you’ve tracked the cultists to their lair. That’s how it starts. The pretext here is VERY light, starting, essentially, outside the shop the cultists use. The actual scene is described in half a column, so, two scenes per page. There are hints to the DM for reinforcements and the cultists running away to warn others, but that’s about it. Interactivity is limited to “looking for clues after the combat is done” or “stop the cultists from burning a paper during the combat” and the ilk. This really is just a series of four combats. 

The clues after the combat are meant to be the pretext to get you to the next scene, but they are VERY light. One cultists had ink stained hands. There are old books around. There are books marked off of a list. A scholar outfit is in the closet. THis means, of course, that the next scene/combat is in the Great Library. 

I would suggest that this isn’t a roleplaying adventure. It’s just a mini;s combat thing. Maybe that’s what the Modulus RPG is, just a combat game. Which is ok .. except when advertised, perhaps, as “compatible with any age of sail RPG.” There’s no real scene. No real interactivity byond combat. Just one combat followed by a teleport to the next combat scene. “You’re in the library. The cutists drop a lantern to start burning books!”

So, 4e was too heavy on the roleplaying front? Just want to stab some shit? This is the adventure for you. 

This is $2.50 at DriveThru. The preview is only two pages and just shows the intro text. It would have been better if it had shown an actual encounter, then you could have made a better decision on if the adventure was something or a type you’re interested in.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/324322/The-Lie-of-Destiny–A-Modulus-Adventure?1892600

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

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