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The Mud King of Stoney Creek

Ten Foot Pole - Mon, 11/04/2019 - 12:13
Created with GIMP By WR Beatty Rosethorn Publishing S&W Levels 5-7

Beavers have dammed up Stoney Creek… but the villagers who went to break up the dam have not returned. Perhaps something sinister is going on here?

This nineteen page adventure details a small wilderness with ten locations and a troll cave with eighteen more. I might call it a Lair Adventure & Environs, since it’s a small-ish location and is … a lair. It’s firing on all cylinders with good usability, creatures doing things, good treasure, and decent interactivity.   

Do I like Rosethorn? I recognize the name but I can’t recall previous quality. Anyway, this one is good. The monsters have arranged for a beaver dam in a remote section of a road. They they ambush travellers who are camped for the night in front of the new lake. In the village, a couple of villagers went up a month ago to clear the dam. They didn’t come back. Then two weeks ago four more went to look for the first. They didn’t come back. Then a mob went up with all the villages weapons. THEY didn’t come back. Ouch! One of the hooks has a trapper going there to bust the dam, and looking for protection, which could also slot in well as to Why The Local Lord isn’t Involved; he hired the trapper. Then again, at levels 5-7 in OD&D the party is pretty Big Shits themselves … which I choose to ignore. 

There’s a nice little wilderness area described around the dam, lake, road, and cave. It all makes sense. A dam, a stream, a stirge tree, an attacked campsite, an inviting campsite, a lookout. It feels like it all works together well and makes sense together. A lot of this can be summed up as “they are trolls, they don’t care about the piranha/stirge tree/razorwire.” Take the beavers. D&D being what it is, you could spell a conversation with them, and the designer has provided notes on what they knew. Along with other creatures you might capture, just a few bullets on what they can relate. The piranha are attracted after a few rounds. They patrol the banks for a few rounds after a feast. Too much blood and MORE piranha show up from pools deeper in to the caves. A retreating troll might shake a tree full of stirge; he doesn’t care about them. A stirge, injured, flees to not return. It all kind of makes sense. 

And then there’s some monster actions mixed in. The troll, fleeing, might shake the stirge tree. A goblin, fleeing, might jump in the water … and get attacked by the piranha. Another might be thrown in elsewhere to attract the piranha and creature a diversion. There are some charmed trolls inside … but charm works both ways; they tend to ignore the party is they don’t directly attack them or they are ordered otherwise. It’s this very neutral way of writing the adventure that leads to opportunities. 

Obstacles present themselves. The aforementioned streams/pools of piranha … I mean “NeedleFish.” In the water there is some razor sharp wire strung as obstacles to overcome. Treasure is stored in a steaming hot 180 degree mud pool, or deep in a pool of piranha or a water monster. These are open-ended, with no suggestions given, just something for the party to devise a way to overcome. And it doesn’t FEEL like it’s a gimpy set up, it feels like this is natural and how things should work.

For the most part. The razor sharp wire is pushing things a bit as is the existence of a MU with charm in service to the troll king. I’m not sure the Charm MU is really even needed; it doesn’t feel like the charms provide that much of a needed background explanation.

Treasure is good. Magic Lead. Weapons with names and (brief) histories. Items described sometimes with non-mechanical states, like chains that cannot be broken. Mundane items also get a little description, adding to their flavor. There’s a wandering monster table that has them doing something. There’s a monster reference stat chart at the end. The map is interesting, for a lair, with water features, terrain, collapsing tunnels, various levels and the like. Good job on it. There’s probably enough treasure, also, which is rare for a GOLD=XP game. You’re not gonna level, but there might be 40k or 50k, which is good for a lair. 

On the weird side of things, it sometimes engages in tables for the sake of tables, it feels like. A goblin has four possible reasons for being outside. A water monster has a table of random special abilities and weaknesses. The wanderer chart is a full page … which is great from a usability standpoint, it’s easy to find. But in all of these cases it feels like there’s more content than is needed/expected. That’s not bad, i just found it a bit strange.

The map and text, while both good, could work together a little more. In particular light is strange. Room ten mentions it is lit … and also that room six is … but room six doesn’t mention that. With a simple map, like this, you don’t necessarily need to note light/sound on the map since it’s easy to scan ahead in the text as the party leave down the hallway to the next room. Nut … it’s also nice for those details to somehow be conveyed to the DM ahead of time. It’s related to the “outside vista” issue where the party can see a lot of an environment at once, looking down on a ruined keep for example, but no overview is given, focing the DM to scan everything to tell the party what they see “in one go.” 

These are minor though. The evocativeness of the writing is the major shortcoming. And by “major shortcoming” I mean the area for most improvement that the adventure has, not that it’s a major problem. The writing is terse and the environments well described and interesting, but the writing is also a little flat. Hmmm, no, not flat. It’s not generic. But it also doesn’t really spring to life in your minds eye. And let’s be clear, I’m being kind of a jerk here. The language use is fine. But of course I want everything to be perfect. Tersely writing an evocative description that springs to life in your mind is not an easy task. Again, not that it’s bad here, but it could be better. Have I inserted enough qualifiers yet?

This is easily a Best. When you want an adventure and go to DriveThru to buy something THIS is EXACTLY the sort of thing you are hoping for. I wish every adventure ever written were at least as good as this. Yeah? Fuck it. This is my new baseline. I now hold your Rosethorn adventure up as the platonic example of a journeyman quality adventure.  Writers could do A LOT worse than emulate the format & style of this adventure. There may be other ways to achieve the same thing, but this thing is easy to relate to.

This is $2 at DriveThru.The preview is five pages and shows you outside encounters and a few inside, including most of the piranha pools, the fleeing goblin, troll, stirge tree, etc. It’s a good representation of the type and quality of writing/adventure you’ll be getting. The last page, has room I3, and shows some of the “not flat not the best” writing I spoke about.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Well Blow Me Down! Popeye Maps

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 11/04/2019 - 12:00
I'm not sure what iteration of Popeye this is from, but it suggests Popeye lives in a pretty small town:

Here's one definitely from the Sagendorf comics. At least Wimpy owns his on home in this version:

(5e) The Convent of the Weeping Moon

Ten Foot Pole - Sat, 11/02/2019 - 11:15
by Nick Smith Black Arts 5e Levels 4+

On a misty hill, far from the hustle and bustle of the big cities, lies the blasted ruins of a long-forgotten Convent. A village living under the shadow of the darkened moon. An Innkeeper’s daughter and her fiancé missing. The PCs are asked for help. Have the tentacles of an ancient, long-banished heresy resurfaced, to glide silently through the Convent’s moss-covered stones?

This pleasant surprise is a 44 page adventure detailing a three level ruin with about sixty rooms in about twenty pages. It does a decent job being spooky, evocative, and interactive. While it could be organized better it’s much better than most. It’s not great, but it’s better than most.

Check out that cover! Not the usual garbage soft-genero-fantasy cover here! Striking and sets the mood well. My only comment would be that the impact from the lit window is distracted by the white text of the adventure name. The window ends up being almost unnoticeable. Too much emphasis there, though, and the players will probably fixate on it. But … Did you need to put the adventure name, descriptions, edition number, mature audience warning, and publisher on the cover? Not to be too big of an ass here, but … this is a PDF only product. While you might want those things on the cover if this were to be sold in a traditional game store … is it necessary for something that will only exist as a filename? Or, even if it’s a boutique printing, like Lulu, folks have already selected the adventure, you don’t need to convince them. The DriveThru blurb text in the description does all the work that the cover text usually did. Not that I really give a shit but it points out of the possibilities that exist for a product as PDF only, or boutique print only. If you’re gonna go out of your way to have such striking imagery on your cover then why muddy your vision? Anyway, this is the height of nitpicking from me, and a terribly shitty way to start a review of a decent product. 

This adventure does a lot things right. Maybe not to the full extent it could, but it hits a number of points high enough. It’s specific in its descriptions. It provides evocative text. It has a fair amount of interactivity, and it’s usable enough at the table … with a few notable exceptions.

You arrive at an inn. The reticent villagers eventually tell the party their plight. The party trapses off to find the innkeepers lost kid & fiance … even though everyone else in the inn thinks they just ran off together. As they get close to the ruins they catch a glimpse of them in the moonlight, an eerie light in a high window, and hear a bell tolling in the distance. Coming over the last hill they see the convent fully. Not intact with the eerie window light as you first saw. No, just a ruin with most walls less than chest height. 

Reticent villagers. Most of them think the couple ran off. They don’t want to help the innkeeper search anymore. Pretty believable in context. It’s a lie, of course. The innkeeper doesn’t have a daughter and the inn regulars do this to send selected travelers to the cult in the ruins. The regular villagers are scared as all fuck. The bell the party hears is the innkeeper ringing the village bell to warn the cult people are coming. (And it’s spooky as all fuck also, in context.) Moonlight, mist, darkness, ruins, a lonesome bell. The brief glimpse of the convent, which then is ruins in full vision, is a great introduction to the Mythic Underworld concept. You Are About To Enter Someplace Else. Beware! And then, when you get back out of the convent, you get to deal with the 0-level NE villagers who tricked you there. Hapless evil fuckwits, noncombatants who put up no struggle. What cha gonna do with them orc babies? There’s not a direct advice on this, but it’s mentioned and, in context, its done well. It’s a consequence to the adventure and that always makes them feel more immersive.

In the ruins there’s the old office of the old mother superior. There’s a hidden compartment. It has some old parchment, the mummified hand of a child, and weird little figurine. Something to find. Something creepy. A pedestal with a moon phase puzzle, simple, just match it to the current phase of the moon shining overhead. Things to open, as simple as that, interactivity is obtained. The cultists have a brief mention of some order of battle/responses, as well as the briefest of tactics advice (fake surrenders, etc.) Just enough to help the DM out without it droning on and on and on. The maps are well done for being relatively low room counts, there’s a side view present, and the mundane treasure is well described. Crystal decanters with perfume. A silver covered mask with moonstone inlay. (Theme!) But I didn’t notice much in the way of magical treasure beyond simple book potions. (But they are, at least, in green and red bottles. Again the extra word of specificity helps immensely ground imagination enough to let it soar.)

The NPC’s in the inn, at the start, have short little descriptions, just a couple of words on appearance and maybe a sentence or phrase on what they think happened. Not a life fucking story, but information directly relted to the fucking adventure at hand. Imagine that! Likewise, what they have to relate to the party is presented in bullet form, easy to find and relate by the DM. This is all great.

Let me now skip mentioning other good details and shift to what could be better, because I am never satisfied.

The first level is mostly ruins. Chest high walls AT MOST. This brings up the Lord Of All I Survey issue. When the players can view an area at a distance and take it in then there should be some notes about what they see. Notable features, etc. The alternative is the DM scrambling through a dozen room descriptions or more trying to figure out what they see, in response to that question. When the players can see a lot then the designer should help the DM with the notable features they see. A pool of water NE, Stairs in the left center, etc. I THINK the map covers most of this, but it could do a better job showing the elevation change (implied by stairs) between the two halves of the ruins … an important detail for some secret doors and potential multi-level combat that is going to take place. I should also not that most of the adventure takes place behind the aforementioned secret door. That’s generally a No No. Putting your adventure behind something that the party can fail at (finding a secret door and/or solving a puzzle in this case) means we have to cheat to keep playing. Better to do something else to hide the doors. (ALthough, the issue is somewhat mitigated in this case because there are two possibilities, finding the door and just solving the moon phase puzzle, but, still.) It does something similar in another place in the adventure, putting a body behind a secret door and then stating the DM should fudge it since its important for the party to find the body. Well .. then why’s it behind a secret door then?

Read aloud gets long in places. This is almost always because the read-aloud is including follow-up information. The text tells you that you find, among other things, a small figurine. And then it goes on to fully describe it. That lengthens the read-aloud and REMOVES interactivity. A key part of D&D is the back and forth between the players and the DM. Describing the figuring in the DM text keeps that back and forth and shortens the read-aloud. And, again, read-aloud isn’t always bad but long read-aloud IS always bad. People pull out their phones and attentions wander. Monologues are not engagement.

There are a couple of other issues also. The cultists inside really need a small section on what they know, etc, oto handle the inevitable torture/speak with dead that happens when players capture/interogate prisoners. And the stat blocks, especially for the cult, get long. Condensing the stat block is an age-old problem … but important to solve nonetheless.

The most serious issue is, though, the general style used to format the room entries. There’s a small section at the rear which describes this. It’s trying to use background coloring and other offset words to highlight and bring attention to section breaks and so on. It doesn’t really work at all for any room that has more than a little complexity to it. Room nine on the second level is the perfect example of this. Long read-aloud. Multiple read-aloud sections. Plain text breaking it up with words like “a normal perception roll reveals” before more read-aloud. A whole lot of conditionals for things the party might look at that are, esentially, headers for read-aloud. It tries to break this up with line breaks. So, previous read-aloud ends. Empty line. Plain text that says something like “the open coffin:” then another empty line. Then the read- aloud for the open coffin. Better, I think, to eliminate the additional empty line. That makes the read-aloud belong to the text more, instead of it just being a page of paragraphs and sentences broken up by empty lines. The background-colored sections then intrude also in to this mix … without much reason. Why do the Iron Doors to room 14 get background text but the open coffin doesn’t? The format doesn’t work.

5e reviews are a pain. Do I grade on a curve? There’s so little decent for 5e that I want to. In the end I shall not! And I regert that decision not!

This is $5 at DriveThru.The preview is four pages. It gives you four pages of the actual adventure, so it’s a good preview, giving you an idea of what to expect with your purchase. You can see room nine of level one in the preview. It’s a good example of how the format, which works ok elsewhere, tends to break down on the more complex rooms.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Daylight Saving Time Video - Possible THW game?

Two Hour Wargames - Fri, 11/01/2019 - 16:02
Have to check it out here. Funny stuff! Thanks J.J.

Preview YouTube video Daylight Saving - Movie Trailer

FYI - Kickstarter almost funded already!
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Black Iron Prisoners' Dilemma

Sorcerer's Skull - Fri, 11/01/2019 - 11:00

Not even the solipsist monsters of the Abyss can continue forever under conditions of ever-changing insanity; some ideas produce too great a gravity for even the the most fluid minds to escape. And so, like a body faced with cells that might mutate beyond restraint, the Abyss walled off the offending ideas in a cyst. The cyst endures in the astral nothingness, holding its dark enlightenment within. This is the Black Iron Prison.

The pull of the Black Iron Prison attracts others. Monsters of the Abyss convinced that something besides Self was real and that something was Punishment. But by whom? The Godhead who had appeared to have forsaken them or some new Godhead yet to come?

Fearful and paranoid, the monsters elaborated prisons around the original one like nested labyrinths. There they hid, and interrogated and punished themselves and any other souls that fell into their grasp.

Some might consider the multiverse's largest prison a place of Law, but there is little Law here. Rules are arbitrary and changeable. As are punishments. All the jailers operating under vague authority are just more prisoners. Those jailers, the prisoners with the longest sentences, are the fiends called deodands, this name being an an ancient term for an object which has caused a death and so is forfeit to God. If anyone knows why the fiends have this name it is the Baatezu, and like most secrets, they have classified the information.

The most common deodands are tall, emaciated, scabrous creatures with frog-like mouths. Their bare skins weep a tarry ichor from numerous injection sites. They're junkies and dealers; they mix the astral excreta of despair, callousness, and fear that oozes from the souls that fall into their hands with the bile of arthropods that make their homes in the prison’s substructure and inject it beneath their skin. The tarry substance--and a brief respite from their paranoia in a cold, sneering high--are the result. The tar is packaged and sold (to the prisoners to be smoked or injected) in exchange for pleasant memories or dreams or hopes--anything that defines the former self-hood of the soul. When not engaged in commerce, these tar deodands are the menials of the prison.

The the second most common variety are the color of a fresh bruise.  Their limbs are swollen like blood sausages, and their tick-like bellies appear filled to near bursting, sloshing loathsomely as they waddle or fly drunkenly on ridiculously small wings. Their bloated faces are unpleasantly human-like and wear expressions of voluptuous satiety, complete with drool running from the corners of their mouths and down their double (or triple) chins. Always their skins appear to glisten as if oiled. They sweat even more when they eat, and they eat almost constantly. The eat when they are worried, and they are always worried. About informers or conspiracies. About a time when the tortures they apply to others might be applied to them.

The rarest of deodands have assumed the most authority. They often pass themselves off as wardens and are just as often found in solitary confinement. They sometimes watch and titter at the interrogations as they undergo torture themselves. They’re androgynous humanoids with bald heads and unfeminine faces, but pendulous breasts and high-pitched voices. Their pale, wrinkled skin seems ill-fitted to their bodies. They have a penchant for dressing in uniforms, the more elaborate the better. Sagging deodands, they are called.

Kickstarter Launches Midnight Eastern Standard Time - Win a free set of Rules?!

Two Hour Wargames - Thu, 10/31/2019 - 18:07
"Win a free set of rules?!"Yep, here's how we do it:1 - The first 20 pledges are eligible for the prize.2 - When the project closes and if we fund, I will draw one pledge from the 20 and that one wins the free set of our current miniatures rules; your choice.3 - Winner gets a printed copy and PDF.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Into the Gloaming (Part II)

Torchbearer RPG - Thu, 10/31/2019 - 13:00
The Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod Crane, by John Quidor (1858)

Hello friends and Happy Halloween!

Last year at this time I shared a trio of new Torchbearer monsters to fill your horror gaming needs: the vampire, werewolf and zombie.

I wanted to do something similar this year, but we’ve already got most of the classic horror monsters covered. As I mentioned, last year’s blog post covers vampires, werewolves and zombies. The Torchbearer core book has ghouls and skeleteons. The Petersen Bestiary (vol. 1) covers the ghost (you can also find her in The Dread Crypt of Skogenby). And the draugr from Middarmark has the revenant/mummy covered. What to do?

I discussed the issue with Jared Sorensen (check out Jared’s Torchbearer Sagas content here), and Jared suggested we do some monsters from folklore and popular culture. So without further ado, as a Halloween thank you to all of you, here’s Jared’s take on the Dullahan and the Creature and my take on the Gremlin. Enjoy!

The Dullahan Capt. Mayne Reid’s version of a Texas Legend, published in 1865

The dullahan doesn’t roam the land willy-nilly, laying waste as a vengeful ghost or bloodthirsty killer would. Think of them as Grim Reaper-esque figures, traveling the land in search of already-doomed souls. The characters may cross its path during its nightly ride, it could be in search of a character fated to die, or it could be seeking to claim a sacrifice. Read on!

Twist: Wandering Monster
In the first situation, the party encounters a dullahan as it makes its way through the countryside, its glowing head held aloft like a grim lantern. To further twist the knife, a devious GM could have the dullahan’s target end up being a parent, friend, mentor or even an enemy of one of the characters!

Twist: Fated to Die
A human player character who is fated to die, either from a failed test or as part of a compromise, may have their dark fate put on hold—long enough for the dullahan to make a personal appearance and claim that soul for itself.

Adventure Hook: The Lottery

In a small backwater town, an obscure cult worships an ancient fertility god local to their region. Once a year, they make a sacrifice to ensure a rich harvest—a human sacrifice, and the Immortal they revere prefers his victims to be decapitated. The dullahan is its earthly incarnation, a reaper of souls, an embodiment of death. This year, the offering has escaped (either on their own or with the aid of another) and this could bring grave consequences for the townsfolk. Will the adventurers recapture the sacrifice? Find a new offering? Destroy the cult? Banish the dullahan?

Facing the Dullahan

Characters facing the dullahan may attempt to delay their fate with a Banish or Drive Off conflict, but this will provide a moment of  relief—the next night, the dullahan will ride once more. If the dullahan is on its way to claim a soul, Drive Off simply isn’t an option—the dullahan will curse those who catch its eye, then continue on its way. Fleeing the dullahan’s wrath is next to impossible: they are tireless, relentless, all-seeing and cannot be slowed by doors or gates.

The Dullahan Nature 6Might 5Cursing, Hunting, RidingGoal: Each night I ride to claim a soul.Instinct: Speak the name of the dying before taking their soul.Type: Faerie/Spirit

Special Rules
Speak of the Dead
: The dullahan cannot speak save for one utterance per journey: the name of its victim. Should their victim hear the dullahan speak their name, they will drop dead. Attempting to shield the victim using earplugs or magic will only delay the inevitable—see below.
Flying Head: As a last resort, the dullahan may use an Attack action to throw its own head. It will try to target the doomed character (if present) but will also target anyone it deems to be interfering with its Instinct. When used against another Attack, this is a versus test. The glowing head screams as it flies through the air, ignores armor and only causing damage to its target. If hit, the target suffers the Dead condition and the dullahan, its head and its mount/coach vanish from sight until the next night when it will ride once again.
Caught by its Eye
: Best to shutter your windows when this bogey rides past; Should any character catch the dullahan’s stare, they’ll suffer a harrowing event: either going blind in one eye or having blood splashed in their face, as if it was thrown from a great basin. Make a Will test vs the Dullahan’s cursing Nature; success means the character becomes drenched in blood and Afraid. Failure means the character will be struck blind in one eye:
MoF Duration
1-2 one phase
3-4 one session
5 one adventure
6 one season
The affected eye becomes milky white and sightless, although this blindness is temporary and their sight will be restored after the curse’s duration expires. If a one-eyed character is affected, they would be totally blind during the curse’s duration and suffer all manner of normal penalties for being without sight.
Spectral Sight
: The dullahan can see in total darkness and across vast distances. Characters may not hide from the dullahan using stealth or magic.
Fey Knock: No door or gate can prevent the dullahan from passing. WIth but a gesture or glance that portal will unlock/unbar itself and fly open to allow passage.
: While mounted, the dullahan’s Might is increased by +1 and it may use its steed’s Nature descriptors (fighting, pursuing, burning). Disarming the mount will unseat the dullahan.
Aurophobia: Dullahan fear the sight of gold. Characters wielding a sack of gold or any gold artifact in their hands gain +1D to any action, in addition to the benefit from their normal weapon. Characters may also choose to break a tie in their favor by throwing gold at the dullahan.

Hit Points Flee
Drive Off
WeaponConflictADFMSpine WhipDrive Off — — +1D+2DBlack HorseDrive Off+2D — — — RelentlessBanish
Drive Off+1D — — — Coach-a-bowerFlee+2D+1D — +1DDarting EyesFlee — — +1D+2D The Dullahan Description

This headless spirit rides a ghostly black horse across dark roads and trails, through forests and moors. In its hand or under its arm it holds its own severed head; corteed by a hideous and impossibly wide grin,  with soulless black eyes that are in constant motion, enabling it to find its prey across vast distances to find its victim, no matter where they lie. The head itself glows with hellish green phosphorescence which the dullahan uses like a lantern to light its way as it rides the countryside. In its other hand it wields a human spine as a whip.

As a harbinger of death, those unfortunate enough to catch a glimpse of this spirit as it rides past will be showered with blood or struck blind in one eye. Any door or gate—even those that are locked or barred—will fly open as the dullahan approaches. In some instances, the dullahan will be driving its coach-a-bower; a black hearse pulled by a team of six black horses. The coach is adorned with candle-lit skulls, with wheel spokes fashioned from human thigh bones and human skin or a worm-eaten pall in place of a canvas or fabric covering. The coach moves so quickly, its wheels set the ground ablaze. The dullahan never speaks, save for the name of its dying victim. Upon hearing their name, that person drops dead; their soul is then carried off in the coach which vanishes without a trace. 

The only defense against the dullahan is to brandish a weapon or object made of gold, for the dullahan fears the sight of this metal. Even a small amount could be enough to drive off this headless spirit.

Notes: Although the dullahan’s name translates to “Dark Man,” female dullahan are known to exist. As a spirit, it is immune to anything that specifically targets undead Nature.

The Creature An engraving of the actor T.P. Cooke as Frankenstein’s monster in the 1823 production of Presumption; or, the Fate of Frankenstein

His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun-white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion and straight black lips.

Mary Shelley, from Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus

The Creature wanders the land on its quest for meaning and companionship, usually traveling by night to avoid detection. It lives off the land, eating nuts, berries and other forage—it does not eat meat. The Creature camps during the day in secluded locations and its there where a party may stumble across signs of its existence. The Creature may also scavenge scraps from their camp while they’re away in the adventure phase. If accepted by the characters, the Creature may seek to travel with them (though it will not venture into town). It will not join in the adventures unless they coincide with its own goals.

Nature 7Might 4Demanding, Wreaking Vengeance, YearningGoals: Find the love and acceptance of a companion being; (if Angry) get my revenge on the creator who shunned me; make my way North to end my existence with cleansing fire. Instinct: Conceal my presence from those who would
fear and destroy me.Type: Folk (reanimated)

Special Rules
Reanimated: The Creature is immune to the sick condition. It  can become hungry and thirsty, exhausted, afraid, angry or even injured, but it ignores any penalties from those conditions.
Regeneration: The Creature heals quickly from its wounds, needing only one phase to recover from Injured. It cannot be killed using mundane weapons, for it possesses miraculous powers of regeneration.
Monstrous Rage: While the Creature is normally peaceful, sensitive and polite, once angered it becomes a monstrous fiend, capable of unimaginable cruelty and violence. While angry, it may neither be engaged in a Convince conflict, nor may it be targeted by mind-affecting magic. 
Pyrophobic: The Creature hates and fears fire; If set on fire, it cannot use its regeneration ability.

Hit Points Drive Off
WeaponConflictADFMInhuman StrengthDrive Off+2D — — +1sTireless WandererDrive Off
Flee+1D+1D — — Emotionally IntelligentConvince+1D — — +1DInquisitive MindConvince — +2D+1D — The Creature Description

The Creature is eight-feet tall and hideously ugly, built using bone, muscle, tissue and hair from various human cadavers  and reanimated through some mysterious process. Though it appears to be one of the undead, the Creature possesses thoughts and feelings; it sleeps, breathes and requires nourishment. Unlike humans, the Creature is fantastically strong and resilient, able to regenerate from its injuries much like a troll; and like a troll, the Creature fears and hates fire, which can permanently injure or destroy it. The Creature does not eat meat and will kill only to defend itself or if it becomes enraged.

The Creature is self-educated, erudite and curious about the world. It is also possessed of a profound and terrible loneliness and a desire for companionship. The Creature is quick to anger, and once enraged is capable of horrible violence. Its Nature (yearning) has allowed it to wander far and wide, studying the world and accumulating a wealth of knowledge all on its own—it speaks several languages and has learned much of scholarship, alchemy and survival.

The Creature’s creator is some unknown alchemist, either long-dead or in hiding (see below). The Creature yearns for answers; why does it exist, why was it abandoned? It also seeks for its creator to construct a similar being for companionship. Barring that, the Creature desires only vengeance on its creator for being forced to live in a world where it is shunned and vilified. Once this vengeance is achieved, the Creature intends to travel “to the North” to put an end to its solitary and miserable life. 

Gremlin From the Office for Emergency Management. War Production Board. (01/1942 – 11/03/1945) Nature 3Might 2Breaking, Stealing, TrickingGoals: Make victims doubt their sanity. Make it funny!
Trick victims into killing themselves. Make it hilarious!Instinct: Always sabotage mechanical devices.Type: Spirit

Special Rules
Lynx-eyed: Gremlins can see clearly in the dark without illumination, but they suffer -1D to all actions when in direct sunlight. They typically infest mines, construction sites and other areas of industry.
Infestation: Once one has attracted the attention of a gremlin, more will inevitably follow. Every fourth turn, until the gremlins’ victims die or the gremlins are destroyed or banished, another gremlin joins the first.

Hit Points Trick
4Drive Off

Other Conflict Hit Points: Within Nature: Roll Nature, add successes to Nature rating. Outside of Nature: Roll half Nature. Add successes to Nature rating.
Armor: None.

WeaponConflictADFMRazor Claws and TeethKill
Drive Off+1D — +1s — Cruel WitTrick — — +1D+1DUncanny QuicknessCapture — +1s — +1D Gremlin Description
  • These small creatures have spiked backs, large, lamp-like eyes and savage claws and teeth. 
  • They are driven by a vicious sense of humor that can only be satisfied by causing mayhem, pain and death via trapped or sabotaged equipment, scaffolding, mechanical devices and the like. It’s only funny if the victims doubt their sanity before being hurt or killed trying to use a device. They prefer to victimize humans, elves, halflings and dwarves, but will happily turn their attention upon each other if they have no other outlet. 
  • Gremlins are drawn to camps, towns, mines, dungeons and other areas where crafting or industry take place. They like to secretly break gear and tools, especially if the user will be hurt or killed when unwittingly using the broken thing. Winches used in mines are a favorite target.
  • Gremlins become fixated on targets. Once an individual has attracted the attention of a gremlin, it will continue to plague that individual until that individual dies or the gremlin is destroyed or banished.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Halloween Special

Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 10/31/2019 - 11:45

And of course, it's a repeat! Sorry, still no Fall Guy or Elvira actually in this post. I didn't do any Halloween related posts this year, but just sit back and relive these horror-themed classics:

Need a name for a horror comic? Generate it with this post.
Ever heard the legend Spring-hilled Jack? Well here are his stats.
A different way of the thinking of Ghost Towns, from Weird Adventures, but usable anywhere.
And finally, a 2013 Santacore request unwittingly opens, "The Tome of Draculas!"

This Blog Will Be Going On A Ninety Day Hiatus Starting October 31.

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 10/30/2019 - 18:18
After several months of wrestling with this decision. I've got decided to take a ninety day hiatus from this blog  for work related reasons. Over the past three months I've been suffering from writer's burn out & the near constant blogger demands of doing two or three blog posts a day. The sewing machine repair business has been taking bigger & bigger swaths of my time. I need a well deserved Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

CZX Super Heroes & Super-Villains: Sketch Card Preview, Part 2

Cryptozoic - Wed, 10/30/2019 - 16:00

Please enjoy the second preview of Sketch Cards from CZX Super Heroes & Super-Villains

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Wednesday Comics: Bronze Age Book Club: Monsters Unleashed!

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 10/30/2019 - 11:53

The latest episode of the Bronze Age Book Club podcast is available, just in time for Halloween!

Listen to "Episode 8: MONSTERS UNLEASHED (1973) #2" on Spreaker.

It's also now available on Podcast Addict!

Plague, War, & Famine 1

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 10/30/2019 - 11:15
By Peter Rudin-Burgess PPM OSRIC No levels given

Can the characters save teh(sp) starving city folk? Can they defeat the impending invasion?

This fourteen page adventure details six scenes in eight pages. While not exactly linear it has more in common with modern plot-based adventures than a more open older style. It’s also an absolute MESS in presenting information. One of the worst.

It’s listed as OSRIC … but it also makes reference to the players using their skills and players with strong social skills and using first aid skill, etc. This would lead me to believe that it’s a conversion … ah, yes, I see now on DriveThru that it’s available for a slew of other systems. The usual conversion issues are present: no fucking treasure means no XP and the combat, if used, tends to be forced. Neither are good in OSRIC. The OSRIC gang would probably be ok with the adventure, mechanically, since it’s only mechanics are some stats for some new monsters. But there’s also no level given on the cover or in the publishers blurb or anywhere in the adventure, except for it saying “this is an introductory adventure.” I guess that means level one’s?

This is more of an adventure outline than an adventure. The first scene and last scene are required and then the middle three depend. There are two abandoned ships in the harbour locked together and your mission is to tow one back. Thus the three additional scenes: if you board ship one, board ship two or just tow ship one back. Each of the scenes consists of MANY paragraphs, over a couple of pages, describing “first this and then this” types of things in a very abstracted way. I mean, Bloody Mage/Stink in Golanda abstracted. It’s all very high level, there’s a lot of it, and it’s not organized very well. The delete key is a designers best friend, and removing text and highlighting other things with bullets, indents, etc would have made the different sections, and important text stand out more. I really do mean the comparison to, say, Stink in Golanda by BM … this adventure is just barely there in the most abstract way.

The first scene has the party in a hold listening to a combat above them as they come in to port on a ship. Then they get involved in a food riot and given their mission to go out to See A Ship In The Harbor and tow it back, since it contains much needed food for the city. “At some point someone accuses the party of stealing food or cutting the food line” is the extent of the food riot and food line description for the town. Like I said … REALLY high level and then it’s combined with A LOT of information, most of it superfluous. 

Each “scene” has an optional combat, so a kind DM can ensure that NO combat happens in the adventure. It’s all “the floating could attack the parties ship” and so on. At one point there is an opportunity for the party to get in to a fight with about 400 2HD/3HD bug-monsters on one of the ships. That’s something you don’t see everyday. It’s handled terribly, but I applaud the “We done fucked up!” opportunity. It’s in the last scene, the return to port, that critical information comes to light: there are bug eggs hidden in the flour on the ship they’ve come to tow back. At least I think there are. The adventure says about as much “there are bug eggs in the flour; it’s their plan to get them in to town that way”, but that’s it. Nothing more. Further, it mentions several times that the ships are tuck together but gives no mechanics or words of advice AT ALL on how to unstick the two ships, even though it’s likely to be the parties first line of questioning. 

And did I mention that the tug you take over has 96 slaves below deck rowing? I guess this was Zweihandler conversion? I tend toward a rather pragmatic style of D&D play, but even as a player I usually don’t let slavery go unmurder-hobo’d unless the DM fiats my inability to.

I don’t understand the decisions that adventure designers make. I suspect most are just overly enthusiastic about their creations. Which is great, but I wish the final products were better. It’s not one of the worst I’ve seen … but it’s a breathe away from being one of the worst.

(I should note also that I’m pretty sure this is an English as a Second language adventure. There are some misspellings and grammar issues, but while noticeable they don’t make the adventure unplayable in any way. The long form text descriptions and abstracted adventure do, though.)

This is $3 at DriveThru. There is no preview. And what do we say when No Preview comes a calling?–War-1–OSRIC-Compatible?1892600

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Horror Beyond Halloween - The Black Plague & Gary Gygax's The World of Greyhawk

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 10/29/2019 - 22:11
Halloween is fast approaching but for me as a sewing machine repair guy its already passed. The hobbyists & sewers are already looking beyond to the next round of weddings, baptisms, birthdays, & million other holiday projects. I snuck in some time away from social media to sneak in some quality time with Dragon magazine#138 '88 Halloween issue. Its an iconic Jeff Easily cover & I've Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Been working on the Wild North

Bat in the Attic - Tue, 10/29/2019 - 16:40
Been working on the updated Wild North. A small snippet of something I just wrote. The map is the same style as Blackmarsh and has been revised to adjoin it to the north.

Niveny River (Hex 1516)
This river is the traditional border between Orenberg (Hex 1313) and Suzdal (Hex 1720). The river valley has long been a debatable land between the two cities and is currently dominated by Orenburg. Regardless of which power is dominate a thousand gold pieces are given as an offering to the Vodyan (10 HD, Triton) every year. The offering is given after the first thaw to the river king is to appease him so river travelers are left unmolested during the summer season.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Cryptozoic Announces Release of DC Deck-Building Game Crossover Pack 8: Batman Ninja

Cryptozoic - Tue, 10/29/2019 - 13:00

Cryptozoic Entertainment and Warner Bros. Consumer Products, on behalf of DC, today announced the November 6 release of DC Deck-Building Game Crossover Pack 8: Batman Ninja. Based on the Batman Ninja animated feature, this expansion for the popular DC Deck-Building Game series is set in feudal Japan and allows 2-5 players to become Super Heroes who battle Super-Villains in giant castles that come to life. 

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Insight Played Wrong Can Become the Most Unrealistic Thing In D&D, a Game With Djinns In Bottles Who Grant Wishes

DM David - Tue, 10/29/2019 - 11:25

In Dungeons & Dragons Wisdom (Insight) checks commonly lead players to pile-on checks. One character talks to someone, asks to roll insight, and then everyone adds their roll. The group supposes that just one success will spot a lie. If the dungeon master allows such checks, someone almost invariably uncovers any deception. By such rules, lying to big groups becomes impossible, which makes insight checks the most unrealistic thing in a game with djinns in bottles who grant wishes.

If you want any intrigue and deception in your game, never roll group insight checks where one high roll brings success. Instead, opt for one of two methods. The choice of method depends on whether you, as DM, want players to roll their check.

  • If the players roll, the numbers on the dice give players unearned hints. Low numbers tell the players they probably failed and not to trust their insight; high numbers suggest they succeeded and that, for instance, an NPC who appears honest can be trusted.

  • If you roll in secret, the players feel deprived of some control over their fate. After all, some DMs will fudge rolls to protect a planned narrative. Also, players like rolling dice, especially if rolling gives unearned hints.

Players roll group checks

If you allow players to roll, call for a group check where everyone makes a Wisdom (Insight) check and at least half the group must succeed.

This method may see odd, because group checks apply to situations where one failure could potentially cause the whole group to fail. For instance, one noisy character could alert the guards the party wants to sneak past. But group checks actually fit insight checks with no sure answers. If at least half the group succeeds, the successful characters reveal their insight to the others. If too many characters fail, the group suffers a difference of opinion that leaves everyone uncertain. Or perhaps Terry the Apothecary just proved hard to read.

Don’t tell players which characters suspect lies. Players who know that and their die rolls gain a metagame-based lie detector.

Set the difficulty class for the checks by adding 10 to the liar’s Charisma (Deception) bonus, so the DC equals the liar’s passive deception.

DMs roll a single check

As a DM, you could roll a secret, group Wisdom (Insight) check, but tracking several die rolls and bonuses would slow the game. Instead, roll one check for the character in the scene with the highest Wisdom (Insight) bonus. By using the highest insight score rather than a group of scores, this method benefits the players. On the other hand, the players lose any hints they gain from seeing the numbers. Don’t grant advantage for help coming from the other players. We don’t want to make spotting lies unrealistically easy. This method presumes that the rest of the group offers little help to the most insightful character. Either the others also spot the deception, or they muddy the waters by being more easily fooled.

Alternately, roll one Charisma (Deception) check for the liar against a DC set by the group’s highest passive Wisdom (Insight) score. If the deceiver fails, describe signs of deception. On success, the liar seems legit. I like this reversal because the odds stay the same, but you roll on behalf of the more active character.

Usually a liar only needs to make one deception check, but if the pressure increases thanks to sharp questions, or their lies begin to unravel, you might require fast talking and another check.

Success and failure

Whatever type of check you use, if the outcome favors the players, a liar shows signs of deception and an honest character seems trustworthy. Otherwise, the target of the check seems hard to read.

Rather than flatly stating that someone lies, describe signs of deception: A lying person may sweat or otherwise appear anxious. Perhaps they start speaking in a manner that seems rehearsed. Someone with something to hide might avoid eye contact or become hesitant while speaking. Perhaps their words and body language fail to match. For example, they might nod yes during a denial. For countless more symptoms, search the internet for “signs of deception.”

When a check goes badly against the players—call it a fumble even though D&D lacks critical failures—the party may get the wrong impression. Perhaps an honest person shows misleading signs of deception. Follow what works for the story and your inclination to deceive the players. Maybe an honest person just feels nervous in the presence of such esteemed adventurers (or such temperamental and murderous treasure hunters).

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Cha'alt / Godbound rpg - Session Zero Character Workshop Part II & Lovecraftian Adventure Location - The Winter Realms

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 10/28/2019 - 19:57
What do you as a dungeon master do if things go a bit too well for your zero session?! One of my players right now is going over & making his PC with Godbound/Cha'alt. I've got another possible player coming up for this campaign. Originally I planned for this to be a one shot mini campaign to explore the system & create some adventures for a few months. Well that plan seems to have gone toNeedles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

CZX Super Heroes & Super-Villains: Autograph Card Preview, Part 3

Cryptozoic - Mon, 10/28/2019 - 16:00

Please enjoy this third and final preview of Autograph Cards from CZX Super Heroes & Super-Villains, led by the star who played Aquaman: Jason Momoa!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs


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