Tabletop Gaming Feeds

A Breakthrough Moment with G.E.V.

Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog - Sat, 07/21/2018 - 17:14

I’ve played this scenario with many people over the years and really… the combination of spillover fire, overruns, and the terrain rules can be a lot to take in for a first time player. Watching a dozen of your G.E.V.’s evaporate due to one bad decision can really take the wind out of a guy’s sails, too. It takes a certain kind of person to go through that and say, “hey… let’s do that again because I’ve got an idea for a different strategy.” We have a name for that kind of person, too: they’re called gamers!

Get those first few trial games out of the way and this old MicroGame suddenly gets serious. Arguments break out about which strategies are better and who is the better player. There’s only one way to settle them: a tournament style set where each player gets a chance to play both sides. This really ups the ante!

Here’s how things fell out when just such a thing broke out at my table:

The attackers move in and pool up. The defense player had just been whittled down in a steady retreat, so he’s spoiling for a combat. He’s changed up his armor unit selection this time adding in a couple of G.E.V.’s specifically to counter the tactics his opponent used previously. But now he has to decide: should he fall back or rush the enemy G.E.V.’s.???

He rushes the attacking G.E.V.s, killing two and disabling one. All hell breaks loose, and when the dust settles, the G.E.V.’s are gone. Eight G.E.V.’s leave the map fairly late, scoring three victory points each. The defense kills a total of four enemy G.E.V.’s, scoring the same amount of points. But the attackers devastate the defense killing ten units altogether for a final net score of sixty points. When the tables are turned, the bar is set: it’s going to take a fairly hefty decisive win to beat this!

The defense this time opts not to rush the incoming G.E.V.’s. This hands the invaders some choice targets:

Not a good start here!

The G.E.V.’s have killed two armor units and disabled another. They position themselves to bypass the defensive line entirely while reserving the chance to pick off finish off the damaged heavy.

More sparing occurs and the attackers achieve this position:

The attackers have to choose. Do they run away and collect a hefty victory point bonus for leaving early? Or do they shoot up the defense for a few easy points?

The chance to wipe out that defending heavy tank is just too tempting!

But good gosh, the 2-to-1 attack on the heavy fails. He shoots back and the results are disastrous. The G.E.V.’s now have the option of abandoning the units that are disabled in return. The attacker looks at the victory point tallies, makes an error in his reckoning, and doubles down. He leaves two G.E.V.’s right on the coastline thinking that the defenders will have their hands full picking off the disabled units.

But the attacker completely forgot about the overrun rules. The Heavy tank shrugs off the pitiful 1-to-2 attack that the disabled units muster and he blows them away. He and the surviving infantry squad move in and disable the two G.E.V.’s that had thought they were going to get to do some serious killing!

The other G.E.V.’s have left the board. The defense has free attacks with no chance of losing any more units. They get a 1-to-2 shot with the infantry squad and a 2-to-1 shot with the heavy tank– any “D” or “X” result will be a kill!

The dice are rolled and… the defense rolls two ones in succession. Miraculously, the two G.E.V.’s that should have evaporated due to their commander’s hubris are in fact going to get away scot-free!

The victory points are tallied. The attackers get 56 points for getting seven G.E.V.’s off the board early and another 38 points for their kills. The defense scores 30 points for taking out five attackers. The final net score here is 64, just four points higher than the previous decisive victory.

We have a new Breakthrough champion at my house here… but if the dice had turned up as anything other than snake eyes, it would have been the other guy!


But this is precisely why G.E.V. is regarded as one of the top 100 greatest hobby games of all time.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

(5e) Shadows of Forgotten Kings

Ten Foot Pole - Sat, 07/21/2018 - 11:17

Zzarchov Kowolski
Level 3

The villages on the edge of the jungle used to be wealthy: they gathered fruits and exotic hardwoods from within the jungle and sold them as wines and furniture to regular merchant caravans in exchange for grains and other staples. But caravans do not make it through anymore. A handful of tattered survivors have made it back to the city and reported being assaulted by wave after wave of panthers that would attack, retreat, and attack again in replenished numbers. The merchant houses want their lucrative route back. The villages need grain and supplies; their people cannot live forever scavenging fruit and huddling by their hearths in fear every night. Tales lead deeper into the jungle – to the ruins of an ancient empire fallen to a terrible curse.

This 31 page adventure uses twelve pages to describe a ruined and forgotten city in the jungle. The encounters form a great neutral environment for the adventure, full of interesting things to get in to trouble with, and the final section of ruins contains a 90 minute timer. The text frequently forgets to get to the fucking point, and drives me crazy with “this room used to be”’s. Be it the writing, editing, or layout, someone fell down. Hard.

This is a pretty good forgotten jungle ruins city. It feels like one, and there’s lots to get in trouble with … without it feeling directed at the party. Each night a tree grows in the heart of the ruins. Fruit ripens and turns in to severed heads with sewn together kips, trying to scream. Eventually they burst and flies come swaming out. Which carry the plague. They fill the city from 15 minutes after dawn to sunset, when they die. Bursting the head before they do so naturally cause gore and maggots to come out of them. Ain’t that a stinker? That’s fucking AWESOME. Now that’s a what I call a curse! In another area there are fallen glass doors that, when you step over them, cause a magic mouth to appear and speak … which causes cursed panthers that roam the ruins to show up. But the next room is a hall of mirrors, which causes them to become disoriented. The entire thing is written in this very neutral manner. It’s not deck stacked against the party, it’s a natural environment that they can exploit, if they are smart enough.

A gold chain hanging from the ceiling may cause you to search the floor, to find what was hanging from it. IT MAKES SENSE. Someone thought for one than one second about the room, and it shows.A shadow demon who doesn’t want to be guarding anymore. Spells on clay tablets. A rosetta stone to crack the ancient language used throughout. Clues in one area to secrets in another. This adventure is CONSTRUCTED, a thing that few are.

And it’s weakened, overall, by its routine use of common sins. The number of fucking times I had to read “this room used to be …” and/or “its all dust now …” is beyond number. You know how I knew the room was a library? YOU CALLED THE ROOM “#12: Library”! And you follow up by telling me the room was once a library? USELESS. And it doe this sort of thing over and over again. It was once decorated with luxury, but now all is dust.

And voice! “Unlike whatever wooden furniture was once in the room, the club has not rotted to dust.”

Room entries bury information important to other rooms inside their own text. “The creatures in the numbered entries are treated like mummies” or”treat the undead like skeletons. When do reach the impacted rooms/text there’s no hint that they are mummies or skeletons. Bolding/etc for monster encounters or other important things is non-existent. “If you put the emperor’s body in this tomb then you get the following bonus.” Great! You know what would have been better? Putting “(#8b)” next to “emperors body” so we all know where it is. The relation of one area to another is great, and it doesn’t have to spelled out in the text, for clues relating to another area but a reference on where to find things is CRITICAL in an adventure like this, that tries to integrate the explanation of what’s going on inline with the text.

Speaking of what’s going, a gentle reminder: background information is ok … but not when you bury important things in there. Like DC checks. Which this adventure does repeatedly, thereby forcing me to read the backstory. LAME. Let me guess, Empire, Fallen, Curse, Evil, Corruptions, Gods. Did U get it right also?

I’m not a happy man this morning. I was hoping for better, 5e or no. There’s a decent mechanic for getting lost in the jungle and for adding some variety to the wanderers, but it’s plagued by a lack of proper editing. The starting village is plagued by pather attacks … but there is no data on that. The NPC (and wanderer) descriptions are lengthy. I don’t want to break up play at the table by reading a two paragraph NPC description before that NPC interacts with the party. I will read it once, a few hours beforehand, and I will glance down for a couple of seconds. That’s it. If it takes me longer than a couple of seconds to absorb then it’s no good. That’s how these things need to be written.

This isn’t garbage. It’s well constructed. A good wilderness followed by a good exploration area followed by a good dungeon. You just need to spend a lot of time with a highlighter going through it. I’m not going to do that. That’s supposed to be part of the value proposition that the designer/writer, editor, and production staff provide.

You know, bits of the writing remind me of that shitty Dungeon magazine room description of a trophy room that went on and on and ended with “but it was long ago looted and now nothing remains but dust.” It’s the same … cadence of words?

This is $7.50 at DriveThru. The last page shows you some of the Exploration system for the jungle, while the two before it show you the village NPC’s. Talk about wall of text!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Review & OSR Commentary On The Free AD&D Adventure - ZA5: Flayers of the Mind.

Swords & Stitchery - Sat, 07/21/2018 - 05:01
"The adventurers find themselves outside of a set of caves in the Dragon Teeth Mountains. They do not remember how they got here or why they came. But they feel drawn by the psychic energies from within the cave and feel compelled to explore them. This is an AD&D psionics adventure for 4-6 characters of from 7th to 10th level of experience. At least one or two characters from the partyNeedles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Here’s Negan A walking Dead board game from Mantic Games

Gamer Goggles - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 20:12

Here is a brand new, standalone board game set in The Walking Dead universe. Here’s Negan tells the story of what happened to everyone’s favourite tyrant before he became the bat-wielding leader we all love. Due for release direct to retail this November, you can read the announcement here. Plus, make sure you pre-order now in your local store or order direct from the Mantic website.

Here’s Negan is a co-operative game for up to five players, however there’s a competitive element to it as well. Read the blog to find out how the game plays and how you can become Negan’s favourite.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Unfrozen Gaming Caveman Speaks: The Truth About Today’s D&D

Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 19:28


Seriously, just read it:

I used to be an avid gamer. From the moment I first saw people playing D&D in junior high school (1976 or so) to the early 1980s when my life turned into a Hunter Thompson/William S Burroughs mashup, RPGs were my main avocation.

In the years between then and now I’ve played on the rare occasions that a game has been available, but between getting married and raising children and learning to hold down a job and becoming an internationally unknown least-selling New Wave writer, I really haven’t taken the time to seek out a gaming group.

Over the last few years I have been reading and commenting on OSR blogs, mostly from following people who have interesting comments on other blogs (+Jeffro Johnson was my OSR gateway drug) but I haven’t really been exposed to what might be called the mainstream of RPG writing over the last few decades.

Even when my eldest daughter started playing D&D I didn’t pay a lot of attention. A few things she said about her games struck me as odd, but I shrugged it off with paternal indulgence.

Recently, though, I have been following links and reading articles written (allegedly) by gamers for gamers.

And what the actual fuck, people?

This is not like going back to my hometown and seeing that they tore down the old mall and widened the highway and put a McMansion Estates where the old high school stood. This is more like going back to what I thought was my old hometown and ending up in the Silent City of The Dessicated Dead on the lost Plateau of Leng.

What the people I am reading now are talking about is not the game that I used to play. It’s not even the type of game that I used to play–or the category of activity that I used to play. The difference isn’t like Chess and Checkers, or Golf and Bowling.

It’s like the difference between cooking chili in a crockpot and blindfolded bicycle racing. The points of similarity are so rare and so irrelevant that I can’t say it’s the same thing at all, despite using many of the same names and much of the same specialized vocabulary.

I mean, I thought that the OSR gang was exaggerating the differences between Old School gaming and the modern… whatever for effect. I figured that they were just getting hung up on a few rule changes as a kind of group shibboleth–if you use these rules from this edition then you’re not one of us.

Not so much. If anything, what I’ve read from the OSR has been understating the case.

What I used to do that I called playing RPGs was having fun playing make believe Heroes vs Monsters and rolling dice to see who killed who first.

What people are doing that they call playing RPGs today seems to be using writing fanfic as a group therapy session.

Misha Burnett is spot on here.

What little I know of contemporary incarnations of D&D is via the “nobody dies everybody wins” tables that are inevitably next to mine at the conventions. It wasn’t until some of the people that switched to Moldvay Basic D&D as a result of my posts over at Castalia House Blog that I found out what was really going on. Seriously, the first hand accounts of what people actually did in these 5th edition sessions made my jaw drop. Horrible!

David Burge summed it all up thusly: “1. Identify a respected institution. 2. kill it. 3. gut it. 4. wear its carcass as a skin suit, while demanding respect.”

The few people that stumble their way towards something almost resembling what gaming used to be like find themselves having to reinvent not only things like morale checks, but even non-linear dungeons where the players have control of how far down they delve, whereby they would be handed the capability to select the difficultly level that gives the the sort of gaming they are looking for!

Truly, a dark age of gaming is upon us!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Myth Beyond The Monster Manual - The Erinyes Devils of Violence & Justice For Your Old School Sword & Sorcery Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 19:08
I've  been quietly cracking open my first edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual & looking into the devils section last night. I looked into the Erinyes entry  for a bit of Sword & Sorcery inspiration.The Monster Manual & even the original Dungeons & Dragons monster stats profile has been lacking. Greco Roman mythology is so much richer on these goddesses & children of Chronos's Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Warmachine Releases expected July 20

Gamer Goggles - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 17:50

Crucible Arms has taken over the production of the Ordic Toro chassis, an aggressive workhorse heavy warjack armed with sword and shield that has fought with the Ordic Army for decades. As a part of the Crucible’s agreements with Ord’s king, Crucible Arms now produces Toros in number, as well as variants outfitted with proprietary weapons better suited to the methods by which these alchemists wage war.

The Suppressor fields versatile pyrodraulic jets capable of burning, freezing, or rusting adversaries.
The multipurpose Vindicator can fight with its heavy maul or fire its compression cannon at range to unleash tactically useful entropic and psychoactive substances.

PIP 37011
MSRP: $39.99
Squads of Crucible Guard rocketmen streak across the skies, giving the Crucible Guard an edge against a more numerous foe. Rocketmen assault the flanks of an opposing force, picking off strategic targets with their carbines or dropping devastating gravity bombs into packed enemy formations. Able to fly over traditional defenses, rocketmen squads are tactically versatile soldiers unlike anything before seen in the modern militaries of the Iron Kingdoms.

PIP 37013
MSRP: $69.99
Doctor Adolpheus Morley is an alchemist obsessed with his work, foregoing all comforts in his latest efforts to unlock new discoveries. Morley, who supports the Guard as head of its surgical division, has become obsessed with the effect of alchemical concoctions on the body, human or otherwise. Soldiers given to his care receive treatment with wary apprehension, as the man has a reputation as a dangerous lunatic. He views the battlefield as the ideal test bed for his latest creations, exposing his troops to all manner of combat stimulants without restriction. That a significant number of his mercenaries who survive the fighting subsequently expire does not deter the doctor in the slightest.
PIP 37006
MSRP: $14.99

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Free League Publishing at Gen Con 2018 – Bringing you to Other Worlds

Gamer Goggles - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 17:10

Free League Publishing

Free League Publishing – Jul 20, 2018 10:00 BST

Do you long for adventures and dream of exploring the unknown? Well then, an alternate 1980’s, a post-apocalyptic Zone, or a space station awaits you. Free League Publishing will be attending Gen 2018, the largest and longest running gaming and hobby convention in North America.

A prototype of the recently Kickstarted Crusader Kings the Board Game – slated for release later this year – will be demonstrated at the Free League booth throughout the show by the lead designer of the game, Tomas Härenstam.

In addition, all of Free League’s award-winning tabletop role-playing games – the critically acclaimed alternate 80’s RPG Tales from the Loop , the sci-fi adventure Coriolis – The Third Horizon and the postapocalyptic Mutant: Year Zero – are all available to play at Gencon.

The Free League design team is available for interviews, or just chats at the booth, throughout the show.


Booth: 1455

Dates: 2-5th of August

Web page:


Crusader Kings the Board Game (upcoming)
Forbidden Lands – Rouges & Raiders in a Cursed World (upcoming)
Tales from the Loop – Roleplaying in the ’80s That Never Was
Coriolis – The Third Horizon
Mutant: Year Zero – Roleplaying at The End of Days

Free League Publishing is a Swedish publisher dedicated to speculative fiction that have published several critically acclaimed games and art books set in strange and wondrous worlds. Their upcoming fantasy RPG Forbidden Lands was the third most successful RPG Kickstarter in the world 2017 and was recently named one of the most anticipated RPGs of 2018 by EN World.

The publishers latest game release Tales from the Loop RPG won no less than five ENnies at Gencon last year, including Best Game and Product of the Year. The other published international titles, Mutant: Year Zero and Coriolis – The Third Horizon, have also earned several awards.

Free League Publishing will be at booth and various game demos will be running throughout the convention. Meet the creators and find out more about the upcoming games from Free League Publishing. New worlds awaits you.



Crusader Kings the Board Game is a medieval strategy soap opera where your King or Queen need to survive invasions, plots, crusades, and even marriage. Or at least have children, siblings or spouses standing by to take over the throne. Failure to raise a suitable heir could face you with the end of your dynasty. Oh dear!

As a ruler, be shrewd in the realm of diplomacy and make and break alliances with others. Grow your wealth and military power, develop your dominion and partake in the crusades. All the while experiencing events of the strange life of a medieval ruler including menure explosions and food poisoning.

The game is the first board game from Free League Publishing, the development team behind the award-winning tabletop RPGs Tales from the Loop, Coriolis – The Third Horizon and Mutant: Year Zero. The backstabbing and intrigue of medieval Europe is being brought to life in the iconic medieval intrigue of Paradox Interactive’s long-running PC franchise.


[Upcoming fantasy RPG, 2018]

Forbidden Lands is a new take on classic fantasy roleplaying where you and your friends will be playing raiders and rogues bent on making your own mark on a cursed world. Discover lost tombs, fight horrifying monsters, wander the wilderness and, if you live long enough, build your own stronghold to defend. The unique rules created by Free League for exploration, survival, base building and campaign in Forbidden lands play can also easily be ported to any other game world.

Forbidden Lands will be Free League Publishing’s fourth English-language RPG. With art by the acclaimed artists Simon Stålenhag and Nils Gulliksson, lore by fantasy author Erik Granström and game design by Free League, creators of Tales from the Loop, Mutant: Year Zero and Coriolis: The Third Horizon.


[Awarded five Gold ENnies – among them Best Game and Product of the Year 2017]

In 1954, the Swedish government ordered the construction of the world’s largest particle accelerator. The facility was complete in 1969, located deep below the pastoral countryside of Mälaröarna. The local population called this marvel of technology The Loop.

Acclaimed scifi artist Simon Stålenhag’s paintings of Swedish 1980s suburbia, populated by fantastic machines and strange beasts, have spread like wildfire worldwide. Stålenhag’s portrayal of a childhood against a backdrop of old Volvo cars and coveralls, combined with strange and mystical machines, creates a unique atmosphere that is both instantly recognizable and utterly alien. With the tabletop RPG, you can step into the amazing world of the Loop. Encounter the mysteries around the strange machines and weird creatures that have come to haunt the countryside after the Loop was built. Escape your everyday problems and be part of something meaningful and magical – but also dangerous.


Tales from the Loop RPG: Our Friends the Machines – the first official module


[Awarded the ENnies Judges’ Spotlight 2017]

The scifi adventure Coriolis is set in a remote cluster of star systems called The Third Horizon. It is a place ravaged by conflicts and war, but also home to proud civilizations, both new and old. Here, the so called First Come colonists of old worship the Icons, while the newly arrived Zenithians pursue an aggressive imperialistic agenda through trade and military power.

Crew a space ship and travel the Horizon. Explore the ancient ruins of the Portal Builders, undertake missions for the powerful factions and partake in the game of political intrigue on Coriolis station – the center of power in the Third Horizon. Make your own fate and discover the truth about the mysterious Emissaries and the threat of the Dark Between the Stars.


Coriolis – The Third Horizon RPG: The Dying Ship – full-length adventure


[Awarded a Silver ENnie for Best Rules 2015]

Of course, the world ends. It was always just a question of time. When it’s all over, nature invades the ruined cities and winds sweep through empty streets. Yet life remains.

In the Ark, a small settlement on the edge of a dead town, the People live. You are the spawn of humanity, but not human anymore. You are a twisted, mutated freak. Your body and mind have incredible powers, but you are unstable. None of the People are over 30 years old. Except the Elder. Your leader, one of the Old People. He has always warned you: Stay in the Ark, or the Rot will get you. So far, you have obeyed him. But now the safe days are over. Food is running scarce, and the fight for what’s left is turning violent. And the Elder is dying.

It’s time to explore the Zone. To seek out others and create a new civilization on the ruins of the old. Seek your origin. Maybe you will find Eden, where salvation awaits according to the legends. Maybe it’s all bullshit. It doesn’t matter. You have no choice. This is the beginning. This is Year Zero.


Mutant: Mechatron – stand-alone expansion
Mutant: Genlab Alpha – stand-alone expansion
Mutant – year zero: Zone Compendium: The Eternal War
Mutant – year zero: Zone Compendium: Hotel Imperator
Mutant – year zero: Zone Compendium: Die, Meat-eater, Die!
Mutant – year zero: Zone Compendium: Dead Blue Sea
Mutant – year zero: Zone Compendium: Lair of the Saurians

About Gen Con LLC

Gen Con LLC produces the largest consumer hobby, fantasy, science fiction, and adventure game convention in North America, Gen Con, The Best Four Days in Gaming!™. Acquired in 2002 by founder and former CEO of Wizards of the Coast, Peter Adkison, the company is headquartered in Seattle, Washington.

Free League Publishing is a Swedish publisher dedicated to speculative fiction. We have published several award-winning tabletop role-playing games and critically acclaimed art books set in strange and wondrous worlds.

Our first game, the post-apocalyptic Mutant: Year Zero was awarded a Silver ENnie for Best Rules 2015. The sci-fi adventure Coriolis – The Third Horizon, was awarded a Judge’s Spotlight Award at Gencon. And we are proud to say that our latest roleplaying game Tales from the Loop RPG based on Simon Stålenhags iconic artbooks made a grand slam at the ENnie Awards 2017, winning five Gold ENnies – among them Best Game.

Our upcoming fantasy RPG is Forbidden Lands, with art by critically acclaimed artist Simon Stålenhag and iconic Swedish fantasy artist Nils Gulliksson, lore by fantasy author Erik Granström and game design by the team that created Mutant: Year Zero, Coriolis: The Third Horizon and Tales from the Loop RPG. Forbidden Lands was the third most successful RPG Kickstarter in the world 2017 and was recently named one of the most anticipated RPGs of 2018 by EN World.

We have also released the critically acclaimed art books Things from the Flood and Tales from the Loop by artist Simon Stålenhag. His third book The Electric State has been released by Free League Publishing exclusively to the backers of the kickstarter campaign.


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

DIRECT SALE: Rick and Morty: The Pickle Rick Game

Cryptozoic - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 17:00

Can’t make it to San Diego Comic-Con or Gen Con? No problem! You can still get Rick and Morty: The Pickle Rick Game before it hits stores in September. Buy it today directly from Cryptozoic and get it shipped right to you!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

“It’s pretty much Avatar before Avatar.”

Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 14:17

Xavier L. writes in:

I think you got everything wrong. “A Conquest of two worlds” is literally an anti-colonial story. It’s pretty much Avatar before Avatar.

I wouldn’t describe D&D feudalism as window-dressing though, it’s pretty much essential. The people who work for you are called peasants, not natives, and the tax, if you are a cleric, was the tithe, right?

He’s absolutely right here.

The “colonialism” depicted in “A Conquest of Two Worlds” is an over the top caricature. The earthmen are only in it for the resources. The aliens totally didn’t do anything.

And yes! It is absolutely an “Avatar” type story. One character despises the obvious injustice, “goes native”, and then fights both with and for them against the earthman exploiters.

But here’s the difference: unlike in Avatar, the colonialists here cannot be stopped. They are awesomely unbeatable, an exaggerated variant of Sauron’s armies or the Persians from 300. And the aliens have less fight and prowess than even a bunch of ridiculous hobbits could summon.

And the ending that you end up with in consequence of that particular premise…? If Avatar had been written that way, the aliens would have fought to their last remaining outpost only to nuke themselves and their Spirit Tree into oblivion.

It really is a weird story.

He’s also correct about the AD&D clerics. Here’s the relevant rule:

Upon reaching 9th level (High Priest or High Priestess), the cleric has the option of constructing a religious stronghold. This fortified place must contain a large temple, cathedral, or church of not less than 2500 square feet on the ground floor. It can be a castle, a monastery, an abbey, or the like. It must be dedicated to the cleric’s deity (or deities). The cost of construction will be only one-half the usual for such a place because of religious help. If the cleric then clears the surrounding territory and humans dwell in the area, there will be a monthly revenue of 9 silver pieces per inhabitant from trade, taxation, and tithes.

Note that there is an analogue to renegade characters like Edmond Hamilton’s Halkett and James Cameron’s Jake Sully in The Keep on the Borderlands. It’s the Evil Priest, maintainer of the Temple of Evil Chaos in the Caves of Chaos. He has agents and sympathizers in the Keep on the Borderlands, so beware!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

More Armchair Planet Who's Who Art

Sorcerer's Skull - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 11:00
I just got these pieces this week, and I have been too busy to color them, so here they are in their line art glory:

These representatives of that race extradimensional dealmaker and powerbrokers known to superstitious folk as the Devils as rendered by Jason Sholtis.

And here are members of the hidden race of variant humanity that inspired the legends of elves, dwarves, goblins, and the like: the entourage and exiled royals of the astonishing Abhumans! Art by Agustin Calcagno.

Scylla: Henry Justice Ford Monster Manual

Roles & Rules - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 08:36

Another contribution for Eric Nieudan's project. This classical creep is to me the best-imagined of all Henry Justice Ford's monsters. He wisely ignores the mildly ridiculous "dogs growing out of waist" description from Hyginus, and focuses on the grasping horror so vividly illustrated here in all stages of crew acquisition. There's no telling how many Victorian and Edwardian children were terrified witless by this "character-building" sight.

Text of this post is released under this license:


Armour class: as chain
Hit dice: 15 (90 hp); daughters 12
Move: slow crawl, slow swim
Attacks: 6, grab and devour, 2d6 / d6
No. Appearing: 1
Morale: 6
Treasure: 10000, magic; daughters 5000, magic
Alignment: Chaotic

Scylla was a lovely nymph, caught up in the amours of Poseidon and cursed by his jealous wife to bear a monstrous form for all time. She dwells in a cave atop a sea-cliff, commanding the only safe passage through a narrow strait with a whirlpool. It is rumored that she has spawned parthenogenetic daughters, of like form, who have spread out to terrorize wet, dark, and desolate places in the world. 

Scylla's voice is low and harsh, speaking all the tongues of the folk who toil her sea; she barely remembers her sylvan native tongue. She smells like brine and slightly putrid slime, but her movement is sinuous and graceful, almost hypnotic.

The six ponderous heads have brutish women's faces bearded with the legs of the octopus, connected to the barrel-shaped invertebrate body and its vestigial legs by long, snaking necks. Each head attacks to pick up a human-sized foe, ignoring armor, without damage on a hit. The victim thereafter is held fast, breaking free on STR+d20 > 25, and is automatically chewed for 2d6 damage each round in her clutches. Escaping her mouth parts usually means a 10' fall onto the rocky sea below. Two heads can cooperate to pick up a horse-sized meal, if both hit. Enemies that cannot be picked up take d6 damage from her bites instead.

At each 30 points of damage taken she must check morale, and retreats into her cave if this fails. In the cave is treasure that her discerning tentacles have fished over centuries from the wrecks of emptied ships: coins, goods, and the possessions of the slain. She will only listen to parley involving revenge on the sea-god and his spouse, but her daughters may be more amenable to deal-making after a show of strength.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

"A Deed Without A Name" The Wayward Sisters & Cults for Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 05:28
SCENE I. A cavern. In the middle, a boiling cauldron. "Thunder. Enter the three Witches First Witch Thrice the brinded cat hath mew'd. Second Witch Thrice and once the hedge-pig whined. Third Witch Harpier cries 'Tis time, 'tis time. First Witch Round about the cauldron go; In the poison'd entrails throw. Toad, that under cold stone Days and nights has thirty-one Swelter'd Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Fake Gaming is Real: Misha Burnett on that Critical Role Blowup

Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 05:22

Author Misha Burnett weighs in on the recent commotion over the Critical Role show:

I started a thread about the Critical Roll situation in a Facebook group this morning. The group is kind of a general all things geeky group and I can count on them for good discussions without anyone getting political or screaming about being oppressed.

It was, for the most part, a good discussion, with a lot of different perspectives.

I did notice, though, some people getting really defensive when I pointed out that a DM who “doesn’t let player characters die” is a DM who is breaking the rules of the game to force a particular outcome.

One person insisted that she did not mean that a DM should break or ignore rules but instead just “fudge the rolls” to insure that no PC ever dies. Other people said that PCs should only die when it is the player’s choice, and one said that she will only play in games where character death is not a possibility.

And I think I figured something out. I have always wondered why players who emphasize “story-based gaming” and similar terms even bother to use books and paper and dice at all. You can have interactive storytelling just fine without them. If your goal is to just get a bunch of people to tell a story working together you need nothing more than the people and room to talk.

What’s more–the big storytelling advocates tend to have a lot of books, expensive hardbacks with tons of rules in them.

And it hit me that they want the illusion of rules, but not to be bound by them. It’s the same thing as the Soviet habit of holding elections even when there was only one party candidate to “elect”. They wanted to control the outcome while pretending that “the electoral process” put the right person in the right seat.

Storygamers want the rules in the same way. That’s why they got so defensive (I got one commenter tell me “I’m done arguing with you” when she had, in fact, not advanced a single argument) when I pointed out that if the rules weren’t being followed there’s no reason to have them at all.

They don’t want to admit that they are being capricious and arbitrary and just deciding how they want things to go. Instead what they want is a stack of rules that they can point to that prove that they are playing fair and earning their successes and that they all have 20th level half-unicorn bloodmages because they are just that good. And pointing out that they started at 10th level with magic items and have a DM who “fudges” away any negative result makes them livid.

So they keep bringing up “House Rules” and “Rule 0” and about how the DM is the final arbitrator of the rules. And that’s well and good, I am all in favor of house rules. But there is a big difference between a poker dealer saying “twos are wild” as he’s dealing and someone who says, “I’m going to turn this two into a seven to fill my straight” after the cards are turned over.

These people are only cheating themselves. The situations that develop when players are subjected to coherent rules and actual risks are so much richer than those that are derived from what people think would be the most intriguing. And I can almost understand it.

The rules and the dice really are there to protect you. They are like a climber’s rope and harness. They work… but you have to trust them. And when you’re fifty feet up on the wall, you really start to wonder: if I start to rappel down, is this stuff really going to work? It’s scary. It really is! But the moment you throw yourself off that wall… wow, is that ever fun!

It’s the same thing when you’re sitting there with half a dozen people looking at you expecting a good time at your table. I can’t imagine it really, having all of those rpg books, dice, adventures… spending countless hours “gaming” but never once seeing what happens if you just go where the dice and the rules and the adventure and the player choices take you.

I really can’t imagine it.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Flip Through Gods and Goddesses From Jetpack7

Gamer Goggles - Fri, 07/20/2018 - 00:14

In this Flip Through Matt takes a look at Gods & Goddesses the Dungeons and Dragons 5e supplement from Jetpack7. It’s a tour of real world lore for your 5e game.

Click here to view the video on YouTube.

This is the first Jetpack7 RPG product I have seen and I like the product they have put out. I can’t wait to see more.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Pulp Era Colonialism is Intrinsic to Dungeons & Dragons

Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog - Thu, 07/19/2018 - 23:00

From Edmond Hamilton’s short story “A Conquest of Two Worlds”, published in 1932 in Hugo Gernsback’s Wonder Stories magazine:

“I don’t know why we should be going back there to kill those poor furry devils… after all, they’re fighting for their world.”

“We wouldn’t hurt them if they’d be reasonable and not attack us, would we?” Crane demanded. “We’re only trying to make Mars something besides a great useless desert.”

“But the Martians seem to be satisfied with it as a desert,” Halkett persisted. “What right have we, really, to change it or exploit its resources against their wishes?”

“Halk, if you talk like that people’ll think you’re pro-Martian,” said Crane worriedly. “Don’t you know that the Martians will never use those chemical and metal deposits until the end of time, and that earth needs them badly?”

“Not to speak of the fact that we’ll give the Martians a better government than they ever had before,” Burnham said, “They’ve always been fighting among themselves and the Council will stop that.”


Within another year Weathering could send word back to the Council that the plan had succeeded and that except for a few remote wastes near the snow-caps, Mars was entirely subjugated. In that year approximately three-fourths of the Martian race had perished, for in almost every case their forces had resisted to the last. Those who remained could constitute no danger to the earthmen’s system of forts. The Council flashed Weathering congratulations and gave Crane command of the expedition then fitting out on earth for the exploration of Jupiter.

Needless to say, a movie like Avatar would have had a completely different ending back in the thirties! And as brazen as this story might seem to the average millennial of today, it is nevertheless something that that is hardwired in the nature of the much more recent Dungeons & Dragons game.

Consider this from the first edition AD&D Players Handbook:

When a fighter attains 9th level (Lord), he or she may opt to establish a freehold. This is done by building some type of castle and clearing the area in a radius of 20 to 50 miles around the stronghold, making it free from all sorts of hostile creatures.

Sure, there is a bit of feudalism baked into the old game merely as a sort of window dressing. But there this talk of “clearing” and subjugating wilderness hexes is very much in line with the spirit of Hamilton’s scandalously retrograde science fiction tale. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the overall posture and attitude outlined there is the very definition of what Lawful means in the context of the grandaddy of all role-playing games– something that would be readily apparent to anyone that’s taken the time to go back and read Poul Anderson’s Three Hearts and Three Lions.

A cursory survey of D&D comments on Twitter reveals people’s inability to even imagine thinking this way is a big part of why they have no idea how to play the game.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

25% off sale ends on the 22nd - Battle Boards!

Two Hour Wargames - Thu, 07/19/2018 - 19:18

Great time to catch up or take advantage of the new stuff. Have you seen the Battle Boards for Talomir Tales? Use them with minis or counters. Get them here and remember


gives you 25% off.

You'll find the following Battle Boards:
  • Alley. 
  • Banquet Hall. 
  • Camp. 
  • Cemetery. 
  • Dungeon Passage. 
  • Ford. 
  • Market. 
  • Street. 
  • Swamp. 
  • Tavern. 
  • Treasure Room. 
  • Woods. 
  • Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    Tegel Manor A Mid Summer & Fall Campaign Meeting & Actual Play Event

    Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 07/19/2018 - 16:57
    "Tegel Manor, a great manor-fortress on the seacoast, is rumored to be left over from ancient days when a charm was placed over it protecting it from most of the ravages of time and human occupation. The hereditary owners, whose family name is Rump, have been amiss in their traditional duty of providing protection for the market village to the west. Some have said that this failing andNeedles
    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    How do you make a legendary monster? and more monster-math lessons from Mordenkainen’s

    Blog of Holding - Thu, 07/19/2018 - 16:47

    In my last post, I demonstrated, via too many charts, that the monster-creation math in the 5e Dungeon Master’s Guide doesn’t match the monsters in the Monster Manual. As an example: the average CR 1/4 monster has 13 hit points. The DMG suggests that they should have 43 hit points. Imagine your level-1 party mobbed by skeletons with 43 HP each instead of 13!

    In my next post, I’ll be offering a chart to replace the one in the DMG, which lets you create monsters on the fly: monsters which are about as dangerous as you’d expect based on their Monster Manual cohort.

    In between my last post and my next post, though, we need to do a little more analysis. Do legendary monsters skew the math? And has the math changed in recent D&D monster books, such as Mordenkainen’s Guide?

    legendary monsters

    Legendary monsters are the conceptual descendant of Fourth Edition’s “solo monster”: a single monster designed to challenge the whole party. If I remember right, solo monsters had 4x the hit points of a standard monster of their level. Are 5e’s legendary monsters’ HP similarly inflated?

    There’s not much overlap, but it’s pretty clear that legendary and standard monster HP both fits on the same trend line.

    I won’t show all the charts here, but I will tell you this: legendary monsters have basically the same armor class, hit points, attack bonuses, and save DCs as their non-legendary counterparts. The only chart that looks interesting, at first blush, is damage:

    Legendary damage looks higher, right? But actually I think something else is going on. Dragons. They’re an outlier, with high stats in general: both high hit points and damage for their CR, plus a host of beneficial traits such as Legendary Resistance. Let’s break the legendary creature damage into dragons and non-dragons.

    There are not a lot of non-draconic legendary monsters in the Monster Manual, but their damage totals (the green triangles) are on the same trend line as the standard monsters. The dragons form their own trend line, hovering threateningly over the other monsters.

    So, in general, legendary monsters have the same stats as any standard monster. How is a legendary monster different?

    Legendary monsters are more interestingly built. They have off-turn legendary actions. They may have lair actions. Some, but not all, have Legendary Resistance, so they can’t be shut down with one spell. But, apart from the dragons, they have the same hit points, damage per round, and other game statistics as any other monster of the same Challenge Rating.

    Mordenkainen’s Guide

    Our charts look plausible so far, but we’re hampered, especially at high level, by low sample size. Enter Mordenkainen’s Guide. Mordenkainen’s is notable because it’s chock full of high-level and legendary monsters: it contains as many CR 8+ monsters as the Monster Manual does, doubling my sample size for high-level monsters. (There are, of course, more monsters in Volo’s Guide and other sources, but I haven’t charted them yet.)

    But are monsters in the Monster Manual and Mordenkainen’s comparable? Has monster design changed drastically in the four years since the Monster Manual was released?

    First of all, how do Mordenkainen’s Guide hit points look compared to Monster Manual hit points?

    Pretty much the same. In this graph, I’ve broken out the hit points of legendary and nonlegendary monsters from Mordenkainen’s so we can check our work from above: legendary monsters don’t have more hit points than other monsters. In fact, if anything, they have slightly fewer. Furthermore, the general hit point trend is the same for Monster Manual and Mordenkainen’s monsters.

    I’ll skip over some other uninteresting charts: the long and short of it is, Mordenkainen’s Guide monsters have roughly same ACs, attack bonuses and save DCs as Monster Manual monsters of equal CR.

    I do want to take a closer look at monster damage from Mordenkainen’s, however.

    Here I’m graphing average Monster Manual damage/CR against Mordenkainen damage/CR. I’ve broken the Mordenkainen data into legendary and nonlegendary just to confirm that there is no significant difference between them. Mordenkainen damage is on par with Monster Manual damage. (Except for that spike at CR 18: that’s the sibriex, possibly the highest-damage-per-round monster in D&D except the tarrasque.)

    Nevertheless, there is one statistical difference between the Monster Manual and Mordenkainen’s Guide damage that this chart doesn’t show.

    The *standard deviation* – distance from the average – is much higher in Mordenkainen’s.

    For the 75 CR 8+ monsters in MM, and the 75 CR 8+ monsters in Mordenkainen’s, the average standard deviation in the MM is 16, even including dragons, and in Mordenkainen’s it’s 21.

    That means that high-level Mordenkainen’s Guide monster damage is 30% farther away from the norm compared to the Monster Manual. There is a little less predictability in how powerful a monster is given its CR. This may be a function of the increased complexity of the newer monsters. It may also be a sign that the game’s designers don’t care as much as they used to about adhering very closely to monster-creation guidelines. There’s more art and less math in Mordenkainen’s Guide.

    Art is good. That said, there’s something to be said for consistency. Therefore, as a public service, here’s some monsters in Mordenkainen’s to watch out for if you want to avoid a TPK that surprises everyone, including the DM.

    The Sibriex: this monster can drop 200 HP a round at CR 18, just about double what you’d expect from a CR 18 monster.

    The Duergar Despot, CR 12: the despot fires the equivalent of two full-scale Lightning Bolts per turn. He can do 72 HP of damage to each PC he hits, which, in enclosed tunnels, may very well be all of them.

    The Star Spawn Mangler, CR 5: on round 1 it can do 90 damage, all to the same enemy. A level 5 fighter may have 45 HP. DM and player alike may be surprised to see that front-line fighter not only dropped, but killed, during a surprise round, against an equal-CR opponent. Compare the Mangler’s damage to Geryon, the CR 22 legendary duke of Hell, who can do 77 damage on round 1. (Note: On round 2, the Mangler is useless. That’s how it’s balanced.)

    Well, that ends my deep dive into… wait, you know what? let’s look at just one more delicious chart. Maybe two tops.

    Challenge Rating and monster traits

    One of my findings that surprised me the most from my examination of the Monster Manual was that a monster’s resistances and immunities don’t affect its hit points and damage. The DMG claims they affect hit points, and you can certainly find some MM monsters, like the wraith, who have lots of resistances and who have lower than average hit points. But those are balanced by other high-resistance high-hit point monsters.

    Let’s look at the hit points of monsters with a lot of resistances and immunities in Mordenkainen’s.

    There is no significant difference between the hit points of the general population and those monsters with 8 or more resistances and immunities!

    There must be some traits that affect monster stats. Let’s look at regenerating monsters. We’d expect them to have lower hit points.

    Finally, a correlation! Monsters with regeneration have lower max hit points than the general population – as we’d expect them to, since regeneration 10 over 3 turns should be worth 30 hit points.

    Here are the monster traits which seem to have any noticeable correlation to stats:
    Regeneration: Hit points lowered by 30 or more
    Possession: Hit points halved
    Damage transfer: With no degree of confidence because there are so few examples in either book, this may lower hit points or damage.

    And that’s all I’ve found so far that makes any difference. The abilities to stun, charm, paralyze, or petrify don’t seem to make a difference to HP or damage, nor does magic resistance, legendary resistance, superior invisibility, or any of the other traits listed in the DMG – at least not enough to move the needle. That will all be useful information when we get to designing monsters.

    I hope you enjoyed my descent into statistical madness! I want to point out here what I hope is obvious: I think 5e is great and I’m not looking to ruin anyone’s fun by examining its math. I just like figuring out how good things work, and, if possible, making them better.

    In a few days I’ll deliver that much-promised build-a-monster-on-the-fly chart.

    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    BattleTech: Decision at Thunder Rift

    Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog - Thu, 07/19/2018 - 14:57

    For many years I have read the many classic BattleTech scenario books with a mixture of wonder and awe. Given that we could blow an afternoon with just a handful of mechs on the board, I just had to know: what kind of person played this stuff…?!

    Well, having done one of these now, I can tell you: nobody played them.

    “Decision at Thunder Rift” is a conflict so big, it got a whole novel devoted to it. But the scenario itself is a hot mess:

    • The defenders get three 20 ton mechs, which are supposed to have made a valiant stand on a ridge, using carefully aimed fire to pick off their attackers as they marched uphill. The reality on the game board is… they’re turkeys that spend all of their time getting as far away from the turkey shoot as possible. Not very dramatic!
    • The defenders also get a small army of hovercraft. The rules give you the option to use either quick and easy simplified rules or else design your own version of them with the CityTech rules. If you use the former, then the defense will simply die as the hovercraft will all be wiped out in a couple of turns due to the fact that it only takes a single hit to disable them and a second one to kill them. If you use actual CityTech rules, the units will not only be able to take a lot more hits, but they will also be wherever they need to be in order to have the perfect shot– CityTech hovercraft are going to be two or even three times as fast!
    • And just one note on the original BattleTech box sets. The vehicle counters in CityTech are not numbered or otherwise uniquely identified in any way. If you try to play this scenario with the original equipment available at the time, you have a bookkeeping nightmare on your hands.
    • There are mentions made of potentially using infantry rules with this one, but no details on just what to do with them.

    We spent an eternity playing this one. The hovercraft wiped out a couple of attacking mechs early on. Then the attackers figured out that if they simply made a beeline for the “turkeys”, nothing much would happen. (This is due to the to-hit penalties for jumping combined with the extreme resilience of medium mechs– it can take forever to drop one!)

    There was one dramatic moment, though. The attacking Locust got to the top of a hill and fired its medium laser at a fleeing Stinger. It rolled a 12 on the all-but-impossible to-hit roll, then rolled a 12 again for hit-location, then rolled a 10 for the check-for-criticals roll. This resulted in a life support and a cockpit critical. A target dropped in a single shot!

    So yeah, the turns just cranked by taking a long time to resolve for generally not a whole lot to happen in return. It was exhausting. The way it turned out, I had to be able to drop all three of the light mechs by turn 13 in order to win. (There was basically a die roll that determines whether this scenario is trivial or impossible, but you don’t know what it will be until turn ten.) The CityTech hovercraft meant the attacker had to be lucky to pull this off, but the dice just weren’t there. The fleeing 20 ton mechs were just too hard to hit… and the hits that did land weren’t concentrated in the same hit locations well enough to get the job done.

    We did make one critical mistake: the attackers were supposed to get reinforcements on turn 10 and we completely forgot about them. However, if the defense played at all sanely, they should not have made a significant impact on the outcome at all. The light mechs would have had to take a few more shots at slightly better odds due to needing to steer clear of the south map edge, but otherwise nothing would have changed.

    We ended up debating some other issues when trying to determine if one side or the other should simply concede. Stuff like… what constitutes an actual kill in BattleTech? (Is two gyro criticals enough?) Also, can the attacker leave the map in order to deny the defense kills? (If so… then they have no chance at all to win, particularly if the dumbed down hovercraft rules are used.)

    Anyway, there is a lot of stuff here. There is a very creative use of terrain and units to make a really colorful situation come alive, using everything that existed in the BattleTech game during the mid-eighties. But there’s just one problem with it: it’s objectively the worst wargame scenario I have ever played.

    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs


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