Tabletop Gaming Feeds

In 1981 a Troll Named Grimtooth Set a Path for Today’s D&D Books

DM David - Tue, 04/30/2019 - 11:25

Starting in 1981, Flying Buffalo Games published a series of Grimtooth’s Traps books. They featured diagrams of traps that showed heroes on the verge of being folded, spindled, and mutilated. For instance, one sample shows a covered pit trap where the swinging cover severs a rope that drops a stone slab into the pit.

Dungeon Master: “As you advance down the tunnel, a trap door opens at your feet, dropping your rogue, Jasper the 8th, into a pit.”

Player: “Ha! Ring of feather fall!”

DM: “Ha! A two-ton stone slab drops on you, pushing you down the pit and crushing you to jelly! Do you have another character?”

Player: “Sigh. Say hello to Jasper the 9th.”

All the traps were ingenious, but very few could work in play.

In another example, a rope seems to offer an easy way to swing across a chasm, but at the end of the swing, the rope unspools several feet, flinging the victim into the wall, which is rigged to fire a volley of crossbow bolts into the victim’s body, before he drops into the underground river below, which I assume is full of sharks.

What paranoid adventurer would dare use a rope suspiciously ready for swinging across a chasm? And all adventurers in the world of Grimtooth will grow paranoid in a hurry. In practice, this trap gets bypassed without a second thought.

In most cases, even players who survive the traps will never notice the inventive mechanisms that make them function and that make them interesting. The traps could work in a sort of Toon/Dungeons & Dragons collision, where Wile-E-Coyote-like characters blunder into outrageous traps, only to reappear, without explanation, for the next scene.

Despite the traps’ minimal play value, Grimtooth’s Traps became a hit, leading to Traps Too, Traps Four, and Traps Ate. What made collections of useless traps top sellers?

“The traps were sometimes deadly and sometimes silly. They were often Rube Goldberg-esque, and not the sort of thing you could really use in an adventure,” Shannon Appelcline writes in Designers & Dragons. “However they were beautifully diagrammed and often very funny. The book was a joy to read.”

Much of the humor came from the books’ credited author, a troll named Grimtooth who relished inflicting inventive deaths on hapless dungeon delvers. “I feel that you’ll find this the most entertaining collection of traps you’ve ever laid eyes on. Besides, if you don’t like my book, I’ll rip your lungs out.” (Apparently, Grimtooth enjoyed Warren Zevon.) By flaunting the worst impulses of killer DMs, Grimtooth satirized a type familiar to roleplaying gamers in 1981.

Grimtooth first appeared on the cover of the fifth edition of Tunnels & Trolls. Then, in Sorcerer’s Apprentice magazine, editor Liz Danforth drew the troll as an icon for her “Trolltalk” column. Grimtooth gained his name in a reader contest.

While plotting humiliating ways to kill adventurers, Grimtooth offered some good advice. “A few of you numbskulls out there still haven’t caught on what it means to be a Game Master. A GM doesn’t slavishly follow anything—books, manuals, or edict from On High.” So when readers missed the joke and griped that the traps proved too deadly, Grimtooth invited tinkering. “Some of you have twisted ideas about how to administrate a dungeon, newfangled ideas about delvers escaping with their lives and stuff like that. Don’t ask me to to make my traps less deadly…change them yourselves.”

By the fourth volume, Grimtooth’s Traps Ate, the editors had abandoned any pretense that these traps might see play. Now the traps include dungeon basketball courts with mechanical arms that slam dunked characters, and deadly Christmas-themed rooms that killed adventurers pictured in Santa suits. (Why is volume 4 Traps Ate? The numbers 3, 5, 6, and 7 lack homonyms, so they were skipped.)

Grimtooth set the pattern for new Dungeons & Dragons books like Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. A D&D player can buy a Player’s Handbook and never need another book. Only DMs weary of the foes in the Monster Manual need another collection of monsters. But Wizards of the Coast aims to sell every D&D book to every D&D fan, so they lure buyers to books like Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes by making the text entertaining. Part of the fun comes from humorous notes left by Xanathar and Mordenkainen, characters who owe much to Grimtooth.

As for the troll, his wicked engineering remains amusing. In Grimtooth’s Traps, The Addams Family meets Rube Goldberg.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Thongor Fights the Pirates of Tarakus (1970)

Zenopus Archives - Mon, 04/29/2019 - 19:03
We're going to need a bigger boat, mateys...
Yesterday's used bookstore find: Thongor Fights the Pirates of Tarakus, the sixth and last novel in Lin Carter's Thongor series. This series is Appendix N-adjacent, as Carter is called out in the list but only for his later Warrior at the World's End (1974).
Carter is probably best known for his pastiche work with L. Sprague de Camp on the Lancer/Ace editions of Conan, but he also edited seminal '70s fantasy series such as Ballantine Adult Fantasy and Flashing Swords, works that helped popularize the fantasy genre in the '60s & '70s. Years ago I read his very early (1969) book on Tolkien's work, A Look Behind the Lord of the Rings

Carter also helped get the Cthulhu Mythos into D&D by way of J. Eric Holmes; Holmes cited Carter's "H.P. Lovecraft: The Gods", in The Shuttered Room and Other Pieces (1959), as one of his sources for his “Lovecraftian Mythos in D&D” article in Dragon #12 in 1978. See my post The Cthulhu Mythos in D&D in the 1970s.
Thongor is a "Clonan", with the above cover specifically calling out Howard's character: "Sorcery and seafighting - and mortal peril for the mightiest warrior-hero CONAN". The author's note situates the series on "the Lost Continent of Lemuria" (drawing from Lemuria in popular culture), which is Carter's Hyborian Age analog.
The particular paperback I found is stated as the third printing, published by Berkely Medallion in 1976, with a fantastic cover by Vincent DiFate, different than the 1970 original.
I'm not sure when I'll get to reading this, but I'll try to update this post when I do. Possibly the pirates in this book will inspire some background details for the pirates in the sea cave in the Sample Dungeon.

See also "Ochre Jelly Inspiration?" which discusses a Carter & de Camp Conan story.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Frozen Province

Ten Foot Pole - Mon, 04/29/2019 - 11:13
by Giuluano Roverato
Roll 4 Tarrasque
Level ?

An unnatural cold has taken hold of this land and refugees tell tales of both gold and horror. Will you loot the remnants of this once lush province or try to save it?

This is one of them there new fangled tri-fold adventure gimmicks. I was gonna ignore this development but a reader asked and I’m currently in a Regional Resources mood.  It’s got a weird vibe going, pseudo-japanese mixed with a weird non-Gross Carcosa thing that gives that odd vibe in the same way Dark Sun did. As a series of ideas it’s ok. As a framework for something like A Fiasco Playset, or the equivalent for light story gaming it’s ok.

There’s a village on the border of an ever-expanding freezing region. There are 8 locations in a region that’s 6 days travel by 6 days travel in size. It’s large to reinforce the cold damage and it’s sparse because it’s a tri-fold. Thus my pointer to more abstract-like games and/or using this to develop your own ideas/region.  

There’s a one-page village/NPC description and about one page of wandering monsters/exploration guidelines. Two pages of locations, including a map, and one page of magic items in addition to the cover make up the six tri-fold pages.

The encounters have a weird vibe to them, with that pseudo-japanese thing going on. Shitake soup, sakura trees, monkeys bathing a hot spring … one with a rifle. And there’s that weirdness I mentioned. Frozen monks, with centipedes that burst out of their eyeballs. A frozen giant carp with a human face. It’s brining the weird and generally interactive, although almost all of them have a significant slant towards combat. They are solid ideas though and deserve more than aa sentence on a pamphlet.  Come to think of it, they remind me a lot of the hex descriptions/encounters in the Wilderlands products, with perhaps a slightly more combat focus. Generally interactive or, maybe, it’s easy to craft something larger around them and you can see the energy in them. They do tend to a more abstract language style though and would be stronger if they used more specific words and/or colorful language. “Clearly overworked”, “a foreigner to these lands”, and so on. Some word choice changes would have done wonder to make things pop more.

As a format the tri-folds are probably less useful than one-pagers; the folding, detracts from space. Maybe there’s some usefulness in these sorts of things for more abstracted games. For this one, specifically, there’s interesting situations and writing but they are constrained by the limitations of the format.

This is $2 at DriveThru. You get a one page preview, which is half the product, and is nicely representative of the writing.

Also, Gus says we should be making everything free.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Azurth Mailbag: Death & Mayhem

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 04/29/2019 - 11:00
This may well become a recurring feature here, assuming I get other Land of Azurth-related questions. Jason Sholtis of Pennsylvania asks: "How do you deal with D&D style violence and mayhem in Azurth and how does it support or thwart the tone?"

D&D is often characterized as "killing things and taking their stuff" and old school play at least tends to to pride itself on "high lethality." Neither of these things seem Azurthian at first blush, given the stated inspirations, so I understand why Jason might question how it all fits together.

First off, my Land of Azurth campaign is run in 5e, which is a bit more forgiving and less lethal (for the players) than older editions. This suits our campaign just fine.

Secondly, Azurth is a D&D world with those sorts of inspirations. It doesn't have an Ozian lack of death, for one thing. Azurth isn't a grim or dark world in any sense, but it's a bit like the Land of Ooo from Adventure Time! in that it is not as saccharine as it might appear on the surface. (And unlike the Land of Ooo, it doesn't have to hold the violence to levels acceptable to Broadcast Standards and Practices.)

I think there's fun in juxtaposing the children's book sort of elements with mayhem, but without doing a "dark" take in the traditional sense. So yes, the D&Dish mayhem thwarts the kiddie nature of some seting elements, but the setting keeps the action of the campaign form devolving into just another D&D world. They work well together.

Do you have a question? Leave it in the comments or email me.

Ships of the California Lost Wastes - An OSR Encounter Or An Encounter Setting For Any OSR Old School Campaign

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 04/29/2019 - 07:30
A wind comes in from the sea,And rolls through the hollow darkLike loud, tempestuous waters.As the swift recurrent tide,It pours adown the sky,And rears at the cliffs of nightUppiled against the vast.Like the soul of the sea—Hungry, unsatisfiedWith ravin of shores and of ships—Come forth on the land to seekNew prey of tideless coasts,It raves, made hoarse with desire,And the sounds of the Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Monster Faces 042519

Zenopus Archives - Sun, 04/28/2019 - 19:36
I'm constantly drawing faces in margins, but I haven't made a more concerted drawing in a while. Here's a quick one I made recently, a new small addition to my line of Monster Faces:

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Our Elves Are Different

Sorcerer's Skull - Sun, 04/28/2019 - 14:00
Tired of the same old elves? Here are some alternatives takes that can just be used to reskin the fluff in most editions, though 5e might require some slight ability tweaking.

Elves are too busy pursuing their own idiosyncratic interests to do things like raise kids or maintain a society, nations or settlements beyond loose associations. They plant their children in households of other species. When they reach a certain age, they are drawn to seek out their own kind who magically impart elven "history" and "culture" to them, then send them off to do their own thing.

Homo Superior
Elves are the next evolutionary step in humankind. At puberty, their elvish breakout occurs, manifesting in one of several basic ways, analogous to elvish "subraces." Sometimes persecuted by human societies, they tend to form outcast communities in out of the way places.

Elvish civilization is centered around a sealed enclaves where young elves live in hedonistic splendor. Old age is unknown either due to voluntary suicide or voluntary exile at a certain age. All elves encountered in the wider world are older outcasts.

Elvishness, or rather the idea of elvishness, is a magical virus of a sort. Those infected first began to act "elvish" then develop half-elvish traits followed by full elvish traits. This often causes a radical shift in personality.

Elves are visitors from another world. They come the campaign setting for scientific observation or perhaps recreation. Their interstellar societies strict rules do not allow them advanced technology, nor does it allow them to describe too much about their place of origin. Th existence of magic and their innate aptitude for it was a surprise.

Elves are the sensory organs/interface modules (or perhaps drones or robots) of vast nonhuman intelligences. They are craft to explore the world and have experiences their colonial minds cannot. Elves have autonomy and independent thought, but they always know themselves to be parts of a whole.

The Flow of Time in LSotN Part 1: Basics (campaign design post)

The Disoriented Ranger - Sun, 04/28/2019 - 12:42
The second "second" post in April (sorry, just realized my mistake ... not that anyone cared). Maybe you can tell, I have time on my hands right now. And things to do long overdue. For instance: the campaign frame for Lost Songs of the Nibelungs. The seasons, how time is split between mundane living and questing and what the game does when the characters don't do much. It's been years since I last wrote about that. However, the little play-test campaign we got running is at a point right now where I need something to test. I haven't done a post like this in a long time (that is: long and meandering). Here we go.
Necessary Research I: What's already established?
I'd say I had 3 solid approaches at the topic so far. The first one was how the living conditions of a people will shape their culture (here). If nothing else, it's a reminder how the seasons will have an impact on a culture just like anything else would, but I get a little bit more concrete in 2015 when I actually talk about using seasons in role playing games and what I aim to so for Lost Songs, although on very vague terms (here). And finally I wrote one concrete set of rules that illustrates one major aspect of our perception of time and seasons, the weather (here).
The Wild Hunt [source]Some things established over time, but didn't find much use yet in that regard. There's a working system for Status including, for instance (but not limited to) followers and henchmen and all kinds of implementations that I need to consider when talking intermissions. Especially higher level characters should indeed be very busy when not adventuring.
What else, what else ... Permanent damage has a chance of healing somewhat when characters are not questing. I had established 1 point per month (with the fiat that scars like that never heal completely and at least 1 point per scar has to remain). This was supposed to be connected to the way of life characters chose between adventures and should include marriage and politics and religion and research (magical or otherwise) and all that nice stuff.
There's also the idea of advancing a group's tribe in times like this or bringing their host honor by assisting in raids, open war, aiding defense or diplomacy (which is somewhat related to politics named above, but different in as far as I think I'll need/want a system where the game creates short spotlights where direct play becomes necessary or desirable). It's for those reasons that I want to add the Narrative Generator for story twists and the rune oracle I'm working on, as both are reliable tools so far to tell the stories Lost Songs needs to tell. They bring that kind of conflict.
Other than that there's bits and pieces all over the place when I talk about how to set the mood for a game like this or divine magic or how to pay respect to leaders or how magic changes with the seasons because other energies are available ... But it is all over the place, so not of much use, actually, for anything but being a document that I had this on my mind for a long, long time now.
That's about it. Time to look what else is around.
Necessary Research II: What's out there?
Pendragon is one great inspiration here, as is King of Dragon Pass. Both give a pretty good impression of where I want to end up as far as evocative intermissions go: the scope widens to the troubles that surround the community the characters chose to spend some time with. A little magic, some intrigue, little stories that resolve over a longer time. Not so much the rules, but the scope and feel.
Dungeon World comes to mind as well. Although I do not care much about the rules themselves, I think where the game really shines is with it's DM tools. There is a clear sense of distinction between what the designers thought deserves focus at the table and what could be glossed over, while taking the time to include little systems to make those intermissions relevant, if a bit detached. The divide is crucial and rules for situations different to actual play need to be distinct. I dig their approach but lean towards a little more complexity.
A big problem that kept recurring while doing research for that is the lack of advice on the timing needed to manifest spaces for intermissions during and between adventures. It's a tough one, isn't it, as it needs to manifest organically from play.
Situations need to play out and while you for sure don't need to play out how characters do some shopping or carousing or what have you, I at least have a hard time to skip from one mode to the other, so I'd really have appreciated advice on that. Alas, it is hard to find in role playing books other than in very general terms (I could be wrong, but I really haven't seen much of this for as long as I've been looking).
You don't need to play it all out in detail ... [source]It begs the question, of course, how much of a game needs to be ritualized to a point where the transition between modes of play is accounted for. And consequently, how it will impact the story that manifests at the table. My games derive a great deal of tension from the fact that those cut scenes aren't coming easily. Playing scenes out helps evoking depth in a game that equals a more literary experience, while working in cut scenes makes for a more cinematic experience ...
Dammit, I think I just realized something. Anyway, I think we are done here for now. Other than the sources I named, I couldn't summon more than problems and questions by looking for other help. Onward. 
Necessary Research III: Any historical hints?
Now, that's a big one. As always with Lost Songs of the Nibelungs, I'm faced with a plethora of choices, which is just as bad as having none at all. I can't really be arsed to write up calendars for every culture that was around at 550 AD. For one, no one will ever use more than small fragments of it, but far more problematic is the fact that I'd end up having all those little sub-systems for every iteration to do all the intricacies justice.
[source]I had that problem with magic and I'm telling you: it can't be done. Or rather, shouldn't be. Of course I could start with something basic you could use in the game right away and plan on doing little supplement for all the variations. Our little hobby has enough money grabbing like that, and I'm not going to participate. Won't do it.
It's also a shitload of work with almost no benefit. I really don't have time for that.
With magic I decided to go as abstract as possible to give room to individual interpretations of what magic in that time could have been. It's a far better approach, in my opinion, and way more satisfying for players and DM.
That said, I will need a general frame to go with. Not as much a calendar with fixed dates (maybe) but more something like distinct phases within a year that add circumstantial necessities to the game proper. Because abstraction only goes that far, we also want to evoke a sense of how those people back then could have seen and explained the world around them.
Therefore, we have to look at common denominators across cultures: premonitions, weather and gods. People have a way to go about their year because its changes dictate so many necessary behavioral adjustments to ensure survival. People also have a way to explain what they can't understand through gods. Both translate to traditions and oracles that might vary from tribe to tribe, but will also always serve the same principles as described above.
Easy. So I just have to look for this and make it work.
However, as I started to dive deep into this topic, I found it to be a mess. There's almost no reliable data on how the Germanic tribes did any of that and of course you'd have a unholy mess of names or dates or holidays as a result of the Roman occupation and good old Christianisation. Clever Christians, of course, went as far as just assimilating what was already there (Baldr's birthday became Christmas, churches had been build on holy places ... that's just two examples among a huge list of assimilations like that).
There's also a shitload of neo-pagan pseudo-historical humbug, full with half-truths about how our ancestors went about all this. It's so weird and complex and unclear that ... well, that no one will care for any of it in a game, historical or not. It's all very frustrating and reminded me why I avoided doing this for so long (want an example: early translations often were, well, heavy-handed interpretations). There are reasons why they call it a Dark Age. Harrumph.
Well, not all is lost. If nothing else, it'll result in some freedom of interpretation. I need it done and it can be done. Onward.
Now we have all the pieces in place. Somewhat. At least to a degree where we can answer some serious design questions. I'm almost tempted to make this a two-parter and call it a day (okay, yeah, it's going to happen). I shouldn't stop here, though, as I'll lose the momentum this should have gotten by now.
Alright, let's push this a little further. A little note to all the historians reading this (you know who you are): if you haven't already gathered this, I won't (can't) go for historical accuracy here, therefore it will be a hot mess of everything I deem fit. Sorry.
Anyway, we have the Julian calendar we all know as a good base line and we know the very onomatopoeic Old High German, Dutch and West Frisian equivalents. We also know some of the holidays and festivals people most likely held.
Furthermore we know that the year had only two seasons: winter and summer (summer started with Easter as the victory over winter). Their calendar was lunisolar and months began with a full moon and they had an extra month between the seventh and eighth month if there was a new moon to be seen in the 12 days after Yule (Midwinternight). So here's what we got to work with (one wiki-source, I'll translate where appropriate):
JANUARY = After Yule/Second Yule (Old English), Winter Month/Hartung (Old High German), Tanning Month (Dutch)Holiday: Lesser Blessing of ThorFEBRUARY = Mud Month (Old English, either because of the shitty weather or the brown cakes that got sacrifced that month), Hornung (Old High German), Month of Gathering (Dutch), Filthy/Unclean Month (West Frisian, they are funny like that)Holidays: early Valentine's Day (Feast of Vali) and a week long festival where all tribes come together in a great ThingMARCH = Month of Wildness (Old English), Spring Month/Lenz Month (Old High German)
APRIL = Easter Month (Old English), Easter Moon (Old High German), Grass Month (Dutch)Holiday: Easter, the beginning of summer and the victory over the giants of winterMAY =  Month of Three Milkings (Old English), Bliss Moon/Pasture Month (Old High German), Month of Joy/Flower Month (Dutch)Holiday: a celebration of those who have died in battle and are brought to Valhalla (Einherjar)Walhalla [source]JUNE = Before Midsummer/First Summer (Old English), Brachet/Fallow Month (Old High German), Weed Month (Dutch)
Holiday: MidsummerJULY= After Midsummer/Second Summer (Old English), Heuert/Hay Month (Old High German)
LEAP Month = Third Midsummer (Old English), Twimoon (Old High German)
AUGUST =  Plant Month (Old English), Harvest Month (Old High German), Flee Month (West Frisian)Holiday: celebration of the harvestSEPTEMBER = Holy Month (Old English), Wood Month (Old High German), Oats Month (Dutch)
OKTOBER = Winter Full Moon (Old English, because Winter began on the full moon of this month), Gilbhart (Yellowing)/Vine Month (Old High German), Sowing Month (Dutch)Holiday: "Halloween" festival to celebrate the beginning of winterNOVEMBER = Blood Month/ Month of Sacrifice (Old English), Autumn Month (Old High German) Fog Month/Slaughter Month (Dutch)
DECEMBER = Before Yule/First Yule (Old English), Holy Month (Old High German), Wolves' Month (Dutch)Holiday: Yuletide/YuleAnd that's that. At least on the surface. We can already see how real world necessities helped forming those words and using it as-is will create a very specific atmosphere from the get-go. That's a good base to go from.

There's also lots of room for individual holidays that might be different from tribe to tribe (I skipped the ones in the source, but there are precedents). Let's keep that in mind as well.
Days and other designations
Normal years have 360 days, with 30 days a month (390 in Leap Years, one moon cycle more). Days start with the dawn of the day and Sunday is the first day of the week. Germanic people adapted the Roman system for days early on (wiki-source), but gave it their own spin. We use traces of this transition to this day. I would, however, keep it closer to the original usage to give it some authenticity:
  • Day of the Sun/Sun's Day (Sunday, Roman: Dies Solis)
  • Day of the Moon/Moon's Day (Monday Roman: Dies Lunae)
  • Day of Tyr/Tyr's Day (Tuesday, Roman: Dies Martis/Day of Mars)
  • Day of Woden/Woden's Day (Wednesday, Roman: Dies Mercurii/Day of Mercury)
  • Day of Thor/Thor's Day (Thursday, Roman: Dies Iovis/Day of Jupiter)
  • Day of Freya/Freya's Day (Friday, Roman: Dies Veneris/Day of Venus)
  • Day of Saturn/Saturn's Day (Saturday, Roman: Dies Saturni), also Washing Day and Sunday Eve, a day of rest (traditionally so instead of Sunday)
Tacitus had something to say about this as well (source):"They assemble, except in the case of a sudden emergency, on certain fixed days, either at new or at full moon; for this they consider the most auspicious season for the transaction of business. Instead of reckoning by days as we do, they reckon by nights, and in this manner fix both their ordinary and their legal appointments. Night they regard as bringing on day."Stuff like that is fascinating to me. So they'd say "We met three nights ago." instead of days and, very much like language, customs change in a more fluid way, something ripe to randomize, I'd say. And all those little details will obviously enhance the narrative at the table.

What's left?
Next we should talk about how they knew which day was which. Did they use rune calendars? Was it the holy men or women doing all the book keeping? I'll have to tackle that next.
But we should leave it at that for now. This is long enough as it is, to be honest. It's really all in place: all the names and holidays, some logic behind it, some room for individual touches. What's left to do now is devising a system around all that. A system that allows an inclusion of all those nice little differences to how we perceive the world today in way that makes it all come alive in the game. Arguably, the harder part of the whole endeavor.So, stay tuned as I will get to it in the next couple of weeks (as I said, I have to have something presentable for our campaign right now, so I need to get there soon, dammit).
If you guys feel like commenting, I'd ask you to tell me a bit how you use that kind of stuff in your games. Do you have elaborate systems? Do you o by the books (if you use official material)? Or are you not feeling it and think it's too much effort to get involved in? Your thoughts are, as always, appreciated.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

(5e) Harrowing Heights

Ten Foot Pole - Sat, 04/27/2019 - 11:13
Daniel McDonald, Sam McDonald, Pete Pinner
DeepDark Designs
Levels 1-3

A level 1-5 adventure module for 3-5 players and a game master that pitches the PCs against kobolds and drakes, with strong nordic-themes and a focus on overland travel.

More crap. I thought this one would be different. Five reviews. All five stars. A closer look reveals that all of the reviews are long and sing the praises of the product, list cons, and still give it five stars. Treachery?

It would match the other puffery. You’re partaking on a Grand Journey! Best of all the adventure is lovingly illustrated with art and cartography! No, that’s not best of all. This is 114 pages. Five or so scenes and a couple of overland journeys. How does it accomplish this? By perhaps the worst cases of hand holding I’ve ever seen.

NOTHING in this thing is simple. If you simply cut out all of the regional and cultural information (the vikings tolerate all religions and treat everyone as equals. Oh, my, that’s unusual. Never saw that coming. So, it’s a bunch of humans that wear furs and act just like every other D&D culture?) then you’d still be left with about fifty pages and about five scenes and a couple of overland journeys.

Hand holding. Conversational text. There’s SO fucking much of it. SO much that I can barely make heads or tails of the actual encounters. “The kobolds occupy the spaces indicated on the map, split their numbers however you like.” On and on and on it goes. The fucking thing can’t take a sentence to say something, it has to take a fucking paragraph.

At one point the jarl is presented as an NPC with a section on how to roleplay him. He’s a concerned father … so we need an extra couple of sentences to tell us what that heading means. He’s authoritarian, not draconian. So we need another two or three sentences to tell us what that means. It’s fucking stupid to the extreme how much this thing drags on.

Oh No, jalrs daughter hasn’t arrived! Go look at the ambush scene and fight some kobolds. Go back to town and talk to the Jarl. Wilderness journey to druid who knows where the kobold live. Kobolds destroyed a bridge, so talk to a nearby cartoony eccentric wizard. Talk/kill kobolds at their giant village and talk/kill the old lady behind it all.

You get to prove your worthiness to the druid before he helps you. Isn’t that original? Proving your worthiness. I mean, every shitty adventure on the face of the earth does this, so why not this one also?

The read-aloud is long, of course it is, and it tells you how you feel, because of course it does. “There’s a sinking feeling in your gut …”

If you kill the jarls guards at the viking settlement then you are recognized as brave and loyal men and not charged. Wereguild? No.

You see, the designer has a plot he wants to force down your fucking throat. Getting arrested isn’t in that plot so it doesn’t happen. Capture a kobold? Guess what, he doesn’t know where his lair is … because that would eliminate a couple of scenes to the adventure and we just can’t have that happening can we? And the viking theming is just pasted on in the loosest way possible, so no cultural stuff included. Just get on the railroad, do what your told while playing with your phones, and wait until four hours have passed so you can go home.

Unless you’re the DM. In which case you get to wade through all of this shitty shitty text. It fucking holds your hand in the text in every way imaginable, using the loosest of all conversational styles, but then says things like “there’s a 5% chance he possess a magic item.” or Suggestion- Put some debris on the map as difficult terrain to represent the looted wagon contents. Fucking really? Seriously? You can’t even set the fucking scene or rewards up for us? You can give us multiple sentences of backstory and explanation justifying everything that happens in every part of this adventure, but not that?  You know, of course, that the backstory is fucking useless and just gets in the way of the details that we need to run the adventure? That the loose conversational style is a disaster at the table, while you’re looking at the book trying to run the adventure?

“An Incentive. Depending on their motivations and personality traits, the PCs might already be moved by Dalla’s plight. Either way, Orm is prepared to offer them a tremendous reward for going above and beyond the call of duty.”

There is absolutely no understanding displayed AT ALL about what an adventure is or is meant to do or how it should. Or maybe there is and they just selected to do the opposite at every possible decision point.

Bad Adventure Design. Bad Adventure Formatting. Full of puffery. In retrospect, I should have known from the 5-star reviews. Why do people put up with this shit? Are there no standards at all left? “I tried” is worth five stars? I guess this is what people want. Paying $10 for a PDF that has almost no adventure in it and is padded out? I want to think that people just don’t know what good design is. That the consumer doesn’t so, so they put up with this garbage. That the designers don’t know and thus keeping churning out this same stuff over and over again.

This garbage is $10.50 at DriveThru.  The preview is eight pages and shows you nothing of the actual adventure, just the background garbage.–Harrowing-Heights?1892600

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Lake Geneva Original RPG Campaign: Red Book Branded Line and "Last Man Standing" The...

Lord of the Green Dragons - Fri, 04/26/2019 - 17:25
Lake Geneva Original RPG Campaign: Red Book Branded Line and "Last Man Standing" The...: I have been posting a lot on Face Book.  In order to support our forthcoming Products, including the launch of the Red Book Line, please go ...
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs


Gamer Goggles - Fri, 04/26/2019 - 16:54



Begin your journey into science-fantasy adventure!

REDMOND, WASHINGTON (April 24, 2019): The Starfinder Beginner Box is ready to launch players into an exciting universe of science-fantasy roleplaying adventure today. With streamlined rules, a complete set of dice, colorful pawns, and more, this deluxe boxed set is the ideal introduction to the Starfinder Roleplaying Game, an imaginative tabletop roleplaying game for 2-7 players. It is available for purchase at, your local gaming store, and anywhere else adventure can be found.

“We’ve designed an easy first step to an adventure in the stars. Players can choose pregenerated characters or create and customize their own futuristic hero to play through challenging scenarios and action-packed battles against dangerous foes. It also serves as the perfect tool for experienced players to quickly bring new crew members onboard their game,” said Robert G. McCreary, Creative Director for the Starfinder RPG.

The Heroes’ Handbook gets players started with everything they need to know to create and play a new character, from classes and themes to alien ancestry, general rules, plus a short solo adventure. The Game Master’s Guide presents a wondrous galaxy, full of new worlds and alien adversaries. Game Masters will learn how to run encounters in the Steel Talon’s Lair adventure, and gain insight into how to create a new world and engage players in the story. Also included in the box are: a set of seven polyhedral dice, 80 pawns depicting diverse heroes and aliens, 24 pawn bases, six pregenerated and six blank character sheets, six player aid cards for quick reference, and a double-sided Flip-Mat.

The Starfinder Beginner Box has everything you need to kickstart a lifetime of pulse-pounding adventure among the stars—the only limit is your imagination. Learn more at

Watch the Character Creation video on YouTube:

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Pre-Painted Iconic Heroes, Monsters, and Starships from the Starfinder® Universe Coming Soon!

Gamer Goggles - Fri, 04/26/2019 - 16:11


Pre-Painted Iconic Heroes, Monsters, and Starships from the Starfinder® Universe Coming Soon!

Redmond, WA – April 24, 2019 – WizKids, the industry leader in high-quality pre-painted miniatures, today announced a new branch of their licensing partnership with Paizo, makers of the popular Pathfinder® and Starfinder® Roleplaying Games, with plans to bring the company’s latest offering to life on the tabletop with a brand new line of Starfinder Pre-Painted Miniatures.

Starfinder Battles joins the wildly popular Pathfinder Battles line in offering an amazing collection of high-quality miniatures for fans of the game.

“We’re very excited to explore the Starfinder universe with Paizo,” said Justin Ziran, president of WizKids. “We’re confident that our fans will love the new miniatures this line will have to offer.”

The initial Starfinder offerings will include a Booster Set and Premium Set, and product will be available for sale worldwide. The first release is slated to hit shelves in 2020.

“Pathfinder Battles has been a stalwart of the Pathfinder RPG for years, and we’re excited to see WizKids bringing that same expertise to the Starfinder universe,” said Jim Butler, VP of Marketing and Licensing at Paizo. “With hundreds of aliens and scores of player-character races in the Starfinder RPG, the Starfinder Battles line is sure to expand your gaming tabletop for years to come.”

For more information on WizKids and the upcoming Starfinder pre-painted miniatures line, visit:

To learn more about Paizo, visit:

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

'The Three Impostors of Greyhawk' An Amazing World of Greyhawk Campaign Connection & Commentary

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 04/26/2019 - 15:37
"Enter the WORLD OF GREYHAWK......A world where bandit kings raid from their remote stronghold;...A world where noble elves fight savage invaders and where bold knights wage war on the terror of Iuz;...A world scarred by a vast Sea of Dust, across which drift lost memories from the awful forgotten past.Enter a World of Wonder & Intrigue...Fantasy Game Setting for a panoramic view of this Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs


Gamer Goggles - Fri, 04/26/2019 - 14:11

Use all your wits and s


kills to make allies, challenge invaders, and make your way back to the lands of the living in the first volume, The Dead Roads.

REDMOND, WASHINGTON (April 22, 2019): Paizo Inc. has released two of six exciting volumes of the Tyrant’s Grasp Adventure Path for the first edition of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. Volume one, The Dead Roads, and the second volume, Eulogy for Roslar’s Coffer, are both available for purchase at and retailers worldwide at an MSRP of $24.99 for softcover.

This survival horror campaign takes heroic players through both the afterlife and the mortal realm to stand against one of the most ancient threats ever to loom over the world. The heroes awaken already defeated—slain by a super-weapon unlike anything seen before. They must fight their way back to the land of the living and warn the rest of the land of this new threat.

The Dead Roads contains a first edition Pathfinder adventure for 1st-level characters. Additional material includes tips, tools, and tricks drawn from the Boneyard, an exploration of races inevitably linked to death, an extensive timeline of the events, and a bestiary of monsters drawn from the lands and lore of the dead.

Author of The Dead Roads, Ron Lundeen, recalls: “My favorite part of this adventure was building it in multiple parts, like a Netflix miniseries, with the players able to decide what order they tackle the middle pieces in. I wanted to make the middle pieces as different from each other as possible within the ‘horror movie’ theme of the entire adventure, so they range from disturbing whimsy to space-warping nightmares.

The adventures continue with a new volume every month for a total of six months. Volume three, Last Watch, can be preordered today and purchased starting April 24. The Tyrant’s Grasp Poster Map Folio and the fourth volume, Gardens of Gallowspire, can both be preordered today and purchased starting May 29.

The free downloadable Tyrant’s Grasp Player’s Guide is available now is gives players all the spoiler-free background, information, and inspiration they’ll need to create characters ready to hit the ground running. Explore the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Tyrants Grasp Adventure Path at

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#MyFirstRPG: Holmes Basic

Zenopus Archives - Fri, 04/26/2019 - 13:11
#MyFirstRPG has been trending on Twitter. I've been collecting the ones referring to Holmes by retweeting them. Check out my profile over there to read them all:
Zenopus Archives on Twitter
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

One-Page Dungeon Entry: Yesterday's Dungeon ... Tomorrow

Roles & Rules - Fri, 04/26/2019 - 09:07
After rejecting a number of time travel gimmicks for this year's One-Page Dungeon Contest entry, I stuck with the best kind of time travel ... the kind we are all doing, all the time. So, this dungeon has notes for a first play at beginner level, then for a second play at later levels when things have changed. It's also interactive, so that decisions players make -- to smash down a door, open sealed tombs, kill or leave an NPC -- have an impact on the higher-level profile of the dungeon.

I mainly wanted to make this adventure useful in a campaign, the kind that gets up to fifth level or so. Or, you can play it in a convention session, devoting 2-3 hours to each "half" and switching to higher level pre-generated characters midway through.

Click to enlarge.

Finally, here are some rough, old-school generic stats for the monsters I have jankily doodled herein.

Grimalkins: HD 1-1, AC 11 [8] +2 against 1 attack/round, MV 12, AT spear d6+1
Grimalkin Shaman: HD 2-1, AC 11 [8] +2 against 1 attack/round, MV 12, AT holy stick d6, spells: cure/cause light wounds, command, spiritual hammer
Beak Dog: HD 2, AC 12 [7]. MV 15, AT beak d6
Satyr: HD 4, AC 12 [7], MV 12, AT weapon
Psqualladir: HD 8+8, AC 18 [1], MV 15, AT bite d8+poison, DF +1 weapon to hit, immune to fire and lightning, half damage from cold and acid, 50% magic resistance, powers as described

Ogre: HD 4+1, AC 14 [5], MV 12, AT weapon +3
Half-Demon Ogre Fire Wizard: HD 6+3, AC 16 [3], MV 12, AT weapon +3, spells: burning hands (x2), magic missile, affect normal fires, flaming sphere (x3), fireball, protection from fire, DF half damage from fire and non-magic weapons, magic resistance 20%
Leucrotta: HD 6+1, AC 15 [4], MV 18, AT bite 3d6, back kick d6, voice imitation
Cray-leeches: HD 1+2, AC 14 [5], MV 12, AT 2 pincers (d4, fall on a 4) and mouth (d4, stays attached doing d4 blood drain/round, open wound still bleeds for 1 hp/round)
Wraith: HD 5+3, AC 15 [4], MV 24, AT hug d6 and 1 level energy drain (permanent or not), DF undead immunities, immune to cold, +1 weapon to hit
Evil Satyr Priest: HD 6, AC 12 [7], MV 12, AT spear d6+ d6 fire + 1, spells: cause light wounds (x2) (fingers become centipede pincers), sanctuary, cause fear, hold person, know alignment, feign death, cause blindness.
Flaming Skeleton: HD 3, AC 13 [6], MV 12, AT 2x flaming punches d6 +1, wrestle for d6 fire damage/round, DF mindless, immune to fire and piercing weapons, half damage from slashing weapons and lightning

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Henchmen 3 & 4

Hack & Slash - Thu, 04/25/2019 - 19:48
These are 4x6 cards that contain possible henchmen for player characters.

Hack & Slash FollowGoogle +NewsletterSupportDonate to end Cancer (5 Star Rating)
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

An Amazing Affair on The Danube Part II - In Search of the Unknown - Dungeons & Dragons Module B1 by Mike Carr

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 04/25/2019 - 18:04
"B1: "In Search of the Unknown," by Mike Carr, was originally released in November 1978 with a monochrome yellow cover. At the time, it was probably TSR's eighth adventure. It was also the first TSR adventure by someone other than Gary Gygax." Well this is the official history but let's delve deeper into the  Caverns of Quasqueton. When you start to delve in deep into the history of WWI Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Coming next month - FNG: Tour of Duty and...

Two Hour Wargames - Thu, 04/25/2019 - 17:22

FNG: Unconventional Warfare.

It’s Vietnam - 1965 to 1973. You’re part of an elite unit made up of highly trained soldiers where the only FNG you’ll find is the rules you’ll need to play the game.
Your unit will conduct unorthodox operations such as reconnaissance, sabotage, snatching prisoners, rescuing airmen, ambushing the enemy, and in many cases “out guerrillaing the guerrilla”. And these are almost always carried out on the enemy’s home turf.
Unlike the traditional soldier, your impact on the war cannot be measured solely by “kill ratios” or “ground gained”. Your Missions are different than that; your Missions are “special”.
We’d like to tell you more , but we can’t. What we can tell you is that if you like FNG: Tour of Duty, you’ll love FNG: Unconventional Warfare.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Bring on the magic! (Part II)

Torchbearer RPG - Thu, 04/25/2019 - 13:00
The Magic Circle by John William Waterhouse, 1886

Hello friends!

This week we’re continuing with the theme we started here. It’s time for more magic items!

Chime of Dreams

A set silver chimes and mallet intricately engraved with sigils linked to the Lord of Dreams. When struck, it emits a rich bell tone seemingly too deep and resonant to come from the instrument.
Effect: Those who hear the ring of the chime must make an Ob 3 Will (or Nature) test or fall into a deep, unnatural slumber filled with strange and terrible dreams. Those trapped in this sleep will only awaken if prodded or struck. Otherwise they will slumber forever. The chime can affect a maximum of four creatures of Might 1 or 2, three creatures of Might 3, two creatures of Might 4 or one creature of Might 5. It does not work on beings with the undead descriptor or who are Might 6 or higher.
Charges: 1d3+1
Inventory: Hand/carried 2 or pack 2
Type: Magical equipment

Crystal Egg

A smooth, shimmering crystal the size of a fist that seems to shift colors as one gazes upon it.
Effect: This crystal functions as a matrix that can store known spells, similar to a traveling spell book. A magician may store up to 8 slots of spells in the orb. Adding spells to the orb follows the rules for scribing a known spell into a traveling spell book. When found, the Crystal Egg may already contain spells imprinted by its previous owner. Roll 1d6 and consult the following table:

1d6Result1Empty2One 1st Circle spell31d3 1st Circle spells4One 2nd Circle spell51d3 1st and 2nd Circle spells6One 3rd Circle spell

Inventory: Hand/carried 1 or pack 1
Type: Magical container

Ring of the Frog

A ring of mottled green and brown stone that always appears to be wet.
Effect: The wearer may breathe normally underwater.
Charges: 1d6+3
Inventory: Hand/worn 1
Type: Magical jewelry

Robe of the Thaumaturge

A heavy, exquisitely brocaded robe beaded with pearls.
Effect: The robe acts as armor against combat spells, invocations and other magical effects in kill and drive off conflicts. -1 personal damage from magical effects. After absorbing damage, roll 1d6. On a result of 1-2, one of the robe’s pearls crumbles to dust. When the pearls are all gone, the robe’s magic is destroyed.
Charges (Pearls): 1d6+3
Inventory: Torso/worn 3 or pack 4
Type: Magical clothing

Swan Mantle

A cloak of purest white swan feathers stitched with gold thread.
Effect: The wearer pulls the cloak tightly about them and takes the form of a swan. To transform, make a Will test Ob 3. This test does not take a turn. If successful, your character takes the shape of a swan and assumes its nature descriptors (Preening, Flying, Swimming). You may end the effect at any time by removing the cloak.
Inventory: Torso/worn 1, hand/carried 1 or pack 2
Type: Magical clothing

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