Tabletop Gaming Feeds

A Review of 'The Pay What You Want' Black Pudding #5 By James V. West

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 03/20/2019 - 06:45
"Dripping and dolloping into view comes the latest issue of this old school RPG zine chock full of nasty goodies for your classic fantasy games! In this issue you'll see ipzees and orbii, you'll learn aromatic charms, you'll find weapons of magic, many strange people will offer their services for your adventuring party, and you will absolutely encounter some cackling ice witches." So I'm Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Coming Soon - 5150 : Fleet Commander

Two Hour Wargames - Wed, 03/20/2019 - 01:07

“Captains; I expect you to do your jobs. Engage!”Your Captains move their ships, fire missiles, launch fighters or torpedoes and preform damage control. That is not your job!Your job is to decide where and when to engage the enemy, and more importantly, when to cut your losses and leave, while keeping the fleet in being.
In 5150: Fleet Commander, the rules are made to reflect your job. Command a Task Force or Fleet; not a few ships.Be a Fleet Commander, not a Captain!
Your job is to decide where and when to engage the enemy, and more importantly, when to cut your losses and leave, while keeping the fleet in beingDo Your Job!
Play it with any existing minis you already have or use the over 120 color counters included with the game.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Pirate & Play The Secret Origin Of The Skull Faced Formorians - Amazing Adventures Game Session Report

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 03/19/2019 - 18:23
"A band of blood thirsty villains has been raiding a variety of worlds & our heroes have stumbled across one of their auctions. The heroes have managed to sneak aboard one of the blood thirsty pirates ships. Will they free the slaves?! Or die in the attempt!?" My player's PC's have run run afoul of 'Skulled Faced Formorian' pirates (in terms of Castles & Crusades these are Hill Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

PRESALE: Golden Goddess Classic Harley Quinn Vinyl Figure (WonderCon Exclusive)

Cryptozoic - Tue, 03/19/2019 - 16:59

Harley loves to be treated like a goddess! This is your opportunity to own the Golden Goddess Classic Harley Quinn vinyl figure created exclusively for WonderCon 2019! You can make sure you get this limited collectible by purchasing it now and then picking it up at Cryptozoic’s Booth #1337 during the event.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

On the best places to gather rare plants

Hack & Slash - Tue, 03/19/2019 - 12:00
Rare plants are useful for whatever you want. Resurrection? A magical enchantment? Some bullshit mcguffin?

Rare plants—if they want the thing, they go to the place where it is. Now your job is easy because you know where they are going. Where are the best places to get these rare plants?

Spider Moss: This is found in rotting abatis, deep within shadowy forests. It often grows thick and infests spiders, fermenting their brain to fulfill its arachnivorous needs, making them aggressive and territorial.

Lady Tongue: This fleshy bud is on a tight bright green lappaceous and acanthous-shaped branch. It exudes a strong smell, and is found in very warm places, near geothermal vents. Though pungent and bitter, the folem in the stem is a favored food for magically twisted creatophagous horrors.

Green Gel: A moss that exudes a gelatinous, slightly lumesent gelital spoor. It's found deep within caves below the water level. The frequency of elemental discharges such as the spawning of weirds and mephits is a beef-witted brabble that coxcombs use to befuddle cottiers for entertainment. However, we plight no guarantee of safety.

Bride's Comb: This cteniform fungus is found high in trees in arid lands. The roots of the fungus rot the pitha of the tree, causing frequent breaks. It is only commonly found 200'+ above the base of the plant.

Dungeon Algae: This bright green algae is found only deep in subterranean environments, near madid fonts of underdark radiation.

Mortal Spore: This plant can only be collected from a marcescent limb of a living creature. This is usually accomplished by constricting the blood until the limb begins to rot. Exposing the withered limb to the air from fresh corpses will seed the mold.

Berry Dripping: Found on the underside of mazzard bushes. It's a residue deposited by the rectrix of cockatrice.

Frozen Dungmuk: Many adventurers and ner-do-wells are familiar with the brunneous mold and its pyrophilic tendency, but when the mold grows in dark frozen clefts, Dungmuk is the result: looking like a glossy clump of fecal colored spheres, covered in poudrin ice flowers.

Glow Threads: This airy plant floats in the water like a bundle of loose threadless string. It only lies in shallow pools in shaded sunlight inhabited by radds, a species of electric catfish.

Vorpal Mold: Hangs from the ceiling in humanoid caves. Grows from the spend and humors of beastmen, creating bundled coils of Vorpal Mold. When disturbed, it violently spasms ejuaculating lacerating wire-like vines.

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

How D&D Shed the Troubling Implications of Half -Orcs

DM David - Tue, 03/19/2019 - 11:48

In real life, we all sometimes feel bound by caution and frustrated by rules of decorum, so we enjoy characters who act recklessly, play by their own rules, and boast the power to ignore the consequences. This accounts for some of the appeal of gangster films and of evil D&D characters.

The Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook (1978) introduced half-orc characters. They stemmed from evil and seemed suited to it.

Those first edition rules limited a half-orc’s top level in every class but assassin, so only half-orc assassins saw much play. Author Gary Gygax surely figured that evil half-orcs would have a knack for assassination, but the combination lacked much appeal. Orcs bring strength and battle lust, not cunning and methodical planning. Assassins fueled conflict between players, and the role concerned some parents, so second edition dropped the class. (See Why Second-Edition Dungeons & Dragons Dropped Thieves and Assassins.)

At first, D&D pictured orcs with pig faces and described them as evil bullies willing to “breed with anything” and eager to capture human slaves. This led many  people to conclude that half-orcs came from rape.

The half-orc’s history in the game suggests that the D&D team shied from featuring a playable race that implies a dark background of sexual violence. As designers wrestled with the half-orc’s backstory, the race came with the first and third editions of the Player’s Handbook, and left with the second and fourth editions of the book.

Many players enjoy mighty, reckless characters who thrive on melee. They relish the chance to ignore caution, rush into action, and destroy foes. No race supports the style half as well as the half-orc, so the option kept reentering the game. Especially when third edition’s Player’s Handbook combined the berserker archetype into the barbarian class, half-orcs gained popularity.

Most of D&D’s editions offer goliaths to players interested in big, mauling fighters, but almost everyone favors half-orcs. Goliaths, a sort of diluted half giant, come so low on flavor that few players can pick one from a lineup.

Through D&D’s editions, the designers worked to free half-orcs from their worst implications.

In second edition’s Planescape setting, the half-orc leader of the Bleaker faction comes from a loving marriage between a human and an orc. The pair came to Sigil seeking tolerance. The setting’s authors felt that a human-monster romance needed some explanation, so in the tradition of Alicia Masters, they made the human parent blind.

Half-orcs can be explained without the implication of rape. The race came from Tolkien and his half-orcs stemmed from interbreeding between orcs and unsavory humans allied with Sauron or Saruman. Third edition steered in a similar direction. “In the wild frontiers, tribes of human and orc barbarians live in uneasy balance, fighting in times of war, and trading in times of peace.” Trading, indeed. Face it, orcs don’t really need to be less evil or monstrous for some humans to willingly interbreed with them. Evidence supports the notion that humans can be outrageously indiscriminate about who or what they couple with.

Still, rather than explaining half-orcs as the product of human-orc interbreeding, fourth edition made them a completely separate race. As backstory, the Player’s Handbook 2 offers a menu of mythic explanations to choose from. For example, perhaps a part of the god Gruumsh’s savage essence fell to earth and transformed a tribe of humans into a new species. Like many ideas floated in fourth edition, half-orcs didn’t remain a species.

Fifth edition frees half-orcs from their darkest implications by developing the nature of orcs. Their evil and savagery stems from their devotion to Gruumsh and the rest of their gods. Orcs follow a faith that preaches blood and conquest, backed by actual gods able to give followers divine powers. No wonder orcs behave so badly.

Outside of Gruumsh’s influence, orcs can escape savagery. “Most orcs have been indoctrinated into a life of destruction and slaughter. But unlike creatures who by their very nature are evil, such as gnolls, it’s possible that an orc, if raised outside its culture, could develop a limited capacity for empathy, love, and compassion.” Perhaps the son of a human and a loving orc could even grow into a factol in Sigil.

Although fifth edition makes half-orcs the product of interbreeding, the game makes the mix common enough for form self-sustaining communities. “In lands far from the Sword Coast, such as Thesk and Chessenta, there are large communities of half-orcs, where generations of them have lived as a people in their own right.”

The story behind D&D improves by making orcish savagery a product of violent gods. In the early days of D&D, orcs only differed from other humanoids by resembling pigs rather than hyenas or big goblins. Now, orcs stand out for their spiritual devotion, and this backstory makes orcs more layered and interesting. Allowing orcs a capacity for love and compassion helps solve the question of what could lead a human to pair with an orc. Plus, the story answers whether good adventurers can murder baby orcs with a clear conscious. I always hated the baby orc dilemma.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

A Review Of 'The Pay What You Want' OSR Adventure 'The Tall Witch' By Davide Pignedoli From Daimon Games

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 03/19/2019 - 06:19
A friend of mine tonight at a local gaming hole told me about an OSR sort of retroclone inspired by Lamentations of the Flame Princess & Swords & Wizardry called Crying Blades. Specifically he told me about an interesting 'pay what you want' adventure that I might want to checkout called The Tall Witch.  The plot sounds simple enough;'A mysterious witch is about to be born and threatens the Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

PRESALE: Flashpoint Batman DC Teekeez Vinyl Figure (WonderCon Exclusive)

Cryptozoic - Mon, 03/18/2019 - 16:59

He’ll be gone in a flash! This is your chance to own the Flashpoint Batman DC TeekeezTM vinyl figure created exclusively for WonderCon 2019! You can make sure you get this limited collectible by purchasing it now and then picking it up at Cryptozoic’s Booth #1337 during the event.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Powered by GURPS: Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 2 & Game Reprint

Bat in the Attic - Mon, 03/18/2019 - 14:15

The Powered by GURPS: Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 2 kick starter just funded. What people may not know it is also to enable a reprint of the Dungeon Fantasy RPG boxed set. Granted it is a bit pricey at $95 however if you wanted one stop to get into GURPS, the Dungeon Fantasy RPG is your ticket, now with more monsters.

I realize many appreciate relatively rules-light RPGs these days. However the virtue of GURPS that is is a well designed system where things you want do as your character have a one to one relationship with the mechanics. There very little in the way of abstraction or fiddling with mini game mechanics. And when it comes to character customization GURPS is still without peer.

Also check out Douglas Cole's The Citadel at Norðvorn kickstarter which is a viking themed Dungeon Fantasy setting.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Thinking About The Arcanum Second Edition System Rule Book By Vernie Taylor & Stephan Michael Sechi

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 03/18/2019 - 13:56
Back in the dawn of the old school era during the dark halcyon days of Nineteen Eighty Four in various Dragon magazine issues one of the most influential & yet least talked about book series was winding its way through hands of gamers. I'm speaking of The Arcanum  2nd edition  a part of the Atlantean Trilogy this was one of those third party Advanced Dungeons & Dragons products that Gary Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Off Track: The Uncharted Swamp

Ten Foot Pole - Mon, 03/18/2019 - 11:15
By Brian Cooper
Off Track Games
Labyrinth Lord
Levels 1-5

From the blurb:

This adventure aims to solve the problem of dealing with random overland movement through a swamp by offering the referee a really really good random encounter table that doesn’t feel random, but instead hangs together in a meaningful way.  In addition to true “wanderers,” it also describes a few lairs whose location is not pre-determined, but fixed in the course of play.

This forty page thing is wandering monster table meant to be used in a swamp. Which blurs the lines between wandering monster table and a hex crawl, which is why I’m reviewing it. Is a hex crawl an adventure? After looking at this, I don’t know. Brian asked me to review this, luring me in the promise of “something new under the sun”, a sure fire way to hook any reviewer. I’m going to talk about the tables, proper, near the end, but first I’m going to talk about play aids, adventures, and things in between.

So, you’ve got his description, above. This is a wandering monster table for a swamp. Each of the entries has four possibilities: day & night and a “hint” of the encounter followed by the encounter. Many of the table entries are linked even beyond that, such as multiple table entries or different types of frog-licking drug addicts, and the frogs proper, and so on. Each entry takes about a page to describe the four possible encounters for that one line item: day hint, night hint, day encounter, night encounter. There’s also a couple of “lairs” that one of the encounters could lead you back to, for example if the druggies invite back to their base.

Let’s say I make a map and key it, randomly from the 1e DMG, minimally. “12 skeletons” type shit. Is that an adventure? For the purposes of this argument we’re going to not quibble and say Yes … although we may come to different conclusions by the end. What if I put a lot of work in to it, and, while the random rolls inspired me, it eventually gets a lot added by me and there’s additional context and the entries kind of work together? Sure. that’s easily an adventure. What if I don’t key it. What if I instead provide a wandering monster table and tell you to key the rooms as the characters enter it? Hmm … I’m getting suspicious it’s not really an adventure … maybe a toolkit? Let’s say I add a table of monster motivations and/or I make the ability to roll on the 1e DMG tables a lot easier during play … adventure then? Probably still a toolkit?

What about a hex crawl, given the same scenarios? I just provide a map and a wandering monster table to populate it. Is it an adventure? What if the wandering monster table works together REALLY well, with additional context, etc? How’s that differ from a traditional hex crawl, which, if memory serves, was pretty minimally described (from Wilderlands1 memory.) What if Wilderlands1 didn’t have a map, but had all of those entries on a table to roll when you enter a hex? Maybe with a blank map added?

I’m not sure I know what the answer is, but I think there’s a nugget of pure truth hiding somewhere in all of that, and, if understood, would provide some guidance to adventure design. The map, the “minimal” encounter, the extra context for an encounter, the encounters working together, stuff done ahead of time … some mix of those makes something an adventure rather than a play aid. And if it is a play aid that’s close to the line then maybe that has value as an adventure also? And so far over the line you’re just mechanics at that point?

This has no map. It has a series of swamp encounters that can be random and are interrelated, both to the other entries in the table and to “themselves” via the hint/day/night mechanic. This strikes me as both an alternative format to a hexcrawl and an alternative format to a wandering monster table. So it could be a … true(?) DM aid, in that its a wandering monster table, or something close to an adventure, depending on your view of hex crawls like Wilderlands. As something different, in concept, the possibilities are intriguing.

The product, proper, has issues. First, it’s 40 pages long for a ten entry wandering monster table.  That, alone, pushes it in to Hex Crawl territory and away from Wandering Monster Table, at least in how this product instantiates the concept. The entries have a lot of italics, which I find hard to read during play. The writing is a little loose, if a lot of if/then statements. Most of the encounters are more prescriptive than … open ended? “When the men are within 30 yards they spot the party, point at them excitedly, and greet them” There’s another part of this that says that if a druggie is deprived of his frog he will get aggressive, at first half-jokingly, but soon violently. That’s good detail, especially the second part, but I think, somehow, I’m looking for something a little more … abstracted? They are happy jovial, excited, willing to share … but turn to violence if separated from their frogs. I willing admit my second phrase doesn’t capture the designers. I’m also willing to admit that the text Brian provided DOES capture the spirit of what I’ve (re)written, but I think maybe the paragraph presentation muddles and diffuses some of the impact of the writing and scene.

So, as a hex crawl, it’s ok to good but a little hard to pull the details of an encounter out of it. If it were condensed to a minimal number of pages (6?) without loosing much flavor, you’d have a different thing, a kind of “tailored wandering monster table” that I think could be a product type in and of itself. Value-Add Wanderers table?

It’s Pay what You Want at DriveThru, with a suggested price of $0. I’d check it out, even if you don’t want it as an adventure. It’s an interesting concept, raises questions to think about, and may spur additional things to riff off of.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Delving Even Deeper Into Campaign possibilities of X5 Temple of Death by David "Zeb" Cook & Clark Ashton Smith's Zothique

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 03/18/2019 - 06:10
So yesterday I wrote a bit about one of my favorite Basic D&D modules "X5 Temple of Death" By David 'Zeb' Cook. Already I'm taking some heat about it from the usual OSR scholars because I combined it with Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.  Now yesterday I combined the module with the world of Clark Ashton Smith's Zothique. But there are a wide variety of reasons Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Days of Azurth Future Past

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 03/18/2019 - 00:52
art by Jason SholtisDeposited in the future by the whim of the wizard, Phosporo, the party in our 5e Land of Azurth game, found Rivertown in ruins and Castle Machina again mobile and stalking the land. What's more the Toad Temple--the Frog Temple in this time-- could be seen in the distance and was painted a brownish orange and had a decidedly friendly cast about it.

It was all very strange, but the party had a job to do. They went searching for the ruins of the Dove Inn to find their Armoire of Holding and the Book of Doors contained therein to get Phosphoro off their back. On their way there, they encountered a sleeping young man in strange clothes. He wasn't sure if Azurth was real, or even if he was real. There seemed to be some gaps in his memory. He knew he was a member of something called "the Golden Dawn" and that his name was "Roderick Drue." He remembered an old man had sent him here--or maybe it was the opium he had smoked. He recalled a place he had been, called the World Exposition.

The party didn't know what to make of any of this, but they allowed him to accompany them. They arrived at the ruin of the Dove Inn to find their armoire likely buried in rubble. (The presence of something was confirmed by detect magic.) Before they could begin searching, there were gibbering voices and something protoplasmic rose from the debris and coalesced into a spheroid in front of them.

Its eldritch gibbering paralyzed the group for some time. Its many mouths bit them, and its eyes blasted them with baleful magic. In the end, they drove it back with Dissonant Whispers and wore it down, until it collapsed into goo. Exhausted, but only mildly harmed (except Erekose who took the brunt of its assault), they began digging into the rubble.

More voices. These belonging to a group of little people who claimed to be from another world. They had taken up residence in the very spacious interior of the armoire. They agreed to turn over the book in exchange for getting to keep everything else. They also related that war had destroyed Rivertown. They suggested the party could find shelter with the benevolent religionists of the Frog Temple.

The party was nervous about doing so, but ultimately did. The rustic beast folk welcomed them warmly. Their frogling leader revealed that they venerate a frogling of the past--Waylon! They also revealed that the war had ultimately been a civil war between the Wizard of Azurth and the Clockwork Princess. They reported the forests were now the domain of a fierce elf called the Dread Queen of House Perilous. The party is sure that this is their own Shade.

Intrigued and troubled by all this, the part stays the night in the temple to consider what to do next!

The OSR Campaign Cycle of X5 Temple of Death by David "Zeb" Cook & Clark Ashton Smith's Zothique

Swords & Stitchery - Sun, 03/17/2019 - 18:43
"Sent on a desperate mission into an unknown land, you must seek out one called "the Master" and his Temple of Death. There is little time to waste, as you must act before the Master's armies destroy your homelands. But to complete your task, you must battle fearsome guardians, travel through a hostile kingdom, and discover the secret of the Master. Can you survive his defenses and win? "Well Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Through A Superhero Lens

Sorcerer's Skull - Sun, 03/17/2019 - 14:30

One of the charming (to me) things about Silver Age/Bronze Age comics is that often series with settings and elements of other genres have a superhero veneer. Either the creators though that was what the audience wanted, or that's just the vernacular they were used to expressing themselves in. Define "superhero" elements, you ask? Well, things like code names, secret identities, costumes, costumed villains with themes or motifs, and of course, super-powers. Not all of these are present in every case, of course, and some of the elements were part of the pulp or adventure hero tradition prior to superheroes. By the 60s, though, superheroes were the most conspicuous purveyors of those tropes.

This doesn't just show up in comics. Hanna-Barbera's Mighty Mightor (1967) is just the Captain Marvel (or Shazam for you kids) of the Stone Age. The late 50s and 60s seems to have been the biggest era for this since we got Super-Chief, the Legion of Super-Heroes, and Captain Comet during this era, as well as the cartoon characters Space Ghost and Mightor.

By the 70s and 80s, either writers were getting more sophisticated to their approach to other genres or they thought there audience wanted something different. Still, I would argue that some of the fantasy characters of the era (Warlord, Atlas, and Stalker, perhaps?) have traces of this, as do space operas like the Micronauts, and modern/military action like G.I. Joe. Certainly, Masters of the Universe is other-genre supers in spades.

This genre-bending seems to have been mostly ignored in superhero rpgs. There are a few Legion of Super-Hero-esque science fiction supplements, and there are short, sidebar discussions of other genres in places. Warriors & Warlocks for Mutants & Masterminds touches on this for fantasy. Given the number of superhero games and the popularity of other genres in rpgs like fantasy and science fiction or even Westerns, there have been very few.

TSR Update

The Splintered Realm - Sun, 03/17/2019 - 12:38
Tales of the Splintered Realm has been updated. Updates include:
  • Added five archetypes, including the 'big four' classic class options
  • Expanded magic to include faith magic, with all 6 tiers of magic represented
  • Revised spell rules to more closely mirror the B/X spell system
  • Added a page of additional monsters
  • Expanded treasure rules

[REVIEW] The Sea of Vipers

Beyond Fomalhaut - Sun, 03/17/2019 - 06:38

Cover to the David Perry edition[REVIEW] The Sea of Vipers (2018)by Kyle MarquisSelf-published (kinda)
The foremost duties of game materials are to be inspiring and useful. Wilderlands of High Fantasy, Judges Guild’s setting is both: it is dynamite for the imagination, while remaining laser-focused on inspiring you to run a game. It does not always live up to its promise (its citadels and castles are a list of numbers; sometimes the randomisation shows through; not all parts of it are of the same quality as the core regions), but the idea is pure, and it continues to be inspiring after more than 40 years after its publication.
The Sea of Vipers, available for free online, is a modern-day campaign setting which captures some of the magic of the Wilderlands as seen in its original, cryptic and sketchy incarnation. It has a gimmick: it was originally published as a series of Twitter posts. That does not inspire much confidence. Twitter, generally speaking, is worse than useless – it actively makes our lives and world worse – but in this rare case, it serves a good purpose: it imposes a limit and structure on the setting information. The same way Judges Guild was struggling with primitive publishing technologies in its day, the author of The Sea of Vipers had to conform to an externally imposed, arbitrary character limit. In both cases, the creative tension has resulted in something intriguing, and perfectly structured for the needs of a game. (Note, there is a cool gazetteer-style online document here, made by David Perry – it is mostly excellent, except for using a different version of the map where all hex entries are off by one row).
Like its JG predecessor, this is a ground-level hex-crawl setting, with the barest minimum of overview information. A one-paragraph introduction, a list of three different pantheons, and some notes on power structures serve as a general framework (two pages of text with a very breezy layout, with room left to spare), followed by a hex-by hex description of the overland areas found on a 64x33 map sheet. These hex descriptions are one-liners; they consist of a hex code, a letter code for terrain type, and the hex description itself. Together, they describe a fantastic archipelago spread over two larger, two smaller, and maybe two dozen tiny islands.
The Sea of VipersThe strength of the material lies partly in this structure, but the reason it has a zing is due to the author’s command of the written word. Consider the intro:“The Sea of Vipers lies south of Gandavor. Since the rise of the Technogogic Implementer, who promulgated new theories of magic, the fractious, traditionalist Rootborn magicians have opposed his unification schemes. After years of low-key hostilities, the islands’ magicians agreed to a Conclave Arcane, but the Implementer betrayed them and spoke the Word of Serpents, which killed hundreds of Rootborn, devastated the Island of Tamera, and triggered the Word-of-Serpents war. The Rootborn fought back, but they had already lost, and now the Technogogic Implementer’s five satraps, the Enthroned, rule the islands.”It is obscure, and it does not go into the particulars, but reading this much should already give you everything you really need to plan and run a campaign. The same sure hand is in evidence in the hex entries. For instance,
  • 2902 H Quartz hills create a tree made of moonlight on the 1st day of the crescent moon with magical healing quinces that grant prophecies.
  • 2903 HD Temple of Kell. The Archifex seeks the intelligent sword KODMOS (2801), which can yank out a person's skeleton (fatal) and control it.
  • 5402 LF Well full of martyrs' heads. Its water is poison to all save the righteous, who gain great powers and then die within 333 days.
  • 0516 DH DEAD LEOPARD HILLS. Leopards destroyed by the Word-of-Serpents; all that remains are their spots, teeth, and hunger.
  • 0523 D Lair of VEIS, Serpent of the Unclean Dance. Causes mania, tremors, the vomiting of worms; treasure includes the MANUAL OF SWANS.
  • 0524 D A bolt of lightning frozen in the sly, glowing faintly. All who touch it die; scorched avians and flying machines litter the dunes.
  • 5305 LF Elf demagogues argue the cultural significance of ear-sharpening cream. The issue is obscure; opinions are mandatory.
  • 1401 LF GOLGAMMANNAH, CITY OF PAINTED HANDS, pop 800. Near-ruined port city. Created magically as a glory, melting with so few to admire it.
  • 1402 P Herd of 22 displaced Bigby's Hands thunder across the plains, stalked by a small pack of 4 Mordenkainen's Hounds.
  • 0722 D An aarakocra desert druid cultivates mellified raptors, drowning birds of prey in honey to create potions of healing.
A lot has been said about terse expressiveness, expressive terseness and tersive expressness (never mind the rest, it has become a meme), but this is how it is done. The contents are mysterious, irrational and dreamlike – dreamlike in the sense that disparate elements are connected in ways that defy rational explanation but make a sort of deeper sense, and also dreamlike in the way it all feels like the images of a kaleidoscope, filled with strange colours and shapes. This is not an easy effect to reach; and you can see the parts where it does not work out.
Island of Alu PanSometimes randomness is just randomness for its own sake, or it becomes lame by trying too hard. This problem can also be seen in The Sea of Vipers. For example:
  • 0913 D Broken 50' jade hoop once served as the phylactery of a storm giant lich. Nomads fear the jade's "poison light."
  • 2623 LF URMISH, the THRONE OF ANTLERS AND IRON. Has a 50' WICKER BEAR stuffed with drugged bears and ready to rampage if anyone ignites it.
  • 3131 P Wereseacucumber sea elf has fled his sahuagin masters to study Thousand Gut Style martial arts under the intestines of Du Mu in 3028

Here, the hex entries are not dreamlike, just dumb. There is in fact a point where AWSUM becomes too much. A long time ago, in edition wars now far away, the excesses of 3e were sometimes illustrated with the example of Thri’Tard the grell Monk, and some of these examples feel like good old Thri’Tard with a new lease on life. This impression is strengthened when the stranger-then-strange hexes keep piling on. The setting is thus utterly weird, without a baseline of normality. The Wilderlands works so well because it is an internally consistent Dark Ages / Late Antiquity setting with fallen flying saucers and mermaid palaces – the basic texture is what makes the weirdness stand out. Here, plate-armored gorillas (3823) live right next to a now-bodiless flowering treant who controls a dracolich (3924), and a fox-headed hydra seeking the foxtail flywhisk of the Throne of Antlers and Iron (3723). And I picked this hex cluster entirely randomly. The Sea of Vipers does not really have any normal inhabitants. Its dial is always cranked up to at least 9, and often 10 or 11.
How could you use this supplement? I envision a game that’s purely focused on hex-crawling and discovering this strange setting. There is not much to the hex entries without investing a ton of work into them, so the best way not to exhaust them is to keep moving. So you’d have something out of Marco Polo’s travels, Seven Cities of Gold or Italio Calvino’s Invisible Cities – lots of travel, quick engagement with the contents of various hexes, and moving on to the next place to see new sights. You could be traders looking for exotic and precious goods, messengers, bureaucrats sent to create catalogues of the archipelago’s wonders for the Technogogic Implementer, or your usual band of roving conquistadors and murder hoboes. You could also thin out the hexes just a little to let it breathe a little – perhaps keep every fifth or sixth one, the ones you personally like the best.
With all the previous criticism in mind, I really like this setting. The good parts are full of imagination and wonder, and while randomness is the key principle, there is a cohesive vision (or at least aesthetic) behind it all. It is also supremely game-friendly, and a good take on the organising principles behind the Wilderlands. Well worth a look.
Rating: **** / *****
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The OSR Campaign Cycle of X4: "Master of the Desert Nomads" (1983), by David "Zeb" Cook & Clark Ashton Smith's Zothique

Swords & Stitchery - Sat, 03/16/2019 - 17:43
"To arms! To arms! The battle lines are drawn as desert men and inhuman tribes wait poised to strike on the fertile and rich lands of the east. The call has gone out through the civilized lands. The armies have been raised to match the invading foes from the west. Nobles and peasants have joined swords to greet the foes.  But Fate or Chance has decreed another role for a small few. No gloriousNeedles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Return to Gary Con: Day One

Zenopus Archives - Sat, 03/16/2019 - 14:20
I drew a Skull Mountain on the back of my badge since half the time it would flip around
So I made it back to Gary Con!

The first time I went, two years ago, I had great fun playing in games run by former TSR employees or associates (Merle Rasmussen, Dave Megarry, Tom Wham, Dave Wesely) and attending events (Horticultural Hall reception, Charity Auction). This time I leveled up to GM, signing up to run two sessions of my Zenopus Dungeon sequel, In Search of the Brazen Head of Zenopus. 

I arrived one day earlier this time, on Thursday, flying into the Milwaukee airport. MKE is a nice small airport, and the only one I've ever been to with a used bookstore, and a good one at that, with a bunch of shelves of old SF/Fantasy paperbacks, including many Appendix N authors. I didn't have time to stop there on the way in, but I did on the way out (I'll show what I bought later).
After picking up my rental car, I drove west to Lake Geneva, a pleasant trip on the highway once you get out of the area around the airport. Snow was everywhere unlike two years ago when it was held in late March. As I neared the town on a country road I stopped at a random deli, Shavers, for a sandwich. I looked for cheese curds in the fridge but didn't buy them since I wasn't sure when I would be able to get into the room I was sharing (smart move, as it turned out to be after midnight).
Once at the hotel I checked in to Gary Con registration (behind Erol Otus...!) and picked up my GM folder and black GM cup. This year's cup design features a stylized Aboleth, a Lovecraftian monster that first appeared in I1 Dwellers of the Forbidden City:

Gary Con XI cups. Source: Gary Con FB group?
My first event was a card game, Jasmine: Battle for the Mid-Realm, run by its creator Darlene, perhaps best known in D&D circles for drawing the legendary World of Greyhawk maps. She did all illustrations for this criminally overlooked game herself, and released it in 1982. I featured one of the cards on my blog last summer. The story elements of the game tie into her comic strip of the same name that ran in Dragon magazine.

Playing Jasmine: Battle for the Mid-Realm 
Darlene is still has original copies of the game for sale, and I picked one up from her last June at at the North Texas RPG Con, but hadn't had a chance to play it, so I thought this would be a nice way to learn the game. The game is for 2-4 players and has four factions, and I chose the one for Jasmine:
The Jasmine Faction. Source: BGG, photo by Hawklord
Each turn you can rearrange your faction cards between battlefield and fortress stacks, and they stay there until your next turn. You draw a random card from the deck and then take an action, which can involve playing a card or attacking another player the cards in your battlefield stack. It was quite fun, and our game featured lots of twists and turns. Despite losing Jasmine to death near the beginning of the game, I managed to bring her back and somehow ended up winning the game...!

Also playing in this game was Paleologos who I've corresponded with for years on Dragonsfoot and by email. Astute readers may remember that he designed my go to map for Portown. We also played in each other games and generally had a great time chatting throughout the weekend.

The Harrison Ford lineup. Source: me
After dinner I missed my scheduled evening game due to a time mix-up on my part, but was luckily able to jump into my pal Scott's Savage Worlds game. Scott always comes up with great concepts for his con games, and this one did not disappoint. In "Harrison Ford's Theatre", every player takes on the role of a Harrison Ford character from a different movie. I was Richard Kimble and joined Han Solo, Indiana Jones, Rick Deckard, Jack Ryan and the Air Force One president as we traveled from scene to scene from the movies trying to figure out why were all together (edit: for this game, since we had an extra player he added Alexei Vostrikov, the captain from K-19: The Widowmaker). It was a lot of fun, with a great group of players who got into character (one wore an Indiana Jones fedora). If you are wondering about the cards in the pictures, they are used for initiative in Savage Worlds. 

The Harrison Fords in the Death Star Detention Block! Source: me
Next up --- Day 2: Zenopus, Boot Hill and Discovery of the Unknown!
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

(5e) The Great Assault

Ten Foot Pole - Sat, 03/16/2019 - 11:18
Geeks Next Door
Level 7

Just outside the Lonely Desert, on the edge of civilized lands stands a massive 200 ft., black cube known as The Brick. Glyphs and symbols adorn the brick, etched into its impossibly hardened sides in an ancient forgotten language. Some say the brick is the doorway between the living and the dead. Some say it is a gateway to another plane. Still others claim that the brick is the foundation for the entire world, and discovering its secrets will unlock the keys to the multiverse. […] What secrets does The Brick hold? What treasure might be uncovered within its black sides? Gather your companions, grip your holy symbols, and bring light into true darkness as you come face to face with the mysteries of The Brick.

Uh … ok.

This 31 page adventure is part eight of a twelve part series. It has the party making some skill checks and then fighting four cultists. The setting is ok? It tries to have flavor? It fails on … adventure?

So, giant square building in plain, glowing runes on it, undead swarm out every night returning by morning. Town nearby, full of holy orders, dedicated to understand the structure. Party has been in town for seven adventures and this is the eighth. Once a year the town assaults the buildings, killing undead and keeping them at back while scholars study the building. The party joins the scholars, makes some skill checks to figure out the building, and then gets attacked by four cultists. Oh, and there’s a party in town the night before so you can engage in some stuff like turkey eating contests and the ilk.

IF you’re ok with the magical society/ren-faire shit then the setting is ok. The whole undead magnet/building thing, with glowing runes, is cool. Once you put a town nearby, full of clerics that train on undead, it starts to get weird. There’s a Romero thing going on where the people in town go to the walls to watch the undead swarm out every night. Surreal. And the leader of the assault (of 2000 people/knights!) rides an armored giant boar. Like I said, it takes some getting used to. The flavor is more “dumb D&D magical society” than it is weird OD&D undead magnet or surreal town watching the wall. It’s like it’s almost doing something interesting but is afraid to go there.

Oh, did I mention that in this town FULL of holy orders and scholars that specialize in the undead, that the mayor is a disguised lich? Yeah, with a mind shielding … how did you know? The inability to do something good matches my own.

Oh! Oh! You gain a level! Yup, you get enough xp to level, says the adventure. In fact, you level after every one of these, or so says the introduction. Doesn’t that match that Mearls statement that the party should level after each nights play? 5e is a story game. If it’s a good 5e you throw in some tactical combat that you can lose. If it’s a bad 5e then you can’t lose.

So, lets see, story game, four combats and some skill checks, a bunch of magic items that give you mechanical ability score bumps (weirdly a lot of them?) , boring rumors, town map doesn’t tell you what the buildings actually are just business names, shop descriptions with trivia instead of gameable data (she buried her husband instead of burning him … uh … so what?) super long flavor text and a lot of it, used as act transitions … the laundry list of bad shit goes on and on.

The 4e skill check part is so mechanical that, at one point, the cult attacks between success four and five of the run.

But, the setting is kind of interesting, and the concept of it being a central point of the campaign is kind of intriguing. It gathers all the NPC’s together on one page, and gives you another page of randos to spice up town life, and tries to summarize them in just a few words: 31/F/Hu/Shy & Nice. Not great, but the thought behind it is the right one.

It’s REALLY fucking hard to get past the lack of content and story-based structure. Yo already have all the flavor text you need if you want to steal the idea, from reading the intro blurb and the review. Although, the thing IS free. There’s just nothing much to salve in this beyond the “town near a weird building that attracts undead” conceit.

And you didn’t stick the fucking party level on the cover or in the description. How do I know what level this is for before I buy it?

This is Free at DriveThru.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs


Subscribe to Furiously Eclectic People aggregator - Tabletop Gaming Blogs