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Commentary & Review of the Axioms Compendium 1-8 For The Adventurer,Conqueror, King Rpg

Swords & Stitchery - Sun, 01/19/2020 - 22:16
"Created with the support of hundreds of generous patrons, AXIOMS is a quarterly magazine devoted to the Adventurer Conqueror King System. This exclusive compendium compiles the  first eight issues of AXIOMS into an easy-to-use reference. "Yeah I've been wanting to get in on the AXIOM's zine action for awhile. So I put in a request with Alexander Macris for a copy. And Axioms Compendium 1-8 Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Talislanta: The Continent and Magic

Sorcerer's Skull - Sun, 01/19/2020 - 15:00
This is a follow-up to this post, and the beginning of my examination of the setting throughout its publication history. First up, the big picture.

Talislanta the setting is named for the continent which is its central focus. Though other, semi-legendary lands are mentioned in passing, The Chronicles of Talislanta (1987) makes a pitch for dropping the continent into any fantasy setting:
As to the land of Talislanta: those scholars who do not dismiss the topic out of hand disagree as to the origins of this otherwise forgotten realm. Some claim that Talislanta existed long ago, perhaps during the legendary First Age of Atlantis. Others, lending even broader scope to their imaginations, cite Tamerlin’s chronicles as proof of the existence of parallel worlds or alternate realities. Proponents of the hollow earth theory, avid readers of Charles Fort, and others of similar bent may formulate even more intriguing explanations for the Talislantan texts.This vagueness regarding the wider world doesn't last. In 1988's Sorcerer's Guide, Talislanta's world is placed on the plane of Primus within the wider Omniverse, not utterly unlike D&D's planar setup, but much less complicated. With the 2nd edition and The Talislanta Worldbook (1990), Talislanta's planet gets a name: Archaeus. Archaeus has seven continents in total:


The origin of magic in the Talislantan milieu is revealed for the first time. A tribe of "Sub-Men" (Talislanta's name for the primitive humanoid inhabitants of much of the continent) discover the wreckage of a ship of some kind and find a crystal orb that contains "the secrets of a lost and forgotten art—magic." Learning magic, these Sub-Men develop into the race known as the Archaeans (simply called "Men" in the 1st edition).

The 3rd edition largely follows the Worldbook's details, but demotes Archaeus from the center of its system to being a planet orbiting binary stars. This star system is just one of many within the material plane. The Sub-Men tribe uplifted by magic from a wrecked "strange vessel," now become known as Archaens.

Archaeus' solar system is de-emphasized in the last two editions, but the origin of the Archaens is now firmly established. In the 4th edition, Sub-Men is a derogatory term for the "Wild Folk" and the crashed ship is called out as "alien" and called an "ark." The 5th edition, affirms the ship was alien and states that it is believed to be of extra-dimensional origin. There are parts of it still in existence, recognizable by the rainbow color they emanate. The Sub-Men are again Sub-Men.


Why does the stuff about the Archaens matter? Talislanta was established from the beginning as a post-apocalyptic setting with frequent references to a Great Disaster. The Archaens were not only the ancestors of the "human" races of Talislanta, but the source of most of its magic, and also (perhaps) the cause of the destruction of their own civilization.

The idea of magic, or at least the advanced practice of magic, being alien in origin is a nice little detail to me, and one I don't think Talislanta has ever explored to its fullest. There is a lot that could be done with that in a campaign.

The vacillation between extraplanetary aliens and extradimensional ones, seems to coincide with some ambivalence about whether Archaeus is a planet in a science fiction conception or a "world" in a fantasy conception. I like a view of "outer space" more metaphysical than strictly physical, like in Medieval cosmology or pulp fiction like Howard's "Tower of the Elephant" or Lovecraft's Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, for Talislanta. I favor a more fantastic Archaeus, as well. One where you could sail across an ocean and into another world, perhaps.

Those preferences are in general. For the Sword & Planet thing I'm planning, I'm go with a much more realistic world around a realistic star.

Matters of Elves In OSR Games or Why Elves Are Tasty With Ketchup

Swords & Stitchery - Sat, 01/18/2020 - 19:17
Last night I was rereading  the Adventurer,Conqueror,King rpg & delving into its hidden recesses. The Elves of many Old School & OSR games all feel strange - a dying & yet hidden race of peoples who have adapted to many environments throughout the planes & various elemental conditions.Yet in ACK's they are primed for use to build empires & rule kingdoms. Something doesn't seem to Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

(5e) The Color of Chaos

Ten Foot Pole - Sat, 01/18/2020 - 12:17
By Spencer Crittenden Self-Published 5e Level 2

What power lies behind the mischievous colored constructs marauding the Prang Manor? Find out in this colorful and unique single session adventure module that can be run on its own or added to an ongoing campaign! 

This 28 page adventure takes place in a thirteen room manor home. Two-dimensional crayon monsters are attacking people, traced back to the manor. Decent organization and descriptions are high points, while the tone is going to be the hardest thing to overcome. 

So, right off the bat we have this statement in the adventure from the designer: “… Is meant to bring some light fun without completely upturning the fantasy and suspended disbelief of D&D.” And that is the core issue of the adventure. The adventure revolves around a 2 year old kid who has found some magic crayons. Thus we get scribble monsters in crayon, two-dimensional, and other challenges like drawn gold coins, colored in doorways, crayon-drawn watermelon bombs and the like. Your ability to enjoy this adventure is going to directly relate to your ability to handle those elements and handle something on the silly side on your D&D game. This is too much for me, but maybe you’re different. I will note, however, that the adventure description on DM’s Guild could be more up front on these points. As in: it does not mention them in any way, shape or form. Expectations are everything and if you go in expecting a “normal” adventure only to find this silly one, well, you’re not likely to be a happy consumer. This, ultimately, was the problem with the Great Betrayer: WG7. 

Beyond two-dimensional crayon-monsters drawn by a two year old, there is also the “magical world” tone. The kids parents are stuffy pants arts lovers who ignore and pamper him and have a set of Nystuls Magical Crayons in the attic. (Hmmm, found, perhaps, in the still yet to be delivered Infinite Dungeon … not written by Mike?) There is a Wand of Scrubbing hanging in the kitchen that refreshes three charges a day and is kind of like a magic eraser. Sovereign Glue. EVerything oriented around this kind of setting where magic is common and you use +! Toothpicks at dinner that are then thrown away down your Sphere of Annihilation garbage disposal. Again, another niche setting to contend with. 

Many things I normally take issue with in an adventure are NOT present. Information NPC’s can relate to the party is given in bullet point format, making it easy to find and relate. Monsters have an emphasis on their descriptions, and the descriptions that matter to the party, instead of backstories that will not come up during play. Encounters are well constructed with several elements. One room has statues in it and short rules for shoving them over … and monsters behind them to shove them over on the characters. The manor home gets a short little overview, something for the DM to relate to the party to give them a glimpse of the manor “as a whole” to get them oriented to it and where they should begin investigations. This is a kind of “I’m standing on a hill looking down on a manor, what do I see?” sort of thing that more adventures could do more with. Rooms have hints in descriptions, with one standing out as having black cracks in the walls … which of course have some kind of trap in them. 

There’s also a decent progression in room descriptions, from a general overview for the DM to bolded sections that expand on the information given. THis is a good organization technique, putting what the DM needs first in the first section of txt and making it easy to find follow-up information.

Treasure is pretty good, from the magic crayons (The entire box of which may be overpowered for level two’s) to a magic stirring ladle to a masterwork greatsword with an adamantium hilt like an orchid. There’s an emphasis on the non-standard, on descriptions of effects (like the ladle) instead of mechanics, and in making mundane items, to be looted, in to something that the party may actually keep instead of just selling. Not the best implementation but definitely better than most adventures. 

Interactivity tends to combat and a couple of puzzle/riddles. That could be better, although the encounters are decent and layered. The first is with a candyman who is trying to run away with a gnome merchant. He has some buddies. He can throw a watermelon bomb. Appearing out of the bomb is a tiny man holding a knife and flintlock pistol. When’s the last time an adventure encounter had that many layers? 

There’s also some other issues, beyond tone. Some of the background imagery in the PDF is yellow, which makes the text hard to read. There’s also a time or two where things are missing from the general room overviews. A monster here and in one place the parlor furnishings and and an old chest that comes from out of nowhere. So, a lack of consistency, but these seem like infrequent mistakes, more akin to typos than a fundamental lack of understanding in how to write an adventure. Some of the read-alouds get long and the DM text DOES get long in places. Manageable, though, because so much of it can be ignored, and, as I said, the progression from general to specific and bolding helps organize it.

There’s a reason for this. Spencer, the designer, has a following. I know him from the animated HarmonQuest Tv series, but I take it there was a progenitor series as well, maybe podcasts or youtubes or something? You can think of these as Actual Plays, in the vein of the others like Critical Role, etc. Thus he is bringing to the market a whole slew of people who genuinely have NOT played before and ARE noobs. I’m a bit more tolerant in this situation of text aimed at a new DM, much more so than an esoteric OSR title that will not be seen beyond a few diehards. Still, there are better ways to accomplish the goal of orienting completely new players/DM’s while retaining a format that is easy for them to run. No one needs to be told, on something like eight separate occasions, that the kids parents are wealthy dilettante aristo’s. 

Spencer has one title to his name: this one. Either he is the greatest natural adventure writer ever born or there is an uncredited editor attached. And even if that’s so it’s much better than I would expect even WITH an editor attached. The tonal issue and the longish text put this on the edge of No Regerts. But … if you were looking for a light-hearted one-shot? Absolutely, I’d run this. 

This is $6 at DMsGuild. The preview is six pages. It shows you the bullet point NPC data overviews, the intro read-aloud that I think is a bit long, the longish DM’s text, and the first encounter with the candyman and the watermelon bomb, etc, a couple of room entries, including the statue encounter, and some art that is evocative of the monsters encountered. As such it’s a GREAT preview in that it shows you EXACTLY what to expect from your purchase. More designers/publishers could follow Spencer’s lead.


https://www.dmsguild.com/product/296456/Color-of-Chaos?1892600

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

"To Save X2: "Castle Amber (Chateau d' Amberville)" by Tom Moldvay - Epic Campaign Plot

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 01/17/2020 - 17:06
"Trapped in the mysterious Castle Amber, you find yourselves cut off form the world you know. The castle is fraught with peril. Members of the strange Amber family, some insane, some merely deadly, lurk around every corner. Somewhere in the castle is the key to your escape, but can you survive long enough to find it?"X2 Castle Amber remains one of my all time favorite modules of Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Matters of State & Dragon - Dragonic NPC - Rex Harenae Crawler In Toxix - The Blue Dragon of The Grand Canyon

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 01/16/2020 - 19:09
So last night I was thumbing through my Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual & thinking about dragons & power vaccums. Dragons are huge engines of change for whatever area they settle in.Out comes my Monster Manual & I settle onto the Blue Dragon. I love blue dragons! Here's a quick break down on them from the Forgotten Realms Fandom.com website (this site came up a while back & itsNeedleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Bob’s Blog #1: Meet Bob

Cryptozoic - Thu, 01/16/2020 - 17:59

Hi there. My name is Bob. Do I look familiar? Well, I should! If you’re a Cryptozoic fan, I’ve been hanging out in the logo for 10 years now.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

CHARITY FUNDRAISER: Harley Quinn Collectibles Signed by Paul Dini

Cryptozoic - Thu, 01/16/2020 - 17:58

We are excited to be able to put together a Charity Fundraiser featuring auctions of rare Harley Quinn collectibles signed by Paul Dini, co-creator of the character. Proceeds will be donated to World Central Kitchen, which has been helping Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria in 2017, making sure residents get hot meals as part of their #ChefsForPuertoRico movement. 

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Through A Veil of Blue Mist Did I First Behold Talislanta

Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 01/16/2020 - 12:00

I've mentioned my appreciation for Stephan Michael Sechi's Talislanta setting. Since I'm contemplating running a Sword & Planet game that uses Talislanta as the "planet," I though it was a good time to revisit the setting, and it's publication history in a series of posts, as I think about what I'm going to use and what I might do differently.

Historically, Talislanta is both a setting and a game. It's core, however, has always been the systemless Chronicles of Talislanta, first published by Bard Games in 1987. Chronicles is the narrative of Tamerlin, a wizard from another world, as he explores the continent of Talislanta. Sechi's imaginative setting is made more compelling by P.D. Breeding-Black's distinctive illustrations.

When I first encountered Talislanta, I didn't have much experience with Sechi's inspirations: the works of Jack Vance, Marco Polo's Travels, The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, and the comics of Philippe Druillet. To me, it seemed more daring than the implied setting of D&D, and at once goofier and more lurid than the likes of Middle-Earth. It reminded me of Star Wars and comic books. I liked it instantly.

My appreciation has only grown over the years. So, I'm going to trace Tamerlin's journey and the places it visits across editions and think about how I might make it my own, influenced by my understanding of Sechi's stated influences and influences of my own.

More to come.

Outline Of A Lovecraftian Mega Dungeon - Mysterious Mountains of Death

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 01/15/2020 - 20:58
Over the last couple of days I've been rereading H.P. Lovecraft's the Mound, & thinking about the legends of the Dark Watchers of the Santa Lucia Mountains for my Cha'alt/Godbound rpg campaign. If you don't know the ins & outs of HP Lovecraft's The Mound here's the inner word from the novella's wiki entry;"The Mound is a horror/science fiction novella by American author H. P. Lovecraft, Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

It’s Gnoll Time!

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 01/15/2020 - 12:17
by Megan Irving Self Published For every game system ever Level ?

Deep in the forest is a village that has been destroyed by gnolls. Gnolls are corrupted hyena monsters that crave innocent flesh. They eat anyone in their way and spread across the land like a plague, corrupting more hyenas and creating more gnolls as they go. The only way to stop them is to track them down and kill them all. This is your quest.

This twenty page adventure, in zine digest format, details a forest region plagued by a gnoll war band. It has some interesting writing and items and is trying to be a kind of loose framework for an adventure. Alas it was a little too unstructured for me to figure out … which was exacerbated by the issue I had figuring out the order the pages were supposed to be in(!)

Let’s imagine a forest. There’s a smoking ruin of a village in the middle of it. There are locations in the forest (maybe?) and some NPC’s to run in to. Thus the adventure is intended to be a a kind of investigation in to the ruined village (I guess?) and a then some travel in the forest meeting people and, eventually, dealing with the gnolls.

Each page of the digest represents one “idea”/location/NPC. There’s a short little intro text, that reads like read-aloud (IN FUCKING ITALICS! DON”T USE FUCKIGN ITALICS FOR LONG BLOCKS OF FUCKING TEXT! IT”S FUCKING HARD TO READ!) There are short and evocative little snippets of text that introduce the place/person to the party. A stench of rotting flesh. Rattling bones, teeth clattering, or a stretched humanoid form made of shadows with a strange rune on its forehead, drifting between trees and strange obelisks … not bad little snippets of text for introducing something new to the players, two or three sentences, full of flavour. What follows is a little background, goals, etc, some “fronts” (more on that later) and then some notes, like where to find them, how to use them, etc.

There’s a random treasure table, with no real treasure set. A magic cloak: the wearer isn’t easily noticeable even when they should stick out like a sore thumb. A golden tiara, might be magical, or just extremely valuable. Someone’s definitely looking for it.  A magical bow and arrow that fire arrows of pure darkness that can punch through anything, but can only be fired on a moonless night. That’s some fucking PHAT L00T! The magic retains its wonder. 

The NPC’s have goals. The “fronts” for various entries appear to be a kind of timeline of events for them, a progression as they further their own goals while the party is fucking about.

At this point things start to break down.

I will admit that I had a hard time comprehending this adventure. It’s a zine thing where you can print if out and fold it to make a booklet, or read the other version provided on the screen. The screen read seemed … like the pages were out of order? And then the zone, when printed, came out backwards and, again, seemed like the pages were out of order? So, heads up, I dug through it but, ultimately, I’ve decided that my confusion is in some part to the type of product being presented. 

The designers is, I think, trying to do something relatively new. A zine, one page per concept, a kind of framework of an adventure, open ended with the DM to bring themselves but enough structure to provide the grounding needed. That is, I think, the intent. Unrealized.

You can see some of this “looseness” of the framework in the description of that tiera: someone is looking for it. SOMEONE. Likewise the looseness of the loot proper, not given per location but on its own table to fill in the encounters with as they see fit. Further, the random encounters are “a peaceful and beautiful place to rest” or “a feral and aggressive animal that can be calmed and healed with love and kindness.” While these two tables are the extreme, there’s also a kind of looseness, as exemplified by the tables, present in most other areas. Down to the map which is more of a conceptual map, disguised as a real one. In isolation I’m ok with all of these. A conceptual map can be ok. Ideas to sprinkle in the adventure are ok. A little looseness is ok. But when EVERY element is this loose, and combine it with a kind of looseness in the layout/organization of the book itself (which may be my own lack of ability to understand it) then I’m just a confused mess. I can’t figure out how/why/where the graveyard is, in relation to other things, where the gnolls are, where the scavengers are, where the NPC’s are, or anything else. Of everything presented in the adventure the only thing I can truly understand is “The Village” the first/center location, and even then I don’t really understand how it is supposed to work. And the “fronts” that are advancing with time? Either the adventure is too short or there are too many or the wanderer chart is too small or … I don’t know. I get the IDEA but I think it’s implemented in a manner that I might call “unrefined” if I were being generous.It doesn’t work.

And that’s is, essentially, my summary of the adventure as a whole. It’ doesn’t work. I can’t really figure out how its supposed to work. (And after 2000+ reviews I’d like to think I have some comprehension in that area …) Mechanical issues with the layout/printing. The front issue. The kind of aggressive abstraction of conceptual encounters and items … would it hurt to say WHO is after the tiera? That would add color. Or the creature that needs love? Why the emphasis on the conceptual instead of the concrete?

I think I can understand what Megan is going after here. And I think I can see the promise in the concept. And the evocative writing and treasure is good. I think it just needs to be a bit more grounded. More specificity. If I understand the intent correctly then I think the goals can still be accomplished while being more specific in wanderers, magic, encounters … maos. EVerything more … comprehensible, without resorting to something like a more traditional format. I look forward to seeing how this format progresses in the future. And “I look forward to …” are not words I write often. It’s interesting as a design idea and needs some further refinement, if I understand what’s being attempted.

This is $5 on DriveThru. There’s no preview. Ouch! Put in a preview, please? And there’s no level given. And it’s listed for every system under the sun from 0e to 5e, include 4e. This is another clue to that … abstracted framework thingy that is being aimed at.


https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/299031/Its-Gnoll-Time?1892600

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Putting The Spark of Mayfair Games's Role Aids Archmagic Box Set Into Your OSR Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 01/15/2020 - 05:11
"Adds high-powered spells and items to any fantasy campaign, but is "presented for use with ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS". Rules for Archmages, Artifacts, Grimoires and Archmagics are presented. Includes an adventure utilizing the rules within. Also includes maps of various mystic places and props depicting various powerful items. Contains: 64 page rulebook32 page adventure48 page map Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

XP Started as One of D&D’s Breakthrough Ideas. Now the Designers Don’t See the Point

DM David - Tue, 01/14/2020 - 11:52

When Dave Arneson ran a session of his Blackmoor dungeon for his Dungeons & Dragons co-creator, Gary Gygax’s biggest impression came from two innovations: (1) the dungeon expedition and (2) how characters improved with experience. In Playing at the World, author Jon Peterson describes reactions to the revolutionary game and shows new players and reviewers always touting the experience system. The steady reward of experience and levels forged an obsession for many players. I shared their fervor. In my junior high cafeteria, when I overheard some kids talking about a strange game where you could kill an orc, gain experience points, and get better at fighting, that single notion hooked me.

Early in Dave’s Blackmoor campaign, characters earned one experience point for each hit point of the monsters they killed. Players rarely saw the details. Blackmoor player Greg Svenson recalls, “We didn’t track our experience points as is done now. Dave simply told us when we had transitioned from one level to another.” Dave liked to shield players from his game’s numbers, partly for mystery, partly so he could change rules whenever he thought of something better.

His method for awarding experience certainly evolved. In a 1978 interview, Dave Arneson recalled awarding experience for characters who used skills associated with their class. “Each player increases in ability in a given area by engaging in an activity in that area. For a fighter this meant by killing opponents (normal types of monster), their ability to strike an opponent and avoid the latter’s blows was increased.”

While realistic, awarding experience points (XP) for different activities could have split groups to work their separate professions. If characters gained, say, spellcasting ability through endless hours of practice and study, players would face choosing between the fun of exploring dungeons and the drudgery of practice. “While it is more ‘realistic’ for clerics to study holy writings, pray, chant, practice self-discipline, etc. to gain experience, it would not make a playable game,” Gary wrote in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master’s Guide. “Magic users should be deciphering old scrolls, searching tomes, experimenting alchemically, and so forth, while thieves should spend their off-hours honing their skills, casing various buildings, watching potential victims, and carefully planning their next job. All very realistic, but conducive to boredom.”

In the pursuit of realism, Chivalry & Sorcery (1977) took study so seriously that the authors argue that magic users shouldn’t leave their labs at all. “What real ‘experience’ is to be had in a dark, damp dungeon?”

Gary saw dungeon expeditions as the second compelling innovation in Dave’s game. To succeed, the budding D&D game needed a way to lure every character into the dungeon, and then to reward their risk taking. Players loved seeing their characters gain power, so Gary motivated them to explore dungeons by stocking the underworld with treasure and by awarding characters experience for winning gold. The rogue might want wealth, and the paladin might want to smite monsters and to give to the church, but they could both win experience in the dungeon. Plus, the hunt for treasure resonated with players. Gary wrote, “If you, the real you, were an adventurer, what would motivate you more that the lure of riches?”

In addition to rewarding players for seeking fun, the XP-for-gold system offered another benefit: It created a simple way to award experience points for succeeding at non-combat challenges. As a new PC in the original game, potentially with 1 hit point, you had little chance of leveling through combat. Players joke that D&D is about killing things and taking their stuff, but in the original game, you were better off using your wits to take stuff. So long as your cunning led to gold, you got experience.

In the original game, characters earned much more experience for gold than for monster slaying. This rewarded players for engaging in exactly the dungeon exploration that made the game so much fun.

Once treasure led characters to the dungeon, Gary harnessed the system to tempt players to higher risks. In the early D&D game, players chose the amount of difficulty they wanted. Every level of the dungeon corresponded to a level of character, so the first level offered challenges suitable for first-level characters. Players could seek greater challenges—and greater rewards—as they went deeper.

When Gary created this aspect of the game, he needed to find ways to entice players deeper into the dungeon. If a cautious party could gain nearly as much loot on an easy dungeon level as on a deeper one, why go down? Gaining experience could become a safe—and dull—grind.

To draw characters to danger, Gary doubled the number of experience points needed to advance to each level, then matched the increase with similar increases in treasure. To rise in level at a tolerable rate, players needed to delve as far down as they dared.

Doubling both experience requirements and rewards offered a second benefit: Low-level characters could join a higher-level party and catch up quickly. This gave newer characters a boost and so made dead characters easier to replace. Also, the quicker advancement made monsters that drained characters of levels a bit less punishing.

In the decade after D&D’s introduction, a mania for creating realistic alternatives to D&D dominated the hobby. Every D&D player who ever wielded a foam sword cooked up a more realistic alternative to the D&D combat system.

The XP-for-gold system struck players everywhere as unrealistic. In the original Arduin Grimoire (1977), Dave Hargrave wrote that in his game, “[Experience] points are given for many reasons, but NOT for gold or other treasure. After all, it is the act of robbery, not the amount stolen, that gives the thief his experience.” In 1989, with the second edition, D&D would follow suit. The game would never award XP for gold again.

Without XP for gold, only killing monsters earned specific experience awards. Players liked to say the D&D only awarded XP for killing things, but that has never been true. While second edition stopped granting experience for gold, “a character can earn experience points for successfully completing an adventure or achieving a goal the DM has set.” But neither dungeon masters nor published adventures tended to follow the advice. Everyone, professionals included, tended to ignore improvised awards for experience in favor of the set numbers printed for each monster.

In the countless video games that adopted experience points, the mechanic proved its psychological draw. With every battlefield victory, gamers saw their score rise, leading to higher levels and greater power. This feedback of rewards kept gamers hooked. Electronic games brought advantages to an XP system. The computer freed players from working the math, and CPUs patiently served an endless stream of foes to characters who needed to grind their way to the next level. Still, grinding hardly sounds fun.

When second edition stopped awarding XP for gold, D&D superficially became more of a game of killing than ever. Except D&D matured anyway. Adventures started spinning stories deeper than that one time we killed a minotaur for gold. Originally, every character chased treasure; now, characters pursue adventure for justice or for honor or for countless other reasons, including treasure. And that worked so long as when players joined a game, they joined an unspoken pact to find reason for their character to accompany the other characters in following the plot.

In the newer, story-driven play style, some players stopped seeing the point of counting experience. Those players included current D&D head, Mike Mearls. “Tracking experience points and using them to award levels makes a lot of sense in open-ended games, where the players can go where they wish, tackle the specific challenges that appeal to them, and create their own goals as a campaign progresses. In this type of game, when the players decide to assault the lair of a blue dragon, their primary goal is most often the treasure and XP they’ll gain for defeating it,” Mike wrote.

“In a more story-driven campaign, however, that lair assault could have a more complex purpose. Defeating the dragon removes a threat to the realm and creates a key event in the campaign’s story arc. In this type of campaign, treasure and XP take second place in the characters’ goals, behind the dragon’s importance in the narrative. The reward lies in making the kingdom safe and completing the mission, not necessarily in collecting loot. Leveling up might feel like the best way to mark that campaign milestone, even if the XP earned by slaying the dragon doesn’t quite cover it.”

In addition to faulting XP for failing to serve narrative campaigns, D&D’s designers disliked the bookkeeping behind XP. Jonathan Tweet and Rob Heinsoo, the designers behind D&D’s 3rd and 4th editions wrote, “We think that XP systems are better left to computer games.

Even today, players still mischaracterize D&D as a game that only awards experience for slaying, mainly because every monster lists an XP number, while diplomatic and other challenges lack them.

Meanwhile, the game’s designers abandoned experience points in favor of milestones—leveling after story-driven accomplishments. Mearls wrote, “In the past, we’ve always defaulted to using experience point rewards for everything. However, for narrative-driven adventures like adventure paths, that approach can prove troublesome. Designers have to jam in the ‘correct’ number of combat encounters to make sure the PCs level up at the right pace. Adventure design thus becomes a process of matching up the right flow of XP to the correct tempo of the plot. Otherwise, if characters don’t level up at the expected rate, subsequent chapters in an adventure path become too difficult or too easy.”

When Mike complains about jamming in combat encounters, he reinforces the canard that the D&D rules only allow XP for killing monsters. Even a long-time designer never considers other XP awards. To be fair, story awards that help characters meet the level requirements of an adventure yield the same result as a DM announcing that everyone gains a level. Milestones lose the math, but they also lose the hook of small XP rewards for successes, seeing progress, and then earning levels.

The fifth-edition hardcover adventures lack enough monster-slaying XP to keep characters on pace with the adventure’s target levels. The designers could have added XP awards for other accomplishments, but they show little interest in supporting XP. This disinterest posed a problem for those of us who ran the hardcover adventures for the Adventurers League through the first 7 seasons. The league used experience then, and if the characters had only earned XP for slaying, they would never reach the levels targeted by the adventure. I may have violated the letter of League rules by awarding extra XP for overcoming non-combat challenges. I may be good, but I’m not completely lawful. Don’t tell the administrators.

Now, the League follows the D&D designers by dropping XP in favor of granting players the option to advance after an adventure, chapter, or other milestone.

Next: XP versus milestone advancement—at least we can all agree that awarding XP just for combat is terrible.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Purple Cha'alt Venger Mail Call & A Bit of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 01/14/2020 - 03:15
So let's talk about when Venger Satanis backed his purple mail truck up to the Dark Corners mail box & dropped off my Cha'alt care package! And away we go! He packs em right! Cha'alt came with a purple vengence!This has been my go to OSR campaign for some months but after seeing video after video review on Cha'alt I beg,borrowed & pleaded to get a copy. And boy did I get one! Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Dungeon of Kursh Velgont

Ten Foot Pole - Mon, 01/13/2020 - 12:24
By Jonathan Hicks Farsight Games S&W No Level Given. Shame on you!

You and your friends are about to embark on a dangerous yet rewarding adventure into the floating dungeons of Kursh Velgont, a powerful but long-dead wizard. The magical dungeons of the wizard have risen from the ground and toppled the abandoned castle that it used to be part of. Right now it is drifting through the air towards Chalisan, and the undead denizens of the dungeon are falling from the rapidly collapsing hunk of earth and corridors and terrorising decent folk! How has the dungeon risen? What power keeps it aloft, and what damage will it do to the lands? The PCs have been commissioned to get into the floating prison and find out why this is happening, and to try and find a way to stop it before it reaches the town of Chalisan and the evil dead are deposited upon it!

This sixteen page adventure, details a seventeen room dungeon that if floating through the sky, dropping undead and dirt and stuff from it as it floats towards a major town. It’s a conversion from Advanced Fighting Fantasy and shows it. A few neato lines of descriptions are scattered throughout, but that can’t stop the disco: long italics read-aloud, and bad design.

How shall I rail against thee? Let me count the ways … 

This is a conversion from AFF. It shows. This is where I now go on and on about the unique flavour in a game system and how most conversions don’t capture that. Let us take a game like Polaris: Chivalric Tragedy at Utmost North. (AKA: The Harry Clark game containing no Harry Clark.) Sad tragedy marked by failure and people saying “but though are but a warrior …” to fail you. Now, let’s take G1/Steading and stat convert it to Polaris. Is it a Polaris adventure? What if I don’t convert it AT ALL and just call G1 a Polaris adventure? What if G1 had no stats, could I call it a Polaris adventure? What if I took an adventure for a game like Polaris or Lacuna, something with esoteric targeted rules and just said “Yeah, It’s an OSR adventure now” … a game whose entire concept was based around player ingenuity, no forced combats, gold giving you XP. That’s what this is. The designer has little understanding of what makes a D&D adventure and has just stat converted the thing from AFF to S&W. The big loot at the end is 200gp in gems. That’s great, right? Let’s see, split five ways … better to stay home and ambush people in the alley and take THEIR stuff for xp. Being a hero don’t pay, at least in XP. And then there are other things, like falling damage. You can fall from the floating dungeon. You take a d6 damage, even though its very high up. Is that how falling damage works in S&W? I don’t think so. Or, maybe, “high up” means 10 feet from the ground?

Nevermind the abstracted treasure in the form of “200gp in gems”. Nevermind that we’re not told how fucking far offt he ground the dungeon floats. A super basic quality. Something everyone wants to ask, I’m sure, as they approach it. “How long are the ropes hanging down from it? How long must we endure undead attacks while we climb?” Or even “how fast is it travelling?” since that’s a main theme of the adventure. Nope, none of that. It’s all fucking abstracted. No brave little tailors here. Look, yeah, I can make it up. But that’s not the point. It’s a pattern. It’s a basic lack of understanding of what to include and not include in an adventure.

What should NOT be included? How about column after column of read-aloud? And it’s in italics, making it super hard to read! And it’s full of bad fiction writing! 

“The lands are rife with danger, but there are plenty of rewards for adventurers willing to take the risks and face the evils that threaten to plunge the lands and lives of decent folk into darkness. Most days pass by without incident and people go about their affairs peacefully, but some days are dangerous and can change lives forever.Today is one of those dangerous days.”

Uh huh. That’s the read-aloud?

It goes on and on with the read-aloud. “Which way do you venture?” the read-aloud tells us. Uh huh. Priorities misplaced. And none of that fucking “its for beginners” shit. We don’t fucking pander. Besides, thats just justifying bad writing, there are better ways to present to n00bs. 

So, mountains of read-aloud. Including a big bad monologue. Joy. A room description of a hallway junction that takes a quarter page .. for nothing more than a hallway junction. 

And then there’s just bad design. There’s enforced morality “no matter how many foes the players defeat they should not receive any XP.” No, that’s not how D&D works. That’s how bullshit enforced morality works. “Once you defeat the monster you notice the large key on its belt.” No, that’s bad design. By making the party notice the key in the outset you make it a temptation. The point becomes getting the key rather than just engaging in another fight, which is how it’s written. AFF or no, a fight for the sake of a fight is bad design. “Don’t be too hard on them this early in the adventure, just have one or two skeletons per player attack the party.” No, that’s not how things work. Again, combat for the sake of combat and an ATTEMPT to have a dramatic moment. Those enforced moments SUCK BALLS. Better are the moments that come from the players own attempts. That’s what you’re writing for. 

The writing is muddled, with various elements all knotted up in the same paragraphs making it hard to find information. It’s conversations “don’t tell the players, but in 6 rounds a numbers of skeletons will come to investigate.”

What’s sad here is that there’s some good imagery. Buried in a column of read-aloud is, in the opener., a woman riding up frantically yelling “Have you seen it?! Have you seen the dungeon?!” That’s a good opened. The lower parts of the ropes leading up to the floating dungeon are slick with blood. Skeleton heads have an inner green glow. There are bloody handprints on doors. That’s all greta. It’s just too little, too far in between, and buried under mountains of useless text and bad design.

This is $2 at DriveThru. The preview is four pages. You don’t get any dungeon rooms, which is bad, but the last two pages DO show you almost two full pages of read-aloud. That’s a pretty good indication of whats to come. Also, THERE’S NO FUCKING LEVEL RANGE GIVEN. *sigh*


https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/299081/The-Dungeon-Of-Kursh-Velgont?1892600

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Weird Revisited: In the Twilight

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 01/13/2020 - 12:00
The original version of this post appeared in 2016...

At least ten empires rose and fell during the Meridian of Earth. Each was glorious and wrested such secrets from the universe as to enable it to bend laws of nature, obdurate to earlier cultures, to its whim. Each in time fell into decadence, dwindled, and died, but at the end of the Meridian Time, the Earth had been transformed by their works; it had become the abode of beings other than Man.

As the Twilight fell and the sun grew bloated and sanguine, those Outsiders and abhuman things encroached ever closer on the nations of Man. By and by, they gained greater dominion over the Earth. In the early centuries, the technologies of the elder Meridian still functioned, and Man comprehended enough to build great walls as a defense against the inhuman. As Twilight deepened, many of these redoubts fell, but a few stood fast and managed even to throw back their foe. The Coming Night was held in abeyance for so long that generations passed and many began to doubt it would ever fall.

But beyond the walls, the Great Beasts crouched and waited with patience inhuman but not infinity, and abhuman armies gathered in the deepening in gloom...


Here's the pitch: Take the early modern bleakness, occasional black humor, and body-warping chaos of Warhammer Fantasy and put it in a Dying Earth gone weird like Hodgson's The Night Land, making sure to filter the Watchers (Great Beasts in this case) through Lovecraftiania, a hint of kaiju, and good old fashion goetic demonology. Wrap it all in "points of light" surrounded by walls out of Attack on Titan.

The Forces Of Chaos - Old School Hell & OSR Damnation - The Uses of the Hordes Hell From The Lion & Dragon RPG & Beyond

Swords & Stitchery - Sun, 01/12/2020 - 20:22
So I've been doing research while shaking this cold, I've been looking into Chaos & Hell! I've been looking at Dark Albion, Lion & Dragon rpg,Dark Albion's Cults of Chaos,  & RPGPundit Presents: The Old School Companion 1 . But I want to use these with my current Cha'alt/Godbound rpg campaign. Why?! Well because while Games Worshop was 'borrowing' from Michael Moorcock for the RealmsNeedleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

A Campaign Idea in Pictures

Sorcerer's Skull - Sun, 01/12/2020 - 12:00
A scout ship crashes on a distant planet.

A world teeming with life, some of which mysterious shows ties to Earth, and primitive civilization.

Things are not what they seem.

But what can explain the apparent examples of magic?

The short pitch summary: A Planetary Romance short of sandbox, inspired by Vance's Planet of Adventure series with Talislanta (modified to taste) used as a base.


Zweihander, Open Content and a reply to Daniel Fox

Bat in the Attic - Sat, 01/11/2020 - 19:37
The Old School Renaissance or OSR, rest on the foundation of open content released under the Open Gaming License. Open content is what allowed this segment of the hobby to become then just a regurgitation of classic DnD content and tropes. 
For everyone who worked to support the classic editions 'as is' dozens more emerged to take them into new direction. New genres, or infusing a new version with a different tone or tenor than the originals. All of this was possible because the use of open content placed no restrictions on the next author imagination. The main requirement being is that anything you use or is based on open content must also be open content along with retaining proper credit.

For over a decade this has fueled an amazing array of works and products using not only classic edition of DnD but other older games as well. Including hybrid fusing older concepts with newer mechanics and ideas. The result is a dazzling array of products and works for anybody tastes within the tabletop roleplaying hobby. Five thousand+ on DriveThruRPG's site alone.

Yes there are individual and companies that don't contribute open content yet strive to take advantage of the OSR label. One of them is Daniel Fox and his Zweihander. RPG. Recently Erik over at Tenkar's Tavern pointed out the incongruity of having a OSR community content program.

Daniel had this reply

Hi Erik,
Thanks for the post. A few points of factual clarification:
* Zweihander Grim & Perilous RPG was released under Creative Commons License non-commercial. This means anyone can take, remix, reduce and create their own free content, unbound by a license.
* Commercial efforts for community content can be monetized through the Grim & Perilous Library, our Dungeon Master Guild at DriveThruRPG. They are released in PDF, and print-on-demand starting in February. Commercial efforts can only be released via DriveThruRPG.
* RPGs Powered By Zweihander (our commercial IP license) are released by Andrews McMeel Publishing. Examples include the upcoming Colonial Gothic Grim & Perilous RPG.
My design intention: the argument whether Zweihander RPG is OSR isn’t ours to make, but our fans believe it’s an OSR game. The OSR was one of the design principles when it was written, influenced by Maelstrom and other older games that hadn’t been revived at the time.Thus, why we categorize it as OSR.
OSR isn’t just D&D. It may have started there, but there are numerous examples of games classified as OSR that aren’t D20-based
The argument that Daniel make is disingenuous, the debate isn't what rule system is to be considered part of the OSR, the debate is whether open content is to be primary driver of the OSR.

The first thing to keep in mind that Zweihander is the result of Daniel's own work. While inspired by the first two Warhammer edition it is not a clone in the sense that OSRIC, Labyrinth Lord, or Swords and Wizardry are clone of various classic edition. It is a system that is design to appeal to fans of early editions of Warhammer Fantasy, and to easily be understood by those fan. This is important to understand because this mean that in regards to Zweihander IP, Daniel has complete control over how it is to be presented and used.

Unlike the situation I have with Judges Guild where I am licencee and thus limited in what I can do with it. For the recent Wilderlands releases only the Monster & Treasure section was released as open content. But where I do have complete control, I tend to release the work as open content under the OGL For example Blackmarsh, and much of the material found in Stuff in the Attic.

.  Why? Because it only fair. While I do a lot of my own work when it comes to settings like Blackmarsh, when it comes mechanics and rules, I stand on the foundation built by past authors. Those publishing in the 70s and 80s. Those publishing now in the 2010s. So it only fair that I contribute back, not halfheartly but fully in the same spirit that the material I used was given.

As for the OSR label, what it is the largely the work of hundreds of author doing their own thing. My voice may reach a larger audience but I don't have any bigger say about what the OSR mean then the individual who just shared their first adventure last week. But I am not going to stay silent when I see people not contributing or in Daniel's case justifying why they are not fully sharing.

Breaking it down.
* Zweihander Grim & Perilous RPG was released under Creative Commons License non-commercial. This means anyone can take, remix, reduce and create their own free content, unbound by a license.This is a nice thing to do. However it is not sufficient. The reason many in the OSR prize the freedom to commercialize their work is that many project need some kind of return in order to happen. To buy art, editing, or layout services. The non-commercial restriction means you only have the freedom to do something if it on your own dime. Which is fine for somebody like me who makes a decent living from a job. But not fine for somebody who has little to no income.

Keep in mind that most OSR project are written, produced, and sold within somebody's time they have for a hobby. Usually the income these work generate won't make them rich but it will just enough to make it possible compared to what else they could be doing with that time.

Commercial efforts for community content can be monetized through the Grim & Perilous Library, our Dungeon Master Guild at DriveThruRPG. They are released in PDF, and print-on-demand starting in February. Commercial efforts can only be released via DriveThruRPG.First of all the Grim and Perilous Library is not a DM Guild program. It is a Onebookshelf Community Content program. Each program has their own license and their own body of IP that they offer. The only thing in common is that they are managed by Onebookshelf through DriveThruRPG.

Second every program except the Genesys Foundry but including the Grim & Perilous Library has the following restriction. This excerpt is taken from the license attached to the Grim & Perilous Library.
(b) Except for short promotional excerpts used to promote your Work, you may not display, recreate, publish, distribute or sell your Work (or derivatives thereof) outside of the Program administered on OBS websites or through other platforms or channels authorized or offered by Owner.
(snip)
(b) Exclusive License to your Work. Effective as of the date you setup your Work through the Program on OBS’s website, you grant us the exclusive, irrevocable license for the full term of copyright protection available (including renewals), to develop,
license, reproduce, print, publish, distribute, translate, display, publicly perform and transmit your Work, in whole and in part, in each country in the world, in all languages and formats, and by all means now known or later developed, and the right to prepare derivative works of your Work. The implication of the above is twofold, the first is that you can't bring an existing work or existing open content into a worked released within the Grim & Perilous Library. Second, any work you release first within the Grim & Perilous Library, you lose the right to use it outside of the program even if you remove all of the Zweihander IP.

In effect if you wrote the Cave of the Night Warlock for Zweihander you can't release it later for DnD 5th edition even if you removed all of Daniel's Zweihander IP.

Needless to say, I very opposed to this provision and view as unnecessary for any program except those that are focused on sharing setting IP like Traveller's Third Imperium or WoTC's Forgotten Realms.

There is now an alternative, a few month back the Genesys community had an outcry about this issue. Fantasy Flight had OBS chancg the license. Removing the clauses limiting derivatives work and putting in new limit stating only FFG IP has to be remove for a work to be used outside of the program.

So it is within Daniel's power to have this changed for the Grim & Perilous Library.

My design intention: the argument whether Zweihander RPG is OSR isn’t ours to make, but our fans believe it’s an OSR game. The OSR was one of the design principles when it was written, influenced by Maelstrom and other older games that hadn’t been revived at the time.Thus, why we categorize it as OSR.
OSR isn’t just D&D. It may have started there, but there are numerous examples of games classified as OSR that aren’t D20-basedThe debate isn't over whether the OSR label includes non DnD systems like Zweihander. That ship has long since sailed. The debate is whether the label OSR stands for sharing open content free from any condition other than to share. In my opinion a generous as Daniel has been with his IP, that generosity doesn't met the standard of many of us who use the OSR label who offer material free of any condition other than to share as we have.

What should be done about this?
As I stated many times before nobody controls the OSR label. It widely known because many, including myself, adopted it as a shorthand for their own work. What it is a result of our combined work over time not of any one person or smaller group.

But I do have opinions, and one of them that the OSR is at its best when sharing open content. A thing that doesn't just benefit a particular system or edition but the entire hobby. The way to ensure that the OSR continues to stand for sharing open content, is to share. Share your thoughts on open content, make content and share under a open license like the OGL, and support those who do share open content.

In doing these we will ensure that the next five thousand works are every bit as amazing as the first five thousand.

Update
So I talked to Daniel Fox over on Discord and learned something interesting about how OBS handles the Community Content Program. That is largely on the publisher to police including enforcing the above clause. Several people on in the Grim & Perilous program have published their work elsewhere. Daniel was receptive to changing the license to one more like the Genesys Foundry to better reflect what he is already doing.
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