Tabletop Gaming Feeds

Journey's End (for now), the Wilderlands of the Fantastic Reaches has been released!

Bat in the Attic - Thu, 09/12/2019 - 15:01
I am pleased to announce the release of Wilderlands of the Fantastic Reaches. This is the fourth of four products covering the eighteen maps that encompasses the Judges Guild Wilderlands setting. This product covers four of the maps as detailed below. The four sets combined will cover a region equal in size to Western Europe providing years and decades of adventuring for you and your group.

Unlike many setting products, the Wilderlands sketches out the overview and history in light detail. Then presents a comprehensive list of local detail in a compact format that is customizable. This eliminates much of the tedious work involved in creating a setting and allows the referee to focus on the campaign and the grand adventures the players face as their characters.

This is presented as two products both in PDF and Print on Demand.

The first product is a 44 page guidebook containing a brief overview of and commentary on Maps Fifteen to Map Eighteen of the Wilderlands along with lists covering details on Villages, Castles, Lairs, Ruins, and Islands.

Due to the extensive use of monsters from the supplements to the original edition, this release details 7 monsters and provides full statistics suitable for use with Swords and Wizardry and similar RPGs.

The Guidebook for the Wilderlands of the Fantastic Reaches also includes charts, tables, and rules concerning the Triumphant Grand Tactical mapping system used by the Wilderlands, how to build strongholds, and establishing baronies. In addition information has been added on the demographics of the Wilderlands along with new rules governing pastoral and nomadic cultures. Because Tula, the City of Wizards, plays a prominent role in this region, rules for potion and magic item creations has been included. Finally as the Isle of the Blest straddles the corners of four maps, a combined map and list has been added as a bonus chapter. This includes the background originally written by Scott Fulton in Pegasus #3.

Included with the Guidebook are letter sized blank map of the Wilderlands that can be used to take notes during a campaign. A PDF with the map legend. A letter size black and white guide to the placement of each of the 18 maps within the Wilderlands.

Finally a giant sized preliminary version of the master map that I used to crop the individual maps from. With the right printer this can be printed as a full scale map 5 feet wide and 8 feet long. With the PDF you can selectively copy out regions as complete maps that overlap the borders of the 18 maps. After the release of the final set of maps this file will be updated as a layered PDF allowing for custom maps of the Wilderlands to be copied or created.



The second product is a set of four maps:  Isles of the Dawn Map Fifteen, Southern Reaches Map Sixteen, Silver Skein Isles Map Seventeen, and Ghinor Highlands Map Eighteen. When ordered via print on the demand they are printed in two overlapping halves each on a 12" by 18" poster. In addition each map is presented as a 22" by 17" PDF file.

The maps have been redrawn from the original in a color style. Instead of the distinct symbols of the original maps, terrain has been drawn as a transparent fill and vegetation represented by colored areas. This allows both terrain and vegetation to overlap. Representing more accurately the complexity and diversity of the Wilderland's geography.

This release is the final book in a series of four covering the Wilderlands of High Fantasy.

A preview PDF

The Wilderlands of the Fantastic Reaches Guidebook

The Wilderlands of the Fantastic Reaches Map


Bundles

I now offer bundles of all four sets of guidebooks and maps at 25% off buying separately. There are four bundles two sets of print or PDF for the guidebooks, and two sets of print or PDF for the maps. DrivethruRPG doesn't allow maps and books to be mixed in the same bundle (or order).

Wilderlands Guidebook Bundle (PDF)
Wilderlands Guidebook Bundle (Print)
Wilderlands Map Bundle (PDF) 
Wilderlands Map Bundle (Print)

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

OSR Commentary - High Level Play, AD&D Deities & Demi Gods, & Operatic Old School Campaigns With 'Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung)'

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 09/12/2019 - 14:54
So another GenCon is on us & social media is a buzz with the latest Con news, numerous pictures, etc. All my best to my young friends & family that are there.The amount of buzz coming out this year's GenCon reminds me of  Eighty Four & the year I learned about some important lessons on campaign management.If you're following me on G+  then you probably know that I've twisted my ankle pretty Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

It’s Dangerous to Go Alone! Take This. (Part II)

Torchbearer RPG - Thu, 09/12/2019 - 13:00
Loot by Rebekah Bennington

Hello friends!

Here is some more gear that might help your adventurers survive the dangerous world of Torchbearer

You’ll find more new items in the previous post in this series:

Availability indicates the type of settlement in which a piece of gear can be purchased. It’s a hierarchy from greatest availability to most-restricted availability:

  • All Settlements
  • Remote Village
  • Busy Crossroads
  • Bustling Metropolis

For instance, if something is available in a Remote Village, it can also be found in a Busy Crossroads or Bustling Metropolis. 

ItemCostInventoryAvailabilityArmorBuff CoatOb 3Worn/torso 1Bustling MetropolisCoat of PlatesOb 3Worn/Torso 1Bustling MetropolisClothingScarfOb 2Worn/neckAll SettlementsWool SweaterOb 2Worn/torso 1All SettlementsContainerFrame PackOb 2Worn/torso 3Busy CrossroadsPurseOb 1Worn/torso 1
or Belt 1Busy CrossroadsEquipmentChalkOb 1Pack 1Busy CrossroadsSquare-Backed
HatchetOb 2Pack 1 or
Hand/carried 1Busy CrossroadsFoodPickled HerringOb 3Pack 2All SettlementsSack of FlourOb 2Pack 6 or
Hand/carried 2All Settlements Descriptions Buff Coat

A heavy leather coat and skirt made from hide. Acts as leather armor but can be used twice per conflict rather than once.

Chalk

Used to mark areas. Counts as supplies for Cartographer, Dungeoneer, Pathfinder or Scout when appropriate. Three uses.

Coat of Plates

Overlapping metal plates riveted inside a leather garment. Acts as leather armor but deflects spears, arrows and bolts.

Frame Pack

A sturdy wooden frame with straps to which one can lash items. Frame packs can hold up to 8 slots. Counts as a factor in Fighter and Dungeoneer tests.

Pickled Herring

A small cask of herring in brine. 1d6+1 preserved rations.

Purse

A leather or cloth bag that can hold two slots of coins or gems only.

Sack of Flour

A large sack of flour. Supplies for 3d6 Cook tests.

Scarf

+1D to resist or recover from the effects of cold and draft.

Square-Backed Hatchet

+1D to Laborer tests for clearing brush, chopping wood and pounding nails.

Wool Sweater

+1D for resisting the effects of cold and wet.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Warriors of Eternity

Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 09/12/2019 - 11:00

I came across these quickstart rules for Warriors of Eternity last week, a "Sword Dream" game that says it's "inspired by your favorite old school action fantasy cartoons," and it does have a light Masters of the Universe vibe. It's somewhat ruleslight, but looks like there's enough there to get the job done.

Get the quickstart document here.

New OSR Lovecraftian Adventure Campaign Location - Olathoë The Eternal

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 09/12/2019 - 04:36
When the stars started coming right & old Earth  began to grow weird & hoary in its ways. The skies were filled with the terrible light from the star Polaris & Aldebaran shone in the East was there a strange rending as the whole cloth of reality split open once again. The seas boiled & the land buckled as Olathoe in the land of Lomar came back into the world of man with a vengeance! The long Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Sword & Sorcery Hex Crawling, Campaign Comprise, & Vault of the Dwarven King From Maximum Mayhem Dungeons Actual Play

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 09/12/2019 - 03:11
Sometimes you've got to go back to basics & in this case its working out the internal adventure elements of our 'Old Solar System' campaign. So last night I popped a couple of beers with a friend & watched Ralph Bakshi's Fire & Ice. When your getting into Fire & Ice your getting into some of the top talent in the fields of animation, fantasy artwork, film production, artwork, etc. including Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

More Operatic Campaign Design Memories & Commentary With X13 Crown Of Ancient Glory by Stephen Bourne

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 09/12/2019 - 02:54
So last night I was watching some 'Jonny Quest' episodes with my father on a Wednesday night, hey that's just how we roll in my family folks. But it got me thinking about X13 Crown of Ancient Glory which came out in '87. Crown of Ancient Glory is a weird little module, it gives a taste of ruler ship to PC's as a future taster for ruling your own kingdom in other words domain level play. Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

OSR Commentary - HP Lovecraft's Polaris & the Peoples of Lomar For Your Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 09/11/2019 - 20:09
So I'm pulling out all of the stops now in my plane traveling  Tegel Manor game. I was informed last night that more players might be joining our game. DM Steve suggested that I follow the 'Disney Avengers formula' in other words the small fish monsters get replaced by bigger fish monsters. I've got just the Lovecraftian  replacements for them thanks to Jim Garrison's Heretic Works blog. Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

PRESALE: Metallic Gold Harley Quinn DC Teekeez Vinyl Figure (New York Comic Con Exclusive)

Cryptozoic - Wed, 09/11/2019 - 14:55

Harley loves the finer things in life . . .  especially gold! Here’s your chance to own the Metallic Gold Harley Quinn DC Teekeez vinyl figure created exclusively for New York Comic Con 2019! You can make sure you get this limited collectible by purchasing it now and then picking it up at Cryptozoic’s Booth #244 during the convention.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Gellarde Barrow

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 09/11/2019 - 11:18

By Michael Moscrip NGR NGR No Level Given

GELLARDE BARROW is a small site based adventure about the joys of robbing from both the living and the dead, wacky hijinx are bound to ensue.

This twelve page adventure details a small barrow tomb with ten rooms in about four pages. Decently interactive with evocative descriptions in places, it does tend to bog down descriptions with minutia. It seems to enjoy testing the limit of how many words you can have in a paragraph and still have it usable. It’s a nice adventure, especially considering it’s a new author, but gets rough to use in places. 

The dungeon is small but has several nice features. The creatures inside ALMOST act like factions. Some bandits. A hippo. Some stone golem-like things, and a root monster. And, of course, the undead. While they are not really factions their own little zones feel unique to them and it FEELS like they have some relationship, no matter how small, to some of the others. This, along with the evocative nature of the text, makes the place seem like it has a lot of depth.

The text descriptions in the various rooms do a good job working together to form a kind of cohesive vibe. The same-level stairs inside are steep . 10’ raise in 5’ of space. That conjures up a certain type of picture in your head. A corridor thick with tree roots, giant trilobites, and the undead rising up THROUGH their stone sarcophagus with an erie green glow. This place does a pretty job of both feeling like an ancient barrow (and I LUV barrow adventure) as well as feeling like a classic dungeon crawl adventure. 

Interactivity is pretty good also. There’s levers to pull, water to raise and lower. Hallways full of tree roots and caskets to break in to. The key here is, I think, the anticipation. There is an element of the unknown. Of barriers and obstacles, things to play with and challenges to overcome. Most adventures just have combat, maybe with a skill check somewhere. This, however, does things right by having a mix of things in the dungeon. It’s SO much more interesting, as a player, to be able to squeal with horror and delight as things are uncovered and your actions have reactions and/or consequences. 

Topping things off is a great magic item: a wooden mallet that lets you hammer two things together. ANY two things. Like nailing an incorporeal ghost to a wall … with suitable example provided in the adventure. The item is described not mechanically, with a skill roll or plus to hit, but rather by what it does: nailing two things together. This is MUCH more mysterious and wondrous, and is the right way to do things with magic items. 

On the down side, the headers used for rooms is some kind of weirdo font, hollow, and not the easiest to read. A little Order of Battle, especially for the bandits, would have been nice also. They are just generic bandits, as described, and could have used a gimmick, like royal tax collectors or orphan fund or something to give me a little extra. 

But, the length of the text itself is the main issue. It’s using a traditional paragraph format but it’s also trying to be smart about it. It bolds the major features and puts the text after those words in order of things that might be important about it. This essentially mirrors a common format I like to encourage beginners to use. It falls down a bit though because of the sheer amount of detail that some of the rooms engage in. If A then B. If B then C. There are hold 1” deep every 3” along the roofline except on alternate Tuesdays. This is getting in to Trap/Door porn, the condition where some designers seem to believe that a two paragraph description of every trap and/or door is needed. There’s also an element of disconnectedness in places; the first room goes through the description of a large chair as the main feature of the room … only to later note that there may be a bandit asleep on the chair. Now both the chair and bandit are bolded, so your eyes will be drawn to it, but somehow this feels wrong and/or confusing.

Speaking of confusing … parts of the dungeon can be flooded. WHICH parts I’m still not sure. There are text descriptions with “the corridor to the best of the room X up to the height of stair Y” and so on. Reading it twice I still don’t get it. A little shading on the map would have done wonders to show the potential for water. Again this looks like a Dyson map and it feels like people just take his maps and don’t alter them much if at all. The map needs a little context, that would have pretty much eliminated my (continuing) confusion.

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru, with a suggested price of $3. The preview is four pages and, alas, showing you nothing of the encounters. Bad Zz!


https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/280259/Gellarde-Barrow?1892600

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Wednesday Comics: Obscure Indies

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 09/11/2019 - 11:00
Inspired by Cartoonist Kayfabe, I impulse-bought some black and white indie stuff off a ebay recently. I got some good deals, though I didn't quite achieve quarter bin level value. Here are some highlights:

Warlock 5
I managed to get the whole run of this, though I haven't read anything but the first issue yet. It's a story of an eclectic group from across parallel dimensions (a cyborg, a dragon, a armored knight, a street punk, the usual) who are engaged in a conflict for control of a mystical grid located in an unnamed city which is a nexus for interdimensional travel. It's written by Gordon Derry and has generally pretty great art by Denis Beauvais. It was published by Aircel, a Canadian publisher eventually gobbled up by Malibu (who was in turn gobbled up by Marvel, ultimately). The reviewer in Space Gamer/Fantasy Gamer #83 summed it up: ""The lure of this book is that the reader is unsure of exactly what is going on. Lots of magic, guns, swords, robots, babes, motorcycles, and very nice art."


DragonBlade and She-Drak
These two super-obscure indies (there's virtually nothing on them on Grand Comics Database) are from 1991 (so far as I can tell) but resemble 80s black and white boom indies in a lot of ways, not the least of which is being in black and white. They are published by Comax, which seems to be an imprint used by cartoonist F. Newton "Butch" Burcham for some of his work. Mostly, Burcham does stuff in the Frazetta sort of vein: a few muscular, barbarian warriors, but an awful lot of scantily-clad, curvy cavewomen and the like. However, these two titles are actually superhero fare (though you would be forgiven from perhaps thinking otherwise from the cover). They tell the parallel stories of two astronauts who were part of an mission that fell into a blackhole to emerge in the Megaverse. There they are guided in gaining powers by a mysterious and powerful alien in a Marvel Comics sort of vein named Phiddeus Phoom. DragonBlade, She-Drak, and presumably Robo-Beast and Night-Flight were to appear together in the a comic called Mega-Force, but I can't find any evidence that actually came out.


Review & Commentary For The Cult of the Blue Crab From Studio St. Germain For Your Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 09/11/2019 - 05:11
"The small city of Shallow Bay is plagued by a gang of smugglers who sell contraband alcohol and luxury foods to the people. The mayor’s expensive lifestyle has depleted the city coffers and the head of the city guard orders his men (or some mercenaries, whichever role the players want to take) to investigate the smugglers and put an end to their activities. Unbeknownst to most, the Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Free OSR Mega Resource From Dragon's Foot ~ L5A: The Kroten Campaign Guide and Package For AD&D First Edition And Your Old School Retroclone

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 09/10/2019 - 20:20
Get It Right HERE This is a one hundred and fifty seven mega resource for free! This AD&D resource details  The Town of Kroten and the near by environs in glorious detail. I'm taking a short break from AS&SH to do a review. According to the introduction : This manual describes the Town of Kroten and the nearby area, which is located on Lendore Isle in the World of Greyhawk. Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

OSR Commentary - Deeper Truths of the Hyperboreans In The Old Solar System

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 09/10/2019 - 18:51
So let's speak about the once & future Hyperboreans beyond the North Wind shall we. The Hyperboreans tales pick up after the departure of Iceland in AS&SH. Into their declining decades long  kingdoms in Zothique just before the appearance of the Silver Death in Clark Ashton Smith's Isle of the Torturers. "Between the sun's departure and return, the Silver Death had fallen upon Yoros. Its Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Rob Kuntz & Arneson's True Genius

The Viridian Scroll - Tue, 09/10/2019 - 16:24
TLDR: this book is a hot mess, but buried in it is an interesting, if IMO flawed, perspective. 




CaveatThis is my reading of Rob Kuntz' book: Dave Arneson's True Genius. It was not an easy work to unlock. Any errors in representing it are mine. I am very critical of Rob Kuntz in this summation and review, even though I found some of his thoughts "interesting." I don't want anyone to interpret my dislike of this work, or its execution, as in any way devaluing Arneson's contribution to D&D. It has been established in very authoritative forums (like Peterson's Playing at the World) that Arneson contributed a number of critical, innovative, and formative ideas to role-playing in general and D&D in particular.
Who is Rob Kuntz?Rob Kuntz, as a teenager, lived with Gary Gygax's family. He was there when Dave Arneson demoed Blackmoor to Gary in 1972 and was an early playtester, taking part in Gygax's Greyhawk campaign of the same year. He literally saw the birth, a good portion of the evolution of D&D. Rob also worked for TSR from its founding through 1977.
Part 1: Assertions About GygaxIn Arneson's True Genius, Rob Kuntz makes the following claims:

When Gygax used Arneson's ideas to design D&D, he did irreparable harm to Arneson's legacy and the entire potential future arc of the hobby by:
  • "Redacting" Arneson's ideas. Gygax built a marketable system of role-playing by taking what was already established – wargame rules – and adding to them some of Arneson's ideas that were groundbreaking but neutralized through systematization. Kuntz refers to this as "enchaining" D&D and reducing it to a "market +1" state. Meaning Gary used Arneson's ideas to make the next predictable market thing.
  • Setting the precedent for the industry. The fact of D&D's success created inertia that moved the entire hobby community in one direction and defined the role-playing industry. This financially-proven groove meant that other possible futures were left unexplored, e.g. one that extended from Arneson's way of playing the game. 
  • Discouraging others from creating. When Gygax created AD&D, he moved D&D from an open system – which encouraged players to invent – to a closed system – an "official" rules set that discouraged innovation and established TSR's intellectual property. This was directly contradictory to an Arneson's open and flexible system ideas.
  • Doing all of this in bad faith. Gygax (like Arneson) never played D&D by the rules he set forth. In selling the D&D rules to the world, Gygax actively suppressed the true style of play in which he and Arneson indulged themselves and their players.

My Impressions of the Book and the Above ClaimsDave Arneson's True Genius is frustrating to read because of its poor organization, vague ideas, and ridiculously stilted and ornate language. Some paragraphs are so convoluted that I had to guess at their meaning after several failed attempts to decode them into English. The entire book has only about 55 pages of actual (widely-spaced, large font) text, and they contain the same half dozen ideas repeated throughout. 
The argument that Gygax damaged Arneson's ideas, and his future potential, and hoodwinked us all by selling us a set of rules that falls short of the Platonic ideal of a role-playing game is academic, rhetorical, and immature. It boils down to crying over what might have been. This is especially silly when one realizes that Arneson had decades in which to present an alternative by a) fully describing his original play style and b) building on it. Arneson failed to do either of those things in any way that engaged or inspired a significant portion of the community.
In assuming that the move to a closed set of rules (with AD&D) was solely about denying the creativity of DMs, Kuntz misses that it enabled a more communal, common play experience and the production of adventure modules (some of which Kuntz helped write). Otherwise he makes a fair point about the shift in corporate attitude regarding extensive "home rules."

As for the accusation that Gary never played his own rules as written, I say "a designer designs." It's no wonder that both Gygax and Arneson sessions were more "R&D" than "QA."

Part 2: The Garden of Eden When he is not blaming Gygax for putting D&D on the wrong path from the outset, Kuntz is lauding Arneson's genius, ascribing to him amazing feats of intellect without actually describing most (any?) of them. In trying to imagine what we missed due to Gygax's nefarious activities, Kuntz suggests that any forward trajectory from Arneson's conceptual model would essentially end in a recreation of "the human brain." Any "throttling" of the system would damage its potential.

If we were to indeterminately throttle his [Arneson's] conceptual model into the future what we would note as an end result would be akin to a massive array of information having multi-functional processes interconnecting at all points. Eventually we would have the workings of the human brain (Kuntz, 41).
It sounds like Kuntz is talking about artificial intelligence or perhaps a Futurama-like visualization of Arneson's brain in a jar. It's a game of passive-aggressive keep-away in which Kuntz tells us we have done/are doing RPGs all wrong while simultaneously telling us it's virtually impossible to describe the right way – the Arnesonian way. "... what system(s) organization transpires in their [TSR/WotC D&D] place would be anyone's guess (Kuntz, 40). [Emphasis mine.]

To read him in a more charitable light, the best possible role-playing system would be one that exists only in the heads of every DM running a game and would be entirely unfixed – free to evolve and iterate as needed. Kuntz calls this the "Garden of Eden" state. Mechanics are fluid and the hivemind of players both allows for expansive movement by invention and contraction by a general consensus of best methods.

To me, this is the real meat of the book. The thing I was waiting for. Perhaps the best way to read Arneson's True Genius is to just start on page 40 and end on page 48.

My Thoughts on the GardenThis Garden of Eden argument reminds me a bit of Dawkin's Selfish Gene (1976) in which he invents the term meme (with a meaning quite different than it has in today's social media) and discusses the way songbirds communicate ideas through imitation and innovation without losing an innate quality of sameness. I kind of wish Kuntz could have made his argument (only) along those lines. Had he simply defended role-playing as an activity owned by everyone – and left off blaming Gygax for bottling spring water – he might really have been saying something important.

As it is, Kuntz' writing reads like an academic fever dream that would be "like, really deep, man" after the joint has been passed a few times around the circle. He is reluctant (unable?) to quantify anything about Arneson's genius and leaves it almost entirely to broad, unsupported, and ultimately meaningless declarations.

Sadly, I would have to say this book is an embarrassment and possibly does more harm to Arneson's legacy than good. And yet, if you can get past all of its flaws, there is at least one clever thought in Kuntz' rambling manifesto.

AftermathThe final few pages of the book are an attempt to debunk Arnesonian D&D as a derivation of Chainmail and/or Brauenstein. The conclusion is that they were influences, but not ingredients, and I'm fine with that. The argument isn't worth reading.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

PRESALE: Bizarro DC Lil Bombshells: Series 3 Vinyl Figure (New York Comic Con Exclusive)

Cryptozoic - Tue, 09/10/2019 - 14:55

He’s like the Man of Steel… only a lot more bizarre. This is your opportunity to own the Bizzaro DC Lil Bombshells vinyl figure created exclusively for New York Comic Con 2019! You can make sure you get this limited collectible by purchasing it now and then picking it up at Cryptozoic’s Booth #244 during the event.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Holmes' 1983 review of the Call of Cthulhu RPG: Rediscovered and republished in Bayt Al Azif #2

Zenopus Archives - Tue, 09/10/2019 - 12:45
Cover art by Jensine Eckwall
A major announcement for Holmes enthusiasts: in 1983 Holmes wrote a review of the then relatively new Call of Cthulhu RPG (by Sandy Petersen), for the inaugural issue of the short-lived Gameplay Magazine (February '83 to April '84), a periodical similar to Dragon but with much more of a general gaming focus. I was completely unaware of this major piece by Holmes ⁠— one of his last in the field of writing about RPGs ⁠— until recently when the long-lost article was rediscovered by Tony A. Rowe of the Cryptic Archivist blog. The original 1986 author bio for the Maze of Peril novel mentions that Holmes had articles in several magazines including Gameplay, but after finding a computer game review he wrote in a later issue (detailed in the Holmes bibliography) I had assumed that was all he had written for that publication. Not so. The review, which is a two full pages as originally published, is written in his characteristic engaging and genre-fan style and includes anecdotes and advice based on CoC games that he himself had run, as well as providing more fodder for a Holmes "Appendix N"

And now, with the permission of Chris Holmes, I am thrilled to announce that this article is once again in print in the second issue of the Cthulhu RPG magazine Bayt Al Azif, along with brand new illustration by Chris of a scene from one of those actual-play stories (!), and a half-page of commentary on the review by myself (bringing the total to 3 full-pages):



Bayt al Azif issue 2
(link includes my DrivethruRPG affiliate number)
Both digital and hardcopy are available through the above link. This second issue is longer ⁠— 108 pages ⁠— than the the first, and once again includes a wide variety of articles of interest to the Cthulhu RPG enthusiast, including multiple scenarios set in different eras. Here's a screenshot of the Table of Contents:




Thanks to Tony for locating and scanning the original article, to Chris for agreeing to reprint it and providing accompanying art, and to the editor Jared Smith for accepting it for his magazine and doing the layout.

See also the earlier post about my article for the first issue of Bayt al Azif.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

D&D’s Animal Companions and Familiars—Choosing the Right Pet For Your Character

DM David - Tue, 09/10/2019 - 11:16

Many Dungeons & Dragons players love animal companions for their characters, but the game’s fifth edition suffers uneven support for the archetype. Only specific character builds gain access to pets, and creating a character with an effective companion often requires a deep understanding of the game. For instance, of all the game’s class archetypes, the Beast Master ranger earns the most criticism for being too weak. To make beast masters able to hold their own, players must make some canny choices. More on that at the end.

The best route to an animal companion depends on what you want your companion to do. The more capable the pet, the more limited your options. A friendly mascot for your adventuring party hardly requires anything, but a pet capable of battling alongside a higher-level character confines you to just a few character options.

Ask yourself what you want from your pet. This post tells how to find the right creature companion.

For a friend or mascot, befriend and train a creature. In a tweet, D&D lead designer Jeremy Crawford writes, “Want your D&D character to have a pet or companion? Here’s a little secret: You don’t need special rules for this. Through roleplaying and ability checks (most likely Animal Handling or Persuasion), you can have a buddy, as long as your DM is OK adding a creature to the group.”

Dungeon masters: When players encounter hostile animals, the characters may try to make friends instead of fighting. Players love turning an angry beast into a mascot or companion to the party. Players attracted to this strategy love seeing it succeed. Treat the creature as a non-player character. As with any tag-along character, the best such animal companions prove useful, but never overshadow characters.

For a horse or similar mount, play a paladin. At level 5, paladins gain the ability to cast Find Steed which summons a spirit that takes the shape of a horse or similar mount. At level 9, Find Greater Steed brings a flying steed such as a Griffin. This mount lasts until you dismiss it or until it drops to 0 hit points. You and your mount can communicate telepathically.

The Find Steed spells share a feature and flaw with many of D&D’s pets. Rather than gaining a live companion worthy of an emotional attachment, the spell brings a spirit. The spiritual steeds boast the intelligence of Maximus, the determined horse in Tangled, but I wish for personality to match too.

In an interview, D&D Designer Mike Mearls said, “Some people really like the feeling that a companion animal is a flesh and blood creature, but there are a lot of advantages to presenting it as a spirit companion or something similar.” In fifth edition, the designers mainly chose the advantages of spirit companions.

Still, nothing says your spirit mount can’t show personality. Perhaps particularly brave and true horses serve in the afterlife as a paladin’s steed. Now I want to play a paladin who struggles with temptation paired with a horse whose spirit mission includes dragging my hero out of the tavern before he has one too many.

For a scout, helpful distraction, or spell conduit, learn Find Familiar. I’ve seen enough familiars in play to witness their utility, but before researching this post, I still underestimated their power. For the price of learning a mere 1st-level spell, Wizards gain a scout, an extension to all their touch spells, and a battlefield helper. If players made better use of familiars, the spell would count as broken.

Find Familiar lets you summon a spirit animal in a variety of forms: bat, cat, crab, frog (toad), hawk, lizard, octopus, owl, poisonous snake, fish, rat, raven, sea horse, spider, or weasel. Just about every animated sidekick matches something on the list of familiars. Want to play like an animated Disney hero with a wise or comical critter for a companion? Sadly, familiars can’t talk. The designers really missed an opportunity here. Even players who claim they can’t do voices can do a toad voice. It’s so fun.

Still, your sidekick can help. Try these uses:

  • Use your flying, creeping, or swimming critter to scout, while you watch through its eyes. My players used a familiar to explore five levels of the Tomb of Nine Gods while the party stood safely in the first hall. Doors stopped the creature, but so much of that dungeon stands open.

  • Use your flying familiar to perform the Help action on the battlefield, giving allies advantage on attack rolls. Eventually, an annoyed monster will smack down your bird, but that’s one less attack on friends, which may save a 50 gp healing potion. Re-summoning the familiar costs 10 gold, which counts as money well spent.

  • Use your flying familiar to target touch spells from a distance. For clerics who heal through touch, gaining a flying familiar might justify the cost of a feat. Play a grave cleric with a raven familiar.

  • Use your familiar to channel damaging spells like Dragon’s Breath. Familiars can’t attack, but with help, your little toad can spew acid in a 15-foot cone.

To gain a familiar, select one of these options:

  • Wizard: Learn Find Familiar
  • Warlock: Choose the Pact of the Chain
  • Warlock: Choose the Pact of the Tome and the Book of Ancient Secrets invocation. You get two level 1 rituals, plus the ability to inscribe any class ritual.
  • Bard: Choose the Lore archetype and use the Magical Secrets feature to learn the Find Familiar spell at 6th level. Or at level 10, any bard can use Magical Secrets to learn the spell.
  • Any Class: Take the Magic Initiate feat to get a 1st-level spell.
  • Any Class: Take the Ritual Caster feat to get any ritual spells.

For a more dangerous familiar, play a Pact of the Chain warlock. Warlocks who opt for the Pact of the Chain can choose an imp, pseudodragon, quasit, or sprite as a familiar. These hardly count as animal companions. But unlike animal familiars, these creatures can attack—although after level 9 their bites and stings and tiny arrows amount to little. All these creatures fly and most turn invisible, so they make particularly good spies and spell conduits.

For an unusual mount, play a Beast Master ranger and a small character. Neither a familiar nor a paladin’s steed count as true animals. For a flesh and blood animal companion, opt for the Beast Master ranger archetype.

A small beast master such as a halfling or gnome can ride their medium animal companion as a mount. Ride a wolf for its pack tactics, 40-foot speed, and cool factor. Ride a giant wolf spider for its climb speed, poison bite, and creep factor. Ride a giant poisonous snake for its brazenly phallic implications.

For a partner in battle, play a Beast Master ranger and a creepy, crawly beast. Beast masters’ animal companions earn a reputation for weakness. At level 3, when the companion arrives, the poor beast has merely adequate hit points. As the party levels, the creature will have fewer hit points and worse AC than the wizard, despite having to fight in melee. Meanwhile, the wizard’s familiar makes a better scout.

The Beast Companion class description suggests taking a hawk or mastiff as an animal companion. D&D designer Dan Dillon says that such choices set players up for failure. Beast masters should not take beasts with a challenge rating below 1/4. If you want such a pet, follow Jeremy Crawford’s suggestion and train a creature to be your friend. Or spend a feat learning Find Familiar.

Unfortunately, warm, fuzzy, charismatic beasts like lions, tigers, and bears have size and challenge ratings that disqualify them as animal companions. If you want a furry friend, wolves rank as decent and panthers as adequate. But the very best companions make some folks say ick. For a pet that makes an able battle partner, choose one of these options:

  • A flying snake offers a 60-foot fly speed, flyby attack, and poison damage.
  • A giant crab brings decent AC, Blindsight 30 ft., grappling, and a swim speed. Plus, I understand such companions perform calypso-flavored musical numbers.
  • A giant wolf spider boasts Blindsight 10 ft., a climb speed, and poison.
  • A giant poisonous snake offers Blindsight 10 ft., a swim speed, and poison.

Dungeon masters: As special non-player characters, allow rangers’ animal companions to fall unconscious and roll death saving throws when reduced to 0 hit points.

With the D&D rules as written, animal companions lack the armor proficiency required to wear barding without suffering disadvantage on attacks, checks, and saves. Nonetheless, I doubt allowing a few extra points of AC breaks anything. Besides, cats in armor look adorable.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Adventures On Old Mars Inspiration & Thoughts - A Castles & Crusades & Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Hybrid Campaign

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 09/09/2019 - 19:45
To say that Jason Vey isn't a prolific son of a gun is doing a disservice to him, & someone over the weekend pointed out that Jason had done his free Warriors of Mars booklet for OD&D.  And that's fine but I'm looking a mix of Castles & Crusades & Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. Why?! Because of the fact to quote an internet source, "The shared lineage and resulting Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

DC Bombshells Trading Cards III: Sketch Card Preview, Part 1

Cryptozoic - Mon, 09/09/2019 - 16:00

In anticipation of next month's release of Cryptozoic's DC Bombshells Trading Cards III, we're excited to present our first preview of Sketch Cards from the set! 

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Pages

Subscribe to Furiously Eclectic People aggregator - Tabletop Gaming Blogs