Tabletop Gaming Feeds

Wednesday Comics: Best of Trek

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 09/09/2020 - 11:00

 Yesterday was the anniversary of the airing of the first episode of Star Trek back in 1966. It seems like a good time to talk about some Star Trek comics.

The earliest Star Trek comics were from Gold Key. They are pretty goofy for the most part, and the characters don't resemble their tv counterparts at all, but it's always interesting to see tie-in media from an age when there was very little of that media out there. These all have been collect in archives from IDW.

The Marvel Comics series of 1980-1982 is better than the Gold Key series, though it mostly fails to feel particularly Star Trekian. When it does, the episodes that inspired it are pretty obvious. It probably didn't help that Marvel was prohibited from using anything that wasn't in the first movie. IDW has collected much of the early Marvel stuff in an omnibus (now out of print).

DC had the Star Trek license for quite a while. Their output was on par with the best of the Marvel issues on average and better at times. Much of this has not been reprinted in a while (though there are Best of Peter David archives and other themed archives). A graphic novel by Chris Claremont and Adam Hughes Debt of Honor has been reprinted in a facsimile edition.

5150 Gaea Prime - First Defence, crushing the Hishen.

Two Hour Wargames - Tue, 09/08/2020 - 19:24


After winning the last mission the next one is attack once again. The newly researched and produced Battle Tactical Armors (BTA) have arrived to the base but only enough to equip one squad. As 1st squad was below numbers I chose 3rd squad with Sgt. Gorman Rep 6 (section 7) leading them as my Star wasn't going to be present (he's attached to 1st squad). All BTA are equipped with Grath Assault Rifle (GAR) and the specialist in the section leaded by the corporal (section 8) carries a Plasma Gun.

As usual I divided the table into nine sections and then rolled for generating terrain and deploying the three starting PEFs (Possible Enemy Forces). And finally started the game rolling for activation.

Turn 1. Gaea Prime 2 - Hishen 1.I

I moved both sections forward. Then the Hishen activated. One PEF didn't move, another was a false alarm, and the third one turned into a spaceship crew armed with Parak Pistols. Hishen won the Reaction Test and shot first, killing the specialist and forcing the corporal to take cover (Duck Back).

Turn 2. GP 2 - Hishen 2.

I scored doubles and then checked for Third Parties. A Kabasu appeared! No one was in sight so there weren't any reactions or shooting.

Turn 3. GP 2 - Hishen 6 - Kabasu 4.

The Hishen spaceship crew shot at the Kabasu and he first returned fire and killed one...

and then, after receiving more firing from the building, the Kabasu blinked and warped to a different place.

Now Star Army activated and the section leaded by Gorman advanced through the woods and opened fire on the Hishen in the building. The Hishen panicked and all Hunkered Down except one who left the battlefield.

One grunt from the sergeant section shot down the Kabasu!

On the hill on section 5 Corporal rallied a suppressed grunt from his section.

Turn 4. GP 3 - Hishen 6.

Gorman's section stormed the building thinking there would be some Hishen hiding there but it was just a case of nerves.

And the corporal and the rallied grunt assaulted the other building and captured the surviving Hishen.

 After the mission.

Well, the Hishen with their Morale Campaign 1 didn't have many opportunities to bring squads to the fight and only could have a puny spaceship crew. Besides, they scored high on activation and couldn't activate much. So it was a walk in park for the the Star Army in their new BTA.

As usual, I rolled for replacements and 1st squad was again up to paper strength. 3rd squad also received a replacement for the KIA. I forgot to roll for Rep advancements but I'll do it before the next mission.

Bringing a new alien specie to ASI (the Kabasu) granted me an extra die roll in the R&R table so I easily researched the field "Hishen Command Ship" that would allow me to board the Hishen command ship in space and thus successfully end the campaign!

See you soon.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

1994: TSR Declares War on the Internet’s D&D Fans

DM David - Tue, 09/08/2020 - 11:00

Nowadays Shannon Appelcline writes about the history of the roleplaying game business and writes most of the product histories on the Dungeon Masters Guild. In 1994, he administered a computer at Berkeley University that served fan-created content for the indie Ars Magica roleplaying game. That role landed Appelcline an email from Dungeons & Dragons publisher TSR claiming that his site offered unauthorized D&D content and demanding that he unplug. “There were no—absolutely zero—Dungeons & Dragons files on the website,” says Appelcline. “They were looking at a roleplaying site not related to D&D and they sent one of their nastygrams.”

The demand enraged him. “I suspect I wasn’t vulgar in saying what they could do with their letter, but I’m sure I was thinking it and I was certainly very angry.

“Overall if you think about the Internet at that time being focused on [educational domains], you can see that you had a lot of anti-establishment people on the Internet and so none of us liked TSR that much. Everyone wrote T$R for example. Now they’re sending these nasty letters for legal rights that they probably don’t have. The letter I wrote [in response] said, ‘Not only do we not have any files related to D&D on our site, but we never would. I would rather poke my eye out with a stick before doing anything to help you.’ That phrase was genuinely absolutely, in the letter.”

TSR sent similar cease-and-desist demands to sites across the Internet. Most of the targets actually served fan-created content devoted to D&D. A few delivered files that clearly infringed on TSR’s copyrights.

All these notices bore the name of manager Rob Repp whose job leading TSR’s Digital Products Group included things like managing TSR’s presence on America Online and heading the development of CD-ROM products. No other management employees boasted any Internet experience at all, so Repp drew the chore of leading TSR’s Internet presence. TSR had just gained their first email address a few months earlier. Despite working for TSR, Repp wasn’t a gamer, so he failed to distinguish content for Ars Magica from D&D. But he can’t be dismissed as just a suit. He’s also credited with the border art on many of TSR’s Planescape products.

Repp first appeared on the Internet in 1994 when he replied to a request for an illegal copy of the Monsterous Compendiaum posted on the USENET newsgroup.

>Anyone know of an ftp site that has a monstrous compendium available for >download? Thanks in advance. (Please email to I'd be interested in knowing about this one myself. :) Rob Repp | InterNet: Manager, Digital Projects Group | InterNet: TSR, Inc. | CompuServe: 76217,761 __________________________________ | GEnie: TSR.Online AOL: TSR Inc All opinions are my own, not TSR's | 414-248-3625 Fax 414-248-0389

Despite a TSR’s employee’s interest, someone still posted a link to a file server distributing the infringing content.

The budding Internet created fears beyond such blatant infringement. Repp explained, “When gamers begin sharing their creations with the public, whether for profit or not, they are infringing our rights. If we don’t make an earnest attempt to prevent this infringement of our trademarks and copyrights, our ownership of these extremely valuable assets may be jeopardized.”

Companies that fail to defend their trademarks can lose them. Just ask the original makers of cellophane, escalators, and trampolines. However, D&D fans and TSR would debate how much copyright law justified the company’s cease-and-desist notices.

In an official statement, TSR told fans interested in distributing content to avoid infringing on D&D by making the content generic. “If the party encounters a hydra, let the GM look up the stats for the hydra in the game system he is using. Don’t set the adventures in a TSR world. Create your own or use one from history or legend. Don’t use monsters, spells, etc. that were created by TSR. Create and name your own. Draw on history, legend or reality. Even spell their actual names backward for uniqueness.”

For fans who insisted on sharing content for D&D, Repp promised a solution. “Sometime very soon, we’re going to create a place where gamers can legally upload and share their creations, including modules, stories and software. We are definitely interested in fostering goodwill among customers. Eventually, we want gamers to be able to turn to TSR in cyberspace as easily as they do in a hobby store.”

“IBM PC Computer” by Accretion Disc is licensed with CC BY 2.0.

None of Repp’s goodwill cushioned the impact of the nastygrams.

Unlike Appelcline, Trent A. Fisher had set up a server that actually held D&D-related content: a collection of the best of the discussion group. “I was pretty angry about all of this. I read most everything that went onto the site, and I never would have permitted anything which outright copied TSR materials. Apparently, someone in TSR leadership must have felt that any fan-generated work represented competition that had to be stamped out.”

Jim Vassilakos also edited D&D-related content in his fanzine The Guildsman . He served it from Stanford University. At the time, he wrote, “Many gamers actually dislike TSR, and they have since before TSR was even on the Internet. I think a large part of the reason has to do with the way TSR deals with competition.”

That distrust of TSR extended to much of D&D’s fan community. Critics pointed to TSR’s lawsuits against competitors. When Game Designers Workshop dared to publish founder Gary Gygax’s latest roleplaying game, TSR sued. When Mayfair Games published generic content “suitable for use with Dungeons & Dragons,” TSR sued. Gamers joked that TSR stood for “they sue regularly.” TSR’s takeover of wargame publisher SPI also troubled gamers. Partly because TSR stiffed lifetime subscribers to SPI’s magazines. Also because most of SPI’s design staff quit when faced with working at TSR. Overall, gamers saw TSR as a company using a dominant market position and deep pockets to bully fans and competitors.

Nonetheless, TSR fulfilled its promise to provide a place where gamers could share their creations. In a time when the company lacked a web presence, the company found a host for fan-created content.

On September 6, 1994, TSR announced that fans could legally upload content to a server hosted by an outfit called the Multi-player Gaming Network or MPGNet.

TSR is pleased to announce a licensed Internet FTP file server. MPGNet's site (ftp to will carry a license that allows your creations to be shared with the world via the Internet.

MPGNet called itself “a business that provides low-cost, interactive multiple player gaming entertainment,” but it seemed like a small enterprise. Company head Rob Miracle suggested users cope with his site’s low bandwidth by connecting during working hours when few online gamers were active. (He did promise to upgrade MPGN to a T1 line in 1995. In 1994, a network business dreamed of a 1.44 MB per second T1 connection. Now houses in my neighborhood get a download speed of 360Mps and a upload speed of 25Mps.)

TSR’s takedown of gamers’ file servers had inflamed fans, but the invitation to share content on MPGNet included a requirement that provoked rage.

In order to distribute your texts, software and message digests via this server, you must include the following disclaimer: _______________________________________________________________________________ This item incorporates or is based on or derived from copyrighted material of TSR, Inc. and may contain trademarks of TSR. The item is made available by MPGNet under license from TSR, but is not authorized or endorsed by TSR. The item is for personal use only and may not be published or distributed except through MPGNet or TSR. _______________________________________________________________________________

The last line seemed to imply that TSR gained the right to publish or distribute people’s creations, and that proved most alarming.

Next: TSR vs. the Internet—From They Sue Regularly to Open Gaming

Related: The True Story of the Cthulhu and Elric Sections Removed from Deities & Demigods

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Bat in the Attic Kickstarter, The Final Hours

Bat in the Attic - Mon, 09/07/2020 - 14:03

The kickstarter for the Basic Rules for the Majestic Fantasy RPG has entered its last hours. This kickstarter is to fund the cover art and editing of the Basic Rules for the Majestic Fantasy RPG. In addition I am offering a set of quick reference cards for character generation using these rules. The reward levels are $8 for both PDFs, and $12 for a at-cost (plus 50 cents) print coupon for DriveThruRPG that covers the book, and the quick reference cards.
Basic Rules for the Majestic Fantasy RPG Kickstarter

Preview of the Table of Contents

Given the number of excellent systems that have been published for the Old School Renaissance, what makes the Majestic Fantasy RPG different? During the Kickstarter I wrote a series of posts going through the rulebook and highlighting some of its elements.



Backgrounds & Abilities

Equipment, Magic, & Spells

Combat, Monsters, & NPCs

Treasure, Rulings, and the World Outside of the Dungeon

Bedrock Podcast Interview
Sometimes reading is not as effective hearing the case being made for a product. Recently I had a nice chat with long time friend, Brendan Davis. We talked about the kickstarter and gaming. Brendan is president of Bedrock Games, an independent publisher of RPGs. He specializes in publishing fantasy RPGs with settings inspired by different time periods and cultures outside of medieval western Europe. I have done maps for several of his products.

Bedrock Games

Bedrock Podcast Interview.

Wrapping it up.
I hope you decide to back this kickstarter during these last few hours. If not the both products will  be available for sale on DriveThruRPG late this fall.

Finally thanks to everybody who backed the kickstarter. It is great to have you all on board and your comments and suggestions have been appreciated and helpful.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Witch Shack

Ten Foot Pole - Mon, 09/07/2020 - 11:01
By Mark Hess Self Published LotFP Level 2? 3? Not listed ...

They told you the place was haunted, but you just had to go in anyway.

This sixteen page “adventure” describes 30 random rooms in an extra-dimensional shack. That’s all it does. While it occasionally has some good ideas, it lacks interesting interactivity, consistently good descriptions, purpose, and treasure. Nope.

When this thing is good it’s quite good. The initial description of the Witch Shack, in the opening words of the adventure, are: “The Witch Shack is an adventure location that may be encountered anywhere, in any patch of woods, across a lonely field, on the far edge of some small town or village. It always appears as a rotting, falling down wooden shack. Made of old gray boards, the roof is collapsing and one side is already crumbled, allowing easy entrance.

It is always considered bad ground. No curious children play here, no young lovers seeking privacy, no rambling vagabonds looking for shelter. All kinds of ghost stories will be attributed to the Shack, someone was murdered there and it’s haunted; a witch once lived there and it’s cursed; etc.” That’s pretty good. And there are occasional other sections of text that are quite evocative, as that section is. But, the vast vast majority of the text isn’t.

And it has some decent ideas also. One of the rooms is: “Rusty Cages. Here is a large room like a barn loft, with cages hanging from the rafters. The cages contain children, some healthy, some starving. Some are dead, and of those some are dry skeletons.” That’s not bad, as an idea. It’s pretty classic folklore. The description isn’t really very good, but the concept is a decent one. Likewise a room bisected with a deep crevasse, spanned by an enormous spider web made of flayed human corpses. Oof! And the, there’s the spider: “A cursed child stalks the web as if he had Spider Climb, as the characters enter they see the boy vomit on a chunk of meat and then slurp it up as it dissolves. The child also has mandibles and four extra appendages hanging from his sides, limp and useless things.” That’s a great concept and not a half bad description either! When the adventure is doing this then it’s doing a pretty decent job. 

But, ultimately, it doesn’t do this, at least consistently. First, the adventure design is a cop out. You enter a room (with a decent description at that: “The main room is sparse, with only a small wooden table, a chair and a cold, crumbling fireplace. The roof sags heavily, the windows are boarded up and the floor is covered in layers of ancient dust. [p] From the main room a hallway leads into the shadows.”) But, then, you’re in a maze of hallways and doors. Every time you open one, even the same one, the DM rolls a d30 to determine what’s behind it. L.A.M.E. Just put in a fucking map, man. What do you gain from this kind of nonsense, besides the scorn of the payers as they roll their fucking eyes. This shit is a cop out. It’s like someone wrote “30 ideas for a room” and then wrapped it in a pretext to bring it in to play. Not. Cool. And, of course, you just can’t go back. You have to search for the exit. Each failed search roll means weird time has passed on the outside, potentially sending you in to the far future, or trapping you in the house forever. Ok, War Game, I guess the only way to win, in this adventure that punishes you and doesn’t have treasure, is to not play and instead stay home that night from the game. Is that what makes D&D fun? Staying home? Pretentious wank fest of a concept. 

And most of the rooms are NOT up to the quality of the ones I cited earlier. “A corpse, someone from the local village who has recently gone missing.” Well, gee, that’s exciting. Maybe some details on state and condition? No? Just gonna leave it abstracted like it is? “Your own childhood fears!” *sigh*, enough said on that one, although, I’d like to see the DM handle my eternal search for meaning in a world devoid of it while battling the ennui that results from it. 

Anyway, there’s a witch in the witch house. A classic crone with a hairy mole on her sagging nose, as per her description. That’s it. Then the stat block starts. I guess she attacks. As does the White Wolf in the cold room. A does the snack man in the snake man room. Just a brief description of the monster, not the scene, and the implication that they attack, without any roleplay notes or anything else. Boring as all fuck.

This thing is an empty shell. It’s an empty pretext with a few good room concepts and a few good room descriptions, but with nothing to hold it all together, and not enough of either good concepts or well executed rooms to make it remotely worthwhile. The rooms are passive, with no potential energy. TOo many of the descriptions are abstracted instead of specific. While it does a good job remaining terse, it does not do so in a good way. 

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru with a suggested price of $1. The preview don’t work, and there’s no level range given. Naughty naughty! I don’t like either of those!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Adventures in Midshire

Ten Foot Pole - Sat, 09/05/2020 - 11:11
By James Embry Self Published Raven in the Scythe

Monsters lurk in the wilderness, mysterious caves hold unknown treasure to be found, and restless spirits haunt an abandoned manor house.  It looks like Midshire is in need of adventurers.

This 72 page adventure uses about thirty pages to describe four small “adventures”. Oof, does it have issues. 

First, it’s not OSR. It’s in the OSR section of DriveThru but it for some homebrew system. It looks vaguely D&D fantasy, but with different stats, combat, etc. Who knows why. Anyway, not a good start. But, I’m going to review it anyway for it is a good example of how to not do things with adventures.

Note the large page count, but, the adventure page count is rather short. That’s normally a sign something is wrong. This IS a regional type thing, with a town, etc, so we can make allowances for that, but it still is off. This indicates some sort of overinvestment in something other than usability/interactivity at the table. Only what the players will experience, and little else, is what an adventure supplement should generally be about.

In this case we have a small town at the beginning of the book. It is full of extensive price lists. The shop descriptions contain such descriptions as “A baker is someone who bakes bread into various forms such as loafs or even sweet pastries.” So …. Yeah. A chair is something you sit in. This s the definition of padded. I’m not sure what is going on here. A brief look at the RPG system seems to indicate its not explicitly targeted at children, which might be one reason to do this. Another might be some kind of misguided format that the designer feels they must stick to. There might be a Ghjsdfiuyd in town, and even old hands might not know what kind of shop that is, so, we get a little description, which is fine. But then, because we think we need to do that with EVERY entry, we get in to the padded text situation where we’re told what a baker is. This is of pandering to the lowest common denominator, or slavish devotion to a format is NOT OK. Designers need to leverage the DM at the table instead of pandering to them. This format countries with the wandering monsters “This is an encounter with a Black Bear” or in the dungeons “This room is a Kitchen.”, describing what we already know about things, padding them out.

Our four adventures consist of Rats in the Basement, Basilisk on the Prowl, A two level cave system, and a hunted mansion. None are good.

Rats takes about a column to describe. There are rats. The map of the basement just shows a map with things like “4 rats” labeled in the rooms. A text description notes two rooms have boxes and the retreating rats flee to the “7 rats’ room. Oof. Just fucking number it. Put in a room description. Try to do SOMETHING along the lines of evocative writing and interactivity other than combat? Cause that’s all this is: a video game grind quest of just killing rats. I can’t think of anything worse. Maybe if it were an old ladies house, maybe.

The Basilisk is, hmmm. Strange. People don’t really care that it eats their livestock, but, her, it would nice if this dangerous creature was taken care of. It’s this weirdly abstracted and generic description of things, the situation. It lives in a cave. Up a cliff. That requires an acrobatics roll to get to. How the fuck does IT get in to the cave? I’m not a super stickler for realism, I think it’s usually not appropriate. An appearance of realism, a grounding in it, sure, but I don’t care about the monster having access to fresh water” and so on. But sticking your monster in a cave up on a cliff, a monster that doesn’t fly? It’s just … like no one was putting two and two together. And the cave system … it’s full of slimes and fish people. Well, three of the rooms. I guess the basilisk doesn’t care? And the fish people don’t care about the basilisk? It’s just weird. And the text goes on and on for no real purpose. Room two in the cave take sup a quarter a page to tell us there are bats in a room with a wooden box. It’s just … I don’t know. Strange, how abstracted, padded, and generic it is. SImple, and not in a good way.

The haunted mansion just has super long room descriptions and little else, relying on wandering rolls for “atmosphere.” A column. A quarter page. To describe … nothing.

There’s very little evocative writing. There’s almost no interactivity beyond pure combat “the attack as soon as the party enters the room.” The encounters, proper, fully describe one thing before moving on to a another, making it difficult to summarize the room quickly. 

This one just makes no sense at all. I mean, sure, you can figure out the adventure. But, the choices made for how to get there. I guess it’s better than being incomprehensible?

This is $2 at DriveThru. The preview is six pages. It shows you a few pages of the town. “This is the bakery. They make bread.” A preview needs to show some of the adventure, so the purchaser can get an idea of what they are buying before they buy. This don’t do that.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Bat in the Attic Kickstarter, Treasure, Rulings, and the World Outside of the Dungeon.

Bat in the Attic - Sat, 09/05/2020 - 02:23
This is the sixth and last in a series of posts about some of the design choices I made. In addition to explaining what the system is about, it will also help folks in deciding which elements are the most useful to them. One of the goals of this project is to support kitbashing.

Basic Rules for the Majestic Fantasy RPG Kickstarter

Due the limited number of pages in the basic rules, I combed through various classic edition basic rules to get a sense of what available. From that I was able to cull a subset of the larger list found in Swords and Wizardry and what I added in the Majestic Fantasy RPG.

Viz is magic in physical form. The concept was developed during a campaign where every player played a mage using GURPS. Ars Magica was a great source of inspiration for the campaign and one of the elements that was adapted was the idea of viz. Since GURPS Magic wasn't the same as the magic system in Ars Magica, it got altered into viz. For those who know GURPS, it functioned as a 1 pt powerstone that dissipated after one use.

When I started running Swords & Wizardry I ported over viz. It still dissipates after one use but now one viz allowed a magic-user or cleric to case a first level spell without losing it from memory. It gives a substantial credit towards the creation cost of a magic item. More viz can be used to cast higher level spells without losing it from memory.

In the years since it worked out well as a source of low powered magical treasure. Plus flexibility of its concept allowed it to be found or harvested in interesting ways, ranging from a dragon's teeth, to a wellspring in the midst of a forest that produces 1d6 viz in the light of the full moon.

Treasure Assortment
In the full Majestic Fantasy RPG, I have an elaborate treasure generation system. I automated it using a program called Inspiration Pad Pro from NBos. Overall the system worked out nicely for my campaign. But not everybody wants to use software at their table. In addition, people don't want to use deeply nested random tables during a session.

I used Gygax's Monster and Treasure Assortments while experimenting with randomly generating dungeons. Unlike my treasure table and the treasure tables in Swords and Wizardry, the treasure tables in those books was a simple list with a 100 entries. Each entry is a complete treasure hoard.

I then realized that a complex sets of random tables can be made much more useful, if they are accompanied by a table of pre-generated results. I am calling these types of tables a random assortment.

For the basic rules, I generated 20 items for a 100d (silver piece) treasure hoard, then repeated this for 200d, 500d, and so on up to 2,500d. If I am writing an adventure and I want to generate something special I used the main set of tables. If something happens during a session or I need something quick while writing. I used the random assortment table.

For those who like to use software while writing or running a session, I wrote an on-line random generator written in html and javascript. This allows  you to randomly roll your own treasure hoards for the basic rules at any value.

Treasure Hoards for the MW RPG Basic Rules

This is the first of two sections of referee advice I include in the basic rules. "Ruling not rules" is an idea discussed by Matt Finch in the Old School Primer. The minimalist nature of many classic editions, results in the need for a referee make a ruling for when a player does something that their character logically could do but there is no explicit mechanic to cover it. There been a lot of discussion about the idea but little in the way of describing the nuts and bolts of how one uses the classic edition mechanics to craft new rulings.

The section address that by talking about the available mechanics and how I use them to create specific rulings. I talk about when to make a ruling, assumptions about character competence, and the relevance of failure. Finally I talk about the elements that go into the ruling: Armor Class, Attribute Bonuses, the To-Hit Roll, Hit Points, Movement, Non-Combat Tasks, and Saving Throws.

The World outside of the Dungeon
Here I briefly cover the different elements that go into my campaigns. Why I focus on the World outside of the Dungeon, along with the various elements that go into bringing it to life, this includes constructing locales, characters, and plans.

Next, I talk about the World in Motion, how you take all that and make it work from session to session. The importance of the initial context, and how to handle the continuing saga as the campaign unfolds. Finally I touch on building one's Bag of Stuff. Material that you have memorized or made notes on to use when the players decide to do something unexpected like go west instead of east. Or decide to talk to the innkeeper on the other side of town, instead of consulting the sage by the waterfront.

The idea of this section to provide a useful framework as a starting point for one's own effort. In later supplements I intend to support these ideas further with various tools and techniques to handle common situations found within fantasy campaigns.

Wrapping it up.
This concludes this series of designers notes. I am currently working on various edits as are result of the feedback I gotten. I will post Rev 02 once that is completed. As part of the final push, I will make a combined document available with all these notes collected together.

I thank everybody who backed this kickstarter, your generous support, help and comments are all appreciated.

Basic Rules for the Majestic Fantasy RPG Kickstarter

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Larger Than Life Meets Quarters - Our Quarter Horse Racing Game

Two Hour Wargames - Thu, 09/03/2020 - 19:09

FYI - Both are stand alone games - one Pulp Adventures and one Quarter Horse Racing. 

Quarters includes 50 Horses with Races from 250 to 440 yards. Betting tables for straight up bets - Win, Place or Show - Daily Double and Exacta. Races use Non-Player Jockeys and allow for players to ride the horses deciding when and how to use Bonus d6.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

[REVIEW] Sunlands

Beyond Fomalhaut - Thu, 09/03/2020 - 13:41

Silvery finish not depicted
[REVIEW] Sunlands (2020)

by Chris Longhurst


Low to mid levels

Hello, and welcome to part three of **ZINEMASSACRE*2020**! This year, Kickstarter ran Zinequest 2, their second zine writing promotion campaign. Despite my utter distaste for the idea of a major fundraising platform intruding on a publishing genre for people with more ideas than money, I have to admit Zinequest was successful in motivating a whole lot of gamers to launch their personal projects. While many of them were completely alien to my interests (“Five experiences about communicating with yourself, nature, and others” and “Dreamrs, we are such stuff as dreams are *Powered* on, and our little life is rounded *by the Apocalypse*.” are probably for other people), I pitched in for fifteen which looked interesting. Here are the results.


Since the ancient days of gaming when Judges Guild walked the Earth, few have tried to cram an entire hex-crawl setting into a thin, zine-sized pamphlet (honourable mention goes to the infamous Carcosaand the dreamlike Sea of Vipers). Sunlands has tried, and without further ado, succeeded at giving you an entire, functional fantasy region in all of 32 pages.

This is a 17x21 hex area describing a mostly hilly area scarred in a divine confrontation, but now populated by a collection of oddball cultures. Beyond scattered human settlements and their usual fantasyland allies, the Pale Elves (a wood-dwelling elven subgroup with an affinity for riding giant insects) and the Vespix (a wasp-based civilisation based in the southern swamps) have carved out their domains. Much of the area, however, is unclaimed land, where adventurers may encounter strange loners, philosophical monstrosities, and weird ruins. That is, it is a fine borderland setting for exploration- and other travel-based fantasy campaigns.

Hex key

Preceded by a brief introduction and a series of encounter tables for the different terrain types (featuring both general and more specific encounters you might face, from wildlife and general monsters to expeditions, and even some of the major inhabitants of the specific sub-regions), the bulk of the book is dedicated to the hex entries. Unlike the Wilderlands and other hex-based wilderness modules following in its steps, Sunland has a feature of interest keyed to every one of the map hexes. Also unlike the common method, where you tend to encounter whatever the hex hides if you pass through it, it divides hex entries into OBVIOUS and SUBTLE places, and MANDATORY or OPTIONAL encounters. The former will be automatically found and engaged with (and are marked with helpful pictograms in the text – this is a really nice idea), while the others only come up on a thorough search, specific conditions, or random chance (a flat 1:10 roll). Thus, the Sunlands, while very densely keyed, may not actually appear so for every group playing in it; and every group, or even every expedition would find and interact with something else. This is a workable way to build a hex-crawl setting, even if it comes with a hidden effort the players might never appreciate. At least here, most of the basic work is already done for the group. As another bow to usability, hexes reference associated hexes. Want to know where this NPC’s arch-enemy is located? The reference is right there. Want to know where this lost item should be returned to? The zine will tell you. In some cases, these links build small scenarios which may become full adventures. The members of an infamous halfling crime family are hiding out in the Sunlands. Want to catch them? You have your campaign premise.

What kind of place do the hexes describe? The Sunlands is a place of pure gameplay – most locations prompt the characters to action, or have something interesting to interact with. This sort of active engagement is a positive feature of the design. Individually, the hexes offer small encounters, described in short paragraphs, like this (selected at random; 0512 and 1502 are examples of obvious/mandatory encounters):

0312 Someone's still, mid-distillation. There's half a demijon of moonshine to be had, and the owner's nowhere to be seen.

0512 π The small village of PYRE pays lip-service fealty to Sophia of Partisan (0712) but really their only lord and master is the evil fire god XITOCOX. Anyone captured by them will be tossed into the crater (0612) in a secret ceremony.

0915 The medusa stonemason KRISTINA lairs here, in a cave surrounded by statuary. Among the dozens of statues are a stone golem bound to Kristina's command, 2d6 gargoyles, and sometimes Kristina herself covered with grey body paint and practising her 'human statue' routine.

1210 A small dungeon hidden beneath a hill holds some minor threat, and a dust-covered mirror. When someone is reflected in the mirror, it assesses their feelings of guilt and suggests actions of restitution or redemption in curling, silvery script.

1502 β ERIN is lounging about, dressed in mismatched clothes. She claims to have come from a distant planet to experience life here, which may or may not be true. She IS one of the best healers in the Sunlands though.

1609 Situated here, far from anywhere else, CORDELIA owns and operates a breeding stable for horses. Due to a divine curse handed down generations back, Cordelia only exists at night, so while her steeds are fine they also have a tendency to be nocturnal.

This is obviously fine as a springboard for improvisation (which it requires), and also highlights the style of the zine setting. Sunlands is filled with monsters and NPCs demonstrating oddball personalities. Where the Wilderlands is a place of weird ruins and belligerent fiefdoms, and the Sea of Vipers is poetic, this place is filled with jokes, ironic reversals, and anachronisms (from the necromancer who got into the trade because he couldn’t persuade anyone to join his band, to a halfling–dwarf duo trying to invent and test-drive ‘automatic carriages’). Even most of the potential antagonists are more like funny weirdos than typical evil-doers, and if something can be played for a laugh, it is played for a laugh. The style is perhaps best described as now slightly creaky mid-2000s Internet comedy, which, I suspect, would be a stumbling block for some. Comedy settings (as opposed to regular ones generating funny situations) are an acquired taste, and hell, people had the exact same problem with Verbosh, Judges Guild’s excellent mini-sandbox. Much like Verbosh, Sunlands is eminently usable. It is also very silly, underscored by the interior art, sourced from slightly modified Victorian stuff.

Also the Queen of Comedy

Sunlands is a refreshingly no-nonsense product. Beyond the disappointing limitations of the skeletal one-page dungeon genre, but free of the bloat that plagues many professional game settings, this is a zine focused on supporting actual play by providing you with a densely stocked game board. Its presentation and format innovations are small but worth looking into. The jokes can get tiresome, but altogether, this is solidly made, and would serve as a good campaign base.

No playtesters are credited in this publication. 

Rating: *** / *****

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Revisiting the Wild Wild West

Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 09/03/2020 - 11:00


Just a reminder that my and Jim "Flashback Universe" Shelley's rewatch and commentary on the 60s TV show Wild Wild West continues over on Jim's blog

Fantasy Print Books at PDF Prices

Two Hour Wargames - Thu, 09/03/2020 - 02:10


It's our September Special. Buy any Printed Fantasy title at PDF price. And we'll throw in the PDF for free.

September Special!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Curse of Buckthorn Valley

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 09/02/2020 - 11:03
By Jon Aspenheim Random Table Games Relics & Ruins Level 1

People in Buckthorn Valley are randomly becoming mutated, transformig with demonic features. In order to stop this curse the adventurers have to explore a 3 level dungeon, meddle in kobold affairs, trek through a mushroom forest and face the God-Fish-Snake-Thing. All the while trying to not become mutated themselves. It won’t be an easy task, but someone has to put an end to – the Curse of Buckthorn Valley!

This 33 page adventure uses fourteen pages to describe three level of a dungeon with about thirty rooms. It’s pretty basic. Like, remember how some of those B/X adventures were almost childish? Language, etc? This does that. Writing is unfocused, but it has some decent evocative ideas … it just doesn’t do so well executing them. 

So, descriptions. Here’s The Mother of Vicious Spiders: “She’s large as a dog. Dark green with red stripes. Purple goo is dripping from her mouth.” Not so bad! A little simplistic, but its trying. Likewise an entrance covered by hanging moss or “Old wet stairs lead downwards. Descending the stairs feels like you’re walking forever before eventually reaching the bottom.” When the adventure is doing this like this then it’s doing a good job, or at least a decent one. Writing evocative descriptions takes practice, but you have to START with an idea in your mind, and the descriptions here show that the designer has that, at least in some cases. Execution could be better, but that’s just about universal.

Alas, those descriptions are the exception rather than the rule. Far too often the adventure engages in Used to Be’s.  This room used to be this thing but not it’s not. That adds nothing to the adventure. All it does is distract the DM from the important bits, y hiding them in these unimportant bits. Noone cares what he room used to be. What is it NOW? How does it contribute to play NOW? This is not, as I said, a victimless crime. All of these extra words hide the important stuff from the DM.

“The water appears to be blue-green.” No, it’s not. It’s blue-green. The water is blue-green. This appears stuff is just padding. Rays book on Editing covers these sorts of padding words quite well.

Linear map. Joy. 

Long italics sections that are, because they are in italics, hard to read. Joy.

But, it does have a decent wanderer chart. A shepard is convinced someone in the party owes him 2SP and won’t let it alone. That’s great! Other encounters show the same type if idiosyncrasy that is required, specificity that brings the encounter to life without dragging out the word out to something cumbersome. Another regional site is with bandits in a ruined tower. A suspicious village mayor wants them cleaned out. Except they are just lepers, not bandits, friendly and want to be left alone. Fun!

It’s got a good idea. This kind of failing valley because of a curse (unknown to everyone) water source. Mutants/lepers wandering around, not evil, but pariahs.  And then there’s the dungeon. It’s just basically an also-ran. Mostly very little interactivity with basic descriptions that tend to the “kiddie game” D&D B/X genre from the bad 80’s adventures.

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru with a suggested price of $2. The preview proper is 8 pages, but you can of course download the entire thing for free.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Wednesday Comics: New Old Stuff on Comixology

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 09/02/2020 - 11:00

 Browsing the new comics listing on Comixology yesterday, I saw a few things I'd recommend from back in my comics reading youth.

Blackhawk (1988) #1

This prestige format series by Howard Chaykin was subtitled "Blood and Iron" for the trade, and now nice hardcover collection. It grounded these venerable Quality Comics characters in the the complicated historical era of World War II. Where the square-jawed nonentity of the Golden Age is reimagined as Janos Prohaska, a Polish former Communist. Only the first issue is out now (though the collection is), but it's only 1.99, so it's not that expensive to see if you like it.

Solo Avengers (1987) #7

I had a subscription to this title (it later changed it's name to Avengers Spotlight so it would be alphabetically near the other Avengers titles) for a short time for some reason back in the day. I don't remember anything about this particular issue, and I'm sure it's pretty forgettable. But I'm also sure they don't make them like this anymore and it's got art by Jackson Guice and Mark Bright. So if like me you dig comics that era, there are worse things to drop $1.99 on.

Bat in the Attic Kickstarter, Combat, Monsters, & NPCs

Bat in the Attic - Tue, 09/01/2020 - 16:23
This is the fifth in a series of posts about some of the design choices I made. In addition to explaining what the system is about, it will also help folks in deciding which elements are the most useful to them. One of the goals of this project is to support kitbashing.

Basic Rules for the Majestic Fantasy RPG


This section is the oldest of the rules I wrote. I am 50% deaf which made refereeing a crowded table of teenagers in the early 80s challenging. One reason I used miniatures from the get go that it was far easier for me to visually see what the players wanted to do in a combat round than it was for them to describe it for me. Another technique I used was to try to stick to the rules in the book when it came to combat. It was easier for me as result of my hearing loss.

As a result I tried running the combat in ADnD 1e by the rules. Some of it was straight forward and some of it wasn't, particularly initiative and what you could do in a round. In hindsight I came close but how I handled it still bogged things down in play.

Around 1984, I made my own system. Everybody got their own initiative roll and you could do two things when it was your turn; one attack and a half move. If you wanted to do a full move that all you could do that turn.

I played this for a few years before switching over to Fantasy Hero and then GURPS. When I started playing Swords and Wizardry in 2007, I picked up where I left off with the combat rules. Started to develop them further. The system still boils down to everybody gets a initiative roll, everybody get to do two things in a round. Some of the refinements included how to handle individual initiative with a large group, and combat stunts.

Of everything in the Majestic Fantasy RPG, the combat rules have most hours behind them.

The description reflects how I use them in my campaign. I try to keep it short and highlight the elements that turned out important in my campaign.

A minor addition is that all monster get a initiative bonus. In general it is equal to 1/2 their hit dice rounded down.

I also added a line for what you can harvest off of the monster after you kill it. You can blame Tim of Gothridge Manor for this as he sold me on the idea and showed me how fun it was to incorporate harvesting into a campaign.

Perhaps a little controversial, I use a stat block to organize the mechanics for each monster. Traditionally classic edition systems used the one line stat block to great effect. I found that works well only half the time. For the other half, you only get some of what you need from the one-line stat block. For the rest of it you have read the description and parse out the elements that are important.

In the midst of my first campaign with Swords and; Wizardry I found myself making bullets list for certain creatures so I didn't have to read through the description to reference what they can do in combat. By the second campaign, I eventually wound up with the entire list of monsters formatted this way.

In the basic rules for the Majestic Fantasy RPG and future supplement, the description focus more about how the monster exists in the setting, and with the rest are detailed in the stat block. Aside from the addition of the Initiative stat, and Harvest, for most the rest is straight out of Swords and Wizardry just formatted differently.

This section it not often found in various systems or editions. Because much of what my players do to make their mark on the world involves dealing with folks living outside of a dungeon or wilderness, I found I had a roster of common NPC types just as extensive as the list of monsters. They are formatted in a stat block similar to that of the monsters with the additions of what attribute the character has and any ability bonuses they possess.

The section on Rogues give a roster of NPCs suitable for a thieves guild, or a bandit gang.

Fighters give NPCs for any type of organized military force like a city guard or a medieval army along with knights.

Magic Users list NPCs at different levels of experience, apprentice, journeyman, and master.  I also add the typical spells they memorized.

The section on Clerics also list NPCs at different levels of experience. There are two separate lists, one for the Church of Delaquain, the goddess of honor and justice. Another list for the Church of Sarrath, the Dragon God of War and Order.

Next I detail lists of NPCs for Orcs, Goblins, Dwarves, Elves, Halflings, and Lizardmen.
For example the Halfling Shadows who are gentlemen who form a club in order to protect the Halfling realms. These lists reflect some of the details I created over the years for sentient beings capable of having their own culture. Last are the Viridians, the only ones to have escaped the Abyss after the demons were imprisoned there after the Dawn War. In the introduction for each of these, I give the mechanics needed to a make a new type of character from scratch.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Turning a Monster Into a Puzzle

DM David - Tue, 09/01/2020 - 11:00

In first-edition Dungeons & Dragons, clay golems could only be hit by magical bludgeoning weapons. Also, only three spells, move earth, disintegrate, and earthquake, affected these monsters. As foes, they worked as puzzles. “Our DM ran the golem encounter from Mordenkainen’s Fantastic Adventure this way,” recalls @Stoltzken. “It was terrifying. The key to making it work for us was we had fair warning in the initial round that this was as much a puzzle as a fight. First round was minor damage. From there on though…”

Poul Anderson’s novel Three Hearts and Three Lions (1961) inspired D&D’s regenerating trolls. To the hero of the novel—and to early D&D players unfamiliar with the book—the problem of killing a troll makes a puzzle.

Now everyone knows how to kill a troll, and that shows one problem with puzzle monsters such as trolls and golems. Players learn the solutions. Early in D&D’s history, co-creator Gary Gygax figured that only dungeon masters would read the books of treasures and monsters. He assumed players would learn the game’s secrets in play. In practice, even kids who couldn’t find a group studied the Monster Manual. At every table, someone knew every monster’s vulnerability.

That problem invites obvious solutions: Invent new monsters, vary existing monsters with new immunities, or add secret enchantments that block familiar attacks. @StaffandBranch writes, “I ran a rock, paper, scissors, encounter where the rock golem could only be defeated by wood, the treant by metal weapon, and the storm of swords by stone or rocks.”

Recent editions of D&D rarely add strong immunities to monsters. The third-edition rogue reveals why. That edition’s designers gave rogues a sneak attack ability limited by numerous monsters immune to sneak attacks. Creatures like oozes lack vulnerable spots, so those limitations made sense. But players saw too many encounters where rogues could not use their signature ability. Since then, D&D’s designers have steered toward avoiding immunities that hamper characters and lead players to feel-bad moments.

Mainly though, the blame for driving puzzle monsters from D&D belongs to foolhardy players. When did you last see players run from a fight? In early D&D games, players expected to find monsters too strong to defeat. Fragile characters made retreat a common option. Often now, players who face a creature that seems immune to attack just try hitting harder. (See The Story of the Impossible Luck that Leads D&D Parties to Keep Facing Threats They Can Beat.) When players don’t know the key to beating a puzzle monster, such encounters can lead to total party kills.

Still, puzzle monsters can enrich D&D and many players love them. Creatures with secret vulnerability make D&D games feel more mythical. They let players work their brains while their characters flaunt their power.

For some monsters, players can find the key to victory during battle. Perhaps pushing that clay golem into running water dissolves the thing. Often puzzle monsters must be trapped rather than killed. I’m reminded of Spider-Man trapping the Sandman in a vacuum cleaner.

Other puzzle monsters might require gathering lore and engaging with the game world. A hunt for a lich’s phylactery can work like that. Some might spur a quest for the artifacts that enable a monster’s defeat. Curse of Strahd works like that.

Puzzle monsters work best in games seeded with rumors of the creature’s invincibility and hints to the creature’s vulnerability. For players particularly slow to spot clues, devise a plan B enabling an escape or rescue. I once put a puzzle-based golem on a ledge over water. If the players took too much damage before spotting the creature’s invulnerability, the jump offered an easy escape. I didn’t even fill the water with sharks. Sometimes I’m such a cupcake.

The adventure Deep Carbon Observatory by Patrick Stuart and Scrap Princess features my favorite puzzle villain. Spoilers follow. In the adventure, a rescued child whispers in an character’s ear.

There was a bad old woman who lived in the corn.
Only children knew that she was real.
She had seven souls and couldn’t die the same way twice.
So all the children poisoned her.
Then they stabbed her and smashed her and sliced her
and burnt her and drowned her.
And then they threw her in the well.
That’s Six And Seven Makes All…

To slay the witch, the players need to find a means of death the children never used.

What’s your favorite puzzle monster?

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Hobbs and Friends Interview

Bat in the Attic - Mon, 08/31/2020 - 16:15
A couple of days, I spent an evening having an interesting conversation with Jason Hobbs on Hobbs and Friends. I appreciate Jason having me on his show and you can listen to our conservation at the below link. We talk about our respective experiences gaming, my work, and of course the kickstarter and what it is about.

Rob Conley Interview on Hobbs and Friends

There is a Twitch stream as well.

Basic Rules for the Majestic Fantasy RPG Kickstarter
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

(5e) Murder on the Primewater Pleasure

Ten Foot Pole - Mon, 08/31/2020 - 11:11
By Liam Murphy Self Published 5e Level 4

The characters recently did Gellan Primewater, a local merchant from the Town of Saltmarsh, a great service by recovering property deeds worth a large sum of money, that he had long thought lost. In return Gellan throws a party for them on his pleasure ship, the Primewater Pleasure. However, this weekend cruise is plunged into chaos when one of the guests is murdered. The party must dive in and find the murderer before the ship gets back to shore, and the murderer can escape.

This 38 page adventure details a murder mystery investigation aboard a small-ish ship. It understands how a murder investigation should go in D&D, but it fails somewhat in the presentation of the facts. Meaning it knows whats important but it doesn’t necessarily, yet, have the ability to implement it in the best way possible.

D&D Murder adventures have a rough go. D&D is built for exploration, so many divination spells are lower-levels to help the party with their explorations. They act as a tax, to keep your MU away from too many fireballs, in case that princes isn’t actually a princess. But Murder stories rely on a lack of information, something that the low level divination spells actively work against. Thus murder plots in D&D have to be very low level adventures, before the party generally has access to those spells, or have to go through a number of contortions … chief among which is the dreaded Ring of Mind Shielding. Basically, if you find yourself in a murder investigation you should just slaughter anyone wearing a magic ring. 

But … this adventure recognizes those issues. It states up front the issue. And it suggests some work around to the problems, including just letting the party do their thing instead of gimping them. It notes the DM must have the ability to jostle things around based on the parties actions, and so on. This is all great. It does smart things like putting all of the NPC’s up front in the adventure and describing them, then a brief overview of the ship, all before getting to the “plot” based/investigation portion of the adventure. It knows that in a murder adventure the NPC’s and the parties interaction with them tends to be the most important part of the adventure. It is, after all, generally a social adventure, muyrder investigations. 

After the little “plot” sections (which is really just the first-ish murder) then there’s a section that puts the various clues in their own bolded section. If the party wants to investigate X then it’s pretty easy to find tex text on X in that section. This is all great. There’s even a little mind-map-ish thing that shows the various relationships between all of the NPC’s. Liam has thought things through. They know whats important and whats not in a murder investigation and are working towards that end.

Working towards that end, not “succeeded.”

While the basics of the organization are well understand, IE: what NEEDS to be accomplished, the actual implementation of it is somewhat lacking. Let us take, for example, that NPC section. It spends a lot of time detailing the NPC’s. It’s got good section breaks on the various aspects of each individual, from Motivations to Means to Reasons to Be Nervous/Red Herrings, and so on. But then it has a section called Notes on Roleplaying.” This is the real meat and potatoes of the NPC, their quirks and how to play them. And it’s all kind of mixed in together in a paragraph. There is also, if you can believe it, too MUCH whitespace. A more compact format, easier to read at a glance, would have served the adventure far better and made things easier for the DM. That Mind-map? It’s really just the basics of the relationships. Bob is Franks butler. Tim is Joe’s cook. This is good, don’t get me wrong, but if some personality quirks were added, and/or motivations and/or means, and/or  … well, you get the picture … that one page mind-map would have then become a mini-reference sheet for the entire adventure, making running the social aspects much much easier. 

The plot portion and the ship description likewise have some issues. Using long paragraph forms to describe things, bolding, breaks, and more emphasis on the important things, bullets, and so on, would have helped the DM locate information much more readily than the stand paragraph prose format.

It does a great job though, on giving advice on how to handle ability checks. And the adventure itself is a reward for the party; its linked to the Ghosts of Saltmarsh book, and the boat trips might be thought of as a rich guy taking you out on his yacht to thank you for doing something for him in the Ghosts of Saltmarsh campaign adventure. (And, I think, the adventure would have been better to have given that comparison up front. It IS the hook, but “day out on a rich guys yacht” and/or “three hour tour” would have put the party in a certain mindset that could have then ben upended with the murder mystery coming along). 

There are other weird things, like, in the end of one room description we’re told that this guest is the only one that doesn’t lock his cabin or trunk. Well, that sort of general information is not exactly something that belongs in one specific room, is it? 

Still, again, there’s an understanding of how things SHOULD go, so even if the implementation is not great the fact that it knows what it SHOULD be doing means that the basics are covered. And implementation takes practice. I’m sure the designer will only get better.

This is Pay What you Want at DMSGuild, with a suggested price of $1. It’s free, so essentially the entire thing is a preview, but the preview proper is 21 pages. This lets you see A LOT, including how the NPC’s are organized. That alone is a good thing to look at, to see how they were organized. You can see that the right concepts were understood but that the implementation was not quite up to perfection.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Star Trek Ranger: The Impossible Murder

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 08/31/2020 - 11:00

Player Characters:
The Crew of the USS Ranger, Federation scout ship:
Aaron as Lt., j.g. Cayson Randolph, Operations Officer
Andrea as Capt. Ada Greer
Dennis as Lt. Osvaldo Marquez, Medical Officer
Paul as Cmdr. D.K. Mohan, Chief Helmsman

Synposis: The Ranger is tasked with transporting the Yannidian Ambassador to Deep Space Station K-7 to negotiate a historic treaty, but the crew finds themselves investigating a murder when the ambassador transports up murdered.
Commentary: This adventure was adapted from a 1980 story in the Marvel Star Trek comic written by Mike Barr. The player's did a great job of investigation in the early part of the adventure and rapidly came up with the likely "how" of the murder, and some ideas as to why. Things slowed down a bit in uncovering the nefarious forces behind the plot, which was probably due to me not providing enough ways to get to the solution to that final puzzle. Mysteries are always a bit a tricky, and that's not less so with Star Trek Adventures than other systems.
Deep Space Station K-7  is of course the place where the Federation first encountered the tribble.

5150 Gaea Prime - First Defense: Enemy Within

Two Hour Wargames - Sun, 08/30/2020 - 19:43


Having the Hishen Morale Campaign dropped in the last mission I had the opportunity to locate and strike a hidden base on Gaea Prime. This is one of the Special Missions in Gaea Prime - First Defense, Enemy Within.

This time I deployed 1st and 3rd squads on both flanks as sector 7 in the middle did not have direct access to the Hishen Command Center. As the fight was going to be in closed spaces I chose not to equip the specialists with Inferno Grenade Launchers but with SAWs.

Turn 1. Gaea Prime 4 - Hishen 6.

Hishen didn't activate. I fast moved forward my squads on both flanks.

3rd squad on the left resolved first PEF which turned into nothing.

1st squad took positions on both doors. The left one leading to the Command Center and the top right one to a PEF.

Turn 2. GP 5 - Hishen 3.

I opened both doors from the Command Center. First the 3rd squad on the left flank. 3rd squad engaged half of the Hishen squad and in the firefight they killed one Grath and a couple of Hishen. The Razor Psy blasted one section and made it to duck back.

On the right flank the 1st squad had bad luck with Hishen scoring many sixes and later one PEF showing up. They exterminated the PEF who turned to be a crew, but the other half of the Hishen reinforced squad in the Command Center decimated them, only surviving Sgt. Blacksmith and one grunt who ducked back and after that left the battlefield. 1st squad disappeared and now 3rd squad was on its own.

Turn 3. GP 2 - Hishen 3.

Hishen moved first. The last PEF entered the room and turned into a full squad. Half of it fell down but only Sgt. Gorman and one grunt survived in the end. The corporal crouching behind the boxes stood heroically against a crossfire from the Command Center and the last PEF and he even killed the charging Razor, but he didn't make it.

Hishen survivors from the Command Center surrendered to the StarArmy trooper in the base.

Sgt. Gorman broke into the room and put down two Hishen. The last one fled the battlefield. Mission over.

After the mission.

Well, it was a bloody assault and I almost failed it. One wounded soldier from 1st squad didn't recover but the squad received two new grunts as replacements, one Rep 4 and one Rep 3. The squad was now at five members strength.

Three men from 3rd squad were KIA and one wounded, but he never recover. Fortunately the squad received replacement up to paper strength. 3 Rep 4 and 2 Rep 3. Sgt. Gorman raised his Rep to 6.

Hishen Campaign Morale dropped again and now is at level 1; one more drop and the campaign is over with the Hishen kicked out of the planet.

I had two rolls on the Research and Resources Table for winning this Special Mission so I chose and successfully researched Plasma Gun and Battle Tactical Armor (BTA)!

Watch out Hishen scum!
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Bat in the Attic Kickstarter, Equipment, Spells, & Magic

Bat in the Attic - Sat, 08/29/2020 - 22:09
This is the fourth in a series of posts about some of the design choices I made. In addition to explaining what the system is about, it will also help folks in deciding which elements are the most useful to them. One of the goals of this project is to support kitbashing.


One of the biggest difference between the Majestic Fantasy RPG and other rulesets supporting the classic edition is the use of the silver piece as the basic coin rather than the gold piece. In my early campaigns using the advanced edition, I found that the gold rapidly lost its luster. When treasure was found it gold was common enough that it no longer felt to be special. Through exposure to other settings like Columbia Game's Harn, I found that coinage based around one common type, and one valuable type to be more engaging. I adopted the silver penny as the common coin, and the gold crown which was worth 320 silver pennies as the valuable coin. I had a few other coin types for use by other cultures. For example viking cultures used the 1 1b silver mark worth 240 silver pennies. Since 1990 this system has been a mainstay of my campaigns regardless of the system I used.


I played various forms of live-action roleplaying and medieval reenactments for two decades. I no longer had the time to continue after my kids were born but the internet was picking up speed including Youtube. Youtube has a wealth of videos where various reenactors try out medieval weapons to see how they work. When I started using Swords & Wizardry I wanted to use some of that knowledge to make the different weapons distinctive but not at the level of detail other systems had. So I tried various things and eventually settled on the current system of describing one or two special characteristic for each weapon.

For example a battle axe is not the two bladed axe that is commonly depicted in fantasy art The battle axe has a large single blade with the bottom longer than the top. This give it the ability to be used to pin an opponent's weapon or shield. A mace is particularly effective against chainmail or gelatinous creatures. A poleaxe give the wielder a free attack when a enemy combatant first comes into range to represent its longer reach. In each case I try to keep it simple to reflect the spirit of the original editions and not to over complicate the system.

In addition to above I provide descriptions for Armor, Dungeon Equipment, Horses, Dogs, and Hirelings.

This section details common rules for magic: magical immunity, memorization, rituals, and spellbooks. There are two main differences from other classic editions rules. First I divide the magic resistance percentage by 5 and used that is a bonus to a 1d20 roll. So a creature that had 50% magic resistance would now have a +10 magical immunity. You roll 1d20 and if the modified roll is higher than a 20, the spell or effect is resisted. If you like percentages just multiply the modifier I give by 5% and use a d100.

The other big difference are magic rituals. A ritual allows a spellcaster to cast any spell they know (spellbooks for magic users, spell list for clerics) and cast it as a ten-minute ritual as long as you have the required amount of ritual components at hand. As I mentioned before if this makes your campaign too magic rich you can omit this.

This section is perhaps the least changed from Swords & Wizardry. There are a few tweaks. Some spells I tweaked the mechanics into something that worked the same but was more playable in my judgment. For example the effect of the sleep spell is now 4d4 HD with a maximum of 4 HD creatures affected). There are some additional spells like Commmand that are not present in the Swords & Wizardry core rules. Finally there are new spells like Scryguard which protect an area from divination spells. It is a spell especially favored by Foggers, illicit magic users working for the criminal underworld of a city state.

Each spell has a note whether it is effected by magical immunity or not. Magical immunity protects characters from spells like charm person or detect thoughts which use magic to directly affect a target. While it doesn't protect from spells like fireball or magic missile which work by creating something that does the actual damage to the target.

Basic Rules for the Majestic Fantasy RPG Kickstarter
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs


Subscribe to Furiously Eclectic People aggregator - Tabletop Gaming Blogs