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Preview one of the 18 Game Kickstarter!

Two Hour Wargames - Tue, 09/18/2018 - 20:37

Coming in October, but here's a look at one of the games. 

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

PRESALE: Leopard Catwoman DC Pumps Vinyl Figure (New York Comic Con Exclusive)

Cryptozoic - Tue, 09/18/2018 - 17:00

You’ll never want this leopard to change its spots! Get ready for your chance to own the Leopard Catwoman DC Pumps vinyl figure created exclusively for New York Comic Con 2018! You can make sure you get this extremely limited collectible by purchasing it now and then picking it up at Cryptozoic’s Booth #244 during the event.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Rub It Review: Al-Qadim

Doomslakers! - Tue, 09/18/2018 - 13:23
I have only played in a single game set in Al-Qadim and I have never ran any games in this setting. I didn't own a single Al-Qadim book until just a couple of years ago. But I remembered my play experience from 1994 quite fondly and I fell in love with this campaign world... so I started collecting it all. I'm still working on the collection, very slowly, as a casual hobby.

Anyhow. I've already said a lot about Al-Qadim in other posts. For this mini review I'm just going to link to all the posts I've made so far talking about Al-Qadim.

It's so damn good. Even though it has it's flaws... which are almost exclusively related to rushed production and recycling cover art and what-not. But on the whole...


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

D&D Locations and Tactics that Encourage Dynamic Combat Scenes

DM David - Tue, 09/18/2018 - 11:20

Last summer, I played in the Dungeons & Dragons adventure Hecatomb. The multi-table event put numerous parties on a massive battlefield. Our characters scrambled to destroy arcane obelisks while fighting monsters. To start the event, the dungeon master pointed to the empty grid, “There’s your part of the battlefield,” then he set markers for the obelisk and monsters. Now fight.

I’ve played countless battles on that same featureless grid. Sure, sometimes the blank space represents an open cavern, a desert, or a hilltop, but in every case, the empty field adds no interest to the scene. At least we had squares to count.

The dull setup turned duller when we realized that our party’s sharpshooter could safely destroy the obelisks and the monsters lurking two maps over, without ever letting threats come close enough to strike back. Our melee characters could only “ooh” and “ahh” like an audience for Annie Oakley.

In D&D, the empty grid has an equally humdrum opposite: the square dungeon room with doors on either end. I’ve played that map countless times, and I know how that goes as well. If the monsters win initiative, they crowd the door and nobody moves again. If the players win initiative, fireballs and hypnotic patterns cull the weak, while the sharpshooter drops the boss. Only the monsters who make saves get to crowd the door.

Perhaps some of these combat scenes prove fun. Sometimes players enjoy a chance to revel in quick victory. Mostly, they make DMs consider dismissing the fight with a quick visit to the theater of the mind or they consider altogether fewer fights. This makes me sad because while I enjoy exploration and role-playing, I also enjoy dynamic, tactical battles.

To map locations that lead to exciting battles, take my suggestions:

Monsters deserve cover

In a fantasy world with D&D sharpshooters and fireballs, combatants would hunker down in trenches like soldiers at the Somme. Melee fighters would advance under cover of Fog Cloud. Such tactics probably lack the heroic flavor you want, but you can give monsters a fighting chance without getting too tricky. Just add some total cover, and play creatures with the good sense to duck between their turns. This hardly counts as high strategy. If you throw a rock at a rat, it runs for cover. Faced with melee and ranged attacks, many foes will stay out of sight and let intruders come into reach. That usually works. By reputation, treasure hunters are bloodthirsty and undisciplined.

Such tactics encourage characters to move to engage. Melee fighters get more to do. They deserve to shine.

Total cover takes just few columns or stalagmites.

One caution: Newer players can find foes that duck behind total cover frustrating. You may need to dial down the tactic or explain the rules for readying actions.

Start some monsters out of sight—especially the boss

In the typical D&D battle, all the party’s foes start in plain sight. This makes the strongest monster an easy target for focused fire. Too often the mastermind dies before acting, or even before finishing a monologue. The players never learn of the fiendish plan that will end their pitiful lives. Consider starting that climactic battle with the main foe out of view. Let the characters spread out to attack the guards and lieutenants, and then have the biggest threat appear on its turn. In D&D, villains must fight and monologue at the same time.

When some lesser foes begin out of view, fights benefit. First, this gives some total cover. Plus the battle feels more fluid; the situation more uncertain. As characters move into the room, they spot unseen foes. As monsters emerge, the players wonder what other surprises wait.

Give flyers some air

Cover plus room to fly makes a good lair for a beholder

I find beholders irresistible. Who doesn’t? But just about every showdown against a beholder that I’ve played or run ended in disappointment. Too often, scenarios put them in a room with low ceiling, letting melee attackers rush in and smack them like t-balls. Any beholder worth its 17 intelligence finds a lair with a high ceiling and elevated places that provide total cover. A hole in the roof or some high columns will do. Between flying and antimagic, Beholders should frustrate every do-gooder.

What works for beholders works for every other flyer. Don’t ground flyers under a low ceiling. Let them fly over the melee ranks and bite the lightly-armored spellcaster attempting to concentrate.

Let the monsters intrude for a change

In an earlier post, I suggested an easy way to make dungeons feel vital. The method reverses the tired pattern of monsters that seem to wait in rooms for their chance to be slain. Pick a room where you would normally put monsters. In a published adventure, the room might already include some. Then assume the monsters have temporarily left the room. As the characters interact with other features of the room—the fountain or the bookcase—the monsters return. This trick begins fights with characters spread out instead of in a defensive formation. Characters who avoid melee may land in harm’s way. Some character may be surprised. The dungeon feels active.

Watch Counterspell range

Counterspell ranks as one of the 4 most annoying spells in fifth edition. Any encounter centered on an enemy spellcaster threatens to turn into a Counterspell duel where the foe does nothing. All that nothing amounts a boring encounter. Spellcasters can avoid Counterspell two ways: Either cast outside the spell’s 60-foot range or cast from out of sight. So place enemy casters in locations big enough for more the 60 feet of distance, and then favor spells that work from that distance. Fireball delivers again. After casting, duck behind total cover and let the melee characters come for a taste of shorter-ranged spells.

As for casting from out of sight, non-player spellcasters typically lack Greater Invisibility, but a few of their buff spells can be cast from total cover.

Love the small loop

The opposite of the static, bottlenecked encounter comes from encounter areas built around at least one tight, looping circuit through the dungeon. Such a layout enables foes to circle around and bring the battle to characters in the back—the characters who so rarely enjoy the chance to face foes up close. Meanwhile, melee characters rarely resist the temptation to chase skirmishers. The layout invites active battles.

Make encounter areas from clusters of rooms

D&D brings a long tradition of dungeons filled with square rooms with a door. Once upon a time, that game felt new enough to make even the 20-by-20 room a fitting battlefield. In today’s game, that worn setup rarely works. Don’t just draw a big square on a grid and call it a battlefield. Dynamic encounters demand more thought.

Rather than confining encounter areas to a single room, consider building sites from clusters of small rooms with one or more paths that circuit the location. Groups of rooms add places for total cover and for hidden foes. They encourage characters to pursue enemies, adding movement and excitement. On these maps, make the distances small enough so characters can move from room to room, and from attack to attack, with a single move.

Out of marching order

I pity players who favor melee characters. Fifth-edition D&D delivers too many advantages for ranged attackers. Spellcasters get fireball and hypnotic pattern. Ranged rogues can more easily attack from hiding. Archers get sharpshooter and crossbow expert. In addition to getting the best feats, ranged attackers get to fight out of harm’s way.

But battles with movement end cover tend to play to the strengths of melee characters. The monk finally gets to flaunt her speed! The backstabber gains places to dash, disengage, and reasons to engage. The paladin can drive foes from hiding. Sure, these sort of encounters may frustrate and threaten sharpshooters, but that just adds an extra benefit.

Don’t follow this advice for me. Do it for the beholders. Those characters won’t disintegrate themselves.

Related: In my side trek “To Steal a Primordial,” the party attempts to intercept a group of drow before they can escape to the Underdark. To foster a moving battle, I designed the scenario’s last map using much of my advice here.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Royal Treatment Of CM3 Sabre River By Douglas Niles and Bruce Nesmith For Your Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 09/18/2018 - 06:53
"Have all of your characters settled down and started dominions? Have you wondered if they'll ever get a chance to fight their way through an old-fashioned dungeon again? Yes, they will!" The CM series of modules isn't really one that you hear to much about today even with the OSR raging on about classic modules. I first encountered CM3 Sabre River in about '85 when I got involved in Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

2018 Gongfarmer's Almanac now available in print at Lulu

Deep Sheep - Mon, 09/17/2018 - 20:28
The Gongfarmer's Almanac is a collection of fan-submitted goodies for Dungeon Crawl Classics (and Mutant Crawl Classics). It is released in PDF for free and you can now get the consolidated PDFs in print at Lulu. It's 428 pages and the paperback is priced at-cost at $9.81

The link is here:

 If you search Lulu for "gongfarmer's almanac", you can also find the books for 2015, 2016, and 2017.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

16 Card Games? But where's the box?

Two Hour Wargames - Mon, 09/17/2018 - 19:32

Sample of what you'll get/with each game.Samples are coming in for the 16, no wait, 18 cards and dice games Kickstarter launching next month. Here's a pic of what a sample game looks like.

  • 8 1/2" by 11" rule book.
  • Deck of 54 - 72 professional quality poker size cards depending upon the game.
  • 11" x 17" map or card stock game board. 
  • Two Player Aid Cards with all the rules you'll need to play the game.
  • In a plastic zip lock bag.
What about the box? If you really want a box, we'll have them for you to add-on to your games. Waiting on the box samples to come in. 

Quality box with appropriate artwork for the game.Shooting for an October launch and 4 to 6 month fulfillment.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The so what factor in D&D

Blog of Holding - Mon, 09/17/2018 - 18:45

Sometimes when I’m preparing for a D&D game, I’ll throw in something crazy and mysterious: an immense stone foot protruding from a cliffside, or a glass mountain with a tiny bird imprisoned inside, or something. I think, “this’ll show ’em the mysterious wonder of a fantasy world! Who knows why this is here? Certainly not me!”

Then, on further consideration, I usually attach a backstory that can be discovered, or a magic power, or something. Because in my heart, I know how things will go down if I don’t.

Here’s how it WON’T happen:

ME: There’s a immense stone foot protruding from the cliffside!
PLAYERS: Wow! minds blown! I guess we’ll never truly understand the mysteries of this ancient land. Oh well, let’s continue north.

Here’s the two possible ways it COULD happen.

ME: There’s an immense stone foot protruding from the cliffside!
PLAYERS: (decent pause to show that they heard me) We continue north.


ME: There’s an immense stone foot protruding from the cliffside!
PLAYERS: Wow, that’s interesting! Is there a giant trapped here? Will it be grateful if I free it? Are there circumstances in which the wall becomes permeable? What spells can I cast on the foot? Let’s do half an hour of magical experiments!

In the latter case, rather than admitting that the stone foot was just a pointless piece of window dressing, I’ll probably on-the-spot invent some payoff for the characters’ investigation: they save a giant; eternal friends with the Flintheart tribe; find the evil oni who imprisoned the giant; etc.

If I went to the trouble to prepare the stone foot in advance, why didn’t I figure out what it was attached to? Why do preparation at all if I’m leaving the hard part for the game, when I’m juggling a million things at once?

This is a design antipattern that I frequently fall prey to, and I see it a lot in published RPG materials too. A suggestive detail is proposed, but there’s no payoff. There’s a stone foot? Why should my players care?

Here are some reasons why I think the “so what” pattern is so common.

  • Texture. You want to give the illusion that things are happening off-screen, without necessarily detailing that off-screen stuff. My least favorite example of this is a table in both the 1e and 5e DMG: Dungeon Noises. If you ever remember to roll on this table, you can confound your players with shrieks, slamming doors, whistles, rattling chains, and other sourceless noises. No mention is made of what to do if the players do the obvious thing and investigate or follow these noises. Thanks for doing 1% of the work, random table!
  • The first part is easy. I think that for creative types, like DMs and writers, it’s quick and easy to churn out arresting and evocative details. It’s harder to get them to add up to anything. (Also see the TV show “Lost”)
  • Space. You can describe a bizarre image in a phrase or a sentence. If you also describe the outcomes of some obvious investigations, and the backstory behind its creation, it might easily balloon up to half a column of text. Take a look at the “Traps” section of the 5e DMG to see how “Dex save or fall in a 10′ pit trap” can turn into several paragraphs of text. You might not have the time or space to develop every one of your ideas.
  • Inspiration. You’re writing an RPG product; you want to inspire the DM to create their own stuff, not spoon-feed them. Here’s some explanatory text in front of the random encounter tables in Xanathar’s Guide.

    The tables also include entries for what the Dungeon Master’s Guide calls “encounters of a less monstrous nature.” Many of these results cry out to be customized or detailed, which offers you an opportunity to connect them to the story of your campaign. And in so doing, you’ve taken a step toward making your own personalized encounter table. Now, keep going!

    Such “less monstrous” encounters include entries like the following:

  • For a few hundred feet, wherever the characters step, flowers bloom and emit soft light
  • A howl that echoes over the land for 1d3 minutes

    Those are cool encounters! But imagine this. My players have wandered off the rails of the adventure. I roll on the random encounter table… I look up from Xanathar’s Guide and tell my players that a howl echoes over the land for 2 minutes. I’m going to immediately have to start brainstorming reasons for the howl, because the players are going to feel cheated if they can’t track it down. I wish the encounter table would go on to say, “it’s a hill giant who lost his cat” or “Count Rugen turned the machine up to 50” or something.

    These evocative encounters must help some DMs: those who aren’t good at coming up with setups for mysteries, but are good at coming up with their solutions. This may serve some audience, though not me. Personally, I’m better at coming up with a mystery premise (there’s a dead guy inside a room, and it’s locked from the inside!) than a mystery solution (the murderer was there the whole time, disguised as… a locked door? See, I’m terrible at this.)

    it’s a trap!

    Maybe every mystery doesn’t need a solution. Maybe you don’t need to come up with a rushed explanation for every random stone foot or unearthly howl. Maybe some things are best left as mysteries.

    The problem with providing players a mystery without a solution is that it violates their expectations.

    Most players feel that they have an obligation to the DM: if the DM prepared something, they should dutifully check it out. That’s why players often follow the thin adventure hooks provided in many modules. The hook doesn’t actually have to be strong enough to entice a character or its player: it just has to be visible enough to plead, “The DM prepared this adventure for you. Please check it out!”

    Evocative but unexplained details look just like adventure hooks, but aren’t. Players have no way of telling the difference. They dutifully investigate out of a desire to do what the DM wants, and as a reward, they get a shaggy dog story with no payoff. The more the players are trained to follow the DM’s lead, the more of everyone’s time they will waste investigating. Without more work from the DM, a random encounter like a two-minute howl is literally sound and fury, signifying nothing.

    a hook should come with a handle

    My general rule for game prep is: when I come up with a cool detail, I also come up with a way to interact with it or investigate it: a handle for the players. The handle can be anything, but it has to signal to players, “oh, that is what this thing is about. Now we can go on with our lives.”

    Or, put more simply: every element of the game should give the players something to do.

    Here are some possible ways to develop the image I proposed at the beginning of this article: the immense stone foot jutting out of a cliffside.

  • There are goblins in ambush atop the foot! This is an easy one, and notable in that it doesn’t require you to figure out any foot backstory or powers. The foot is ancient and mysterious, and it’s here to hold up goblins. That’s enough. The fight might involve people lassoing toes, throwing enemies off ankles, and other fun stuff – so you get to use the foot-ness of the foot without explaining its presence.
  • The foot is part of a petrified empyrean lying in a tunnel in a cliff. The entrance to the tunnel is hidden by the illusion of stone. At the end of the tunnel is a medusa lair. This one is a bit obvious, but medusa lairs are generally made obvious by their associated statuary: this is, at least, a variation.
  • If you examine the giant foot, you discover that it is wearing a toe ring. The ring is the right size to be a bracelet for a human; in fact, it’s a Bracelet of Teleportation (as Helm of Teleportation). It’s cursed, though. If you wear it while you sleep, you may be randomly teleported somewhere. That’s why this stone giant’s foot is sticking horizontally out of a mountainside: sticking out of the mountain because of a random teleportation error, and horizontal because the giant was asleep when it happened. This solution gives the players a cool item with an interesting curse, AND signals that it’s dangerous, AND lets them, over time, piece together the backstory if they think about it.
  • Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    PRESALE: Ruby Idol Harley Quinn DC Teekeez™ Vinyl Figure (New York Comic Con Exclusive)

    Cryptozoic - Mon, 09/17/2018 - 17:00

    Are you ready to make Harley your idol? Here’s your chance to own the Ruby Idol Harley Quinn DC TeekeezTM vinyl figure created exclusively for New York Comic Con 2018! You can make sure you get this extremely limited collectible by purchasing it now and then picking it up at Cryptozoic’s Booth #244 during the event.

    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    Phaunt’s Tower

    Ten Foot Pole - Mon, 09/17/2018 - 11:17

    By Jonathan Hicks
    Farsight Games
    Swords & Wizardry
    Levels 1-3

    Welcome to Wherwest! This is a town full of opportunities at every corner, adventure through every door and danger at every turn. Glory and gold awaits! That is, if you can get past your first night here.

    This 22 page adventure details a nine room friendly wizards tower that has been invaded by demons. Event based, forced fights, and sloopy text detracts from the attempts to add a little sparkle to the adventure.

    Well, there’s some nice wording here and there. Nice imagery (with art attached) of a small fortified village with a tower in the middle, blue light on top, acting as a kind of beacon in the wilderness. After a magical explosion there’s the smell of sulphur and rotting meat wafting through the smoke and fog around the tower.

    There’s also a nice scene or three, like … “a badly damaged gelatinous cube sloshing its way down the street, falling apart with great globs splashing onto the ground …” Or people trapped inside that need escorted out. Or a cleric fighting for her life … who heals you if you save her. And … consequences. Going after the cube or saving the people slows you down; it’s a distraction from your main mission: getting to the top of the tower to stop a demon infestation. Getting distracted has consequences: an extra demon added to encounters after that.

    This sort of consequence based events appeals to me. Fuck around and it gets harder. Save a villager and it gets a little easier with heals, etc.

    What’s less interesting is … well … everything else. 22 pages and nine rooms means issues. In this case, single column, long read-alouds, and extensive DM text, all of which detract from the adventure. “This is the main hall where Phaunt receives guests, petitioners and dignitaries”, begins the description for room one. And then dimensional data. And then a description of a normal room. And THEN a description of the combat with demons in the room. Most important things come first people, and room purposes are not needed, nor are histories or descriptions of typical things.

    The DM descriptions are expansive, with a lot of asides “so the party should be able to deal with them [demons] quickly.” says the text, adding nothing to the adventure except a conversational style that clogs things up. Text is wasted describing the detailed mechanics of an archery contest, with no hint of flavour to make it exciting, like onlookers, other contestants, the judge, etc. That’s what will make the context interesting and memorable, not the mechanics.

    And, of course, there’s the forced fights. S&W level one. What’s that mean, something like 2hp each? Maybe 3? The party faces forced combat after forced combat. That’s ok though, we’re told repeatedly that if they get in trouble then the DM should send a town guardsman in to help them. Ug.

    The main treasure room in the tower exemplifies the adventure. Lot’s of simple book +1 items … that you can’t use because they are locked down by the wizard. What’s the point of it all?

    This is $3 at DriveThru. The preview is four pages and doesn’t show you much. But … that long read-aloud? While nothing else reaches those heights it is a good example, nonetheless, of the style.

    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    Atomic Age Operation: UNFATHOMABLE!

    Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 09/17/2018 - 11:00

    At the close of World War II, captured German scientists revealed to both the Americans and the Soviets the existence of an unfathomable Underworld on hinted at in legend and folklore. Perhaps driven mad by experimentation with Underworld technology, the Soviet scientist Yerkhov, with the consent of his superiors, takes an artifact known as the Nul Rod and leads an expedition of crack Soviet troops into the depths. The exact fate of the expedition is unknown, but one of Yerkhov’s assistants emerged from a cave in the Nevada desert. His mind broken by his experiences, he gave revealed little reliable intelligence, but did have in his possession a rough map of the expedition’s journey.

    Denying the Soviet’s the Nul Rod and establishing an American presence in the Underworld is now our strategic priority. We believe a smaller mission, attracting less attention from the hostile locals, might be able to succeed where Yerkhov failed.

    So, I think it would be pretty easy to drop Jason Sholtis's Operation Unfathomable into a 50s sci-fi/monster movie sort of setting. It already has a lot of the right elements. I could see a TV show (by Irving Allen, naturally), something like a cross between Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Combat!.

    Art by Jason Sholtis

    Review & Commentary On B11 King's Festival (Basic D&D ) By Carl Sargent For Your Old School Campaigns

    Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 09/17/2018 - 05:42
    "Someone has "borrowed" a cleric, and without him, the fabled King's Festival cannot go on. Unfortunately, it looks like the orcs have him, and your characters must rescue him." I had an email request for B11 King's Harvest & while I have covered B11 in the past I wanted to do a fresh blog post on this classic module.  B11 King's Festival is by Carl Sargent can be seen as one of Needles
    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    Troll Bridge Sketches

    Doomslakers! - Sun, 09/16/2018 - 18:51
    I worked on a new one-page module called A Trolling We Will Go. It was inspired by the old fairy tale of the three billy goats gruff. Plus I just love classic D&D trolls. Here's the troll, Urnt, as a work in progress.

    And in Urnt's river lives a lot of very angry fish. In fact, each person slain by the angry fish becomes and angry fish.

    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    Review & Commentary On DDA 1 Arena of Thyatis By John Nephew For Your Old School Campaigns

    Swords & Stitchery - Sun, 09/16/2018 - 06:15
    "DDA1 Arena of Thyatis  is designed especially for the DM who want to sharpen his interactive skills. * Presenting the detailed layout of a Thyatian noble's mansion and maps of the multi-level Coliseum of Thyatis * For four to six characters, levels 2-3 * Brief guide to Thyatis legal system * New optional class, the Rake * Fast unarmed combat system, including disarming attacks * Special Needles
    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    Review & OSR Commentary On Issue #1 of The Midderzine from Glynn Seal & the Monkey Blood crew For Your Old School Campaigns

    Swords & Stitchery - Sat, 09/15/2018 - 20:46
    Glynn Seal of Monkey Blood design has been quietly building his Midderland setting empire with product across the board for old school & OSR games. The Midderlands setting is a dark fantasy England on acid filtered through the warped imagination of early White Dwarf magazine fans wrapped around a Swords & Wizardry rpg core rules set. This brings me to issue #1 of The Midderzine from Glynn Needles
    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    (5e) Temple of the Nightbringers

    Ten Foot Pole - Sat, 09/15/2018 - 11:18

    By M.T. Black
    Self Published
    Level 1

    A tribe of goblins are raiding travelers on the Long Road, and our heroes decide to help. After a dangerous overland journey, they enter a mysterious abandoned temple where they encounter terrifying monsters, deadly traps, dark magic and a shocking secret. Will they survive the Temple of the Nightbringers?

    This eleven page adventure feature a twelve page dungeon and is not a terrible 5e adventure. It’s not particularly good, either. Given the dreadful state of 5e adventures I think you can understand how excited I was to see this one. You should even be able to run it without having read it. I know! It’s like the designer gave a shit!

    Dude gets in and get out with his DM text. The innkeeper is Seth Grimhill and he is a bit short tempered. The elven hunter happily tells the party what she knows. There’s enough NPC detail to roleplay them without us having to hear their entire life stories. Thanks. Fucking. God. Further, and get this, elf chick lives with the butchers family and won’t unlock the damn door after nightfall. One sentence. That’s all it fucking takes. One sentence. “If the adventurers try to see her that night, the butcher will tell them to come back the next day and refuse to unlock the door.” That scene builds in your head as you read it. Not a page or a column or a paragraph. A fuckton of designers could learn from this example. Sure, it could be better. The NPC’s could have two aspects, or the butcher a personality, etc, but I’d sure the fuck wish people err on this side of the terseness spectrum; at least it’s still usable as an adventure when they do.

    The dungeon shows some similar thought. There’s a bit of read-aloud (more on that later) and then a small DM notes section. If there’s something important then it appears BEFORE The read-aloud. Room noisy? Door spiked shut? That’s the sort of shit you need to know before you get to the read-aloud and it’s actually placed before the read-aloud. It’s as if someone thought “what information will a DM generally need first?” and then they went ahead and put that information first. I know it sounds obvious, but the vast majority of writers don’t do that. The DM text tends to be short as well, just a couple of sentences. PERFECT! Give me the TOOLS to run the room rather than obfuscating the room by hand holding.

    As far as the content, proper, it’s trying pretty hard and DOES use several aspects of good encounter design. First, you can talk to a few things. That adds IMMENSELY to adventures. After all, it’s a roleplaying game, and that doesn’t mean we take turns hamming it up. You can always stab something, talk to it first, have some fun. Throw those worgs some wagyu and bribe that bugbear.

    There’s also this thing in better dungeons where you can fuck with things. Glowing pool of water … wanna fuck with it? That risk-taking OUTSIDE of combat is one of the hallmarks of good D&D. Yeah, yeah, the dungeons dangerous and bad DM’s put in pit traps, but FUCKINGwith something. That’s tension baby. The players debate. They conspire. They come up with stupid plans. That’s D&D.

    There’s also a nice magic item, a mask. Wearing it gives you a +1 bonus to a few things and lets you take a short rest immediately. And the effects last an hour … minus one minute for each time you use it. And it slowly shifts your alignment. That’s a decent magic item. Maybe a little too mechanical, but it is still 5e after all. It’s not just a +1 sword

    The read-aloud is also too long. Three sentences, that’s all you get. And putting in the room dimensions and where the doors are is lame. Let the players ask. Remember, that WOTC study showed that no one pays attention after 2-3 sentences.

    I also noted that I have a REAL problem with “storyteller” style text. “You know the mud from your boots as your cross the threshold” makes me want to retch in my mouth. The story belongs to the players, just be a neutral judge.

    There’s also a level of abstraction I’m uncomfortable with. We’re told that this is a particularly savage goblin tribe. B O R I N G. Details. Heads on pikes and blood angels made of entrails. That’s still short and NOT abstract. Likewise the rumor data is abstracted. The key is to make it flavorful while still being terse. That’s powerful writing. That’s what we should be paying for.

    I can quibble with a few more things. ‘How many goblins are there’ is a natural question for the players to ask while investigating, but there’s none of that information provided anywhere by the NPC’s, or easily by the adventure, for the Dm to look up. The ELven Hunters information would be better in bullet form, as the rumor table is. It makes it far easier to find information.

    There’s some bullshit skill checks also. DC10 to be let in to town. Some Religion roll to know something is related to some god. Neither of them actually have an impact. The Religion stuff is trivia (and besides, I think the party is told the goddess straight off? Weird that a statue to Shar in the temple of Shar, right?) Who did that/those article on good vs bad skill rolls? Hack n Slash or Finch maybe? It should be required reading for designers AND editors.

    Finally, it engages in history in a few places, why zombies are in a room or the EHP backstory. Stick it in an appendix if you must, but keep the damn shit out of the main text where it clogs up running the adventure.

    I’d say this one is on the low end of what I might find tolerable. It’s got nothing much special going for it, content wise. It IS one of the few traditionally formatted adventures that you could run 5 minutes after buying. That’s not a trivial accomplishment. Compared to most 5e adventures this thing kicks ass.

    This is $2 at DriveThru. Ye Ole Previewe doesn’t seem to work?–Adventure

    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    16 Card Game Samples Coming In!

    Two Hour Wargames - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 22:45
    It's all about the games!
    These are rough samples, not the final artwork.

    Samples of the card/dice games are coming in. Each will have full color, good quality playing cards, card stock Player Aid Cards, rules, and color 11" x 17" card stock maps when needed. Those that need counters will have counters as well. All will be in a plastic bag to keep your cost down!
    Everything that you pay for in each game will be part of the game, not window dressing! 
    More to come soon.
    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    PRESALE: Halloween Batgirl DC Lil Bombshells Vinyl Figure (New York Comic Con Exclusive)

    Cryptozoic - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 17:01

    She’s going to carve some jack-o’-lanterns and trick or treat! Here’s your chance to own the Halloween Batgirl DC Lil Bombshells vinyl figure created exclusively for New York Comic Con 2018! You can make sure you get this extremely limited collectible by purchasing it now and then picking it up at Cryptozoic’s Booth #244 during the event.

    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    PRESALE: Metallic Purple Akuma Street Fighter Lil Knockouts Vinyl Figure (New York Comic Con Exclusive)

    Cryptozoic - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 17:00

    Are you prepared for the most powerful Hadouken ever? Here’s your chance to own the Metallic Purple Akuma Street Fighter Lil Knockouts vinyl figure created exclusively for New York Comic Con 2018! You can avoid missing out on this extremely limited collectible by purchasing it now and then picking it up at Cryptozoic’s Booth #244 during the event.

    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    & Publishing Group shutting down …

    & Magazine - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 16:18

    We have sad news — the & Publishing Group is shutting down operations. The forthcoming Issue 15 (Not Demons Nor Devils) will be our last issue of & Magazine.

    Why are we shutting down?

    Publishing a consistently high quality magazine takes a huge amount of time, enthusiasm, and drive. For most of our six year tenure, the enthusiasm and drive have been stellar, and we used that to make the time for our hobby.

    But all good things come to an end. We realized that the overall team energy has been flagging for a while, so we decided it was time to shut things down gracefully.

    Issue 15 will not be our final publication. We have a number of other items underway, and will complete them. We have been working on three compilation publications:

    • Magic Items of & Magazine, Issues 01-15
    • Monsters of & Magazine, Issues 01-15
    • Spells of & Magazine, Issues 01-15

    These were intended to be compilations of Issues 01-12 … but with us ceasing publication, it makes sense to expand the scope of these documents. We are also finishing up:

    • Burrows Collaborative Adventure
    • Book of Mid-Level Lairs I
    • Book of Miscellaneous Spells II
    • Tome of Monsters
    • Ulan Dhor’s Book of Illusions

    There’s no schedule on these, yet. Our current focus is to get Issue 15 out the door, then beat the others into shape.

    Note: The &PG web site will remain for a number of years, along with the Wizardawn site. When the decision to take the site down occurs, we will make arrangements to host our publications elsewhere.

    Stay tuned for updates …

    The post & Publishing Group shutting down … appeared first on & Magazine.

    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs


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