Tabletop Gaming Feeds

Free RPG - Zweihänder Grim & Perilous RPG (Illustrated PDF Version) for free until November 1st (WFRP Clone)

Tenkar's Tavern - Mon, 10/30/2017 - 22:41

For those of you that have thus far resisted the temptation to pick up a copy of the Zweihänder Grim & Perilous RPG (Illustrated PDF Version), now is your opportunity to grab it for free. Yep, through November 1st you can snag this houseruled clone of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1e.

Its a damn good book and the price of free can't be beat. Don't hesitate too long, because if you do you'll miss out.
ZWEIHÄNDER Grim & Perilous RPG is a retro-clone spiritual successor to Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, an unrepentant OSR heartbreaker released under Creative Commons License Share-Alike. It is a fantasy tabletop role-playing game, one where adventurers will:
  • Live in a gritty, ‘realistic’ fantasy world
  • Make morally grey decisions & enact vicious reprisals
  • Uncover insidious plots & political intrigue
  • Desperately fight in clandestine & open field combat
  • Defend themselves from injuries, madness & mutations
  • Take part in heart-pumping chase scenes
  • Venture into the wilderness & survive its perils
  • Encounter sanity-blasting creatures & their minions
Using the classical D100 system, you will create grim characters, write perilous adventures and build low fantasy & dark fantasy campaigns. These rules are perfectly suitable to run Renaissance and medieval-styled adventures, too. You can also use this book to craft homebrew stories set in the works of Andrzej Sapkowski, George R.R. Martin, Glen Cook, Scott Lynch and other ‘grimdark’-inspired worlds.
This 692 page, all-in-one game includes most of what you need to play: a character creation guide, game mastery rules and a bestiary brimming with creatures both fair & foul. All that’s left to gather are a few friends, pencils and a handful of dice.
ZWEIHÄNDER awaits, and the fate of your grim & perilous tale hangs in the balance!

ZWEIHÄNDER print-on-demand now available! The book comes with a full color cover, with black & white interior. We used the Hardcover Color Book (Standard Heavyweight) option to make the B&W images richer. In addition, the heavier paper weight makes this book retail quality! 
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

James Shields Fantasy Art Kickstarter

Bat in the Attic - Mon, 10/30/2017 - 13:30

James Shield Fantasy Art Kickstarter has entered into it last 48 hours. He is a great artist with a strong black and white style that I like. For commercial use, he offering 50 images for $50 which is a great deal. And for lower pledge levels this kickstarter is a great way to get illustrations for paper standup miniatures.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Fever Swamp

Ten Foot Pole - Mon, 10/30/2017 - 11:19

By Luke Gearing
Melsonian Arts Council
LotFP/All D&D
Level ?

The air is moist. The moisture mixes with your sweat — the heat is relentless. The drone of insects gives you headaches, and the fever from the infected wounds has left you delirious. Your raft is damaged, and there are spirits in the trees. … You’ve only been here for three days.

This is a 32 page (half appendices) hex crawl in a swamp with about fourteen encounters. It’s evocative and creative and FEELS like a swamp adventure. Well organized and almost dream-like, it presents a weird vision of a swamp in which nearly every aspect feels right. A few encounters suffer from their brevity and a devotion to format, but otherwise this is full of stuff you can work with. It’s more like an actual “module”, a place that simply exists without plot that the DM can twist to their will.

The swamp is 8×12 hexes each 18 miles wide, with fourteen encounters and a robust wanderers table to keep things moving. The hooks are covered in one paragraph and are a little better than most. In particular, there’s someone in the swamp, a scholar, with a bounty on his head. Searching the swamp for him gets the party moving in and through it and discovering other objects. There’s also an oracle, which I’ve always found great for command words for wands, where’s the hand of vecna, etc.

The cover pretty accurately depicts the swamp. There’s an oracular succubus (more like an invisible nymph, I’d say) , a suicidal swamp witch, scumboggle hives, stilt walkers, candle thieves, and so on. This thing is hitting on all cylinders when it comes to interesting and evocative encounter names. The candlthieves are the spirits of lost children desperate for a light to lead them home, pacified with sweet treats. They steal lights and try not to fight. Sweet! The head of the Ghost Olm (?!) can be worn and used to lie once to any entity which will always believe the lie no matter the evidence. A) Nice thing to go looking for and B) Sweet ass magic item!) It does this over and over and over again. The swamp witch is kind of fused to a tree, and begs for death, guarded by demon familiars who want to keep her alive … but she knows everything about the swamp and will trade the info for death. These are all strong, strong ideas.

It can also be inconsistent in places. There’s an encounter with “Hunger, the Crocodile” that has had a spirit fused with it. It’s just a giant croc though, nothing special about the encounter at all. That feels out of place given the gameable extras that most encounters have. There’s also a few encounters that feel too short. There’s a small village, up on stilts, that is less than half a page (not counting NPC’s) and that’s digest pages at that. Likewise a fallen monastery is half a digest page … though there’s a huge fungus colony in the flooded catacombs. Both places are a little too large for the more … abstracted? encounter descriptions that they get. The format works great, except when too short or the encounter too ‘big’.

And the village … I don’t know. The NPC’s feel a little disconnected from it. More like disconnected pieces than a whole. The NPC motivations feel a bit more abstracted; making them more action oriented, toward the party, would have helped here a lot. This strengthens the theme of the larger, more complex areas being the weaker areas and/or being hampered by the half-page-ish encounter. (There’s a dungeon that spans several pages that doesn’t have this problem though. I suspect it’s because it spans several pages.)

Still, it does a good job. It cross-references the rumor table with the focus of the rumor, letting you fill in details. It’s easy to scan almost all of the encounters. It has a great short paragraph on describing the misery of the swamp. The swamp people are organized in to small tribes and it has a very evocative table on making them weird. Almost like shudder mountain for swamp … if a little weirder.

This is $8 on DriveThru. You can see good examples of cross-references in the text and rumor table on page two of the preview, with a great overview of swamp misery on pages three as well as those great wandering monster encounter names.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Underground Comics

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 10/30/2017 - 11:00

I'm proud to announce that Underground Comics is coming. In an unexpected turn, an idle G+ comment has become an anthology comic with a crew of stellar old school gaming artists: Jason Sholtis, James West, Jeff Call, Stefan Poag, Karl Stjernberg, and Luka Rejec. Coming along for the ride are myself and Billy Longino, penning a couple of stories, and pitching in elsewhere as we can.

Underground Comics will be 52 pages of black and white dungeon-related comic goodness, available in print on demand in 2018. Stay tuned for further updates as things develop!

Child and Adolescent Protagonists in RPGs

19th Level - Mon, 10/30/2017 - 01:14

I'm working my way through season 2 of Netflix's Stranger Things. I've commented previously that one of the things I find fascinating about the show is I was the same age as the characters at the time the show takes place - in fall of 1983 I was 12, just like the characters on the show.

With an 12-year old with a massive taste for reading (some very advanced stuff), I've had cause to reread It to make sure I was able to discuss it with her. It's caused me to reflect on the amount of fiction, film, etc. where some or all of the protagonists are children - preadolescents to adolescents. Just from media consumed in the past few months I can think of:

  • The main protagonists of Stranger Things
  • The Losers' Club of It
  • Ellie in The Last of Us
  • Mark Petrie of Salems' Lot
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Seasons 1-3)
I'm also contemplating the overlap of these with young adult fiction - both feature children - typically of early to mid adolescence - while young adult fiction is primarily targeted at young adults. In this category I can think of Harry Potter, the Hunger Games, the Fifth Wave, Divergent, etc. Looking through that list, apocalypses are big...
Looking at the list I've compiled, when I think of RPGs with child protagonists, the model I would go for is one with a normal society and a monster that is "hidden". Something like It and Stranger Things - the world appears normal - the kids aren't part of an elite monster hunting organization, though they may be special in some way. The world is normal - people don't believe in monsters. What is striking to me about both those examples is they were written by their authors such that the time period marked the authors' own childhood time period - It's early sequences taking place in 1957-1958 while being published in the mid-1980s and Stranger Things taking place in the 1983-1984 (so far). 
I can see some good logic behind this. Though I've two daughters, 12 and 15, I'm not with them all day. I don't know perfectly the give and take of the school day or the "language" of them and their peers. It's a lot easier for me to go back to my adolescence of the 1980s. The 1980s weren't a retro period, they were normal to me and my peers. I remember the explosive emergences of Michael Jackson and Madonna. Party invitations distributed on paper (not that a geek like me got invited to much). 
As I write this, it seems the horror/paranormal genre is what I'm thinking of. You've got your kids who have a connection with the supernatural. No one will believe them - certainly no adults. And in a period game, they lack the technology to record proof of such encounters. Such characters aren't "warriors" so while combat may be a part of such a game, running and fleeing will be an essential combat strategy. Kids need to worry about curfews, making it to school, etc. One of the things that makes such tales so compelling is we experience the challenges of the protagonists' mundane worlds. 
While I've played a game or two with one of the PCs as a child, I don't believe I've ever played one with a children-only set of protagonists. As many of us become parents, there's certainly a bit of a trigger in playing a game with children in danger. There's not many games specifically meant for child PCs. From memory I can think of Monsters and Other Childish Things, Little Fears, and Innocents (for New World of Darkness/Chronicles of Darkness). I suspect a Gumshoe game would work rather well for such a game. Most such tales tend to be limited in duration, though Stranger Things looks like it will eventually span several years. It presents an interesting challenge - the monster you defeated as children has returned. Can you defeat it now, no longer able to believe in magic as you once had?

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Weekend Wonders - Knife of the Warden of the Lower Realms (SWCL / OSR)

Tenkar's Tavern - Mon, 10/30/2017 - 00:28

The Knife of the Warden of the Lower Realms was created for and issued to Meagenbrand, Ranger and Warden of the Lower Realms, an area away from the larger kingdoms and empires of the world. The knife if a + 1 Knife that allows its bearer a 3 in 6 chance of tracking in the outdoors. In the hands of a Ranger, its true power shines through. The knife's enchantment becomes + 3 and inflicts double damage on goblinoids. In addition, the rangers tracking only fails if 2 "6s" are rolled on 2d6.

Meagenbrand fell to a warband of orcs and his knife was never recovered.

Art copyright Rick Hershey / Fat Goblin Games. Used with permission.


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

1st Edition Paladin Spells (Part 1)

Greyhawk Grognard - Sun, 10/29/2017 - 23:37
One of the things I like about 5th Edition is the notion of special spell lists for paladins and rangers. (I have no idea if this was also a thing in 3rd or 4th edition, since I never got into either.) I think this is precisely the sort of thing that could translate into 1st edition very well.

So, that being said, here's my take on translating some of the 5th edition spells into 1st edition format.

These would be in addition to the normal clerical spells to which paladins have access.

First Level
Compelled Duel (enchantment/charm)

Level: 1
Components: V
Range: 3"
Casting Time: 1 segment
Duration: Special
Area of Effect: One creature
Saving Throw: Neg.

This spell will compel a single creature to fight the caster. On a failed saving throw, the target creature must remain within 30 feet of you and has a -4 penalty "to hit" when attempting to strike any creature except you. Once affected by the spell, the creature can attempt to make another saving throw which would allow it to move more than 30' from you for that round only. The penalty to hit remains in effect. The target creature is aware of the compulsion to attack you.

The spell ends when you attack any creature other than the target (either with a weapon, magic item, or spell), when a creature friendly to you damages the target (again either by weapon, magic item, or spell), or you move so that you end the round more than 30' from the target.

Divine Favor (evocation)

Level: 1
Components: V, S
Range: Self
Casting Time: 1 segment
Duration: 1 turn
Area of Effect: One weapon
Saving Throw: None

This spell will imbue any single weapon held in your hand with divine energy in the round following the casting of the spell. A weapon so empowered will do an additional 1d4 h.p. of damage when it hits. The effect remains until the spell duration expires.

Searing Smite (evocation)

Level: 1
Components: V
Range: Self
Casting Time: 1 action
Duration: See below
Area of Effect: One weapon
Saving Throw: None

This spell will turn any weapon you hold white-hot when it strikes (you are not harmed by this) in the following round. This will inflict an additional 1d6 h.p. of fire damage, and the target will become engulfed in white flames. These flames will inflict an additional 1d6 h.p. of fire damage per round until they are extinguished, or 1 turn has passed, whichever comes first. The flames can be extinguished by the target making a successful saving throw vs. spells, by some other creature using the round to extinguish the flames (smothering them with a cloak, etc.), or if the target is in an environment where fire is impossible (underwater, in a vacuum, etc.).

Shield of Faith (abjuration)

Level: 1
Components: V, S, M
Range: 6"
Casting Time: 1 segment
Duration: 1 turn
Area of Effect: 1 creature
Saving Throw: None

This spell causes an invisible shield to protect one creature of your choice. For the duration of the spell, the selected creature will have a +2 bonus to its armor class. The spell requires a bit of parchment with a prayer or holy text written upon it, which can be re-used.

Thunderous Smite (evocation)

Level: 1
Components: V
Range: Self
Casting Time: 1 segment
Duration: 1 turn
Area of Effect: 1 weapon
Saving Throw: None

This spell will create a special field in any single weapon you hold. The next time the weapon hits an enemy before the end of the spell, it will ring with a thunderous clap, inflicting an additional 2d6 h.p. of damage. In addition, unless it is able to make a saving throw vs. spells, it will be pushed back 10 feet and knocked prone, requiring a round to get up. The sound of thunder can be heard up to 300 feet away. If the weapon does not hit, the spell effect wears off at the end of the spell's effect.

Wrathful Smite (evocation)

Level: 1
Components: V
Range: Self
Casting Time: 1 segment
Duration: 1 turn
Area of Effect: 1 weapon
Saving Throw: None

This spell imbues a single weapon you hold with a powerful magical aura. The first time the weapon hits an enemy during the duration of the spell, it will inflict an additional 1d6 h.p. of damage. In addition, the creature struck must make a saving throw vs. spells. Failure means they are struck as if they had a fear spell cast upon them for 1d6 rounds.

Second Level
Branding Smite (evocation)

Level: 2
Components: V
Range: Self
Casting Time: 2 segments
Duration: 1 turn
Area of Effect: 1 weapon
Saving Throw: None

This spell imbues a single weapon you hold with a powerful magical aura. The first time the weapon hits during the duration of the spell, it will inflict an additional 2d6 h.p. of damage. In addition, the target will glow as if a faerie fire spell had been cast on it for one round after the hit. If you do not hit a target before it expires, the spell is lost.

Zone of Truth (enchantment/charm)

Level: 2
Components: V, S
Range: 6"
Casting Time: 2 segments
Duration: 10 minutes
Area of Effect: 15' radius
Saving Throw: neg.

This spell creates a zone within which no untruth can be spoken. If any creature enters the spell's radius, or is within that radius when the spell is cast, it must make a saving throw vs. spells. Failure indicates it cannot tell any falsehood. You will know whether any given creature is under the effect of the spell when you hear them speak, but creatures affected by the spell will also be aware of their condition, and could very well choose silence or evasiveness.


Edit: Thanks to James Mishler for input on the spell effects, which have been updated to reflect his feedback.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

1d7 Random Scared Martian Treasures of Vultoom Table For Your Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Sun, 10/29/2017 - 15:44
"Beneath the shifting red sands the ancient life stirs once again.The birth of an alien world right in Earth's back yard was both unexpected & horrific! Brand new life forms not seen in a thousand years once again roamed the red sands of ancient Mars! What treasures & horrors were unleashed? A new 'gold rush' has broken upon the fertile sands of Mars but this is no unguarded world. Old Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

All Castle OldSkull releases (except one) on Sale for 99 Cents Each through Halloween

Tenkar's Tavern - Sun, 10/29/2017 - 00:50

I'm realizing now that I have gaps in my Castle OldSkull PDF collection. Time to fill the gaps!

Oldskull Adventure Generator - 700+ pages - normally $12.99 - now 99 cents - I actually have this and it is good. For 99 cents? Amazing

The Classic Dungeon Design Guide - almost 400 pages - normally 9.99 - now 99 cents - I don't have this one. Time to grab.

Oldskull Dungeon Generator - damnit! another I don't have - grabbing now

K - I think I need about half the collection.

The full collection can be found at the Castle OldSkull Page at RPGNow

Yep, those are affiliate links. Affiliate links help keep the lights on here at The Tavern and we thank you.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Some Sword & Wizardry Continual Light Updates and Upcoming Releases

Tenkar's Tavern - Sat, 10/28/2017 - 19:52

Monday morning will make 2 weeks since Swords & Wizardry Continual Light went on sale at RPGNow (early Thursday morning of that week it went on sale in print at Amazon, so about a week and a half there)

So far just under 650 copies of SWCL have been sold via RPGNow / OBS (645 as I type this) A further 72 print copies have sold via Amazon with another 50 copies coming with me to Gamehole next Wednesday, to be sold at the Frog God booth. The 50 copies for Gamehole will be signed and numbered. Not sure of the pricing yet as I am not the one pricing ;)

+Glen Hallstrom and I are hoping to have Wards & Necromancers, an undead sourcebook for SWCL hopefully ready by the end of November. 13 new undead creatures, a fleshed out Necromancer class, a Death Knight class, new spells, new magic items and whatever else we decide to squeeze in there.

Print copies of SWCL should be available at RPGNow and Lulu in late November / early December.

The Elementalist class for SWCL (originally written for S&W Appreciation Day earlier this year ) will be released at PWYW pricing on RPGNow either just prior to or just after Gamehole.

RPGNow link for Swords and Wizardry Continual Light PDF - PWYW

Swords Wizardry Continual Light - Print  $7 - Prime Shipping

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

OSR Adventure Commentary On The Undead Horrors Of CM2 Death's Ride B/X Basic By Garry Spiegle

Swords & Stitchery - Sat, 10/28/2017 - 03:29
"A King's Commission leads to danger! All communication with the barony of Twolakes Vale has ceased. King Ericall, worried about the security of his border and angered at the loss of tax revenues, has commissioned you, a delegation of powerful adventurers, to investigate. This is not a petty problem to by solved by the armies of local nobility. Indeed, the king's forces are desperately Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

RPGNow Halloween Sale - OSR Picks - The Astonishingly Complete Silent Visceral Shadow Under The Forbidden Caverns

Tenkar's Tavern - Fri, 10/27/2017 - 22:54
Yeah, normally I make these picks earlier in the sale, but October has been a fairly busy month. Still, we do have some picks for your OSR bookshelf. Prices are good through the 31st of the month.

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea (Second Edition) - I have the first edition and it is awesome - ASTONISHING SWORDSMEN & SORCERERS of HYPERBOREA™ is sword-and-sorcery role-playing at its pinnacle. Play an Amazon fighter, Atlantean magician, Esquimaux shaman, Hyperborean warlock, Ixian necromancer, Keltic barbarian, Kimmerian cataphract, Pictish thief, Viking berserker, or one of many other possibilities. The heroes of a HYPERBOREA campaign delve the mazes and labyrinths of vast dungeons filled with horrifying monsters, lethal traps, and bewildering puzzles. They explore savage frontiers, breach hostile borderlands, probe ancient ruins, and investigate cursed tombs. They plunder for treasure and magic in a decaying world inhabited by bloodthirsty beasts and weird, otherworldly beings. Now in its second edition, AS&SH™ has been expanded to include new classes, new spells, new monsters, new magic items, and more! It also includes a new, full colour map, an introductory town and adventure, as well as hundreds of new illustrations! This new edition is backwards-compatible with the original edition of the game. Explore endless challenges and infinite realms of imagination with this complete sword-and-sorcery role-playing game!  19.00  13.11

Barrowmaze Complete - there's a whole lotta adventure for your buck in here. you may even find a Tavern related Easter Egg ;)- Barrowmaze Complete (BMC) is a classic old school megadungeon for use with Labyrinth LordTM and other fantasy role-playing games. BMC includes everything in Barrowmaze I and II in the same book in addition to new material, art, layout, and cover art by Ex-TSR artist Erol Otus. Barrowmaze Complete will keep your players on their toes and your campaign going strong. BMC is brought to you by the Old School Renaissance (so don’t forget your 10’ pole). This edition includes art by the aforementioned TSR artists Erol Otus, as well as Tim Truman, Jim Holloway. New old-school artists include Peter Pagano, Cory Hamel, Stefan Poag, Zhu Bajie, Stephan Thompson, and others. 35.00  24.15

Dungeon Crawl Classics 2017 Halloween Module: Shadow Under Devil's Reef - A level 1 adventure for DCC RPG – specially themed for Halloween horror! The perfect October release! A raging storm has made the waters around Devil’s Reef impossible to navigate safely. The noble galleon, The Royal Dawn, has run aground and Princess Kaeko from faraway Fu-Lamia is now missing! Untold riches and glory await those who successfully find the princess and safely deliver her to Black Sand Port. As the greedy and ambitious adventurers set out to find the princess, their thoughts linger on the few Royal Dawn survivors that washed up on the beach with bodies that were corrupted by strange frog-like mutations. What kind of evil awaits the adventurers on that forbidden island?
6.99  4.82

Hubris: A World of Visceral Adventure - 2017 Ennies Winner - Hubris is a weird fantasy setting that  uses the awesome Dungeon Crawl Classics rules!  In this book you will find 10 territories filled with tables and charts to generate interesting locations and encounters, new occupations, 4 new classes, 5 new playable races, 3 new spells, 4 new patrons, including 3 patrons spells for each, 11 new and terrible gods, 14 tables and charts for a GM to use to aid them in their game or create interesting/fun situations, two new adventures to kick off a campaign, and 51 new enemies (including enemies that are unique thanks to random generation).  Hubris is hackable!  Each territory can be used as the GM wills!  Need a desert, swamp, or frozen tundra for your game?  Use what's in Hubris!  14.99  10.34

Silent Legions - perfect for the season - Silent Legions is a game of modern-day Lovecraftian horror, one carefully designed to support sandbox adventures by hard-bitten investigators and fearless hunters of the dark. Its clean, lightweight old-school rules are compatible with the free Stars Without Number sci-fi game and give both GM and players a steady framework for plumbing the unspeakable secrets of the eldritch night. Now, after a successful Kickstarter with more than 1,100 backers, a Kickstarter completed a month early, this tome of dark secrets can be yours. Silent Legions isn't just about traditional Yog-Sothothery. Silent Legions is a creation kit, a toolbox in the Sine Nomine style for creating your own Mythos, with all-new deities, alien entities, foul magics, accursed artifacts, unaussprechlichen kulten, and diabolical dream-worlds to bedevil your players. These tools are system-neutral, so even fans of other Lovecraftian gaming systems can scoop them up to add a splash of fresh horror to their more familiar tentacular abominations. Not only that, but Silent Legions is built to help the GM create investigative adventures with minimal strain. Within these pages you'll find a modular set of templates and adventure guides that help you snap together an evening's intrepid investigation and fit it neatly into your campaign setting. Like the Mythos creation tools, these guides are system-neutral and can be exported for any occasion when you need something wicked to this way come. So seize now upon this opportunity! Plunder this vault of forgotten lore. Grasp these dark tools of creation and wield their power to fashion your own nightmarish reality. Perhaps none dare name the things that await your animating will, but soon enough the world will know them well…  19.99  13.79

The following technically NOT part of the Halloween Sale but IS on sale for the weekend:

The Forbidden Caverns of Archaia - Current #1 Seller at RPGNow -A new megadungeon from Barrowmaze author Dr. Greg Gillespie! The lost city of Archaia - an ancient ruin sunken into the earth - lies deep in the badlands. In recent years, caravans from Eastdale have come under attack from orcs, goblins, and worse. Some say these blood-thirsty warbands have made lairs in the deep caves and ruins. Sill others say the ancient halls are filled with magnificent treasures left by the Archaians. Are you brave (or foolish) enough to delve The Forbidden Caverns of Archaia? The Forbidden Caverns of Archaia (FCoA) is a 296-page classic old school megadungeon for use with Labyrinth LordTM and other fantasy role-playing games. The pages of Forbidden Caverns are crammed full with new material, maps, amazing art (including special surprizes by former TSR artists), as well as an amazing colour cover art by Ex-TSR artist Erol Otus that matches Barrowmaze Complete as a sister-book. The Forbidden Caverns of Archaia will keep your players on their toes and your campaign going strong for years. FCoA is brought to you by the Old School Renaissance (so don’t forget your 10’ pole).  35.00  29.00

Yep, those are affiliate links above. Using The Tavern's affiliate links keeps the Tavern funded. We thank you in advance.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Building a better thief (for me at least)

Bat in the Attic - Fri, 10/27/2017 - 18:12
So over at Tenkar's Tavern, Erik wrote a thoughtful post on why he made the thief the way it is in Swords and Wizardry, Continual Light. I have a contrary view and figured the reasons why I hold it could be of use to others.

In the original game a 1st level fighter was considered a veteran a seasoned warrior. Not exceptional but not a just a newly made squire or somebody just out of training camp either. This stems from Chainmail man to man rules.

Judges Guild and Bob Bledsaw were a huge influence on how I conceived character levels. In the City-State of the Invincible Overlord and the Wilderlands of High Fantasy, leveled characters were a dime a dozen.

I evolved to consider level 1-2 to be apprentice level. Level 3 a full fledged professional. Level 6 a professional with responsibilities. Level 9 a leader among peers. Level 12 a renowned expert. And level 15 legendary. Level 1 meant that the character was trained and ready to do things on their own. Somebody just out of the academy so to speak. The other popular conception, and probably more common, is that anything beyond 1st level is special.

When I was using ADnD, the fact the thief only had 15% chance to Move Silently, 10% to Hide in Shadows, 30% to Pick Pocket seem very inconsistent with not only my view but view that leveled characters were special.

Think about it. In a setting where leveled characters are special that means the rest of the world is handled by zero level characters living out there lives. This means competent military and city guards doing their jobs, craftsmen working at their trade, and criminal types going about their business.

A good fix for this conundrum is consider the thief abilities to for special circumstances that allow a thief to go beyond what a ordinary person can do. But it is a fix as the none of the classic editions made this distinction. Starting with the Dungeoneer Survival Guide, the fix was to introduce proficiency as a skill system.

Then flashforward 30+ years and after reading the past decade worth of books about the DnD histories. I find that it that the original thief appears to be an afterthought. Something thrown into the Greyhawk supplement that made Gygax go "Neat!". Or equally likely thrown in to stop the folks who were bombarding him about why there were no burglars (Bilbo) or thieves (Grey Mouser) in the game.

So when it came to writing the Majestic Wilderlands supplement, I jettisoned the thief found in Swords and Wizardry as it was based on the original thief. But an important part of my setting that there were character types who where better at non-combat abilities than other characters types. So rather than come up with a unique set of mechanics for each class I opted to come up with a list of things that characters can do out of combat (abilities) and each of the Rogue classes would start off and process with different bonuses to these abilities.

When it came to the core books of the original roleplaying game it is apparent to me that outside of combat and spell any character to could attempt to do anything. So any character class could attempt to use these abilities. The various rogue classes were better.

I figured that at 1st level it was reasonable that the odds of success should be the same as a 1st level fighter hitting a moderately armored opponent, 30%.

There weren't really good example to draw from various classic editions. The various methods were either too stingy or too generous. Some of the one I read are:

  • Roll 1d100 under your attribute (too stingy)
  • Multiply your attribute by 5 and roll under with 1d100 (too generous)
  • Roll 1d20 under your attributes (too generous).
  • Roll 3d6 under your attributes (again too generous)

In Moldavy's Basic Dungeons and Dragons we have this. Which is too generous for me.

Page B60 Moldavy Basic
There's always a chance. The DM may want to base a character's chance of doing something on his or her ability scores (Strength, Dexterity, and so forth). To perform a difficult task (such as climbing up a rope or thinking of a forgotten clue), the player should roll the ability score or less on ld20. The DM may give a bonus or penalty to the roll, depending on the difficulty of the action (-4 for a simple task to +4 for a difficult one). A roll of 1 should always succeed, and a roll of 20 should always fail. I opted to make it a 1d20 roll high with the base chance being 15+ or 30%. Attributes could give a bonus ranging from -3 to +3.  A starting burglar could easily get a +6 to his stealth ability check. However keep in mind, that stealth is generally an opposed roll to the guard perception (wisdom based). That the base 15+ applies to ordinary circumstances, otherwise it would be 20+ or more recently the roll being made at a disadvantage.

Hopefully you find this useful in deciding how you will be dealing with this in your campaign.
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How I Handle Other Classes Using "Thief Skills" in OSR Games

Tenkar's Tavern - Fri, 10/27/2017 - 13:55
Art copyright William McAusland, used with permission

This topic came up yesterday in the Swords & Wizardry Facebook Group. It was interesting enough to me that I decided to answer it here.

This is how I see thief skills - they allow for certain tasks to resolved by a simple die roll. Other classes don't have access to these "skills" - its really quite that simple. Its not that they can't attempt to duplicate the results, but they must use other methods.

Locked door? Kick it open. Batter it down. Destroy the lock with an iron spike and hammer. Only thieves can "pick the lock" but others can try other methods.

Locked chest? Bust the lock with a hammer or axe. Use acid on the lock.

Picking a pocket? Really hard for a non thief to attempt, because quite simply, the untrained will nearly always be caught. Getting your subject drunk might be your best option.

Climb walls? Grappling hoop and a rope. Mountain climbing gear. Fly spell. Levitation.

Find Traps? Judicious use of a 10' pole. Searching. Much like secret doors, you probably need to explain where and how you are searching. Thieves just need to roll some dice.

Remove traps? Set them off from a safe distance. Block the mechanism. Of course, you need to find it first.

A thief simply gets a die roll. The rest actually have to puzzle it out and may need to roll some dice.

That's how I roll :)

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Maze of Peril Chapter 1, Scene 2: "Rumors of the Fabulous Treasures of the Underworld"

Zenopus Archives - Fri, 10/27/2017 - 12:42
This post is part of the Tales of Peril Book Club, indexed here.

The second short "scene" of the Maze of Peril is a few paragraphs of compact world-building that expands the setting outward from the Green Dragon to the surrounding town and the Underworld beneath it. I quoted most of this section in a 2012 post, The Underworld of Holmes. As I wrote there, the term "The Underworld" is straight out of Vol 3 of the Original Dungeons & Dragons rules, "The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures", being the original term used to refer to the vast multi-layer dungeons of the game.

The narrator tells us that Zereth and "every man in the [Green Dragon] tavern" knows the rumors of the treasure of the Underworld. Holmes uses a favorite turn of phrase, "fabulous treasures", which also appears in the introduction to the Basic rulebook ("The dungeons are filled with fearsome monsters, fabulous treasure and frightful perils") and the Sample Dungeon ("Whispered tales are told of fabulous treasure and unspeakable monsters in the underground passages"). 

The rumors draw all sorts of adventurers and other types to the "tiny town", indicating that it is special in the land in its relation to the Underworld. The name of the town, Caladan, is first given here, and is noteworthy in that it was previously used by Frank Herbert as the name of the homeworld of the Atreides in Dune. Chris Holmes said that his father was a fan of Herbert but didn't know of any other specific reason for its use.

The description of the Underworld, like the name, is very much in line with OD&D: "corridors of wealth, they were also tunnels of deadly peril" and "there must have been many layers of dungeons and underworlds laid down, one atop the other". But Holmes takes this concept further by giving a putative origin for these dungeons: they were built by a mysterious prehistoric race. This echoes the introduction to the Sample Dungeon, where "the reputed dungeons lie in close proximity to the foundations of the older, pre-human city". As I wrote previously, this theme is "reminiscent of the pre-human alien civilization described in Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness (1931), who built vast underground cities in remote locations". Holmes never reveals any more details about the mysterious builders, so on this blog I later took the idea one step further, positioning Lovecraft's creatures in that story as Holmes' architects of the Underworld, to create a "new" monster for Holmes Basic called the Ancient Builder. The write-up for this monster now appears in the recently released Blueholme Journeymanne rules as the "Old Ones" entry in the Monster List.

While the rumors of the Underworld are well known in Caladan, the entrances are not. The narrator indicates that Zereth has been looking for information about an entrance but has not been successful. One reason that the entrances are not well known is that "many of the rash adventurers who set forth for the secret entrances to the fabled Underworld were never heard from again". Again, this fits with the story's origins in actual OD&D games, where many first level parties perish on their first expedition below.

In the next scene, Zereth will finally succeed in learning of an entrance.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Three Years in Azurth

Sorcerer's Skull - Fri, 10/27/2017 - 12:07

October 20th marked the third anniversary on 5e Land of Azurth campaign, though we played our anniversary month game a couple of weeks earlier. The sessions have been about monthly, so it isn't as many adventures as it might be, but still is a milestone for a group of adults with busy lives.

In that time, the party has ventured briefly into the depths beneath the Clockwork Princess's Castle Machina. They defeated the schemes of a witch and cult of jaded gourmands in the Enchanted Wood. They took on the crime lords known as the Baleful Burly Brothers in Rivertown. The escaped the clutches of a manticore named Mortzengersturm. They explored a Cloud Castle and escaped a cloud giant wizard, Zykloon. The cleared out a wererat carnival. They rescued Gwendolin Goode from the Motely Pirates, and almost obtained the Confection Perfection from the Candy Isle.

Then things got really weird. They explored a floating Gelatinous Dome. They headed out into the Etheric Zone to break a Super-Wizard out of the Carnelian Hypercube. The investigated a whole in the ground and fell into a land of mushroom people, then a land of warring clans living in a ruined spacecraft, and hunted by invisible bugbears. Escaping their they were accosted by wooden gargoyle puppets, and encountered a weird control of dragon-wannabes, before finally getting whisked back to Azurth by the timely intervention of Father Yule on a windswept peak.

They were barely back in Rivertown when Shade's estranged mother sent them into the fairy-madness of House Perilous. Their adventures there included a brief sojourn to France. On their way back to Rivertown, they got sidetracked helping a milltown and forest overrun with iron woodsmen.

At the moment, they're looking for a fallen star in the caves of a group of Death Dwarfs.

Credits:Dagmar (Cleric): AndreaErekose (fighter): BobKairon (sorcerer): EricKully (bard): JimShade (ranger): GinaWaylon (thief): Tug

Mideweek Monster Mayhem - Wicht (SWCL / OSR)

Tenkar's Tavern - Fri, 10/27/2017 - 02:47
Wichts are related to Wights and Ghouls, with the worst traits of each, simply amplified. Pack hunters, their touch requires a saving throw, failure results in the paralyzation of the victim for 1d6 turns. Wichts stay focused on their paralyzed victims, biting for 1d6 damage automatically each round until their victim dies or the Wicht is destroyed. Damage inflicted by a Wicht's bite heals at the rate of 1 point per week of bedrest. Magical healing works, but only at half its normal effectiveness until all of the bite damage is healed.

AC: 3[16]  5[14] when feeding  HD: 4   Attacks: Claw or Bite (1d6) Move: 12
Special: Paralysis

Art copyright Malcom McClinton

Midweek Monster Mayhem is brought to you by the generosity of The Tavern's Patreon Backers.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Kickstarter - Fantasy Stock Art & RPG Miniatures - Artist James Shields (Cover Artist SWCL)

Tenkar's Tavern - Thu, 10/26/2017 - 22:44

I know I've already mentioned James' Fantasy Stock Art & RPG Miniatures Kickstarter. Its at least 50 new pieces of stock art / print at home RPG miniatures.

Buy in is as little as 10 bucks for the print at home minis, 25 bucks for half the stock art, 50 bucks for the full 50 plus pieces and more if you want a guaranteed pitch of you idea.

Seriously, James is good. Damn good.

This is James' cover art on Swords & Wizardry Continual Light:

In the words of my six year old niece - "This SELLS uncle! This SELLS!" Yes it does Pinky. Yes it does.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Observations on what is Dungeons and Dragons

Bat in the Attic - Thu, 10/26/2017 - 17:32
 After working with this stuff for a decade I observed that there are common elements in the RPGs that are consider compatible with one or more editions of DnD. I found it useful while working on my Majestic Fantasy Rules to keep these in mind as I develop various subsystem.  There is no right or wrong way of doing this but it is helpful to have a starting point. 
My view of what constitutes a minimum set of mechanic for a DnD related RPG are:
  • Six attributes: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma generated on a 3 to 18 scale with 10 being human normal average.
  • Saving throws to avoid bad things.
  • Armor Class as a target or an index to a chart to see if damage is scored.
  • A d20 to-hit roll
  • Difference races/cultures that offer a package of attributes bonuses and abilities.
  • Experience is represented by higher levels. 
  • Classes that are a package of abilities arranged by levels.
  • A character's health is represented by Hit Point when brought to zero incapacitates or kills the character.
  • Creatures can have hit dice instead of levels.
  • Creatures at a minimum have hit dice, hit points, movement, armor class, and a list of special abilities including attacks.

Beyond this anything is fair game. As long the above list is implemented it will be highly likely that the game will be seen as DnD compatible.

The Numbers
The interplay of the numbers used for the to-hit roll, armor class, hit points, and damage is a large part of what gives a specific edition their flavor.

You need to keep this in mind because the numbers work out differently for ODnD, ODnD+Greyhawk, ADnD, ADnD+Unearthed Arcana, Holmes Basic DnD, B/X DnD, BECMI DnD, ADnD 2e, ADnD 2e + Skill n Powers, DnD 3.0, DnD 3.5, PathfinderDnD 4e, and DnD 5e.  The good news it is not rocket science. Just need to figure out what edition you want it to be like and go from there.

Simplifying things even further the above can be grouped into broad categories:

  • Classic DnD (ODnD to ADnD 2e)
  • DnD 3.X (DnD 3.0 to Pathfinder)
  • DnD 4e
  • DnD 5e

The Stuff
If you noticed I didn't mention anything about specific classes, spells, magic items, lists of monsters, etc. To me these are setting details, either specific settings like my Majestic Wilderlands, Tekumel, Blackmoor, or Forgotten Realms. Or the generic fantasy that the core books of most editions of DnD assume.

With stuff like Dark Sun, Spelljammer, Eberron, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, Arrows of Indra, Spears at Dawn, and other worthy works, I think it been established a RPG can be considered DnD even if it depicts a radically different setting or different vision of the fantasy genre.

For most of these games this was accomplished by having a different set of class, items, monsters, and even different systems of magic.

The point of this post is to offer a useful starting point from which to develop your own take on the world's most popular roleplaying game.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

New Release - Wizardry Unearthed for Swords & Wizardry Continual Light

Tenkar's Tavern - Thu, 10/26/2017 - 15:16

Wizardry Unearthed for Swords & Wizardry Continual Light is the first release supporting Swords & Wizardry Continual Light.

In these 10 pages you get new races, new optional classes, a new mechanics for resolving thief skills and new monsters.

Yep, there's a lot crammed into the 10 pages.

While I think some of the new races are a bit more powerful then the four core, limiting them to the core classes and treating their race as an optional class for advancement purposes would balance it just fine.

The new classes are fun and the new monsters are just asking to be used. I can never have enough monsters (and I owe one for this week here at The Tavern)

Wizardry Unearthed for Swords & Wizardry Continual Light is just $1.25 in PDF.

Grab a copy :)

Those are affiliate links up above - using The Tavern's affiliate links helps to support The Tavern.
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