Tabletop Gaming Feeds

Review & OSR Commentary On N3 Destiny of Kings (1e) (1986) By Stephen Bourne For Your Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 05:53
"When Treason Walks the Land... Trouble stirs in Dunador! The King lies dead of a wound received during a hunting expedition. His brother, Lord Edrin, challenges the rightful Crown Prince, a half-trained young man named Edmund, for possession of the throne while Edmund travels on a pilgrimage to the holy shrine of Nevron. Forces throughout the kingdom vie for control of the realm. Can theNeedles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Cryptozoic and Warner Bros. Consumer Products Announce Release of Supergirl Trading Cards Season 1

Cryptozoic - Thu, 09/13/2018 - 17:34

Cryptozoic Entertainment and Warner Bros. Consumer Products, on behalf of DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Television (WBTV), today announced the September 14 release of Supergirl Trading Cards Season 1. The first set for the hit Supergirl TV series (airing on The CW) features randomly inserted Autograph Cards signed by star Melissa Benoist, who plays Supergirl (a.k.a., Kara Danvers). The release includes a 72-card Base Set, several Chase Sets, randomly inserted Autograph, Wardrobe, and Prop Cards, and Redemption Cards that can be redeemed for actual props used on the show. 

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The J. Eric Holmes Photo Gallery

Zenopus Archives - Thu, 09/13/2018 - 16:38
Photo from the back cover of the U.S. printing of Fantasy Role-Playing Games (1981)
Announcing: The J. Eric Holmes Photo Gallery

This is a collection of annotated photos from various publications. I've had it up for a while on the Sites page, slowly adding photos, but hadn't posted anything about it here. Currently there are nine photos, with a few more to come.

Check it out!
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

[REVIEW] Under the Temple Crypt

Beyond Fomalhaut - Thu, 09/13/2018 - 13:48

Under the Temple Crypt (2018)
by ExtildepoPublished by Verisimilitude Society Press4th to 7th level
Under the Temple Crypt“Don’t judge a book by its cover.” I avoided making this quip when I reviewed the author’s previous adventure, because it would have been crude in a negative review. And here I am again, fallen for a pretty cover hook, line and sinker. But what a cover it is! One of the best and most visually striking I have seen in old-school gaming – sure, a lot of artists are more technically adept, but when it comes to evoking an air of mystery and adventure, this rendition of a cavern framed by red limestone formations is perfect at what it sets out to do. It recalls Thracia without aping it, and it is bold in that same Judges Guild style.
Under the Temple Crypt is a short “micro module” for Swords&Wizardry, designed for utility and sold for all of a buck. As the cover states, “No underlying story-hook or rational [sic] for exploring the site is given here.” This was a good decision. Tyranny of the Black Tower was suffering from a surfeit of underwhelming background detail; Under the Temple Crypt scraps the explanations and focuses on the content, presenting a well-rounded, 23-area dungeon level in 5 pages. This is the threshold where mini-dungeons become interesting and transcend simple monster lairs.
The crypt in the title is only the starting point, leading into a mixture of ruins and caverns. The ruins are the remains of an ancient city drawing on Imperial Roman imagery; it is not a large one, but it captures D&D’s combined fascination with archaeology and tomb-robbing. As an interesting dynamic element, the random encounter chart treats it as a very unstable place which is currently in the process of collapsing upon itself, adding a sense of urgency to the company’s investigations. One of the module’s most fun traps (area L, exploiting the company’s greed and curiosity) also builds on this unstable quality. Most of the challenge comes from the cavern’s current monster inhabitants; the rooms are largely a mixture of descriptive detail and monster lairs. I could live with a few more tricks, traps and enigmas, but all in all, it is quite successful. Some of the treasure is cleverly hidden without resorting to pixel-hunting, there are combat encounters which are bound to be memorable due to their setup or location (the scene on the cover is just one of them), and the place has a good, organic feel with an air of mystery.
No cover saves a bad adventure, but Under the Temple Crypt does not need saving. It is a marked improvement over Tyranny of the Black Tower, exactly the kind of solid, meat-and-potatoes adventure I expected more of from old-school gaming. I would like to see more of this series.
No playtesters are credited in this publication.
Rating: *** / *****
For comparison: The Caverns of Thracia (Paul Jaquays, 1979)

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Rub It Review: Dyson's Delves I

Doomslakers! - Thu, 09/13/2018 - 13:43
+Dyson Logos has been doing adventure maps for years. And they are iconic. So iconic, it's very easy to rip him off and maybe not even know it. That's because he has perfected a craft of simplicity.

Dyson's Delves I is a 152 page book you can score in paperback or hardback from Lulu (link below). From the back of the book: "Being a collection of cartography and detailed adventures hand crafted by Dyson Logos, cartographer and explorer."

One-third of of the book is a series of detailed adventures, generally taking up 2 pages each with a map and keyed area descriptions. In the OSR spirit, these adventures are scripted, merely keyed. The stats are given in classic D&D terms (basic/expert). The adventures are for low level PCs ranging up to level 5-6.

All of these delves are part of the same quasi-megadungeon and you can string them together into an epic crawl or use them individually.

The rest of the book is a series of awesome maps with blank lines for you to fill with your own adventures. Just write in the book, dummy! It's POD.

Obviously the thing that makes this book great is Dyson's actual maps. They are just nice to look upon. They are works of art from a person who as mastered their craft. They demand to be explored. But in addition to that, the keyed adventures herein are pitch-perfect for a good old game of D&D where you roll 3d6 in order and die at zero hit points. You can pop this book out at the table without any preparations and run a game, no problem.

Dyson don't screw around. His maps are featured in the latest D&D 5e offering from Wizards of the Coast, Dragon Heist!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Girlgantua [ICONS]

Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 09/13/2018 - 11:00

Art by Chris MalgrainGIRLGANTUA

Prowess: 5
Coordination: 6
Strength: 6
Intellect: 3
Awareness: 4
Willpower: 4

Determination: 4
Stamina: 10

Specialties: Athletics

Spoiled and Rich
"It's not fair!"
Inner Monster Unleashed

Growth: 8
Tail (Fast Attack 5)

A plane crash left college student Nicole Summers, her mother, and her mother's personal trainer/boyfriend on Isla de los Monstruos where an ancient Muvian device causes teratogenesis of earthly lifeforms. Blasted with its energies, Nicole is transformed into the rampaging lizard-woman, Girlgantua!

Review & OSR Commentary On AC10 Bestiary of Dragons & Giants By Various TSR Staff For Your Old School Basic D&D Campaign

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 09/13/2018 - 05:23
"Red dragons. Storm giants. Dragon rulers. Frost giants. They're all here, in this book, in complete, ready-to-play mini-adventures. No matter what level your characters are, there is something here for you (and them). Need a diversion? Want to spice up a long-running campaign? Want to play, but don't have more than an hour or so? This is the book for your gaming group. As DM, you have Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Cards and Dice Game Kickstarter - How it's going to work

Two Hour Wargames - Wed, 09/12/2018 - 17:07
After speaking with Jeff, the printer, I decided to offer between 12 -  18 games at the same time on Kickstarter. As he can print to order, I don't have to worry about minimums. I'll list a base price for the games, the more you buy of course, the cheaper per game. This is a good way for people to get their friends to buy games as well on the same order to get a cheaper per game price.
Postage will be billed and collected separate from Kickstarter to get you guys the best rate. No one charge does it all.
Samples are in the mail, look for more info next week.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Cult of the Green orb

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 09/12/2018 - 11:16

By Extildepo
Verisimilitude Society Press
Swords & Wizardry
Level 4-7

It’s a holiday, so Sapporo at 9am instead of “4 cups of coffee by 9am.”

For half a century, life in the mining outpost of Piktown has been peaceful and prosperous until a strange green glow in the nearby mountain range rekindled a frightening legend from the past. Does this recent luminous phenomenon signal the return of the dreaded Cult of the Green Orb? The Overlord has hired you and your fellow adventurers to stop the troubling green glow!

This twenty page adventure describes a thirty room dungeon. Undead, spellcasters, demons, and even a dragon in what one could call a classic mixed dungeon-crawl. A verbose writing style mixes with classic fantasy elements to provide a nostalgic dungeon experience.

Classic experience indeed. The front doors feature a great statue of a dwarf, carved in to the mountain, backlit with green light. They close behind you when you hit a pressure plate. There’s a dragon literally slumbering in the throne room atop a pile of loot. There’s a demon trapped in a summoning circle. These classic elements are combined with popular fiction elements. There’s a troll head that could be out of The Thing, a gollum-like NPC … friendly until he gets his sanity back, and the Locknaar of Heavy Metal fame. And those were just the most obvious. This all combines to create a charming nostalgic feel to the adventure. No gimps or gimmicks, just fuking with demons and dragons, weird green glows, and the like. The map is decent enough to support an exploratory type play.

Alas the writing and formatting is terrible. Paragraphs do a great Wall of Text imitation, making it hard to wade through them. It’s combined with the usual unfocused verbosity. Room 24 is an Apprentices Lab, or so says the room title. Also, the first sentence of the description is “Here is the typical apprentice’s lab.” Okkkk… I think you just said that? Also, then there’s a description that follows that tells us what a typical apprentice lab looks like. Seventy wasted words, followed by a purple velvet bag hidden in a corroded brazier … maybe fifteen useful words. This is the agony of my existence. The NPC’s back in town are another good example. Trading Post dude is boisterous and barrel-chested with a strong black beard. Good imagery, all self-contained in one sentence. And then we learn he’s in his 30’s, young for his job, and took over from his father, Frank, who was killed by a green dragon named Cylith when the NPC was ten. THEN follows a bunch of read-aloud that contains what he knows about the shit in the area/dungeon. This nonsense goes on for two pages. Name, personality feature sentence, a few in-voice bullet points. That’s all you need. The rest of this garbage text is useless and gets in the fucking way of running the adventure and I HATE it when that happens.

This is one of my favorite room descriptions. Not as good as that Dungeon Magazine empty room thing, that’s still the all time best by far, but this one is good also:

“4. Empty Cells: This is where the prisoners of Azul Rik awaited trial. They are all empty and each cell door looks as though it has been forced open. Some shackles are missing or broken off at the chain. A few bones (some goblinoid) litter the cells. This place was once full of long­dead prisoners of the Iron King, but they were raised long ago by the Loknaar for Zed’s army.”

Nothing. Just nothing. There’s always some fuckwit that needs to disagree, so, please, go ahead, tell me why this is a good description. Empty Cells, forced open, broken shackles, indeterminable humanoid bones. And I’m a shitty shitty writer.

This is $4 at DriveThru. There’s no preview?

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Wednesday Comics: American Flagg!

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 09/12/2018 - 11:00
In a quick sketch, Howard Chaykin's American Flagg! might seem like some people's version of utopia: the Federal government is nonexistent, the coastal elites (indeed, the coasts) are gone, gun ownership (and use!) is unfettered. Of course, there's also a plan to sell whole states to the Brazilians by the U.S.'s corporate managers, prostitution is legal, surveillance is common, morning after contraceptive use is ubiquitous, and the lucky upper classes get to live in shopping malls instead of post-urban and rural wastes. Chaykin's 2031 seems to be his projection of where the unbridled capitalism and emerging media omnipresence of the Reagan era and the foreign policy of the American Century in general was taking us.

Enter Reuben Flagg, hunky, Jewish former actor (he lost his job to a CGI version of himself), turned lawman for the Plex (perhaps derived from "government-industrial complex," but this is never made clear). Raised by parents with unconventional ideas, he's got a rosy view of America. One he is soon disabused of when he arrives in Chicago and sees the televised firefights between legal policlubs and the illegal rampage of gogangs. A rampage, it turns out, is being fueled by subliminal messages in the hit tv show, Bob Violence. Thanks to Flagg's Martian diet and metabolism, he can see the messages others are blind to.
What follows is a satirical, sometimes farcical, chronicle of Flagg and his eccentric cohorts as they try to save America (metaphorically and Chicago actually) from threats both internal and external, including fascist militias, agents of Communist Africa, and the Plex's own incompetence and greed. Flagg has a noble heart, but he's sometimes distracted by his libido and inflated sense of self. By sometimes I mean quite frequently, at least in the former case.
American Flagg! pioneered a number of the storytelling techniques put to use in Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns a few years later, and if it wasn't an influence on Max Headroom and Robocop, it at least beat them to the punch. Its biggest flaw is that after the first "big arc" (12 issues) Chaykin's attention seems to wane, or at least he appears to be feeling the pinch of the monthly grind. What follows isn't bad, but it doesn't quite build in the way it seemed it might. 
The original issues suffer from poor color reproduction of the era, but the Dynamite two volume collections have thankfully fixed all that.

OSR Commentary - Hacking B9 "Castle Caldwell and Beyond" (1985) by Harry Nuckols For OSR Campaign Play & More

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 09/12/2018 - 05:43
"Five exciting short adventures to make your Basic campaign come alive! The Clearing of Castle Caldwell--A local merchant has recently purchased a small castle... but when he tried to move in, he discovered that the castle was already inhabited! Dungeons of Terror--A strange trapdoor in the floor of Castle Cadwell leads to a terrifying challenge! The Abduction of Princess Sylvia--On the Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Check's in the mail!

Two Hour Wargames - Tue, 09/11/2018 - 22:10

Okay, not really, but my printer says he's mailing out the 16 card game samples this week!
Stay tuned!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Four Ways the New D&D Adventurers League Rules Reshape the Campaign, and One Way They Don’t

DM David - Tue, 09/11/2018 - 11:51

The new Dungeons & Dragons Adventurers League campaign rules change treasure from a prize for looting to an award for the real hours players spend pursuing an adventure’s goal. This change aims to reward more styles of play, to balance the power characters gain from magic items, and to offer players a better choice of items. While the new rules promise improvements, they reshape the campaign in unexpected ways.

1. Treasure does much less to drive exploration and tempt characters to take risks.

D&D started as a game where characters plundered dungeons and kept score in gold. The rules awarded as much of 80% of experience points for gold, so no one missed the game’s point. Tomb of Horrors stands as co-creator Gary Gygax’s earliest dungeon to reach print, and its villain has no grand plot, just a knack for killing grave robbers. In Gary Gygax’s home games, his players beat the tomb by snatching the treasure while ignoring the demi-lich.

Modern D&D adventures still use treasure to tempt and motivate players. Recently, my players in the Tomb of Annihilation landed in a classic Dungeons & Dragons situation: They entered a room with a deadly monster and heaps of treasure. The monster caught them unprepared, so they fled, and then they debated whether the treasure merited the risk of battle.

Does this predicament still have a place in the D&D Adventurers League?

Single-session League adventures usually rely on loot as a symbolic motivation for players. In the first scene, a patron might offer a reward, but also a job that does good. To finish within a set time, these adventures avoid treasure-hunting tangents. Authors contrive these adventures so a well-behaved do-gooder will win as much treasure as grave robbers and thieves. I have never played or run a single-session League adventure where players lost treasure because they failed to find it or failed to slay a monster. The new rules for treasure awards won’t change how these scenarios play.

The hardcover adventures stay closer to D&D’s tradition: Treasure drives exploration and tempts characters to take the risks that make D&D exciting. The new League rules for treasure undermine some of the rewards that propel these adventures. Characters probably won’t choose to risk a battle for a promise of gold.

To be fair, the new rules offer a sliver of motivation for grave robbers and treasure hunters. Characters who find a magic item don’t just keep it, but they do unlock the ability to spend treasure points for the item.

Still, few players will feel lured to a risky fight by treasure, and I’ll miss that predicament. On the other hand, my players spent hours looting the seemingly endless crypts under Castle Ravenloft. I won’t miss another grind like that.

The flavor of treasure points takes some adjustment. In my mind’s eye, heroes open a chest and a golden glow lights their faces as they look down in wonder at a treasure point.

2. Tables will stop fighting for imaginary items.

By the old League rules, players seeking the best magic items worked to take as few magic items as possible. A low count of items meant your character could claim an adventure’s permanent item. It also might mean that another character particularly suited to the item lost it. In a way, this made sense. In the imaginary world of the game session, only one wand exists. By delivering only one wand each time an adventure runs, the campaign imposes some scarcity. But the League’s campaign world might include thousands of the same item. A character who claimed a “unique” wand might spend their next adventure with 2 other characters wielding the same wand.

Why should a particular character be denied the item just because another character who happens to play at the same table wants the item too? The new League rules still impose scarcity, but not in a way that capriciously denies some characters the magic items they want.

3. Scarce gold imposes tight limits on healing potions, spellbooks, and material components.

In most D&D campaigns, characters get tons of gold, but have nowhere to spend it. That applies to fifth-edition games that award hoards by the Dungeon Master’s Guide, and to the first 7 seasons of the League. All that gold meant characters could easily afford enough healing potions to enter every fight a full health. From level 11 up, parties with a cleric would always split the 1000 gp cost for Heroes’ Feast and laughed at poison and fear effects—and at assassins, yuan-ti, and green dragons. Power-hungry, teen-level wizards brought simulacrums and, in one case, soured an adventure by winning D&D for me. Of all the classes, only wizards might run short of gold. They bore the cost of adding spells to their books. At conventions, when wizard players shared a table, they snapped photos of each others spell lists, and then spend gold and downtime to share spells. Avid wizards collected every spell.

By delivering a fraction of the gold to players, the new League rules rebalance the campaign’s economy. Level 11 through 16 characters who sink all their gold into healing potions can still only afford 11 per level. Simulacrums come at a cost few will pay. Heroes’ Feast becomes a luxury rather than an automatic buff.

The limitations tax wizards most. Forget collecting all the spells; now you face difficult choices. Eleventh-level wizards can add Contingency to their spell books, but even if they save every gold piece, they can’t afford the material component until level 12.

Meanwhile, in a campaign without gold for unlimited healing potions, Healing Spirit now stands as the key to starting every encounter at full health.

4. Characters don’t get magic weapons until level 5.

By the old League rules, a party of new characters will probably find a permanent magic item during their first adventure. By the time the party reaches level five, about half the group will own a magic item. By the new rules, only characters who opt for colorful trinkets like a Bag of Holding will gain permanent items in levels 1 through 4. Characters who rely on weapon attacks will save their points and, at level 5, buy the most useful item: a +1 weapon.

This changes how monsters resistant or immune to non-magical weapon attacks play. For instance, wererats make a popular foe in low-level urban adventures. They boast immunity to non-magic weapons that aren’t silvered. With scarce gold, few characters will lavish 100 gp on a silvered weapon. So until level 5, only spellcasters can hurt a humble wererat. Then, at level 5, everyone grabs a magic weapon and the immunity becomes meaningless. In the new League, resistance to non-magical attacks becomes impotent at level 5. I miss the grades of resistance in third edition.

5. Most characters will select distinctive sets of magic items.

Just like with the old campaign rules, players intent on optimizing their characters will seek adventures that unlock choice items. Every bard will still play that adventure that unlocks the Instrument of the Bards. Now, an all-bard party can play and everyone gets one! I’ll pass on that table, but I will watch that session’s movie version. In my imagination, it’s the D&D movie staring Fred, Ginger, Gene, and a tone-deaf actress voiced by Marni Nixon.

Beyond optimizers, most characters will still carry a unique mix of magic items.

For one, characters of the same type will tend to play different mixes of adventures, unlocking different sets of magic. Few items prove as compelling to a class as that violin for bards.

Also, the point costs encourage variety. A character will earn 48 treasure points advancing through tier 2, levels 5-10. By rule, those points must be spent on items available to a tier 2 character. Some characters may select three uncommon, 16-point items from table F. Others might choose rare items from table G for 20 points, and then have points remaining for curios and wonders. They could choose 2 rares and an irresistible item like an Alchemy Jug or an Immovable Rod. I expect many players to select items that catch their fancy or fit their character’s personality. The hardcover adventures even include unusual, permanent items available for just 2 treasure points.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

My first product is up on RPG Now!

Deep Sheep - Mon, 09/10/2018 - 15:41
It is "pay what you want" and is a list of 600 place names taken from the Bible that you can use in any RPG setting, especially ancient historical or sword & sorcery campaigns.

600 Ancient Hebrew Place Names
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Rub It Review: Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells

Doomslakers! - Mon, 09/10/2018 - 13:06
On my brief visit to Gateway Games in Cincinnati, I spied a copy of +Diogo Nogueira's Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells so I snatched it up. I had already picked up the PDF, but I had not really dived into the game. I didn't know much about it other than Diogo does wicked art.

A captive in the passenger seat on the drive home, I just started reading and was immediately impressed (while sunlight lasted, anyway). Spoiler alert: this is the best sword & sorcery RPG I have yet encountered. And I haven't even played it.

This is a digest sized 48 page RPG packed with great art and extremely focused, clear writing. I am a fan of games that can deliver their message in as few words as possible, like a good poet delivering the goods. Where I feel that some games do this a bit poorly is that they give you sparse text without enough visuals. The visuals are important, to me, to provide context. SS&SS gives you clear, simple writing plus a healthy heaping helping of art. The art, combined with the words, paints a picture of a world of heroic fantasy in the Conan and Lankhmar vein. Yummie.

Much like Lamentations of the Flame Princess' Rules and Magic book, this book dives right into the meat without any hesitation. We get 2 pages that explain fully how the game works, then we're into chargen with each of the three classes getting 1 page (with art). And that's all we need.

The game is OSR-friendly, but not a clone. Its attribute list includes 4 instead of the classic 6. Physique, Agility, Intellect, and Willpower are all you need in this game. It is a roll-under system that owes a lot of it's mechanics to The Black Hack. It has a clever set of rules for armor and shields wherein the damage die of the attacker is reduced based on your armor. The shield becomes an active tool rather than passive defense. Weapons are divided into size categories that determine their damage die. The encumbrance system is simply that you can carry as many items as you have Physique, which is a method I personally use so I'm happy to see it here.

The magic system is a Willpower test with a difficulty equal to the spell's power. There are 50 spells described in a few pages, and of course you can make up as many more as you like.

I am enchanted by this game. I grokked it immediately and devoured the book in one sitting, which is not something I usually do. Now, I am not necessarily a huge fan of actually using The Black Hack's system to create content or run games. This is NOT a ding against that game, nor this one. It's just that my personal play preference isn't aligned with roll-under as the primary mechanic. Like all RPG and OSR nerds, I'm stupidly picky and pedantic at times. But this game kicks too much ass for me not to use it at some point.

There's a lot more awesome to it, but you can go pick it up for yourself and see. Great game. Great presentation. Get it.

(NOTE: Although I'm a fan of games that deliver the goods in few words, I would not argue that this is the "best" way. I would argue instead that each game deserves the verbiage that best serves the game and sometimes that means more text rather than less.)

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

AA#40: The Horror of Merehurst

Ten Foot Pole - Mon, 09/10/2018 - 11:14

Joseph Browning
Expeditious Retreat Press
Level 1

The island of Merehurst was once a bustling center for trade. But this was not to last, for in one single deadly night sixty years ago all the people and the animals of the town died – collapsing where they stood. The neighboring villagers of Coombe claimed that the miners dug too deeply into Ynyswel and the spirit of the isle was offended. The island gained a fearsome reputation and only the bravest would dare set foot upon its forested grounds. Yesterday strange lights were seen in the sky over the island and Ynyswel started smoking. The villagers can wait no longer. Brave adventurers must be found who are willing to investigate the Isle of Merehurst to either appease or oppose what lies behind the latest mysterious activities.

This seventeen page adventure describe about 45 locations on a small island: an abandoned village, farmstead, and mine. It’s got a creepy ass vibe and does a great job creating an exploratory environment. If his editor had cut half the words instead of over-explaining it would be a great, solid first level adventure. Oh, wait, it looks like he wrote it AND edited it …

THis thing sets itself up as creepy as fuck. The background information is all mysterious. An entire village dying overnight on the island. Strange lights on the island that can be seen from the shore. No word from the loner family living on the island … it’s a nice erie set up. It’s strengthened by a wandering table that has a fair amount of creepy and weird happenings on it to help with the mood. Crawling hands, dripping blood, a flopping fish far from the water. With a decent DM the party will be shitting itself in no time. In this respect the tension built is kind of wasted on the “normal” wanderers, especially the undead. It feels like that would break tension. But that’s an actual play thing ands easily adjusted in play … more of an academic point of debate I guess I’m asserting? Anyway, it’s got a great creepy vibe n the environment and nice encounters to support it like undead children and the like. I seldom mention art, but in this case the undead kids, creeping eyeballs, and “map art” is all top notch and does a wonderful job contributing the overall vibe of the adventure. That’s exactly what art SHOULD do in a product, and does not in most cases.

The encounters are a great mix of the mundane and the dead. There’s a substantial set of ruins in the village and plenty of room for that giant tick in the overgrown collapsed building, as well as the half-dead. There’s even some room to talk to a few things. It’s not packed to the gills with combat with, again, reinforces that creepiness.

The writing is, again, the downside. It’s not overly evocative, for all of the attempts at creepiness. Dripping blood is not quite as good as oozing blood, which is an issue here; it is solidly in the “workmanlike” category of descriptions. A little more time spent agonizing over word choice would have gone a long way here.

As would, as I said earlier, an editor to challenge on the writing. That assumes an editor would, and I don’t think they do much anymore. Copyediting and other simple suggestions? Writers need challenged. Every sentence, if not word, should contribute, and that doesn’t happen here. A storage room description tells us “As the mine expanded more storage was needed and this part of the new stone building was set aside for that purpose.” It is almost NEVER The case that explaining WHY is useful, and that drops even more when you talk about usage and history and “used to be.” That sentence doesn’t help. It doesn’t help me run the room. In fact, it detracts from it. As I look at the entry while running the adventure I have to wade through it before I get to the actual room description that I need to run the room. This adventure does that over and over again. Stirges are nocturnal hunters who travel in to the northeast when the sun descends — —they’ve learned to avoid the ruins of the city as several of them have recently been killed by the various predators within. What’s the point of that? It has no bearing on the room. If the party is here at sunset do you think I’m going to suddenly remember this detail and make the stirge fly out? If you WANT me to do that then you need a section in the front on day/night changes that will prompt me. No, this is more explaining. It’s fleshing out a world in a kind of computer RPG manner. Richly describing things that will almost certainly never happen. If I was playing Fallout and say some batlike oobs fly out of some ruined building at sunset it would get my attention … but, again, that’s not what is happening here.

Treasure does “spill from pouches” at times, but it’s mostly the usual assortment of +1 swords. Again, workmanlike.

This is $14 at DriveThru. The preview doesn’t seem to work?

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Weird Revisited: Mall Security 2020

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 09/10/2018 - 11:00
Rereading American Flagg! on a plan trip this weekend reminded me of this post from 2016...

Let's go back to the 80s when the Soviet Union was still a thing, indoor malls were at their height, and the dystopian near future wasn't usually full of zombies.  From that early 80s mindset, imagine the world of somewhere around 2020...

The environment isn't so good. In fact, there was probably a brief nuclear exchange some time in the past decades. And an economic crisis or two. Things aren't all that bad, though. Rampant consumerism still abounds, and this guy (or his clone) is still President:

Megacorporations helped America (the world actually) out of those crisis with a leveraged buyout--a sponsorship. The Soviet Union was bought out, too, only over there in USSRtm, they offer consumers a planned community with a "Golden Age of Communism" theme. In the good ol' USA, some rednecks, religious cults, and survivalist nuts stick to the environmentally-damaged rural areas (think Mad Max meets Winter's Bone), and some wealthy folks can afford walled enclaves meant to replicate idyllic suburban life of the 20th Century with protection by real police, but most people huddle around the decaying industrial city cores in neon-lit arcologies that combine shopping and living in one. Malls.

These Malls need protecting and that's where the PCs come in as deputized corporate security officers safe guarding the 21st Century American Dream!tm from all sorts of threats to peace and prosperity: trigger-happy poli-clubs, youth gangs, subversives, and consumer products run amuck. Think Shadowrun with less punk and less cyber. And presented as a Nagel painting.

So this is American Flagg! or Judge Dredd (with more of an MTV aesthetic), influenced by any number of 70s and 80s dystopian films like Rollerball or Robocop, mostly played with the black humor of the latter. Literary sources like Shockwave Rider and Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner or some later Cyberpunk works will also be informative.

OSR Commentary - Rexamining D1-2 Descent Into The Depths of the Earth by Gary Gygax

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 09/10/2018 - 05:55
"The final confrontation with the giant, King Snurre, and the entry of mighty adventurers into the cavers under his stronghold discovered that Dark Elves, the Drow, had instigated the giant alliance and its warfare upon mankind and its allied races."D1-2 Descent  Into The Depths of the Earth by Gary Gygax is one of those modules that fascinates me & yet intimates the Hell out of me. The Needles
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Actual Play: The Madhouse Meet

19th Level - Mon, 09/10/2018 - 01:48

With my degree pursuit entering the home stretch, posting has been pretty anemic. But I wanted to give a very brief write-up of our first adventure playing with DCC Lankhmar. This is our playing of The Madhouse Meet from the 2016 Free RPG Day book from Goodman Games. 
Cast of Characters:
  • الموت (Almawt) - Daughter of Lankhmarts who settled in the Eastern Lands. Abandoned her designated role as a squire to study magic under Sheelba of the Eyeless Face. 
  • Ганзориг (Ganzorig) - Unlucky and dim-witted Mingol warrior, deadly with his battle axe. Challenge to speak with given his lack of speaking the common Low Lankhmarese. 
  • Phlegm - Lankhmar-native. Smuggler, independent thief who has reached an accommodation with the Thieves' Guild of Lankhmar.

The trio did not meet in a tavern. They were however all captured from the same tavern, the Heavy Lion, in the slums near the Marsh Gate of the Temple Quarter. The wizard Tulmakiz had been experimenting on transients in the slums but he needed some heartier subjects for his foul experiments. He drugged the drinks of Almawt, Ganzorig, and Phlegm and had his hairless goons drag their unconscious bodies to his base, a long-abandoned insane asylum.
Almawt and Ganzorig awoke in the same cell, chained to the walls - Almawt, identified as a wizard, was also gagged. As was her familiar, a psuedodragon. A goon fed them some gruel and departed - with the wizard Tulmakiz watching.
Ganzorig was able to break them free of their chains and bash the door open. Though they could barely understand one another, they clearly had a common purpose - escape. They wandered their way past vacant cells into their jailor's quarters - they caught him by surprise and were able to slay him - Ganzorig wielding his chains as weapons and Almawt invoking deadly icy magic missiles.
Before working their way upstairs they encountered the thief Plegm who had also been making his escape. They also found their weapons and other gear in their jailor's quarters.
Upstairs they explored, defeating a cook, a goon, and looting Tulmakiz's quarters. They found Tulmakiz in his laboratory, planning to do all manner of vile experiments upon them. After defeating him, his nearby guards fled, though they did need to do battle with a final quartet of guards who blocked their passage to the smelly streets of Lankhmar's slums.
Though they'd met through misfortune, it had been a profitable meeting. Perhaps it would be worth adventuring together in the future.
Loot of Note
  • Silver smerduks - 127
  • Gold Rilks - 132
  • Eevamarensee Green Coins - 11, worth 20 gold rilks each
  • Silver Thieves' Guild Dagger
  • Parchment written to the Overlord's Chief of Spies detailing the movements of the minor noble Baron Nayari
  • Scrolls detailing Eevamarensee pain sorcery, including Mouse's Painful Suffering
  • Four vials of Eevamarensee slumber powder - contact or ingested, DC 15 Fortitude save of sleep 2d6 hours
  • Healing ungent
  • Three vials of Eevamarensee liquid fire

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Rub It Review: Star Frontiers

Doomslakers! - Sun, 09/09/2018 - 13:04
Hey, who doesn't love pseudopods and needler pistols? I know I do.

Picture a young JV, c. 1985. This 14 year old (soon to be 15) with big glasses and no romantic prospects has been holed up in his room with the classic 1983 D&D red box for months, generating campaigns without any players. He makes his way to Sophia's Bookstore at some point because he knows they have a rack of RPGs. There he witnesses many amazing things, including a Frank Frazetta art book that blows open his ideas about fantasy and this purple box set called Star Frontiers: Alpha Dawn. The cover is rad. Tubular. Totally awesome. It has a crashed ship. It has aliens. It has a pretty redhead.

James likey.

Somehow James manages to get this incredible treasure in his hands and takes it home. At my advanced age I'm unable to remember how this came about. It was at least a year before I got my first paying job and my family was poor. But my mom was (is) stellar so she did most likely witness my memorization and found the funds to drop $10 on it.

Now witness young JV in his room, in his gawdy looking 70s swiveling chair, opening this shining, glistening, purple box with utter reverence and complete magical charm all over his youthful face. Ah, the sorcery of discovery. Especially discovery of the vastness and coolness of Pan-Galactic space.

The game comes with two rulebooks, a big double sided grid map, a bunch of cool counters, d10 (two of 'em?), and an adventure module called Crash on Vulturnus.

The first rulebook is the 16 page Basic Game Rules in which we learn, well, the basics. It's like a short and sweet intro. I fully confess right here and right now I never actually read this one. I skimmed it, looked at the art, and went straight for the next book.

The 64 page Expanded Game Rules is where it's at. Here you get the full version of the game you just bought, not some condensed version for babies.

So this game is basically Buck Rogers and Star Trek mashed up. But it's got a spirit of its own. I have heard people compare it to Star Wars, but I reject that comparison. There is not anything remotely spiritual or mystical or prophetic here. This is a wild west game of lasers and credits. Sure, Han Solo would be right at home in Pan-Galactic space. But there's no room here for the Jedi order or ghosts. Hey, don't let that get you down, though. They DO have electric swords.

In this game you play the role of a mercenary, mechanic, scientist, spy, medic, pilot, or whatever kind of gig you choose to specialize in. It's a skill based game, so there are no classes. You choose between four races: human, yazirian (monkeys with glider wings), dralasites (amoeba people), and vrusk (bugs). As new PCs, your adventures will most likely involve working for the Pan-Galactic Corporation in some capacity or another.

It's a percentile system. All actions are resolved by rolling d100 and trying to get under a target (usually an attribute score modified by a skill or something like that). You get to use all kinds of cool toys ranging from the aforementioned electric sword to the vibroknife to the laser rifle to the gyrojet rifle. You can program robots, bypass security, and blow shit up with Tornadium D-19 (kaboomite). Oh, and if you get shot at with a laser pistol hopefully you will be wearing your albedo suit.

The weird thing about Alpha Dawn is that it has precious little to say about space ships. There are no rules in this box for flying them, for example. That fact lent this game a tremendously terrestrial vibe for a space game. I played this with cousins and school friends and most of our adventures involved running around the giant grid map of Port Loren, blasting holes in the city trying to capture escaped villains or battle sathar invasions. Space travel was always hand waved.

Of course this game is followed up by the second box set, Knight Hawks, which was ALL about the space travel and space combat. I didn't own Knight Hawks and I never got to play with it, so I have no nostalgic attachment to it. Back in 2012 I ran a couple games of Star Frontiers for some local friends, one of whom was a HUGE fan of the game and owned 100% of all it. My friend James Koti, may he rest in peace, was a giant Star Frontiers nerd and wanted to use all the shiny books. But I was just running a game for nostalgia and I only wanted to use Alpha Dawn. It was fun, but I suspect he really wanted to run with it much longer and much farther. In hindsight, now that James is gone, I really wish I had ran harder and longer with the game.

I ran it again for my Monday night pals, who I lovingly call the Doomslakers. That was a year or more ago. I ran the module Mission to Alcazzar, which I heavily modified. In our game, we spent at least 3 sessions on board the Nightrunner dealing with some very dangerous mining bugs, which were the central threat of the adventure as I ran it. The module is basically a very terrestrial hex crawl and has little in it to suggest space. Our adventure ended with a naked mad scientist riding an armored mining bug trying to kill the party. There was a lot of hand grenade action going on and of course all the robots in the CDC compound were set to kill.

A good time was had by all.

I love this game, and it's 90% because of nostalgia. I believe the system is good, but has rough bits I don't love as much. The way skills are figured is a bit wonky, I think. But hey, it all works. In the end I think my mom could not have spent 10 credits on a better product.

You can get this classic once again at RPGnow or DrivethruRPG:

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