Tabletop Gaming Feeds

On Endless War

Hack & Slash - Tue, 05/15/2018 - 12:00
After admiring Warhammer Fantasy for nearly my whole life, I decided to play one hundred multiplayer matches in the loving rendition Creative Assembly has made of the game. This is that story of a dwarf warrior in the end times. . .

"War has come. My name is Bedun Leatherarm. I fight for clan and glory in the end-times.

This is the tale of my first battle. . . and loss. One of many.

I joined with the Iron Shanks, who talked of 'wheedy elves' that we were going to cut down on the plains of Waldenhof. Two regiments of thunderers with their weapons of iron and fire bolstered confidence among the throng of warriors. We also had a unit of irondrakes and slayers! I had no faith in what those non-traditional dawi would bring.

And the cannons. Beautiful cannons. Immediately effective. We set up on a hill in a simple box formation, the slayers and irondrakes hidden in the trees and just began raining fire upon a wood elf regiment of eternal guard, standing in the open. Our engineer directed the fire to devastating effect.

We could hear the screams from where we stood! 30 dead in one volley. 5 more died in the next. Still, the elves stood, unmoving. What cold hard creatures to send their own to die like that. I drew in my breath, assured of success as I watched our cannons work. 49 died before the elves dained to move.

Arrows from waywatchers hit the shield of the warriors on the left flank first, doing little damage against dwarven wood and steel. Our rangers and firedrakes opened up and the swift elves fled, downing firedrakes with their arrows as they left, their preternatural ability to fire while they ran devastating our troops. Suddenly from the trees behind us, a hidden unit rained arrows at the rear of our thunderers!

Our rangers and firedrakes moved forward taking heavy damage, trying to fire on the enemies front, while warriors moved to the back. Another unit had chased off after some archers and was getting picked apart! I grabbed my axe before I felt the hot spray on my face.

Dragonsbreath! From not one but two dragons! The thunderers panicked and fled. A Glade Lord sat grinning aboard his dragon, casting bolts of energy around the field. Arrows came from every direction as the forest dragon landed and engaged our thane in combat. Where were the slayers?!

Later I would come to find out they had foolishly given chase to faster elves. Chaos reigned as we ran back and forth between target to target, the elves taking to the air and peppering us with armor piercing arrows the entire time.

The dragons, their elven lord astride danced, back and forth, causing chaos among our ranks, until we could stand and fight no more.

And so we turned, and fled. "

Thus ends the first battle of Bedun Leatherarm.
Dwarves Vs. Wood Elves (loss)

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Box Breaking 246: Empires of the Void II

Gamer Goggles - Tue, 05/15/2018 - 02:29

Watch as Matt breaks open Empires of the Void II from Red Raven Games. Empires of the Void II is the newest Space Exploration area control game out there.

Click here to view the video on YouTube.

I am really looking forward to this.  I hope to this played through shortly after Memorial Day.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Playing around with some new Token cards..

Rebel Minis - Mon, 05/14/2018 - 22:18
What do you think?


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Cryptozoic and Cartoon Network Enterprises Announce Release of Rick and Morty: The Ricks Must Be Crazy Multiverse Game

Cryptozoic - Mon, 05/14/2018 - 13:00

Cryptozoic Entertainment and Cartoon Network Enterprises today announced the May 30 release of Rick and Morty: The Ricks Must Be Crazy Multiverse Game. In this engine-building tabletop game, 2-4 players take on the roles of Rick, Morty, Zeep, and Kyle as they introduce Power Supplies to different worlds, and then try to use the resulting Power to activate Contraptions before their opponents. Based on the Rick and Morty episode "The Ricks Must Be Crazy," gameplay takes place in four “’Verses” with unique attributes: the Rickverse, Microverse, Miniverse, and Teenyverse.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

On Dungeon Stocking

Hack & Slash - Mon, 05/14/2018 - 12:00
I’ll tell you a secret. I am very, very not good at restocking dungeons. I love what’s inside them when I make them. The original idea is pristine. I don’t want it to change and therefore procrastinate at the necessary task.
Originally I approach restocking as one would designing the dungeon. This was a mistake. Restocking dungeons shouldn’t feel like repeating work you’ve already done. The other issue is that of time, it is actually a necessary, active task, requiring doing. This is inconvenient and is often down far enough the pole to just be ignored.
I didn’t have any idea how to restock dungeons and research didn’t really provide a lot of insight. Nearly all of the advice boiled down to "Think about what would realistically happen next with the people in the dungeon." Is this an insight? Yes, in a megadungeon campaign, the dungeon itself is the stage the game takes place on, identical to the overworld map in a traditional campaign.
Can a space be cleared? Oh, to scour it clean. We love to eliminate the fog of war, till all is known to us. The nature of the megadungeon is that it can't be known to us. It is a representation of the unknown; the metaphysical darkness, into which we venture in an attempt to retrieve some vital forgotten knowledge and return with it to the tribe of man. The success of the adventure->treasure->level->adventure cycle is that it so naturally mirrors a hero's journey through life.
There is without question a resonance with that idea.
So, I don't restock a dungeon, as much as I treat the dungeon as a space in which adventure occurs. Here's what that concretely looks like.
The ProcessI  ask for an encounter check when they are on a "thoroughfare" and moving throughout the dungeon, once for their movement times 10.
To unpack: No matter how you design your dungeon, certain areas will be the 'grass crossings' on a college campus. Players will just find themselves traversing that area due to it being the shortest route to where they want to go. It's also where you're most likely to meet random traffic, which the hazard die roll will certainly provide. Because the terrain is already explored, they've already poked and prodded with their 10' poles, they can traverse it at somewhat normal speed, 10 times their normal movement. So whereas an unencumbered party could explore 120' in a turn, now they can move 1,200' in that same turn.
Rolling one encounter for every 600'-900' (really 60-90 squares) encourages finding shortcuts and handles getting to and back from play at the start and end of each session. No party is moving around unencumbered.
That's most of it. We've got the other situations.

QuestsQuests are how I logistically handle restocking the dungeon. I have never in my life ever sat down and rolled to restock rooms. I don't think I have it in me.
Every area in the dungeon has. . .things. Resources. If an area's been explored, and I'm looking to "restock it", it initially happens with a quest. I have a selection of Non-Player characters in town, with their own storylines within Numenhalla, who provide quests. Preparation for a session usually involves designing one new quest a week (to replace the last one they took). Each dungeon section has a pre-built set of rumors and possible quests I use to help me.
Let's look at some of resources in the crypts. The Altar of Hierax can grant a long rest, The Anamneopolis allows speaking with the recently deceased. In the upper crypts, there is a pool along with a skull wall that whispers secrets. That's really what I'm talking about: What's still got juice in it after the players have extracted the treasure?
Then the restocking happens when you insert an antagonist for the quest. Note that this doesn't have to be a monster or new encounter. Perhaps some tunnels have collapsed, the resources is corrupted somehow or destroyed. The fact that the quest takes them somewhere they have been and the new obstacle/opponent exists makes the dungeon seem like a living place.
So preparation boils down to rolling on a combined quest table and inserting whatever idea is cool for an antagonist. I can manage one cool idea a week.
Setting up shopThis is the other problem. The players will meticulously map out an area and say, "Why don't we establish a beachhead here?"
The mega-dungeon represents the unknown dark into which we venture—the literal mythic underdark. You can't move into the mythical underdark!
Part of the greatest challenge of running a megadungeon is to keep the impression of it as a threatening unsafe place as the players grow in power, without robbing them of feeling empowered. We have many tools we can use to do this, cutting experience to the bone to slow player advancement, creating a threatening environment that kills players to remove experience gained from the players and more subtle methods such as scaling encounters based on party size and insuring that both overwhelmingly weak and overwhelming strong opponents are encountered.
But most importantly, Numenhalla is a time-locked dungeon. You can only enter it once a week, meaning moving in means surviving for a week. Can they? Even if I approached the problem as a neutral arbiter, I would consider it unlikely. There are worse things then I have listed on my encounter table.
But I'm not a neutral arbiter. I'm representing the chaotic unknown depths, the mystical underworld. As such, chaos abhors order and will react to attempts at colonization aggressively.

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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Those Dam Goblins

Ten Foot Pole - Mon, 05/14/2018 - 11:15


by Cristopher Clark
Fail Squad Games
Labyrinth Lord
Levels 1-3

A few years ago human settlers discovered a marsh-covered valley that they knew would provide fertile cropland if only the marsh could be drained. The deflected water flooded a goblin lair, ousting the ornery creatures and reaping their undying hatred. Now, the goblins seek deadly revenge!

This 38 page adventure details an eleven page dungeon and/or mine. goblins are digging a complex under a human dam in order to blow it up and reflood their valley. It’s got some interesting encounters and non-standard magic effects that have that very BASIC and OD&D vibe that I enjoy. It’s also eleven rooms in thirty eight pages … meaning it’s hard to wade through. Long read-aloud, weird read-aloud, directions & dimensions in the text, and conversational commentary to the DM are all in play. It’s serious hi lighter fodder, if you want to go there. I don’t have time in my life for that; thats what I pay someone else for. Or, hope to anyway.

The heart of this is a little eleven room and three level dungeon dig out by the goblins. It’s supported by a couple of wilderness encounters and a little bit of town information that is, essentially, clues and hooks to what’s going on The idea is that the DM takes this clue information and when the party shows up he drops hints form the townsfolk, which gets the party involved. It’s presented in bullet point form another are eight or so various things to find out. I like the format. It is, essentially, just a summary of the town information, rather than detailed room/key format for a generic village. The format should provide enough to let he DM run with them. Unfortunately, the data here is a bit generic. Eight townsfolk have gone missing in the last month. Well … ok. Like rumors, a little bit more local color would have been nice. A drunk who stays out and his nagging wife, that sort of thing. I’m not talking a book, or much more in the way of ward count than is already here. But instead of generic writing “8 people are disappeared” a little more specificity. Something for the DM to run with and expand upon. “Write anything you want!” is a much harder assignment than “write a theme on why Walden Pond sucked.” Yes, I understand tastes vary. There is some line and I just don’t think there’s much room at all for the generic in what is supposed to be a play aid for running a game at the table/ Just how much prep work should you be expected to do?

There are more than a few nice encounters in this, and that’s it strong point. Goblins have torches … with some mini-mechanics for setting huaraches alight. Nice! Or giant cockroaches who can still fight for up to ten rounds after their heads are chopped off. it’s that kind of idiosyncratic stuff that I think a good D&D game lives and dies on. It’s fun. Others are more … interesting. At one point there’s a cart full of dead and bloated animal bodies. What happens to adventurers that dig through such things? That’s right … rot grubs! A perfect application of sticking your nose in. I love it. The adventure is at its best when it’s dealing with these little things. There’s a great little albino outcast goblin, barely cognitive, and ways the party can encounter him. He’s not really an enemy, more of an NPC that could be mistaken for something else. In fact, he’s really just window dressing since he doesn’t really have a part of play in the adventure except as a “would ya look at that!”, ut it still shows the strength of the imagination behind the writing.

But … not the writing proper. It’s terrible. Long.

The usual suspect are at play. First is the read-aloud, which concentrates on the obvious. “There are three exits in the north, south and east” or “the room is 40 x 60.” Yes, these are the things the map tells us. Other times the read aloud is weirdly short and in response to specific character actions. “You open the door to see a dark room.” I’ve seen this before; some designers have their weird obsession with providing read-aloud for every situation. As if those are the only words the DM can ever utter.

The kitchen gets three paragraphs of DM text, to describe to us what is in a kitchen. I know what a kitchen looks like. The extra writing adds nothing to that. What it DOES do is distract the DM by hiding the important fucking information behind stupid shit like “there’s a table up against the wall.” Unless it’s fucking pertinent to the adventure we don’t need to fucking know that.

My favorite example of bad writing in the entire adventure is “once that doo is opened a strange sight awaits your intrepid players.”

This, gentle readers, is SIN. Not just minor sin. Not just bad writing. But SIN, in a major way. The designer is having a conversation with the DM in a bar, telling them about their character. Not. Cool. That’s not the fucking purpose of the writing. This is supposed to be a play aid. This sort of conversational dreck has absolutely no place stuck in a room key. It represents all that is bad and wrong and no fun about this writing style. Evil, pure and simple, from the eigth dimension!

Seriously. Eleven rooms in 38 pages. This is what D&D has become.

This is $6 at DriveThru.
http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/235859/Those-Dam-Goblins-Revised

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Superhero Logos

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 05/14/2018 - 11:00
I've been working on a supers project with a couple of collaborators that will hopefully be a comic and rpg thing. It's necessitated (or at least allowed) me making logos for the various characters in a Bronze Age/early Modern Age style. I thought I would share a few of the ones I have made for the heroes, the Super-Sentinels. Unlike the villians, these needed to look like they might have been on the cover of a comic.


Ray Logan would have burned alive on re-entry when his spacecraft malfunctioned, if he hadn’t been saved by the COSMIC ARCHONS. Their power healed him and bonded him to a suit of armor, making him one of their paladins for intergalactic justice, the COSMIC KNIGHT!

This one uses a font by Iconian fonts (one of my go-tos) as a pass, but then I gave it a perspective reminiscent of one of the Legion of Super-Heroes logos or Neal Adams' iconic X-Men design. It seemed fitting it should have Starlin-esque cosmic telescoping.

Kelli Cross was a college student, but what she was really into was roller derby. When she discovered her grandfather had been a costumed crime-fighter during World War II with a set of magical roller-skates that supposedly came from an extradimensional imp—well, it all sounded pretty hard to believe, but skating and fighting crime just seemed like the thing to do!
This one was inspired, obviously, on the classic Ira Schapp logo for the Flash. I am not completely happy with the speed-lines. Schapp made it look so easy!

Son of a spelunker and an exiled princess of the underground city of Sub-Atlan, Roy King uses the technomagical harness and gauntlets to swim through rock like it was water. He protects the underground from the surface world—and the surface world from the dangers of the underground—as the SUB-TERRAN!
This one was inspired by the logo of a DC Hercules series, but with roughened, rocky letters as seen on a number of Marvel 70s logos. There are a lot of rocky or stone fonts out there, but none worked well with the extreme perspective, so I had to use a plainer font (by Blambot, I think) and roughen it myself. It had to be done in stages to get the final thing. 
This character was originally going to be called the Subterranean, but that was too long to fit on anything but the plainest "book style" logos, so I had to shorten it.

The Awesome Pain in the Ass That Was DragonQuest

Roles & Rules - Sun, 05/13/2018 - 20:33
Continuing my trio of bargain-bin rescues from Glasgow (actually a gift from Paolo, in lieu of buying an adventure from the system) I present to you DragonQuest, 2nd edition!

Why does this RPG system set my teeth on edge? My nostalgia should be all for SPI and the days of punching out wargame counters, all for Deathmaze and Citadel of Blood and War of the Ring and Sword and Sorcery. But good boardgaming chops do not guarantee a good roleplaying game.

Let's judge a book by its cover. Sorry guys, RPG players are not just dreaming of being Conan. D&D art got that right more often than not. They are in a fantasy-hero world, but team players; just like they're in a horror world, but not doomed, and in a science fantasy world, but stone cold medieval. The Frazetta muscleman hoisting up the results of his DragonQuest like a trophy bass is someone else's idea of "sword and sorcery".

The writing style of the game is a 180 degree reaction against the fast, loose but evocative D&D writing of the time. No gaps and confusing terminology here! DQ is buckled and strapped into the case law structure of an SPI wargame's rules (see 3.7.5.1 and apply the Rules Writing Procedure). If the GM has leeway, we'll tell you exactly where that leeway is. It's meant to be clear, but it's mechanizing and alienating on the page. The wargame influence also shows in the tight regulation of combat on a hex grid.

Maybe case-law would work if the mechanics were more elegant, as in Metagaming's contemporary offering The Fantasy Trip. But they're standard Rolemaster-type fare, a percentile skill system with "RPG 2.0" features like separate fatigue and physical damage, damage-reducing armor, critical hits, background packages, custom advancement ... Determining target numbers might have you multiplying 39 by 2.5. Damage involves frequent table lookups to see if a crit and physical damage happen. God forbid you should have a d6 laying around the house, here, roll one of your d10's and take half for a d5 instead. And roll four of those d5s to determine your character's stats.

What's a Satanic panic?But it's funny how often interesting magic systems come attached to clunky base mechanics, while elegant systems like TFT or RuneQuest have difficult or prosaic approaches to magic. Certainly, something was possessing SPI around the turn of the 80's. They had a boardgame about the demons from the Lesser Key of Solomon, and worked some of those names into their Citadel of Blood adventure game. And yes, there's a whole school of DQ demon summoning that ramps up to 16 pages of fully powered Goetic infernal royalty. That menu is clearly where all the love lies, and the other magic schools suffer collectively by comparison. Some are solid, some near-unplayable like the Water Magic school with its Aquaman-style restriction.

By the way, there is a lot of cribbing from D&D, especially in the monster list. And in the kind of rules that compel game balance. Wizards can't cast near cold iron or while being distracted by damage. Player characters who poison their weapons might nick themselves. This points at the heart of the problem, that Dragonquest isn't built around a compelling setting (implicitly, as in D&D, or explicitly, as in Runequest). So much of it is generic that the special stuff fails to stick.

For example, instead of alignment, your characters get a quasi-astrological Aspect which gives them bonuses and penalties for very short periods of the day or year, or around a birth or death. Sounds cool, but it doesn't really resonate with any other social or magical structure, mostly boiling down to an optimum time and place to do housebound skill tests. Only the death aspect has any impact on the typical adventurer, with a +10% bonus just after a mammal dies near you.

At least the 2nd edition book concludes creditably, with a tight little sample adventure in a bandit oasis. It maybe shows, though, that DQ doesn't really know what kind of fantasy game it is. The journey to the camp is described last of all, oh yeah, you might encounter a sand golem. The real detail is put into the characters at the camp, their secrets and intrigues. It's not really necessary that one is a halfling and another is a hobgoblin. The magic, too, is subtle, pulp-story stuff. There are other consequences of aping the pulp era (the camp is run by one "Alla Akabar," and roles for NPC women comprise jealous wife and sex victim). Perhaps the game is more suited for would-be Conans after all?
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

B10 Night's Dark Terror By Jim Bambra, Graeme Morris, Phil Gallagher For Your Old School Pulp Adventure Campaign

Swords & Stitchery - Sun, 05/13/2018 - 14:58
"Barely one day's march from Kelven, the uncharted tracts of the Dymrak forest conceal horrors enough to freeze the blood of civilized folk. Those who have ventured there tell how death comes quick to the unwary - for the woods at night are far worse than any dungeon. But you are adventurers, veterans of many battles, and the call of the will is strong. Will you answer the call, or Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Return to Wermspittle

Sorcerer's Skull - Sun, 05/13/2018 - 14:00

If you like early modern/modern fantasy cities like Jack Shear's Scarabae or Umberwell or the City of my Weird Adventures (if you recall back to 2012 and before), then you will want to check out Hereticwerk's Wermspittle. I did an introduction to that setting once upon a time. Go read it. We'll wait.

After a several year hiatus, new Wermspittle posts have begun to appear, including some actual play reports. Slowly, admittedly, but proof of life. Check it out.

Barsoom and Pulp Revolution on Inappropriate Characters

Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog - Sat, 05/12/2018 - 16:00

Inappropriate Characters is a new youtube series on tabletop games featuring some of the guys from the scene that are most likely to take flack from the culture police. Appendix N and the Pulp Revolution get mentioned in the inaugural segment during the Barsoom discussion– it’s at the 20 minute mark and runs for about ten minutes if you want to catch that. But hey… why not live large, put on a pot of coffee, and kick back with the whole thing? It’s a good show!

One of the points that come up is that Edgar Rice Burrough’s Barsoom stories are the gold standard for science fantasy adventure within the PulpRev. That’s not quite how I’d put it.

Coming at this from a historical angle, if you do a survey of fantasy and science fiction from over the course of the 20th century, what you’re going to see just how tremendously influential Edgar Rice Burroughs was. It’s astonishing. There is a sixty year period where Edgar Rice Burroughs set the tone to such an extent, that he was basically the model for how fantasy and science fiction should be done. Look even at the second wave authors like Jack Vance, Leigh Brackett, Michael Moorcock, and many others– they all going their careers off the ground by emulating Burroughs.

In 1973 when Gary Gygax sat down to write the introduction to the original edition of Dungeons & Dragons, this is what he said:

These rules are strictly fantasy. Those wargamers who lack imagination, those who don’t care for Burroughs’ Martian adventures where John Carter is groping through black pits, who feel no thrill upon reading Howard’s Conan saga, who do not enjoy the de Camp & Pratt fantasies or Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser pitting their swords against evil sorceries will not be likely to find DUNGEONS and DRAGONS to their taste. But those whose imaginations know no bounds will find that these rules are the answer to their prayers.

It’s no accident that Burroughs is the first fantasy author to be mentioned there. It’s also no accident that you see Burrough’s mark on each of the most enduring comic book, tabletop gaming, and Hollywood blockbuster franchises.

The idea of the Pulp Revolution isn’t so much to– as the RPGPundit puts it– set up Burroughs as some kind of sacred cow. The point is to embrace the reality of what people genuinely find to be the most inspiring and thrilling from across science fiction and fantasy history. (Hint: it isn’t “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”.) And the point is to extend the range of your creative palette by taking a look back at what actually worked back in those dark ages before 1980. There’s so much social and political pressure against doing just that, this has become a bizarrely subversive act.

But it’s also a lot of fun.

If you’d like an example of how this is all playing out, I would point you to Cirsova Magazine issue number five, which has a story by Schuyler Hernstrom that just picked up a Planetary Award. Check it out!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

'B4 Tom Moldvay's The Lost City As Pulp Campaign Base' - More OSR Campaign Commentary

Swords & Stitchery - Sat, 05/12/2018 - 15:33
"Lost in the desert! The only hope for survival lies in a ruined city rising out of the sands. Food, water, and wealth await heroic adventures inside and ancient pyramid ruled by a strange race of masked beings"So last night I began the task of thinking about moving historical events around in a pulp or supers style campaign world. What would be a good beginning B/X adventure to get the ball Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

(5e) Insurrection in the Abbey

Ten Foot Pole - Sat, 05/12/2018 - 11:13


Sidequests
5e
Level 1

The Kobolds have grown strong – surely strong enough to overthrow the local abbey that they’ve been eyeing! This SideQuest begins as word has spread about the Kobold army that is planning to lay siege and take control of a humble monastery. The only thing that stands in the Kobolds’ way is, of course, your group of brave adventurers. This is a perfect introductory campaign to the world of D&D; it is designed to give your first-level players their first taste of combat and dungeon-crawling!

This seventeen page adventure details a small abbey that kobolds have taken over, holding the poor people inside hostage. It could easily be a 1-pager and has A LOT of filler text and overly dramatic read-aloud. Some ok magic items don’t forgive the lack of monster specificity, with only general guidelines offered.

Long lame throw-away hooks, like “missing caravan” and “deliver my letters” have the party ending up outside the walls of the abbey, facing the closed doors. This is the perfect introductory campaign to the world of roleplaying games, designed to give my first-level players their first taste of combat, stealth, and dungeon-crawling! (I know because the marketing garbage mixed in to the text tells me so) so I was quite surprised with the crappiness of the hooks. I mean, I went in to it expecting crappy hooks that the designer put in because they just didn’t care, but then that marketing blurb in the text got me all worked up only to deflate me again with the “missing caravan” pile of crap. Either don’t stick the fucking hook in or put some actual fucking thought in to it. No, that does not mean you need to write a paragraph on it, as you did there. It means you need to turn it in to something that will interest and intrigue the party and a pretext saying “this is the adventure I’m running tonight, bite it or we don’t play D&D” ain’t it.

Hmmm, I get the sense I’m coming off as harsh. If this adventure were one page and 99 cents it would be an ok adventure. But it’s not; it’s seventeen pages and $5, both of which make promises the adventure doesn’t deliver.

Ok, ok, nice stuff first.

There’s a few decent magic items. A magic arrow that always flies towards creatures with an evil heart. In practice, this is just advantage on demons and monsters, but it’s a nice idea. I like the effect, it’s just ruined a bit by the mechanics. A chalice that always fills with water is nice also. Magic items described as effects instead of through mechanics … who woulda thunk it! For the uninitiated, when you name a thing it loses its power. Mechanics bring magic items down the realm of the rule books. “Always seems an evil heart” is open to interpretation, and thus wondrous and mysterious. This is what magic items should be … magical! The boring ass +1 longsword is less wonderous and lame.

The gates to the abbey are locked so there’s a brief section on getting in that outlines some methods the party might use and gives advice to the DM. Great. I love this. You are making the DM’s life easier. The advice is WAY too long, but it DOES also include befriending the gate guard, a kobold. That’s not something you see everyday!

And on the bad front … just about everything else.

The tone is childish. It replicates the “new” tone for kobolds where they are simpleton children who worship dragons and talk like dumb 20’s henchmen. I know tone preferences are subjective, but OVERT humor in games is a turn off for me. I love spontaneous silliness, both in D&D & Gamma World, but when embedded in the rules (newer editions of Gamma World) or the adventures then its a turn off. It’s trying to force the spontaneity and that always comes off as obvious … and therefore bad.

The read-aloud is he usual overly dramatic crap one comes to expect from read-aloud. “You get the feeling that this Abbey has been through some dark times, yet has always managed to find light and redemption in the end.” reads the last sentence of the initial “see the abbey” read aloud. That’s not the sense I get. I get the sense that the designer is a failed novelist and/or trying to hard. It’s critically important that players NOT be told what to think. It’s the job of the designer to communicate a vibe that lets them draw their own conclusions. Your job is to write something that makes the DM communicate it to the players so they get the sense it’s gone through rough times and things turn out ok. Telling them what to think is bad writing.

The DM text contains such gems as “Read this outloud:” right before offset and text-boxed read-aloud. Advice to the DM is “The boss may or may not notice the party entering depending on how they enter.” These examples are not in isolation; in fact the actual useful text might be the exception rather than the rules there is so much padding. The text is being padded for word count for the DM. Not cool. It detracts from the DM’s ability to find the important stuff at the table. Remember, during the game the DM is scanning the text. If you’re writing for a DM sitting down on their sofa reading it then you’re writing for the wrong audience. Other examples include the usual “tell me where the doors go in the text”, duplicating information the map provides.

There’s no real order of battle, so monsters wait in their rooms to die. Well, when the adventure tells you where there are monsters. “You may want to have your party encounter a kobold here” is not adventure design. The walls are supposed to be crawling with kobolds, but there are non listed. Dozens of footprints, but not dozens in the adventure. This basic keying data is fudged. I understand there may be a role for that sometimes, but not as a general purpose in a basic adventure!

While I haven’t touched on it in awhile, this is a good example of why I like humans instead of humanoids. The kobolds add nothing to this adventure. They are just 1d3 hp bipedals to be killed. Why kobolds then? What makes this special? I would argue that it, in fact, makes the entre world LESS special. When monsters are the norm they lose their appeal. Human bandits would have worked better.

As a one-pager this would be a servivable first level adventure. But not as written. No way. Just more dreck.

This is $5 at DriveThru. The preview is three pages and is worthless.
http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/240540/SideQuests-Insurrection-At-The-Abbey

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Maze of Peril Ch 1, Scene 6: "A Map of the Dungeons Explored So Far"

Zenopus Archives - Fri, 05/11/2018 - 13:53
This post is part of the Tales of Peril Book Club, indexed here.

After deciding on a direction, the party heads east for their first bout of dungeon crawling.
Zereth and Olaf remain in the front, with the others following in a slightly different order. Zereth strings his bow (a realistic touch) and draws a "black feathered arrow", and holds them together in his left hand, ready.

They reach the first north-south cross corridor previously reported by Zereth (scouting ahead) as being 70' from the entrance stairs. Nothing can be seen down these passages. They continue east and pass another "broad side corridor" where "dried slime covered the floor and even the walls". Holmes' original playing map for these adventures indicates the reason for this - this passage leads south to the Purple Worm's lair. I love that there is a Purple Worm lair so close to the entrance of a first level dungeon.

Continuing east, Olaf then tumbles into a covered pit trap, ten feet deep, and is attacked by a grey speckled and fanged serpent, seemingly of ordinary size but presumably poisonous. It fails to bite through Olaf's leather boots and he quickly dispatches it with his sword.

They haul Olaf out with one of their ropes, and the trap door swings back into place. Bardan comments on the trap maintenance (oiled hinges and a fed snake), and then is moved to front of the party because of his "innate familiarity with the Underground made him more likely to detect pits and traps". This is an ability of dwarves straight out of OD&D, Vol 1: "they note slanting passages, traps, shifting walls and new construction in underground seetings". Bardan doesn't just "sense" these traps, but taps the ground ahead with the butt of a short spear from supplies carried by the mule.

Boinger starts mapping the dungeon, using charcoal on parchment. If we could see this map, it might look something like this:


Detail from a map by J. Eric Holmes, scan by Tristan HolmesThis is a detail from one of Holmes' original maps for the games that this story was drawn from (shown with permission from his son Tristan Holmes, who made the scan). Each square represents 10', with the main east-west passage being exactly 25' wide as noted in the previous entry of this series. On the left can be seen "Stairs Down" and "Stair to Level 2" (which was not noted by Boinger and company). The north-south passage in the middle is the first cross corridor. The wide passage from the south wall is the slimy area, which leads to the Purple Worm's lair. Finally, on the right is the pit trap, with "Trap Door live cobra" noted beside it. So at this point in the story Holmes is following his original map fairly closely.

Moving east again, the party passes more "dark side corridors, some less than five feet wide" on the north. They approach an interesting intersection with a large "round pit" at the center, illuminated by light from a hole in the ceiling extending back up to the surface.

A group of orcs comes up behind them, but they hear a cry and are not surprised. Boinger has time to get out his "short horn bow". Boinger and Zereth fire arrows at the orcs before melee is joined, much like the order of combat that Holmes gives in the Basic rulebook: "...This is followed by any missile fire, if the distance to the monsters permits, and then melee is joined..." 

This is the first combat of the book, and is told from Boinger's perspective. He fires two arrows, the first killing one orc, and then engages in melee with another orc that he defeats after some tense exchanges. Holmes' combat descriptions are vivid - the orc's breath is foul, its blood hits Boinger's face, he feels nauseated after killing it.

The orcs are Tolkien-esque, even more so than D&D as they are also referred to as "goblin-creatures" (Tolkien primarily calls them goblins in the Hobbit and orcs in the Lord of the Rings). The orcs have hog-like faces with thick red tongues, and are armed with wide-bladed falchions, iron and leather helmets and chainmail. They cry out  "Nyah-gastur", which appears to be made up by Holmes, but to me has echoes of the Lovecraftian names Nylarathotep and Hastur.

Descriptions:
Zereth: Black Feathered Arrows

Olaf: Thick Leather Boots

Boinger: Short Horn Bow
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The first five maps and guidebook for the Wilderlands of High Fantasy is available for sale!

Bat in the Attic - Fri, 05/11/2018 - 00:55

I am pleased to announce the release of the Wilderlands of High Fantasy. This is one of four products covering the eighteen maps that encompasses the Judges Guild Wilderlands setting. This product covers five of the maps as detailed below. The four sets combined will cover a region equal in size to Western Europe providing years and decades of adventuring for you and your group.

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

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


The first product is a 24 page guidebook containing a brief overview of and commentary on the first five maps of the Wilderlands along with lists covering details on Villages, Castles, Lairs, Ruins, and Islands.

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

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




The second product is a set of five maps: City-State of the Invincible Overlord, Barbarian Altanis, Valley of the Ancients, Tarantis, and Valon. When ordered via print on the demand they are printed in two overlapping halves each on a 12" by 18" poster. In addition each map is presented as a 22" by 17" PDF file.

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

This release will be followed by the Fantastic Wilderlands Beyonde in a few weeks covering the next five maps of the Wilderlands.

A preview PDF

The Wilderlands of High Fantasy Guidebook

The Wilderlands of High Fantasy Color Map




Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Lake Geneva Original RPG Campaign: 45 Years and Still Rolling!

Lord of the Green Dragons - Thu, 05/10/2018 - 23:51
Lake Geneva Original RPG Campaign: 45 Years and Still Rolling!: I wish to thank all of my various fans, friends and family members that have made it possible for me to wield my creative imagination and br...
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Again, Random Ultra-Warriors!

Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 05/10/2018 - 11:04
Interested in generating the sort of visually distinct science fantasy characters of the sort found in Masters of the Universe? I've got a set of random generators for you, just in case you missed it the first time I posted about it a few years ago. Pair the Random Ultra-Warriors Creator with your favorite science fantasy/post-apocalyptic rpg and your ready to create characters so distinctive they ought to be sold separately in their own blister pack.



Deadly Rivals, Strangers, & Power Steeped In Familial Blood - - Actual Pulp Era Campaign Event Seven

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 05/10/2018 - 05:34
"The year is Nineteen Hundred & Four, the papers are alive with headlines screaming about the war between Russia  & Japan as the Battle of Yalu River! The British empire has taken heavy losses in Tibet as mysterious forces & weather events shut down a battle between British & Tibetan warriors.  In the heart of New York City a desperate group of adventurers have derailed the kidnapping of  Pan Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Capellan Confederation Reconnaissance in Force

Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog - Thu, 05/10/2018 - 03:37

This is the third game of a continuing campaign with the same “green” Capellan Confederation Lance. With a salvaged Archer replacing the old Javelin, they actually has some significant firepower now. They can actually handle a raid scenario– putting some “teeth” into their recon.

The situation I had in mind is that command needs to get to turn this unit into veterans quickly, they need them to accomplish an objective that is within their reach– but they can’t afford to risk losing their mechs. Strategically, this is part of an overload action– many feints and probes happening concurrently in order to push the defense to their limits.

Davion’s city defenders fields 4 foot/rifle infantry, 4 MG/mechanized, 4 Vedette tanks, and one Battlemaster. House Liao has a Vindicator, a Blackjack, a Clint, and an Archer. (I’ve got no Battletech counters, so I’m raiding Ogre again in order to make do.) Command wouldn’t know the exact strength of these forces when they send the lance out. The objective is to take out a couple of hardened reactors if possible. If they get both without losing any mechs, that is a phenominal victory. If they take out just one, that is a decisive victory. If they get none, draw out the enemy, and retain their mecha… even that is a marginal victory under the circumstances.

Now… this scenario was just made up out of thin air based on what the continuing characters had and what would fit in what what we’d done so far. I wanted to continue experimenting with what I consider to be the criminally underplayed conventional units of the BattleTech franchise. I have to say… when you combine these units with some reasonable morale/withdrawal rules based on the need for Mecha to not get arbitrarily expended, everything clicks. Infantry can be easily shot up, but they have to be dealt with before they can get close. Tanks can carry comparable firepower as a mech, but given the ease with which they can be disabled, people are going to tend to neutralize them before they target opposing mechs. Finally… if you irreplacable units are controlled by continuing characters… well, there’s all kinds of interesting situations you can throw at them and you won’t have to have half of them die in each game. The conventional forces produce decisive and dramatic action that is resolved quickly while the mecha jet around the board behaving like de facto chess queens. It’s orders of magnitudes more fun than the sort of straight up “company on company” battle royales that are the norm in the scenario booklets for the line.

In our game, the mecha crept to the forest edge and started unloading on a reactor at medium range. At the rate they were damaging it, the could expect to drop it within a few turns. The attackers didn’t bother targeting the defenders due to the extra protection they had from being able to take cover in buildings. On turn two the defenders opted to rush. The Capellan Clint got hit by two AC/5’s from the Vedettes and the PPC from the Battlemaster. It was enough to take out the Clint’s leg. He managed to stand up on turn two despite the need to roll 11+ to do it. (FASA BattleTech Master Rules has it as a +5 piloting roll that requires two MP’s; the guy got it on the third try.)

The Vedettes are not terribly fierce units. The lance commander panicked when they bore down on his newly acquired Archer. He pulled back with it instead of risking it, but regretted it when he realized just how well armored the thing was. The Clint started backing away one hex at a time. (He was limited to 1 MP a turn with the disabled leg, but I ruled he could still hobble along through the terrain.)

The Blackjack ended up doing quite a bit of damage to the encroaching motorized MG infantry. (Double damage in clear terrain is a nice, reasonable, and bloody rule.) A total of 35 points of damage was done to the one reactor. If the Archer had actually hit with his LRMs, it may well have been worth sticking around to burn it to the ground, but being only about 1/3rd of the way there, it was time to get out of Dodge.

The Clint had to jump in order to evade the Battlemaster and the infantry that were closing in on him. He fell a couple times making his way off the board, but was not in any real danger. The Vindicator and the Blackjack could easily jump through the woods, demonstrating the true utility of the light mechs. I believe the Davion defenders will be forced to reinforce this position if they want to keep these assets. If this light lance returns, it could easily finish the job they started here.

In Mechwarrior first edition, the characters get xp for each point of damage they do with more for criticals. The enemy forces also have an XP value equal to the tonnage of the mechs, half the tonnage of the vehicles, and ten tons for each infantry group. I split 25% of this between the continuing characters due to the marginal victory. (I would have given 100% if they had taken out the reactor and not lost any mechs… and 200% if they had managed to take out both reactors.)

The player characters all went up a level in gunnery. Finally! We can now play some more sensible scenarios where the they will have a much better chance of actually hitting stuff. (Although they could have spent XP to convert one the Archer’s attacks into a hit if they had spent some of his XP to do it now that I think of it… not that it would have made a difference)

Here’s the XP tallies:

Vindicator (6/4): 75 + 63 + 111 – 175 = 74

Clint (6/4): 92 + 93 – 175 = 10

Archer (6/4): 106 + 88 – 175 = 19

Blackjack (7/5): 61 + 112 – 125 = 48

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

[MODULE] The Barbarian King

Beyond Fomalhaut - Wed, 05/09/2018 - 13:49
The Barbarian King
I am happy to announce the publication of the revised edition of The Barbarian King. A 20-page adventure module for 4th to 6th level player characters, The Barbarian Kingpits the company against the ruined empire of the mountain barbarians... and the evil that still slumbers therein! This gloomy wilderness and dungeon scenario features deals with malevolent and ultra-powerful spirits, the burial places of a now defeated people, shadowy hosts and deadly traps. As the introduction goes:
Beyond the border city of Velft where the legion of General José Antonio Balazán upholds the law, the great eastern trading route leaves civilisation. After the ploughed fields of the townlands and the small villages and guard towers of the valleys stand endless mountain ranges, cold and unforgiving.
These harsh wastelands were once the domain of the Barbarian King, whose men bowed before animalistic spirits and fought with weapons of brass. In their raids, they showed no mercy: not consent with pillaging, they took their victims as slaves or killed them when they could. So it was until the death of the king, after which men in mail came from the plains, and as their foes once, they had no pity for those they met.
Today, there is a fortress city named Castle Evening on the lands where the barbarians had roamed, and barges plow their once holy lake. The initial conquerors, the knighthoods of Alliria and Mitra, were eventually defeated by the fanatical inquisitor-priests of Talorn; shamefully exiled from the land of their hard-won victories. The abundant mines and rich pastures have since transformed the wilderness into something else, a place of order and watchful sentries. Yet beyond the lands of the settlers, the mountains are silent as they had always been. And it is said, in a valley haunted by the shades of the barbarian warriors, there stands yet the burial place of that last warlord: the Barbarian King.
First published in 2002 as a standalone mini-module and in 2011 in an expanded version in Fight On! magazine, The Barbarian King has seen quite a lot of play in those sixteen years (and held up rather well at the table). It has been disassembled, reassembled, bootlegged on the DM’s Guild (no kidding) and put back together again. This edition has been re-edited for easy use, and includes illustrations by Matthew Ray (who also did the cover art), Stefan Poag and Denis McCarthy.
The Barbarian King is available from the new SHOP. (The reason for the switch was to allow people to buy more than one products at once, which is harder with Paypal buttons. Bigcartel has been used by other zine creators, and seems to be a good platform.)
Please note that your print order also makes you eligible for free PDF copies of your ordered items when they become available (should be a few months after the print edition). PDFs will be delivered via RPGNow to your regular e-mail address, unless you request otherwise.
***
In other news: Echoes From Fomalhaut #01 is now available in PDF from RPGNow! This edition also includes a map pack for home printing.Echoes #02 is now almost fully written, and undergoing proofreading. With art orders and my day job taken into account, it has a good chance to come out mid-June. Remember the map from Issue #01? There will be a double-sided one in this one!
Until then…
Fight On!

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