Tabletop Gaming Feeds

Retro Review WG4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun For AD&D 1st Edition & Your Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 03/15/2019 - 22:15
 WG4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun is one of my all time favorite modules hands down, there is so much occult bleakness and darkness set within the bounds of Greyhawk. Perhaps the over all sense of menace and dread hanging over the temple itself.  WG4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun is flat out creepy and dangerous even more so then the Tomb of Horrors. I dug out my copy of  WG4 as soon Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Last Weekend for Black Hack Pre-orders

Oubliette - Fri, 03/15/2019 - 17:21
Having finished sending all The Black Hack Kickstarter rewards last week, I'm now almost finished sending out the pre-orders. I'm going to leave the pre-order products up for sale until the end of Sunday so if you'd like to snag one of them now's the time to order.

After the pre-orders close I'll be putting up The Black Hack range for general sale, but the pre-orders will be better value and they are the only way outside of Kickstarter to get one of the exclusive copies of the book with a cloth/silver cover.

Here's a link to them:

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

So about OD&D presentation and style.

Bat in the Attic - Fri, 03/15/2019 - 16:07
There long been a thread of thought that ODnD is poorly written and organized. When criticism is charitable it a result of ODnD being Gygax's first attempt at writing about a tabletop roleplaying game. When it not it because Gygax's ability as an author is also being criticized.

So this came up again in a forum that I participated one. To date the general gist of my response has been
Part of ODnD are uncleanly written but as a whole it is a work of genius and a lot of what is unclear is a result of Gygax writing for the miniature wargaming hobby as it existed in the early 70s.But this time I got thinking that I never really dug into many of salient. So I decided this time I would look at ODnD with fresh eyes.

Men and Magic

The crucial section is on page 5 of Men & Magic titled Preparations. Here at the first Gygax summarizes and outlines everything he going to talk about.
The referee bears the entire burden here, but if care and thought are used, the reward will more than repay him. First, the referee must draw out a minimum of half a dozen maps of the levels of his “underworld,” people them with monsters of various horrid aspect, distribute treasures accordingly, and note the location of the latter two on keys, each corresponding to the appropriate level. This operation will be more fully described in the third book of these rules. When this task is completed the participants can then be allowed to make their first descent into the dungeons beneath the “huge ruined pile, a vast castle built by generations of mad wizards and insane geniuses.” Before they begin, players must decide what role they will play in the campaign, human or otherwise, fighter, cleric, or magic-user. Thereafter they will work upwards — if they survive — as they gain “experience.” First, however, it is necessary to describe fully the roles possible.Breaking it down we see this involves
  1. the referee must draw out a minimum of half a dozen maps of the levels of his “underworld,”
  2. people them with monsters of various horrid aspect
  3. distribute treasures accordingly
  4. note the location of the latter two on keys, each corresponding to the appropriate level.
  5. Explicitly states that the above will be more fully described in the third book.
When this task is completed the participants can then be allowed to make their first descent into the dungeons beneath the “huge ruined pile, a vast castle built by generations of mad wizards and insane geniuses.”But
Before they begin, players must decide what role they will play in the campaign, human or otherwise, fighter, cleric, or magic-user. Thereafter they will work upwards — if they survive — as they gain “experience.”Then for the remainder of Men & Magic, Gygax outlines how how characters are defined, and some of what they can do or have like equipment, combat and magic.

It is in the details where writing for his expected audience of miniature wargamers is most evident. He assume that his reader has experience running or playing other miniature wargame campaigns. That they are familiar with the idea of initiative, and combat turns. That what needed to be spelled out are details to make it work at the level of the individual character. One method is the alternative system. Another is how to integrate with Chainmail, a rule system that he know many of his potential customers already have and are using to handle not only medieval melees but one and one combat as well.

Another part where his intended audience comes into play is that he doesn't offer anything like skills or general action resolution. Because he expect his audience to do the same thing they do in the miniature wargames they play. If something comes up that isn't covered by a rule or a chart, then you go back to first principles and reason it out based on how it  worked in life or in the case of fantasy in various movies and books. Something we know was common from the recent work documenting the early days of wargaming and tabletop roleplaying.

Gygax is consistent in spelling out the unique parts of the D&D rules, the parts that his fellow hobbyists would not know.

Monsters & Treasures

Then after Men & Magic, he launches into Monsters and Treasure. Which important details about two of the elements he outlined in preperation
  1. Monsters
  2. What treasure monsters have
  3. The available treasures.
The Underworld and Wilderness Adventures

The Underworld and Wilderness Adventures is where the rest of what outlined in preparation is broken down and reinforced by examples of play.

Starting from the first page.
  1. Gygax describes what he meant by levels of the "underworld" and give examples. (pg 3 to 5)
  2. Offers details on distribution monsters & treasure as well other things that can go into the underworld as well as tips for keeping things fresh throughout a campaign (pg 6 to 8)
  3.  Gets into the logistics of handling characters exploring the Underowold including encountering Wandering Monsters ( pg 8 to 12)
  4. Give an example of play. (pg 12 to 14)
  5. Presents an alternative to the Underworld the Wilderness. Like the details for an Underworld, he discusses how they are setup and the logistic of handling character exploring a wilderness.
  6. The above also touts the board for Outdoor Survival game by Avalon Hill as a useful aid as well as how to use it. Which to me echos the inclusion of Chainmail in Men & Magic.
  7. Then gets into constructing castle, undoubtedly something of interest to his player and his audience. (pg 20 to 21)
  8. And since we are on the topic of castle, he now talks about the troops and men a character could hire as well some of the logistics of being a lord. (pg 21 to 24)
  9. We now talked about castles, and troops lets talk about warfare in general including rules for stuff you wouldn't have (not found in  Chainmail) like aerial combat and naval combat. Again another example of where he writes for his audience. (pg 24 to 33)
  10. And since the last thing he wrote about warfare naval combat, here are some ideas for naval adventures (page 24 to 36)
Finally wraps it up with
There are unquestionably areas which have been glossed over. While we deeply regret the necessity, space requires that we put in the essentials only, and the trimming will often have to be added by the referee and his players. We have attempted to furnish an ample framework, and building should be both easy and fun. In this light, we urge you to refrain from writing for rule interpretations or the like unless you are absolutely at a loss, for everything herein is fantastic, and the best way is to decide how you would like it to be, and then make it just that way! On the other hand, we are not loath to answer your questions, but why have us do any more of your imagining for you? Write to us and tell about your additions, ideas, and what have you. We could always do with a bit of improvement in our refereeing.And of course

Wrapping it up
To me the above looks like a reasonable way of presenting something as novel and different as DnD was at the time. The most serious issue, that it written for the audience of miniature wargamers  resulted because the idea outlined in preparation proved so compelling that it expanded far beyond it intended audience. One that didn't share the experiences and assumptions of miniature wargamers of the early 70s. This resulted in novices to the hobby confused about aspects of ODnD.

In addition Gygax could have written a better explanation with some of the unique details of ODnD like spell memorization.

It is evident that Gygax recognized these issue given the Holmes Basic D&D was commissioned within two years of ODnD release. Then later followed up with B/X DnD, BECMI, and ADnD.

But after looking at it again I feel the presentation is solid and explains fully the most important and unique concepts that made D&D different from the miniature wargame campaigns of the day. Concepts that propelled DnD and tabletop roleplaying into their own category of gaming.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Playing With The OSR - First Impressions of SURVIVE THIS!! Vigilante City Rpg Villain's Guide By Bloat Games

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 03/15/2019 - 15:03
Sometimes you've got to back off of something to really appreciate it such is the case of recently with  Bloat Games SURVIVE THIS!! Vigilante City -Villain's Guide PDF. This book clocks in at three hundred pages of OSR super villain goodness so in other words this is the Dungeon Master's Guide for the SURVIVE THIS!! Vigilante City Rpg.This is the DM tool kit book for the SURVIVE THIS!! Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

On how to Level UP

Hack & Slash - Fri, 03/15/2019 - 14:09
Do you have questions?

Check out Level up! A book of fantasy gaming lists in .pdf and print.

DTRPG Digital
DTRPG Print (In approval)
Amazon Kindle
Amazon Paperback
Lulu Digital
Lulu Print

It's a book of lists! But more than that—it's a way to bend your mind in more creative ways.
What are the top types of magical currency? Why do wizards live in towers? What exactly is wrong down at the brewery? What are all the different types of secret doors?

So, fun and useful for you. But invaluable for the young or curious about Dungeons and Dragons. What were the top news stories from Dungeons and Dragons history? Whatever happened to the fourth edition virtual tabletop? What are all the different versions of Dungeons and Dragons? Through humor and page after page of classic fantasy style illustrations, it helps those who don't know a lot about Dungeons and Dragons feel less anxious and more comfortable.

In other news, I talk a little about my latest release with Matt Finch! But the important part is there in the thumbnail. Check it out for a fun interview.

Hack & Slash FollowGoogle +NewsletterSupportDonate to end Cancer (5 Star Rating)
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Maps of Eternia

Sorcerer's Skull - Fri, 03/15/2019 - 11:00
Check out a couple of the maps put out as posters with the Masters of the Universe Classic line. Plenty of good adventure fodder to be had!

Here's Preternia (get it?):

And for your sci-fi or space opera needs, here's the "Extent of the Horde Empire":

Pandemorphic Development

3d6 Traps & Thieves - Thu, 03/14/2019 - 19:53
Yesterday's development for the Parateva supplement led to work on the Avremier version of the Aboleth. Those wacky Spacing Guild Navigators of my campaign setting.
Today has been an exploration of the classic Fiend Folio creature presented as a group, starting on page 80 and ending on page 83. Their name starts with an S, and ends with a D. They are Chaotic Neutral in alignment and hail from Limbo. They are the property of a large company responsible for a number of games. I shall not even whisper the name here. But, because I fear to utter the name, the Avremier setting will contain a number of creatures and concepts inspired or suggested by the original IP found on those hallowed Fiend Folio pages of yore.

Enter: the Pandemorph.

      The Avremier setting does not use the recognized planar structure of the classic fantasy RPG. There is no Limbo. There really isn't a Pandemonium, either. What the Avremier planar structure does have is Pandemorphium - a plane of chaos and change. One of the only native species to interact with creatures beyond their planar bounds is known as the Pandemorph. This creature is of a morphic structure that allows for spontaneous evolution and adaptation, but the base structure of a Pandemorph is that of a generally humanoid form with traits of frogs, toads, and salamanders. They tend to stand on two legs and they tend to be man-size or larger. They are usually colorful and demonstrative. They are certainly chaotic, but rarely evil. To the seasoned planar traveler, they are usually known as Chaos Hoppers.

The Pandemorph is a kind of "overspecies," with a near-infinite capacity for mutation and permutation. The "Chaos Hopper" is certainly not the only representative of such a changeable race. In fact, there is a more humanoid offshoot of the Pandemorph that can be found on Avremier. This is the Glorph, a small race of frog-toad-salamander humanoids that range through different colors throughout their development. They start with orange, then violet, chartreuse - transitioning to gray and black near the end of their cycle. Once they start losing their bright coloration, the glorph may be returning to Pandemorphium. Glorph PCs transition to different colors as they gain experience levels. They can even evolve out of the glorph cycle entirely to become true Pandemorphs at higher levels.

Development of the Pandemorph does not stop there. We have a more primitive and brutal form known as the Gruun. There are also powerful Lords and Elders of Pandemorphium. As more information is brought to light, it may even become obvious that the mutable Pandemorph is only one aspect of biological Chaos making its way throughout the Vastness of the planes.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Worlds Apart - The Aboleth in Avremier

3d6 Traps & Thieves - Thu, 03/14/2019 - 19:19
In an effort to make this unsteady blog-thing more useful, I'd like to share more development notes and material. Because my current project is the Parateva supplement (the marshy delta region of Avremier that lies to the west of Dhavon), I've been clarifying and expanding a few related concepts. While some monsters are appealing to me, they don't always suit my vision of the Avremier setting. This inspires a great many variant monsters, or setting-specific analogues that aren't always recognizable from the source material. Though I enjoy creating entirely new monsters, giving a new twist to a classic favorite can be just as rewarding - and far less demanding.

Yesterday, the focus was on the aboleth. The Avremier version has some differences.

Aboleth # App AC Move” % Lair Treasure # Att Dmg/Att HD: 8 1-4 4 3/18 20% F 4 1-6/tentacle

This amphibious creature combines the physical features of fish, crustacean, and cephalopod into a single, nightmarish form. Its massive body is fish-like, but built more along horizontal lines within the carapace of a shrimp or lobster. The “face” is dominated by three black, slit-like eyes, set one above the other. Its manipulative appendages are four, powerful 10’ long tentacles that frame its head, much like a nautiloid. An aboleth is usually a mottled blue-black or green-black, with a lighter underbelly of pearly-gray.
The tentacles are used in combat, each striking for 1-6 damage and prompting a save vs. spells. A failed save results in the victim’s skin becoming a clear, slimy membrane in 2-5 rounds. The process can be reversed by a Cure Disease spell. Otherwise, the transformed skin membrane must be kept cool and damp or the victim suffers 1-12 damage per turn. The transformed skin can be restored with a Cure Serious Wounds spell.
Through intense concentration, the aboleth can create realistic illusions with audible and visual components. 3x/day, it can attempt to dominate a creature up to 30’ away. The victim saves vs. spells or falls under the control of the aboleth. The slave follows the aboleth’s telepathic commands, but will not fight for the monster. If separated by more than a mile, the enslaved creature can make another saving throw, once per day, to break the aboleth’s control. Otherwise, the victim can be freed by Remove Curse, Dispel Magic, or the death of the aboleth.
The aboleth can secrete a cloud of mucus up to 1’ from its submerged body. Creatures within the cloud must save vs. poison or inhale the cloudy suspension and lose the ability to breathe air. Suffocation occurs in 2-12 rounds when the victim tries to breathe air. The aboleth’s mucus is used to allow slaves to breathe water, as Potion of Water Breathing, for 1-3 hours. The mucus can be dissolved by soap or wine.       
Dwelling in hidden subterranean grottoes, the existence of these alien monsters is not generally known, though some individuals and organizations have studied and researched the aboleth as best as they could. What follows is an overview of these studies.
The aboleth comes to Avremier from another world – possibly another plane. Evidence suggests that these creatures once inhabited the world of Ouroboros, but it is not their place of origin. It is possible that the aboleth came to Avremier from an unrecorded Radial Plane, from a civilization countless centuries old. At least one other alien race claims that the aboleths were once a more humanoid species, but purposely evolved into their current form in pursuit of knowledge and the exploration of all reality. While the aboleth can supposedly “swim” the planes of their own volition, those found on Avremier are somehow trapped upon that world. As such, they are resentful of their plight, and hateful of most other living natives of their worldly prison.
Those aboleths trapped upon Avremier cannot enter the Ethereal or Astral Planes at will, but they are able to Dimension Dooronce every three rounds.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Review & Commentary Of The Beneath The Comet Adventure For The Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers Of Hyperborea and Your Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 03/14/2019 - 17:41
There are adventures that scream to be run and Beneath The Comet  is one of those, it packs a bit of everything in one pot but it makes the pot steaming and piping hot with Hyperborean sword and sorcery action set against the celestial events of the adventure. Today we take a look into the background, setting, and much more with Beneath the Comet. Grab The Adventure Right Over  HERE Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Sea Awaits

Torchbearer RPG - Thu, 03/14/2019 - 13:00
Sjøtrollet (The Sea Troll) by Theodor Kittelsen, 1887 

Hello friends!

In the Icelandic sagas, draugr are malevolent beings. It was said that you could tell who was likely to become a draugr in death because they died sitting up — in other words, alone as a miser rather than in bed and surrounded by loved ones. Sea-draugr are something else again. Though they share many characteristics of their land-based ‘cousins’, the tales seem to reflect the loss and guilt felt by those left behind when their loved ones were lost at sea and unable to be laid to rest with their ancestors.

In these stories, the sea-draugr often seek to return home and take up their old lives, only to be refused and shunned by their living families. The living are left with feelings of guilt and shame from these encounters, while the dead must return to their frigid, watery graves.

The sea-draugr play an important role the Bridge of the Damned adventure, so here’s a first look. What do you think?


These spirits of the drowned long for the warmth and comfort of hearth and home, but it is forever denied them. They lack the sheer malevolence of other draugr, but their terrible loneliness draws people wounded in heart and spirit like a lodestone, where they, too, succumb to the embrace of the waters. Sea-draugr are revenants: rotting, bloated, blue- or black-skinned corpses with flesh picked over by fish and crustaceans.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Random Mercury

Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 03/14/2019 - 11:00

Mercury is the least defined of the inner planets in pulp and early sci-fi. Beyond it being tidally locked  (which we've since learned it actually isn't), Mercury had no fixed characteristics, other than being generally more inhospitable than the other planets I've already dealt with: wet Venus or desert Mars. A lot of stories use Mercury for "Man Against Nature" stories, either for survivors of some sort of disaster or rescuers of survivors. But hey, when you've got your own Mercury, you can do what you want with it!Let's randomize:

Problems with Getting There?
1 None
2 Solar Storms (heat, radiation)
3 Magnetic Anomalies

Where’s the Action for Earth Folk?
1 Day Side
2 Twilight Belt
3 Night Side
4 The whole planet

Day Side Life?
1 None
2 Silicon-based lifeforms
3 Insect/Arthopods
4 Energy/Plasma beings
5 Whoever they are, they live underground
6 Alien robots/cyborgs

Earthlings on Day Side?
1-2 Not if they can help it. It’s got lethal heat and radiation with special gear.
3-4 Crazy prospectors in protective domes
5-6 Maverick archeologists after ancient artifacts
7-8 Fearless scientists studying the Sun (or Vulcan!)
9-10 Just robots

The Twilight Belt Terrain:
1 Badlands
2 Mountains, canyons and a cave network
3 Weird, crystalline forest
4 Torrid jungle, wracked by storms

Twilight Belt Life?
1 Hairy humanoid primitives
2 reptilian monsters
3 Plant-like
4 the same sort of beings as Day Side

Earthlings in the Twilight Belt?
1 Criminals hiding out
2 A small, struggling colony
3 Castaways
4 A scientific expedition

Night Side Terrain:
1 Cold, rocky desert
2 Odd crystal formations
3 Ruined Cities (and roll again)
4 Ice

Night Side Life?
1 None
2 Crystalline beings with telepathy
3 Incorporeal ergovores
4 Androids left by ancient inhabitants
5 Viscous, slime-like colonial intelligence
6 Creatures strangely resembling supernatural terrors of Earth legend

Earthlings on the Night Side?
1-2 Not if they can help it. It’s cold, dark, and unexplored.
3-4 Wanted men
5-6 Maverick archaeologists after ancient artifacts
7-8 Survivors from a long-lost rocket crash
9-10 Exploratory robots

TSR Revised

The Splintered Realm - Wed, 03/13/2019 - 22:05
The Tales of the Splintered Realm update is almost ready to go. I just want to give it another day of editing and clean ups, but I'm happy with how it's turned out. I upgraded from 16 to 20 pages, but in the bargain added 5 archetypes (including the 'big four'), added faith magic, expanded arcane and nature magic to 6 tiers, added a half-dozen monsters, and expanded the treasure rules to scale all the way to level 6 so that no additional treasure tables will be needed. I also revised spell rules to keep them simple and clean, but to make them better mirror class D+D spell casting with available spells per day.

I was working on a treasure supplement, and realized that higher-level treasures would require new or expanded treasure tables, and I didn't like that anything later would supersede the core rules. I would prefer that future materials would expand things; I was able to make a few modifications to the basic tables and organization to increase its usefulness as a foundation module that other modules now can expand on in any number of directions.

Oh, and here's a character sheet I made as well. Because. Character sheets. Amiright or amiright?

Playing With The OSR - First Impressions of SURVIVE THIS!! Vigilante City - Core Rules & Villain's Guide By Bloat Games

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 03/13/2019 - 19:34
So I've been a Pulp & supers guy for a very long time. I've played em all & changed systems more times then 'Supes' has done the quick change in a phone book.. Then I recently saw Tim Brannan's post on his blog about Bloat Games SURVIVE THIS!! Vigilante City - Core Rules & Villain's Guide PDFs Kickstarter I'm not going to lie I didn't even know this was an OSR event. But after reading Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

OSR Commentary On The Lovecraftian Aspects Of B1 In Search of The Unknown By Mike Carr For Your Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 03/13/2019 - 13:49
" In Search of the Unknown is a module for the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game, designed for use with the Basic Set of rules. It was written by game designer Mike Carr and was first published in 1979 by TSR, Inc. The module details a hidden complex known as the Caverns of Quasqueton. Reviewers considered it a good quality introduction to the game that was written in the so-called dungeon Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Dog That Would Not Bark

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 03/13/2019 - 11:13
By Jonathan Hicks
Farsight Games
Swords & Wizardry
Level: Who the fuck knows?

When a dog comes running to the players looking for attention, what dangers will they be led to?

This six page adventure has one encounter, with five ghouls. My life is a living hell.

I’m interested, lately, in lower page count adventures. In contrast to the overwritten stuff that seems to dominate the market these days I was thinking about the opposite end of the spectrum. What was G1, like, eight pages or something? And it’s one of the best things written. [And, yes Kent, it violates several of the things I judge on and could be written better.] I’ve been a little intrigued lately by the idea of a lower page count adventure with a higher density of rooms. Alongside that is some thinking about pricing and inflation, again influenced by G1. If you got something really good in six pages, or adequate, what’s a fair price for that? Ain’t nobody gonna make any money doing this shit, so it’s a kind of academic question at this point, but interesting nonetheless. Finally, just how hard is it to make an adventure for publication? How much effort is it to get something short, dense, and at least adequate in a form that other people can use?

With this in mind I selected the Dog That Would Not Bark for a review. Six pages fits the model of what I’m looking for! And $1! Alas, it’s actually a six page Sidetrek featuring one encounter. The blurb says it’s an “adventure.” It’s not an adventure, it’s an encounter. The blurb has no level listed. Five ghouls … what is that, level 2 or 3?

An agitated dog runs up barking, making no sound. He wants you to follow him to a ruin nearby. Inside are five ghouls about to eat two little kids. ADVENTURE! Wonder! VALUE! Population: you.

Six pages for this shit. Oh! Oh! “If the party did well then you can put a magic item in the treasure by rolling on the table in the core book.” This is how you write an adventure?

Yeah, the soundless bark is interesting. As is the ghouls about to eat the kids. And the kids say the dog is actually their uncle turned in to a dog by a wizard.  But come on man, six pages? Seriously? There are dungeon with fifty or sixty rooms that come in six pages. That pack this much adventure in to a decent percentage of their rooms.

What a world. What a world. Time to try and find another example to support my thesis and ignore this ever existed. Sometimes science is about conviction.

This is $1 at DriveThru. The preview is but two page long. If it were longer you’d know how much “value” you were getting and not buy it. The second page is representative of the adventure. Lots of whitespace with a couple sentences of text.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Wednesday Comics: Attack of the Clones Revisited

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 03/13/2019 - 11:00
There's been a lot of Star Wars talk over on my discord channel, so I thought it was a good time to revisit an old post about Star Wars' effect on comic books, even in its first decade. It's perhaps unfair to call the series below clones exactly, but some sort of force is clearly with them.

Since science fiction comics and Star Wars draw on some of the same influences, it's not always easy to know what is Star Wars inspired and what isn't. Chaykin's Ironwolf had a rebel fighting a galactic empire in '74--3 years before Star Wars! Still, if one looks at Chaykin's follow-up, Cody Starbuck,(also '74) the pre-Star Wars appearances have the look of Flash Gordon and the widespread swordplay of Dune. In the post-Star Wars appearances, costumes have a bit more Japanese influence and guns are more in play; both of these are possibly Star Wars inspired innovations.

Star Hunters (1977)
Empire? A sinister Corporation that controls Earth
Rebels? Sort of, though the protagonists start out forced to work for the Corporation
The Force? There's an "Entity" and a cosmic battle between good and evil
Analogs? Donovan Flint, the primary protagonist, is a Han Solo type with a mustache prefiguring Lando's.
Notes: If Star Hunters is indeed Star Wars inspired, its a very early example. The series hit the stands in June of 1977--on a few days over a month after Star Wars was released.

Micronauts (1979)
Empire? A usurpation of the monarchy of Homeworld. So, maybe a lateral move, except for EVIL!
Rebels? Actually previous rulers and loyalists; a mix of humans, humanoids, and robots.
The Force? The Enigma Force, in fact.
Analogs? Baron Karza is a black armored villain like Vader; Marionette is a can-do Princess; Biotron and Microtron are a humanoid robot and a squatter, less humanoid pairing like Threepio and Artoo.

Metamorphosis Odyssey (1980)
Empire? The Zygoteans, who have concurred most of the galaxy.
Rebels? A disparate band from various worlds out to end the Zygotean menace.
The Force? There's Starlin cosmicness.
Analogs? Aknaton is an old mystic who know's he's going to die a la Obi-Wan. He picks up Dreadstar on a backwater planet and gets him an energy sword.

Dreadstar (1982)
Empire? Two: the Monarchy and the Instrumentality.
Rebels? Yep. A band of humans and aliens out to defeat the Monarchy and the Instrumentality.
The Force? Magic and psychic abilities.
Analogs? Dreadstar still has than energy sword; Oedi is a farm boy (cat) like Luke; Syzygy is a mystic mentor like Kenobi; Lord High Papal is like Vader and Palpatine in one.
Notes: Dreadstar is a continuation of the story from Metamorphosis Odyssey.

Atari Force (1984)
Empire? Nope.
Rebels? Not especially.
The Force? Some characters have special powers.
Analogs? Tempest is a blond kid with a special power and a difficult relationship with his father sort of like Luke. There are a lot of aliens in the series, so there's a "cantina scene" vibe; Blackjak is a Han Solo-esque rogue. Dark Destroyer is likely Vader-inspired, appearance-wise.
Notes: This series sequel to the original series DC did for Atari, taking place about 25 years later. The first series is not Star Wars-y.

A Pipeful Of Trouble Adventure By Bret James Stewart From D-oom Products For Labyrinth Lord Or Your Old School Campaigns

Dark Corners of RPGing - Wed, 03/13/2019 - 01:17
"All is not well in Brierfield. The idyllic halfling village has fallen prey to unknown bandits and marauders. These peaceful victims of shattered loves and broken dreams need a band of heroes to save them. Are you willing to help them in their time of needs?"

Sometimes a dungeon master needs a basic & down to Earth module & that's where A Pipeful Of Trouble comes in from Bret James Stewart. We get a low level halfling adventure with some heart & heat for the player's PC's. The production & layout are straight up too the level of  D-oom Products expectations. This adventure is packed with back to back old school value at seventy two pages of campaign setting set up goodness. This adventure packs in  NPCs,nasty opponents & NPC's, lots of dangerous adventure locales,
twists & turns for the PC's situations, plus a brand new
evil monster with its own brand of weirdness.
The cartography  for Brierfield, & the Merrywood route to the caves, along with the adventure  a cave and dungeon maps are very well done. But I can't help but feel that everything in Pipeful Of Trouble is an old fashioned campaign set up. While the Tolkein flavor is undeniable its not an adventure that talks down the players or the dungeon master. Here the flavor is akin to a fully fleshed out adventure that can be dragged & dropped as a prime introduction adventure.
While this is an introductory adventure for beginning characters the entire adventure feels like a European fairy tale mixed in the with strains of Tolkien shifted through the lens of Dungeons & Dragons.

:Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis - FAIRY TALE (FAIRY TALE OF KINGS) - 1909 has some of the magic of Pipeful Of Trouble adventure ideals. 

There's something to be said for bringing in a tradition Dungeons & Dragons style adventure with some solid beginnings for lower tier PC's. At this Pipeful Of Trouble succeeds in spades. The style of this adventure is one with clear goals & roadways of old school campaign ideals. This is a good thing for beginning characters & players in my opinion. The dungeon master is given all of the tools he or she will need to set up a fine campaign to beginning with.
There are several ways I can see using Pipeful Of Trouble, one is for a set up for a game of James Spahn's The Hero's Journey Swords & Wizardry rpg . All of the elements are present in Pipeful Of Trouble to really bring home the Tolkein while grounding a campaign on the dungeon master's stomping ground. The epicness of the adventure's background setting allows the dungeon master to customize certain adventure elements. 

But the place where Pipeful Of Trouble really shines is with the Goblinoid Games Labyrinth Lord retroclone game. The whole package slots right into LL with no trouble at all & really brings home that old school feel without giving the players loads of horrid worry. That isn't to say that Pipeful Of Trouble isn't going to kill your PC's dead quite the contrary. But it means that the players can have a solid time with the adventure right from the dice hitting the table.

Pipeful Of Trouble does three things at the table top level & does em right. It presents a great introductory adventure, there is some really nasty business waiting for the PC's, & the adventure serves as a prime price of adventure gaming perfect for introducing new players to the OSR & for killing off the PC's of veterans who get cocky with a first through third level adventure. Is Pipeful Of Trouble worth the money?! Yes I think so. The adventure succeeds on two levels, one it delivers on its promise for adventure! 
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High Tech Mysticism & High Caliber Adventure Encounter - New Drow City History & Violence

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 03/12/2019 - 17:23
"All our best men are laughed at in this nightmare land."Pomes All Sizes (1992)Jack Kerouac'There are things out in the night these days. We don't venture into the darkness to much anymore except for supplies occasionally. They think they've got us beat but they have no idea about the roof top gardens or the runners. These days we use the cross bows to take out their night ogres Needles
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PRESALE: Blackfire DC Lil Bombshells: Series 3 Vinyl Figure (WonderCon Exclusive)

Cryptozoic - Tue, 03/12/2019 - 16:59

Intergalactic Super-Villains who can shoot bolts of ultraviolet energy really do have more fun! This is your opportunity to own the Blackfire DC Lil Bombshells vinyl figure created exclusively for WonderCon 2019! You can make sure you get this limited collectible by purchasing it now and then picking it up at Cryptozoic’s Booth #1337 during the event.

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How Years of Trying to Fix Obnoxious People Shrank D&D’s Appeal

DM David - Tue, 03/12/2019 - 12:04

How much should the outcomes of characters’ actions be decided by the dungeon master instead of the rules?

Before roleplaying games, the rules of a game specified every action players could take, and then decided the outcome of each possibility. The invention of the dungeon master freed players from the tyranny of the rules. Most editions of Dungeons & Dragons expected the DM to make frequent decisions about the characters’ fates—especially in the many situations the rules didn’t cover. “Prior to 3rd edition,” designer Monte Cook wrote, “‘the DM decides’ wasn’t just a fallback position; it often was the rule.”

The DM’s power to augment the rules enabled the hobby we love, but this power enabled capricious DMs to zap characters when players failed to laugh at their puns, to curry favor by lading treasure on their girlfriend’s characters, and to win D&D by killing the rest of the party.

So the designers entered what D&D’s Creative Director Mike Mearls calls “the business of trying to ‘fix’ obnoxious people.”

“D&D’s 3.5 and 4th editions were very much driven by an anxiety about controlling the experience of the game, leaving as little as possible to chance,” Mearls explained in a Twitter thread. “The designers aimed for consistency of play from campaign to campaign, and table to table. The fear was that an obnoxious player or DM would ruin the game, and that would drive people away from it. The thinking was that if we made things as procedural as possible, people would just follow the rules and have fun regardless of who they played with.”

So D&D’s fourth-edition designers devised rules that shrank the DM’s role as much as possible. Potentially, a DM’s duties could be limited to reading the box text, running the monsters, and announcing the skills that apply to the skill challenge. As much as possible, fourth edition shifts the game to the combat stage with its well-defined rules. In stark contrast to earlier editions, spells lacked effects outside of combat. Fourth edition defines combat powers as tightly as Magic: the Gathering cards, so the DM never needs to decide if, for example, you can take ongoing damage from cold and fire at the same time. For action outside of combat, fourth edition presents the skill challenge, where the DM only must decide if a skill helps the players—but only when the skill challenge fails to list the skill in advance.

In Mearls’ opinion, this basic design premise suffers from a fatal flaw. “It misses out on a ton of the elements that make RPGs distinct and doesn’t speak to why people enjoy D&D in the first place.”

Fifth edition’s design returns dungeon masters to their traditional role in the game. During the design, Rodney Thompson described the goal. “We want a system that makes it easy to be the DM, and at the same time trusts the DM to make the right call for any particular situation, rather than create many highly specific chunks of rules text in an attempt to cover every possible situation.”

“With fifth edition,” Mearls explained, “We assumed that the DM was there to have a good time, put on an engaging performance, and keep the group interested, excited, and happy. It’s a huge change, because we no longer expect you to turn to the book for an answer. We expect the DM to do that.”

The design team referred to the goal as “DM empowerment.” The phrase may be misleading, because the goal of DM empowerment is not to tickle a DM’s power fantasies. DM empowerment lets DMs fill gaps in the rules—and sometimes override the rules with their own judgement. DM empowerment lets your wizard use spells outside of combat, among other things.

Monte Cook touted the advantages of the approach. “Empowering DMs from the start facilitates simulation. No set of rules can cover every situation, and the DM can address fine details in a way no rulebook can. When it comes to how much of your turn is spent opening a door, perhaps it depends on the door. A large, heavy metal door might be your action to open, while opening a simple wooden door might not be an action at all. Another door might fall in between. Do you want the rules to try to cover every aspect of this relatively insignificant situation?”

DM empowerment reduces the volume of rules a game needs. Original D&D’s rules fit into a few pages because the game relied on the DM to resolve all the areas the rules failed to cover. Rodney Thompson explained that fifth edition also “trusts the DM to make the right call for any particular situation, rather than create many highly specific chunks of rules text in an attempt to cover every possible situation.”

“Fewer rules coupled with DM empowerment also facilitate story-focused play, because nothing slows down an exciting narrative like consulting a book or two . . . or ten,” Monte wrote. “Giving the DM the ability to adjudicate what you can and can’t do on your turn then players to be more freeform with their actions. They don’t need to worry about action types and can just state what they want to do. A player’s crazy plan might not fit into the tightly defined rules for what you can do in a round, but a good DM can quickly determine on the fly if it sounds reasonable and keep the story and action moving.”

None of this means that D&D’s rules lack a purpose. D&D remains a game about making choices and seeing the consequences (often while in dungeons with dragons). The rules serve as the physics of the game world. As much as convenient, rules should enable players to see the likely consequences of an action, make wise or reckless choices, and then let the dice settle the outcome. Rules help span the gulf between a character’s real experience in the game world and what players learn from a DM’s description. (See Would You Play With a Dungeon Master Who Kept Your Character Sheet and Hid Your PC’s Hit Points?.) Elegant games cover most of the actions players may take with compact rules that deliver verisimilitude. (See From the Brown Books to Next, D&D Tries for Elegance.)

In a roleplaying game, characters face perils, and sometimes harsh consequences. Without such possibilities, the game lacks tension and everyone grows bored. The rules help the DM avoid becoming the players’ adversary—the person to blame when something goes wrong. Monte wrote, “If the rule is printed in a book, it’s easier to assume that it’s balanced and consistent, and players are less likely to question it.” When I run a game and the players succeed, I want them to credit themselves; when something goes bad, I want them to blame the die rolls set by the rules.

The best roleplaying games strike a balance between rules and empowered game masters. D&D owes some of its recent success to elegant rules, some to DM empowerment, and some to modern dungeon masters better suited to their empowered role.

Early in the life of D&D, DMs struggled more with their role keeping the group interested, excited, and happy. Everyone came to D&D from a life seeing and playing only competitive games, so DMs tended to fall into a familiar style of playing to win. And let’s face it, the example set by co-creator Gary Gygax reinforced some of the DM-to-win archetype. After all, when his group made smart plays by listening at doors and searching rubbish for treasure, Gary struck back by creating ear seekers and rot grubs.

Until recently, if you didn’t go to conventions, you could be a dungeon master for decades and almost certainly only see a couple of other DMs in action. Today, every potential DM can stream examples of other DMs acting as fans of the characters. Plus, DMs grow up exposed to electronic roleplaying games. Today’s DMs rarely need to be tied by rules to enable a fun game.

The biggest competitor to D&D is not another tabletop game, it’s World of Warcraft and countless other computer and video games that duplicate most of the D&D experience, 24/7, with better graphics. D&D enjoys two competitive advantages: face-to-face social interaction, and the DM’s ability to account for actions outside of the game’s rules. When D&D’s designers worked to eliminate the DM’s judgement from the game, they threw out a key advantage. Without a DM, why bother to log off?

Related: Why Fourth Edition Seemed Like the Savior Dungeons & Dragons Needed

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