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1d10 Random Weird & Ancient Tombs and Contents Table For Weird Tales or Swords & Sorcery Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 04/17/2020 - 17:00
1d10 Random Weird & Ancient Tombs and Contents Table  This ancient and weathered necropolis stands definitely against the elements for hundreds and hundreds of years now. Upon certain nights of the year the great wrought brass door stands slightly a jar and from within a howling and growling of great beasts can be heard. The tombs occupants have long ago have been sucked into the Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

A Commentary & Overview of the Lion & Dragon Rpg Along with Dark Albion by RPG Pundit But With A Twist of Gary Gygax's Greyhawk

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 04/17/2020 - 02:01
Lion & Dragon by Rpg Pundit has always been more then the sum of its parts for me. The  hard back book hasn't left my gaming collection box of 'must use' rpg books since it came out . The Lion & Dragon system itself its own flavor of OSR D20 system that does the 'Rose War' history & adventure  events quite well.  Here the player's can not only change history but forge their own. The NPC's evenNeedleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Decapus

The Splintered Realm - Fri, 04/17/2020 - 00:52
And to think I had originally cut the decapus from the rulebook! I ended up with some room on that page, added it back, and decided to give it an upgrade. It's now a beholder-style threat, but for lower-level characters. Probably my favorite monster now.

I'm thinking a group of level 2 characters could maybe take this guy on. He's going to attack with the tentacles for sure, but he's also got a few magical tricks up his sleeve... er, tentacle.

I like the idea that he keeps shifting his weight all the time, and attacks with a different number of tentacles each round; he's got 9, and 1d4+3 of them are attacking at any time.



Stalwart Keep

The Splintered Realm - Thu, 04/16/2020 - 19:39
And here is the starter location for our intrepid heroes. I mean, they don't have to be intrepid. Or heroes. And they don't have to START here, I guess. They could just kind of end up here. Or not.

I mean. It's a place, okay?


You’re a Gestir

Torchbearer RPG - Thu, 04/16/2020 - 17:43

Hello friends!  (crossposted from latest Sagas of Rimholm update)

The Middarmark Gazetteer has all sorts of information about the organization of society. In my view, one of the more fascinating things happening in the Middarmark involves the monarchs and other individuals with political power attempting to displace the existing order with a feudal one. That’s all well and good, you might be thinking, but what does that matter to my Torchbearer games?

The answer is that adventurers who choose to cozy up to power actually play a pivotal role in helping to enforce the new order. Conflict and strife create opportunities after all.

The Times Are Changing

Among the Bjornings (and Scefings), communities are traditionally led by hersar. In the countryside, hersar are not generally born to the role. They simply have the knack for getting others to follow them. This is the way things have always been. Some people excel at making the decisions the community needs to survive. They can organize and manage the community’s labor. They can settle disputes and find compromises. These people rise to become hersar. The hersar answer to the chieftains of their clans and the jarl or king or queen of their land.

In Bjorning lands, this traditional way is gradually and begrudgingly giving way to a new order borrowed from the Gotts: members of leading families are appointed as royal officers called lendermenn to oversee multiple steadings and villages. This system of feudal overlords is somewhat more developed among the Gotts, who call their lendermenn ‘barunar’ (sing. barun).

In Bjorning lands, High King Bård, who died in a hunting accident two years ago, was the first to begin appointing lendermenn at the urging of his wife Astrid. Now, as high queen in her own right, Astrid continues the practice. To the south and west, King Eyvind of Jeilirdal and Queen Mjoll of Dreikdal have seen the benefit of giving land to their loyal retainers in exchange for taxes and military service. They have begun appointing their own lendermenn.

The lendermenn owe their monarchs military service and taxes. In exchange their overlord gives them the right to exploit their lands and collect taxes from their tenants. The cottars and karls of these lands have always been free folk, and they resent the imposition of these new overlords who now demand a tithe of their labor and its produce. They are not the only ones to resent it: The Otherworld roils with the fury of the ancestors at the abrogation of ancient custom.

The Hirth

Lendermenn, jarls and monarchs call their household and its members a hirth. 

The hirth is an armed retinue and circle of advisors. The senior members of a hirth are called hirthmenn. 

At the top of the hierarchy is the monarch (or jarl). A kanceler is the leader of the hirth and reports to the monarch. Several officers report to the kanceler and advise the monarch. They are chosen from among the lendermenn: 

  • Drottsetti. The drottsetti are responsible for administering the monarch’s holdings and representing the monarch throughout the lands. They speak with the monarch’s voice when the monarch cannot be present in person.
  • Skenkjari. The skenkjari oversees the servants and thralls.
  • Stallari. The stallari leads the hirth in wars and raids.
  • Merkismathr. The standard-bearer and champion.

The lendermenn lead groups of veteran warriors called skutilsveinr (dish-men/women). Skutilsveinr are much like huskarls, but they are all men and women of important and respected families. They are called skutilsveinr because they are honored with the right to sit at table with their monarch in the hall. In battle, the skutilsveinr wear heavy armor and take pride of place in their lord’s warband.

The skutilsveinr are supported by their kertilsveinr (candle-men/women). The kertilsveinr are young men and women of quality training to become skutilsveinr. When the hirthmenn feast with their monarch in the hall, the kertilsveinr serve and hold candles to illuminate the feast. In battle, the kertilsveinr are more lightly armed and armored than the skutilsveinr they serve. They support and defend their individual skutilsveinr and guard the flanks.

Kept out of sight are the gestir: the assassins, spies, scouts, secret police—the ones called upon to do the things that an upstanding and honorable person can’t be seen to do.

The Gestir

Every ruler needs agents that can do the dirty work their noble followers can’t be seen to do: collecting taxes from recalcitrant subjects, killing rivals in secret or taking hostages, robbing tombs for items of power, negotiating with hostile spirits or sending them against foes, slaying or driving off monsters. In the hirth, these are the gestir (guests). The gestir are low-status men and women (little better than outcasts or thralls) who do not have the right to sit at table in the lord’s hall, or even enter it. They are tolerated for their skills, but not loved. They serve the hirth as assassins, scouts, spies and secret police. They are easily disavowed if necessary, for they have no formal standing in the hall. In battle they typically serve as light infantry and skirmishers. 

As outcasts and vagrants with sharp problem-solving skills, adventurers are perfect for this role. Most lendermenn, jarls and monarchs have a few to hand they can call on when necessary. For adventurers this can be a double-edged sword: Being gestir gives them a patron and influence, but they’re still not welcome at their lord’s table and the hirthmenn will rarely let them forget it.

New Terms

Barun (pl. barunar). Gott term for royal officers appointed by the warchief. Barunar are granted lands in exchange for military service and collection of taxes. The inspiration for Bjorning lendermenn.

Drottsetti. Officers of the hirth who serve as administrators of lands directly held by a jarl, king or queen (as opposed to lands granted to their lendermenn). They are considered to speak with the voice of their lord when that person is not present. Drottsetti are appointed from among the lendermenn.

Gestir. Low-status men and women who serve as a jarl, king or queen’s assassins, scouts, spies, secret police and general troubleshooters. The term means ‘guest’ and refers to the fact that these folk are not accorded the right to feast with their lord in the hall. They have useful skills, but are viewed as low-life scum and barely tolerated. Jarls, kings and queens often hire adventurers to serve as gestir.

Hirth. The armed retinue and advisors of a jarl, king or queen.

Hirthmenn. The men and women that comprise the hirth.

Kanceler. The leader of a hirth. Reports directly to the jarl, king or queen.

Kertilsveinr. Young men and women from leading families that are being trained by a skutilsveinr to join their ranks. The term means ‘candle-man/woman’ and refers to the fact that these budding warriors hold candles and serve food and drink when the hirth feasts. In battle, the kertilsveinr are more lightly armed and armored than the skutilsveinr they serve and are often tasked with guarding the flanks of the shield wall.

Merkismathr. An officer of the hirth who serves as the standard-bearer and champion. The merkismathr is almost always the greatest warrior among the lendermenn.

Skenkjari. An officer of the hirth who chooses and oversees all of the servants and thralls that work in a jarl, king or queen’s hall. The skenkjari is responsible for the larder and cellar in the hall and supply while on campaign. The skenkjari is appointed from among the lendermenn.

Skutilsveinr. Warriors from the noblest and most respected families that serve as hirthmenn. The term means ‘dish-man/woman’ and refers to the fact that these warriors are honored with the right to feast in their jarl, king or queen’s hall. Skutilsveinr are veteran warriors with the best armor and weapons.Stallari. Officers of the hirth that serve as warleaders. The stallari are appointed from among the lendermenn.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Sons of Hercules Against the Giants

Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 04/16/2020 - 11:00

I have discovered that Prime Video has a decent number of Italian Sword and Sandal/peplum available, and I have been availing myself of them. It has me thinking that a D&D game with a muscle-bound heroes would be an interesting change of pace. What better place to deploy those mighty thews than--against the giants!


The king of a city-state beset by giants sends a small band of heroes to put a stop to this. The Steading of the Hill Giant Chief could be reimagined as some fortress of ancient world Mediterranean "barbarians," (though in the realm of Sword and Sandal films, there's no need for strict historical accuracy!) but beyond the trappings everything else could pretty much go the same way.


Maybe using something like Exemplars & Eidolons would be suitable to give the heroes the right amount of muscle?

Last Few Days to Order Board Games

Two Hour Wargames - Wed, 04/15/2020 - 21:43

Talked to the printer, last three games in the mail.

Last day to order games is  this Sunday the 19th. Order here.

After Sunday the games will come down from the site and not go back up until all have been printed and fulfilled. When they go up it will be at $35 per instead of $30 as they will need to be printed to order. Thanks everyone for the support!


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

A Starter Dungeon

The Splintered Realm - Wed, 04/15/2020 - 19:12
My draft of the core rules for the updated and expanded Tales of the Splintered Realm has the same introductory adventure from the original rules, albeit with a few minor tweaks that ground it in the present setting more directly, and which provide some hooks for later expansion.

However, as I was working out this morning (yeah, I do that now - THANKS virus), I was thinking of a starter dungeon that was both introductory adventure and guide to designing dungeons. It was not only an adventure, but a how to with the fundamentals of things that are likely to be in a dungeon crawl.

I started to think about maps, but then found this map I made maybe a year ago. I updated it with stairs and doors, threw a grid on it, and spent an hour and a half putting in the cross hatching. I still don't know if I'm using it, but thought I'd share anyway.















Chris Holmes on the Appendix N Book Club podcast

Zenopus Archives - Wed, 04/15/2020 - 18:53


Chris Holmes, son of J. Eric Holmes and an RPG illustrator, is the guest on the latest episode of the Appendix N Book Club podcast!

In this episode they discuss Tarzan at the Earth's Core, a crossover between Edgar Rice Burroughs Tarzan and Pellucidar series. J. Eric Holmes wrote an authorized sequel to the latter that was published in 1976, Mahars of Pellucidar.
"Chris Holmes joins us to discuss Edgar Rice Burroughs’s “Tarzan at the Earth’s Core”, contemporary fantasy fiction, the Holmes Basic set, the varying levels of dignity given to the black characters, IP crossovers, surprisingly positive depictions of Germans, “Mahars of Pellucidar”, magic dirigibles, the developmental biology of reptiles, informal vs codified ways of encouraging heroism in RPGs, the incredible speed in which pulp characters learn new languages, the future of Pellucidarian fandom, and much more!"
Here is the link to the show:

Episode 67: Edgar Rice Burroughs’s “Tarzan at the Earth’s Core”

Demos S. aka paleologos who writes the OSR Grimoire blog gets a shout-out from Chris for helping to facilitate the show.

And make sure you listen all of the way to end for a surprise announcement from Chris regarding his father's books!
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Halls of Arden Vul

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 04/15/2020 - 11:18
By Richard Barton Expeditious Retreat Press 1e

This 1122 page adventure details a ten level megadungeon, with fifteen sublevels, numerous pyramid levels, with some levels having upwards to 160+ rooms. An impressive feat of overall design, with many level interconnections and puzzles/rumors/clues spread out across levels. A decent effort has been made to make the size manageable, which helps but isn’t a home run. DM text can get long and it less useful than I would have liked, a testament to unfocused DM text. A singular creation, for fans & students of the megadungeon.  

It’s a eleven hundred pages and I’ve been working on it for three weeks now, and I’m still not sure this review is any good.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: Arden Vul is big. REALLY big. The biggest so far, in fact. In addition to the ten levels, fifteen sublevels, numerous “pyramids & towers with their own levels”, a ruined city outside, a wilderness area outside, and a local town, it is not uncommon for a main level to have 150+ rooms on it, with sublevels having 30-50 rooms. If a modern OSR product is expected to have around fifty rooms, then this is equal to AT LEAST, say, sixty or so levels. Added in to this mix are at least twelve major factions, from cultists, to major humanoid tribes, to a dragon, to a wizards. Dungeon levels have a crazy large number of interconnections to each other, including the requisite “giant chasm that runs through many but not all levels.” ig, here, is an understatement.

The book tries to make this size manageable. It has overview sections, up front that introduce central ideas and groups them together. So you might get a giant multi-page section on the factions, an in depth on each of them,how they feel about each other faction, things they want, their size and how they replace losses/are likely to react to events, areas they control and contest for, and other topics. Then, at the start of each level you get a little overview/introduction to the level. This will again mention the faction and briefly describe a few things about them, what’s going on, with a concentration on what’s happening right now. This same sort of general concept is followed for several different topics at the start of each chapter. Areas of legend/note get their own section, and then a brief intro in the chapter heading in which they appear. As do important NPC’s, construction/style notes, ingress/egress points, and so on. Further, it’s all pretty well cross-referenced. If it mentions an NPC it notes their location. If it mentions a location by name then it tells you where it is, if a clue is mentioned somewhere in the keying, then it both cross-references to the location the clue is for AND has some notes that explain it to the DM, for additional context. 

But the place is big. IMPOSSIBLY big. And those efforts to make things manageable only help so much. The cross-references and “DM notes” work really well. “Places of legend”, iconic locations within the dungeon, also work really well. Introduced up front, rumors, things everyone knows about, and then overview of them and their context etc. It helps them integrate naturally in to the game. Other areas though, like the factions, start to get long in their multi-page “summaries.” You almost need a summary guide for the summaries. This is, especially with regard to the factions, a side-effect of the writing style, which I’ll cover later on. I’m open to this being a side effect of PDF version and the print version being easier to reference during play. In this case, at least, I could have used a reference table. And the same issue with dungeon styling and areas of control. I think I would have wished that this be embedded, somehow, on the maps. Different shading to show construction styles or who’s domain you were in, and/or notes on the maps to remind me what Achachian styling consisted of, or what Kertil styling consisted of. I’m am NOT gonna fucking remember that during the game. It’s more likely that I will ignore, intentionally or unintentionally, that section in the level overview. And if so, then why include it at all? This is not an argument to NOT include it, but rather better methods, in our hobby, to handle these sorts of “always on “information items. I need a memory prompt, dammit! Which if why I harp on summary sheets, or on-map information so much. There’s just SO MUCH. Handled well, it’s going to be a major enhancement to the game. But this doesn’t handle it as well as it should. 

This is, at least in part, because it’s not breaking new ground as a product, in terms or styling and organization. I know, I know, hipster art project D&D adventures are almost a meme now. But, there’s also a trend in those products to search out the best way to present information to the DM, exploring new grounds of presentation and layout for clarity and impact purposes. This don’t do that. It take the usual standard dungeon format and adds some overview/summary chapters and some introductory text and that’s it. The cross-referencing and “ DM notes” for the clues are just about as far as this product is willing to push the boundaries of new layout/presentation/ideas. And yet, of all the products to come out, these large ones are the very ones that NEED that additional design/layout work. You saw this in, for example, Stonehell, in which the one page dungeon was then supported by breaking it in to four sections and then also giving each section three or so pages of supporting information. I’m not saying this product should have done that, but rather using Stonhell as an example of breaking new ground in order to handle its environment better. This could have/should have gone a little further down that path as well. What? I don’t know, but I do know it could use more help in this area. Is it bad? No. Above average, at least. But, not effective, or maybe completely effective, in helping the DM manage its size.

The dungeon has a serious flaw and it’s best to get that out of the way: the writing is unfocused. It mixes the past and present of the various rooms, hiding decent details in favor on expounding on the past glories of the rooms. What detail there is can hide behind an indirect writing style that further obfuscates scanning. 

The room of Jhentis the Ghoul is a good example of this. In the middle of a floor covered in shards of broken bottles, a strange throne of bone and wood scrap rests on a desk that rests in turn on a table Jhentis sits on this throne gnawing bones and murmuring hungrily and angrily, wearing a key around his neck and piled next his throne are coins, jewelry, unbroken bottles and scrolls. But that’s not the description we get. Instead this is the description we get:

“This former alchemical laboratory houses the ‘court’ of Jhentris,

a particularly ambitious priest who returned after death as an

unusually powerful ghoul. Originally three large workbenches

sat in the middle of the room, and wooden shelving filled with

paraphernalia lined the walls. Most of the glassware has been

shattered, and Jhentris has built a strange throne of sorts out of

the surviving table and scraps of wood. The ‘throne’ consists of a

chair made of bone and wood resting atop a desk placed on top of

a table. Jhentris sits in his throne, gnawing bones and murmuring

hungrily and angrily. The walls are undecorated, save for marks

where the shelving used to rest. The floor is covered with glass

shards and other debris, rendering movement more difficult (-10’

movement). Some scraps of ‘treasure’ sit on the table to either side

of Jhentris’s throne”

Note the rooms previous usage, leading off the description. Is this the most important thing for the DM to know when the players open the door? Of course not. It’s the image of the ghoul gnawing bones, sitting on his throne, treasure, broken glass, and hungry mumbling. Note how it tells us what USED to be in the room, what is USED to be used for. This is trivia. It should not be included at all, and if it is it should not be what the room leads off with. Note how the walls are undecorated, except for the marks. Great indirect writing if you are writing to be read and substantially less so for play the table. 

This is, though, a good room in terms of both imagery and in terseness. It’s not uncommon for a room to go on for a page or more, as each item gets some description, again in this unfocused style. Another room tells us thar the halflings have already looted a body except for a scroll in a boot. Mening, of course, that there is a scroll in the boot. I know this sounds like I’m pixel bitching, but the product if BIG and the rooms are LONG and this all makes the rooms a chore to scan and therefore to run easily. This sort of burying of information, either deep in the paragraphs or as the secondary part of a sentence is a common occurrence. 

This is furthered by a writing style that likes to use the word “large” and other common adjectives. Three stone sarcophagi lie broken and looted in the middle of a chamber. This is not evocative writing. For every Ghoul on a Throne there are fifteen or twenty broken and looted sarcophagi. These rooms seldom come alive in my mind. Again, reference being made to the more … plain? Writing style of Barrowmaze. Highlighters out! Actually, better buy a gross of them, you’ve got 1122 pages to read, absorb, and highlight. No bueno. Normally, this would be the killing blow for me in a review. Confused and lengthy writing making the thing hard to actually do what its intended to do: be run at the table.

But, this has something else going for it: it’s interactivity..

This megadungeon is stuffed to the gills with it. The different factions, and their goals and how they can use and be used by the party is only one aspect to it. In addition to this “stretch goal” of roleplaying interactivity, the adventure is also full of “the usual” interactivity, the most common types. Hidden floor tiles full of treasure, passages, and pools and statues to mess around it. But, it then takes this to another level. It is STUFFED with those features. And, in particular, many of theme are themed. So, as you learn more about Thoth and Set, you figure out more and more how to work the various things you find the dungeon. Which position to put the statues arms in, for example. And there are numerous clues, murals, graffiti everywhere in the dungeon and its environs which help with party with their sense of discovery. “Ah! I bet this relates to that statue on Level 2!” Players LUV LUV LUV figuring things out and this allows them to do it. Plus many of the clues are for things on other levels as well, giving an additional aspect to it. There are also a TON of mini-quests to take on. These can be relatively standard things, like people in town needing/wanting something, or rescuing prisoners. I think, in fact, there’s something like two pages of captives, summarized and cross-referenced of course, that you can rescue in this place. And not one room with two dozen people in it either, scattered, with different goals and different purposes. And that’s just the beginning of the interactivity in this thing. Did I mention it provides rules for training? Yes, finally, an adventure setting that covers how to rid your MU of all that gold so he can train with a dude in town to get his level. It’s there to cover all the bases, in the dungeon and outside of it, with scores and scores and scores of opportunities for the party to dig in deep and the DM to take adventure of emergent play.

There’s a good sense of the familiar in this that is twisted just a bit to make it different. This is great for the players, and the DM, since it gives them a starting point in their heads to build upon. There’s a stargate-like teleporter pad, with addresses and stones to find and place correctly in order to dial in an address. And the theming of Set and Thoth, for example. Trolls that are not trolls that are trolls are present. Familiar elements, that you can latch on to in your head, but given just a little twist in order to bring some freshness to them and make them un-generic.

This being such a large product, the question is going to arise if you can yank specific levels and reuse them for your own purposes. Yes? Maybe? I don’t know? There are things going on in this that is going to make that more challenging than usual, which is going to require a little work. The level interconnections are many and varied. They are clearly outlined at the start of each chapter, which is a boon for fitting this in to your game piecemeal fashion. Certain things, though, like the chasm running through the levels or the stargate-like teleporter system is going to require a little creativity to get past. While many of the factions are generally self-contained, there are incursions of other-level factions and references to them. Again, this is going to take some work to mold and fit in to your existing game. The interactive elements, from the teleporter gates and discovering their addresses, to the Set and Thoth theming, to the statues/interactivity clues that refer to things on other levels, just are not going to make sense if you pull just one level. And, of course, the faction roleplay elements themselves. The integration of each level with the other levels is really quite involved. And that’s absolutely GREAT if you’re using this as a standalone and presents a challenge if you want to yank a random levels. Having said that, some levels and sublevels are more easily yoinked for standalone than others. So, CAN you? Yes. Put if you really like a level and want to yoink that specific level then you may face some rather substantial work in order to filter out and/or replace the interconnected elements. The summaries though, of the iconic locations, level interconnections, faction/level overviews, DM notes, captive-to-rescue table, cross-references and so on should help you quite a bit in this effort. You’re not alone!

My notes for this adventure run eleven pages and I’ve only touched on the major topics. This adventure is interconnected in a way that few others are. The cross-level design and faction play across levels. The interactivity of the levels. The support for the DM in terms of cross-references, tables that summarize hostages, quests, and other topics. My chief complaint is the writing for the individual rooms, proper. They evocative nature of the writing is inconsistent and the DM text long and lacking focused. That means extra prep work, highlighters, and the like. This isn’t the sort of thing that runs easily at the table, because of that. And yet, there’s nothing like this on the market at all.

The PDF is $110 at DriveThru. The preview is twenty pages. Of that, there are a few pages that hint at the summarization levels: the iconic locations on pages fourteen through eighteen. Prior to that there is a section on the various builders of the dungeon, and their dungeon feature types, meant to be used for level theming architecture notes, etc. The two, taken together, given you a good hint of the sort of information the adventure provides for the DM. Can you keep the level theming fresh on hand? And yet the iconic location summary is perfect for dropping hints, legend lores and the like.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/307320/The-Halls-of-Arden-Vul-Complete?src=newest?1892600

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Wednesday Comics: Dreadstar Returns

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 04/15/2020 - 11:00
Hot on the hills of the Dreadstar Omnibus, there's a new Kickstarter for a continuation of Dreadstar by Starlin himself! Check it out.

Design Challenge

The Splintered Realm - Tue, 04/14/2020 - 15:29
When I teach my students about creative writing, I explain that you need to create a framework for yourself in which to be creative; if I give a student a blank sheet of paper and say that students can write about anything, paralysis sets in. If I tell students that they have to write a story with two characters trapped in an elevator, it's 8 in the morning, and one of them keeps sneezing, I suddenly have everyone with pen to paper.
It's just how creativity works.
So, I've created the same confines for myself with the new edition of Tales. I did it with the first edition as well, with the challenge to get the complete game system into 16 pages (which I later expanded to 20 when I realized I had left out some things I really wanted in there).
For this draft, the challenge was originally 64 pages, but I have since been able to slim it down to 48. So, the challenge is to get an entire game (basically, all of the Basic and Expert rules of '81, plus my own mad creations) down to 48 pages. 
And I'm almost there. I have a solid working draft that includes the following:
- 6 races and 6 classes, for a total of 36 possible race/class combinations. And with multi-classing, this actually means that there are 720 possible character options in the core rules (gnome fighter, gnome fighter/thief, gnome fighter/thief/magic user...).- 31 Talents, including rules for alchemy, familiars, and ethereal animals (think Patronus)- 120 spells- Rules for chants- Hundreds of magical items (30 potions, 100 miscellaneous items, plus dozens of combinations of armor and weapons, and every possible spell as a scroll - and the potential that any of these is cursed).- 141 monsters (at present - might squeeze in a few more)- An overview of a campaign setting, a campaign map (in full color), a starter location map with key, an introductory adventure, and hooks for further campaign exploration.- And of course, guidelines for henchmen, hirelings, building strongholds, and 'name-level' gaming.
Whew!
I plan to release the pdf first (in a week or two) and the print version a bit later. It will be a saddle-stitched 8.5x11 book the way that nature intended.
 

13 of the Craziest Quirks in the Dungeons & Dragons Rules

DM David - Tue, 04/14/2020 - 11:15

Eventually, everyone who plays Dungeons & Dragons finds a place where rules seem to defy logic and common sense. These quirks tend to stem from three good reasons:

  • The D&D rules don’t attempt to cover every situation. Few players would want to grapple with so many rules, so the design brings a more compact set of rules that apply to most of what happens in a game. To make sense of unusual situations and corner cases, D&D relies on the judgement of dungeon masters.

  • Rarely, the designers wrote rules that failed to work as intended. Often when the rules as written serve well enough, the D&D team chooses not to tamper with the text.

  • The D&D rules accommodate a legacy of earlier editions spanning 40-some years of history.

I asked D&D enthusiasts to name the strangest quirks in the rules. This post lists some of the best answers. I skipped the part of D&D that most brazenly defies reality: The rules for damage and recovery. Those unrealistic hit points enable the games’ combat-intensive, dungeon-bashing style, so I count that absurdity as a feature. (See Why Gary Gygax Added Unrealistic Hit Points to D&D.) To learn to love hit points, just avoid asking questions. For example, I wish I could stop wondering how (#13) one healing potion completely cures a new adventurer while a legendary hero needs to guzzle 20 for a similar recovery.

12. Characters with the Lucky feat can close their eyes, swing blindly at a foe, and gain a better chance of hitting than they would get from attacking as normal. When you use Lucky, you roll an extra d20 and choose your attack roll from any of the d20s you rolled. When you roll at disadvantage, you roll two d20s. So Lucky lets you choose your best roll from any of the three dice: the two dice rolled for disadvantage and the one for lucky. Use the force, indeed!

11. In one round, someone who flees a Wall of Fire, and then gets forced back in on another character’s turn takes more damage than someone who just stayed in the flames through the entire round. (See D&D’s Inconspicuous Phrases That You Notice Once You Master the Rules.)

10. Archers shooting blindly into impenetrable fog hit as easily as they do when they see their targets. A blinded attacker suffers disadvantage and typically gains advantage because their target can’t see the strikes to defend. Advantage and disadvantage cancel, so the attacks roll as normal. This makes some sense for melee attackers flailing in the dark. For someone shooting blindly, the lack of a to-hit penalty flouts common sense.

9. Daylight fails to generate sunlight. Daylight originated from the first-edition spell Continual Light. Back then, every new D&D player counted themselves as the first to realize a 2nd-level spell enabled them to easily destroy vampires! They were wrong. Then, as now, you don’t become a D&D designer without being pedantic enough to rule that light “as bright as full daylight” falls short of “direct sunlight.”

8. The Chill Touch cantrip isn’t a touch spell and doesn’t deal cold damage. In past editions, the spell really had a range of touch, but even then, its damage came from negative energy, the necromantic damage of the era.

7. Faerie Fire doesn’t deal fire damage or involve fairies. The spell references naturally glowing fungus.

6. Detect Evil and Good doesn’t detect evil and good. The spell’s name comes from past editions when it worked as described. Back then, too many players took shortcuts through adventures by detecting for evil and murdering potential villains in the first scene. Now the spell detects the creature types that are supernatural representatives of good and evil.

5. Only crossbow experts can attack with a net without suffering disadvantage. Nets are ranged weapons with a normal range of 5 feet, so most net attackers must either make a ranged attack within 5 feet of a foe or at long range. Either way, the attack suffers disadvantage. Crossbow experts can make ranged attacks within 5 feet of a foe without disadvantage.

4. Invisibility, a spell that makes you invisible and monitors your movements to see if you intended to hurt someone, rates as simpler than Greater Invisibility, a spell that just makes you invisible.

3. Creatures who lose temporary hit points to caltrops can have full health and still move slower. Worse, they can’t regain their speed until they take more damage. The speed penalty from caltrops only ends when you regain a hit point, so you might need to lose more hit points to have some to heal.

2. A cleric can cast a spell like Aid with somatic and material components while holding both a mace and a shield with a holy symbol. But casting a spell like Cure Wounds that drops the need for material components requires putting the mace or shield away. Fewer components makes the spell more cumbersome because the shield only doubles as a somatic component when you also use it as a spell focus to satisfy a need for material components. Confusing? Awkward? That’s why I’ve never seen this rule enforced. (See the Sage Advice Compendium.)

1. By relaying an object from creature to creature on consecutive turns in a 6-second round, a group can make the object outrace a jet. In an actual fight, everyone acts at the same time. But in the game, turns serve as a simple but unrealistic way to make sense of 6 seconds. To squeeze turns until their absurdity shows, just have everyone on the party run a relay. If each of 7 characters dashes 60 feet before passing a baton to the next person, the baton travels at almost 50 miles per hour. The more characters who can move an object in a round, the faster it goes. To weaponize this quirk, hire 1000 laborers to pass a 10-foot pole and create a peasant railgun. No DM allows such weapons, but some encounters force players to transport things like potions or keys across the battlefield. DM Tom Christy enforces a house rule where no object can be manipulated by more than one of each type of action in a round. No chaining move actions to rocket something across the battlefield.

All this points to the importance of the DM. D&D designer Dan Dillon writes, “If a confluence of circumstances in D&D creates rules interactions that don’t make sense to you, ignore it. Change it. Do what makes sense for the given situation the characters find themselves in.”

For example, if you prefer a game where shooting into darkness yields disadvantage, impose it. If you want Lucky characters to always suffer a disadvantage from disadvantage, then tweak the rule. Lead rules designer Jeremy Crawford suggests letting the lucky character choose between either (a) the lower of the two disadvantage dice or (b) the lucky die.

“The rules aren’t written to cover every possible circumstance,” continues Dan Dillon. “Think about how many pages would have to be added to the already 316-page Player’s Handbook if we added every possible ‘unless’ to a rule that applies advantage or disadvantage to an attack roll.”

The designers could try to patch every quirk and corner case, but if they did, you wouldn’t want to play that game.

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

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Smaug vs the Sutherland Red Dragon

Zenopus Archives - Mon, 04/13/2020 - 15:06
Left: Smaug by Tim Kirk (1975). Right: the cover of the Holmes Basic Set (July 1977). 
Click on the image for a larger view
David Sutherland painted a cover for the Holmes Basic Set that remains one of the most iconic early D&D illustrations. It literalized the title of Dungeons & Dragons, showing a dragon in a dungeon. The viewpoint is as if we are members of the party of adventurers who have just entered the chamber and disturbed the huge red dragon resting on its seemingly endless bed of gold and treasures.

This image has influenced the cover art of many successor sets ranging from later TSR D&D Basic Sets to the Pathfinder Beginner Box. Sutherland's take on the Red Dragon appeared in other D&D products of the era, including the Monster Manual and Monster Cards.

Sutherland's dragon was in turn possibly influenced by an earlier image of red dragon on a pile of gold that was published about two years before Holmes Basic. This was a stunning depiction of Smaug by Tim Kirk that appeared in the 1975 Tolkien Calendar, which included works done as part of his MFA from Cal State. In particular, note the similar (but not identical) poses of the dragons, the head "whiskers" of the dragons, and the wide ventral neck scales. There are also similarities in the treasures embedded in the pile of gold, including urns, chests and embedded swords. There's even an arching shape over the head of each Dragon (vaulted ceiling for Smaug, entrance archway for the Sutherland Dragon).


Source: The Complete Guide to Tolkien Calendars
Kirk's illustration in turn appears to be a modernization of Tolkien's own "Conversation with Smaug", which appears in the Hobbit itself. Note the skulls on the floor around the pile of gold and the skulls in Kirk's pile:




By the mid-70s, Tolkien's Middle-Earth books had grown extremely popular and the 1975 calendar was the first to feature art from an artist other than Tolkien himself. It's easy to imagine that a fantasy artist such as Sutherland would have encountered this calendar. But there is one other bit of evidence that Sutherland was familiar with the Tolkien Calendars. The 1976 Tolkien Calendar (which would have been published in mid-to-late 1975) included art by the Brothers Hildebrandt, including this image of very pig-faced orcs: 


Source: The Complete Guide to Tolkien Calendars
And Sutherland was the one who slightly thereafter introduced pig-faced orcs into D&D, via his illustrations in Swords & Spells (July 1976 per the Acaeum), Holmes Basic and the Monster Manual.






Orcs by David Sutherland from Swords & Spells (July 1976)
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Gods of Eternia

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 04/13/2020 - 11:00

Gods and titanic monsters are not uncommon in Eternia's Masters of the Universe mythology, but very little genuine Eternian religion is revealed in the stories. What little we know of what gods were actually worshipped only comes from the post-Great War epoch, though it sometimes purports to detail events from before that era, from the time referred to as "Preternia."

Trollans
Eternian myth is only passingly concerned with cosmogony. There is the vague notion of primordial, creator gods, but these are either destroyed or sacrifice themselves at the dawn of the universe. They leave things in the hand of custodial beings, which may in fact represent an advanced civilization the ancient Eternians encountered. These beings, called Trollans, occupy a space between archangels and trickster gods. By the time of the legends of the Randorian court, the Trollans had been diminished to elfin beings and comedy relief, perhaps a reflection their decreasing importance next to Goddess worship.

Serpos
Serpos was titanic, three-head serpent worshipped by the Snake folk, a people said to have been created by a renegade Trollan. The Snake folk are said to have unless their god to level entire cities in their bid for conquest. The Snake folk dominated much of Eternia in the Preternian period and after their defeat and purported exile, Serpos was reinterpreted as either a destructive primitive aspect of the Goddess or her offspring.

The Goddess
The Goddess was typically depicted wearing a cobra headdress and sometimes with green skin. While some scholars have connected the headdress with Serpos and the Snake folk, others view it as predating the Snake folk's arrival. The green skin possibly links her with vegetation and life, allying her with the forest deity who appears in the mythos as Moss Man.

The serpent-themed Goddess initially seems predominant in the Eternos region, but immigrants from the northern plains identified her instead with an Eternian bird of prey. By the Randorian era, the Sorceress of Grayskull, held to be the Goddess' living incarnation and oracle, was garbed in feathered raiment.
Art by Gerald Parel

Old School Sword & Sorcery Commentary On X1 The Isle of Dread For Your Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 04/13/2020 - 04:41
"Hundreds of miles from the mainland, surrounded by dangerous waters, lies an island known only as the Isle of Dread. Dark jungles and treacherous swamps await those who are brave enough to travel inland in search of the lost plateau, where the ruins of a once mighty civilization hold many treasures - and many secrets!"If there's an adventure module that seems to be ever elastic & adaptable itsNeedleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Previews of the Rules for Every Board Game!

Two Hour Wargames - Mon, 04/13/2020 - 00:30
Here's a preview of the rules for each of the Board Games. Go here and click on the link at the bottom of each page to see the rules for each game.
Printed games still on sale for $30 with actual postage to be collected later when they ship.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Red Sand Black Moon Preview

Two Hour Wargames - Sun, 04/12/2020 - 22:13


Take a look. Not the finished PDF but you can see the rules here at the bottom.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Ch-Ch-Ch Changes

The Splintered Realm - Sun, 04/12/2020 - 18:54
First of all, Happy Easter!

Now, on to gaming...

In going through my draft for Tales of the Splintered Realm, which is coming along nicely, I was trying to clean up the archetypes. I had twelve different archetypes going, and was trying to get them to not look so ... messy.
Then I realized that I've made this a LOT more complicated than it needs to be. I decided to go with the 3E option (which might be in 5E... I have no idea) that each level you can advance in a different class, and that we go back to race and class as two separate options. I know that I've made race and class a hybrid thing for this game, and I may revise the 'basic rules' to do that, but the main rulebook is going to have the mix and match option. This cleans things up, and lets me build every character I could want to build. I want to make a gnome trickster who has more arcane magic than thievery... fine. He's going to progress 2x in magic user for every level of thief, and ultimately wants to end up as a magic user 4/thief 2. Exactly the character I want. This caused me to revisit a few core concepts.

1. Class Progression and Attribute Increases are changed.
You select a class and a race. Every time you level up, you can progress in your current class, or you can take 1 level in another class. At level 1, Mimsby was a magic user 1. At level 2, he became a magic user 1/thief 1. At level 3, he took another level of magic user, becoming a magic user 2/thief 1.

Ever level, there is a chance that you have an attribute score increase. Roll 1d6. If you roll equal to or above the current attribute modifier, you increase the rating +1. For example, Mimsby moves to level 4, and takes 1 level of magic user. He currently has INT 11 (+2). He rolls 1d6; if he rolls 2 or above, his INT increases to 12. If he rolls a 1, it stays where it is. Any rating of 9 or lower automatically will increase; once you get up around 15 (+4), it gets less and less likely to see that increase.

2. Classes and Races are simplified.
They each give a few specific benefits. When you hit level 4, you trigger a special ability for your class. For example:

- Magic User gives you the lore talent, and 1 tier of arcane magic every level. You have a chance of increasing INT every level. At level 4, you get to cast one instant spell each turn.

- Elf gives you +1 to INT at level 1. You add +2 to sense Feats. You have darkvision.

That's it.
And by the way, I took shield use away as a separate ability. It comes included with medium armor access. However, a fighter with two weapons can choose to use the shield as his second weapon; he gets the benefit of the armor class bonus, but also gets to bash enemies with the shield every round for a little bit of damage (1d4). However, he'd get to add magical shield bonuses to attack and damage rolls, so it's a pretty nifty combo. Fighters are now much more awesome. I need to upgrade the two-handed talent by giving an extra +1 to attack rolls just to offset this; the two weapons ability for a fighter is SWEET if you go sword and shield. You get two attacks per round and +2 to AC at level 1. Good stuff, but only fighters get it. Of course, anyone can take one level of fighter just to do it...
3. Attributes and how they link to magic are moved around.
I bumped WIS back to faith magic, because Healer is now the default class for that. I bumped nature magic over to CON, since it makes sense that your ability to channel nature would be based on your personal endurance; you are channeling a lightning bolt through yourself, so you better be hardy. This allowed me to free up CHA for the bard, and to include chants as part of the core rules, which I am very happy about. It also gave me a class to link CON to, since I was having trouble with that. STR is the fighter, INT is the magic user, DEX is the thief… it was the other three I couldn’t firm up. Now I have.
And now I can make my dream stoutling bard character who picks up one level of fighter. Bwahahaha.

7 Printed Games Completed

Two Hour Wargames - Sun, 04/12/2020 - 16:05
7 games arrived yesterday. 3 more to go then we'll start shipping. Now's the time to order games at the $30 price if you aren't in the Kickstarter or add more to your Kickstarter. 
After this 1st print is done price will be $35. Save money as we're printing in bulk the first time through.

Print games include the PDF as well!
Order here
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

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