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New Print Company, New Lower Prices ?!

Two Hour Wargames - Tue, 07/16/2019 - 19:05

Yep, just closed a deal to use a new print company that will lower my cost, so passing the savings on to you guys. Includes PDF pricing as well.

Check it out
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Having To Go Further A Field With Dragon Issue #94 For Your Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 07/16/2019 - 17:21
Further & further down the rabbit hole I go with looking into both Stars Without Number Revised & Godbound. These two games have led me into a series of campaign notes that I made back in the 90's. Those notes pointed back to a little known resource from Dragon magazine issue #94. Not only does this issue have a gorgeous cover by Clyde Caldwell  but there are few important articles in this Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

D&D 5e Essential Kit.

Bat in the Attic - Tue, 07/16/2019 - 14:35

What it is?
A boxed set available only at Target for starting out with DnD 5th edition. Includes rules, aides, and an adventure.

The Details
The rules are far more complete than the DnD Starter Kit. They describe five character classes Bard, Cleric, Fighter, Rogue, and Wizard up to 6th level. An addition are rules for sidekicks which clearly not only play the role of traditional hireling but also as additional adventuring companions for smaller groups. The rules go into how to level sidekicks. There are three categories of sidekicks; Experts, Spellcasters, and Warriors.

The aides include a doubled sided poster maps of the Sword Coast around Neverwinter on one side and the village of Phandelver on the other. A set of cards that are mostly magic items but also include initiative tracking, condition tracking, sidekicks, and quests. There is a referee screen, and six character sheets.

The adventure, Dragon of Icespire Peak, takes place in and around Phandelver much like the Lost Mine adventure in the starter kit. In general it is a set one session quests combined with tables to determine where the adventure's antagonist, Cryovain, a young white dragon, is at when the party travels.

The quest structure comes off a bit like a video game however it also a structured sandbox. It start off with two quests available on the "job" board in Phandelver and then goes from there. The quest, the town descriptions, and the random tables governing the dragon all point the party to a confrontation with the Cyrovain and the conclusion of the overall adventure.

Honestly for something that trying to get a novice going, this adventure is well down for a potential sandbox adventure. If the referee doesn't get it right away the quest structure will keep things going in a way that fun and feels like progress is being made. For referees that want to branch out there is enough in adventure and the boxed set to do so.

I will say that most of the adventure location are fairly fleshed out. Many are  complete small dungeons or adventures.

Yeah but I am not a novice
While a bit pricey as an expansion, this in conjunction with the Lost Mines adventure found in the Starter set makes for a very nice campaign. With two primary antagonist and a wealth of locations to explore nobody is going to feel railroaded or hemmed with the combination.

And the digital
DnD Beyond is the official digital platform for D&D fifth edition. There is a lot not to like about the business model as it could "go away" at any time because all their content is hosted on their server. Thus when they go away, the content will go away.

But the app and website make looking up stuff convenient on your computer, tablet, or smartphone. Very convenient as I been finding out.  Enough so that there may some merit of doing something similar with the various retro-clones of the OSR.

The DnD Essential Kit comes with two codes. The first allows you to buy the 5e PHB on DnD Beyond at half price, the second gives you the Dragon of Icespire Peak for free.

In playing around with this, I learned that you can add the DnD 5e basic rules to your app or account for free. With the Dragon of Icespire Peak adventure you get a substantial peak of how the functionality of DnD Beyond works.

Like looking up specific spells, abilities, or classes, I can quickly zero in on a location within the adventure. With the website I can also pull up images of not only the keyed map but also a player version that I can save and use with Roll20, Fantasy Ground, or print out for the table.

For example the map for a mine adventure

DM Map                                             Player Map
Overall I was pleased at the functionality and convenience but it definitely optional. My recommendation is to try the Basic Rules and above adventure if you get the Esstentials Kit and see if it is for you. I opted to get the PHB for half off as I know I would use it. I just got a smartphone and it proving far handier than I thought it would be. This just adds to the functionality of the device.

Wrapping it up.
I consider the Lost Mine of Phandelver one of the best DnD adventures ever made.  The Dragon of Icespire Peak isn't quite up to the level of the Lost Mine however it function very well as an expansion to that adventure.

The Essential Kits does way better on the rules presenting levels 1 to 6 of five different classes in conjunction with the various packaged aides. I would recommend this for anybody starting up with tabletop roleplaying.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Sharpshooters Are the Worst Thing in D&D, but That Speaks Well of Fifth Edition

DM David - Tue, 07/16/2019 - 11:15

What would you think of Dungeons & Dragons feats that gave these benefits?

  • You gain immunity to all melee attacks.

  • Before making a melee attack, you can teleport to within melee attack range of your target, attack, and then teleport back to your original position.

Overpowered? Absolutely. I’m not competing for worst D&D designer. My broken feat designs make a provocative way to show the big advantages of attacking from range.

When you attack from a distance, melee attackers can’t hit you. You can fire past obstacles that hamper movement. You can switch targets without having to move. No wonder melee attackers tend to be barbarians and paladins; no sensible person would opt for such inefficiency and risk.

Ranged attacks suffer drawbacks: Targets can gain cover. If foes move next to you, then your attacks suffer disadvantage and you stop being immune to their melee attacks.

Fortunately for ranged attackers, the game’s two most broken feats dismantle all these disadvantages. With Sharpshooter, you ignore cover. With Crossbow Expert, you can make ranged attacks while within 5 feet of enemies without suffering disadvantage. With these feats, melee attacks no longer endanger you because you inflict such massive damage that by the time a foe reaches you, it’s dead.

D&D’s designers seem to think ranged and melee attacks represent two different, but mostly equal styles, when really, ranged attacks offer massive intrinsic advantages. Why else would the game’s design so often reward ranged attackers with extra benefits that surpass anything melee combatants get?

Exhibit A: Ranged rogues can hide and then pop up to attack from hiding, gaining advantage and a sneak attack. Melee rogues almost never get to attack while hidden, but at least backstabbers can sneak attack without advantage when an ally stands next to a target. If that edge only applied to melee rogues, then the game would offer different but comparable boosts to archers and backstabbers. But archers benefit from adjacent allies too. Remember backstabbing? Now it rates as a strategy for players seeking the roleplaying challenge of playing an inferior character.

Exhibit B: The Sharpshooter feat offers more proof that D&D’s design favors ranged attackers. Compare Sharpshooter to its melee counterpart, Great Weapon Master. Both feats let characters exchange -5 to hit for +10 damage. But rangers and fighters—the classes most likely to take Sharpshooter—can also opt for the Archery fighting style, which grants a +2 bonus to attack rolls with ranged weapons. In practice, sharpshooters gain 10 damage for a mere -3 attack penalty. Great weapon fighters get no such boost to accuracy.

Also, great weapon masters must stand in harm’s way.

Also, great weapon masters usually must move to attack and to switch targets—so inefficient.

Sharpshooter rates as the strongest feat in the game, but the Crossbow Expert feat multiplies the power. Crossbow Expert nullifies the biggest weakness of ranged attackers—the disadvantage of attacking with an adjacent foe. Plus, by using a hand crossbow, the feat allows an additional attack. Sure, a hand crossbow averages a point less damage than, say, a longbow, but when each hit still deals 13-15 points of fixed damage, the damage die is just gravy.

On the occasional critical hit, great weapon masters get an extra attack. Crossbow experts get one every damn turn.

My exhibit C further proves the D&D designers’ brazen favoritism toward ranged attackers. Fifth edition drops the spell Protection from Normal Missiles, a spell that dates to the original little, brown books. The prosecution rests.

What makes sharpshooters the worst thing in D&D?

Before I explain, understand that by labeling sharpshooters as the worst, I’m aiming a backhanded compliment at the strength of the edition. In any other edition of D&D, a feat as overpowered as Sharpshooter would not even rate on a list of the system’s flaws. Old editions suffered cracks at the foundation. Fifth edition suffers from an absurd feat.

When compared to other character types focused on dealing damage, sharpshooters overshadow other characters. DM Thomas Christy has hosted as many online D&D games for strangers as anyone. He says, “I have actually had players complain in game and out about how it seemed like they did not need to be there.” In a Todd Talks episode, Jen Kretchmer tells about asking a player to rebuild a crossbow expert. “The character was a nightmare of doing way more damage off the top, and no one else could get a hit in.” Pity the poor players who thought playing a hulking barbarian swinging a 2-handed great sword seemed like a recipe for maximum damage. Every turn, they’ll be embarrassed by a pip-squeak who reaps monsters with a toy crossbow.

I don’t aim to slam archers. They make an evocative archetype. And if you want to play an archer, play a sharpshooter. Next week, I’ll explain how to build a good one. I rarely want my players to feel obliged to build weakened characters. Dungeon masters can adapt to make sharpshooters a little less dominant.

By including overpowered feats that erase all the disadvantages of ranged attacks, the D&D design collapses the options for martial characters to two: (1) pick Sharpshooter or (2) pick something plainly weaker. Anything another build can do, a sharpshooter does better. Crossbow Expert enables fighters to gain all the out-sized benefits of Sharpshooter while attacking from melee and sporting enough hit points and armor to serve as a front-line tank.

Sharpshooters deal damage so efficiently that they throw D&D’s encounter math in the trash. Potentially interesting encounters against low-hit-point foes like spellcasters resemble an execution by firing squad. The evil wizard never acts. Unless DMs want every encounter to become a romp, they need to toughen the monsters and adopt tactics that slow ranged attackers. Dungeon masters: Do both.

Toughen the monsters. Before encounters, use your prerogative as a DM to boost the monsters’ hit points. The hit point totals in the creatures’ stat blocks just represents an average. Giving the monsters an increase within the die formula falls within the D&D rules.

Slow ranged attackers. Setting up encounters to slow sharpshooters isn’t about thwarting them. It creates situations more tactically interesting, situations that give other characters more chances to shine.

Start by adding total cover to your encounters, and then play creatures with the good sense to duck between their turns. This hardly counts as high strategy. If you throw a rock at a rat, it runs for cover. Faced with melee and ranged attacks, many foes will stay out of sight and let intruders come into reach. That usually works. By reputation, treasure hunters are bloodthirsty and undisciplined.

Such tactics encourage characters to move to engage. Melee fighters get more to do. They deserve to shine.

Total cover takes just a few columns or stalagmites.

One caution: Newer players can find foes that duck behind total cover frustrating. You may need to dial down the tactic or explain the rules for readying actions.

Start some monsters out of sight—especially the boss.

In the typical D&D battle, all the party’s foes start in plain sight. This makes the strongest monster an easy target for focused fire. Too often the evil mastermind dies before acting, or even before mocking the foolish do-gooders who dare to oppose them. The players never learn of the fiendish plan that will end their pitiful lives. Start that climactic battle with the main foe positioned somewhere the players cannot see. Let the characters spread out to attack the guards and lieutenants, and then have the biggest threat move into view on its turn. In D&D, villains must fight and monologue at the same time.

When some enemies begin out of sight, fights benefit. First, this gives some total cover. Plus, the battle feels more fluid; the situation more uncertain. As characters move into the room, they spot unseen foes. As monsters emerge, the players wonder what other surprises wait.

Battles with movement and cover tend to play to the strengths of melee characters. The monk finally gets to flaunt her speed! That hopeless, sub-optimal backstabber gains places to dash, disengage, and reasons to engage. The paladin can drive foes from hiding. Sure, these sorts of encounters may frustrate and threaten sharpshooters, but that just adds an extra benefit.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

DC Deck-Building Game: Rebirth Launch Kit

Cryptozoic - Mon, 07/15/2019 - 23:24

Cryptozoic Entertainment's DC Deck-Building Game: Rebirth Launch Kit will be hitting stores starting at the end of July! Fans can reach out to their favorite local retailer to order the Launch Kit from their games distributor now!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Going Down Deep - Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Campaign Workshop & White Dwarf Issue Seventy Commentary

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 07/15/2019 - 16:38
"Until about three years ago, the peculiar town of Port Greely was renowned as a prolific exporter of crustaceans. Then the Greely lobstermen severed all ties with outside partners. Subsequent attempts at renegotiation were shunned.More recently, a small group of Fishmongers’ Guild representatives from the City-State of Khromarium has gone missing in Port Greely, and answers have been Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Mysterious Levers of Castle Machina

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 07/15/2019 - 11:00
The part climbed the stairway to level two in the scuttling Castle Machina as our 5e campaign continued last night. The strange droning sound unsettled their nerves, but they persevered. They discovered another room full of vast machinery, mate to the room below it, that kept the castle moving. Then, they found a room full of cast of spare gears, mounds of them, and a bank of levers in the floor.  A search of the room awakened metallic, insectoid guardians.

The party backed away, intuiting that the constructs protected the levers.

Next, they discovered a sauna-like room where three salamanders were playing games of change. Once one of them produced a translation device, they were able to converse with the party. They told them they had been hired from the Realm of Fire to help in the construction of parts of the castle, and they had been on their union mandated break for some time. They had never heard of a "Princess" but they knew a mad clockwork being was interfaced with the castle like it was her nervous system. Kully wanted to gamble with them, but they never could arrive at items them salamanders considered valuable.

They tried climbing the stairs to the next level, but the droning sound was more overwhelming. Waylon and Dagmar were struck with paralyzing fear, and Shade flew into a violent rage and had to be subdued. Deciding that braving the maddening noise was too risky, they returned to the room with the levers, intent on possibly bringing the castle to a halt.

They experimented with mage hand, but moving the lever had no effect. They decided to destroy the guardians to experiment more fully. The energy weapons they had stolen from the priests of the Toad Temple were instrumental in accomplishing that, as regular weapons had little effect. In their deaths, the constructs exploded with damaging fireballs.

Battered but now with full access to lever, the party started to experiment in earnest and found...well, not much. Most of the levers seemed to have no visible effect. They long debated pulling the "Portal Reversal" lever, but some feared it would release the imprisoned fire creature that heated the boiler. In the end, they decided it was too risky.

A plan was hatched to use Silence to explore the next level.


Dungeons & Sheens - A Stars Without Number Revised Campaign Idea Using Dragon Magazine issue #258

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 07/15/2019 - 02:34
"Once the Glaive was a powerful weapon. In the right hands, it can be so again." "Don't worry, I'll come back with it." "If you don't come back with it, Colwyn, you'll not come back at all!" -- Ynyr to Colywn, Krull, Marvel Comic AdaptationSo the year is Nineteen Ninety Nine,  Dragon magazine is a force to be reckoned with, Alternity is the new sci fi game from TSR  & White Wolf rules theNeedles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

25% off sale ends Monday!

Two Hour Wargames - Sat, 07/13/2019 - 20:59
Use coupon code


and get 25% off of your order. Sale ends Monday!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

[NEWS] The Lost Valley of Kishar and Echoes From Fomalhaut #05 released in PDF

Beyond Fomalhaut - Sat, 07/13/2019 - 12:47
New PDF releases
I am happy to announce the publication of the PDF versions of The Lost Valley of Kishar and Echoes From Fomalhaut #05, now available from DriveThruRPG. The Lost Valley offers a 6th to 8th level wilderness adventure, a journey to a lost world inhabited by prehistoric beasts and other, even stranger beings. This module was written by Gabor Csomos, and won first place at a 2018 adventure design contest. Second place went to The Enchantment of Vashundara, an excellent adventure in its own right. This module, written by Zsolt Varga, is featured in Echoes #05. The zine also introduces two towns: Tirwas is a community once governed by egalitarian customs, and now divided between a group of powerful Landlords, while Sleepy Haven is a seemingly idyllic coastal settlement… or is it? A second adventure, set in a network of abandoned storehouses and caverns beneath Tirwas, is also featured.
Both PDF publications are provided free to those who have ordered them in print – and print copies are still available at However, if you wish to place a print order, it may be a good idea to wait a week for the next EMDT release, which is…
LurkingThe Nocturnal Table! (And no, that will not be the final cover on the left – it is being finalised by Matthew Ray.) This supplement is a “city adventure game aid”, originally written in 2010 as an article for Knockspell magazine, and later expanded for standalone publication (which did not happen at that time). A Hungarian edition was released somewhat later, and was used extensively in our city adventures and campaigns. The present English edition, a hefty 60 pages with lavish illustrations by Peter Mullen, Stefan Poag and Denis McCarthy, features further expansions and additions based on those adventures.
At the core of The Nocturnal Table is a 300-entry table of random encounters and odd events you can run into at night in a busy fantasy metropolis. However, this is just one part of the deal – further random charts and guidelines are provided for running city scenarios featuring thievery, fantastic conspiracies, and weird locations. Want to generate a random warehouse’s worth of valuables to plunder? Create a shady locale to meet with a contact? See what was being carried by that patrician you have just pickpocketed? All that, and more are at your disposal in the supplement. This is a supplement designed for regular table use, and formatted to be comfortable and accessible.
Hopefully going on sale next weekend!

In other news, what am I working on? My focus as of late has been mainly on Castle Xyntillan, a large funhouse megadungeon for Swords&Wizardry. This work is in the first proofreading stage (and a short appendix or two are still to be finalised), and the first art orders are starting to roll in. I have also received the first versions of the poster maps (note plural) by Rob Conley, and I must say they are beautiful examples of gaming cartography. These will be maps to both use at the table and marvel at! (And I hope you will agree on this point when you see them.) The current plan for Xyntillan is a 112-page full-sized hardcover, roughly the size of the 1stedition Monster Manual, with four separate map sheets on durable paper. I am shooting for Christmas, and we will see if we get there on time. With a project that has been in progress in one form or another since 2006, you start to accept small delays in the hope the end result will make up for it.
And speaking of delays, Echoes #06 is obviously going to be late. It looks like a mid-September release (which is still fairly realistic), and I hope it will be worth the wait, too. Issue #06 will feature some of the materials which have provided the zine’s raison d'être, the stuff I really wanted to see in print. We will be visiting the City of Vultures!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

(5e) The Tower of Tharikthiril

Ten Foot Pole - Sat, 07/13/2019 - 11:13
By Devin Cutler Self Published 5e Level 3

The evil wizard Tharikthiril was defeated by the dwarves years ago. But why then are the groundlings becoming numerous around his ruined tower? And what are those strange lights seen in the distance coming from the direction of his tower? Has the wizard somehow cheated death and risen again?

This 31 page adventure describes an evil wizards (former) tower with about fifty rooms described in fourteen pages. It can get lengthy at times, in DM text and read-aloud, but tends to keep things reasonable. What is suffers from, more than anything, is being boring. It tries, but beyond monsters and lengthy traps it has little to offer. 

This wizards tower, errr, former wizards tower, has a large ground floor of 33 locations and then a couple of very small tower levels and a couple of very small dungeon levels. Running around inside are some vermin, goblins and corrupted dwarf-mutations, and an evil wizard with a few abominations. 

Traps are sprinkled throughout, each taking up far more space than they should with multiple skill/stat checks referenced. There’s a few attempts at a weird effect or two in a couple of the rooms.

Unlike most adventures, this thing takes a good running start at an evocative writing style. One room has it’s corner collapsed with rubble strewn down the mountainside. A mosaic purposefully pried up in one hallway. A room choked with stone from the ceiling, mud, water, dung, all forming a thick goop with the skeleton of a small humanoid lying atop it, gibbets of meat still on its bones. We can argue about the use of small and goop, but gibbets of meat still upon its bones, and the image of the skeleton in the much room, if a good one. It’s a nice lure to bring the party in. In general the adventure does a pretty good job of getting in and out with its read-aloud while providing the correct degree of specificity to be evocative when mixed with its colorful use of adjectives and adverbs. It’s not exactly The Best but it is CLEARLY a cut above the fact based descriptions that permeate adventures. A little scrubbing or agonizing editing and it could have possibly been really a standout in that area.

It does fall down on interactivity though. The adventure interprets this as monsters and traps and therefore it falls in to a rut of combat and traps. There ARE a few rooms where you can speak to a demon lord via a circle, and so on, but, especially on the homes main floor, it needs some more interactivity. For every small skeleton luring you in to combat there are 12 rooms that are far FAR more mundane. It doesn’t have to be a funhouse but interactivity needs to be more than combat and traps. Especially when those traps are nearly never telegraphed. Bad!

And then it goes and gives a full page of read-aloud monologue at the start, as a hook. Or gives you a page of text for a room with a quasit in it. These are extreme examples, but its clear that restraint failed in several other rooms as well. Long read and short DM text is usually a key that something fucked up. Short initial read-aloud, and an exploding format of the DM providing more and more detail as the players investigate would resolve this. Experiences are consistent, at least initial ones, with the DM consulting for more as needed. 

It’s also clear that, for most of the adventure, an order of battle is missing. With a couple of groups of at least semi-intelligent humanoids I would expect a few notes on how they respond to intruders or summon help, etc. 

And then for every good room description we get history and backstory embedded in the DM text, adding noting to the adventure but getting in the way.

Not doing much good. Dipping in to the bad on occasion but not living there. Is that enough to recommend an adventure? No, but it’s enough to not hate it. For its faults, this thing is better than most published 5e adventures. What’s heartening is that I think usability and interactivity are more easily learned than evocative writing. It’s possible that this designer may get things together and figure out the interactivity and usability elements while kicking up their evocative writing another notch. There’s just too much decent content available go lower than “Decent.”

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru, with a suggested price of $2. The preview is quite poor, showing you that page long read-aloud in the hook and nothing of the actual rooms/encounters. Thus you have little idea of what to expect when you buy the thing.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Talking AD&D, Tolkien, and Edgar Rice Burroughs on Twitter

Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog - Sat, 07/13/2019 - 02:50

Okay, this might be danged hard to follow but it’s also a lot of fun.

A lot of good points are made in here, so click on through for the rest of the discussion!

I really wish @Wizards_DnD would release a minimalist throw back edition of D&D 5E. Keep the same rules but go back to a two column layout with black and white art and have some the old artists do some work for it. The 5E books are overly produced imho. #OSR #DnD5E

— Ulairi (@letthedicefall) July 11, 2019

They aren't meant to fire imagination, they are meant so you and your friends get on the same cookie cutter fantasy carnival ride as the actors in your favourite Wizards of the Coast sponsored podcast!

— Brandon (@PixelCanuck) July 12, 2019

TSR: "Why have us do any more of your imagining for you?"
Wizards of the Coast: "Don't imagination, just consume product and then get excited for next products."

— Jeffro Johnson (@JohnsonJeffro) July 12, 2019

I’m all for pushing the hobby forward, but 5e is all about reaching out and making the hobby accessible. Generally speaking, WotC is really great about inclusion, so I don’t see the problem. If people want something more, there is PLENTY of TTRPG content out there to be found.

— Just A Barovian Bladesinger (@TravisVawter) July 12, 2019

"Pushing the hobby forward" "Making the hobby accessible" "Great about inclusion"

— Meffridus (@meffridus) July 12, 2019

Accessible to who? I was playing AD&D at 8 years old, me and friends were self taught. Did TTRPGs really need to be made more accessible than that?

What they needed to become more popular was to become more socially accepted, not accessible. That's the angle Wizards is pursuing

— Brandon (@PixelCanuck) July 12, 2019

AD&D is the definitive expression of all things Gygaxian. It's a landmark work, epochal even. There was nothing like it before in history and there can never be another work that even approaches its influence and significance. It is staggeringly awesome. But it is not accessible.

— Jeffro Johnson (@JohnsonJeffro) July 12, 2019

This is beautifully and wonderfully wrong. #AppendixN

— Jeffro Johnson (@JohnsonJeffro) July 12, 2019

Siri, show me very bad takes that contradict facts in Tolkien's autobiography

— Dogs Don't Have Thumbs (@MorlockP) July 12, 2019

he didn't mention ERB as an inspiration, and talked at length about the Germanic and Celtic myths as inspiration

— Dogs Don't Have Thumbs (@MorlockP) July 12, 2019

On the other hand, we know by his own words that JRRT did read a lot of ERB. He denied direct copypastas, but it is no great lep to infer that JRRT was influenced by ERB. For better or worse.

— Jon Mollison (@NotJonMollison) July 12, 2019

Right. You know his publisher had no interest in what would ultimately become The Silmarillion. If (as OP claimed) D&D would not have happen without Tolkien creating a demand for it, then you can also say that LotR would not have happened without ERB making a demand for it.

— Jeffro Johnson (@JohnsonJeffro) July 12, 2019

The Lord of the Rings was developed over the course a many years through several complete rewrites. It builds on and alludes to a legendarium that he began developing during the world war, but there would be no demand for that type of material until after his death.

— Jeffro Johnson (@JohnsonJeffro) July 12, 2019

Could anyone writing fantasy or science fiction in the thirties and forties escape the influence of Edgar Rice Burroughs? I don't think that' s possible!

— Jeffro Johnson (@JohnsonJeffro) July 12, 2019

Tolkien wrote tLotR because (a) his publisher rejected The Silmarillion and (b) his readers wanted to hear more about hobbits. Tolkien had nothing else to say about hobbits after that 1st book. He was done! But the marketplace influenced him to undertake what would become tLotR.

— Jeffro Johnson (@JohnsonJeffro) July 13, 2019

Excuse my pedantry: I believe it was the Book of Lost Tales (Silmarillion precursor) that was intended to be a great myth for England (not Europe.)

— Corn Woman (@WomanCorn) July 13, 2019

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Superheroes and Color Theory

Sorcerer's Skull - Fri, 07/12/2019 - 11:00
A series of articles back on Comics Alliance in 2016 discussed color theory as it relates to the costumes of superheroes: stuff like heroes tend to be in primary colors, and the potential meaning of villains in green and purple. It doesn't match up hundred percent, but it is interesting. Anyway, you might want to head over and read the articles.

You could use that to make random tables for the generation of NPCs, not so much powers, but costume and personality at the same time.

The Best RPG Account on Twitter!

Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog - Thu, 07/11/2019 - 17:53

After many, many months of putting in sweat equity in the gym, playing classic vintage games, and dropping hot takes on social media sites… all my efforts have finally paid off.

That’s right, y’all. #TeamWinningSecrets scientific polling indicates that my Twitter feed is in fact the best RPG account on Twitter.

Very stoked about this!

If you are an elite level player that would like to win at RPGs, please join me there for my wholesome D&D content!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Dragons of Post-Apocalyptic Twilight

Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 07/11/2019 - 11:00
I guess this is the third in a loose series of re-imaginings of old TSR settings. My knowledge of classic Dragonlance is admittedly a bit limited, but what I don't know about it, I figure I'll just fill in with other post-apocalyptic, science fantasy, or sword and sorcery stuff.

So, Kyrnn is a world locked in a protracted semi-Cold War. One side or the other (perhaps both), looking to end the stalemate once and for all uses their advanced science or scientific sorcery to pierce a veil that should have remained unpierced and contact another universe where an unlimited source of power was waiting. That power had an intelligence. They called it Tiamat.

Tiamat agreed to help their cause and taught them how to make living weapons they called dragons from a portion of "her" own substance. Their early victories were great, and several enemy cities fell before the dragons, but then somehow, the opposing side got dragons of their own.

When the two blocs were utterly dependent on dragons, the beasts turned on their masters. Civilization was nearly destroyed in the onslaught.

The only good Draconian...Centuries later and Krynn is a world dominated by the dragons, and their lackeys the Draconians. The former dominate species of now either fear and avoid or serve the planet's rulers (not unlike the humans in Vance's Planet of Adventure, or maybe even the Planet of the Apes TV show).

Anyway, the idea is to make it more random Sword & Sorcery 70s paperback than Lord of the Ring.


[STUFF] Further Adventures in Morthimion – LEVEL 2

Beyond Fomalhaut - Wed, 07/10/2019 - 20:14
Around the corner, you see...
[Players wishing to adventure in Castle Morthimion: STAY AWAY!]
From the beginning, Castle Morthimion has been intended as a “filler” dungeon we could turn to when I was too busy to prepare for our regular games, or when we didn’t have a sufficient player turnout for campaign play. The great thing about OD&D is that you can play it on and off in gaps of time – for example, on a train.
Which reminds me, last weekend I was happy to welcome Santiago Oría (known on various forums as Zulgyan) in Hungary, and in between showing him the sights, and arranging a larger game in the City of Vulture with the gang, we had a three-hour train ride which we spent playing OD&D. You can play a pretty functional pickup game of OD&D in that fixed time period, and there was even time for a second expedition.
Santiago's Map
  • Santiago rolled up Sondor, a second level Cleric, hired a torchbearer named Falco, and two henchmen named Gary and Dave, and went adventuring in the dungeons of Morthimion.
  • Sondor, Adept of Law, was doing fairly well exploring the first level and avoiding attracting too much attention (mainly by avoiding stuck doors – battering those down could get noisy). OD&D’s pursuit rules, which take into account corners, doors and secret doors to break line of sight, were put to good use.
  • This stretch of good fortune lasted until he snuck into the treasury of a bandit group through an unguarded secret door, and got promptly killed by trying to pick up a Chaotic sword (there is a less known OD&D rule to this effect).
  • Gary and Dave, now left without a leader, quickly and silently collected the rest of the treasure, and left quietly. On the way out, they met a group of scary magic-users from the deeper dungeons, who threathened them to hand over most of their treasure or suffer the consequences. They did, and the M-Us did not press further, leaving them with some money and two potions (animal control, gaseous form). With this, they returned to the surface.
  • Dave, who was the strongest of the group (with six whopping hit points!), used up 250 gp to promote himself from a henchman into a classed Fighting Man (+1 Hp), and assumed command. He hired two more stable boys (Bob and Targo), and a henchman named Alex. Thus outfitted, they returned to Morthimion.
  • The company explored most of the central area, mostly avoiding fights with larger groups, and using the potion of gasesous form for reconnaissance 8which proved a smart move).
  • They eventually found a room with spiders. Here, Falco and Targo were bitten by spiders with slow-acting deadly poison. This was also when we were getting close to the end of the ride, so the company had to roll on The Table of Terror, and the entire expedition was lost in the Underworld! So ended Santiago’s expedition to the dungeons of Morthimion. (I must say he is a careful and shrewd player – he did very well on the solo expeditions, and would have likely emerged victorious if our time had not been up.)

Two days later, we played another session with the regular group (and a new player). This was also a two-expedition game, but with a larger adventuring party, and thus more battle.
  • The expedition consisted of Tumak the Shaman, 2nd level Cleric of Chaos; Brother Tivold, 3rdlevel Cleric of Law (who had levelled up after our first game); Xingar the 2ndlevel Fighting Man; and Fatalgor the Last Thief, 2nd level Thief (since we conclusively switched to LBB-only OD&D, no thieves exist in the world now except Fatalgor). The characters also brought one torchbearer/porter (Tiho) and five henchmen (Sanislo , Max, Mario the Peg-Legged, Miriam and Mao’nica the Barbarian).
  • Miriam was killed by a servant zombie, and Mao’nica fell into a pit and died when trying to open a false door. The callous treatment of the companions almost triggered a small rebellion, but eventually, the matter was settled with promises of a fat bonus.
  • In this game, the two rival Clerics – who were trying to convert each other – proved very useful, since they could speak to differently aligned dungeon inhabitants. Negotiating with the denizens – orcs, goblins, and rival adventuring parties – avoided multiple dangerous fights.
  • Do not speak of the yeti! Fatalgor did, and I immediately rolled a yeti (“white apes”) encounter on the random encounter tables. These are dangerous critters from the lower levels, but they could be placated with a bunch of food found in a previous storeroom.
  • They actually found the spider room where Santiago’s expedition ended! This time, they slammed the door on the spiders within before they could come out, and used an old drill found lying around in a storeroom to drill a hole in the door, which they then filled with oil to burn out the room. (…destroying a pair of elven boots in the process…)
  • After returning to the surface, they visited Lodobar’s Tavern, a disreputable establishment in the nearby woods. Lodobar had a few special items for sale, including a portable hole costing a whopping 6000 gp. However, all they had now was a 500 gp silver rose. They used the proceeds to rest for a week, and recruit new henchmen, because Tiho and Max chose to retire with their share.
  • In the second expedition, the henchmen were Sanislo, Mario the Peg-Legged, Richard the Rider, Rudolf (who had already been “down there”, and knew a thing or two about the dungeons), Renato and Roxana.
  • This was a less lucky venture, although they found a few interesting places which will come handy later. They chose to break off the nose of a warrior-shaped column, which turned into a 3rdlevel Fighting Man along with two companions. These higher-level opponents made short work of poor Richard and Roxana.
  • However, the company did find a collection of valuable masks, killed off a pool of electric eels with food treated with Tumak the Shaman’s foul food and water spell (a reversed spell he could use as an anti-cleric). This resulted in a good haul stolen from a group of orcs absorbed by playing a board game. They also learned about a group of cooks dwelling on the second level, and found a long, dark passage closed off with a barred gate and a mysterious “Castle Morthimion, Department of Construction” sign. 

Updated SidecutThe first playtest in April gave Morthimion a more precise shape and focus. While some concessions were made to modernity during the first game (“Greyhawk” additions like differentiated HD, higher ability score bonuses, and the Thief class), I have since turned the game into a purist LBB-only endeavour. The 1d6 Hp hit die against the 1d6 Hp damage your weapons are doing is an interesting and neat balance, and the game has worked eminently well in this form. Indeed, LBB-only OD&D is proving a robust game of exploration, negotiation and careful risk management. I still do employ some house rules, adopted from Dungeons & Companions, a Hungarian S&W clone. 

  • Ability scores of 15 or higher come with a +1 bonus (yeah, I could not fully abandon this).
  • Helmets stop one killing blow for player characters (but not companions).
  • A natural 20 deals maximum (6) damage.
  • Roll-under 2d6 morale is in effect for companions. Initial morale is based on PC charisma and a random factor. Morale tests permanently reduce ML by one point, which is mostly not possible to restore, so companions will eventually leave the company to retire or pursue their own interests. I find this morale system the most elegant I know of (and have published it in Echoes From Fomalhaut #01). I am also using a “companion quirks” table that will be released with Castle Xyntillan.

This is, however, it. The dungeons themselves also follow a LBB-only philosophy. If it is in the Original D&D set, I am using it without reservations. If there is a gap that needs to be filled (e.g. animal statistics, or a collection of flying monsters for The Sideways Level), I fill that gap with my own ideas. No Greyhawk material needs apply! I find that this special creative focus keeps me grounded, and anchors this particular creative project. It is very inspiring.
Level 2And now the goods! The dungeons have not been my primary focus these months, but I do have the second level ready, and am making progress on two more dungeon levels and “Domains of the Faerie Princes”, the wilderness section (which is a small hex-crawl instead of the forest maze I had originally planned).
The current download will include the first two levels. The first one was already available; the second adds The Servants’ Quarters. This is a larger and more “dense” dungeon section with more sub-areas per keyed location, about twice the length of the Dungeons (other levels will usually be smaller). The power level is also the equivalent of a first-level OD&D dungeon, but things are just a bit more risky, and the rewards just a bit better. There is a dragon-guarded treasury, a kitchen I am particularly fond of, and you can even meet the Faerie Princes… if you are sufficiently reckless or unlucky.
Additionally, things have been reformatted a little, including switching to the OD&D-specific Futura font, there is a new sidecut to reflect the dungeon’s evolution, and I added monster stats which were not found in the original download (these follow the pre-Greyhawk conventions). Fight On!
Download: Castle Morthimion - Levels 1-2 (3 MB PDF)
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Cryptozoic Will Offer Exclusive Collectibles and Trading Cards at San Diego Comic-Con 2019

Cryptozoic - Wed, 07/10/2019 - 13:00

Cryptozoic Entertainment will sell products in all categories and offer numerous exclusive collectibles and trading cards at San Diego Comic-Con, July 18-21 at the San Diego Convention Center. At Booth #115, Cryptozoic will sell exclusive vinyl figures from popular lines like DC Bombshells, CryptkinsTM, and DC TeekeezTM and will also sell the Wonder Woman Movie Collectible and Vinyl Terrorz: Freddy Krueger figures. For trading card collectors, there will be exclusive CZX Outlander, Steven Universe Trading CardsRick and Morty Trading Cards packs.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Bone Marshes

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 07/10/2019 - 11:11
By David Schriduan Technical Grimoire Games Knave

We need your help! The marshes are burning, and we don’t know why!

This 48 page hexcrawl has 25 hexes. [Hex size defined as “four hours to cross] It falls in to the “Real deal” category of adventures. Not mini-dungeon, but fully formed with lots going on. It makes some non-intuitive choices but it’s easy enough to use once you’ve got the hang of it. Chok full of adventure.

You find some magic flyers saying the swamps are on fire and some mage needs help. The mage has a mission for you: charting a path through the swamp for her supply caravan to reach her base. After that she another mission, and then another. These come with handy dandy tracking sheets and notes on modifications on how to turn each in to one-shot. The above references two themes: an impishness and a nod to usability. 

There’s a tone present which isn’t gonzo and isn’t deadly serious 1e AD&D and isn’t humor. It’s a slightly bizarre character thing, drifting toward ren-faire but never actually getting close. There’s some tech present in the swamp, at the heart of mystery in fact, but its not a gonzo adventure. It’s more subtle. There’s no real humor, but there are non-serious moments. These are almost entirely in the form of the NPC’s. They are not humorous, but they do have strong character. A guy who like to see things burn. Sages who like their comfort. And the primary quest-giver, a mage with a lot of money, not much sense, a childlike wonder, and who is looking to make a name for herself. Further in the swamp are memgomanicial bandit kings and some swamp-creatures with a trial separation going on. They don’t go over the top, or least not enough to make the adventure a farce. They do provide strong elements to hang your DM hat on and provide engaging play for the party. Which is what it’s about.

There’s also an emphasis on usability. I noted the handouts for the three missions, which double as a kind of note-pad, etc for the party. The character sheets also have some nods to usability for a “you got mud on you” mechanic. The hexes are noted in a format to help aid the DM, as is some underground/flooded tunnel notes. The descriptions make good use of bolding and summaries, whitespace, bullets, and terse evocative setting descriptions. It’s clear that usability was a major design consideration, and it pays off.

There’s a lot to do and interact with in the swamp. Fighting, fire fighting, NPC’s to talk to do, schemes to plot, places to explore and so on. It’s a small hex crawl done right. There’s some over-arching goals for the party and a canvas full of things waiting to happen for the adventure to develop as the party tries to achieve their goals. It’s a great example of both plot and sandbox mixing in the correct proportions to achieve some directed purpose without dictating which way things should go. 

And it’s not without its flaws. For all its attempts at usability a few fall short. 

The adventure makes an effort at cross-references, they appear in more than a few places. It also doesn’t always use time when it should. There are five gizmos scattered about the swamp that play a major part in the adventure … but there’s no unified place where they are all mentioned. Other elements, mentioned in passing as goals or so on, also do not get a cross-reference. Where was that swamp-throne again? 

The swamp map is a little non-intuitive as well, at first glance. The hexes are numbered A through R. Then the hex descriptions start. It took me more than a few minutes to recognize that the hexes were keyed by the encounter name. “Archies Camp” is hex A. “Queens House” is hex Q, and so on. I get it, once I figured it out, but I’m still not sure it makes the layout/design more intuitive. It also moves from one area to the next a little more fluidly then is helpful. In particular the indoor and underground sections for the main encounter areas end up being less intuitive then they could be if done in a more traditional format.It’s not BAD, exactly, but it does require more work than usual to figure out how things relate to each other.

Finally, there’s the fire aspect. This is the pretext for the entire adventure: the swamp is on fire and the mage wants to put it out. Mechanically, this is covered. There are rules for fire fighting, damage and the like. Easy to find, laid out, and understandable. Then there are tactical level fire issues: many random encounters and a few fixed ones have fire elements to them. Hexes tell yo uwhat they look like before and fires in them. But it feels like there’s a gap when it comes to, oh, let’s call is Strategic fire management. Let’s start with something very basic: where are the fires? Having spent a couple of hours with this adventure I can only tell you one hex. If you levitate up, or fly, or somehow get high up and look out … where are the fires? Where is the smoke coming from? There’s not help in this area. [Further, in retrospect, I don’t think fires exist, except in isolated circumstances and that one hex. I think they mostly come up through play and random encounters. The feeling of “smoke and small fires everywhere” doesn’t really come through for me. This may be a play thing though.]

But, these are minor nits and generally easily addressed. Monsters are freaky and get good descriptions. Hex/item descriptions are evocative and terse and the text easy to scan. It’s just how it all fits together that could be better. Still, easily one of the best. A “real” adventure, and there’s not many of those out there,

This is $10 at DriveThru, and worth it. The preview is fifteen pages. You get to see a DM overview of one of the “plot quests”, laid out nicely. You also get some bestiary pages, showing off their descriptions and freakiness. Preview page 10 and onward shows you sample hex encounter descriptions, with wanderers and the main layout/descriptions for hexes. It’s a good preview.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Wednesday Comics: Stuff I Read Recently

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 07/10/2019 - 11:00
Here are some recent comics I've read in the past few weeks.

Hey Kids! Comics! (Image)
This is a limited series by Howard Chaykin (perhaps the first of multiple volumes) about the history of comics from the 40s to the 2000s as seen through the eyes of three (fictional, though clearly with elements of real people) creators who got their start in the Golden Age. They interact with a number of other characters who are, at times, fairly thinly disguised stand-ins for real personalities in the industry. The throughline seems to the reputed Jack Kirby adage: "comics will break your heart, kid," or at least leave you embittered and angry, as editors and publishers profit from your work and fandom misunderstands the real history. While there are more sympathetic and less sympathetic characters, all of them are all too human, and no one involved is particularly flattered by Chaykin's portrayal.

Spider-Man: Life Story (Marvel)
The conceit here is that Spider-Man ages in real time, from his teen years in the 60s on through the decades. Chip Zdarsky and Mark Bagley weave a tale that resembles Byrne's Generations limiteds in some ways, but is more interested in clever re-imaginings of various classic storylines from each era. The result is entertaining, but this dual concern means that the idea of a Marvel universe where time passes is not as deeply explored as it might be since story time has to include secret wars, alien suits, and (multiple) clone sagas. Still, it's the sort of thing I wouldn't have thought Marvel would put out, so the novelty alone makes it worth a look. Five issues are out now with the sixth and the trade to come.

Superman: Year One #1 (DC)
Many of the reviews I have seen of this tend to be reviews of the reviewer's lack of faith in Frank Miller (not unjustified, admittedly, given his work and public statements of the past decade or so) or at least their certainty he doesn't understand Superman. (Aside: Almost any time someone says "that isn't what Superman/Batman whoever would do" they are making a statement more of personal preference than history. Of course, there are certainly portrayals that are more the center of the bell curve and some that are outliers.)

For the most part, if this take by Miller and Romita has a flaw, it's that it is all too conventional, and the minor (minor!) ways it deviates from the Standard Consensus Origin are a bit more off-putting than interesting. It is suggested that baby Kal-El modifies his behavior to manipulate the Kents into accepting him (plausible, perhaps even likely, but not what most Superman readers want to read, apparently). Clark is also always aware of the fragility of regular humans (again, plausibly, but not people are looking for). The Kents are on paper what they are suppose to be but they feel a little off. Lana Lang is more active than it most takes, but it still doesn't amount to much and she must be rescued.

So, if you just need another Superman origin, well, this is another one, but if you are looking for the Superman origin that will give you the small thrill of the truncated origin in All-Star Superman, this isn't it. It's more like a darker Man of Steel (the Byrne limited) as written by Frank Miller.

Points of Light Borderlands and the Scourge of the Demon Wolf

Bat in the Attic - Tue, 07/09/2019 - 14:44
Recently I was asked this question about combine two things I written, the Borderland setting from Points of Light and Scourge of the Demon Wolf.
Hey Robert, I've been reading Scourge of the Demon Wolf and it occurs to me I might want to attach it to a side of the Borderland setting from your Points of Light book. Do you have a quick thought about how you would staple the two together?
The Borderlands
For those you don't know Borderlands is one of four hexcrawl formatted setting in Points of Light. It depicts a time period when the Bright Empire was torn apart in a religious and political civil war. A conflict between factions supporting Sarrath the God of Order (Lawful Evil) and Delaquain the Goddess of Honor and Justice (Lawful Good).

In the setting the civil war has been going on for a few years. Parts of the region are divided between the faction, parts are devastated, and parts are neutral just trying to hang on.

The Scourge of the Demon Wolf
The Scourge of the Demon Wolf centers on a manor village terrorized by a pack of wolves. To adapt it for Borderlands I drew a map and recommended the following.

1416 is the Beggar Camp
1615 is the sacrifice site
1617 is the Bandit Cave in a bluff overlooking Cailly River and the swamp.

Instead of the Baron of Westtower as giving the mission I recommended that role be given to Count Travlin of Darcion. Instead of the baron's huntsmen in the stocks, it's Sheriff Melan of Saurton in the stocks

The Church of Mitra in Kensla would now be a Ecumenical Imperial Church of the four Gods with the statue of Delaquain removed. The personality of the priest remains the same. The bailiff that was killed was an agent of Divolic and an adherent of Sarrath and there is little love for him in the village.

As an added wrinkle Count Travlin is looking for leverage against the Mages of Order of Thoth in the Golden House in order to enlist their aid for Duke Divolic in the civil war. However would be more of a bonus as Count Travlin is not aware of the supernatural nature of the Demon Wolf or even the Demon Wolf exists. If made aware of the full circumstance Count Travlin would provide a handsome reward as the information would provide considerable leverage over the mages.

An alternative start is that a cleric or paladin gets a call from Veritas, Thoth or Delaquain. From the call the party starts with knowing that it has something to do with the Sheriff Melan of Saurton being thrown in the stocks in Darcion. Since the stocks are in the public square the party could question the sheriff which will lead them to Kensla and the adventure.

Once again the party will have to decide what to do with the information about how mage are connected to the Demon Wolf. Except this time they are nominally the "good" guys.

Finally a start I didn't mention earlier was that the characters were sent by the Duke of Stoneburg to Darcion to investigate why Sheriff Melan was thrown in the stocks. It would be similar to the above but without the religious overtones. Since the Duke has the support of the remnants of the old imperial church and the still loyal priests of Thoth and Veritas. The resolution of the adventure could be the foundation for an alliance between the Duke and the mage of the Golden House.

Click to Expand
Wrapping it up.
As a general note, all the Points of Light setting and Blackmarsh are part of the same loose background. Although set in different time period. Borderlands is the earliest time period depicted set during the civil war that ripped the Bright Empire apart. Wildland represents the aftermath after the collapse of the empire. While Southland and Blackmarsh are set in later centuries during the rise of the Grand Kingdom.

The settings of Points of Light II are also set during the Grand Kingdom period. They focuses on the expansion overseas to the New World of the setting and the colonial rivalry between the Grand Kingdom and the Ochre Empire.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs


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