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Rebel Minis’ 15th Anniversary Extravaganza!

Rebel Minis - Thu, 05/02/2019 - 00:33

To celebrate our 15th Anniversary we are pulling out all the stops! All products on the site will be 20% off! Even the PDF Rulebooks! And orders over $30 will get a 28mm Goblin Jester for Free! All you need to do at checkout is use code PARTY. We want to thank everyone for their support these last 15 years and let you know, We Appreciate You!





The sale will last until May 15th and remember, some things will sell out of stock quickly… so this year, we will be taking orders and making the packs as quickly as possible, to keep them in stock during sale. Some items may be back-ordered during the sale, but if you order them during the sale, you will still get the sale price, no matter when they ship (which should not be that long of a delay). You can see everything here www.Rebelminis.com

Thank you for 15 great years!

The Rebel Crew
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Where Credit is Due

3d6 Traps & Thieves - Thu, 05/02/2019 - 00:32

Foreword



I would like to officially thank David C. Sutherland III for the yalkhoi.
That was long overdue. By almost forty years. Though I first encountered the hobgoblin in the Moldvay edit of the Basic Rules, there were no illustrations to be found. Seriously? You provide illustrations of the White Ape, Sabre-Tooth Tiger, Killer Bee, Giant Lizard, Skeleton and Giant Spider? As if no one has an idea of what those look like! But you can’t be bothered to depict any of the goblinoids. I think the thoul would’ve been a good choice for a picture as well. Imagine my excitement when I found the Monster Manual.
So, hobgoblins were Asian. Huh. Neat! Hey – according to the Sutherland illustrations (two of them!), hobgoblins wore distinctly samurai-inspired armor into battle. You know who else had the same kind of look? The ogre mage (oni). And another Sutherland illustration, no-less. My wheels immediately started to spin. I liked the hobgoblin. The hobgoblin was (stat-wise) better than the orc (also illustrated by DCS). Orcs seemed like nothing more than hobgoblins with pig heads to me. It was at that point that I decided never to use orcs in my games – I was Team Hobgoblin right from the start. Once that was decided, my mind connected the hobgoblin and the ogre mage as the representatives of Asian culture in my fantasy setting.
Hobgoblins went through a few iterations during the development of the Avremier setting. There were essentially two castes, the samurai (noble) and the steppe-riders (commoners modeled after Mongols). Over the years, I merged the two castes, but split the hobgoblin into two distinct evolutionary paths. Replacing the half-orc PC race with the hobgoblin (yalkhoi), I developed the “monster” version of the hobgoblin (yarcha) as another branch. The ogre mage started as the overlords (shogun) of the hobgoblins, and slowly evolved into a higher evolutionary form to which an honorable yalkhoi might aspire.
All from a few David C. Sutherland III black-and-white line drawings. That’s what I call Old-School.

David A. Hill
Mothshade Concepts Editor
1 May 2019



Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Steven Universe Trading Cards: An Introduction to the World of Non-Sport Trading Cards

Cryptozoic - Wed, 05/01/2019 - 19:10

What Are Non-Sport Trading Cards? Although trading cards are traditionally associated with athletes from the world of professional sports, non-sport trading cards—as the name implies—put the attention on anything but sports! Embracing pop culture, these cards have opened up an exciting world for collectors who are passionate about movies, comics, and TV shows.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Using The Demon Hunter's Handbook From Goodman Games For Old School Campaign Construction

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 05/01/2019 - 18:15
"No campaign theme is more gripping than a battle against the minions of hell! This jam-packed sourcebook brings to the table everything you'll need to run a fantasy campaign centered around demon hunters. From puritanical holy men fighting for their gods to crazed warriors only one step away from damnation themselves"Demon hunters are always one problem that I've had with the traditional Sword Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Eyrie of the Dread Eye

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 05/01/2019 - 11:18
By Courtney Campbell
Autarch
ACKs/BX
Levels 6-8

… Now the Awakening is near, the Spheres are coming into alignment, and the Oculus is beginning to open. The dark power is reaching out and for the first time in an age the Eyrie of the Dread Eye is accessible again. As the Eye opens, reality itself comes under further and further  strain. And as rumors of a new valley containing an underground forgotten city filled with untold riches spread out from the Dark Wall, the Oculus continues to open ever wider.

This 59 page adventure describes a ruined city. There are about sixteen encounter areas prior to the city, and about eight “faction headquarters” in the city. This description, though, trivializes the emergent play sections of the city, a major part of the adventure, as well as the ever-present danger of the “minigames” that the locale proper provides. One of the better Lost Cities adventures, combined with a great example of pull-no-punches DM’ing that DOESN’T feel adversarial. Its complexity is its downfall and it could be organized better, going a little too far over the line of emergent play. But that don’t mean it ain’t a treasure, cause it is.

This isn’t a dungeon. It’s not even an adventure. It’s an adventure site location. The title, EofDE, makes it sound like a dungeon or adventure. It says “site-based adventure” somewhere in some description, but that shit gets thrown around like a marketing term. But this thing ain’t fucking around: it’s a site-based adventure location. And it’s gonna fuck up every party that meets it in a non-adversarial DM’ing manner, unless they are EXPERT players making multiple forays.

Rappan Athuk did something interesting: it highlighted threats outside of the dungeon. Bandit groups, with hundreds of members, preyed on you. This sort of thing is generally abstracted ot skipped over in adventures. What if, in X1, you came back to find your ship destroyed because it was continually attacked by large monster groups? And how many adventures deal with the consequences of the wandering monster table with respect to the hirelings & henchmen & horses you leave camped outside of the dungeon? This is an adventure for levels 6-8, which Courtney describes as “high level.” And that’s been my experience as well; Level 6+ B/X characters can be monsters. Lots of magic, both in spell and item form. A player with any sort of creativity can overcome A LOT. As a high-level adventure it does not abstract.

So you’ve got the 20 on a lost city rumored to be full of loot and off you head. Getting close you encounter the Argonath, in the form of a giant snake man statues, broken, behind it the path to the lost city. [IE: you are entering the mythic underworld and shit is about to get real.] From this point on wyverns are a constant threat. There’s a lot of wyverns in the cliffs and if you wipe them all out then more will show up eventually, in restocking the dungeon format. Thus we have an ever-present environmental danger to the party in the form of wyverns. Who are guaranteed to show up and assault stragglers and whenever the party is weakened or vulnerable. Like during a partial cave in. Or while climbing cliffs. And they HATE flyers. And thus the designer takes care of both “why fly spell doesn’t work” as well as causing trouble for Ye Olde high level party.

It’s a constant threat. Rappen kind of did something similar with that bandit/wilderness stuff, and a couple of adventures have tried to intimate something similar, but not like this. This is the sort of difficulty modifier that high level play should expect. It’s not those bullshit cold/heat/humidity rules that lots of “exotic” adventures turn to that cause so much logistical trouble and get in the way of fun. Of no, the party knows about this threat, will be aware of it, and will have to deal with it. They can always nuke the wyverns to buy some time (yeah! Party choice!) but they WILL come back.

It’s hard for me to write this review. I like to focus on the positives before moving to the negatives, but this adventure feels different. The encounters tend to be interactive. The boxed text, what there is, is short and evocative. But unlike most adventures, the traditional format is left behind. All adventures are emergent play adventures but this one is more so than others. Sandboxy? Emergent Play focused? Toolkit? There’s some element of truth to all of those descriptions, but never in a bad way. “Toolkit” doesn’t even go over the line the way it usually does.

There’s a cliff face 400’ with some caves/edifices that the party will confront after the giant snake-man statue. It has about eight locations, three of which lead to an dinner chamber which leads to the lost city. You need to get up the cliffside and explore the holes. Also, don’t forget the ever-present wyverns to deal with. Once inside the inner-chamber there are, again, about eight more things described, including the centerpiece giant multi-armed statue who’s hands/arms can act like an elevator. Cool! Then, you reach the lost city …

It’s large. It has several groups within it. There are eight locations described in about a half page to page each. There’s a wandering monster chart in which each monster is given a number of different things they could be doing/engaged in, as well as a “random ruins generator” for exploring the various ruined buildings around town.

You made it all the way to this point in the review. Do you know yet what the adventure is about? It’s about that last part, the random ruins. Courtney never explicitly states it, I think, but the goal of every page of this adventure is to focus on the play around the looting the ruins. Stealing every fucking thing you can. Explore every nook and loot every last dime. (ok, it could be “make a daring dash in and steal some shit without getting gacked, but it’s the same thing in my mind, just different degrees of willpower and success.) “Hey, giant lost city form a fallen civ full of gold and magic. Lots of monsters also. Want some loot/xp? Go get it!” That’s the adventure.

Now the wyverns make a lot more sense. Now the cliff makes more sense. It’s all there to make looting that fucking city more complicated.

The emergent play is looting the rando sites in the city. While dealing with the wanderers. While dealing with the factions inside the city. While dealing with getting it out/down the cliff. While dealing with those fucking wyverns outside.  

To a certain extent this is the same thing that happens in all OSR adventures. The difference is that those have a more finite environment, representing the dungeon, with an abstracted “outside.” This doesn’t. Hence the description of it being pull no punches DM’ing. The DM has set up a series of harsh game-world rules and put the potential of a FUCKTON of treasure in front of you. It’s up to you, high level adventurers, to figure out how to extract it, and to what degree.

Courtney understand this and the adventure is focused on it, almost every choice in the design being oriented towards that. But, given the rarity of this sort of thing and the degree to which Courtney is focused on it, it could have used a one paragraph designers note section explicitly stating that’s what it is and how it works together.

Fuck if I know what else to say about this. Good rumors, good wanderers doing things. The wanderers are also VERY opportunistic, almost every last one of them, picking off strays and wounded and running away. There’s a section in which you can encounter an NPC party, but you’re told to roll one up on your own; a half page of pre-rolled ones would have been nice.

There’s a couple of party gimps with spell levels and undead turning and scry scrolls. They mostly feel out of place. I get the undead thing, lost cities should have undead and undead should be a threat but high level clerics fuck off with undead. The options to just make them tougher seeming to be its own issue. I don’t understand the spell level gimps the other prohibition against scrying, it doesn’t make sense to me. Calling the main opponents “the optics” I guess you could make the case that it fits in that, as well as the usual pretext of “a place of great evil.” I’d probably just not mess with the spell levels or the scrying thing. The undead thing is a major old school issue, but again I’d probably just let it be without a gimp. The turn rules in older D&D need to be better without the BS in modern D&D. Then it becomes closer to a resource game mechanic.

I have trouble with one of the main maps, the cliff map. I can’t make out some of the features on it, or what they are supposed to represent. Stairs? Just art to spruce up the map? The “climb the cliffs” minigame also takes up a little more than column and could be better organized as well. It feels a little free-form and could use better organization, bolding, headings, etc. Climbing information feels buried in a wall of text of rules dictating climbing that seems hard to follow during play. The city map though, being isometric, is great, allowing the DM to describe landmarks seen at a distance, etc.

The factions are not what I would consider factions. They are more “the major people/organizations present in the city.” While not all hostile and the designer mentions to ensure reaction rolls and even hostile doesn’t mean combat, , they don’t seem to have needs & wants, at least in a traditional way that you can bargain with. Even the “enemy of my enemy” stuff is not really present. This is a miss. It doesn’t feel like there’s a place/way to find common ground, because they have no ground mentioned.

What is not said is that this adventure will dominate play for several months for expert PLAYERS. This isn’t a quick in and out, probabally. The party will go back, to a location 70 miles away, several times. They’ll get their asses kicked. They organize logistics. Hire mercenaries. Hunters to feed the merc. Elite guards to watch the loot they bring out and protect it from the mercs and hunters they brought out. There’s a “loot extraction logistics” mini-game implicit in this adventure, that will take a long time, game time, to execute. You could write a page or two of NPC’s and adventure/complications ideas and include it in this adventure and it would only make it stronger. (Good advice. Should have been done.)

This is a good example of high level play and one of the few “loot extraction” adventures written. It could be better with organization in several parts, and some summaries of how thing works, better faction play, and maybe some logistics help. But that don’t mean it’s not good enough to be centerpiece of a campaign for months.

This is $5 at DriveThru. The preview doesn’t work. Not that I think any preview of this could relate the adventure.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/268206/Eyrie-of-the-Dread-Eye?1892600

I see a 5e version is available. I have no idea how that would work in this environment.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Wednesday Comics: Superheroes at Archie

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 05/01/2019 - 11:00
Archie Comics is best known as the publisher of the teen humor character whose name it bears, but the company has also produced superheroes throughout much of its history, since its inception as MLJ Comics in 1939, in fact. They've never had the profile of DC's or Marvel's characters, but the MLJ/Archie characters are perhaps first among also-rans. It was the MLJ characters, after all, that Moore used in his original pitch that became Watchmen.

To get the low-down on these "Ultra-Heroes" (The term used in the Mighty Comics of the 60s. Presumably a reaction to Marvel and DC trademarking "Super Hero.") you could do a lot worse than the MLJ Companion from TwoMorrows.

The history of the characters can be divided into publication eras. The Golden Age started with Pep Comics in 1940. The Shield would appear there, America's first flag-clad hero, 15 months before Captain America. The Comet was there, too, unusually violent, and ultimately the first superhero to die. The Hang Man and Black Hood followed, but all the superheroes ultimately gave way to Archie Andrews and the Riverdale gang.

With the dawn of the Silver Age, the MLJ superheroes were revived first in the Archie Adventure Series and then Mighty Comics. Joe Simon created the Fly, who was likely inspired by Captain Marvel (Shazam to kids today) and was perhaps one of the inspirations for Spider-Man. DC's success was the impetus for the revival, but Marvel's success guided its development. Jerry Seigel was brought in as main writer and either was trying to do a burlesque of the Marvel style or was unable to take it seriously. Either way, the Mighty Crusaders (as the new team was called) were "High Camp" a year before the Batman TV show made it the hip way to handle superheroes.

The campy 60s titles died away, but the heroes wouldn't stay down. They were brought back in the late 70s in reprints as part of the Red Circle line. The early 80s saw new stories produced, masterminded by Rich Buckler, with a grittier tone in keeping with the times and in some ways anticipating what was to come. Archie backed off from this pretty quickly, rebranding the line as the Archie Adventure Series again and making them more kid-friendly. They even got a toyline.


They were revived by DC under the !mpact imprint in the 90s, then again in an attempt to add them to the DC Universe in the 2008, but DC lost the rights in 2011.

Archie Comics have been publishing the superheroes themselves since 2012, but it doesn't look like they've published anything since 2018. Given the Mighty Crusaders history, I suspect they'll be back. You can't keep the ultra-heroes down.


On the Hateful Campaign

Hack & Slash - Wed, 05/01/2019 - 02:09
Bryce Lynch wrote a review of my module, Eyrie of the Dread Eye. He tagged it as "The Best" which I am honored and humbled by.

Sadly, wherever I stand to gain some ground so I can continue to produce works, all of which I hope are high quality, there are people who are engaged in a campaign of harassment against me. They show up wherever I am mentioned and spread lies about me, calling me alt-right, implying I'm a racist, and other hateful extremest rhetoric.

I have a million+ words on this blog that anyone who takes the time to check, would find it's not the case. You could check out my inclusive art broadcasts on twitch where I share about my mental illness and decades of service to my country and community.

Below is my reply to the harassment from the review. I'm doing this because there are people engaged in an active campaign of harassment and slander anywhere I attempt to create and share to the community. I would ask that they please stop. This is me publicly asking people to stop harassing and libeling me. It is very important that we do not respond to extremism, hate, and harassment in kind. Please do not—I don't share too much of my personal beliefs and politics on my blog, because that's private. If I believe differently then you, well, I served my country so you could. We don't have to share political views for me to produce great gaming content. I am only sharing here to refute the lies.

The important thing here, is that the toughest reviewer on the internet thinks what I wrote stands among the best work produced. . . and it's only my first. Wait for the next couple of things I have coming out and I'll try and top what I've already done.

Here was my response.

"Hi! I’m the author!

My name is Courtney Campbell. I vote democrat, have donated to both Yang and Warren so far in the coming election. I’m a veteran of the USMC. I’ve spent 20 years doing social work with disadvantaged youth, including 5 years in alaska working with native youth.

I’m an independent creator. I’m sad that people feel the need to harass me and punch down at people who struggle with mental illness (I have a class A personality disorder that causes me significant issues with, well, life). I’ve spent my whole life working at near minimum wage to help disadvantaged youth, mostly of color. When I worked downstates it was mostly adolescents who were victims of family abuse.

I’m horrified there’s people who show up wherever I am being discussed to spread lies about me. I honestly don’t have any idea what to do about it.

I’m shocked and honored brice took the time to review my module and considered it one of the best. I worked very hard on it, and as noted, it isn’t designed to be read, it’s designed to be played.

I am certain if you read my blog or check out my twitch channel or come on to my discord, you’ll find a welcoming inclusive place where we talk about gaming, support other low income people who suffer from mental illness, and share support for each other.

I’m incredibly thankful I can eek out an existence publishing game materials. The fact that someone I respect as much as Bryce likes my work makes me feel like perhaps I can continue to be of service to society.

I don’t have any hate in my heart, and I’m sad people choose to engage in this campaign of hateful attacks.

Bryce, Thank you. To answer your question, I rewrote the 5th edition version of the adventure extensively to fit the style of superheroic play that 5th edition expects. It should work for 5th edition the same way it works for the best version of Basic/Expert in print, Adventure, Conqueror, King."

Stop the hate. Let's do better.

Hack & Slash FollowGoogle +NewsletterSupportDonate to end Cancer (5 Star Rating)

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Mysterious Islands, Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, & the Original Adventures Reincarnated #2: The Isle of Dread By Goodman Games .

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 04/30/2019 - 18:05
I keep a careful eye on the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea rpg system  & one of the pieces that caught my eye was this artwork for an upcoming Viking & AS&SH style adventure. The Kickstarter is coming up soon.  The artwork got me thinking about the seas around Hyperborea & my own Castles & Crusades on going campaign. But it also got me thinking about the Original Adventures Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Wigurd's Tragic Fall (LSotN Play Report, updated)

The Disoriented Ranger - Tue, 04/30/2019 - 12:44
Third post in April. BAMMM! There is a twist in the rules for Lost Songs of the Nibelungs where characters, true to the classic inspiration, can meet "an end far worse than death" instead of dying. It's when the norns get really nasty and the dice betray a character in a way most DMs would shy away from. I know there's folks out there eager to get an idea how Lost Songs plays out at the table. Here's an exemplary play report of our last session to give you all an idea where the game's at. This is a session in which all the boxes got ticked ...
The campaign so far
I'll keep this short, but you should know a bit of what had happened so far to see how it all ties together. Lost Songs of the Nibelungs is a game of Dark Fantasy in a time right after the decline of the Roman Empire. The setting had been established some time ago. However, time has past since that last foray and this is a new start (different set of play-tests, different things to test, all that jazz).

It is idyllic like that [source]This (for now) is the tale of Wigurd the Entertainer and Sylis "Beastsmell", two young men eager to become full members of their tribe with the coming easter festival. However, the gods play their first evil trick at them when the tribe's holy man announces that there are bad omens if the two of them were to stay with the tribe the coming winter. 
The chief decides with a heavy heart that they have to be sent away. However, not without support and as the tribe held council about the issue, a traveling merchant visiting the tribe for business offers a quest for the young men: he owns a cottage in the woods, a couple of days north, just behind the holy mountain. A place used for charcoal burning. Some evil befell it and the family living there had to flee because of it. If our two young boys were able to free the place of said evil, they could use the cottage to stay the winter.
The chief and the holy man liked the idea and add that if they succeed to prove their meddle, they could return to the tribe as men. Wigurd the Entertainer held a great speech that day, convincing the tribe to support them even more by throwing in some horses and equipment.
They left the tribe the next day. A nice day in September to travel an old Roman road leading North. They started their journey in good spirits as well as accompanied by good omens. And their luck held up, although it really got tested: they escaped ghosts luring them into doom (twice), got beaten half to death while attempting to revenge a killed cousin, but got rescued and cleared of any charge held against them for the murder they did.
Then, their quest got taken away from them as a political decision from another tribe up North, but not without acknowledging the importance it had for the travelers and a promise of reparation after they had healed their wounds. Time passes and they proof capable guests to their new hosts up North. Capable enough to get a new chance to gain a safe haven for the coming winter and proof themselves as adult members of their tribe. The village elder that hosts them welcomed two mysterious hunters that brought not only an opportunity for our heroes to stay as honored guests, the elder would also provide witnesses of their deeds to their tribe if they decided to help and succeeded.

Two mysterious hunters arrive. [source]So a deal was made. A couple of slaves had fled their master and were crafty enough to avoid their hunters so far, even came as far as seeking shelter down south. Unfortunately, with some of the character's clansmen, so the whole thing ended up having a political dimension and they couldn't just force it, fearing it would ruffle some feathers. In come the characters: if they can extract the slaves for the village elder and his mysterious visitors, they'd have earned their stay and their witness.
It was October by then, the first snow had fallen early this year, but it wasn't winter just yet. All the Omens had been good, so they took the offer and after a small feast in their honor they saddled their horses to travel south again.

A long and arduous road

They weren't lucky that first day, or rather lucky enough to stay alive, but not lucky enough to stay unscathed. Before they reached shelter, they ended up in snow storm. Wigurd managed to reach the homestead they'd been told to look for, but Sylis got disoriented in the snow storm and was left behind. Wigurd realized only then that he's lost his friend and headed straight back into the storm, hero that he was. Nearly died with the attempt, too, and had to head back empty handed fearing he'd die of exposure himself.

Both survived the night as their dice turned lucky in the end, but a heavy toll was payed and they really didn't have the time to heal it all at once. They'd already seen ill omens for their next encounter and were wary of it. They had a couple of days to heal, but then misfortune hit the family that gave them shelter: their son had been kidnapped by goblins.

Snow and the Holy Mountain in the distance [source]The bad omens they'd received hanging heavily on them, they nonetheless agreed without hesitation to accompany a rescue party composed of the father, the oldest son and a couple of neighbors. The goblins met them in a fair fight and had been overcome easily, saving the lost child in the process. The father and the oldest son, however, did not survive the encounter.

It was with a heavy heart and two corpses that they came back to the homestead. Funeral preparations were in order and the characters were asked to watch over the dead bodies barred on pyres stacked on a holy hill until the Valkyires got hold of them. So they stood guard with their backs to the corpses and were warned to under no circumstances turn around during their watch.

The cold and the luring temptation to turn around to the melodious voices behind them offering them peace took its toll as well, but they weathered that and lived the night to see the procession come up the hill with the dawning sun to burn the pyres as the sunlight touched them.

They dared not taking more than another night's rest before traveling onward, injured or not. After all, they only had time until the next full moon to solve their quest.

Their first day travel after leaving the homestead went almost without problems. The weather had been nice for a change and they made good progress. It was the gods smiling on them that they realized that someone was following them. From what they could glean, it was another group of goblins circling in on their position. They made a run for it and got away clean, but it was a close call.

When deciding whether to push forward or seek secure shelter, they opted for the second and found a nice little spot with a good view over the white forest below them and only two points of entry. The weather was on their side again that night, as snowfall set in so heavy, they got isolated by a wall of rustling snowflakes illuminated in the warm orange of their fire. They kept watch, but it ended up being a quiet night without incident.

The next day started nice again, good traveling weather and they had hopes to reach their clan territory that day. However, their route took them around their holy mountain and bad weather was bound to get caught on the snowy peaks, as the dice would tell me later. It was around midday that they become aware of a storm brewing up north and closing in. Losing another day wouldn't do them any good and they were pretty sure that their followers from yesterday were still around, so they decided to push their luck and their horses to keep ahead of the storm.

Another snow storm ... [source]It ended up being another close call. Sylis - again - just wasn't fast enough and they got caught in the outliers of the storm. They even saw the silhouettes of their hunters close by, but they managed to pull through, with the goblins left behind in the storm.

Which is where we left it before that last session.

Wigurd's Tragic Fall

They got away from the storm and managed to make some way as well, although their horses definitely felt that one. Anyway, they knew of a nearby homestead and made it there just before the sun had vanished behind the snow-covered firs. At that point they hadn't been sure if they should play it straight and make themselves known or if they kept it incognito.

They knew some of the residents from fairs and Things and such, this already being border territory to their tribe's land, and Wigurd was a famous entertainer within the tribe. A true natural and a real wunderkind, so it stood to reason that someone would at least recognize him. That, and their exile from the tribe was quite the story, sure to be known by the locals.

But they didn't get recognized, probably because they'd changed quite a lot since they'd left their home. New clothes, new scars, longer hair, and the farmer was a known drunk, never sober when Wigurd  was to perform, so who was to say why they didn't get recognized ... Either way, they decided to keep it that way.

It was only when Wigurd sat down with the farmer and offered his name, that they learned why they didn't get recognized immediately: the farmer tells them that his name is good fortune, as they only recently had another guest going by this name, and a famous entertainer at that. They shared a roof for a couple of days and it was something the farmer remembered fondly, so he took it as a good sign that another Wigurd came to visit so shortly after.

However, the revelation shook Wigurd to the core as the dice betrayed him for the first time that session. Not quite a botch, but he had already received severe permanent damage when he had tried to rescue Sylis in that snow storm a week ago and he had rolled bad enough to get to a point where any further damage would result in his demise.

Not right then and there, though. They kept to themselves after that and made it an early night, telling their hosts that their journey here had been quite strenuous. Early next morning they bid their farewell and were on the road again. They knew this area already and if they made good way, they could reach their home town the next day. The story of the imposter had been troubling, though, and they mused about making a detour to hunt the fucker and that troupe down who so shamelessly made a living from their renown.

At least they'd inquire at their next stop, a family of devote Christians living a somewhat isolated life out here. If that would turn up anything, they'd follow up on it, or so they planned.

And while they were heading further south, following an old Roman road leading from the abandoned mines in the mountains now to their left, a weary wanderer crossed their path. An old man, with a staff and a beard and lots of little pouches on his belt. They stop for a chat.

I described him to look like Moondog [source]He introduced himself as a wandering scholar, fallen into disgrace among his fellow disciples for a wrong-doing long past. He was well versed in the art of herbalism, among other, more mystical arts. Or so he told them. However, now he wandered from homestead to homestead, soothing sick cows.

He was reading the bones this morning and deduced from them that he'd meet some friendly travelers down this road that might be able to help him with his troubles. Something that might help him repairing his reputation.

It was just a short little thing, wouldn't bother them at all.

A side-quest! they thought, and asked for details. There was a legend in this region, he told them, about a man made of stone with a magical crystal in his chest animating his evil deeds. It took a circle of holy women to bind the stoneman into an earthen prison, stopping him from terrorizing the area. As the old man traveled from farm to farm, he had pieced the whole story together and even found out where that grave is.

However, the place is protected by wind and earth magic and his old body wasn't able to overcome the resistance. A task the heroes young bodies should be easily able to withstand, on the other hand. Now, if they where to enter the place and retrieve the magical crystal, they'd be well compensated for it. The place was a little down the hill, hidden in a depression just out of sight.

They agreed to the short detour and left the road toward the magical place, not questioning the old man any further. It really wasn't far away. The entrance to the enclosed hollow was marked by two small obelisks that showed traces of strange runes. The old man explained that those are magical runes, binding earth and wind to the place. Then he sat down and told them that this is as far as he dared to go.

Wigurd, on the other hand, stepped forward without hesitation. A strong unnatural wind rose from the hollow and twisted his mantle, but he prevailed and pushed forward. Sylis tried to follow, but the dice decided that the magic was too strong for him. The character had been struggling with his sanity ever since he had fallen for the seduction of a ghost only to be confronted with her mummified corpse early in the campaign. He decided that this was not for him and backed away.

Wigurd, however, was already approaching the obelisks, but stopped as he saw movement below the snow covering the path down the hollow. A strange creature made from roots lifted itself from the path and warned him that if he wanted to enter this place, he had to overcome it.
Something like this, really [source]They engaged in melee and it looked for some time as if Wigurd might be able to overwhelm the beast. However, he fought alone and fate can be fickle in situations like this. He had dealt the creature a fatal blow, but it withstood the damage and kept fighting.

The battle really was on a blades edge, as Wigurd's Wyrd was still hurt pretty badly. There were no favors to be expected from the gods. If not his wounds would kill him, he might meet a fate worse than death. He was just one roll of the dice away from that ending ... and he failed it. He had nothing to defend against a quite effective attack by the guardian.

But it wasn't his wounds that ended him. You might remember me mentioning this in the beginning: there is a rule in Lost Songs of the Nibelungs, a homage, really, to the classic tale of Siegfried's betrayal, by which damage that would end up being permanent will be channeled into Wyrd instead (another attribute). Ideally, this means a character will avoid harm while at the same time risking to offend the gods. However, if a character ends up receiving enough damage to reduce his Wyrd permanently to zero, he'd be finished all the same. Just differently.

So there he was, deadly wounded yet still alive. With his Wyrd already severely hurt, the damage he received from that last blow goes straight through the remaining points and beyond. There's no way out and the table realizes: this is final.

As Wigurd falls to his knees, the creature moves forward to engulf him, whispering in a voice only he can hear about how the gods abandoned him and what eternal torture awaits him when the meat rots from his bones. Although fallen in combat, he will never see Valhalla. The terror overwhelming him makes him going down screaming until the earth swallowed him whole.

And that was the tragic end of Wigurd the Entertainer. His soul will never find rest.[source]ADDENDUM: We began our next session with Sylis seeing his friend die as described above. The screams, the horror of it ... it had to force some dice rolling to see if the character is affected. This was a delicate situation, as the character struggled to keep it together already. One bad roll and he'd be gone as well. I offered him two chances to get out of this: a Stress save to see if he could just shrug it now to digest it later and if that failed, if he was to confront this face on, he'd get one last save to keep his fragile Sanity intact.

It was intense. My girlfriend stopped working on her master thesis to witness the potential end of a campaign.

The first save was difficult. Sylis' Stress value was 8, target was 25, the roll came up with an 11 ... a miss. Nothing tragic and it was a difficult roll. Now all depended on that last roll. A genuine Save or Die moment. The group discussed how to proceed, if a dice cup was to be used and which die to use. Players are a superstitious lot. They decided to use the dice cup, something the player hadn't done for the entirety of the campaign.

That second save was a Sanity value of 12 with a -3 from the damage he had received facing the magic protecting the hollow. Target was a 20. He had a good chance pulling that one off. He shook the cup, everyone was looking in anticipation when the die hit the table, still hidden by the leathery shaker. He lifted it and revealed ... a 1!!! I kid you not. A roll as crucial as it gets and it turns up the worst possible result.

Damn, we play for moments like this, don't we?

Witnessing the horrifying death of his best friend was too much for poor Sylis' mind. He went insane right there on the spot. He rushed forward and tried to claw his way to his friend until his fingers ended up torn bloody. He was denied. After hours of howling, clawing and hysterical laughter, he vanished into the forest ...

Aftermath: this had dire consequences for the tribe. Winter came and both characters where within clan territory, so the bad omens had to come true. An avalanche destroyed most of the village built at the bottom of the mountain, killing almost all denizens and all of the tribes winter stock. The remaining tribesmen and -women had to seek shelter with their neighbors. Many more died. With the end of winter, the tribe was no more.

The End

Analysis

There weren't many compromises possible after those last rolls. Nothing short of deciding against doing the damage or ignoring those last saves, all of which would have rung false, I think. However, that's the game we play and although it was a great campaign with a nicely developing narrative gathering around the characters, it's also a memorable end, underlining the hard truth that we might not end up realizing our full potential. That's a good end to have and true to the Dark Fantasy aspect of the game.

I'm really, completely content with that part of the rules right now. The stories we are able to weave out of the interplay between the sandbox, the narrative generator and the system-feedback from the character's interaction with their surroundings, have a nice epic and magical tone to them without even trying that hard and although it's all random.

Nothing of this had been prepared or planned, it all happened organically from what the game provided and our interaction with that. I hope some of it shines through in my retelling of the parts above. So much more had happened.

What I need to implement with more rigor, though, is the more detailed weather rules I wrote for the game, but actually neglected using, which actually led to characters experiencing two snow storms in short order. I mean, that is why we are play-testing the game and it wasn't that far fetched, but weather carries lots of meaning in the game and should be taken more seriously. It is, after all, nuance that gives a narrative depth. Seasons and Magic need to be done, too.

We had only 3 fights over the course of 12 sessions, yet the game never lacked tension. I'm not sure how much of an audience Lost Songs of the Nibelungs will be able to gather once I get it out there, but I can say in confidence that it'll offer an unique experience to those who'll give it a shot. It's approach is not so much cinematic as it is literary, it's more about immersion and exploration of the human condition as it is about make-believe. It's also as intense, complex and challenging as it is rewarding.

Well, there's still some ways to go before I can call it done. But I'm getting there, ever so slowly. Thanks for reading.

[source]
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

In 1981 a Troll Named Grimtooth Set a Path for Today’s D&D Books

DM David - Tue, 04/30/2019 - 11:25

Starting in 1981, Flying Buffalo Games published a series of Grimtooth’s Traps books. They featured diagrams of traps that showed heroes on the verge of being folded, spindled, and mutilated. For instance, one sample shows a covered pit trap where the swinging cover severs a rope that drops a stone slab into the pit.

Dungeon Master: “As you advance down the tunnel, a trap door opens at your feet, dropping your rogue, Jasper the 8th, into a pit.”

Player: “Ha! Ring of feather fall!”

DM: “Ha! A two-ton stone slab drops on you, pushing you down the pit and crushing you to jelly! Do you have another character?”

Player: “Sigh. Say hello to Jasper the 9th.”

All the traps were ingenious, but very few could work in play.

In another example, a rope seems to offer an easy way to swing across a chasm, but at the end of the swing, the rope unspools several feet, flinging the victim into the wall, which is rigged to fire a volley of crossbow bolts into the victim’s body, before he drops into the underground river below, which I assume is full of sharks.

What paranoid adventurer would dare use a rope suspiciously ready for swinging across a chasm? And all adventurers in the world of Grimtooth will grow paranoid in a hurry. In practice, this trap gets bypassed without a second thought.

In most cases, even players who survive the traps will never notice the inventive mechanisms that make them function and that make them interesting. The traps could work in a sort of Toon/Dungeons & Dragons collision, where Wile-E-Coyote-like characters blunder into outrageous traps, only to reappear, without explanation, for the next scene.

Despite the traps’ minimal play value, Grimtooth’s Traps became a hit, leading to Traps Too, Traps Four, and Traps Ate. What made collections of useless traps top sellers?

“The traps were sometimes deadly and sometimes silly. They were often Rube Goldberg-esque, and not the sort of thing you could really use in an adventure,” Shannon Appelcline writes in Designers & Dragons. “However they were beautifully diagrammed and often very funny. The book was a joy to read.”

Much of the humor came from the books’ credited author, a troll named Grimtooth who relished inflicting inventive deaths on hapless dungeon delvers. “I feel that you’ll find this the most entertaining collection of traps you’ve ever laid eyes on. Besides, if you don’t like my book, I’ll rip your lungs out.” (Apparently, Grimtooth enjoyed Warren Zevon.) By flaunting the worst impulses of killer DMs, Grimtooth satirized a type familiar to roleplaying gamers in 1981.

Grimtooth first appeared on the cover of the fifth edition of Tunnels & Trolls. Then, in Sorcerer’s Apprentice magazine, editor Liz Danforth drew the troll as an icon for her “Trolltalk” column. Grimtooth gained his name in a reader contest.

While plotting humiliating ways to kill adventurers, Grimtooth offered some good advice. “A few of you numbskulls out there still haven’t caught on what it means to be a Game Master. A GM doesn’t slavishly follow anything—books, manuals, or edict from On High.” So when readers missed the joke and griped that the traps proved too deadly, Grimtooth invited tinkering. “Some of you have twisted ideas about how to administrate a dungeon, newfangled ideas about delvers escaping with their lives and stuff like that. Don’t ask me to to make my traps less deadly…change them yourselves.”

By the fourth volume, Grimtooth’s Traps Ate, the editors had abandoned any pretense that these traps might see play. Now the traps include dungeon basketball courts with mechanical arms that slam dunked characters, and deadly Christmas-themed rooms that killed adventurers pictured in Santa suits. (Why is volume 4 Traps Ate? The numbers 3, 5, 6, and 7 lack homonyms, so they were skipped.)

Grimtooth set the pattern for new Dungeons & Dragons books like Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. A D&D player can buy a Player’s Handbook and never need another book. Only DMs weary of the foes in the Monster Manual need another collection of monsters. But Wizards of the Coast aims to sell every D&D book to every D&D fan, so they lure buyers to books like Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes by making the text entertaining. Part of the fun comes from humorous notes left by Xanathar and Mordenkainen, characters who owe much to Grimtooth.

As for the troll, his wicked engineering remains amusing. In Grimtooth’s Traps, The Addams Family meets Rube Goldberg.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Thongor Fights the Pirates of Tarakus (1970)

Zenopus Archives - Mon, 04/29/2019 - 19:03
We're going to need a bigger boat, mateys...
Yesterday's used bookstore find: Thongor Fights the Pirates of Tarakus, the sixth and last novel in Lin Carter's Thongor series. This series is Appendix N-adjacent, as Carter is called out in the list but only for his later Warrior at the World's End (1974).
Carter is probably best known for his pastiche work with L. Sprague de Camp on the Lancer/Ace editions of Conan, but he also edited seminal '70s fantasy series such as Ballantine Adult Fantasy and Flashing Swords, works that helped popularize the fantasy genre in the '60s & '70s. Years ago I read his very early (1969) book on Tolkien's work, A Look Behind the Lord of the Rings

Carter also helped get the Cthulhu Mythos into D&D by way of J. Eric Holmes; Holmes cited Carter's "H.P. Lovecraft: The Gods", in The Shuttered Room and Other Pieces (1959), as one of his sources for his “Lovecraftian Mythos in D&D” article in Dragon #12 in 1978. See my post The Cthulhu Mythos in D&D in the 1970s.
Thongor is a "Clonan", with the above cover specifically calling out Howard's character: "Sorcery and seafighting - and mortal peril for the mightiest warrior-hero CONAN". The author's note situates the series on "the Lost Continent of Lemuria" (drawing from Lemuria in popular culture), which is Carter's Hyborian Age analog.
The particular paperback I found is stated as the third printing, published by Berkely Medallion in 1976, with a fantastic cover by Vincent DiFate, different than the 1970 original.
I'm not sure when I'll get to reading this, but I'll try to update this post when I do. Possibly the pirates in this book will inspire some background details for the pirates in the sea cave in the Sample Dungeon.

See also "Ochre Jelly Inspiration?" which discusses a Carter & de Camp Conan story.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Frozen Province

Ten Foot Pole - Mon, 04/29/2019 - 11:13
by Giuluano Roverato
Roll 4 Tarrasque
D&D
Level ?

An unnatural cold has taken hold of this land and refugees tell tales of both gold and horror. Will you loot the remnants of this once lush province or try to save it?

This is one of them there new fangled tri-fold adventure gimmicks. I was gonna ignore this development but a reader asked and I’m currently in a Regional Resources mood.  It’s got a weird vibe going, pseudo-japanese mixed with a weird non-Gross Carcosa thing that gives that odd vibe in the same way Dark Sun did. As a series of ideas it’s ok. As a framework for something like A Fiasco Playset, or the equivalent for light story gaming it’s ok.

There’s a village on the border of an ever-expanding freezing region. There are 8 locations in a region that’s 6 days travel by 6 days travel in size. It’s large to reinforce the cold damage and it’s sparse because it’s a tri-fold. Thus my pointer to more abstract-like games and/or using this to develop your own ideas/region.  

There’s a one-page village/NPC description and about one page of wandering monsters/exploration guidelines. Two pages of locations, including a map, and one page of magic items in addition to the cover make up the six tri-fold pages.

The encounters have a weird vibe to them, with that pseudo-japanese thing going on. Shitake soup, sakura trees, monkeys bathing a hot spring … one with a rifle. And there’s that weirdness I mentioned. Frozen monks, with centipedes that burst out of their eyeballs. A frozen giant carp with a human face. It’s brining the weird and generally interactive, although almost all of them have a significant slant towards combat. They are solid ideas though and deserve more than aa sentence on a pamphlet.  Come to think of it, they remind me a lot of the hex descriptions/encounters in the Wilderlands products, with perhaps a slightly more combat focus. Generally interactive or, maybe, it’s easy to craft something larger around them and you can see the energy in them. They do tend to a more abstract language style though and would be stronger if they used more specific words and/or colorful language. “Clearly overworked”, “a foreigner to these lands”, and so on. Some word choice changes would have done wonder to make things pop more.

As a format the tri-folds are probably less useful than one-pagers; the folding, detracts from space. Maybe there’s some usefulness in these sorts of things for more abstracted games. For this one, specifically, there’s interesting situations and writing but they are constrained by the limitations of the format.

This is $2 at DriveThru. You get a one page preview, which is half the product, and is nicely representative of the writing.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/273859/The-Frozen-Province?1892600

Also, Gus says we should be making everything free.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Azurth Mailbag: Death & Mayhem

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 04/29/2019 - 11:00
This may well become a recurring feature here, assuming I get other Land of Azurth-related questions. Jason Sholtis of Pennsylvania asks: "How do you deal with D&D style violence and mayhem in Azurth and how does it support or thwart the tone?"


D&D is often characterized as "killing things and taking their stuff" and old school play at least tends to to pride itself on "high lethality." Neither of these things seem Azurthian at first blush, given the stated inspirations, so I understand why Jason might question how it all fits together.

First off, my Land of Azurth campaign is run in 5e, which is a bit more forgiving and less lethal (for the players) than older editions. This suits our campaign just fine.

Secondly, Azurth is a D&D world with those sorts of inspirations. It doesn't have an Ozian lack of death, for one thing. Azurth isn't a grim or dark world in any sense, but it's a bit like the Land of Ooo from Adventure Time! in that it is not as saccharine as it might appear on the surface. (And unlike the Land of Ooo, it doesn't have to hold the violence to levels acceptable to Broadcast Standards and Practices.)

I think there's fun in juxtaposing the children's book sort of elements with mayhem, but without doing a "dark" take in the traditional sense. So yes, the D&Dish mayhem thwarts the kiddie nature of some seting elements, but the setting keeps the action of the campaign form devolving into just another D&D world. They work well together.

Do you have a question? Leave it in the comments or email me.




Ships of the California Lost Wastes - An OSR Encounter Or An Encounter Setting For Any OSR Old School Campaign

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 04/29/2019 - 07:30
A wind comes in from the sea,And rolls through the hollow darkLike loud, tempestuous waters.As the swift recurrent tide,It pours adown the sky,And rears at the cliffs of nightUppiled against the vast.Like the soul of the sea—Hungry, unsatisfiedWith ravin of shores and of ships—Come forth on the land to seekNew prey of tideless coasts,It raves, made hoarse with desire,And the sounds of the Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Monster Faces 042519

Zenopus Archives - Sun, 04/28/2019 - 19:36
I'm constantly drawing faces in margins, but I haven't made a more concerted drawing in a while. Here's a quick one I made recently, a new small addition to my line of Monster Faces:



Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Our Elves Are Different

Sorcerer's Skull - Sun, 04/28/2019 - 14:00
Tired of the same old elves? Here are some alternatives takes that can just be used to reskin the fluff in most editions, though 5e might require some slight ability tweaking.


Changelings
Elves are too busy pursuing their own idiosyncratic interests to do things like raise kids or maintain a society, nations or settlements beyond loose associations. They plant their children in households of other species. When they reach a certain age, they are drawn to seek out their own kind who magically impart elven "history" and "culture" to them, then send them off to do their own thing.

Homo Superior
Elves are the next evolutionary step in humankind. At puberty, their elvish breakout occurs, manifesting in one of several basic ways, analogous to elvish "subraces." Sometimes persecuted by human societies, they tend to form outcast communities in out of the way places.


Runners
Elvish civilization is centered around a sealed enclaves where young elves live in hedonistic splendor. Old age is unknown either due to voluntary suicide or voluntary exile at a certain age. All elves encountered in the wider world are older outcasts.

Viral
Elvishness, or rather the idea of elvishness, is a magical virus of a sort. Those infected first began to act "elvish" then develop half-elvish traits followed by full elvish traits. This often causes a radical shift in personality.

Observers
Elves are visitors from another world. They come the campaign setting for scientific observation or perhaps recreation. Their interstellar societies strict rules do not allow them advanced technology, nor does it allow them to describe too much about their place of origin. Th existence of magic and their innate aptitude for it was a surprise.

Probes
Elves are the sensory organs/interface modules (or perhaps drones or robots) of vast nonhuman intelligences. They are craft to explore the world and have experiences their colonial minds cannot. Elves have autonomy and independent thought, but they always know themselves to be parts of a whole.

The Flow of Time in LSotN Part 1: Basics (campaign design post)

The Disoriented Ranger - Sun, 04/28/2019 - 12:42
The second "second" post in April (sorry, just realized my mistake ... not that anyone cared). Maybe you can tell, I have time on my hands right now. And things to do long overdue. For instance: the campaign frame for Lost Songs of the Nibelungs. The seasons, how time is split between mundane living and questing and what the game does when the characters don't do much. It's been years since I last wrote about that. However, the little play-test campaign we got running is at a point right now where I need something to test. I haven't done a post like this in a long time (that is: long and meandering). Here we go.
Necessary Research I: What's already established?
I'd say I had 3 solid approaches at the topic so far. The first one was how the living conditions of a people will shape their culture (here). If nothing else, it's a reminder how the seasons will have an impact on a culture just like anything else would, but I get a little bit more concrete in 2015 when I actually talk about using seasons in role playing games and what I aim to so for Lost Songs, although on very vague terms (here). And finally I wrote one concrete set of rules that illustrates one major aspect of our perception of time and seasons, the weather (here).
The Wild Hunt [source]Some things established over time, but didn't find much use yet in that regard. There's a working system for Status including, for instance (but not limited to) followers and henchmen and all kinds of implementations that I need to consider when talking intermissions. Especially higher level characters should indeed be very busy when not adventuring.
What else, what else ... Permanent damage has a chance of healing somewhat when characters are not questing. I had established 1 point per month (with the fiat that scars like that never heal completely and at least 1 point per scar has to remain). This was supposed to be connected to the way of life characters chose between adventures and should include marriage and politics and religion and research (magical or otherwise) and all that nice stuff.
There's also the idea of advancing a group's tribe in times like this or bringing their host honor by assisting in raids, open war, aiding defense or diplomacy (which is somewhat related to politics named above, but different in as far as I think I'll need/want a system where the game creates short spotlights where direct play becomes necessary or desirable). It's for those reasons that I want to add the Narrative Generator for story twists and the rune oracle I'm working on, as both are reliable tools so far to tell the stories Lost Songs needs to tell. They bring that kind of conflict.
Other than that there's bits and pieces all over the place when I talk about how to set the mood for a game like this or divine magic or how to pay respect to leaders or how magic changes with the seasons because other energies are available ... But it is all over the place, so not of much use, actually, for anything but being a document that I had this on my mind for a long, long time now.
That's about it. Time to look what else is around.
Necessary Research II: What's out there?
Pendragon is one great inspiration here, as is King of Dragon Pass. Both give a pretty good impression of where I want to end up as far as evocative intermissions go: the scope widens to the troubles that surround the community the characters chose to spend some time with. A little magic, some intrigue, little stories that resolve over a longer time. Not so much the rules, but the scope and feel.
Dungeon World comes to mind as well. Although I do not care much about the rules themselves, I think where the game really shines is with it's DM tools. There is a clear sense of distinction between what the designers thought deserves focus at the table and what could be glossed over, while taking the time to include little systems to make those intermissions relevant, if a bit detached. The divide is crucial and rules for situations different to actual play need to be distinct. I dig their approach but lean towards a little more complexity.
A big problem that kept recurring while doing research for that is the lack of advice on the timing needed to manifest spaces for intermissions during and between adventures. It's a tough one, isn't it, as it needs to manifest organically from play.
Situations need to play out and while you for sure don't need to play out how characters do some shopping or carousing or what have you, I at least have a hard time to skip from one mode to the other, so I'd really have appreciated advice on that. Alas, it is hard to find in role playing books other than in very general terms (I could be wrong, but I really haven't seen much of this for as long as I've been looking).
You don't need to play it all out in detail ... [source]It begs the question, of course, how much of a game needs to be ritualized to a point where the transition between modes of play is accounted for. And consequently, how it will impact the story that manifests at the table. My games derive a great deal of tension from the fact that those cut scenes aren't coming easily. Playing scenes out helps evoking depth in a game that equals a more literary experience, while working in cut scenes makes for a more cinematic experience ...
Dammit, I think I just realized something. Anyway, I think we are done here for now. Other than the sources I named, I couldn't summon more than problems and questions by looking for other help. Onward. 
Necessary Research III: Any historical hints?
Now, that's a big one. As always with Lost Songs of the Nibelungs, I'm faced with a plethora of choices, which is just as bad as having none at all. I can't really be arsed to write up calendars for every culture that was around at 550 AD. For one, no one will ever use more than small fragments of it, but far more problematic is the fact that I'd end up having all those little sub-systems for every iteration to do all the intricacies justice.
[source]I had that problem with magic and I'm telling you: it can't be done. Or rather, shouldn't be. Of course I could start with something basic you could use in the game right away and plan on doing little supplement for all the variations. Our little hobby has enough money grabbing like that, and I'm not going to participate. Won't do it.
It's also a shitload of work with almost no benefit. I really don't have time for that.
With magic I decided to go as abstract as possible to give room to individual interpretations of what magic in that time could have been. It's a far better approach, in my opinion, and way more satisfying for players and DM.
That said, I will need a general frame to go with. Not as much a calendar with fixed dates (maybe) but more something like distinct phases within a year that add circumstantial necessities to the game proper. Because abstraction only goes that far, we also want to evoke a sense of how those people back then could have seen and explained the world around them.
Therefore, we have to look at common denominators across cultures: premonitions, weather and gods. People have a way to go about their year because its changes dictate so many necessary behavioral adjustments to ensure survival. People also have a way to explain what they can't understand through gods. Both translate to traditions and oracles that might vary from tribe to tribe, but will also always serve the same principles as described above.
Easy. So I just have to look for this and make it work.
However, as I started to dive deep into this topic, I found it to be a mess. There's almost no reliable data on how the Germanic tribes did any of that and of course you'd have a unholy mess of names or dates or holidays as a result of the Roman occupation and good old Christianisation. Clever Christians, of course, went as far as just assimilating what was already there (Baldr's birthday became Christmas, churches had been build on holy places ... that's just two examples among a huge list of assimilations like that).
There's also a shitload of neo-pagan pseudo-historical humbug, full with half-truths about how our ancestors went about all this. It's so weird and complex and unclear that ... well, that no one will care for any of it in a game, historical or not. It's all very frustrating and reminded me why I avoided doing this for so long (want an example: early translations often were, well, heavy-handed interpretations). There are reasons why they call it a Dark Age. Harrumph.
Well, not all is lost. If nothing else, it'll result in some freedom of interpretation. I need it done and it can be done. Onward.
Synthesis
Now we have all the pieces in place. Somewhat. At least to a degree where we can answer some serious design questions. I'm almost tempted to make this a two-parter and call it a day (okay, yeah, it's going to happen). I shouldn't stop here, though, as I'll lose the momentum this should have gotten by now.
Alright, let's push this a little further. A little note to all the historians reading this (you know who you are): if you haven't already gathered this, I won't (can't) go for historical accuracy here, therefore it will be a hot mess of everything I deem fit. Sorry.
Anyway, we have the Julian calendar we all know as a good base line and we know the very onomatopoeic Old High German, Dutch and West Frisian equivalents. We also know some of the holidays and festivals people most likely held.
Furthermore we know that the year had only two seasons: winter and summer (summer started with Easter as the victory over winter). Their calendar was lunisolar and months began with a full moon and they had an extra month between the seventh and eighth month if there was a new moon to be seen in the 12 days after Yule (Midwinternight). So here's what we got to work with (one wiki-source, I'll translate where appropriate):
JANUARY = After Yule/Second Yule (Old English), Winter Month/Hartung (Old High German), Tanning Month (Dutch)Holiday: Lesser Blessing of ThorFEBRUARY = Mud Month (Old English, either because of the shitty weather or the brown cakes that got sacrifced that month), Hornung (Old High German), Month of Gathering (Dutch), Filthy/Unclean Month (West Frisian, they are funny like that)Holidays: early Valentine's Day (Feast of Vali) and a week long festival where all tribes come together in a great ThingMARCH = Month of Wildness (Old English), Spring Month/Lenz Month (Old High German)
APRIL = Easter Month (Old English), Easter Moon (Old High German), Grass Month (Dutch)Holiday: Easter, the beginning of summer and the victory over the giants of winterMAY =  Month of Three Milkings (Old English), Bliss Moon/Pasture Month (Old High German), Month of Joy/Flower Month (Dutch)Holiday: a celebration of those who have died in battle and are brought to Valhalla (Einherjar)Walhalla [source]JUNE = Before Midsummer/First Summer (Old English), Brachet/Fallow Month (Old High German), Weed Month (Dutch)
Holiday: MidsummerJULY= After Midsummer/Second Summer (Old English), Heuert/Hay Month (Old High German)
LEAP Month = Third Midsummer (Old English), Twimoon (Old High German)
AUGUST =  Plant Month (Old English), Harvest Month (Old High German), Flee Month (West Frisian)Holiday: celebration of the harvestSEPTEMBER = Holy Month (Old English), Wood Month (Old High German), Oats Month (Dutch)
OKTOBER = Winter Full Moon (Old English, because Winter began on the full moon of this month), Gilbhart (Yellowing)/Vine Month (Old High German), Sowing Month (Dutch)Holiday: "Halloween" festival to celebrate the beginning of winterNOVEMBER = Blood Month/ Month of Sacrifice (Old English), Autumn Month (Old High German) Fog Month/Slaughter Month (Dutch)
DECEMBER = Before Yule/First Yule (Old English), Holy Month (Old High German), Wolves' Month (Dutch)Holiday: Yuletide/YuleAnd that's that. At least on the surface. We can already see how real world necessities helped forming those words and using it as-is will create a very specific atmosphere from the get-go. That's a good base to go from.

There's also lots of room for individual holidays that might be different from tribe to tribe (I skipped the ones in the source, but there are precedents). Let's keep that in mind as well.
Days and other designations
Normal years have 360 days, with 30 days a month (390 in Leap Years, one moon cycle more). Days start with the dawn of the day and Sunday is the first day of the week. Germanic people adapted the Roman system for days early on (wiki-source), but gave it their own spin. We use traces of this transition to this day. I would, however, keep it closer to the original usage to give it some authenticity:
  • Day of the Sun/Sun's Day (Sunday, Roman: Dies Solis)
  • Day of the Moon/Moon's Day (Monday Roman: Dies Lunae)
  • Day of Tyr/Tyr's Day (Tuesday, Roman: Dies Martis/Day of Mars)
  • Day of Woden/Woden's Day (Wednesday, Roman: Dies Mercurii/Day of Mercury)
  • Day of Thor/Thor's Day (Thursday, Roman: Dies Iovis/Day of Jupiter)
  • Day of Freya/Freya's Day (Friday, Roman: Dies Veneris/Day of Venus)
  • Day of Saturn/Saturn's Day (Saturday, Roman: Dies Saturni), also Washing Day and Sunday Eve, a day of rest (traditionally so instead of Sunday)
Tacitus had something to say about this as well (source):"They assemble, except in the case of a sudden emergency, on certain fixed days, either at new or at full moon; for this they consider the most auspicious season for the transaction of business. Instead of reckoning by days as we do, they reckon by nights, and in this manner fix both their ordinary and their legal appointments. Night they regard as bringing on day."Stuff like that is fascinating to me. So they'd say "We met three nights ago." instead of days and, very much like language, customs change in a more fluid way, something ripe to randomize, I'd say. And all those little details will obviously enhance the narrative at the table.

What's left?
Next we should talk about how they knew which day was which. Did they use rune calendars? Was it the holy men or women doing all the book keeping? I'll have to tackle that next.
But we should leave it at that for now. This is long enough as it is, to be honest. It's really all in place: all the names and holidays, some logic behind it, some room for individual touches. What's left to do now is devising a system around all that. A system that allows an inclusion of all those nice little differences to how we perceive the world today in way that makes it all come alive in the game. Arguably, the harder part of the whole endeavor.So, stay tuned as I will get to it in the next couple of weeks (as I said, I have to have something presentable for our campaign right now, so I need to get there soon, dammit).
If you guys feel like commenting, I'd ask you to tell me a bit how you use that kind of stuff in your games. Do you have elaborate systems? Do you o by the books (if you use official material)? Or are you not feeling it and think it's too much effort to get involved in? Your thoughts are, as always, appreciated.
[source]

 
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

(5e) Harrowing Heights

Ten Foot Pole - Sat, 04/27/2019 - 11:13
Daniel McDonald, Sam McDonald, Pete Pinner
DeepDark Designs
5e
Levels 1-3

A level 1-5 adventure module for 3-5 players and a game master that pitches the PCs against kobolds and drakes, with strong nordic-themes and a focus on overland travel.

More crap. I thought this one would be different. Five reviews. All five stars. A closer look reveals that all of the reviews are long and sing the praises of the product, list cons, and still give it five stars. Treachery?

It would match the other puffery. You’re partaking on a Grand Journey! Best of all the adventure is lovingly illustrated with art and cartography! No, that’s not best of all. This is 114 pages. Five or so scenes and a couple of overland journeys. How does it accomplish this? By perhaps the worst cases of hand holding I’ve ever seen.

NOTHING in this thing is simple. If you simply cut out all of the regional and cultural information (the vikings tolerate all religions and treat everyone as equals. Oh, my, that’s unusual. Never saw that coming. So, it’s a bunch of humans that wear furs and act just like every other D&D culture?) then you’d still be left with about fifty pages and about five scenes and a couple of overland journeys.

Hand holding. Conversational text. There’s SO fucking much of it. SO much that I can barely make heads or tails of the actual encounters. “The kobolds occupy the spaces indicated on the map, split their numbers however you like.” On and on and on it goes. The fucking thing can’t take a sentence to say something, it has to take a fucking paragraph.

At one point the jarl is presented as an NPC with a section on how to roleplay him. He’s a concerned father … so we need an extra couple of sentences to tell us what that heading means. He’s authoritarian, not draconian. So we need another two or three sentences to tell us what that means. It’s fucking stupid to the extreme how much this thing drags on.

Oh No, jalrs daughter hasn’t arrived! Go look at the ambush scene and fight some kobolds. Go back to town and talk to the Jarl. Wilderness journey to druid who knows where the kobold live. Kobolds destroyed a bridge, so talk to a nearby cartoony eccentric wizard. Talk/kill kobolds at their giant village and talk/kill the old lady behind it all.

You get to prove your worthiness to the druid before he helps you. Isn’t that original? Proving your worthiness. I mean, every shitty adventure on the face of the earth does this, so why not this one also?

The read-aloud is long, of course it is, and it tells you how you feel, because of course it does. “There’s a sinking feeling in your gut …”

If you kill the jarls guards at the viking settlement then you are recognized as brave and loyal men and not charged. Wereguild? No.

You see, the designer has a plot he wants to force down your fucking throat. Getting arrested isn’t in that plot so it doesn’t happen. Capture a kobold? Guess what, he doesn’t know where his lair is … because that would eliminate a couple of scenes to the adventure and we just can’t have that happening can we? And the viking theming is just pasted on in the loosest way possible, so no cultural stuff included. Just get on the railroad, do what your told while playing with your phones, and wait until four hours have passed so you can go home.

Unless you’re the DM. In which case you get to wade through all of this shitty shitty text. It fucking holds your hand in the text in every way imaginable, using the loosest of all conversational styles, but then says things like “there’s a 5% chance he possess a magic item.” or Suggestion- Put some debris on the map as difficult terrain to represent the looted wagon contents. Fucking really? Seriously? You can’t even set the fucking scene or rewards up for us? You can give us multiple sentences of backstory and explanation justifying everything that happens in every part of this adventure, but not that?  You know, of course, that the backstory is fucking useless and just gets in the way of the details that we need to run the adventure? That the loose conversational style is a disaster at the table, while you’re looking at the book trying to run the adventure?

“An Incentive. Depending on their motivations and personality traits, the PCs might already be moved by Dalla’s plight. Either way, Orm is prepared to offer them a tremendous reward for going above and beyond the call of duty.”

There is absolutely no understanding displayed AT ALL about what an adventure is or is meant to do or how it should. Or maybe there is and they just selected to do the opposite at every possible decision point.

Bad Adventure Design. Bad Adventure Formatting. Full of puffery. In retrospect, I should have known from the 5-star reviews. Why do people put up with this shit? Are there no standards at all left? “I tried” is worth five stars? I guess this is what people want. Paying $10 for a PDF that has almost no adventure in it and is padded out? I want to think that people just don’t know what good design is. That the consumer doesn’t so, so they put up with this garbage. That the designers don’t know and thus keeping churning out this same stuff over and over again.

This garbage is $10.50 at DriveThru.  The preview is eight pages and shows you nothing of the actual adventure, just the background garbage.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/210760/Legendary-Adventures–Harrowing-Heights?1892600

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Lake Geneva Original RPG Campaign: Red Book Branded Line and "Last Man Standing" The...

Lord of the Green Dragons - Fri, 04/26/2019 - 17:25
Lake Geneva Original RPG Campaign: Red Book Branded Line and "Last Man Standing" The...: I have been posting a lot on Face Book.  In order to support our forthcoming Products, including the launch of the Red Book Line, please go ...
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

STARFINDER BEGINNER BOX LANDS at Stores Near You

Gamer Goggles - Fri, 04/26/2019 - 16:54

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

STARFINDER BEGINNER BOX LANDS at Stores Near You

Begin your journey into science-fantasy adventure!

REDMOND, WASHINGTON (April 24, 2019): The Starfinder Beginner Box is ready to launch players into an exciting universe of science-fantasy roleplaying adventure today. With streamlined rules, a complete set of dice, colorful pawns, and more, this deluxe boxed set is the ideal introduction to the Starfinder Roleplaying Game, an imaginative tabletop roleplaying game for 2-7 players. It is available for purchase at paizo.com, your local gaming store, and anywhere else adventure can be found.

“We’ve designed an easy first step to an adventure in the stars. Players can choose pregenerated characters or create and customize their own futuristic hero to play through challenging scenarios and action-packed battles against dangerous foes. It also serves as the perfect tool for experienced players to quickly bring new crew members onboard their game,” said Robert G. McCreary, Creative Director for the Starfinder RPG.

The Heroes’ Handbook gets players started with everything they need to know to create and play a new character, from classes and themes to alien ancestry, general rules, plus a short solo adventure. The Game Master’s Guide presents a wondrous galaxy, full of new worlds and alien adversaries. Game Masters will learn how to run encounters in the Steel Talon’s Lair adventure, and gain insight into how to create a new world and engage players in the story. Also included in the box are: a set of seven polyhedral dice, 80 pawns depicting diverse heroes and aliens, 24 pawn bases, six pregenerated and six blank character sheets, six player aid cards for quick reference, and a double-sided Flip-Mat.

The Starfinder Beginner Box has everything you need to kickstart a lifetime of pulse-pounding adventure among the stars—the only limit is your imagination. Learn more at paizo.com/starfinder/beginnerbox.

Watch the Character Creation video on YouTube:

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