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Rabbitfolk and Berserker Bunnies for the D&D RC & Layrinth Lord (Happy Easter Edition!)

The Disoriented Ranger - Sun, 04/12/2020 - 14:52
Hey folks. I hope you are all well out there in the bad wild world. 2020 has been a tough one so far, with more ahead, as it seems. We'll see this through, though. I'm confident we will. Getting some proper gaming going (digitally, nowadays) seems like a good start in a better direction for me. And since it's also Easter (which traditionally is a fresh start and the end of Winter and all those positive notions of life coming back and thriving), I thought I'd share some bonus classes for your D&D  Basic and Labyrinth Lord games. Please, make good use of these bunnies, and share their tales, if you are so inclined.

I used Building the Perfect Class as a guide to make the Rabbitfolk (so it's all balanced and thought through). You should check that out, if you haven't already (and here is why).

The gentle Rabbitfolk

Your classic humanoid rabbits. They come in all the variety you'd know from rabbits. They are peaceful social creatures and live in burrows (as one would guess). They are more spiritual than religious and love dabbling in magic. All of them are vegetarian and they really don't like killing at all (although they will defend themselves). They are as big as Elves when fully upright (although they do love to cower).

I love me some DiTerlizzi ... so good [source]As far as origins go, I'd go with a martial Halfling clan that got cursed millenia ago when they angered a god with their unspeakable war crimes. They've made peace with their fate by now (as their nature would force them) and are generally rergarded as nice folk and all around pleasant company. They don't often go on adventure, but when they do, it's usually to help the peace in the realm one way or another. That and their strange relationship to magic. The lure of some mighty magic item will tempt the most cautious bunny into a dungeon. They are also highly requested couriers and make honest and reliable merchants.

Prime Requisites: Dexterity and Intelligence

Experience Bonus: 5% for DEX or INT higher than 12, 10% for DEX and INT higher than 12

Hit Dice: 1d6 per level up to 9th level.

Maximum Level: 12

Armor: Only light armor, shields permitted

Weapon: Any blunt

Combat Progression: like Magic-User

Weapon Mastery (if you use that): normal

Saves as: Halfling

Special Abilities:
  • INFRAVISION (like Elf)
  • DEADLY AWARENESS (can only be surprised 1 in 8 times, even when asleep, as they sleep with their eyes open, but if surprised, they need to make a Save versus Death to not drop dead)
  • BINKY FELLA (can jump double as high and double as far as humans)
  • RUNNER (Movement as Monk)
  • WIGGLY WRESTLER (may 1 time per level and day add their complete Dexterity to an attempt to free themselves from a grapple)
  • AFFINITY TO MAGIC (casts magic with 1/2 Magic-User progression)
  • HIDE OUTSIDE (like Halfling)
  • HIDE INSIDE (like Halfling)
Rabbitfolk Experience Table (advances like Mage)
Level     XP1           0
2       2.100
3       4.200
4       8.400
5      16.800
6      35.000
7      70.000
8     140.000
9     280.000
10    430.000
11    580.000
12    730.000Berserker Bunnies!

Among the Rabbitfolk are also the so-called "Berserker Bunnies" (not to their face, though) that found a way to channel the ancient wrath of their anscestors(or maybe it found them?). Legend has it that they channel their ancient Halfling origin. They are very rare, very scarred and usually don't get very old. If they ever where to unite in force (as it has been foretold in obscure prophecies), whatever is in their way would be in serious trouble. Rabbitfolk in general don't like history rearing its ugly mug like that, and rabbits that discover the Ancient Way of the Berserker for themselves  soon become outcasts, living in exile from their people. They roam the world, looking for the long lost war wisdom of their kin.
Don't call him Berserker Bunny ... [source]
Berserker Bunnies are quite honorable, in a quirky way, and would rather fight for a good cause. However, they will work as mercenaries and because of their They love oversized blunt weapons and would love eating meat, but can't stomach it. Drinking blood seems to be okay, though.

There seem to be no Berserker Bunnies beyond Level 9. They seem to follow a calling of sorts when reaching name level and disappear without a trace ...

Prime Requisites: Dexterity and Constitution

Experience Bonus: 5% for DEX or CON higher than 12, 10% for DEX and CON higher than 12

Hit Dice: 1d12 per level up to 9th level.

Maximum Level: 9

Armor: Only light to medium armor, no shields

Weapon: Any (also has bite as blunt weapon), the love two-handed blunt weapons (because of the "thump" noise they make)

Combat Progression: like Monster

Weapon Mastery (if you use that): as Fighter

Saves as: Halfling

Special Abilities:
  • INFRAVISION (like Elf)
  • EVEN DEADLIER AWARENESS (can only be surprised 1 in 10 times, even when asleep, as they sleep with their eyes open, but if surprised, they need to make a Save versus Death to not end up in an undiscriminating berserker rage for 2d6 rounds - Level which functions exactly like the WRATH below, just without the Save)
  • BINKY FELLA (can jump double as high and double as far as humans)
  • RUNNER (Movement as Monk)
  • HIDE OUTSIDE (like Halfling)
  • HIDE INSIDE (like Halfling)
  • FLYING RABBIT ATTACK (attacks involving jumps add DEX bonus to attack and damage, needs room to maneuver as full movement, though, little jumps don't count)
  • WRATH OF THE ANCIENTS (as soon as losing at least 1 HP in a fight, Berserker Bunnies can call their ancestors for support and their ancestors will answer the call, a bunny possessed like that will shimmer and have glowing and steaming red eyes, they'll also get +2 on damage and attack as well as +1 HP/Level for CON/2 rounds per day, Save vs. Spells negates (unless Deadly Awareness), Berserker Bunnies will fight until the Wrath is over, even when they have no HP left, even if no enemies are left)
Berserker Bunnies Experience Table (advances like Fighter)
Level     XP1            0
2        3.000
3        6.000
4       12.000
5       24.000
6       50.000
7      100.000
8      200.000
9      400.000The classes here on the blog are:


Feline Humanoids

Ape Men

My take on Halflings (a little series)

A Prince Charming (human that grew up with Elves)
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Rabbits and Eggs in Azurth

Sorcerer's Skull - Sun, 04/12/2020 - 14:00
This post has become my lazy Easter blog tradition...

There is, in the Land of Azurth, a magical treasure peculiar to the Hara or Rabbit Folk and celebrated in their legends. A number (though no one knows the exact number) of eggs in variegated pastels are forever being lost and rediscovered; they are objects of quests for great heroes and the catalyst for small folk to elevated their station. They are associated with both just rulers and holy madmen.

The eggs are said to have been crafted on the Moon by the rabbit goddess the Bright Lady as gifts to favored mortals or saints on the occasion of the birth of spring. The shell of each egg is held to not be mere eggshell but ceramic made from moonstuff. The eggs have moved down through history, sought, horded, and fought over for their beauty and their magic power--each egg has a unique arcane property. One might have the power to heal, while another the ability to command others to do the bearer's bidding. Still another might allow one to see the future.

The Rabbit Folk sometimes make their own mundane eggs for vernal celebrations in honor of the goddess, while unscrupulous relic-dealers occasional try to pass off fakes as the real artifacts. The abundance of imitations has only increased the difficulty of finding the real thing.

It is said that Lapin XXII, King of the Warrens of the Hara, has several of the eggs in his possession, stored in a ceremonial basket.

Back Cover Map

The Splintered Realm - Sat, 04/11/2020 - 19:31
I normally don't put much thought into back covers. I was actually very happy for a while to have a great looking pre-made advertisement for Blue Dungeon Tiles to put on my releases. However, for the new book, I decided the back cover would be the perfect place to put the campaign map. I went completely old school with this one, doing my best World of Greyhawk riff.

I am so excited that this is going to be the back cover, and that it is going to be presented in glorious full color.

By the way, this is the western side of the continent that has been my campaign map for 20+ years. It connects to the rest of the Splintered Realm I've already detailed ad nauseum, but it is a hitherto unexplored area.

The Emergent Fantasy World of AD&D

Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog - Sat, 04/11/2020 - 17:09

Tam Robinson is a babe.

I’ve been tough on the players.

I just had no interest in running a game featuring kobolds and goblins like happens so often when you run Keep on the Borderlands by the book. But you know, with three healing spells at first level for each cleric, high powered rangers and paladins holding things down, and with enough money in the game that the fighting-men can afford plate armor now… hoo boy, they can hold their own up against some pretty tough opposition. Tougher opposition means bigger payoffs– a tradeoff that seems quite satisfactory, at least when the players are winning.

The magic-users are kind of hysterical. Gone are the predictable Sleep-tossing special weapons units of my B/X games. We really are seeing a lot of weird stuff crop up in play: Spider Climb, Burning Hands, and Read Magic have been the spells that been used so far in the game. Such off the wall spells! The players are one spell scroll away from fundamentally changing the balance of power between the classes, but even if they do they still have to make the “chance to know” rolls to get the good stuff. Spell books and spell components add yet another limitation to the magic-users. Magic is strange and weird and mysterious again!

Meanwhile one cleric is very, very close to leveling up. Several others of the tough guy types are maybe halfway to second level. Another good haul could could cause characters to take a break from adventuring in order go take care of their training requirements. Guys that drop to zero or less hit-points miss out on both the big scores and the experience.

The effect of finding significant treasure last session can’t be understated. I had worked up new rumors and new NPC’s for the tavern but nothing else mattered the moment that a significant treasure haul was discovered. Talk about having a motivation for your characters! It was so intense it was palpable.

And the collision of the wandering monster tables with the encumbrance rules made for a surprisingly elaborate scenario– one that came out of nowhere, really! Weird magic-user spells combined with relatively elaborate morale rules added a lot of color to stuff that would have been a little more predictable under B/X.

The game has its own internal logic and it sure does assert itself quite strongly. My desire to create a sort of auteur type monster setting is overruled by the capriciousness of the dice, the rapaciousness of the players, and eclectic specificity of the rules. (And on the player side, my smart aleck spin on the AD&D half-elf begins to look ludicrously out of place.) As I revise my rough notes for the game, refresh and restock areas, and ponder what is needed, the AD&D game begins to shape me much more than I anticipated.

The rules are ponderous, sure. But once the essence of the game is extracted from the manuals, I have to say… it sure does work. AD&D is alive. It is packed with gaming insight. Random tables like the city/town encounters matrix are a godsend, solving longstanding game design problems with just a few rolls of some percentile dice.

Most of all, Gygaxian wisdom brings a depth, breadth and scope to your game that is far richer than the stories that you might think to impose on it. You can do a lot worse than take a chance and see where all of this stuff leads.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

AD&D Session 3: The Big Score

Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog - Sat, 04/11/2020 - 01:02

Huge turnout for session three. Everyone was super stoked. I warn everybody I am running AD&D by the seat of my pants just making up my own stuff as we go. Nobody cares about that, though. They want to play D&D!

Every other session starts with a tavern scene where a menu of adventure hooks are not so subtly deployed for the players to select from. Not this one! This game we have a little bookeeping to attend to. The characters from the last session take the body of the crystal monster to Zanzel Melancthones as evidence that they have dealt with the threat to the city’s trollop-based financial system. He gladly accepts the body, presumably because of its utility in his magical researches. One of the player characters saves back a few shards of it, though. No way that could ever come back to haunt them!

The players calculate that it will take four days to heal up from their very close call last time. They buy additional gear with the 100 gold each they get paid by Melancthones. The paladin returns the sword of St. Thomas to the church. The two men-at-arms (Gilbert and Sullivan) opt to spend a bit more time with their families in the coming days. Pretty sure it has nothing to do with the thousand yard dungeon stare that now besets them. Meanwhile, some of the player characters buddies have rolled into town after hearing about their modest success. They all want a piece of the action… and they totally get it.

The players head back to the den of the humanoid crystal monster and search it. [DM rolls dice… nods.] Oh yeah. There’s a rotten chest in there with 4000 electrum and 5000 gold pieces. Everything stops. The game suddenly gets very, very serious. Rule books are feverishly consulted. Arguments break out. Gear is exchanged. Plans are devised. The players have to know precisely how much of this they can carry. And given that every combat in the campaign has either resulted in total party kill or else an extremely close shave, the players are very serious about planning for disaster.

They load up on the gold and file back through the runnels to the sewers. [DM rolls dice… smirks] Oh yeah, there are howls coming from the North. It’s about to get real. The players grudgingly drop their sacks of gold and array out in their combat posture. But they have fallen for the treasure madness– they declare that they will fight to the death to protect their loot!

Keebler-Khan, half-elf fighter/magic-user!

The dog men hurl themselves towards the players’ line. And man, they are tough! In a straight up exchange of blows, it looks like the tides of battle can easily turn against the players. One of the magic-users– the swoleceror– flexes and then lets loose with a burning hands spell, which I had never seen used in actual play before. At first it seems awesome, almost like a flame thrower. Then we realize that it only does one hit of damage.

It’s ridiculous. Kind of anti-climatic. But I rule that the dog men’s fur is on fire and that they check morale. They fall back, the players then win initiative and drop a couple of them. I check their morale again and they flee. The players then gleefully used the rule that spelled their doom in session one to mop up the remaining dog men.

The players then haul their loot out of the dungeon, avoiding any undue attention in Harlot Central with the exception a lone foppish dandy. The players buy up plate mail for all their heavies and replenish their supply of flaming oil. The half-elf was going to be out of it for a few days, so he is replaced by a cleric.

Everybody heads back to the sewers. Oh, wait. There’s box text for that:

You head down Electrum Street, turn left on Slum Avenue, take a right on Jewel Lane, and then head straight into Harlot Central. You see a round metal plate about two feet in diameter in the middle of the alley. What do you do?

Yes, we do that every time.

The fighter has bought a pick and attempts to persuade the group to dig down to where the rest of the treasure is. A vote is held and it goes against him. They slosh through the sewer water and make it back to the crystal monsters den. [DM rolls some dice.] Oh, but the eletrum they left behind is gone. Hoo boy, the party is furious! They want to find whoever it was that took it.

The explore the passage near the den a bit further and find it circles around to four pillars. There are runes above a doorway there. Beyond it is a room with two stone boxes. A cleric bashes in the top with his flail and then shoves the stone lid off. Upon seeing a corpse inside, he hastily puts it back. He does not want to desecrate a burying place!

The players search the room and find that the bricks in the wall can be pushed through. The paladin pushes several in and they crash loudly on the other side. Inside there is a spiral staircase. The players check it out and they end up going down a LONG time. Like maybe a couple hours or so. It comes out in this open space and continues down maybe a couple hundred feet more. It ends in a watery expanse of indeterminate scope.

The players head back up and before they can get past this open area, three huge spiders drop onto them from above. They lose initiative and the burning hands spell goes off relatively uselessly. The fighter and the ranger each get bit, but miraculously they make their 14+ saving throws against poison. There’s a scuffle and one of the spiders is killed, this triggers a morale check and the two remaining spiders run away. The players op to let them go as they ran towards the water.

They make their way back to the to the tombs and the paladin checks out the other one. He shoves the lid off and sees the body of the enshrouded seven foot tall being inside. The paladin says he detects evil, and I tell him that he has started to glow.

They go back to the sewers and find another side room to the northwest of their previous battle. They have the jump on the dog men this time and start hurling in flaming oil. Most of them miss and the dog men are panicked, set for a charge. But then, round after round the oil just keeps coming. Finally they realize they have to break out. They take their licks to escape the flames and then are cut down one after another. It’s absolutely brutal.

The players go back inside and they’ve found it– the four thousand electrum pieces they’d left behind the previous day. They load up and exit the sewers, noticing a pair of red eyes down an eastward passage on their way out. The cleric raised his holy symbol and delivered some tough talk and the thing seemed to run away. Or else just close its eyes. But the players have a sneaking suspicion that they haven’t seen the last of whatever it was!

Cast o’ Characters

Arthur the Gallant (7 hits) [Delves 2, 3a, and 3b] XP: 122 + 753 + 351 = 1226

Malbert the Veteran (9 hits) [Delves 2, 3a, and 3b] XP: 122 + 753 + 351 = 1226

Galfroy the Prestidigitator (4 hits, Charm Person, Hold Portal, Message, Read Magic) [Delve 2 only] XP: 122

Henchmen Gilbert and Sullivan, the men-at-arms [Delve 2 only] XP: 61 each

Hans Franzen the Swoleceror (2 hits, Burning hands, Jump, Message, Read Magic) [Delves 3a and 3b] XP: 753 + 351 = 1104

Keebler Khan the Veteran/Prestidigitator (5 hits, Charm Person, Spider Climb, Write, Read Magic) [Delve 3a Only] XP: 753 = 753

Torin the Runner (7 hits) [Delves 3a and 3b] XP: 753 + 351 = 1104

Aulis Martel the Acolyte (8 hits) [Delves 3a and 3b] XP: 753 + 351 = 1104

[Some other cleric] — [Delve 3b only] XP: 351

Experience and treasure:

Delve 2 resulted in one dead crystal monster for 111 xp… plus 100 gold for each character. That results in 122 XP… and presumably half for the men-at-arms.

Delve 3a resulted in 5 dead dog men for 224 XP and then 5030 gold and 46 electrum. That results in 5277 XP split seven ways for 753 each.

Delve 3b resulted in 7 dead dog men for 336 XP, one dead spider for 71 XP and then 4044 electrum and 29 gold. That results in 2458 XP split seven ways for 351 each.

Day 1: The Hole in the Sky
Day 2: The Thing in the Sewer
Day 7: The Big Score part I
Day 8: The Big Score part II

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Little Wars TV Facebook Group - Very Good Stuff

Two Hour Wargames - Thu, 04/09/2020 - 22:50

And they mentioned Two Hour Wargames!

Little Wars TV

Surprised the heck out of me and grateful for the plug.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Cryptozoic Announces Cryptozoic Con 2020

Cryptozoic - Thu, 04/09/2020 - 13:00

Cryptozoic announced Cryptozoic Con 2020, a virtual event that will take place April 16-17. During various live streams, the company will preview upcoming products in all categories, conduct giveaways, offer behind-the-scenes looks at product development, and present play sessions and tutorials featuring popular games. In addition, several exclusive products will be sold on the Cryptozoic Store during the event. The full schedule can be found at this link

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Cryptozoic Con 2020: Schedule

Cryptozoic - Thu, 04/09/2020 - 12:58

Check out the schedule for Cryptozoic Con 2020!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Eternian Armsmen

Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 04/09/2020 - 11:00
At the onset of the Eternian Dark Ages, warbands swept across much of the so-called Light Hemisphere, disrupting the struggling remnants of civilization and destabilizing fledgling powers on the rise. Their ranks were drawn from the displaced or rootless warriors of an entire continent. Their equipment came from salvage; these soldier-scavengers targeted the ruins and ruin-adjacent settlements with the largest deposits of metals and technology. Tools from the time before the Great War were reconfigured into weapons, and raw material were beat into armor, making the Armsmen, as they came to be called, the most formidable military force of the era. They struck quickly as savagely, some by aircraft ("the Wind Raiders") and others employing an assort of land vehicles.

Within two centuries the Armsmen underwent significant changes. While many still served as mercenaries, they had developed into a quasi-religious military order with the technology of the Ancients venerated as relics. Technical manuals were treated almost as liturgical texts. While the Armsmen were still formidable fighters, their focus was more on the location and recovery of lost technology.

By the time of the folk hero "He-Man," it is believed they the Armsmen no longer existed as a cohesive cultural group, but some families and small sects held to some or all of the Armsmen's practices. The Man-At-Arms of the Masters of the Universe legends represents a hermitic example of the dwindling, latter day Armsmen.

The elite Eternian Guard of the Randorian era were depicted dressed in the "classical" armor of the Armsmen, though most scholars believe any lingering Armsmen belief were at best vestigial by that point, a testament to the Armsmen's enduring cultural cachet.

Step Up Your Game: Reaction and Loyalty

Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog - Thu, 04/09/2020 - 00:53

Charisma. It’s not just a dump stat, they say. But look, if you don’t have a lot of it, you’re going to be stuck in a career as an assassin. Which is kind of funny, actually.

Of course if you were going to actually use that stat in an AD&D game, you’re going to have to flip to the middle of the combat section to find the reaction table. Why is it there right in the middle of sections detailing initiative and missile discharge? Evidently this something pretty important to consider when the players have initiative in a random encounter, right?


Dig this: It is common for player characters to attack first, parley afterwards. It is recommended that you devise encounters which penalize such action so as to encourage parleying attempts ~ which will usually be fruitless, of course!

Hilarious. It’s a tough world out there, y’all. Parleying with monsters has about the same chance of succeeding as begging for divine assistance!

The AD&D morale rules are pretty slick, though. The rules spell out when to check along with several modifiers to the roll. Henchman use their loyalty score for the check while monsters have a base morale derived from their hit dice. In the event of a morale failure, the amount the roll was failed by determines the precise behavior. This is some seriously rad stuff.

If you don’t keep up with anything else about these rules in the heat of the game, remember when morale checks occur and most everything else should fall in place. (And do note that while initiative is by side, morale checks are going to by individual for the party’s henchmen while groups of the same monster type will be rolled for collectively.)

Loyalty should be carefully tracked for the party’s various henchmen and associates. There are a bewildering number of modifiers to this vital statistic. However, if you are just starting out with a relatively friendly man-at-arms, a value of 50% plus the relevant player character’s loyalty bonus will be plenty good enough to get you through a session or three.

One last note here about the significance of these rules. While the reaction table is buried in an odd corner of the Dungeon Masters Guide, the morale and loyalty rules are repeated on the very last page. He didn’t put the saving throw tables or the combat matrices back there, he put morale and loyalty! A lot of people will have a tendency to pass over these rules, but Gygax thought they were pretty important.

Don’t let him down!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

the inspiration iphone playtest, and a new way to build encounters

Blog of Holding - Wed, 04/08/2020 - 18:19

Last weekend I did a playtest release for Inspiration. I ended up only doing a release for the Iphone: I figured I’d see if there were any huge show-stoppers before I bothered everyone with an update.

I’m working on a phone app for DMs called 5e Inspiration. It’s a tool for populating your game world with people, locations, maps, monsters, and treasure. Learn more!

I got very encouraging feedback: besides some UI issues, I got a lot of requests for features which I already know I need, and are already on my upcoming feature list. So I’m putting a week or so of work into polishing the UI and adding a few of the most-desired features. Once that’s done, I’ll release a playtest to Android users.

Here’s the big feature I’m adding: a random encounter generator for every monster.

Up until now, Inspiration has only offered the traditional type of random encounter generator, by terrain type, the way print Dungeon Masters Guides always did it. You’re wandering through the forest, you’re level 5, what monster do you run into? That’s useful at times, but as a DM in the middle of a game, I frequently know what kind of monster I want to use; I just don’t have time to use the official encounter-building tools to create a balanced encounter for the party’s level.

On each monster’s stats page, I’m adding a tool where you can choose a terrain and the desired Challenge Rating of the encounter, and it will make an encounter for you, potentially including appropriate allies, pets, minions, traps, and other complications.

To do this, I’ve made a web of relationships between the D&D monsters. Hobgoblins, for instance, are most often led by hobgoblin captains or hobgoblin warlords, but might sometimes be led by a bugbear or an evil mage or knight. Similarly, hobgoblins frequently employ goblins as cannon fodder, but might also use worgs, ogres, or even ballistas and catapults.

I think it’ll be super useful to be able to instantly whip up, say, a CR 5 goblin encounter (such as 20 goblins with their 5 giant rat pets, led by a bugbear, skulking behind a pit trap), a CR 14 mage encounter (an evil mage with 6 minotaur servants among explosive runes traps) a CR 16 bone devil encounter (one bone devil with its six cambion spawn), or whatever else you need to fit your story.

I’m almost done updating each monster with its potential minions, bosses, and pets. Then after a little testing of my own, I’ll send out an Android playtest. Looking forward to see if you guys like it.

Sign up for the Inspiration beta test!
Read more about the Inspiration app

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Reviews from R'lyeh on the Ruined Tower of Zenopus

Zenopus Archives - Wed, 04/08/2020 - 15:37

Reviews from R'lyeh
is, as the sidebar states, a "blog dedicated to reviews of RPGs and their supplements, with an emphasis on Call of Cthulhu and other Lovecraftian inspired games. All leavened with the occasional board and card game review."

They typically review multiple products each week, but cover each thoughtfully and in depth. Last fall I noted a review series dedicated to conversions and sequels to the modules B1 and B2. And I was very pleasantly surprised to find the The Ruined Tower of Zenopus covered a few weeks ago:

"At its heart, the Old School Renaissance is about emulating the style of play of Dungeons & Dragons from forty and more years ago, and about exploring the history of Dungeons & Dragons, so it is always fascinating to see what its adherents will find after ferreting around in the archives. The Ruined Tower of Zenopus is a perfect example of something surprisingly brought back to the attention of the Dungeons & Dragons-playing audience..."Read the full review here:

"Sample Dungeon Redux"

Product Link:
The Ruined Tower of Zenopus is available on DMs Guild

Click on the "RTOZ review" label below to find more reviews of it.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Crypt of Fendoom Groom The Marvelous

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 04/08/2020 - 11:32
By Tony A. Thompson Outpost Ownbear S&W Level 3

The stories tell of Fendoom Groom and his powerful magics. His life long study of the arcane arts benefited so many until one day he came to the village babbling and muttering. He purchased some of his usual items and returned to his tower just outside of the village. The next morning a loud explosion awoke the village who went to discover that Fendoom’s tower had collapsed and evidently sealed the wizard to his death. The village mourned their mage and life slowly returned to normal.

This five page adventure features a small twelve room dungeon under a ruined wizards tower. It tends towards minimalism and does the best job it can, I guess, with a limited map size. It’s also trying to hit the interactivity parts of adventuring, but there’s a critical component missing in most cases: why? And fuck you all, I’m not giving up some smll adventures yet. A man can dream, can’t he, of short and good adventures? Focused to a razors edge. But not this one.  

This thing is using a description style that is on the minimalism side of the spectrum. Fact based, a little abstracted, just a sentence or two in most cases, and with room dimensions up front in a format that, for once, I will NOT be bitching about. Here’s an example: “20 x45 room appears to be a temple and shrine to the Moon Goddess Netia. Searching under the statue reveal a secret compartment of various treasures as noted below.” The dimensions come up front, in a format that’s easy to follow and either take advantage of or ignore, so, pretty much a perfect way to include that information, if You’re going to. The core room description, though, is lacking. “Appears to be” is almost always a sin of padding, as if the “If you search then you find” format seen in the second sentence. More seriously, though, is the rather dry and abstracted nature of the room description. There’s almost nothing there for the DM to work with. I guess “Moon Temple’ is better than just “temple?” Better yet would have been replacing that sentence with a one sentence description OF the moon temple instead of a conclusion statement that it IS a moon temple. 

It’s trying to be interactive, with a number of rooms having something hidden in them or some object to interact with. But, most feel a bit hollow, as if they were just half realized. One room, for example, has six stone columns that reflect different elements. (air, fire, stone, etc). To what end? Nothing. That’s the end of the room description. Another has a stone tree. When you touch the leaves they fall gently to the ground. And when you chop it then the tree explodes. Why chop it? Or, better yet, why is there not a hint that chopping the tree is dangerous. If the leaves disappeared with a little “poof” of incineration when the hit then the party would have some clue of what to do. As it stands, the interactivity almost seems random. If you do this then this thing will happen, will little ability to tell good from bad. Level 3 is a little early for that, IMO. Weal/Woe helps.

Treasure seems both heavy and light. Gold/gems/jewels is very light indeed, but there is a fairly large number of magic items present for a small 3rd level tower with 2 wights at the end. The map for the place has its own page, but only takes up about one quarter or less than the page. Hats weird. Why wouldn’t you use the entire page if it’s not being used for something else? Rumors are trying to be in voice and are better than most rumors in products because of that. 

So, ultimately, it’s a VERY basically described dungeon with some attempts at interactivity that fall short of their goals. A little more design in the interactivity/puzzles/things and deleting the rooms descriptions to replace with them someone a little more evocative, and about the same word count, would get you something easy to scam and run with, hopefully, some decent room evocativeness and interactivity. 

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru with a suggested price of $0. I’m glad to see it PWYW, that’s the way most adventures should be until you get your feet under you. There’s no preview, which is not the biggest sin since it’s free, but, still, I do like a preview to show a few rooms of what you’ll be buying, so you can evaluate beforehand.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Wednesday Comics: Free Comics

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 04/08/2020 - 11:00

While you're sheltering in place, some comics companies are making some titles available to you for free.

Humanoids has some comics this week you can read for free in memoriam of Juan Giménez. This includes the Jodorowsky/Gimenez epic Metabarons.

2000AD has made 400 pages of Judge Dredd available for free download!

Finally, Marvel Unlimited is offering some free comics in the Mighty Marvel manner for a limited time.

Backtalk: Old School and New School Are Not Just In Your Mind

Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog - Tue, 04/07/2020 - 23:50

Okay, got a lot of feedback this week that deserves a response. Here’s a hot take from Trever Bierschbach over on Twitter:

“I think all the limitations people see in old and new school gaming is of their own making and within their own group. So many people seem to forget the most basic rule in TTRPGs…the rules are guidelines, change, adapt, eliminate as your group sees fit.”

This is a good example of a very common position you see in rpg discussions whose only purpose is to stop constructive analysis altogether. Its invocations of banal truisms make its position seem far more plausible than it actually is.

You hear this sort of thing a lot because it is easy to express and it sounds smart. The truth takes rather more effort to elucidate:

  1. Rpgs do indeed require referees who will make rulings and also adapt, extend, and modify the rules of whatever system is in play. Some systems will require a modest amount of this primarily in their application (ie, Moldvay Basic), some will force you to do a great deal of this (ie, AD&D), and still others will (through the table experience of the game designer) seem to anticipate the vast majority of rulings and interpretations you will be required to make well before you realize the designer has already sorted the hard stuff out for you. (For the latter sort of game, see the Adventurer Conqueror King System.)
  2. The fact that these games require this sort of modification does not make all changes to the rules equally expedient. Some changes are in the spirit of the game and enhance play. Others are more akin to placing money on Free Parking: they violate the intent of the rules and transform the system into a sort of non-game.
  3. The fact that people played D&D according to “new school” style anti-principles very early on in the history of the game in no way legitimizes the grossness and tediousness of this type of play.
  4. A great many people think they are particularly creative and intelligent for taking a least common denominator approach to the old games. They are in fact following the path of least resistance, pretending to play a game rather than exploring the potential within one. This is not smart and it is not special. It is in fact painfully common.
  5. Most of the rest think they can simulate the salient qualities of what the old school has to offer by incorporating elements of what they think that entails into games that were designed from the ground up specifically to repudiate those qualities. They are of course mistaken.

I hope this clears things up!

Games are real. Rules are real. And playing them produces consistent, repeatable, and observable situations and dynamics at the table. Don’t let a spurious pose of rpg ecumenicism seduce you away from the best that tabletop gaming has to offer!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Cosmic Cerberus Cryptkins Vinyl Figure (Cryptozoic Con Exclusive)

Cryptozoic - Tue, 04/07/2020 - 15:02

Take home this adorable, three-headed visitor from the Canis Major constellation! The Cosmic Cerberus Cryptkins vinyl figure is a Cryptozoic Con Exclusive, only available during the company’s online event April 16-17.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Blue & Pink Harley Quinn DC Lil Bombshells Vinyl Figure (Cryptozoic Con Exclusive)

Cryptozoic - Tue, 04/07/2020 - 15:00

Harley’s sporting her favorite colors and eager to join your collection! Here’s your chance to own the Blue & Pink Harley Quinn DC Lil Bombshells vinyl figure! This limited edition collectible is a Cryptozoic Con Exclusive, only available during the company’s online event April 16-17.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Cover Layout

The Splintered Realm - Tue, 04/07/2020 - 14:09
I decided to go with a blood moon. And I remembered that in the Splintered Realm, the moon is broken, so that was kind of important. Here is a revised version that I absolutely love.

Color Version

The Splintered Realm - Tue, 04/07/2020 - 12:06
Here is my working cover design for the deluxe edition of Tales of the Splintered Realm. In my mind, it's like my version of the D+D rules compendium. Or at least the Basic and Expert sets combined.
We'll see where it goes. My target is 128 pages, and I have lots of free time. Only about half of that is created right now, so I have miles to go before I sleep or some such.
If you have a wish list for what the game might include, comment away.

How the Flawed Hooks in Descent Into Avernus Might Make D&D Players Feel Railroaded

DM David - Tue, 04/07/2020 - 11:24

Everyone giving Dungeons & Dragons advice tells dungeon masters how to start an adventure with a hook. This includes me, last week. That advice usually stops after the first hook, and it shouldn’t. Sure, adventures that lure characters into the unknown seeking treasure only need one hook. But just about every adventure with a more complicated premise serves hooks from start to finish. Those hooks offer choices and lure characters along a course that shapes into a story.

The hooks that come after an adventure’s start often go by names like clues, secrets, or leads. In earlier posts, I favored the term “leads” because the word matches one essential purpose: Leads reveal ways for the characters to reach a goal. (If the idea of leads seems unclear, see instead of plots, prepare secrets, clues, and leads.) The word “hook” emphasizes a second essential: Hooks entice players to chase a particular goal.

By either name, hooks and leads must accomplish two things: They entice characters to pursue a goal and they reveal ways to reach that goal. Skipping one of those parts causes adventures to stumble.

Leads point a direction, but sometimes they still need to sell a new goal.

When an adventure needs to point characters toward a new goal, the leads need to sell that new goal. Many adventures fail to close the sale. Most often, an adventure starts with a promise of gold, and then presumes that a band that may only include murderous treasure hunters will happily switch to, say, battling princes of elemental evil—for free.

My last post describes how Baldur’s Gate: Descent Into Avernus attempts this sort of flip. The opening hook appeals both to the treasure hunters and the do-gooders. Later though, the adventure asks players to send their characters to Hell for the slimmest chance of rescuing a damned city. The paladins might volunteer, but any sensible rogue would say, “I’m out.” Still, the rogue players want to play D&D, so their characters dutifully tag along.

In an adventure like this, either the dungeon master or the players can rethink the party’s motivations, smoothing the rough patch. Often, no one does. Many longtime players face such situations often enough to feel numb to the dissonance of having to do something their characters wouldn’t do just to keep playing. The rest feel railroaded.

Hooks sell a goal, but they need to offer a sensible direction too.

When an adventure runs short of hooks or leads, everyone notices. The party gets stuck and the DM finds a way to drop new clues. The adventure may stall, but the obvious trouble invites a solution.

Imagine trying to start an adventure by only revealing that long ago a mighty warrior hid a magic sword in a long-forgotten location. That tidbit would only leave players waiting for more, because without any clues, the incomplete hook rates as backstory. Every adventure starts with a hook that (1) entices the characters to follow some goal and (2) reveals ways to reach that goal. Number 2 rarely gets discussed because DMs seldom botch it. At the start of a scenario, no DM dangles a hook that lacks any clues the characters can follow to the goal.

The more insidious problem appears when an adventure offers clues that don’t seem to lead closer to the goal. The players see a lead, but no reason to follow it. Few players want to derail an adventure that plainly offers a direction, so the players dutifully follow the lead while ignoring that dissonance that comes from doing things just because the DM pointed the way. Following an apparently useless lead makes players feel confused at best, railroaded at worst. To the DM, the adventure seems to run smoothly, so the problem goes unnoticed by the person who could have corrected it.

Descent Into Avernus suffers from this trouble. (This discussion includes spoilers, but hardly more than the adventure’s title.) D&D blogger Merric Blackman writes, “The trip to Hell offers no reason for the characters to believe they can improve things. You stopped a threat to Baldur’s Gate. Why now to Avernus?

“‘If the characters think they have any chance to rescue Elturel, Liara strongly urges them to pursue that quest.’ That’s why the PCs descend into Avernus. Not great, huh? Why do the PCs think they have a chance?”

Game designer Justin Alexander is more blunt. He explains how Descent Into Avernus keeps asking players to follow directions just because they lead to more D&D. “The entire campaign is just this one structure repeated infinitely: A non-player character tells you where to go, you go there, and then find another NPC who tells you where to go.” This pattern works when the NPC’s directions show a way closer to the goal. The leads in Avernus fail that standard. “The problem is that the designers aren’t designing a situation. They aren’t thinking of the game world as a real place.

“Why does the adventure assume the characters will simply plane shift to Hell without having any reason for doing so? Because an NPC told them to! Why not also have the NPC give them a coherent reason? Because it doesn’t matter!”

The design only aims to route players from scene to scene. In play, the party sees a lead that they know the adventure expects them to follow, so they do. To the DM, the adventure appears to work, but unless players feel numb to dutifully playing DM Simon says, they feel railroaded.

Alternately, when hooks clearly point characters toward their goals, even linear adventures, even railroads, can work magic.

“A good railroad, at a certain level, is like a good magic trick: The players won’t really believe that magic is real, but a good magic trick will let them suspend disbelief just long enough to be amazed. The most important technique for the railroaded scenario is to frame the meaningful choices in such a way that the players legitimately want to make the predetermined choice.” writes Justin Alexander.

“The GM never forces a card on them. In the end, they do the magic trick to themselves. When a railroaded scenario pulls this off, the suspension of disbelief is perfect: Players never feel as if they were forced to do something. They’re able to remain completely immersed in their characters, feeling as if the world is unfolding in direct response to their actions.”

In a successful narrative adventure, the DM keeps laying track by dropping hooks. Each one shows a course that brings the characters closer to their goal, so the players willingly choose to follow. 

Good hooks power meaningful choices even better than linear scenarios. When players find enough leads, they face choosing which one to follow. Making choices and seeing outcomes generates the fun of role-playing games. Leads also offer more flexibility than plots. DMs can reveal them whenever players need to find a direction or to face choices.

As for Descent Into Avernus, the adventure brings evocative locations and vivid characters to an unforgettable journey through Hell. Your heroes get to adventure in Hell! Fixing the weak connections merits a bit of creative work. For ideas, see Merric Blackman’s account of running the campaign, Justin Alexander’s Remixing Avernus, and my own post Improve the Start of Baldur’s Gate: Descent Into Avernus With These 2 Add-On Adventures.

Related: Why Dungeons & Dragons (and roleplaying) took years to leave the dungeon.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs


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