Tabletop Gaming Feeds

Reminder - Tavern Chat Tonight - 9 PM Eastern - Beware the Crow That Caws at Midnight!

Tenkar's Tavern - Wed, 04/05/2017 - 17:52

I have no idea what the above actually means. Maybe its a new adventure I'll write for SWL ;)

Anyhow, 9 PM tonight is Tavern Chat. You literally do not know who will drop in, and not to drop names, we usually have name droppable visitors ;)

Use the Chatwing widget on the right side of the page to participate. Have an Android or IOS device? There's an app for that.

See you tonight!
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Kickstarter - The Folio #14, 1E/5E Format Adventure Module

Tenkar's Tavern - Wed, 04/05/2017 - 15:20

I've been keeping up with The Folio series of releases since the beginning. Quality art, strong writing and high production values, I haven't missed a release yet. I've also yet to use The Folio in whole, using bits and pieces to drop into my own adventures and such. Yeah, I'm not normal. Or maybe I am.

The Folio #14 really scratches my itch, as it takes inspiration from the classic AD&D adventure, X1- the Isle of Dread. If you are going to go back and find an old module to be inspired by, that is certainly one to draw upon. I mean, it has dinosaurs! Who knows, maybe I'll start using the new set of releases in whole cloth ;)

As usually, The Folio comes stated for 1e (OSRIC) and 5e, so it should be an easy fit for most GMs.
The Folio #14 is a 1st Edition AD&D & 5th Edition D&D combined gaming module. It will be produced as an 8x11”, removable cover [11x17" once removed], adventure with mostly b/w interior artwork. There are two interior booklets, The Gazetteer and The Dungeon, with the final size being roughly 32 pages of content. Who’s it for? ALL gamers, both new gamers and old gamers as it is easily expandable or playable as is.The concept is to allow gamers a starting point for adventure that can be modified to their liking while providing excellent reference content and framework.The base mechanic will be for 1st Edition with 5th Edition insets, but I’ve designed it to be readily modified to any fantasy game, and don't forget the PDF! What’s in it? All original content built in the Art of the Genre world of the Nameless Realms. Incorporating tidbits from previous Folios such as Roslof Keep and the Taux Trilogy, this new adventure will allow players to start at 1st level as they set out in search of the notorious necromancer Molo of the Thirteen wives.  Incorporating my love of ocean adventures, epic exploration of distant cultures, and delving into the past with cursed ships and rampaging dinosaurs, this adventure is everything I ever wanted TSR's X1 The Isle of Dread to be, but was disappointed in upon playing it.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

U3 The Final Enemy (1e) Notes & Commentary

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 04/05/2017 - 15:04
"At last! An opportunity to avert the threat to the little town of Saltmarsh! The real enemies have been identified - evil, cruel creatures, massed in force and viciously organized. Can the brave adventurers thwart this evil and ensure the safety of Saltmarsh?" So this is it! The enemies of Salt Marsh have been revealed and its time to put sword & sorcery to the test! Well, yes but holdNeedles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Ballad of Sally Anne

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 04/05/2017 - 11:17

By Vance Atkins
Leicester’s Rambles
Low Levels

Two generations ago, a tragedy befell a wedding night. The groom was killed on the way to the wedding, leaving his grief-stricken bride to live out her days in heartbreak. Even after her death, she haunts her family home, seeking some sort of solace. The adventurers have arrived on the anniversary of the tragic night, where terrible forces bring devastation to the surrounding lands. Can the heroes enter the house and find a way to put an end to this annual horror?

This ten page adventure in a haunted house is a mashup of a bluegrass ballad, about a wedding widow, and a old house plan for a manor. There are about sixteen rooms scattered through about five pages, with the rest being overhead, introductions, licenses, etc. It’s got a decent, slow, haunted vibe going on but it’s handicapped by a loosely organized structure and a lack of focus for the room descriptions. With about sixteen rooms and about four monsters, with maybe four or five “other” encounters, there’s a slow burn thing going on. IE: Creepy adventure is creepy. It’s less D&D and more horror, lacking fantastic beasts, etc. That’s not a negative, but more of a setting-style, for those of you looking for a lower-fantasy adventure.

The backstory is relatively short and inoffensive, mostly because of the single column layout and the inclusion, taking up most of a page, of the inspirational bluegrass ballad. The map is a found object, a historical floorplan of a manor. It’s interesting, but also handicaps the adventure a bit. The key matrix is a mix of room names and numbers, all from the original map. By keeping the map ‘untouched’ you have to live with the original notations for doors, which look enough like windows to cause a bit of struggle to find them on the map. Other features, like ruined stairs and so on, rely on the text in the adventure to come across instead of being noted on a map. I can understand the allure of a found map, but it’s gotta be usable.

The stairs, in particular, annoy me. One stairway is gone, burned in a fire, we’re told a couple of times in a couple of places. That kind of makes sense since it’s not listed as stairs on the map … The front hall stairs, though … those are unusable also. They are collapsed and you need a grapple or something to make it up to the second level. But the stairs, unnumbered, look normal on the map. And the details of the stairs are only found in the text that introduces the second level. The collapsed stair thing is a nice obstacle, but the limitations of the found map shine through here. Instead of cueing the DM with a number on the stairs we instead rely on the DM reading an introductory paragraph.

I mentioned the writing style is unfocused. The first room, the courtyard, is six paragraphs long. One describes the various entrances to the home … I guess because of the map issues. Two delve, to various degrees in to “explaining why.” Adventures seldom, if ever, need to explain the why of things. It clogs things up. “The body of a ranger WHO ATTEMPTED TO PENETRATE THE GARDEN lies dessicated at the foot of one of the vines. (emphasis mine, of course.) The ‘why’ of the ranger is superfluous, it adds nothing to the play of the game. Likewise, earlier up, is this paragraph: “The rose vines have become imbued with chaos energy of the sorrow within the house. The vines are competitive and evenly spaced through the courtyard. Opportunists, they normally prey on birds, small animals, and whatever other unfortunate creature entered the courtyard due to the diminished soils and undead energies of the house.” We’ve already been told about the many small dead animals, earlier up. This paragraph does nothing but justify the existence of the vines. It’s explaining. Don’t explain. At best, one or two that intimate their sorrowful origin, if need be as flavor text, but an entire paragraph? It gets in the way of finding the information you DO need to run the courtyard. The adventure engages in this “explaining” and generally unfocused descriptions in most of the rooms.

It also does several things well. It provides hints, the rooms, in several places. One room has several animals in silk cocoons, for the observant, hinting at a spider. The courtyard, as mentioned, has several dessicated small animal bodies in it, hinting at the vampire vines. In another room you can see a peeling plaster ceiling with water stains, hinting at the weakened floor above.

Both this and U1/Saltmarsh have a nice creepy old house vibe. This one, actually BEING haunted, gets to stretch its legs a bit more than Saltmarsh. There are a couple of curses, including some nice creepy paintings and cursed treasures that appear as wealth to the players but black tar lumps to others, an unusual curse different from the usual pure mechanical effects most resort to. The ghost, proper, and her “curse removal” also has a nice folklore vibe going on.

I’m fond of these slow burn adventures. Or, maybe, I WANT to like these sorts of adventures. The idea of exploring an old haunted house appeals to me. I like the creepiness and build up. I’m not sure, though, it matches my play style. The slower place, and lack of “fantastic beasts” is going to appeal to some DM’s/campaigns more than others. Hmmm this is coming off more negative than I mean it to be. It’s a decent little adventure that needs a highlighter or a second version to tighten it up.

The last couple of pages on the DriveThru preview show you a couple of rooms, and is a good indication of what you are buying. Check it out:

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Wednesday Comics: Storm: The Labyrinth of Death

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 04/05/2017 - 11:00
My exploration of the long-running euro-comic Storm, continues with his adventures in the world of Pandarve. Earlier installments can be found here.

Storm: The Labyrinth of Death (1983) 
(Dutch: Het Doolhof van de Dood) (part 1)
Art by Don Lawrence; script by Martin Lodewijk

Storm, Nomad, Rann, and the would-be  pirate crew are on their way to Rann's home asteroid. The crew are none too happy as they're looking for plunder. A mutiny is in the offing.

The mutineers attempt to kill Storm by ramming a timber into the cabin while Storm, Rann, and Nomad are inside. The cabin's smashed but Storm manages to dive out of the way. Still, Storm's knocked out and the leader of the mutineers get's the drop on him.

Nomad is forced to surrender. Soon, Storm and his friends are being marooned on a tiny asteroid:

Storm discovers large eggs in the nest of some sort of bird. They don't have to wait long to see the mother:

Meanwhile, Theocrat Marduk is still trying to find the Anomaly (Storm)  but his technicians can't get a fix. He demands his unwilling bride-to-be Ember be brought to him so she can give a description of the Anomaly to help them. Ember, however, has escaped with the help of a woman with a hidden face. She leads Ember into the cities sewers.

Back on the asteroid, Storm hits the bird in the head and Rann wraps his sash around its eyes, trying to escape the darkness the bird flies--and our heroes ride it all the way to Rann's home.

Rann is reunited with his daughter and the poor space bird is sent on its way. Storm on his a few days to rescue Ember before the wedding to Marduk. Rann relates he knows of a quick way to reach Pandarve's surface: The Devil's Ride. Storm and Nomad take that ride:


1d6 Random Undead Guardian Encounter Table For Your Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 04/05/2017 - 05:35
Before the fall of Atlantis these spirits guarded treasures undreamt of, their charges remain as their spirits do as well. They are insane, angry, & very dangerous. These spirits have incredible energy as well as patience for exacting revenge against transgresses & fools who waste their time. Those that steal from them can expect a slow & steady revenge as they take their time stalking, Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

We HAVE a Gygax Memorial! No Silly, Not THAT One!

Tenkar's Tavern - Wed, 04/05/2017 - 00:19
A few quick comments, because otherwise the quote from the Gygax Memorial Fund speaks for itself:

1 - As someone else just said to me, thank God Alex designed the plaque and not his mother.

2 - Didn't see Gail but I heard she was there. Met Alex. His heart's in the right place. If there is going to be a Hail Mary with this fiasco, Alex will be the one throwing it.

3 - "This is NOT the memorial you are looking for. Please move along."
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs


Gamer Goggles - Tue, 04/04/2017 - 19:58
CUBICLE 7 PARTNERS WITH MAKE BELIEVE GAMES ON CTHULHU MYTHOS RPG COMPANY TO PUBLISH NEW TAKE ON HORROR GAMING UK games publisher Cubicle 7 Entertainment has forged a partnership agreement with Make Believe Games, the company of legendary Vampire: The Masquerade creator Mark Rein-Hagen. They have announced their intention to release a tabletop roleplaying game inspired by the cosmic horror of writers like H.P. Lovecraft and August Derleth. In Unspeakable: Sigil & Sign expectations are flipped on their heads, and players take the role of cultists, members of an apparently evil organization, dedicated to the destruction of mundane reality. The game explores the multifaceted themes of what it means to be monsters, looking out on a world that is as disturbing and maddening to them as they are to it.

Dominic McDowall, CEO of Cubicle 7 Entertainment, had this to say: “As a life-long fan of Mark Rein Hagen’s work I am insanely excited about this partnership between our companies and what it enables us to bring to gamers. Cubicle 7 has some really strong experience with Mythos games, and Mark’s company brings some really brilliant creative talent, like C.A. Suleiman, to the table. We’re creating something truly fresh with Unspeakable: Sigil & Sign. New situations, new play experiences, and a whole new way to explore the Mythos.” “For me, the entire concept of The Unspeakable setting is like a final exam of game design,” added creator-developer Suleiman. “Without abandoning what’s central to it, nor even leaving its classic pulp era, we get to pull back the veil on some of the deeper mysteries of the Cthulhu Mythos, in the process rendering a game environment as rich and compelling as that of any tabletop game setting.” “I can’t remember a time before I loved the Mythos,” said Mark Rein-Hagen, founder of Make Believe Games and creator of Vampire: The Masquerade and the World of Darkness. “It was my introduction to horror. Real horror. Words cannot express how excited I am to finally be involved in a truly Lovecraftian RPG.” Work is now underway on the core set for Sigil & Sign, which introduces the characters and setting as it establishes core rules and themes. It launches on Kickstarter in April. All products in the series will run on the Axiom System, first launched in MBG’s “Toxploitation” RPG, I Am Zombie. About Cubicle 7 Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd is the creative team behind such popular games as The One Ring Roleplaying Game, Adventures in Middle-earth, Doctor Who Roleplaying Game, Cthulhu Tales, World War Cthulhu, Cthulhu Britannica, Doctor Who Time Clash, Dalek Dice, The Laundry RPG, and many more. Contact Cubicle 7 About Make Believe Games Make Believe Games is a U.S.-based company committed to making innovative games across multiple platforms. Founded by Vampire: The Masquerade and World of Darkness creator Mark Rein-Hagen, it is the publisher of President Cthulhu, the Democracy board game, and the I Am Zombie RPG, which introduced the tabletop gaming world to its card-based in-house game engine, the Axiom System.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Five Terribe Cultclassic Eghties Sword, Sorcery, & Science Fantasy Films That We Love

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 04/04/2017 - 19:52
If your into Sword & Sorcery flicks there's a certain how shall we say this level that the gets crossed right after 1985's Red Sonja film. In the desperate quest to find films that the players haven't heard of there was a line that used to get crossed by old school dungeon masters who came into the video store I worked in back in the 90's in Boston. Those poor desperate souls who went Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs


Cryptozoic - Tue, 04/04/2017 - 17:04

Pre Order Site Live NOW! Don’t miss out on your chance to own all three limited-edition Golden Goddess DC Bombshells vinyl figures made for San Diego Comic-Con 2017!...

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

David Sutherland Day

Zenopus Archives - Tue, 04/04/2017 - 16:30
 Sutherland's art from the title page of the Basic rulebook
Originally posted in 2013

Today marks the birthday of my favorite TSR artist, the late David C. Sutherland III (aka DCSIII), who passed away too young (age 56) in 2005. I've designated April 4th as "David Sutherland Day". Dave's work defines the look of D&D in 1977, when his art graced the cover of the Holmes Basic Set and first AD&D hardback, The Monster Manual. His work also defined the look of Holmes Basic, being used for the both the cover, the title page (posted above) and foreword (the lizard rider that graces the title of my blog). He was also responsible for most of the artwork for the first Basic module, B1 In Search of the Unknown.

Tome of Treasures has a page with an extensive listing of his TSR credits.

In 2012 his Basic Set artwork was featured in a line of retro t-shirts from WOTC. And in 2013 his original painting was recovered from a crate at the WOTC offices.

Please post a comment on what your favorite work(s) of his.

Here are a few somewhat obscure pieces from Swords & Spells (1976) that are very much in the same style as the Holmes title page piece:

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Some Notes & Commentary On U2 Danger At Dunwater

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 04/04/2017 - 15:11
The little fishing town of Saltmarsh is threatened! Why are lizard men gathering force nearby and why have they been buying large quantities of weapons? A party of bold adventurers must answer these questions or the people of Saltmarsh will never live in peace! Apparently Saltmarsh can't live in peace at all. U2 is one of the most interesting and yet sparse in the U series of modules. "Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Can You Map the OSR by "The Politics of Personalities?"

Tenkar's Tavern - Tue, 04/04/2017 - 03:34

Here we are, a week after my return from Gary Con and I find I'm still playing catch up, this time with blog reading.

It's funny that I didn't cut my hair for nearly 11 months in the hopes of growing a ponytail - hint: it never got long enough so I cut it short right before the con. I almost went hipster ;)

Anyhow, I find it interesting that instead of focusing on actual blog content or community building, Patrick Stewart instead focused on things like politics and geography.

Really, when it comes down to it, what does politics have to do with gaming or the OSR? Does it matter who at what publisher voted for who (because yes, even publishers have questions about their political leanings)

As for geography, the internet and VTTs blur the line of distance and location, so it seems pointless to even attempt to do so. It is literally making assumptions based on little, if any, facts.

As for the OSR being driven by personalities, no more so than any other hobby. I'm fairly sure the majority of old school gamers have no idea who I am, not do they care to do so. (case in point, NTRPG 2015, where my wife Rach was astounded that someone as the Con had no clue who I was ;)

You can read more at the False Machine Blog
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Thinking About Time Travel RPGs

19th Level - Tue, 04/04/2017 - 02:09

It occurs to me that one of the genres I've not gamed in for years is that of time travel. I'm pretty certain I've had the occasional time travel adventure but I'm thinking more a game dedicated around time travel. I had a Star Trek game about a starship that bounced from one parallel universe to another that was rather fun, but that was in the late 1990s/early 2000s - nothing since then as far as I can recall.

That's a bit surprising, as I love both the time travel genre and history in general. I think one of the things that makes it challenging is how to handle such things as paradox. The game I'm most familiar with as far as handling situations like this is Pelgrane Press' Timewatch which makes paradox a gameable mechanic. It's in your best interests to avoid outright paradox while dancing around it. For example, if your characters were to be imprisoned, it would be quite the paradox to have your characters just vanish from their prison cell. On the other hand, if your characters were to happen to find a key that been hidden by your future selves... Well, still a paradox perhaps, but not as bad.

Doctor Who is a bit less concerned with complexities such as paradox, with the show itself less than consistent about what they involve. The modern show has been a bit more consistent than it had been in its original incarnation, embracing the idea of a "fixed point in time" - something even a Time Lord would be unable to change - though not for the Doctor's occasional attempts, such as seen in The Waters of Mars.

Timemaster from the 1980s is a clear ancestor of games like Timewatch, featuring PCs whose mission it is to preserve the timeline - as well as, if memory serves, parallel Earths' timelines as well. Though it has been ages since I read through it.

Were I to do a time travel game today I would probably discuss with my group what they were looking for - if they were more interested in the adventure aspect Doctor Who might be more appealing whereas a game which embaced things like paradox would steer me towards something like Timewatch...
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

How the F' is This a Kickstarter? Really funny group of friends new to Pathfinder Tabletop RPG

Tenkar's Tavern - Mon, 04/03/2017 - 20:10
Where is the project?

What is actually being produced?

How is this literally not a cash grab?

Wouldn't this be better as a GoFundMe?
  My name is Abe and I'm a disabled Army veteran that recently floated the idea to a friend about starting up a Pathfinder RPG campaign and before we knew it had a group of 5 awesome and funny friends ready for me to be their Game Master.  Character creation is still a work in progress be so far we have an Investigator and a Magus.        The reason I'm asking for funding is because the 5 of them live roughly 85 miles away from me and I'd like to drive to their house(s) once or twice a month.  Obviously the gas prices are a burden but also any funding I have left over I wanted to spread between the group for notepads, mechanical pencils, sticky notes, dice sets, and official Piazo Pathfinder Core Rulebooks.  Our first game session will be the first week of May 2017.      I'm considering, if there are no objections in group, recording our game sessions with audio (or video if I can manage to raise enough funds) and post them online for public entertainment.  I'll post links if I do this. Some of us have TONS of video game experience, a couple have no RPG experience at all, but we are guaranteed to have fun and plenty of laughs.  I thank you in advance and greatly appreciate any and all donations.  Be sure to check out the rewards section for added incentive! Risks and challenges The adventuring party will risk their very made-up and completely fictional lives battling the forces of evil in the pursuit of fame and glory. We really risk having a good time and developing a habit of meeting on a regular basis to develop lifelong bonds and memories.
My challenges include being creative enough to fabricate an epic and intriguing tale, organizing our meetings, and getting the party involved and engaged enough to want to do this over a year or more.My God! Does Kickstarter even look at the shit that's submitted these days? I mean, the title itself should have been a warning.

Why not grab a system that's free for fuck's sake! Pathfinder is a money sink anyway.

Really funny group of friends new to Pathfinder Tabletop RPG
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Kickstarter - Frog God Games Starfinder Roleplaying Game Compatible Line (Frawgs in Spaaaace!)

Tenkar's Tavern - Mon, 04/03/2017 - 16:26

God but I love the above screenshot. Its just so... so damn frog-like :)

Anyhow, Frog God Games will be supporting Paizo's soon to be released Starfinder game with their very own Frog God Games Starfinder Roleplaying Game Compatible Line. Yep, its a mouthful, so lets see what it actually entails:
Paizo, the powers behind the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, are completing the final system check on the highly anticipated release of The Starfinder Roleplaying Game. Based on the robust, yet familiar The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, The Starfinder Roleplaying Game will be taking fans of The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game forward in time and to the edge of space where familiar races, powers and creatures have been unleashed.   Now beyond the bounds of their home world they traverse and expand into the dark reaches. Where cryptic cultures, xenomorphic horrors, and merciless enemies are scattered across alien worlds. New technologies, arcana and untapped alien arcana can be discovered in the vastness of space.   Which is where we come in...   Science Fantasy Frog God Style   Frog God Games is pleased to present to you its Starfinder Roleplaying Game Compatible Line, which, with your help, will release alongside Paizo's highly anticipated Starfinder Roleplaying Game: Core Rulebook ™ (expected August 2017). Frog God Games is pleased to present to you its Starfinder Compatible Line, which, with your help, will release alongside the core Starfinder rules (expected August 2017). We have seen the rules and are very excited to be supporting Paizo's foray into Science Fantasy.
The Starfinder Roleplaying Game compatible releases from Frog God Games consists of 2 Full-Color, 8.5 x 11 Hardcover Books: The Planetarium and the Tome of Aliens and a folio of six poster maps all available in both print and PDF format.So, first thing to note is that it Starfinder isn't a Sci-Fi game, its Science Fantasy. I guess that means more Star Wars and less Star Trek. I actually hadn't realized it wasn't going to be Sci-Fi. Go figure.

Second, if you look at the pledge levels, you'll notice there are some systemless options - specifically deck plans.

So, if you are an old school game whose preference is White Star or Stars Without Number, you can just snag the deck plans. Want Print plus PDF deck plans? 30 bucks.

 +Alyssa Faden deck plans for the win!

Not sure I'll be picking up Starfinder (Pathfinder has WAY to much crunch for me) but deck plans like those sampled? Hell yeah!

Now to just hack Swords & Wizardry Light for some Sci-Fi or Sci-Fantasy gaming :)

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

On Memento Mori

Hack & Slash - Mon, 04/03/2017 - 14:05
Remember, you are going to die.

The messed up thing about cancer is, everything goes on. Your life is like it is right now, except you are sick all the time and have a ton of new bills.

I read on Patrick Stuart's blog the other day,

Guys with a significant impact in forming the social and interest groupings that lead into the modern OSR but so far as I know, not currently deeply engaged with online social stuff at the moment, with them concentrating on other things.Well, yes. I've been concentrating on other things. In the last three years, I've had to deal with cancer, divorce, custody arrangements, two moves, some of my best friends moving away, the death of my father, and other minor stressors aside. I know this breaks my rule about talking about myself on the blog. It's a good rule. People shouldn't do it.

I had something of an epiphany the other day.

I was hospitalized the year before this string of disasters, due to a stress-induced ischemia. For those of you that don't know, that means I have a mental disorder that gave my intestines a heart attack.

I don't ever, ever, talk about this. I think the majority of people who do talk about problems like this are attention seeking. I am on very strong medication since that medical event.

The important thing is, even though I know better, I am beset by fears of all the worst kinds. My first thought is, "What is the worst possible outcome of this situation?"

Well, let me tell you. Every single one of my fears came true. Every single one. If I were to list everything my deepest darkest fears about the future would hold—the fears that literally almost killed me and landed me in the hospital—you would find that they all came true. One after the other after the other after the other.

Aaaand, *pats self down*, I'm somehow still here. At some point something changed. Either the medicine is really working or just after responding to nightmare after nightmare my ability to respond to new disasters is just muted; I don't know. What I do know, is I've spent most of the last three years just coping instead of working because of the stress. And now, nothing has changed. Disasters still loom. I'm still fighting for custody. I'm still dealing with very serious fires.

But I don't feel like I need to spend all my time coping and recovering. What I feel like, is I want to get back to damn work making dungeons filled with green gas. So, uh, I'm going to be doing that.

This message isn't about the blog. It's about taking steps for me, moving forward in this crisis. Being less closed up and connecting with more people. So, in order to do that, instead of posting something on my blog every day in April, which is full of a lot of meaningless noise, I'm going to post something every day on my social media about my life. Sharing thoughts and pictures. Some will be about gaming. If you're interested, I'm on Facebook here, and Google + here. It's a way of moving forward.

Blogwise, some work and surprises are in store for April. I'm only going to break one rule in this post ("Don't talk about yourself") not two ("Don't talk about what you're going to do on your blog") I look forward to seeing you.

P.S. Could you imagine doing a Kickstarter or something and having this happen? The added guilt of people who gave you money on the front end? It doesn't absolve anyone, but I'm glad I didn't have a situation like that.
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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Beneath the Comet

Ten Foot Pole - Mon, 04/03/2017 - 11:11

By Benjamin Ball
North Wind Adventures
Level 6-9

For weeks the Comet has blazed in the sky above Hyperborea, inspiring widespread superstitious dread and fear of some star-borne contagion. Under the light of this harbinger from the Black Gulf, the PCs have come to Bogrest, following a magical treasure map that reveals great wealth buried in the Lonely Heath north of the village. Finding that treasure will be no simple matter, however, for Hyperborea is a weirder and deadlier place than ever beneath the Comet

This 48 page adventure details a small wilderness scrubland area ending with a thirteen room dungeon under a barrow mound. The dungeon reminds me of a more realistic version of White Plume Mountain. You explore, collect keys, and go face the final boss. The keyed encounters, both in the wilderness and dungeon, offer a nice variety of decent ideas. The AS&SH writing style, is, however, present and a major barrier to entry/use/enjoyment. Your mileage may vary.

The party has a magic treasure map, showing the way. Generally, to some ancient mound in a scrubland. There’s a village nearby. There are four encounter locations in the scrubland, along with the main mound proper. The village takes three pages (one of which is a map) to add nothing to the adventure except a small rumor table. With a two paragraph introduction that adds nothing to the table. I’m reminded of the rumor table in Gus L’s Prison of the Hated Pretender. It’s title bar was “What the scabrous yokels in that village of broken down huts are saying:” That does at least as good a job as the three pages spent in this adventure on the village. What, pray tell, is the appeal of the “what equipment is available” fetish? This adventure spends two paragraphs telling us what the party can and can’t buy. I don’t get the appeal. All those words don’t really add anything to the adventure. There IS a “villager quirk” table that is rather nice, quirks and/or strong personalities, something to remember them by, should be a required part of every social encounter.

As indicated in just about every other AS&SH review I’ve done, I’m NOT a fan of the writing style used. I don’t think this is personal preference, at least not in the way I use that phrase. In other words, there may be multiple ways to fulfill my review standards, some of which I may prefer over others. I don’t think this is a case of the AS&SH line using a different way to get to same goal, a way that I might not prefer (personal preferences.) I think I can make a case that the adventures obfuscate data for the DM and are not evocatively written. Which is a fancy way of saying that they almost always have great ideas, but you have to work hard to get at them.

Some wandering gargoyles have strange and unsettling necklaces. The DM is elsewhere offered the advice “If the PCs make some attempt to distract or deceive the super ape-men, the referee must determine the success of their endeavour.” And in another area “the party can wash the poison off with alcohol or some other like cleaning agent.” The later two examples are, I think, examples of being too prescriptive. Of course the DM has to determine success; the DM does that about at least a hundred times in every session of D&D. Likewise the cleaning off the poison. This is something that this adventure engages in time and time again. This sort of prescriptive text add very little to the game and I would argue it detracts far more than it adds, by making the text denser for no good reason, making it harder to use during play.

The gargoyle necklace is in a different category. “Strange and unsettling” are not good descriptions. Those words are conclusions. It’s an example of using a TELL word instead of a SHOW word … and you should always SHOW instead of tell. Use different words to show me the necklace, to describe it. Then, if you’ve done a good job, the party members will conclude “ooh, that’s strange and unsettling!” This adventure engages far too much in showing instead of telling and therefore the evocative nature doesn’t come through well.

I want to spend a little time talking about the wandering table in this adventure. There are two tables, once mundane and one more fantastic. If you roll a six on the mundane table you instead roll on the fantastic table. (Which means, BTW, that the Rust Monsters in encounter six will never show up. I’m sure that wasn’t intended.) The mundane wanderers attack immediately. That’s pretty boring, I prefer slightly more pretext be offered, but, whatever. The fantastic encounters are, almost all, window dressing encounters. You meet a ghost child. Be nice to it and maybe get a combat bonus. You meet a fortune teller. Be nice and maybe get a combat bonus. You meet an X, be nice and you’ll get a combat bonus. It’s a bit of a one-trick pony. Yeah, the window dressing stuff is kind of ok, but its detachment from the rest of the adventure leaves it FEELING like it’s detached. Some effort being made to tie these in to the main adventure text would have made them come off better, as well as varying the reward a bit more. The better ones are the ones that ARE attached to other encounters, like a driverless wagon and the ones that offer variety, like a new henchman/hireling. The others feel … too samey and too detached from whats going on. They don’t LEAD to anything.

The actual encounters are pretty decent. Several of the locations in the wilderness tie together and all of them are interesting. There are a lot of things to interact with, things to do. Crossing pits on edge ledges, dodging around on moving mosaics, a two-headed pterodactyl with the usual lying/truth problem, a dude straight out of folklore who you have to REALLY hack to death, a rival NPC party to mix things up, and a decent amount more. Essentially, you get about 20 interesting “rooms” for the party to interact. They do mostly fall in to the same category of a funhouse-ish light sort of challenge/puzzle, but it’s all interactive for the players to play with and figure out, rather than just simply riddles. Closer to chessboard challenges, but not as divorced from continuity as chessboard puzzles usually are. I really like them. Maybe a little more variety, but they are nice. Plus, the lich at the end has got a GREAT short little paragraph death scene that will really make the party think they’ve accomplished something.

It’s just too bad that those encounters are hidden behind all of that text. Up until this point I would have said that Talenian has a distinctive voice. But this being a different designer I now get to generalize to: AS&SH has a distinctive voice. And it’s one I really don’t like.

The dungeon storeroom begins: “The floor of this room is stacked with funerary offerings: decorative furniture, brightly dyed textiles, wicker baskets full of grain and fruit, myriad clay pots and bowls, small idols of forgotten Hyperborean gods, teak chests filled with parchment scrolls, and more. These mundane items are amazingly well preserved by the magic of this room, but they will crumble to dust if removed from it.” So, a funerary offering storeroom with stuff that crumbles? (It does then go on to have something interesting happen, but the distinctive writing style makes the room description take up a full page.)

The preview on DriveThru is pretty useless in telling you what you will get getting, although the “Authors Note” section on the last page hints at the tortured writing style to come:

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Again, the Giants!: Sanctum of the Stone Giant Space God

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 04/03/2017 - 11:00
This is the second in a series of posts riffing of the giant theme of the classic Against the Giants:

Hightlights include:
1. The kirbytech festooned inner chamber of the helf-sleeping stone god--and his powerful telepathic signal.2. Stone Giant partisans and the PCs with only the vaguest notion of what this alien conflict is about.3. Weird wandering creatures escaped from some sort of ship collection.

U1 The Sinster Secret of Salt Marsh Actual Play Event

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 04/03/2017 - 05:34
Today I got my revenge on Steve & his crew by running them through UK1 The Sinister Secret of Salt Marsh using the Atonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea rpg as the engine for today's game. There was a sword & sorcery feel today's game as the echoes of Port Greely for AS&SH's adventure were scattered through today's events. So today was U1 Sinister Secret of Saltmash adapted for Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs


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