Tabletop Gaming Feeds

The Amazon Factor - - Cha'alt/Godbound Campaign Commentary With Shield Maidens of Sea Rune Produced for Judge's Guild By Bryan Hinnen & Dan Hauffe

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 02/05/2020 - 19:23
For my  Cha'alt/Godbound campaign everyone knows I've been looking over my own old school resources & dipping back into my notes & archives. But maybe I've been missing the one faction that's been right in front of me?! Let's talk about the nine hundred pound ten thousand strong army massing across Arizona that my PC's are gonna run into at some point. The unknown quantity in the mix of the Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Fen Orc on "The Master of Dungeons"

Zenopus Archives - Wed, 02/05/2020 - 15:36
Brubo the Hooded. Read to the end of Fen Orc's post to find out who he is.
Awesome post alert!

The Master of Dungeons

In this post the Fen Orc (formerly known as RPG Forge; I featured two of their posts previously) sets forth a new concept, "The Master of Dungeons", that could be added to any D&D dungeon near a city/town/domain setting. It will create more interactivity between the surface and dungeon elements, and interject all kinds of fun conflict and chaos. The post does an great job laying out the concept and then illustrating with a specific example designed for the Zenopus sample dungeon; I was enthralled as I read it.

The Master of DungeonsI was reflecting the other day about what a valuable resource 'dungeons' are and how odd it is that, in most campaigns, they don't seem to be owned by anybody. Which is peculiar, really, because dungeons are a powerful economic resource. Not only are they full of treasure, but magic items too.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Flying Fortress of the Celestial Order

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 02/05/2020 - 12:11
By Radulf St. Germain Studio St. Germain OSR? Generic? 5e? "Lower Levels"

The  city of  Shallow Bay  is preparing for  the greatest social  event of the year when  an eagerly-expected shipment of ball gowns goes missing. Rumors abound of goblins gathering in large gangs to cut off all commerce to the city. While  all seems like a routine job for adventurers there are hints of some sinister ancient evil pulling the strings in the background. Can the party save the Day of the Revered Ancestors and what will they find as they  become embroiled deeper and deeper into the machinations of the mysterious Celestial Order?

This 29 page adventure has a loose plot to it combined with a sandboxy format. Probably meant  for 5e, it’s presented without stats. Dripping with the kind of flavour I wish all adventures had, this things fatal flaw is its organization, an arrow that has taken down many a sandboxy adventure. I started to ask myself, during this review, “Man, is it worth it to highlight this thing and create some reference sheets?” That’s a good sign.

This thing has style! The city it is set in was founded by a Lich, overthrown many many years ago, with his phylactery rumored to still be around. The hook is a shipment of ball gowns in a caravan that gets raided … what will the local fops wear to the Day of the Revered Ancestors ball? (A little Lexx mixed up in your fantasy, maybe?) The elemental earth cult? It’s not an earth cult. It’s not THE cult of elemental earth. It’s called The Shallow Grave Consortium … and the leader sleeps in a barrow. The local bar, the Drunken Sailor, is known for its knife fights and shady dealings. The local guy who informally heads up the fisherman in town is not opposed to organizing a beating for those who show disrespect. There’s a flying fortress with a giant brass flywheel on it (it’s the air cult, chill out) and it’s been grounded, anchored via … a literal giant anchor with a huge fish … sculpture? swallowing it. And that’s not even described, it’s just shown in a little sketch drawing. Time and time again this thing hits with the sort of specificity that makes an adventure feel ALIVE. Fuck the generic Earth Cults and long live the Shallow Grave Consortium!

Over and over again. The NPC’s are given brief little bursts of flavour that a DM can hang their hat on. The cult leader is highly dramatic and listens to an invisible advisor. The raven spy looks down on beings who cannot fly. (Get it?! Get it?!)  People are described as corpulent, or noble matrons, or the Pointy Hat goblin tribe who wears … Wear huge pointy helmets and sport huge mustaches. They have no real boss.” The flesh golem that shows up is not a Frankenstein’s Monster, or even a Frankensteins Monster monster Frankenstein, but in the form of a giant snake. A noble matron thinks the mayor is a vain idiot. It goes on and on and on. The adventure elements are strong. It’s something that the DM can work with … if it does, at times, trend a bit to the absurdit side of the line, hopping over a time or two but not taking up full residency. 

It’s also trying to help the DM out. There’s a one page cheat sheet that describes the adventure. There’s a flowchart of events, since this is ultimately a sandbox plot of the villains trying to do something more than linear adventure. It even has notes on the flowchart of what happens if the current “activity” is foiled by the party. There’s DM advice in places, like suggesting fires in the windmill used to grind flour may result in an explosion. There’s even a couple of pages of tables at the end full of charts that can be used to create flavourful little houses in town, full of secrets and plots and the like. 

But, it’s TRYING to help the DM, and not actually doing so. The cheat sheet only really makes sense after going through the adventure the first time, so it doesn’t orient as much as summarize. The flowchart may be the best part, but the section headings it refers to could be labeled/organized stronger. For it’s attempts at helping it’s still kind of a glorious mess.

There’s a lot of repetition of information, and meaningless information at that. It’s using a kind of free text/paragraph format, with certain words in italics to draw the eye. That’s not the strongest way to organize, especially given the amount of extraneous text in the adventure. There’s a decent number of NPC’s, and some kind of summary sheet would have useful to help the DM during play. I don’t know how to say this and get it to come across right. The section headings and extraneous text weaken the adventure to the point where it’s kind of hard to figure out how to run it and what’s going on, and that’s with the flowchart and cheatsheet. This is a sandbox sort of issue, in general; finding a way to organize the material for quick reference during play in an unorganized play style is no small feat. 

This thing drips with flavor. It references some princes of the Apocalypse creatures, and is a better PotA chapter than a real PotA chapter. I’m keeping it as “generic” since it’s stateless, and the only stat reference is to reference some 5e monsters in the end in order to localize it. I might suggest the same for some LabLord creatures as well; it would be a helpful touch. Treasure, is, of course, light given the generic/5e flavour.

So is it worth it? Not to me. There’s just a bit too much effort in pulling things together. I will say though that St. Germain has their shit together with respect to flavour and “arc without having a plot.” You might even say there’s a nod to Rients with a flying fortress showing up to raid the town. Some serious work in massaging the text in to a format to make it more easily runnable at the table would marry that to the flavour and make it something decent to run.  I do, though, look forward to seeing future efforts by this designer to see if they can figure things out.

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru with a suggested price of $2. The preview is four pages. It gives you an overview of some of the factions, actors, and locations. For this sort of sanboxy sort of adventure it’s an appropriate preview, showing you the sort of information transfer, flavour, and organization you can expect. Take a look at it and note both the flavour and the extraneous text and how it’s not exactly the best at declaring where you are and what’s important.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Matters of State & Megadungeon - ACK's Dwimmermount & Dave Cook's X5 Temple of Death - Cha'alt/Godbound Campaign Commentary

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 02/04/2020 - 18:27
"The gates of Dwimmermount have opened. After years of rumors, it is time to discover the secrets of this vast mountain fortress for yourself…"For my  Cha'alt/Godbound campaign I've been looking over any number of old school resources but I stettled upon one that speaks to me from an earlier part of the OSR.  Finding a copy of ACK's Dwimmermount is utterly ridiculous, its like find a needle Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

4 Pop-Culture Assumptions That Dungeons & Dragons Destroyed

DM David - Tue, 02/04/2020 - 11:56

The media keeps telling us how we, the geeks, have won popular culture. A show with dragons became prestige television, and networks keep aiming to produce  the next Game of Thrones. A minister I know boasted that she was a member of her high school Dungeons & Dragons club. The Return of the King won best picture. Fan culture is everywhere. So we forget that in the early days, when D&D burgeoned by word-of-mouth, no one had seen anything like it.

Of course, little in D&D stands as completely new, but in the 70s, unless you joined a tiny cult of miniature gamers interested in fantasy, the game defied understanding. Unless you followed a few, obscure genre authors, you would never have seen anything like it. You shared popular assumptions that D&D would explode.

1. Fantasy is for children and a few oddballs.

Forget the The Lord of the Rings, and then name a work of fantasy that was widely known before D&D. Anything you name is a fairy tale or fable—something for children. Conan? He’s a comic book character. Every grown up knows comics are for children. Now consider The Lord of the Rings. It enjoyed enough popularity to get cited by Led Zeppelin and some other long hairs, but when Hollywood tried to trade on its popularity, they added musical numbers. Hollywood did not think they could reach a big enough audience of oddballs, so they adapted for children.

In making the 1978 movie Superman, the producers needed adults to see a movie about what they saw as a children’s character. Imagine marketing a Thomas the Tank Engine film to adults. To free grown ups from the embarrassment of buying tickets, they gave a fortune to Important Actor Marlon Brando. For 15 minutes of screen time, Brando received $3.7 million up front, plus 11.75% of the film’s take, right off the top. The film’s marketing rested heavily on the actor’s performance. All so grown ups could gain an excuse to see the movie on date night.

As a kid in the 70s, All the fantasy I knew came from picture books. Stories where trolls lived under bridges and bugbears under beds. Nothing prepared me for a game inspired by Appendix N. A game where trolls lived in dungeons and refused to die. The original Monster Manual revealed beholders, mind flayers, chromatic dragons and countless other dreadful wonders that filled me with excitement.

The public’s unfamiliarity with fantasy contributed to the panic that surrounded D&D in the 80s. God fearing adults saw their teenagers obsessed with spells and children’s fairy tale nonsense, but darker and more violent. They settled on the only logical explanation, demon worship, because the culprit could not possibly be a really fun game.

Meanwhile, I worked to find the books named in The Dragon’s Giants in the Earth column and later in Appendix N. I found none. Admittedly, I suffered the disadvantage of shopping from a mall bookstore. I knew nothing of used book stores or inter-library loan. Nonetheless, few of Gary Gygax’s inspirations remained in print. Today, fantasy books of all stripes crowd the shelves. Then, I took years to collect the books that inspired the game.

2. Games are terrible.

In the 70s, games sold as toys and they were all terrible. They suffered from stupid, and random mechanics: Roll a die and move that many spaces. The winner becomes obvious long before the end, yet they took forever to finish. Games covered prosaic subjects like Life and Payday, or financial wish-fulfillment like Monopoly or, well, Payday. Still, I liked games enough that I even played terrible ones endlessly. (Except, of course, for Monopoly, which I suspect Hasbro makes to convince millions that games are tedious. I cannot fathom their plot’s endgame.) My standards were so low that I liked the 1974 game Prize Property where you launched legal actions against your opponents to stall their building developments. Legal actions. The box claimed fun for ages 9 and up.

People suffered from narrow ideas about what a game could be. Someone wins, someone loses, the game never extends past the board and never continues after you close the box.

Before I saw D&D, I sat with a sheet of graph paper and tried to imagine how the game would play. Working from a 12-year-old’s lunch-room pitch, I got nowhere. From my experience rolling a die and moving that many squares, I had no clue how a game could allow the things the kids claimed.

So in a mere 48 pages, the Holmes Basic D&D rule book shattered my notion of what a game could be.

Later, when I described the new game, everyone asked the same questions: “How do you win?” and then, “if you can’t win, what’s the point?” Everyone struggled to grasp the notion that you played to have fun without any chance of winning. For more, see But how do you win?

3. Only young children should roleplay.

People sometimes say that D&D did not invent the roleplaying game. Kids have always roleplayed; we just called it make believe. By spreading roleplaying beyond the playground, D&D alarmed parents, ministers, and other responsible adults.

When D&D first reached mainstream attention, reporters painted the game as a “bizarre” activity enjoyed by “secretive” and “cultish” players.  Parents feared that playing a role in D&D would lead their children to confuse fantasy with reality. After all, wasn’t anyone old enough for such a complicated game too old for make believe? Kids talked about being a wizard or a thief and folks worried that kids believed it. See The Media Furor that Introduced the “Bizarre Intellectual Game” of Dungeons & Dragons to America.

D&D’s revolution went beyond make believe. Much of the appeal came from playing a character with stats that carried to the next session, and from the idea that characters gained experience and improved. In Playing at the World, while describing D&D’s reception, Jon Peterson shows new players and reviewers always touting the experience system. The steady reward of experience and levels forged an obsession for many players. The combination proved so compelling that just about every computer role-playing game borrows it.

4. Dungeons are just medieval jails.

Zombies and vampires appear everywhere in popular culture. Both archetypes seem medieval, but the popular conception of zombies only dates back to George Romero’s 1968 movie Night of the Living Dead.

The concept of a dungeon as an underground sprawl with monsters and treasures, is even newer.

In the fantasies that inspired the game, no character explores a sprawling dungeon. At best, you can find elements of the dungeon crawl, such as treasure in the mummy’s tomb, orcs in Moria, traps and underground cities in a Conan yarn, and so on. Forget Indiana Jones; he came later.

Now, the dungeon adventure qualifies as a trope that appears in virtually every computer fantasy game.

Stone Mountain dungeon cross section from 1977 basic set

In my world before D&D, games gave the fun of launching legal action against fellow real estate developers. When I opened the basic rules, I could brave the peril and mystery of the dungeon shown in the Stone Mountain cross section. Still today, no image inspires my enthusiasm to play as much. I jumped from property law to Greyhawk.

For more, see How the Dungeon Powered the Success of D&D and the First Role-Playing Games.

By the end of the 70s, fandom had yet to dominate popular culture, but Star Wars and Superman and Dungeons & Dragons had established a beachhead. The gains would only continue.

For me, the 48 pages of the 1977 Basic Set did more than introduce the best game in the world, those pages turned some of what I understood upside down.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Delta on the Monsters & Treasures of the Dungeon of Zenopus

Zenopus Archives - Tue, 02/04/2020 - 05:22

As part of a continuing Subterrane Surveys series, Delta's D&D Hotspot has two posts up that look in detail at the monsters and treasures of the Dungeon of Zenopus, and the resultant experience point totals. The first one covers Holmes' original version as seen in the Holmes Manuscript, and the second one looks at the dungeon as published, which includes a number of changes made by Gygax.

Subterrane Surveys: Dungeon of Zenopus (per Holmes)Today we're looking at the sample dungeon from the first-ever D&D Basic Set, edited by Eric Holmes (1979) -- what many of us now call the "Dungeon of Zenopus". This has been very influential over the years -- and just last week, our friend Zenopus Archives published a 5E conversion on DM's Guild.
Subterrane Surveys: Dungeon of Zenopus (per Gygax)Today we're again looking at the sample dungeon in the first Basic D&D set (1979), the "Dungeon of Zenopus". Last time we looked at Eric Holmes' original unpublished draft. But after Holmes submitted that work, Gary Gygax took an editorial pass at it, changing many items on a line-by-line basis.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Gaming From The Fringes - 'Fantasy Gamer's Compendium, Revised and Expanded By Game Science' - Cha'alt/Godbound Campaign Commentary

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 02/03/2020 - 22:26
I'm looking for a stop gap organization that's been observing the 'goings on' of the Cha'alt warp in my Cha'alt/Godbound campaign. The  'Order of the Lords of Mystery' fills the gap nicely & comes from a very prolific & unexpected source namely Game Science. The year is Nineteen Ninety & a new edition of 'The  Fantasy Gamer's Compendium, Revised and Expanded' comes into my hands. Phil Edgren, Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

why do wizards need to be rare?

Blog of Holding - Mon, 02/03/2020 - 14:26

In most fantasy universes in which people cast spells, magic is a talent that few are born with. No matter how much they study, some people will never be anything but muggles, while other people are born with the Talent or the Gift or a high midichlorian count or whatever.

There are a number of reasons why this choice makes a fictional setting more coherent and focused.

  • A world where magic is common is super bizarre and unfamiliar.
  • Magic is rare to make your wizard protagonist special.
  • Wizards are super powerful: if everyone could learn magic, everyone would.
  • However, these reasons don’t really apply to D&D, which has never had any pretensions at being a coherent and focused fictional setting.

    D&D is a world where magic is common. Most of the D&D classes are spell-users to some degree. Most of the monsters have spells or magical abilities. You might assert that offscreen, within the borders of civilization, magic is rare, but the players’ game experience don’t really speak to that assertion one way or the other. The fact is that in D&D as it’s played, the world is chock-full of magic knapsacks, resurrection magic, and fireballs.

    Your wizard isn’t special. If you come up with some demographics that specify that, say, only one in every thousand people has an arcane gift that can be nurtured, you fall afoul of the fact that nearly every D&D party has a wizard, or a variation like sorcerer, warlock, or bard – not to mention the clerics, paladins, rangers, monks, and druids also in the party. I’ve been playing D&D for decades, and I’ve seen a lot of wizard characters, and if they’re all rare and special, they’re the most common rarity there is. When a wizard character dies, we know we can go back to town and pick up another one if we want. We might claim they’re rare in the campaign setting, but they’re not rare in the game. Furthermore, most players don’t want their wizard characters to be feared, or hunted as witches, or even venerated as demigods every time they come to a new town. Every game session of D&D doesn’t have to be the X Men mutants vs. the world. Just leave me alone and let me do my shopping! Therefore, a blase attitude to spellcasters is pretty common among NPCs: the sort of attitude that comes from familiarity.

    Your wizard isn’t super powerful – at least not at first. In any edition, a first- or second-level wizard isn’t any more powerful than a fighter, and might be significantly weaker. Sure, a first-level wizard can drop a fighter, and a crowd of commoners besides, with Sleep or Burning Hands, but a fighter can drop a wizard with one hit. It all comes down to who wins initiative. And besides criminal assault with Sleep and Burning Hands, what can a novice wizard do that’s any use? They might be able to get a middle-class job as a repairman (Mending), a mortician (Gentle Repose), a locksmith (Knock and Arcane Lock) or a charlatan (Charm and Disguise Self). They might rightly be regarded with suspicion, but not necessarily with awe. Being a low-level wizard might be kind of like being a grad student. It takes years of study, and might lead you to a respectable career some day, but no one’s really jealous of you right now.

    There’s one more reason to avoid the “some people have the Gift” trope, at least for the 5e wizard class specifically. It steps on the sorcerer’s toes. The sorcerer’s story is all “I have a special inborn gift that lets me set things on fire.” Sorcerers are not much of a foil for wizards if the wizard’s story is “I too have a special inborn gift. Mine lets me set things on fire after five years of school.” I much prefer the more democratic message that anyone can go to school, make something of themselves, and learn how to set things on fire.

    1st-level wizard spells for the masses

    Given all this, I say: Open the arcane floodgates wide! Let anyone into the Arcane University, PC or NPC, from muggle or wizard family, so long as they can pay the tuition. The real limitations on wizard power are more insidious: not everyone has the wealth and leisure to attend wizard college, and, as is true for any other character class, most people stay low level. Few survive, or care to brave, the dangerous adventures required to become even, say, third level and unlock second-level spells.

    Therefore, first-level wizards (and clerics, and bards, and other learned spellcasters) might be as common as educated people in our own medieval or renaissance times. Imagine a Shakespearean England where every Oxford scholar can cast Shield but not Suggestion, every vicar can cast Cure Light Wounds but not Lesser Restoration, and every minstrel can cast Charm Person but not Detect Thoughts. Would it really be that different from the standard D&D world?

    low-level spells and society

    Would this turn your world into Eberron, where magic is commercialized and ubiquitious? Not really. In fact, it’s surprising how much first-level spells resist the assembly line. A world where first-level spells are common actually resembles the medieval world that medieval people thought they lived in. You go to your local cleric for healing, blessings, and the detection and turning of minor demons. You go to the local witch for curses and curse removal. Really, Create Water and Purify Food and Drink are the only first-level spells we’d think of as being economically exploitable, and they’re small-scale.

    Second-level spells offer a bit more room for altering society. I believe that lighting cities with Continual Flame is a classic Eberron move. Detect Thoughts and Zone of Truth could change the justice system. Lesser restoration – LESSER restoration – cures all nonmagic diseases, making a 3rd-level cleric better than the best 21st century hospital.

    If third level spellcasters are dirt-common in your campaign world, you might stray a bit from the standard D&D pseudomedieval assumptions. But I don’t think you’ll do your campaign world any harm by allowing a Magic Missile-toting scribe in every village and a Cure Wounds-casting cleric at every roadside shrine. If anything, you’ll bring it more in line with the actual high-magic D&D gameplay that I’ve experienced, where no one blinks at the arrival of a traveling wizard, and someone in town can lift the curse on your fighter – for a price.

    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    Hunters in Death, an old school hex crawl.

    Bat in the Attic - Mon, 02/03/2020 - 14:21

    Tim Shorts of Gothridge Manor and I have been gaming together since high school along with our friend Dwayne Gillingham. Over the years through our respective campaigns we came up with a lot of ideas.

    Print on Demand and the Internet made it possible for each of us to share some of what we created. Now Tim is the first to take a stab at kickstarter by offering Hunters in Death, an old school hex crawl. It part of Kickstarter's zine quest 2 encouraging and promoting various zine authors.

    Here is a summary of what it is about.
    Hunters in Death is set in the Komor Forest. A place that's consumed civilizations and birthed abominations. Yet there is a single outpost, Hounds Head, that holds back the darkness. It's a beacon for adventurers. Silver and blood are promised. And delivered. Some adventurers return with sacks overflowing with coins and jewels, but most fertilize the forest with their blood.I have adventured in the Komor Forest and it is an interesting place to explore. The zine itself is a good deal at $4 for the PDF and $8 for print + pdf. It funded in the first day so it will be seeing the light of day. Hope you check it out.

    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    A Day in the Life in the Danube Arcology

    Dungeoncomics - Mon, 02/03/2020 - 13:00
    Adrian and Jeremy Osborne live in the Danube Arcology. Both are current employees of the Danube Corporation. They’re entitled to a The Smartment™: a product of the Danube Corporate Family.

    An Easy Task

    Ten Foot Pole - Mon, 02/03/2020 - 12:11
    By FEI Games Inc FEI Games B/X Levels 3-5

    A group of minotaurs have moved into the area. A farmer spotted them at the ruins down the road and now the locals want them gone.

    I don’t know man. Really, I don’t. I apologize.

    This seven page adventure is actually a (very small) one page dungeon with four rooms. It features fourteen minotaurs and fourteen dire wolves. It is minimally keyed ala Palace of the Vampire Queen. Uh, it has 4000cp of treasure. I don’t know what to say. It’s one of the worst?

    Seven pages for this. One title page. One page with the adventure on it. One page with the stats for the two monsters. One page to note 4000cp in treasure. Two pages of license and one blank page. I am an optimist. Really, I am. The wurstest pessimists are always the most idealistic optimists. I WANT to believe that a short adventure can be good. There are some! I promise! But not this one.

    Ok, a hunter sees some minotaurs at a ruin down the road, goes to the inn, and insists the party take care of it free of charge since they’ve been staying in the area. Of course, they can keep any treasure they find. This is the hook. It appears on the one adventure page. It preceded by a section telling us that the minotaurs have moved in to the ruin because they had good luck with their last raid. I guess that’s the background. The last two sentences is the wilderness adventure: the hunter takes them to the ruin but will not fight. The five-ish sentences that make up those three things take up half the page. The one one page that has the entire adventure. I question if that was the best way to spend the word budget allocated to this title …

    It’s minimally keyed. “Room 1) 5 minotaurs.” That’s it. Nothing else. There are four rooms, all minimally keyed. The map is a small plus sign; one central room up high with three other rooms connected to it in the cardinal directions. Each room has a bunch of minotaurs and/or dire wolves in it. There is an order of battle! One of te minotaurs will ring the gong in the central room, summoning all of the minotaurs ot the battle, if, I guess, they didn’t already hear it, being 20’ away from it and all that.

    Fourteen 6HD minotaurs at … third level? Fifth Level? And that’s doesn’t even include the fourteen 4HD dire wolves that are also included. A combat. Just a hack. Nothing else to this. 

    The treasure is 4000cp. Seriously. And 500sp. A jewelry worth 30gp. 2 potions. “Various mundane items worth 700gp.” Ok, so, realistic, I guess? Oh, oh, and, of course, “the DM can also place any other treasure they would like.” Yeah, no shit? Can I, the DM, also breathe while running this? And speak? Just last night I was just writing an article about this”feature” of adventures. How they put in this “add an encounter of your choice” or “include any treasure you want.” Surprise surprise surprise, I see another example of it this morning. 

    What’s the count at? I don’t know.

    A one page adventure listing itself at seven pages. Because it is seven pages: one page of adventure and six of fluff. A hack a thon in B/X, where Hack a thons are essentially insta-death, so, no basic understanding of the game system. Also illustrated by having the third to fifth level adventure having fourteen 6HD monsters and fourteen 4 HD monsters. That will, essentialy, attack en masse. Also no understanding of how gold=xp work, since 4000cp ain’t gonna cut it for leveling purposes. That’s where most of the XP comes from in basic and it ain’t present here, especially at this risk level. Minimal keying, bringing nothing to the adventure. A hook relying on the party to be Goodies. A map small enough that order of battle doesn’t matter.

    No exploration. No wonder. No joy. This is a 4e adventure pretending to be B/X.

    This is $2 on DriveThru. Being one of the worst, it of course has a three star rating on DriveThru. Because reasons. You cannot, in any way shape or form, trust the ratings on Drivethru. There the weirdo page-flip preview instead of a full size one. If you squint hard you can see the map and the minimal keying next to it. That’s the adventure. The entire thing.

    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    Blessed of The Tzitzimimeh - The Lovecraftian Ecology & Sting of the Scorpion Men In My Cha'alt/Godbound Campaign Commentary

    Swords & Stitchery - Sun, 02/02/2020 - 20:30
    Let's talk about the 2 ton scorpion leaden horror in the room of my  Godbound/ Cha'alt campaign. That is the Scorpion men featured in X4: "Master of the Desert Nomads" (1983), by David "Zeb" Cook. Scorpion men are featured in several Akkadian myths, including the Enûma Elish and the Babylonian version of the Epic of Gilgamesh. They were also known as aqrabuamelu or girtablilu. But surely Needles
    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    The Armies of Chaos From X4: "Master of the Desert Nomads" (1983), by David "Zeb" Cook - Cha'alt/Godbound Campaign Commentary

    Swords & Stitchery - Sun, 02/02/2020 - 17:41
    To arms! To arms! The battle lines are drawn as desert men and inhuman tribes wait poised to strike on the fertile and rich lands of the east. The call has gone out through the civilized lands. The armies have been raised to match the invading foes from the west. Nobles and peasants have joined swords to greet the foes.But Fate or Chance has decreed another role for a small fewNeedles
    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    All Things Zombie Series 25% Off in February

    Two Hour Wargames - Sun, 02/02/2020 - 02:30

    The All Things Zombie series is on sale for 25% off through February. Great time to start or finish your ATZ collection. Check it out here!
    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    (5e) The Secret of Cedar Peak

    Ten Foot Pole - Sat, 02/01/2020 - 12:16
    By Hein Ragas Capybarbarian 5e Level 1

    Kingshold is a sleepy garrison town at the edge of the kingdom. Bertu Arnels, the respected herbalist in town, sent out an expedition to Cedar Peak Forest, about a day’s travel across the border, to look for useful herbs. When the expedition does not return, she seeks adventurers to investigate and make the forest safe for herb picking. Will you travel to the base camp, and discover the truth behind the horrifying Secret of Cedar Peak?

    This 27 page adventure details a small seven room cave and a couple of outdoor encounters using about eleven pages to do so. Straightforward hack/explore of the usual “figure out what is going on, sneak around, kill shit” variety, it uses a good room format to support its weaker evocative and and interactive elements. Continuity problems stand out. With work this could be on the duller side of “ok.”

    There’s this thing I like to call “Pretending to be an adult.” This is where you ape the behaviours you’e seen or heard about, thinking that’s the “right thing to do.” Without understanding though, it appears to be just going through the motions. What if you have good ideas, though, or at least not bad ones? Then it’s surrounded by this ape’ing. And thus, this adventure.

    This is not a bad adventure, or a good one for that matter, in its core concepts. The party is hired to find some people who have disappeared, an herbalist expedition. Investigating, they visit a small village, “explore a forest”, find some caves, and kill the thing in the cave. I might call this “the usual layout for a plot based adventure.” Hired, investigate, village, wilderness, lair dungeon. To generalize, interactivity in these affairs is usually limited to a little sneaking around to get in to the dungeon and some roleplay in the village. And thus it is with this adventure as well. The usual beats happen. Interactivity is low, with a little roleplaynig and maybe sneaking up on a guard post being non-hack highlights.This doesn’t have to be a bad thing in the plot-based world. Yes, it’s a bit formulaic, and I’d like to see better, but reality is that most plot-based games and adventures follow this formula. They almost all need to up the interactivity element, but, if they can solve the ease of use problem then you’d have a great sea of Marginally Useful Generic Adventures … instead of  the great sea of crap we have today.

    This adventure DOES try to excel and rise above the usual dross, and it largely succeeds. Yes, the villagers are in on it, they are always in on it, but at least these villagers have some self-loathing. And, if confronted by the party, they attack the party. But, it’s not a combat! The advice is to let the party slaughter them as the villagers die to the last. Oh, and what do you do with the three young children left behind? I was surprised, and delighted, to see the designer breaking out of the usual formula. And, if the party comes back to the village after defeating the cave monster (assuming they did not confront the villagers beforehand …) they will either find the village burned down (if they were warned by an escapee) or the villagers will throw a huge party, their relief at the end of The Situation, being palpable. Also, the party gets out of hand, there’s a fire that burns everything down, and the villagers disappear. Weird to end all plots threads on this point, but whatever, they all work as a real conclusion in one way or another. Both the village slaughter and the party/burndown show that a little extra thought has gone in to this adventure. And you can tell. 

    The singular enumerated village encounter, with the smith, shows signs of life also. Is reactions make sense. Further, there’s a nice little bit of formatting with bolded heading and short little sentences that relate his responses to common questions. A similar format is followed by the room entries in the dungeon, with a short read-aloud followed by some bolded heading that have more information for certain things on the read-aloud. This sort of formatting makes it easy to locate information, allows for easy scanning, and therefore ease of use at the table. All nicely done. 

    There’s some X-card warnings up front, for, I think, a little kid who survived an abduction. His mom might get eaten in front of the party by the cave monster. There are a couple of possible “gruesome” little vignettes with the kids mother/family being eaten. (As an aside, aren’t we ALL responsible for the X card shit, because we didn’t push back on the edgelords hard enough when they did their edgy shit? Or do we blame it on the indie RPG and their Psychological Growth RPG’s?) Again, a nice little element to heighten the horror. SHOW don’t TELL. And this shows. He’s not an evil monster because the villagers, or diary, says so. He’s evil because he calls people “meat” in conversations with them (Objectification! The true definition of evil!) and gruesomely eats still living people. No fucking moral quandryies there. I presume he won’t be arrested with non-lethal combat?

    This is not, however, a good adventure. 

    Read alouds tends to the dull side with boring words like “large cave” and other such descriptions abounding. There’s a two paragraph section on spotting a wagon. And two paragraphs up front on “roleplaying” that seems to have nothing to do with roleplaying. The start town gets one and half pages of description in spite of it having nothing to distinguish itself from every other generic border town.We do get a paragrapgh, multiple in fact, on the entire life fucking history of the person who hires them, including her life as an apprentice. All of this padding takes seven pages before the hook shows up. IE: it’s padded to all fuck out. 

    This also shows up in long DM notes section. Rather than emulating the bolded section heading style, perhaps augmented by bullets, whitespace, tables, etc, it instead relies, as per usual for these sorts of adventures, on the long multi paragraph exposition, a nightmare to dig through at the table. It repeats information, telling us the same information about the “telepathic” monster over and over again. Offering justifications for people’s behaviour, or why cultists believe what they do. This is all padding. 

    Worse are the basic editing/continuity issues. The blacksmith can show up one point “with the little girl in tow.” This being the first time the little girl is mentioned, I have to wonder “Huh?” Or Telling the MD that by now the party has had a few encounters with the cultists … when in fact they’ve probably had none at all. Other misses include room descriptions that don’t actually mention what the room is (the Chapel being a major offender here … just mentioning a few details and nothing much chapel like in the RA) or burying monster entries in the DM text instead of the RA. You have to tell the players the obvious/important things first, and ten bloodthirsty cultists seems like an important room detail to me. 

    Or maybe not. “The rest of the cultists are found here in this room. “How many is that exactly? We don’t know. The Rest. But there’s no number to begin with. Other examples include the monsters being buried in the last sentence of a text entry, or things like that, things that make the DM hunt for the information instead of ordering the information in a logical manner that’s easy to use at the table. This is not a Nit. These are core usability issues when the text runs long, as it does in this. 

    And, ultimately, the party never does really find evidence of the people they sent to go looking for. I guess you can make an assumption, but dropping a few details in a room about bodies or gear would have seemed appropriate. Combine all of this with what is an abstracted “forest/wilderness exploration” section and this is worth a pass. It’s got some ok elements that do try to elevate and show more talent than is usual in these things, but it needs to stop pretending to be grown up and learn how to relate information other than in long-form paragraph form. And write descriptions that are more evocative (while staying terse!) and look for opportunities for more interactivity. 

    This is $5 at DriveThru. There’s no preview. Put in a preview! And make it a good one that shows us a bit of the dungeon encounters and a bit of the wilderness ones (if there actually were any instead of a handwave …) a bit of social. Let us know what we are buying!

    As an aside. This takes place in a sleepy frontier town. Are there such things? Or are all frontier towns bustling affairs with people going out to homestead and seek their fortunes? And the guards don’t give a shit because it’s outside the border of the kingdom, the kingdom ending, evidently, right outside the gates. A) these people deserve what will inevitably happen to them. You keep problems from becoming End Of The World by taking care of them early. Besides, they threaten your tax base, even if they are outside your border, proper. A border that doesn’t exist since there’s no else who owns the land out there. So why didn’t the lord claim it anyway?

    Also, I’d totally have some tourist traps. “Come see the egge of the World!” and a Four Corners type monument. Tours, An official “kingdom border” line. Trinket shops. The whole nine yards. Why yes, I did just take a road trip last weekend in which I passed many roadside attractions, why do you ask?

    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    The Razor's Edge of the Wasteland - Cha'alt/Godbound Campaign Session Report

    Swords & Stitchery - Sat, 02/01/2020 - 06:37
    The player's party went through the wastes of California on their way trekking the two hundred & seventy seven miles to the Grand Canyon in my  Cha'alt/Godbound game. They dealt with a flock of  desert harpies! And it took them a good amount of time to deal with the flock while their hover skifts caravan side tracked. The party is on its way back to the city state of  Rex Harenae Needles
    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    Thunder Bunny!

    Sorcerer's Skull - Fri, 01/31/2020 - 12:00
    I new episode of the Bronze Age Book Club podcast dropped yesterday, this one about the Archie Red Circle comic Thunder Bunny #1! Hear it below or on your podcast app of choice.

    Listen to "Episode 13: THUNDER BUNNY #1" on Spreaker.

    Rumbles from B2 The Keep on The Borderlands By Gary Gygax - Cha'alt/Godbound Campaign Commentary

    Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 01/30/2020 - 17:57
    I've been going over my Cha'alt/Godbound notes & on the side reading through Gary Gygax's B2 Keep on the Borderlands module again. I've played through, been killed in, dungeon mastered, this module over & over again. I'm convinced that B2 Keep on the Borderlands is a military module in the sense that the PC's are called into a backwater village, area, & former battle ground between the Needles
    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

    Omniverse: Birds of A Feather

    Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 01/30/2020 - 12:00

    There is a lost city, hidden by the clouds, drifting slowly above the modern world, every bit as silent as the tomb it has become. This was the city of an ancient civilization of winged humanoids, the Bird People. It had existed for eons before the future king of Aquilonia, Conan, came to it some 12,000 years ago. It was called Akah Ma’at, and its people were at war with the bat-winged humanoids of Ur-Xanarrh, something Conan helped them with.

    The Hawkmen of Mongo may well be the descendants of an abducted group of Bird People. The cannibalistic hawkmen Travis Morgan encounters in Skartaris are certainly of the same lineage.

    It may be that Akah Ma’at meant “Sky Island” and eventually came to mean “Aerie,” because when they clouds recede again, and the city appears in the modern historical record, those are the names it is given in translation. In the 1920s, an airplane because lost in a storm and crashes into the Sky Island. A young boy was the only survivor. He was taken in by the Bird People and would be the costumed hero Red Raven1.

    It is possible that the hero Black Condor (Quality Comics) represents the same individual, since the Black Condor’s origin as related in the comics of being raised by condors in the Gobi seems implausible--and not just because condor's are native to the Americas. Perhaps the Bird People were in the habit of taking in foundlings?

    Red Raven eventually had to turn against his adoptive people when their warrior class, under the influence of the Bloodraven Cult of demon-worshippers, sought to make war on the surface world. The ensuing civil war destroyed part of the city and ended with population either fleeing or placing themselves in suspended animation. The city was left in the charge of two android Bi-Beasts who would later encounter the Hulk.

    There is some confusion regarding the origins of the Bird People. Accounts suggest that are an offshoot of the Inhumans, but this ignores the prior existence of Akah Ma’at. Rather, there is an Inhuman offshoot people with more avian features. These are the Feitherans, the people of the superhero Northwind, who lived in a hidden city in the Arctic Circle, and also probably the Aerians that live near the South Pole in the Savage Land.

    1Red Raven’s flight costume was made with Cavorite, which may or may not be the same thing as nth metal, but certainly as similar properties.

    Last Days of the Monthly Sale

    Two Hour Wargames - Thu, 01/30/2020 - 00:19
    Here's a list of printed books on sale this month. Only 2 days left. Check out our next batch of books for next month coming on the 1st.Follow the link and save big bucks! Supplies limited so don't wait.
    Red Sand Black Moon

    Piathoe's Peaks

    5150: Missions Infestation

    Warrior Heroes - Legends
    Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs


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