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Deal of the Day - GM's Miscellany: Wilderness Dressing (System Neutral Edition) - (Note - 90 minutes left at posting)

Tenkar's Tavern - Wed, 03/01/2017 - 14:20

Yep, I missed this yesterday and the sale price ends at 1059 Eastern Time this morning, so you have just over 90 minutes to score your copy of GM's Miscellany: Wilderness Dressing (System Neutral Edition) atthe sale price!

PDF - normally $13.99 on sale for $6.99

Print plus PDF - normally $29.98, on sale for $10.98

GM's Miscellany is an amazing series and Wilderness Dressing is excellent - Hint, I already own it ;)

A System Neutral GM's Resource by John Bennett, Creighton Broadhurst, Seamus Conneely, Brian Gregory, Eric Hindley, Brian Wiborg Monster, David Posener, Josh Vogt and Mike Welham

Tired of glossing over the details of your PCs’ overland journey (except for the inevitable, violent random encounters)? Want to add in minor features of interest to their journeys? Want to make their journeys seem more “real”? Then GM’s Miscellany: Wilderness Dressing is for you! A compilation of the Wilderness Dressing line, each instalment focuses on a different type of wilderness or a feature therein and gives the harried GM the tools to bring such features to life with interesting and cool noteworthy features.

GM’s Miscellany: Wilderness Dressing presents loads of great features and details to enliven your PCs’ travel both overland and by sea. Designed to be used both during preparation or actual play, GM’s Miscellany: Wilderness Dressing is an invaluable addition to any GM's armoury!

GM’s Miscellany: Wilderness Dressing presents the material originally appearing in:

Wilderness Dressing: Bandits
Wilderness Dressing: Castles
Wilderness Dressing: Deserts
Wilderness Dressing: Extreme Weather
Wilderness Dressing: Hills
Wilderness Dressing: Mountains
Wilderness Dressing: Plains
Wilderness Dressing: Primal Forests
Wilderness Dressing: Ruins
Wilderness Dressing: Sea Voyages
Wilderness Dressing: Snow and Ice
Wilderness Dressing: Swamps
Wilderness Dressing: Travellers
Wilderness Dressing: Woodlands

Remember, all purchases using The Tavern's OBS affiliate links puts 5% of your purchase price into The Tavern's coffers. Don't leave that money on the table for the greedy corps! Tip your barman!  ;)
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Sinister Tunnels of Greenfields

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 03/01/2017 - 12:17

By Laurent B
De Architecturart
Level 1-3

You will find with “The Sinister Tunnels of GREENFIELDS” a sorcerer, terrible rituals, forgotten dungeons …. and a little more than that.

This seventeen page “adventure” in a village is more of an adventure outline. Pretty maps abound, but it feels more like the outline for a short story then it does anything usable at the table. The keyed encounters are not actually keyed encounters, but merely mentioned in a long paragraph, while the NPCs and backgrounds get too much text. The hook and villain are, at least, more fresh than usual. I WANTED to run this adventure … but I don’t want to devote the mental effort to do so. I think this is French, translated to english.

There was a plague in a small village about fifteen years ago, followed by a famine since no one was there to work the fields. A merchant moved in and built a spinning mill, providing food & jobs ad place for the orphans in the village, and region, to work. I’m sure you can work out the major thrusts of the rest on your own. He’s evil, caused the plague, and has nefarious purposes. In this case he’s a (relatively) low-level evil wizard who is using the kids to remain young. (A classic! I love the classics!) He only hangs about for fifteen years and his self-imposed time limit in this village is almost up. Two of the three hooks are a bit fresh: you’re guard for a merchant going to visit him for normal spinning-wheel business. This is a decent pretext to put the party in the middle of the village while shit unfolds around them. The second is a lord who lost his entire family 30 years ago due to an epidemic identical to the one in this village, and hires the party to go look in to things. The idea of an ancient dying lord, hunting down with vengeance his family’s murders, but too old not to pursue it, is another trope I like because I think it appeals to players. The wizards low level nature, the classic theme of eternal youth, and his benefactor status in the village all VERY strongly appeal to me. These are things that a DM can work with pretty easily, I think.

In support of the DM there are some column-long descriptions of the village’s mayor (loyal to the villages benefactor), his loyal manservant, and an orphan-finder who roams the countryside seeking out new workers. All three are well done, but their descriptions go on much longer than they need to. A couple of sentences, or maybe a short paragraph is all that should be needed. More than this requires notes & highlighters.

You also get maps of the village (Harn-like … my favorite sort of village-area map) and three maps of underground areas/tunnels. The maps are beautiful, as one would expect from a French illustrator. Top notch (isometric?) cutaways of the areas showing a decent amount of detail. The maps are much more vertical than most, and have nice elevation elements present. There are multiple entrances, through various wells and so on. It is, essentially I think, a linear design with a couple of room hanging off of it. The vertical elements save it, and while it’s not an exploration dungeon-map it IS quite a bit better, quite a bit, than the usual plot-maps. Winches. Wooden platforms, ropes, tunnels in to the dark, ladders stairs, ruins, the maps do a great job of being evocative and providing the chaotic sort of environment that I think a good exploration map provides. Here’s a link to one of them:

There are some things going on to spice things up. He’s getting to ready to move. He’s about to/will sacrifice several children. That also creates ground tremors when he does it. There’s a monster under the water that appears when he sacrifices kids. There are goblins ready to invade the town. The mayor is a die-hard supporter. There is at least one visiting “merchant.” I’m not sure if any of this is faction-like, but it is enough going on to create the sort of chaos I like to see in an adventure … without it FEELING like it’s manufactured chaos (as it is in so many Dungeon Magazine adventures.)

Alas, I am now out of kind things to say. The adventure is only an outline. A seventeen page outline, but an outline nonetheless. No orphans presented (but for one “a mute girl”), no villagers presented but for the mayor. No encounter keys presented. WHAT?!?1 Yes, the entirety of the undergrounds 21 rooms are covered in about three paragraphs of free-text. Imagine if you will, at the end of a paragraph … “Several rooms dug around are used to store weapons and equipment to gear up a small troop of mercenaries and to accommodate it if necessary (16, 17, 20 and 21).” That is the extent of four room descriptions. All of the others are like that. Roughly in order, but skipping around abit, with text mixed freely.

Imagine you came upon a map and numbered it and minimally keyed it. “Storeroom”, “merc bedchambers” and so on. You also scrawled “kindly wizard disguised as merchant who actually sacrifices kids to stay young” along the top of the page. You would have this adventure. And you will again since you’re going to have to print out those map pages and take notes on it.

I’ve been accused of having a rather strict taxonomy on what an adventure is, and it’s because of product this like one. If you sent your husband out to the store to buy an adventure and he came home with this, for your game tonight, you’d probably sigh and pronounce it worthless. It’s not an adventure that one expects to get.

But I don’t think the product is bad if you accept that it’s not an adventure. If it were advertised as an adventure planner, or outline, or something like that then I think it’s an interesting product. As a reviewer you’re faced with a lot of the same and so products like this stand out. I can imagine something similar, for example, as a kind of outline for Scourge of the Demon Wolf. “Here’s the framework for an adventure. Go add the details.” Not an adventure. A framework that you need to work on to add to. Kind of a more expanded “Adventure Seeds” that clog up DriveThru/RPGNow. Something for which to inspire. In that vein, a few more villager details and intrigues, as well as orphans, would be called for, as least in outline.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Wednesday Comics: Storm: Pirates of Pandarve

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 03/01/2017 - 12:00
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 Pirates of Pandarve (1983) 
(Dutch: De Piraten van Pandarve) (part 5)
Art by Don Lawrence; script by Martin Lodewijk

Marduk explains to a shocked Ember that he really isn't interested in her; she's just bait for the Anomaly. Why is the Anomaly (Storm) so important? His travel through time has embued him with energies that Marduck thinks he can use to control "the powerlines of space and time."

When Storm comes for Ember, Marduk figures that power will be his. Ember tells him others have gone up against Storm before--and failed.

Meanwhile on the Pirate Planet:

All that ice is turned to Vertiga Bas's drinking water via monstrous worm things called griffs:

Storm is partnered with the red (literally) man Nomad and told they will work together until one of them dies.

Nomad shows Storm the ropes in the mines and the use of the equipment. Storm tells Nomad about Rann and his promise to return with money (though now Storm doesn't plan to wait that long). Nomad surmises that if a tariev hunter like Rann knows where to get that much money, it can only mean one thing:

Rann must know the location of the tariev graveyard. Another slave, eavesdropping seems interested in this information.

Storm and Nomad begin an escape attempt. Storm powers up their work lasers so they can actually hurt a guard and capture him. They force him to lead them to the central lift shafts. On the way, some other guards try to stop them, but Storm blasts a griff in the eye, and the creature's death throes kill them. Unfortinately, it also causes a rockfall!

After digging themselves out, Storm and Nomad ambush a maintenance crew heading in their direction. They overpower the guards, and recruit the slaves:


Using Classic TSR Era D&D B/X Adventures For An Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Campaign Path Plus Free OSR Adventure Resources

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 03/01/2017 - 04:58
So I've been thinking about running PC's through some basic adventures for Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea but I need some old school options to get the player's juices going. Fortunately I've got several real world friends who have run several player groups through classic TSR era adventures and modules. I've been talking with some folks in the real world about Astonishing Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Grimslingers: The Northern Territory on March 9th

Gamer Goggles - Wed, 03/01/2017 - 03:55

Grimslingers: The Northern Territory on March 9th, so mark your calendars!


Simplified and Revised Rulebook

We’ve listened to all the feedback from our amazing players, and have worked hard to improve and clarify, so you can jump right in to slingin’ spells.

New “Child of Light” Campaign

The story picks up where the Valley of Death campaign left off, as players are sent to the Northern Territory to investigate recent rumors of a mysterious “child of light.”

Explore five new areas

Players will adventure throughout the Forgotten West using a new system of procedurally generated maps and dungeons.

All new 56 card “Fate” deck!

A unique deck of playing cards, featuring illustrations and designs from Noah Whippie’s Bone and Ebon card deck ( and re-stylized by Stephen Gibson. Doubles as a fully functional (and beautiful) poker deck!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Bundle of Holding - Designers. Dragons & More

Tenkar's Tavern - Tue, 02/28/2017 - 20:03

Yep, this is for the gaming historian in you - Designers, Dragons & More.

Designers & Dragons is probably the best history of RPGs that you can find, and this is coming from a guy who has his BA in History. I'm a history buff, but this is enjoyable reading even if you aren't.

8 bucks gets your the first volume of four of Designers & Dragons: The 70's. Its an amazing read. Can't personally speak for the other two offerings at the 8 buck level, but I'll be checking it out.

For about $18.50 you get the next three volumes of Designers & Dragons as well as Hobby Games: The 100 Best. Again, can't speak about the Hobby Games title, but the next three volumes of Designers & Dragons are an excellent read.

Really, you can't go wrong.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Be Kind, Please Rewind

Ultanya - Tue, 02/28/2017 - 17:52
Don’t worry as I’m not referring to the Blockbuster VHS tape motto from yesterday. Rather to think back to when some of us started playing Dungeons & Dragons, so long ago. You know, those early years when the game was new, and we were still learning as we played? With that foundation in mind I wanted to talk about something that really irked me this past weekend. At first I wasn’t going to follow-up on the event, but it just keeps gnawing at me. What could it be? How about a very young DM being pushed around by some older players.

For background my 10-year-old son and I decided to visit all the local game stores, and do some shopping together. Now an avid gamer, it’s great quality time together with my son, who admittedly is still wide-eyed when it comes to role-playing games. One of our stops landed us in a store which had several Adventurers League games going in the back room. While browsing the miniature racks, I could not help but overhear the session being played right next to me.

The table was being run by what appeared to be a very young tween (maybe 12-13). The players were in their 40s based on appearance alone. Our young DM is describing what a temple room looks like, to which one of the players obnoxiously makes a sexual reference. The latter is never appropriate in a public game, but that is the subject of another post. Soon thereafter a combat ensues in which the real problems started.

As soon as initiative was rolled, the older players at the table took every opportunity to quote rules and mechanics nuances. It was not done in a helpful way at all, but rather a chiding manner, which quite honestly, I found offensive. Exasperated and literally ganged up on, our young DM caved and went with the crowd at every turn. At one point my son looked to me quizzically and said, “why don’t they just let him DM?” It was that question that hit the nail right on the head in terms of this event unfolding before our eyes.

I could empathize with this young DM, since my time behind the screen started when I was ten years old. Very quickly my player circle exploded, many of which were seniors in high school. Some of those early sessions were rough with the older kids trying to exert control. That said, I learned to establish rule zero if I was going to maintain any semblance of order at the table.

When DMing in a public venue it’s even harder since you never know what sort of personalities may show up to play. A DM already needs thick skin, and the ability to deal with many different idiosyncrasies. Now add to that being potentially decades younger than the players at your table. Why is this important? Because it’s going to start to become more common place around gaming venues everywhere. There is a whole new generation of players growing up in a time where role-playing games enjoy a popularity never seen in the past.

But as always there is a shortage of game masters, regardless of the system. Putting yourself out there, in the public to run a game session, takes a tremendous amount of courage. Some people are just naturals, and others take the role out of necessity. Some players, myself included, prefer to make a world rather than just one single character. Whatever the reason may be, there is a whole cadre of new Dungeon Masters coming up through the ranks now. The older generation of players and DMs alike need to be supportive, and help grow the hobby. Admonishing a young DM for not being a rules encyclopedia, and embarrassing them publicly helps no one.

DMing is arguably a thankless job sometimes. You are the director, production crew, all the supporting characters, and ultimately the organizer. Ironically over the years I have found the players most critical of a DM have spent little to no time behind the screen themselves. It always reminds me of my children’s sporting events. The parents which are barking and being the most obnoxious are usually the ones that never played a sport themselves.

If a young DM has their enthusiasm lessoned by bad public experiences, chances are they will eventually hang up their hat. Or alternatively, they will switch to only home games with friends and family. Either way this is not good for the hobby, and older players need to be mentors when afforded the opportunity. Sure, all the memes like “I have dice older then you kid” are funny, but where does that ultimately get us? I think sharing the love of this awesome hobby, and helping to bring new players and DMs up through the ranks is much more important.

Before leaving the store that day I found that young DM outside opening a tube of dice he had just purchased. I spent a few moments offering some advice and directed him to my blog. But most importantly, I thanked him for being a Dungeon Master, and encouraged him to keep forging ahead. He was very receptive, and seemed genuinely uplifted by our short talk.  Who knows, he could be the next great fantasy writer, a game designer, or perhaps a DIY publisher someday. Or maybe he will just continue being a DM, because another gamer took the time just to say thank you.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Cosmic Hi Jinks - Commentary On Nexus's The Infinite City rpg & First Comics Series Warp With Even More OSR Overtones

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 02/28/2017 - 17:28
  My working/playing  copy of Nexus The Infinite City so used with the cover worn off. So I spent the last couple of days in the presence of the royal family of Cynosure, yeah that's right we're in for more Nexus The Infinite City & First Comics commentary. So the Wikipedia entry on the pan dimensional city of Cynosure reads;" Cynosure is a fictional pan-dimensional city that exists within Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Kickstarter - Fosc Anansi - RPG Adventure Module - 1E & 5E

Tenkar's Tavern - Tue, 02/28/2017 - 12:20

Fail Squad Games / +Lloyd Metcalf is back with another project. This time it is Fosc Anansi, an adventure that will be published with 1e & 5e stats in the same booklet.

So, what exactly is Fosc Anansi?
Help us bring the next Fail Squad Games adventure module to print! This is a REVISED edition of the copy produced for RPG Crate in January 2017. It will be published including: 1E/OSRIC AND 5E rule sets in the same book
52 Pages
Unique monsters and challenges
1E and 5E character sheets
Gnomes? The writing, illustration, layout and editing is FINISHED! We just need your support to take this project to print.If you haven't checked out Lloyd's work yet, you really should. Top notch art and excellent ideas and execution. He's hit the mark with every project too - on time or early.

Softcover is $15, hardcover is $20. Signed and numbered hardcover is $35 - just a few left.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Tak: A Beautiful Game Now Available

Gamer Goggles - Tue, 02/28/2017 - 04:10
Tak: A Beautiful Game Now Available

Combined forces of James Ernest and Patrick Rothfuss  bring Tak to life


Seattle, WA—February 22, 2016. Tak: A Beautiful Game is now available in friendly local game stores worldwide and online via  The Tinker’s Packs, an online store benefitting Worldbuilders.

Described by Patrick Rothfuss as “a beautiful game” in his bestselling novel The Wise Man’s Fear (Book Two of the Kingkiller Chronicle), Tak has been made reality be renowned game designer James Ernest. An elegant two-player abstract strategy masterpiece, Tak feels like an old classic reminiscent of mancala or Go.

Thanks to a legion of Kingkiller Chronicle and Tak fans, players can try Tak for free at fan-made site They can also explore organized play opportunities via the US Tak Association (USTA). The USTA’s goal is to share and promote the game of Tak and support fair and competitive play by establishing a comprehensive set of rules and standards that can be used for tournaments and other events.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Gareth Sharka - Still Stirring Shit on Twitter 5 Years and Going Strong - Far West

Tenkar's Tavern - Tue, 02/28/2017 - 03:49
Hey Gareth! Fuck you!

Sorry for making it personal for my readers, but telling folks that haven't asked for refunds that they can't bitch and complain pisses me off. Why?

Five months ago Gareth told us there would be no refunds until release. So, why ask for something that isn't going to happen.

Or did Gareth misspeak. No, he's not a lawyer, so it must be something else.

Are there refunds? Are there not refunds? Are those that are partially refunded still allowed to complain?

Keep your lies and stories straight. It helps in the long run when your are fucking backers over. All you are doing is trolling yourself.

I'm eagerly awaiting this supposed announcement later this week:


Can't comment, can only view. Echo Chamber in full effect. Feel free to comment here Gareth. We don't block, edit or delete comments or views we disagree with. Explain your position. Make sense of the disconnect between your statements. Salvage what little you have left of your rep.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs


Gamer Goggles - Tue, 02/28/2017 - 03:45

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA (February 23, 2017) – Syrinscape, creator of the award-winning apps that bring tabletop games to life with movie-like sound, announces today the release of two new SoundSets for the Mutants and Masterminds Roleplaying Game, taking gamers from the tropical and monstrous Kaiju Island to the underworld of Sub-Terra with custom-made sounds on the Syrinscape Sci-Fi Player app.

Kaiju Island SoundSet: The Island is alive with the sounds of tribal drums, flutes, rainfall and biting insects and the air is thick with humidity. Gamers will hear a distant presence and have the constant feeling of being watched until an epic hit and the roars of dinosaurs, giant apes and insectoids let them know, they have been brought to Kaiju Island with Syrinscape’s Kaiju Island SoundSet.

Kaiju Island SoundSet demo video –

Sub-Terra SoundSet: Fantastically atmospheric, tension building and immersive, the Sub-Terra SoundPack immerses players in Mutants & Masterminds’ realm of darkness, Morlocks and Serpent People. The SoundSet includes sounds for a long, unsteady climb down into the darkness, deep flooded passageways, disturbing skitterings in the dark, the thrum of Mole Machinery and more.

Sub-Terra SoundSet demo video –

“Kaiju Island and Sub-Terra are memorable regions of the world of Earth-Prime,” says Chris Pramas, Green Ronin Publishing. “Close your eyes while listening to these SoundSets and you’ll think you’re there!”

The Mutants & Masterminds SoundSets join the ever-growing Syrinscape Sci-Fi library of fantastic sounds for any sci-fi tabletop adventure and are available from Syrinscape ($3.99/ea), or as part of the Syrinscape Sci-Fi ongoing subscription for $6.50/month.

The award-winning Syrinscape apps bring fantastic, realistic sound to tabletop gaming and are compatible with nearly any mobile device or computer. Syrinscape’s Fantasy Player, Sci-Fi Player and Board Game Player apps are free to download and the official sounds of Pathfinder, Mutants & Masterminds, Catan and hundreds of other sound creations for nearly any tabletop game are available for sale individually or as part of the Supersyrin Subscription for $10/month.

Syrinscape can also be completely unlocked for free for 30 days at and includes two free SoundSets to keep after the trial.

About Mutants & Masterminds
Since 2002, Mutants & Masterminds has earned its title as the World’s Greatest Superhero RPG, inspiring countless game sessions and winning many awards for excellence. Its detailed character creation system lets you create the hero you want to play, choosing from a wide range of skills, advantages, and powers. The streamlined system of game play requires only a single die roll and features easy to use rules. Now in its Third Edition, Mutants & Masterminds is supported by a robust line of sourcebooks, including Emerald City and The Cosmic Handbook, and provides for the rules engine for Green Ronin’s companion game, DC Adventures.

About Green Ronin Publishing
Green Ronin Publishing is a Seattle based company dedicated to the art of great games. Since the year 2000 Green Ronin has established a reputation for quality and innovation that is second to none, publishing such roleplaying game hits as Fantasy AGE, Dragon Age, and A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying, and winning over 40 awards for excellence. For an unprecedented three years running Green Ronin won the prestigious GenCon & EnWorld Award for Best Publisher. Last year it worked with Wil Wheaton to create the Geek & Sundry web series Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkana.

About Syrinscape
Using a powerful audio engine and complex algorithms to produce ever-changing soundscapes and rich encounter-specific music, Syrinscape conjures every aural landscape imaginable, from ethereal forests and stony shorelines, to dank, vermin-filled dungeons, to the spooky depths of the underdark. Designed by accomplished composer and tabletop gamer Benjamin Loomes, along with the developers at the Interaction Consortium, Syrinscape builds on more than 8 years of prototyping and community feedback. Syrinscape is based in Australia. Syrinscape is available for a wide range of devices, including PCs, Macs, Android Tablets and phones, iPhones and iPads, and the players can be downloaded via syrinscape for free.
* * *

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Running A Sword & Sorcery Mystery Campaign As A Viable Old School Setting Option

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 02/28/2017 - 02:21
The legends speak of another world of the past, a world where adventure was just around the corner. That world was a long time ago! Things have changed much, the legends & myths foretold by our ancestors came to pass. Now things are very dangerous for there are monsters that come from the Shadowdeep and worse now! Welcome to Mystara Reborn! So this little request appeared on G+ today Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Box Breaking 203 Colditz from Osprey Games

Gamer Goggles - Mon, 02/27/2017 - 23:37

In this Box Breaking Matt Takes a look at Colditz from Osprey.  The game that depicts real life event of Major Reid while imprisoned in Germany.  If you are a history buff this game is for you.

Click here to view the video on YouTube.

This is coming to you far later than I wanted it too, because I had several technical difficulties that for whatever reason prevented about twenty scheduled posts from scheduling.  Anyway they will be coming to you soon.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

[BLOG] The Overly Thematic Dungeon

Beyond Fomalhaut - Mon, 02/27/2017 - 21:13
The common wisdom surrounding designing dungeon encounters has changed much over the years, yet the question of what makes for a good one, or what makes for a good room mixture has never been satisfyingly settled.
The original approach, developed at the dawn of gaming (and seen in such tattered artifacts as the El Raja Key Archives or First Fantasy Campaign), stressed the game aspect with a very brief key and very sparsely “seeded” dungeon levels. You would spend a lot of your expedition time looking for the carefully hidden lairs and those memorable “special” encounters, and – from our perspective – some of these games might now be described as first-person crossword puzzles.
This philosophy had a relaxed attitude about what goes into the dungeon: anything that’s fun and challenging, and damn those pesky questions about why and how. That’s how Citadel of Fire has an underground tavern on one of its upper level dungeons, how Castle Amber has an indoor forest, how Tower Chaos has an earth elemental named “Stoney” guarding the china room just off the kitchen, and how White Plume Mountain has... well, those canoes are a good start. You can rationalise it, but reason is an afterthought – what matters is the spirit of fantastic whimsy. At best, these adventures are great precisely because they take liberties with realism, and do it well. Without a vivid imagination and the skill to turn imagination into mini-games, the results just feel flat and randomly thrown together (this problem haunts much of the early tournament scene, including, in my heretical opinion, a significant portion of The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth). The best examples of this approach were always the modules which had a sense of cohesion abound them – vague, hard to explain, but there in the background.
Then there is the fantastic realism school, first expressed in a comprehensive manner by an ancient Dragon article whose exact references I cannot be arsed to look up. You know the one. It shows a dungeon room in two states: the original way it looked, and the dilapidated, looted and repurposed state the party will find it during their expedition. Certainly, this approach provides a sense of realism, of “being there”, and it is actually more intuitive than stocking your dungeons with random shit. If your dungeon was a temple, you stocked it with religion-related encounters, and if it was a crypt, you sure didn’t put an underground tavern in it (and underground taverns just kinda vanished from the gaming scene). This approach often provided a complete blueprint for your dungeon: if you put in a sacristy, you might as well put in a crypt and a refectory, and how about a bell tower and some stables? It is no accident that this approach, lauded across the game design community, ended up the dominant one for decades, mostly displacing its predecessor. (It was, in turn, succeeded by the modern “return to the dungeon” model, a selective (mis?)reading of gaming history, which suggested that the good old days were all about “killing things and taking their stuff”, while silently dumping the heavy focus on exploration the actual old games had.)
There are many advantages to semi-realistic encounter design, but it can also go wrong in ways its proponents never considered. From my perspective, the most important of these is the taming of our sense of wonder, either by considering the fantastic impossible and an interest therein juvenile – a notion which had been particularly popular in Hungary, and as I hear, Germany – or by requiring the rationalisation of the irrational. This has a corrosive effect on any kind of fantasy game, but it is particularly damaging to D&D. Once you accept that fantastic things are dumb and beneath a serious person's interest, you remove much of what makes D&D worth playing. A “cabinet contents” dungeon of endless barracks with bits of string and mouldy old boots stuck in a succession of footlockers, or the “this used to be a scriptorium, where scribes scribed their scripts” school of pseudo-historical flimflam is often a recipe for a dissatisfying dungeon where nothing interesting happens. It subordinates fantasy to reality, when it should have done the exact opposite. In the end, one gets the idea that these dungeons are not worth playing. “Told you so” say the people who never liked D&D in the first place.
Skulls. Why did it have to be skulls?Rediscovering the fantastic side of RPGs is an important achievement of old-school gaming. And there is no reason why we can’t learn from multiple design philosophies and take the best they have to offer. My go-to compromise has been to go for thematic appropriateness, an approach found particularly often in Bob Bledsaw’s writings. Thematic appropriateness links its encounters to an overall theme (be it a crypt, desert oasis or teeming fantasy metropolis), but operates on the basis of loose associations instead of solid, step-by-step logic. 
When you say “port”, it says “old panhandler sells musical sea shells with secret messages, 1:6 of ear seeker”. When you say “jail”, it says “Bluto and Balfour, two ogres (Hp 17, 23) administer regular beatings and serve inmates Seaweed Slop; prisoners are Refren, musical pirate, Harko Fum, beggar of the 4th circle, Mythor Flax, last bearer of Princess Yarsilda’s shameful secret”. There are obvious connections here to a basic theme, but also large jumps of logic – somehow, we got from that port to an ear seeker and from a jail to a princess and her secret, although it does not immediately and necessarily follow from the starting point. You have to believe in your ability to jump to make it – you have to let go a little. This is how dreams connect things in our mind and how the better kind of random tables can prod our imagination: by coming up with odd juxtapositions and fantastic things that nevertheless feel real as long as we don’t open our eyes too wide.
This was the conclusion I adopted a bit more than ten years ago. And yet, despite having been well served by the approach in multiple different campaigns, I am finding that it should have come with an important warning: use your themes, but don’t let yourself get bound by them. Most recently, I have experienced this the hard way while experiencing a creative block coming up with encounters for Castle Xyntillan. As straightforward as designing about three quarters of the castle proved, the remaining quarter (and the dungeon level) has proved a tough nut to crack. I found myself in that state where I am too analytical, too much of a cynic to have good flow – I could probably continue through via sheer willpower, but the result would inevitably disappoint myself. What went wrong? A simple creative block would have been a convenient excuse, but after a little self-examination, I came to the conclusion that I let a coherent vision of Xyntillan overpower my idea of it as a loosey-goosey funhouse dungeon with improbable things. The existing structures and ideas of Xyntillan were closing off the range of ideas I entertained at the beginning. My thought process became path-dependent, predictable. All in all, I needed a break – not just for refreshment, but to forget and let myself wander again in directions I am not expected to go. Xyntillan needed to be less thematic to retain its theme.

Which again proves: there is a point where theory ends and fuzzier realms of the imagination begin; and in those worlds, we must often walk alone.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Commentary On The Trinity of Awesome Returns Kickstarter From Kort'thalis Publishing For Your Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 02/27/2017 - 16:38
Alright I've known Venger Satanis from the dark days of Alt Cthulhu rpg whatever I've known him to be passionate about his table top gaming. He's one of those writers/designers whose work I've come just put on automatic pilot so it goes to the top of the pile so to speak to run. But +Venger Satanis  rpg products are not old school necessarily & adult oriented. Yeah, your completely right on Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

In Sight

Two Hour Wargames - Mon, 02/27/2017 - 16:14

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Batman: The Animated Series Almost Got ’Im Card Game Released by Cryptozoic and Warner Bros. Consumer Products

Cryptozoic - Mon, 02/27/2017 - 14:00

The 5-8 player social deduction game is based on the classic “Almost Got ’Im” episode of Batman: The Animated Series in which Gotham City’s most infamous rogues play poker and tell stories about almost defeating Batman, not knowing one of them is actually Batman in disguise. Players take on the roles of various DC Super-Villains of the Caped Crusader, one of whom is secretly Batman.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Mines of Wexham

Ten Foot Pole - Mon, 02/27/2017 - 12:20

By Gerald D. Seypura PhD
Southerwood Publishing
Champions of ZED
Low Levels

This thing goes by Mines of Wexham and also by Mines of Wexcham. The adventure says Wexcham while most of the marketing/references not in the adventure refer to it as Wexham. I believe the designer has passed away since publishing, and I think I tend to grade on a curve when details like that pop up. Be Warned.

This is a nineteen page adventure in some old caves/mines with small wilderness portion. It has some of the charm and all of the problems that one would expect from an pre-1975 adventure. Minimal keyed in places, weird formatting & layout that do NOT contribute to usability, and, in places, the idiosyncratic encounters of imagination before rules. I’m not sure what the history of this is; it looks like a kickstarter add-on, but I THINK it’s a new adventure, not a find from pre-75.

You get a map that shows the supposed location of a legendary lost mine from an ancient empire. It’s three days by foot or a day and half by ship. EITHER you’re playing the pre-gens provided OR they are a rival NPC party (or, more specifically, YOU’RE the rival party to them!) Anyway, off to the mines you go. The mines are presented on three maps: the ground level, an old troll cave, and the underground mine map proper. The maps are basic but well done, by which I mean they provide the complexity required to run an exploration adventure. Loops, with all three maps connecting, and multiple entrances/exits from the maps lead to an element of mystery, with about 34 locations total across the three maps.

The encounters fall in to three types. First you have the traditional minimal keys. “6 giants rats” with stats, is the total of the encounter description. Two trolls. Four spiders. You get the idea. The second type is that of the “old room.” The old room has something old in it. Duh. Some old bones. Some bits of leather. And then when you touch something it disintegrates due to age. These almost always have some sort of clue or minor treasure associated with it. Finally, there are the Type III demons. These are the core rooms with something nontrivial in them. There’s really only one or two of these, and the clues and several minor treasures relate to it. There are ghostly soldiers in the mine (but … not actually undead that can be turned …) They attack those not associated with their old empire. You can find some objects, like armor with insignia, that let you pretend to be old empire soldiers also. Eventually you find a banner which will allow you to command them. The clear presumption is that you will use them to attack … the room with seventy orc warriors in it … Yeah. The last couple of rooms have masses of orcs in them.

The wilderness adventure is laid out on a day by day basis. One day one roll for wandering monsters twice. On day two rolls to hear a howl in the distance. On day three … and so on. If you instead choose to go by ship something similar ensues, except the DM gets to roll every other TURN for monsters … and if you roll a 6 you see a pack of sharks in the water … This is all mixed in with what I presume to be read-aloud, not set apart from the text, and the phrase “How do you wish to proceed.” It all a colossal mess. You can decipher it, but it’s VERY stream of consciousness. The “Wish to proceed”, being used as a section break, tapers off through the adventure, disappearing halfway through the mine room descriptions. To be fair, the nonsense settles down by the time you reach the mapped/keyed encounters with only the introductory pages and wilderness adventure being victim to the issues.

There’s a certain nostalgic charm to this adventure, that kind that comes from the early days. A clumsiness of format/layout combined with the sorts of minimal keying with the sort of embedded-adventure that one would find in B2/Borderlands. The kind that fights you all the way. A good DM can take this and run the hell out of it. But then again a good DM can do that with anything. It’s hard to suggest this, even to the nostalgic crowd. Other older products, like Dungeon of the Bear, conjure much of the same vibe.

It’s on DriveThru.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Far West - You Want to Know What's Going On? Don't Expect an Update - Email Gareth - Seriously

Tenkar's Tavern - Mon, 02/27/2017 - 03:54

So, Gareth, the man who has a project that is over five years late (and has punted the completion date so many times we are now sitting on the 63 excuses / release dates / fairy tales), so late there is a website delegated to it being late, is telling his backers to "email me directly" for news on the project.

Dude! WTF?

Kickstarter updates are supposed to appear on Kickstarter. Not on your Twitter account. Not when some pissed off fool has to track down your email to ask you "can I have my refund now? please!"

But hey, backers are not customers - not that customers are treated any better - Buckaroo Banzai Pre-orders anyone?

Gareth certainly knows the way to turn a successful small press company into an unsuccessful small press company and pissing on your customers - past, present and future, is certainly the way to do it. At least I will say this about Gareth - he is consistent in ignoring his own failure. You almost need to admire that.

Far West. Far Far West. In a galaxy, far far west away...

edit - so some of us can smile in the midst of Gareth's "storytelling"...

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs


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