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Torchbearer RPG - Thu, 03/07/2019 - 14:00
Hjalmar’s farewell to Örvar-Oddr after the Battle of Samsø (1866), by Mårten Eskil Winge

Hello friends!

I’m still recovering from the Bridge of the Damned Kickstarter, so we’re going to keep this week’s post short and sweet.

I know some of you have been wondering how to make higher-level starting characters in Torchbearer. This is for you.

This is playtest material. We’ve made lots of characters up to third level and been pretty satisfied with them, but we haven’t tried heroes of even higher level in play. If you use these rules and bring the characters to the table, let me know how they play!

Creating a Higher-Level Character
  1. Create a first-level character
  2. Spend advancement tests (pass or fail) as per the table to the right:
  3. Choose level benefits
    1. Magicians and rangers gain one new spell of the appropriate level per spell slot
  4. Reduce Nature to buy the following effects. Each costs 1 Nature:
    1. Increase an ability or skill by 1
    2. Buy a new Wise
    3. Buy a new Trait
    4. Increase a Trait by 1
    5. Buy a new known spell

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

More Omniverse

Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 03/07/2019 - 12:00
source
Two new (old) Omniverse posts from Google+ were released today. Give her movie opening this weekend, Captain Marvel (or Ms. Marvel) gets her due in "This Woman, This Warrior," and just out of February, I examine the birthdays of both Superman and the original Captain Marvel in "Leap Day."

HP Lovecraft's Dreamlands Cycle , Dark Albion, Astonishing Swordmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, Original Dungeons & Dragons, & Campaign Session Catch Up

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 03/07/2019 - 04:45
"THREE times Randolph Carter dreamed of the marvelous city, and three times was he snatched away while still he paused on the high terrace above it. All golden and lovely it blazed in the sunset, with walls, temples, colonnades and arched bridges of veined marble, silver-basined fountains of prismatic spray in broad squares and perfumed gardens, and wide streets marching between delicate Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Stalwart Age #1 Now Available

The Splintered Realm - Thu, 03/07/2019 - 00:01

It took only a year, but the first official release for the Sentinels of Echo City RPG (Deluxe Edition) is now available.

The Stalwart Age has its roots in many places. Its heart is in 1980s comics and pop culture serials of the early 20th century. It’s got DNA from Flash Gordon and Buck Rodgers. It’s got a touch of Basic D+D, the Marvel Phile from Dragon Magazine, and a smattering of Star Wars. It’s a hybrid of my childhood. This first issue is larger than future issues will be: I needed some room to set up the central story.

Each issue will have an introductory piece (like this one), a short story set in the Stalwart Age featuring the iconic Doc Stalwart and his infamous rogue’s gallery, and some new material for the Sentinels of Echo City Deluxe Edition RPG, providing game stats and rules expansions that tie to the story for that month. And yes, I plan for this to be a monthly release. I love writing about Doc and his world, and I am having a lot of fun fleshing out the history of the world that is outlined on the SoEC (Deluxe Edition) core rules.

Cryptozoic Will Offer Exclusive Collectibles, Trading Cards, and Games at Emerald City Comic Con 2019

Cryptozoic - Wed, 03/06/2019 - 14:00

Cryptozoic Entertainment today announced that it will sell products in all categories and offer several exclusives at Emerald City Comic Con, March 14-17 at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle. At Booth #1233, Cryptozoic will feature Treasure Kraken, an ECCC-exclusive variant of a vinyl figure from the popular CryptkinsTM line. In addition, it will sell Classic Mera, a Cryptozoic-exclusive limited variant of the DC Bombshells: Series 3 figure. Cryptozoic will also offer Outlander Trading Cards: Convention-Exclusive Graded Cards and ECC-exclusive Rick and Morty Trading Cards Season 2: Metallic Cards

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Wednesday Comics: Things I Read Recently

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 03/06/2019 - 12:00
Classic Star Wars
From 1981-84, the Star Wars newspaper comic strip was written by Archie Goodwin and drawn by Al Williamson. I am a big fan of Williamson particularly with sci-fi, and these stories, while hardly standouts, are serviceable, and will make you nostalgic for the days before Star Wars became a genre unto itself with an immense backstory.

Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt #1
You know, of course, that Alan Moore had at one point pitched the idea of that would become Watchmen using the characters DC had acquire from Charlton Comics. One of those was Peter Cannon aka Thunderbolt, who was the initial inspiration for Ozymandias. Morrison used the Charlton characters in a way that referenced Watchmen in Multiversity, by DC had lost the rights to Peter Cannon by that time.  Enter Dynamite and Kieron Gillen, who (mild spoilers) pits one version of Peter Cannon against another, with the fate of the world at stake.

Martian Manhunter #3
I keep telling you this is good.

Blue Eagle Class Armed Transport For Your Old School Space Opera

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 03/05/2019 - 20:57
Blue Eagle Armed Transport Star Ship  Blue Eagle Class Pirate Transport  Number Appearing :1-3  Hull Type : FR (19 structure points, Piloting skill -9%)  Armor: Reactive (46)  Reactor: Expanded Drive Class: A Maneuvering  thrusters: none Jump Drive: Yes  Sensors: military  Jamming systems: -30%  Armaments:3 heavy recoilless  cannons in automated units  Ammo: Enough to Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Updating Gigerland An Encounter For 'High Tech Mysticism & High Caliber Adventure' As Well As Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 03/05/2019 - 17:59
The original work is found Here Among the very undercurrent of the dreamstream is a place where no sane person ventures. A little piece of the human unconsciousness that rolls under a forbidden moon & has never seen the light of a proper sun. The winds howl like banshees & the periods of light & darkness are followed by the horrors of now. The very landscape rolls & changes according toNeedleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Bring the Thrill of Finding Treasure Back to the Adventurers League

DM David - Tue, 03/05/2019 - 12:15

Dungeons & Dragons started as a game about treasure hunting. The rules awarded as much of 80% of total experience points for finding gold, so no one missed the point. Co-creator Gary Gygax knew a thirst for gold resonated with players. “If you, the real you, were an adventurer, what would motivate you more than the lure of riches?” (See The Fun and Realism of Unrealistically Awarding Experience Points for Gold.)

D&D no longer awards experience points for gold, but for all the game’s storytelling and heroics, treasure hunting remains the game’s core motivation.

Treasure drives characters to take risks. Safe characters leave the sarcophagus alone and the chest unopened. Safe choices make D&D boring. A treasure hunter risks undead and traps for a chance at riches, which makes the game fun. But players who take risks for no chance of gold feel like chumps, and feeling like a chump isn’t fun.

In D&D, parties of characters join together in a group venture. Players can come up with endless characters, but for the game to work, they must invent characters able to cooperate to reach a shared goal. That’s the magic of treasure hunting. Whether characters aim to feed the orphans or to swim in coins like Scrooge McDuck, they can all quest for gold. (See A Role-Playing Game Player’s Obligation.)

Treasure hunting resonates. When our characters strike it rich, we all feel a vicarious thrill.

In a global campaign like the D&D Adventurers League, treasure becomes a vital, universal aim. In a home game, the players can agree to create characters who only dream of defending the trees. But in a game where players join strangers in an undertaking set by whatever adventure the dungeon master prepared, treasure hunting gives everyone a goal we can share.

For the D&D Adventurers League’s eighth season, the campaign’s new rules stop characters from keeping the gold and magic they find in an adventure. Instead, for each hour of play, characters gain a treasure point spendable on magic items. When characters level, they get an allowance of gold. (See My Dungeons & Dragons Adventurers League Quick Reference Sheet for a compact introduction to the new rules.) When I counted four ways the new rules reshape the campaign, I felt optimistic about the changes. I knew the bar on keeping treasure defied D&D’s original nature, but perhaps the game had outgrown base motivations. Players could still roleplay a hunger for gold. Now, after seeing the rules for six months of play, I’m ready to rate the revised campaign.

The new rules reached their goals of opening adventures to more styles of play and reducing the exploits players used to claim the best magic items. (See The Adventurers League Campaign Rules Offered a Game. How Gamers Played to Win..) However, one change in particular hurt the league.

Preventing characters from keeping the gold they find damages D&D’s foundation.

Ironically, the new rules arrived with two hardcover adventures that showcase D&D’s classic aim of treasure hunting. In Waterdeep: Dragon Heist, the characters race to claim a hoard of 500,000 gp—except league characters can’t keep any of it. In Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage, characters risk the perils of a massive dungeon for riches, which league characters can’t keep. The safe play sees characters working to monetize Trollskull Manor. Why brave dungeons when you can reach franchise agreements? “Our group isn’t so much an adventuring party as an adventuring sub-committee.”

Because my players left home to play D&D, their characters ventured into Undermountain. But they kept asking why, and a little enthusiasm died. Players who take risks for no chance of gold feel like chumps, and feeling like a chump isn’t fun.

Season eight’s gold allowances brought one positive change: Characters gain far less gold than they used to. For the league’s first seven seasons, players gained tons of gold, but found nowhere to spend it—except on healing potions. Before season 8, characters had access to effectively unlimited healing potions. (See D&D’s Designers Can’t Decide Whether Characters Must Rest for Hit Points and Healing, but You Can Choose.) Also before season 8, the cost of magic such as Heroes Feast and Simulacrum hardly dented the wealth of characters able to cast the spells. If a tier 3 party brought a cleric, they routinely ignored fear and poison and laughed at yuan-ti and green dragons. If they brought a level-13 wizard, they gained a spare and the pair won D&D for everyone. Before, gold served as a motivation that players roleplayed. Now, gold becomes a motivation they value for spells, healing, and armor. The smaller gold supply forces players into spending choices, and choices make games fun.

A simple fix could solve the trouble. Make gold a reward that characters keep, and then write adventures that award less gold. The league could gain the benefits of limited wealth, without ripping the treasure hunting from the heart of D&D.

Of course, such a change leaves years of league and hardcover adventures that award way too much gold.

Prolific league DM Tom Christy created a set of Adventurers League Recommendations that offers a solution: Limit the gold awards to a set amount per advancement checkpoint earned. Alternately, the league’s content catalog could list updated treasure amounts for each hoard awarded in an adventure. The league administrators could avoid this job by giving volunteers a budget based on each adventure’s expected play time, and letting them crunch the numbers. The hardcovers lack play times, but the league boasts many members who recorded the times they spend playing each chapter in character logs. Surely someone could collect the data.

As much as players seem to dislike the level-based gold allowances, they favor using treasure checkpoints to buy unlocked magic items. To players, finding and unlocking a useful magic item feels rewarding, especially now that another player can’t snatch the item away for “trade bait.” Plus, the system frees adventure designers from having to stock most scenarios with bland items like +1 weapons just so every character can find usable items.

Still, the treasure-point system would benefit from a couple of tweaks:

  • Unlock superior items in adventures, while limiting the evergreen and seasonal unlock items to broadly-useful but less extraordinary items. At Winter Fantasy, players joked about all the adventures that unlocked drift globes and rings of warmth—great for cozy nights scribing franchise agreements. Some epic adventures failed to unlock anything at all. Remember when epics promised special rewards? Meanwhile, even for level-appropriate characters who play safe, the season unlocks some of the game’s most powerful items. Who cares what an adventure brings when anyone can claim a cloak of invisibility or staff of the magi?

  • When characters unlock magic items during the course of an adventure, let them borrow treasure points to claim the item immediately. No one enjoys waiting to play with new toys. The need to bank treasure points particularly frustrates new and lapsed players returning to D&D. New players find a toy they can’t use because of legalese that makes no sense in the game world. Returning players just think D&D no longer resembles the game they used to love. (Credit Tom Christy’s proposals for this idea too.)

For almost 50 years, the vicarious joy of finding treasure brought players to D&D. To thrive, the Adventurers League must recapture some of that thrill.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

OSR Campaign Commentary The Many Heads of Horror of Demogorgon & David Cook's Dwellers of the Forbidden City.

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 03/05/2019 - 01:39
The force of suns had waned beyond recall.Chaos was re-established over all,Where lifeless atoms through forgetful deepsFled unrelated, cold, immusical.Above the tumult heaven alone endured;Long since the bursting walls of hell had pouredDemon and damned to peace erstwhile denied,Within the Abyss God's might had not immured.(He could but thwart it with creative mace. . . .)And now itNeedleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

On the Birthday Surprise, a Dread Eyrie!

Hack & Slash - Mon, 03/04/2019 - 17:31
Well, I turn older in a few days, but THIS year, I've accomplished a life long goal.

Finally, someone else has published something I've written!

This is amazing. I can't believe it.

So, if you think I'm full of crap-here's an example of how I'd write a good module. I've been talking shit providing insight into adventure design for so long, why not check it out and see how I do when put up to the test?

Announcing:

Eyrie of the Dread Eye!


It's 56 (!) pages, an homage to the Forbidden City. It's available from Drive Thru RPG in .pdf and Print (coming soon!). There's a plan in place to get .pdf price is deducted if you decide to get the print on demand in two weeks!
I've been writing about the classic style gaming for over a decade now. What do I do when I have the reigns for designing a high or mid-level module? Here's an adventure for high level characters that doesn't involve a stupid corridor of unavoidable fights or complete nullification of the players powers.  Oh! Bullet points!
  • A quest beyond the Dark Wall!
  • An adventure with an assumption of dynamic encounters?
  • Climbing AND Wyverns. Together! It's like peanut butter and jelly!
  • An ancient 400' tall statue, guarding a hidden eyrie. How will the players activate or bypass the mysterious mechanism?
  • A city filled with factions, each ripe for exploitation.
  • Opportunities for players to get unique and powerful treasures!
  • It's written for Adventurer Conqueror King, so it's completely off-the-shelf compatible with not only the one of the best clones ever written, but also seemlessly used with any Basic/Expert Dungeons and Dragons compatible system.
It's 4.99! This is a discount on when the Print on Demand comes out in a week! 5e version and Print on demand coming soon!
My first book published guys. I've got more coming out soon, but this one is first. I poured myself into it. 
Am I full of crap, or is this a good mid-high level adventure? Only one way to find out, and it's pretty cheap. Eyrie of the Dread Eye, available for the pittance of 4.99! Bonus materials coming to Patreon!
Happy Birthday to me!
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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Gary Con XI

Zenopus Archives - Mon, 03/04/2019 - 17:01


Later this week I'll be attending Gary Con XI in Lake Geneva, WI. I'm scheduled to run two sessions of In Search of the Brazen Head of Zenopus (formerly known as Return to the Tower of Zenopus, see teaser below), once on Friday morning at 9, and once Saturday evening at 7. Each session is currently full. I ran this last summer at North Texas RPG Con; this will be its first appearance at Gary Con.

I've also signed up to play a number of RPGs: Call of Cthulhu, En Garde, AD&D, Boot Hill and Empire of the Petal Throne.

The Gary Con XI Event Guide can be downloaded here on the GC site. 124 pages (!).

Among much other info, the Event Guide includes the following Holmesiana:

*The "Pioneers Who Have Passed" section includes J. Eric Holmes (page 5).

*The "Why We Are Here" tribute to Gary Gygax includes a quote from his Preface to the Holmes Basic rulebook, along with a thumbnail of the blue rulebook cover (Lizard Logo printing) (page 7).

*Pat Kilbane ("Bizarro Kramer" on Seinfeld), who is one of the guests of honor and is working on a documentary about Gary Gygax, started with Holmes Basic in 1979 (page 24).

*The 2nd annual Legends Tournament on Friday night is a sequel to B1 In Search of the Unknown written by Mike Carr and Paul Stormberg, 40 years after the original (page 44). I'm signed up to play in one of the teams competing in this!

*There's a full-page advertisement for Tales of Peril on page 52. And the book will be available for purchase at the Black Blade Publishing booth during the con.

*Thursday afternoon from 3-7 PM, Mike Mearls of WOTC is running his own game titled Return to the Tower of Zenopus, with the teaser: "Long ago, a band of adventurers dispatched by the mysterious sage Jeric D’Holmes plunged into the tunnels beneath the ruined tower of Zenopus. The dungeons beneath the tower were long thought empty, but now ghouls, goblins, and worse plague the small city of Portown by night. Could the source of this evil be found in this supposedly abandoned dungeon?" (page 64)

*A Blueholme game, "A Tale of Two Temples" is being run twice, Fri 9-1 PM and Fri 7-11 PM: "Deep under a long abandoned temple of Law, a Temple of Chaos thrives and with it a sanctuary for outlaws and exiles. This knaves’ haven now harbors the most famous thief in the known world, and the King has chosen you and your friends to bring him to justice. We’ll be using Blueholme rules for a 70’s style dungeon crawl, so bring your iron spikes, holy water, and ten foot pole"

*The blurb for my game appears on pages 74 and 105:
"Meet at the Green Dragon Inn and return to the dungeon under the ruined tower of the doomed wizard Zenopus to search for his legendary talking mask, forty years after adventurers first braved the passages. Play as Boinger, Zereth, Murray, or another character from J. Eric Holmes’ stories. This adventure from the Zenopus Archives celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Holmes Basic D&D set"
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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Off-Worlder Funnel

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 03/04/2019 - 12:00

The person from another world arriving in fantasyland is a genre staple. Typically, these off-worlders, whether they be John Carter on Mars or the kids from the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon, have some sort of edge that gives them a fighting chance or better in their new environment. But what if that wasn't the case? What if they were as unprepared as the survivors in zombie apocalypse fiction?
The death rate would be pretty high, particularly if you drop them in a typical D&D world and allow for the almost absurd horrors of the dungeoncrawl. It would be an interesting way to do a DCC-esque funnel with starting characters other than the usual suspects.
Here's another image of regular folks dying tragicomic deaths from "Planet of the Damned" in Starlord #2 (1978).

OSR Commentary - A More Mythological Take On Necromancy & A New Necromanctic Ritual For Your Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 03/04/2019 - 06:28
Now when it comes to one aspect of original Dungeons & Dragons,B/X Dungeons & Dragons, or even Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition including third edition there's one subject that drives me up a wall & that's necromancy! Since I've cracked open Dante Alighieri's  Divine Comedy once again this particular gaming issue has come up as it crops up in Shakespeare's Mac Beth as Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Doc Stalwart's Sweet Ride

The Splintered Realm - Sun, 03/03/2019 - 20:35
Here is Doc Stalwart's vehicle, the multi-purpose Beetle. It might even be capable of space travel... I'd bet on it, personally. This, along with several other things from Doc Stalwart's world, will appear in the giant-sized first issue of The Stalwart Age, available next week!


The Beetle (Cost CR 32)AC 19; HD 4d10 (hp 36); Fly 5,000’; Control 24Concussion Cannon (+2 to hit; 2d6; 500’)Stealth Mode (fly 2,500’, Sneak +10); Sonar (100 miles)Aquatic Mode (To depth of 1500’; Move 500’)




The Ruins of Mistemere

Fail Squad Games - Sun, 03/03/2019 - 20:24
What is The Ruins of Mistemere?

This adventure is inspired by, and is a revisit of, the first “Group Adventure” in a certain Red Box set of the world’s favorite basic role playing game. The original version of this adventure was likely the very first quest many players embarked upon in the days of 1983. It was also likely the first adventure run by many budding GMs at the same time.

Why reboot it? 
  • For the sake of nostalgia.
  • To make a fresh version available to the 5E generation of adventurers and GMs.
  • To add the Fail Squad Games flavor.
  • Because it’s fun, and we can.

This adventure is fully compatible with the 5E ruleset and written in such a way as to keep the author(s) from goblin jail time at the hands of certain wizards who live near a popular coast. 

Some names seem to have changed as planes of existence were traversed. Borgle is well known in many original adventures and legends; many report that his name was spelled with an “a” in place of the “o”. It is also told in ancient tales from different cultures that the spellings of Mistemere and Alena can be slightly altered from the records of the coastal wizards. 

Just $10 for the Black & White version, or treat yourself to the PREMIUM quality full-color adventure for just a few dollars more. We have played this adventure at a number of conventions, a number of ways, and now it’s ready for your table! Revenge awaits for the fallen Cleric Alena!
Many levels to support this project, don’t miss out!

Back it now!

FOR ALENA!!

The post The Ruins of Mistemere appeared first on Fail Squad Games.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Martian Froniter

Sorcerer's Skull - Sun, 03/03/2019 - 15:30
A Martian farmhandTo many a colonist of Mars, it might seem that if there is a bright center of Solar civilization in the days of the Empire, the deserts of Mars are far from. Sodbusters and homesteaders came in with the promise of free land, but the arid land and rarefied air don't make it easy.


Strange monuments, pyramids, and the occasional ruin reveal the existence of a Martian civilization of the past, when it was perhaps a greener world. Historians are divided over whether any of the current inhabitants are related to these ancient people. The gangly limbed, barrel-chested Sand People of the deep desert that raid Earther settlements, show no cultural interest in the old places and are as ignorant of the ancient hieroglyphs as they would be the mating habits of a Venusian dracosaur. The rodentine scrappers with their crawling junkyards seem no better adapted to the Martian environment that humans.


The Amos Isley Spaceport (named for one of the early rocket barons of the Red Planet) is as raucous as most of the other farm town settlements are quiet. Many a being with a price on its head ends up hiding out here, and in fact, interplanetary criminal gangs are known to have hideouts in the Martian wastes.

Maximum Mayhem Dungeons Mail Call & OSR Review of The Palace of the Dragon Princess By Mark Taormino From Dark Wizard Games

Swords & Stitchery - Sun, 03/03/2019 - 11:28
Saturday's mail call consisted of a lovely white envelop with a really fantastic surprise! The latest entry from Mark Taormino's  Dark Wizard Games. The kickstarter happened June 10, 2018 & leaped ahead at a galloping pace & now I've got this fantastic envelop in hand. Mark knows how to pack his stuff right! Dark Wizard Games is a straight up OSR outfit & their adventures often fit the Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Monster Manual II By Gary Gygax & Clark Ashton Smith's Zothique's Monster Ecology

Swords & Stitchery - Sun, 03/03/2019 - 01:10
Zothique has been Clark Ashton Smith's millions of years in the future world when the last gasp of humanity is only a razor edge event away. The 'stars have already come right' & Ragnarok events have already happened! The 'Old Ones' & deities of old have murdered each other.  There are brand new gods, demons, & heroes who have emerged from the chaos & legacy of this aftermath.   Alila,Basatan,Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

(SciFi) Hard Light

Ten Foot Pole - Sat, 03/02/2019 - 14:36
By Kevin Crawford
Sine Nomine Publishing
Stars Without Number
Levels 1-3

Hard Light takes a band of young adventurers to a system blazing with the murderous light of a red giant star. The hard-bitten novium miners of the Brightside mining station maintain the only outpost of civilization in a system filled with lethal light and stellar outlaws on the run. Will the players find the riches of the ancient asteroid sky tombs and their alien makers, or will they fall prey to the seething rebellion that boils beneath Brightside Station’s steel skin?

This 38 page adventure describes a spacestation and the small system of asteroids in system. It has three Space Asteroid dungeons and a system to create more: the aline Sky Tombs. It’s got a great core concept with strong social dynamics, but man it is THICK and DENSE with text. Like, “study it every day for a couple of hours in order ro run it” levels of density.

Let’s start off with me saying I don’t know nothing about SciFi gaming. I mean, I love it. I played Traveller with a group that consisted of me and five Astrophysics PhD’s. Nothing like sitting bored for an hour while they argued the laser distance inside a dyson sphere. Oh, Colonel Gil Richter, how I miss thee … Anyway. I love SciFi and have no idea how to run it. It seems to me like it starts out at level 32 with the characters as gods. [Seems like I should do something with that. Maybe on my Patreon?] And I don’t know anything about Stars Without Number. I missed that part of the cycle. And I’m late to the SWN/Hard Light party. Like … ten years late? But people asked and besides, it’s a good test to see if my conceits hold up across genres.

So, Keep on the Borderlands. Take the keep. Make it more interesting by adding two major subplots and maybe six minor ones. Then describe three of the caves of chaos and put in a generator to help the DM make more. That’s this adventure.

The dungeons are the Sky Tombs, some burial/pilgrimage places for some aliens that are in an asteroid belt. You get three described, one of which is full of pirates. Another one is pretty much fully abandoned and the third in the middle of an alien standoff. Three types of dungeons which we might call social, ruin, and normal-OSR-fireworks-factory-storing-gasoline. All three have completely different vibes. While remaining true to their vibes I might characterize each as a slow burn. Each one has a few things going on in it with a decent number of “empty rooms that have something in them but it’s really an empty room” to spread out the action. I’m sure that in play it will scare the shit out of the players and in to their characters pants. Not so much from a horror standpoint but from the tension and unknown. Maybe a little slow compared to most adventures, but you gotta have space to build tension. And this does that.

The station, proper, is a powderkeg. Loans, miners, admins staff, crooked staff, pirates showing up, tense work environment, DANGEROUS work environment. And a couple of major subplots with embezzlement, resentment, and revolution. And then a lot of interpersonal dynamics with people hating each other or secretly in love. It’s a great place and feels alive. It’s better than 99% of the starting village stuff I see, at least, and it’s all because of the downtime/social subplot stuff. And the hooks, several presented, make sense. Yeah, they are caravan guards in one, err, security staff on a supply ship, but it fits in well and each tends to tie the party in to a major NPC, with favors and resentments abounding in them. They all have some good roleplay in them. “Yeah, I owe you $8k? Well, I don’t have it on hand, you see. It’s gonna take me a few days to dig it up and right now I’m totally preoccupied with the water situation …” The entire section on the hooks and subplots is a great example of to bring your stuff to life.

But …

Man, this thing is THICK. DENSE. HEAVY. Words after words after words. I’m sure this all makes sense to Kevin, since he write it, but the thing is going to take several read-throughs, at least, with a highlighter and pencil notes in order to make it runnable on the fly in a meaningful way. Sure, You can run it out of the box easily enough, in a superficial way. It you print out the NPC summary sheet (Great job! And it’s all on one page!) the party could arrive from one of the hooks, run a couple of roleplays from the sheet, then send them off to a dungeon to explore. And you’d be losing a lot that the social aspect of the station has to offer, and will fumble through details like life support, blackmarket, etc. Then you’d hit the dungeons, which you prepared ahead of time, right? Or if using one of the three, you’ve highlighted it ahead of time?

Because man those things are thick also. The third one, the more “typical” OSR dungeon is written in a terser format and is easier to run with only a single pass. The second, the “ruin” is thick and dense with room effects. The first, the pirate den … man I don’t know. It’s clearly got a social aspect to it, and also a “clear them out” aspect to it, but it’s written like the second and the social elements are not supported very well at all. It doesn’t make it easy in supporting the DM in helping the party get in to trouble/have complications. Other nits abound, like an order of battle for the dungeons with smarties in them, and quibbles like warnings in trap rooms, etc.

But the text density, man. I don’t want to come off like an asshole (too late! Ten years too late …) but man, I don’t know. Normally I’d suggest bolding, whitespace work, insets, summaries and the ilk. But it’s SciFi. You HAVE to address air. You HAVE to address “lets just blow it up” and you HAVE to address vac suits. It comes up every time. Maybe level one SciFi is easier to write, and level four SciFi is where it gets harder.

The room keys need a major overhaul. The station needs a major overhaul. There need to be more summaries. Things need to be easier to locate (radiation, vac, blowing it up) and easier to scan (room keys.)

It seems to me that this is a great fucking place, but I have NO idea how I would get it in to runnable format at the table. I mentioned highlighter and pencil, but I’m not even sure that could get it in to a form that would it justice. And justice it deserves. It’s coming in just under No Regerts and is close to that mythical line of something really cool that is hard to use that you find at the used book booth.

This is $5 at DriveThru. The preview is five pages and is a pretty good representation of the adventure. I would prefer a page of dungeon also, or maybe the hooks page, but check out those five pages. If you can make it through it in a single pass and hold the information in your head for a week then you should have no problem running it.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/86468/Hard-Light?affiliate_id=1892600

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