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Greg Stafford's story about getting OD&D

Zenopus Archives - Wed, 10/17/2018 - 12:54
As you've probably heard, game designer Greg Stafford passed away last week at the age of 70. While I haven't played any of the systems he is best known for (Runequest, Pendragon, Ghostbusters), I have in recent years played and ran Call of Cthulhu, the best known game produced by the company he started, Chaosium.

From 2006-2015, Greg participated in a Q&A thread over on the Acaeum, 107 posts total. There are lots of great posts worth reading there, but given the focus of my blog, I'd like to highlight the first one, a fun story about how he may have received the first ever sold copy of OD&D --- 

"I'm mainly a Chaosium guy, of course, but I'd like to share one tale about D&D to start, from WAY back when. 
I used to work for Bergamot Brass Works, a belt buckle company out of Lake Geneva, WI after high school. Real hippy job. I'd take buckles, hitch hike around and sell them to shops, etc. After a while, though, I moved to California. My friend of the time remained there, selling buckles (we were called Buckle-itis). 
Through various circumstances I'd decided to publish my first boardgame, White Bear & Red Moon, on my own. As I was finishing up work on it, I got a package in the mail from my old partner Jeff. His cover letter swaid, "I was picking up my catalogues from the printer the other day and there was this guy waiting for his stuff. I asked what it was, and he said it was a fantasy game. I said, 'Hey, my buddy in California is doing one too! Can I buy one from ya?'" 
Of course the guy was happy to, and so Jeff sent me this strange little booklet called Dungeons & Dragons. 
Later on I thought, "Heck, I wonder if that was the first one ever sold?" Well, I asked Gary Gygax if he remembered this incident and he did, and confirmed that it was the first one ever sold. 
MAN, do I ever now wish that I'd not lent it to my DM and never gotten it back!!"
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Kellerin’s Rumble

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 10/17/2018 - 11:19


By Malrex
Merciless Merchants
Gold & Glory
Level 3-5

Congratulations!! Someone in your party won/found/bequeathed a deed to a warehouse inside the protective walls of Illanter, City of Broken Swords. Another bonus, while visiting said warehouse, you are invited to the mysterious Kellerin’s Rumble, an annual gambling event. Your group is the talk of the town! Gossip and rumors are flying around the city about the event….and YOU. Let the games begin!

This 27 page adventure describes a warehouse, sewers, and manor located in a small city. It’s centered around the manor, an invitation to gamble there, and several side quests. It’s organized well, is easy to scan, and has A LOT going on in it. It feels like a lot of the encounters can lead to other things … leaving everything feeling full of potential and hooks and things to follow up on. It ain’t gonna change your life, but it is certainly a very high level of quality with lots of potential for fun … and that’s what I’m usually looking for. I wish every adventure were at least this good. Also: I REALLY like city adventures and this is that, so, I’m predisposed to gush.

You get the deed to the warehouse, and the sewers have several connections, with short city-life events/NPC’s thrown in to add some color. Several potential hooks pop up, all meant to get you in to the manor and poking around. I get the overall feeling that a lot of of the encounters lead to something else. There’s a leper in the sewers being eaten by a blob which can turn in to an NPC. There’s a ship captain being dunked in the water by his crew because he owes them money. Who ya gonna side with? The main manor dude wears a ring that looks like a ring someone may have contacted the party over …

You know, there was this Nike “Just Do It” commercial once. It showed various scenes, over and over, in quick cuts, of people getting ready to do things. Runners on the line rearing up right before the gun went off. Swimmers getting in to their positions moments before they dove in. Things like that. Moments captured right before the action started … but never showing the action. That’s what this feels like. So many of the encounters feel like “Oh man! It’s about to go down!” But in a “set piece” kind of way. Friends or foes to make, no right or wrong choices, just situations that pop up in front of the party. Inciting action … over and over again. It makes the thing feel packed and ALIVE. Which is exactly the fuck how a city is supposed to feel.

For each location you get a short little description, a couple of sentences, and then a few bullets pointing out obvious stuff. It’s a great format to use, easy to scan. The descriptions generally tend to be punchy … not teeming with evocativeness but certainly a cut above and not bad. The bullets concentrate on important things. Treasure, traps, potentials for getting in to trouble, etc. It’s not trivia. It’s things that are important to the players. LUV.

There’s rando NPC tables for the town, there’s a NPC summary sheet for the other gamblers at the party. The maps are interesting. There are important things mentioned, like ow often guard patrols pass a certain point in the manor home. RELEVANT. There’s this little section on a wish that doesn’t allow you to talk about what’s going on inside the house once you leave. Even that’s handled well, with various methods to circumvent it that are NOT another wish.

I could mention a few negative things. Primarily, I feel like this thing is missing maybe two more paragraphs of text. One an overview of the adventure proper. What’s missing is “the party gets a deed to a warehouse to get tem in to the city and invested, and there’s fun stuff inside to make the first visit a good time, The sewers connect points A&B and are natural. The main adventure point is the manor house gambling, which A, B, and C tie in to.”

The second is something more about ‘the house at rest.” Windows & roof fun, more guard paths, a little more on sound travel, and roleplaying “ought oh were caught!” bluffs. There’s a bit of this, but feels a more ad-hoc and it needs some more concrete overview.

I saw this was an example product of what you get when you Patreon Malrex. “Ug, here comes the shit …” I thought. Oh, how wrong I was! Also, man, a fuck ton of lepers in this city! Didn’t I review another one like that at some point?

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru, with a current suggested price of $5. The level is on the cover but not in the product description (Naughty!) The oreview is eight pages. You can see a rando NPC table, with short NPC descriptions, and the entirety of the warehouse and sewer descriptions. There’s also the additional hook stuff before the warehouse and the lack of the overview can be seen.Note warehouse rooms two and eleven!
https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/250834/City-of-Illanter-Kellerins-Rumble

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Wednesday Comics: The Flash Gordon Comic Strip

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 10/17/2018 - 11:00

Flash Gordon first appeared in the Sunday Comics section and was born of King Features Syndicate's desire to compete with Buck Rogers--and only after they had failed to acquire the rights to John Carter of Mars. Alex Raymond is given credit for its creation, though he was partnered with the (uncredited) writer/editor Don Moore.

Until recently Alex Raymond's original run was not fully available in reprint, to say nothing of the work various artists that came after him. Titan Books has been working on their "Complete Flash Gordon Library" and has the most comprehensive reprint series so far (well, at least since Kitchen Sinks' in the 90s) with Austin Briggs, Mac Raboy, and Dan Barry represented, but they are reproduced at a smaller size than the original strips.

For you purists, IDW has a solution, at least for the Alex Raymond years. Their four Definitive Flash Gordon and Jungle Jim volumes carry you through Raymond's entire 1934-1943 run, and the first storyline by Austin Briggs to end up in 1947. The real draw, though, is that they are reproduced slightly larger than original print size. (Some pedantry might come in regarding sizes and definitiveness. Earlier reproductions of only Flash Gordon split  the full pages into landscape pages, so they are not smaller than IDW's, but this comes at the sacrifice of faithfully reprinting the page.) IDW also included the paper dolls that occasional ran with the original strip.

Rereadings & Commentaries On Judge's Guild's Wilderlands of High Fantasy By Bill Owen and Bob Bledsaw

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 10/17/2018 - 06:42
Wilderlands of High Fantasy By Bill Owen and Bob Bledsaw "Wilderlands of High Fantasy is a supplement for fantasy role-playing games published by Judges Guild in 1977.[1] It is part of the same world as their earlier City State of the Invincible Overlord setting materials. " "Details the wilderness areas of the City State. Valley of the Ancients, Valon, Tarantis, and the Barbarian Altanis.Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Ch. 5, Page 23

Castle Greyhawk - Wed, 10/17/2018 - 02:08
The sudden rush of wind had taken Robilar by surprise. His first thought was that it was some new form of attack the stalker was demonstrating. But no, he had felt the impact of his sword -- and he had killed enough beings to instinctively know when he had struck vitals.

The wind had bowled him over, but Robilar stood up and listened for a moment. The wind was gone. There was no movement. Robilar poked around at the ground in front of him with the sword. There was no invisible body, but he suspected the creature had simply dissipated, returning to its home plane, as some other outer-planar things had done upon his killing them.


The Game-Design Trends That Turned D&D Into a Game Gary Gygax Disliked

DM David - Tue, 10/16/2018 - 11:15

The second edition of Dungeons & Dragons that reached gamers probably stayed close to the edition co-creator Gary Gygax might have designed. But later, Gary would say, “In my estimation second-edition AD&D began to lose the spirit of the original.”

What spirit did it lose?

Partly, Gary probably missed his own quirky touch. But I suspect that most of the changes he disliked arrived as the edition matured. As second edition grew, it began adding character options from new classes and kits. The design staff seemed intent on luring players to each new set of character options by making them a bit more powerful than the last. To Gary, this escalation defied the spirit of the game.

After Gary left TSR, two design trends that he resisted shaped D&D’s evolution from second through fourth edition.

Current D&D lead, Mike Mearls wrote about these directions in a series of tweets. The first trend came from “an anxiety about controlling the experience of the game, leaving as little as possible to chance. They aimed for consistency of play from campaign to campaign, and table to table. The fear was that an obnoxious player or DM would ruin the game, and that would drive people away from it. The thinking was that if we made things as procedural as possible, people would just follow the rules and have fun regardless of who they played with.

“The downside to this approach is that the rules became comprehensive to a fault. The game’s rules bloated, as they sought to resolve many if not all questions that arise in play with the game text.”

Gary saw this trend begin with third edition. He said the version’s “mass of detail” made the game “too rules-oriented for my personal taste.” Gary saw D&D leaning less on a DM’s judgement and more on comprehensive rules that made the game procedural. His play favored minimal reliance on the rules. “Generally, I just DMed on the fly, so to speak, and didn’t use the rule book except for random encounters, monster stats, and treasure.”

He advised DMs to do the same. “Do not let the rules get in the way of play. Be the arbiter of the game so that the adventure continues without unnecessary interruptions, and the immersion of the player in the milieu remains complete.”

Mike Mearls thread goes on. “At the same time, 3.5 and 4 were driven by the idea that D&D players wanted as many character options as possible, presented in a modular framework meant to encourage the search for combinations that yielded characters who broke the power curve.”

Character options never raised objections from Gary. After all, he planned skills and several new sub-classes for the game. But Gary saw D&D turn into a game centered on building characters that matched the power of comic book superheroes. This direction made him fume. He wanted an “emphasis on group cooperation, not individual PC aggrandizement.”

D&D started as a game that challenged players and threatened their characters. To Gary, later editions just offered players a chance to show off their characters with minimal risk. “How I detest namby-pamby whiners that expect to play a real RPG without threat of character death or loss of a level, stat points, or even choice magic items! Without such possibilities, what it the purpose of play, a race to see which character can have the greatest level, highest stats, and largest horde of treasure? That is just too flaccid for words.”

In many ways, fifth-edition D&D represents a return to Gary’s tastes. He would have liked the lighter rules. Mike explained the direction, “With 5th, we assumed that the DM was there to have a good time, put on an engaging performance, and keep the group interested, excited, and happy. It’s a huge change, because we no longer expect you to turn to the book for an answer. We expect the DM to do that.”

“In terms of players, we focus much more on narrative and identity, rather than specific, mechanical advantages. Who you are is more important than what you do, to the point that your who determines your what.”

Gary would have approved of these changes, but would he have liked fifth edition?

To an extent, I doubt any edition that Gary didn’t design could have earned his favor. Gary saw AD&D as his baby and kept tight control on its content. No other version, no matter how many improvements it featured, could earn the same paternal love.

Also, Gary might fault fifth edition for one thing: The edition emphasizes storytelling over challenging players and endangering their characters. Sure, you can still run a killer game. Tomb of Annihilation and its meat-grinder variant set a blueprint for that. But beyond level 4, fifth-edition characters become as durable as comic book characters. According to Mike Mearls, the edition “focuses on socializing and storytelling.” No storyteller wants to see their tale’s planned resolution spoiled when a hero dies to a fluke critical. Gary and his original co-designer Dave Arneson came from wargaming and a passion for competition. To Gary, D&D needed to test player skill to feel compelling. A storytelling exercise that glorified precious characters failed to interest him.

Still, fifth edition captures the soul and spirit of original D&D better than any other version. I’ll bet Gary would have liked it enough to write adventures for it. Except his adventures would not have let characters skate through with minimal risk. So don’t get too attached to your hero, keep another character sheet on hand, and keep playing D&D.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

DC Bombshells II Trading Cards - Sketch Card Previews, Part 3

Cryptozoic - Tue, 10/16/2018 - 01:41

Please enjoy the second installment of our DC Bombshells Trading Card II Sketch Card previews, hand-drawn by our talented artists. Links to contact the artists can be found below the images of their Sketch Cards.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Mordite Mondays!

Torchbearer RPG - Mon, 10/15/2018 - 20:29

The fine folks at Mordite Press have launched a new Torchbearer blog that will update on Mondays! The first post is a primer on everything that’s currently available for the game. It’s super useful!

Check it out!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

[BEYONDE] Beyond Google Plus, and Fixing the Internet

Beyond Fomalhaut - Mon, 10/15/2018 - 19:44
Thou hast offended the algorithm!
Depart now and never return!
Right, everyone has heard the news: Google is shuttering its failed social network. Told you so? Right in my first post of substance! So which way forward? This is going to be a short post, but it will be more than an announcement.
First things first: G+ is not going away yet. Posting there has been on borrowed time the last few years anyway, and we can still keep doing it for a while. I plan to continue being active there, but I have mostly moved on to MeWe.com, the fittingly oddball social network where the old-school posters seem to be going. So far, it has been a good experience, so hopefully, it will work out – and if it doesn’t, there will be other options. This blog will also be around as long as Google does not decide to can Blogspot (like that would ever happen, right? Right?), and I plan to be updating it as I can. On MeWe, I have created a group for Echoes From Fomalhaut, where I will be posting regular updates. Join me if you would like.
So much for myself. Now for the main thing: what does it all mean for old-school gaming? How can we survive such a doubtless destructive event? I will go against the grain and suggest it is going to be a good thing, with implications beyond our hobby. Here is why.
***
The users will find a way.It has been my experience that platforms and communities come and go, but you can usually meet the same people over and over again. Old-school gaming is approaching twenty years, and it has spread out from forum threads to dedicated communities to blogs and social networks. There have been many stops and reversals along the way. Communities have split up in bitter feuds, parted on amicable terms, or as it often goes, ceased to have new things to say to each other. New sub-groups have sprung up and created their own niches, fads have come and gone, but the good games have endured. This is because our communities are not governed by a five-year marketing plan, but hobbyist interests: they will live in some form as long as we need them to; and if they won’t anymore, that will be no great loss. And most people will be along. I have seen the same circle of friends crop up again and again, sometimes after taking a few years off and coming back with new ideas (I have done that, too). The change is also not absolute: the other points of light of the old-school wilderness, blogs and forums will stay where they always were, and you can revisit them.
Occasional shake-ups are good reminders, and good for creativity. When old communities fade and new ones emerge, there is always new buzz and enthusiasm, new Terra Incognita to discover. On MeWe, one of the first threads in the OSR community is an obligatory “what’s your favourite old-school system?” thread. Before you scoff, I will say that these topics need to be restated every so often, not only to remind us of our creative origins (a must for any old-schooler), but also to see things in a new light. New combinations and new contexts is where innovation comes from. Like a kaleidoscope, a slightly different arrangement will produce a different image. Someone somewhere will discover the OD&D rulebooks or the Gygaxian DMG again, and have something new and worthwhile to say about them. It has happened every time before, and it shall happen again. With all my interest in weird fantasy, I also like going back to the AD&D standard (the realdeal!) in different periods of my life, and seeing where it takes me.
***
Now for the more contentious part, which has a bit less to do with gaming. It was time for Google Plus to die, because its continued existence was bad for the Internet. The technological firms, which have enjoyed the benefits of immense network externalities, have been gradually taking the Internet in a destructive direction by subverting its core architecture. What does that mean? In the way it came to be, the Old Internet (my term) emerged as a decentralised network of networks. Communication was facilitated among its nodes on a global scale, requiring universal protocols, but it was a landscape of self-organised, self-governing communities. This is bottom-up architecture, based on the principle of subsidiarity. It is a great marketplace of ideas, resting on the simple principle that people have free movement, and no actor is powerful enough to restrict them. You might not like a forum like ENWorld, but you could find your place on Dragonsfoot, one of the zillion ezBoards, not to mention a myriad Geocities pages. This is an Internet in the service of its users, and (through its self-regulating nature) well adapted to different needs and communities.
In contrast, the New Internet of the tech monopolies follows hierarchical, top-down structures. Increasingly, more and more communication (including commercial activity) takes place on a shrinking number of platforms, which accrue immense advantages from their size. They are no longer market actors you can avoid or move away from, since there are increasingly fewer places to go. If you cut your ties with Paypal, you can’t switch to SpendFriend, because the vast majority of your potential customers will not do business with you. Your business will be ruined. The convenience of doing all our shopping on Amazon is a winning formula, but as the number of business rivals is diminished, we lose choices we never knew were important to have. Google Plus was a product that had been great for a niche like gamers – but it is going away because that niche is insufficiently profitable.
A social media expert from before it was cool
(note the hipster glasses)The tech giants are also decidedly not acting in good faith. Our online life, which has a growing footprint in physical reality, is moulded to fit their needs, and put under intense scrutiny. Facebook, Google and their peers have access to profiling tools which we could not imagine ten or twenty-eight years ago. And neither would Erich Honecker. In the hands of those who are prone to abuses of power (that is, everyone), access to these instruments can do unimaginable harm. The “Don’t be evil” company, which had given you 1 GB of free space back in 2004 (when this seemed unimaginable generosity), is now developing tools of totalitarian thought control for China, and whose new internal “research document” is titled “The Good Censor”. Yes, it is just as bad as it sounds. It is ostensibly in the interests of “marginalised groups” (the new “think of the children!” trick), but it is very much about policing, silencing and punishing people. The right kind of people? The wrong kind of people? You next? Who has the right to decide?
I do not believe other companies are more virtuous. MeWe is probably not any more principled than Google. But its ability to do harm is limited due to its lesser market share and social reach. If, as some predict, its owner will suddenly pull off his wig and face mask to reveal Adolf Hitler or The Russkies, we can shrug and move to another platform. Facebook and Google, though? The costs of escaping their orbit are not yet insurmountable, but they are already steep. Like “losing contact with a lot of friends and family” steep or “he was applying for the job, but we couldn’t check him out so we just kinda dropped him into the reject pile” steep. Like the Ring, it comes with definite benefits, but like the Ring, the power to control a large share of the Internet through market share or government fiat must be destroyed, or at least diluted until a viable alternative emerges. Jaron Lanier has said some sensible things about where to go. Tim Berners-Lee is working on something mysterious to fix the Internet he had helped create.  And deep down, a lot of people are dissatisfied with the way things are going. The forces which had created the New Internet turned users from customers into commodities, and smushed them together to a degree that’s uncomfortable and liable to generate more and more conflict.
Social_Media.PNGWas the Old Internet a place for kooks, oddballs, and fringe people? Yes, and it was much healthier for it. Was there disagreement and hate? Yes, human nature prevailed. And yet, curiously, there was less nastiness around, because not everyone was supposed to coexist in the same place. You could build your own communities and others could build theirs. There was as much distance between you and others as you wanted. It was a place for no-one, and accordingly, everyone. It was certainly great for gamers, a place for our kind. It was like the real “paradox of tolerance”. No, not the one by Karl Popper. That one is utter nonsense, concocted by people who hate freedom. Here is the real deal: it may hurt to allow people you intensely dislike to exist and speak for themselves, but ultimately, that’s the same principle defending you. Or, more succinctly: “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” (If you imagined this quote with the image of a great white eagle flying before your mind’s eye, you are on the right track.)
Google and Facebook want to put everyone into the same little box, and if you don’t fit… well, bad news for you. If you are overcrowded in there, bad news for you. If they take a dislike to you in a place they can control, bad news for you. How come they are more important?
By a stroke of luck, we are no longer in the box. Good for us. It is not always going to be easy, but it is going to be glorious.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Cultivating and Care of Campaign Mysteries

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 10/15/2018 - 11:00

I wrote a post last week that was a follow-up to a previous posts where I outlined a few mysteries that had come up in our new 4 years-old Land of Azurth campaign. Anne of DIY & Dragons asked if I had in thoughts to share regarding who these mysteries developed and the development of this sort of stuff in general.

I should say this campaign is not an open sandbox. Most adventures come about by me as the DM laying out the particularly setting and situation, and the PC's confronting the problems as presented, or reframing the problem as something else and confronting that. The applicability of what I say here will of course vary based on how you run your campaign and the degree you care about such things, obviously.

Embed mysteries. I constructed the bones of the Land of Azurth setting to have some deep mysteries. I hinted at these but didn't strongly telegraph them, or push them on the players. They are to this day, not aware of most of them--though they have brushed against them once or twice, and are interested in things that connect to them. You have to be patient, but if you want the player's interested in the mysterious background of your setting it has to be there.

Don't make it all up. Some people feel like the fixed details of the setting are necessary for player's to make maximum meaningful choices about their actions. I advocate a more of a tv series looseness as I've discussed before. So, if one of my initial ideas was "the World Emperor is mad!" or whatever, but as I'm dropping hints to this, the PCs become convinced the "World Emperor is possessed!" well, you know, maybe he could be? Also, you have to leave room for the players' to become interested in things you hadn't thought of yet, and no need to waste all your good adventure seeds on fallow ground.

Recurrent NPCs with their own agendas. My players are suspicious that Viola, the Clockwork Princess of Yanth Country, despite most appearances as a benevolent monarch, may have a sinister agenda. What made them suspicious? Well, the Princess's somewhat callous behavior and general "need to know attitude," and conspiratorial musings of a pirate queen they once interacted with. These things would never have mattered if the PCs hadn't had frequently and suggestive interactions with the Princess for them to start wondering about her.

Treasures with a story. Magic items and treasure serves a utilitarian purpose, but it shouldn't just be --or even mostly--be that. In prepping for the session, I substituted the Book of Doors for a spell book in the original run of Mortzengersturm, and added a portal to 19th Century Earth in Mort's chamber. That has gotten at least one player very interested in portals and incursions from or too other worlds, and given me further references to drop in later adventures. The Projector to the Etheric Zone was another adventure seed lying in wait for the player's to take interest. And potentially valuable mysteries tend to get their interest first!

Work with the Players' creation. Most of my players came up with a little backstory at creation. No multi-page epics, but a paragraph or so, based on the map and campaign intro materials I gave them. Plus, I had asked them all at the outset, "Why are you in Rivertown?" Jim's bard, Kully, for instance had come looking for his missing father. He had initially told me a talking calico cougar had told him to seek his father in Rivertown. I suggested maybe it was a Calico Cat Man, and Jim agreed. Now, part of the setting intro was that their were no cat folk in Azurth. So, now we had a mystery--and a coincidental name connection to the mysterious crime lord I had already named. Then of course, there was the recent return of Kully's father to set off the recent adventure.

So that's it. Or, at least that's all I can think of at the moment. It's been gratifying to run a campaign where the players aren't just interested in the adventures, but in the world behind them.

Review & Commentary Of Castles & Crusades Codex Celtarum By Brian Young For Your Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Sun, 10/14/2018 - 17:02
"The Codex Celtarum contains a veritable host of gaming material. Built around the complete mythological cosmos of the Celts, in it you'll find new spells for your druid, cleric, and illusionist. New monsters, including mountains of fey. New magic items. For the very bold, there are new powers for your characters, allowing your characters to become fey! 190 new spells 90 gods and Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Magic of the Season

3d6 Traps & Thieves - Sun, 10/14/2018 - 16:44

A spooky, macabre assortment of festive items to delight and amaze. All presented in OD&D style. These entries are from the Duckin’ & Braggin’ archives, and will doubtlessly appear in future releases. Happy holiday mayhem!
  

ARMOR:
Helm, Vorpal: A classic prank – put the helm on and it cuts off your head. No save. I mean, how’s it gonna miss?! A laugh riot!
MISCELLANEOUS WEAPONS:
Ghoulash: This whip is fashioned from the flayed skins of ghouls and ghasts. Upon a successful hit, the target must save vs. paralyzation or be paralyzed is if by the touch of a ghoul. Even elves are affected by this item.
SCROLLS:
Evening: When read aloud, the powerful incantation of the Scroll causes night to fall within a 10 mile radius. The sun becomes as wan as the moon and the environment is treated as if under the shroud of night. The effect lasts until true nightfall. If read during the night, this scroll sends the reader to the moon.
RINGS:
Toadstool: This unpleasant item of spongy material renders the wearer immune to non-magical poisons and venoms. By a touch of the hand wearing the Ring, the user can bestow a poison effect to another living creature. The wearer has no discernable scent and cannot be detected or tracked by smell.
WANDS, STAVES, AND RODS:
Rod of Certain Death: Upon activation, the user is immediately stricken dead – no save.
MISCELLANEOUS MAGIC:
Apocalypstick: These cosmetic items come either in small, easy-to-apply tubes, or in tiny jars. Proper and full application takes one round. One application is effective for up to an hour, but physical contact (a kiss) activates the magical effect, as does “blowing a kiss.” The maximum range for a blown kiss effect is 30’.  
Color Effect Bruise Purple Inflict 3-30 blunt impact damage. If damage exceedstarget’s STR, target is knocked prone. Hellfire Red Immolate target for 3-30 fire damage. 2-20 damage next round. 1-10 damage following round – then fire goes out. Nuclear Gray Disintegrate effect that leaves target as nothing but mildly radioactive ash. Plague Green Infect target with a deadly, contagious disease of GM’s choice – or, roll randomly. Suffocation Blue Target cannot breathe. Gains a saving throw each round until success or death.
Bag of Sticky Treats: This small sack contains half-melted candies and other sweets. Simply opening the Bag will attract creatures of up to animal intelligence from up to 500’. When thrown, the Bag will burst open on impact to create an unusually colorful and sticky Web effect in a 20’ cube. The sweet aroma will attract creatures just as opening the Bag. Fire will not destroy the candy floss mess, it only serves to harden the stuff into a substance that victims of less than ogre strength cannot break from, and that will last for an entire day. The sticky contents are edible, but will not serve as a nutritious meal.
Blood Vessel: This modest paddleboat is powered by blood. One gallon of blood will grant motive force for up to 6 hours. If the blood is from a sentient creature, the duration is 12 hours. If the blood is from a sentient creature of good alignment, the duration is a full day. On average, a human body contains about 1 ½ gallons of blood.
Bottle of Boos: This hefty glassware item comes with an engraved stopper in the shape of a head with an open mouth that is obviously expressing a sound of “ooo.” There are two type of Bottle.            Displeasure: The stopper resembles an angry person. Opening the Bottle releases a loud and outraged “Boooooo…” sound. Any living creature within 50’ must save vs. spell or fall to the ground in abject despair, dropping any weapons, shields, or items. Victims do nothing but languish in misery, able to defend themselves if attacked at -2 on all die rolls.            Spook: The stopper resembles a classic “sheet ghost.” Opening the Bottle releases a spectral, spooky “Boooooo…” sound. Any living creature within 50’ must save vs. spell or turn and flee the area, dropping any held items. Those affected by the sound cannot approach within 10’ of the Bottle thereafter.
Broom, Sonic: This flying broom can reach a rate of 360’ per turn, but has no room for a passenger larger than a housecat. When used to strike as a weapon, the Broom can impact with a thunderclap that stuns and deafens the target.
Cider Jar: A single apple left inside the closed Jar for at least 4 hours turns into a gallon of cider (chilled or hot – as commanded). After a full day, the cider becomes “hard cider.”
Ghost Bustier: This fetching garment gives the wearer the ability to become a scary, intangible version of themselves. In “ghost form,” the wearer is affected as if by a Potion of Gaseous Form, but without the loss of any items or garments. The ghostly wearer cannot attack physical creatures, but may Cause Fear by touch. While intangible, the wearer can affect and attack other such creatures – like ghosts, wraiths, spectres, and out-of-phase (ethereal) monsters normally. Undead creatures treat the user of this item as one of their own, and the wearer is unaffected by energy drain attacks of all types.
Lich Pin: On a successful hit, this long stick pin will inflict 1 point of damage and Hold a lich in place until the Pin is removed. The lich may still take actions, but cannot move from the spot where the Pin was applied. The lich also cannot remove the Pin itself, but may command a minion to do so.
Maledictionary: This “tome of curses” contains a number of curse spells and harmful enchantments of all types. However, merely opening the book causes it to speak a random spell to take effect upon the holder – and anyone else that might be within range.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Frozen Führer [ICONS]

Sorcerer's Skull - Sun, 10/14/2018 - 14:00

FROZEN FÜHRER

Abilities:
Prowess: 4
Coordination: 4
Strength: 5
Intellect: 5
Awareness: 4
Willpower: 5

Determination: 1
Stamina: 10

Specialties: Military

Qualities:
Needs the Cold
Ruler of the Abhumans
"Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold"

Powers:
Resistance (Cold): 7
Cold Control Gloves: 6
         Affliction (freezing), Blast (Ice), Binding (ice)


Background
Alter Ego: Arno Kaltmann
Occupation: Professional Criminal, Terrorist
Marital Status: Single
Known Relatives: Hans and Ilse (parents, deceased)
Group Affiliation: Masters of Menace
Base of Operations: The Hidden City of the Abhumans
First Appearance: DOUBLE ACTION #30
Height: 6’ Weight: 180 lbs.
Eyes: Blue Hair: White

History
Arno Kaltmann was born from a eugenics experiment by the German Thule Society. His parents were selected for their “pure Aryan” heredity, and in the womb, he was exposed to chemicals synthesized from instructions found in a manuscript discovered in the Antarctic in what was believed to be one of the last outposts of the Hyperborean civilization. From birth, Kaltmann exhibited an unusually low body temperature and an aversion to warmth. He was raised in  a special cold room, which suited his metabolism, but kept him isolated.

When the Thule Society disbanded, the Nazi government took over care of the young Kaltmann. Hitler viewed him as embodying a rediscovery of the pure Hyperborean ancestry of the Aryan peoples. The Nazi leadership wanted a army of genetic Hyperborean soldiers, but the Allied forces defeated them before their plans could be realized.

Kaltmann was captured by the U.S. military and moved to a secret facility in Greenland. There he was studied with the goal of replicating his resistance to the cold. A secret prisoner of war, he was kept in a containment cell and given no contact with the outside world.

When Kaltmann was in his early twenties, he took advantage of the guards’ distraction and escaped, killing a particularly callous military scientist as he went. He yearned for revenge against the Americans who had mistreated him and robbed him of the destiny he was promised as the forerunner of a master race.

He escaped into the Arctic, where he believed his enemies could not easily follow. There, he was discovered by a hidden offshoot of humanity known as the Abhumans. Some of the Abhuman community worshipped the extinct Hyperboreans, and recognizing Kaltmann’s link to them, hailed him as a messiah of sorts. Opportunists used the cult to overthrow the Abhuman royal family and install Kaltmann, with the idea that he would be their puppet. Kaltmann carried little for ruling the Abhuman city, but saw the Abhumans as allies in his plan for revenge against the United States.

To this end, Kaltmann had a cryosuit and cold projectors built by Abhuman engineers. As the Frozen Führer, he and his lackeys attempted to gain control of an ICBM silo in North Dakota. He planned to start a nuclear war to bring about “Fimbulwinter” and a new Ice Age, but his scheme was foiled by Thunderhawk and the female motorcyclist troubleshooters known as the Avenging Angels.

Though defeated, Frozen Führer was not deterred and as clashed with various heroes in his attempts to start a new, cold Reich.

Remembering Greg Stafford

19th Level - Sat, 10/13/2018 - 21:58


Greg Stafford passed away on October 11, 2018.

He was a giant in the gaming industry. He created the world of Glorantha. He founded Chaosium and Issaries. He created or co-created countless role-playing, board, and computer games. Among these are RuneQuest, Ghostbusters, Prince Valiant, Pendragon, and HeroQuest. He helped boil down RuneQuest into its essentials, creating the Basic Role-Playing game. As head of Chaosium, he published the first Call of Cthulhu RPG and made the decision to publish Mythos fiction.

That's an amazing resume. So many of his games are noteworthy. Ghostbusters, written by Chaosium for West End Games, was the origin of the D6 System which went on to power Star Wars - and was a superb game in its own right. RuneQuest was a new way of looking at fantasy RPGs, being entirely skill-based, with no character classes or levels. It is most people's introduction to Glorantha, a world infused with myth and magic. Pendragon was unique in being a generational game - in a successful game, your knight would die and you would take over with his heir. And with his grandchild in all probability.

He was also responsible, together with Sandy Petersen, for the Chaosium renaissance of the past several years, returning to take back ownership of it. It was through these efforts that Call of Cthulhu 7th edition was finally released as well as RuneQuest returning to Chaosium after a long journey away from it.

In the 1980s, it was difficult for me to get ahold of RPGs. I always loved games from Chaosium. It was like unearthing a treasure trove. I always enjoyed his personal web page, where he wrote of his history in the gaming industry.

I can't claim to have met with him and I don't believe I ever corresponded with him - unless he participated in a message board thread I was involved in. But he played a huge role in my favorite hobby and through his efforts brought me and so many others countless hours of enjoyment. He took us beyond searching for treasure and into worlds of heroism and myth.

Greg Stafford was a practicing shaman and I'll close with a quote of his from Pagan Paths - "In Shamanic activity the mythic is experienced, and the impossible can be felt.We must be prepared to feel the impossible."

Thanks Greg for all the myths.


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Hundreds of OSR Blogs in an Easy-to-Read Format!

Thought Eater - Sat, 10/13/2018 - 11:55
The inestimable Ramanan S of Save vs Total Party Kill fame and originator of the Rammies, the only RPG award that has ever truly mattered, has given anyone that enjoys reading about old school gaming a great gift.

CHECK IT OUT
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

(5e) Pudding Faire

Ten Foot Pole - Sat, 10/13/2018 - 11:19


By Will Doyle, Shawn Merwin, Cindy Moore
Self-published
5e
Levels 3

BREAK A CURSE THAT ECHOES THROUGH TIME! You awaken on the morning of the Pudding Faire: just as you did yesterday… and the day before that… and the day before that! To escape the loop, you must break a curse that strikes to the heart of halfling and gnome lore.

This 24 page adventure deals a time loop ala Groundhogs Day, with a halfling and gnome god poking at each other. Not a total shit show and better than average, it looks like either it was actually playtested or some serious thought went in to organization, or both. Long but not really overly verbose, it handles “time travel contingencies” about as well as it can. It is non-trivial, but the overlapping events seems like a lot of fun.

Halfling goddess won’t let the (evil) gnome god of trickery join in the pudding eating at a local halfling/gone fair they are both attending, so he curses the village to relive the same day, while he tries to convince her each day to let him try the pudding. Solutions are to help her by keeping him from casting the curse, or convince her to let him also eat the pudding.

Bonus points for Gods. Modern D&D relies too much on piling kits on monsters to communicate the fantastic and not enough on the old folklore elements … and mixing it up with gods could be either folklorish or S&S/DCC-ish, depending on their treatment. It does a good job of handling the gods, covering blasting players with spells and why they don’t, etc. It supports the DM covering this as well as farming XP, gold, etc. “These are unusual situations, let’s give the DM a couple of words of advice on each.” That’s good work.

And that extends to other areas of support the adventure offers the DM. There’s a decent amount of advice about running the time travel elements that doesn’t get too in the weeds. Guidelines that get in and out fast. Then there’s a nice one-page summary at the end that has NPC’s, the problems/situations they face, along with a little personality and a location. That’s GREAT to see. It’s a perfect example of the designer including support material for the DM based on the idiosyncratic needs of the adventure they’ve written. Be it from playtesting or otherwise the support material thoughtfulness and advice shines through.

There’s about two dozen locations in the adventure. Each has a little description, some have a key event that happens at a certain time each day. Some have a little situation that happens the first day but not other days, and other have events that happen in response to other events and/or the parties actions.

That, in a nutshell, is the problem with these time travel adventures. They have to account for the initial situation as well as the parties, and other NPC”s meddling in things. That can make for some long descriptions. These are not necessarily verbose, but the pure volume of events makes the description drag out. They COULD be shorter, with some really dedicated editing. And the headings could be much better. Right now there’s a “Significant Event” heading for those locations that have one. It would have been better to use more descriptive headings, like “SI: Mayor Turned in to a Toad” or some such. While the SI heading provides you the ability to find the SI section easily, you want to overload the data when possible to cue and orient the DM. The same goes for the other events headings. Further, there could be some bolding or better use of bullet points. The ability to scan the text quickly is important. If we assume the DM has read it once, then at the table we’re looking to job their memory … which bolding and bullet points can do well … and which this adventure does not do well.

It does a decent job with presenting some nuanced NPC’s … in some cases. There’s a thief to redeem … but also a gang of outlaws that can’t be reasoned with. You can help either god to break the curse, but the good god is clearly MUCH easier. The adventure even goes so far as to say the outlaws will never help the good guys and it should be VERY hard for the players to convince the good god to allow the evil one to eat some pudding.

I’ve got some problems with that. The adventure does a good enough job of being open ended that these discrepancies stand out. I remember a Deus Ex game in which you complete without violence … except for this one farmed-out boss battle that you had to fight. The outlaw gang stands out here. They have a mortally injured member and go so far as to kidnap an herbalist to save them … and its even mentioned that only divine magic can save him. But they will never side with the good god. Not even if she promises to save their buddy? And the whole good good good god pudding thing is kid of lame also. Gods has a historical basis in kind of getting along, even when they don’t like each other. Is it really so much to ask that the gnome god be allowed to partake in the pudding feast?

That accompanies some bad advice in places, like “throwing some skulks at the party when things are lagging.” That’s never a good idea.

But, still in all, much better than I was expecting. I was prepared to make a disparaging remark about the Adept level DMSguild stuff, having encountered at least one stinker, but so far I’m two for three for them not being total shitshows. That’s MUCH higher than usual for me, and ridiculous when considering the depths of despair general DMSGuild adventures send me to. It actually MIGHT be worth checking them out! I’ve also decided I’m grading this 5e/Pathfinder shit on a curve from now on.

This is $5 at DMSGuild. The fucking preview doesn’t fucking work!
https://www.dmsguild.com/product/249757/Pudding-Faire

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

OSR Guide for the Perplexed Questionnaire

Thought Eater - Fri, 10/12/2018 - 22:17

You might see this questionnaire popping up a lot. I have enjoyed reading what other people had to say and thought I would add my two cents.

1. One article or blog entry that exemplifies the best of the Old School Renaissance for me:Hard to point to one but stuff like THIS gives me warm fuzzies.
2. My favorite piece of OSR wisdom/advice/snark


3. Best OSR module/supplement: Wow these questions are tough. I'll cheat a tad and go with Richard LeBlanc's d30 books .

4. My favorite house rule (by someone else): MUs being able to spontaneously cast from their spellbooks rather than prepare specific spells. Forget who mentioned it, but it allows for much more variety and creativity in play. 

5. How I found out about the OSR: When I got back into gaming I was looking at buying old 1st edition AD&D books and discovered that not only were people still playing it, they were making clones of it, adventures for it, blogging about it, etc 

6. My favorite OSR online resource/toy: Hmmm THIS is about as awesome as it gets. Also the Greyhawk weather generator

7. Best place to talk to other OSR gamers: Well that is kind of the question right now. I immediately fell in love with G+, but it is going away. I am optimistic with what I have seen on MeWe. 

8. Other places I might be found hanging out talking games: Here, G+MeWe, rarely on various forums. 

9. My awesome, pithy OSR take nobody appreciates enough: You cannot have a meaningful campaign if strict time records are not kept. I wrote that. 
10. My favorite non-OSR RPG: If you don't think pre-7th Call of Cthulhu is OSR, then CoC. If you do, then...maybe Savage Worlds.

11. Why I like OSR stuff: Nostalgia, creativity, DIY spirit, amazing talent, cool people, fun games.

12. Two other cool OSR things you should know about that I haven’t named yetTHIS spreadsheet, THIS Patreon. 

13. If I could read but one other RPG blog but my own it would be: Old Grognardia posts. 

14. A game thing I made that I like quite a lot is: I think I did a pretty good job with this adventure.

15. I'm currently running/playing: Running a weekly 1e/BX mashup game, playing in a bi-weekly Castles and Crusades game. Occasionally run a BX Stonehell game for my daughter. Jump into online games here and there when I can. 

16. I don't care whether you use ascending or descending AC because: Oh, but I DO care.

17. The OSRest picture I could post on short notice

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Review & OSR Commentary The Murder Knights of Corvendark From Monkey Blood Design For The Swords & Wizardry Retrolcone & Your Old School Camapigns

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 10/12/2018 - 16:30
"No one knows from where they came. All feathers and spite. Their vile beaks spit angry screeches, and beneath their wing beats, acrid miasmas swirl. Within the subterranean caverns beneath Wychington — on the shores of Lake Grimwater — a small part of a region from long ago, or maybe a time yet to pass, has come into existence. Malign and abhorrent half-men, half-crows inhabit this Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Mysteries of Azurth Report Card

Sorcerer's Skull - Fri, 10/12/2018 - 12:05

Back in 2016, I wrote a post about mysteries that had emerged in our Land of Azurth 5e campaign in play. Let's look back and see which ones the PCs have answered in the years since and which they haven't:

1. Who is the man in the metal suit beneath Castle Machina?  The name "Lum" was thrown around, and Mirabilis Lum is said to have disappeared beneath the castle, but is the man in the metal suit him, who was he gaming with, and why does he stay down there? Updated. The party still doesn't know, but perhaps more information has come to light since, with the mention of a man named Loom living in a distant junk city.

2. What does Calico Bonny look like? The Queen of the Floating World of Rivertown tends to hide behind a folding screen if she bothers appearing at all. Is there a reason? Solved. Calico Bonny is a member of the so rare as to be believed mythical Cat Folk. The party has met her brother.

3. Who were the builders of the Cloud Castle? The scale of the castle indicates they most have been near giants, though the ancient images suggest they looked something like the Cloud People that live there now. Who were these people with a flare for Googie architecture and mid-Century design and what happened to them? Still unknown. This hasn't really come up again. Maybe someday.

4. What does the projector do? The Princess Viola says it can open a portal to another world once it is fixed, but what world? And who built it? Solved. The device turned out to be for opening portals into the Etheric Zone.  The party went there and was tricked into releasing the Super-Wizard criminal Zuren-Ar from the cosmic prison known as the Carnelian Hypercube. The repercussions of this act have yet to be experienced.

5. Where does the magic portal in Mortzengersturm's mansion lead? The frox thief Waylon saw an image of another world: people in unusual clothes in an impressive city, beyond the technology of the Land of Azurth. Where (or when) was this place and why did Mortzengersturm have a portal to it? Partially solved. The portal was actually a page from the Book of Doors. A book of magical portals that keeps popping up.

6. What was the deal with Mr. Pumpkin and his carnival? Since when can a swarm of rats manage a carnival, and what became of all those rats that got away when the carnival got destroyed? Do these events have anything to do with the giant rats seen later in the beer cellar of the Silver Dragon Tavern in town? (Probably) Partially solved by someone else. As revealed in the Public Observator, the new celebrity heroes of Rivertown, The Eccentrics, uncovered a plague of wereratism that was not explicitly, but quite likely, related. Read what is known here:




Meditations on Lankhmar Gaming

19th Level - Fri, 10/12/2018 - 01:52


I recently took my backer draft copy of the DCC Lankhmar set out for a few adventures. It's been fun - I find DCC to be a pretty good system for the setting.

This got me thinking of my own history with Lankhmar - an experience which, judging by articles and interviews, is similar to DCC Lankhmar author Michael Curtis'. I first encountered Nehwon, the world of Lankhmar, in the pages of AD&D's 1st edition Deities and Demigods. It gave stats for Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, the gods of Nehwon, various creatures, and gave an extremely high level overview of some of the organizations to be found there. It also mentioned the books these stories could be found in. Books I could not find.

A few years later TSR came out with a Lankhmar: City of Adventure supplement for AD&D. I loved it - a guide to Lankhmar and Nehwon. Lots of new rules for PCs. Looking back it did have the oddity of re-skinning white magic to be clerical magic and black magic to be standard magic-user magic. It greatly hobbled such characters with much longer casting times. But I really liked the idea of a low-magic setting for adventurers. Unfortunately I still couldn't find the darn books.

In the 1990s White Wolf began publishing hardcover editions of the Lankhmar novels. I was finally able to read the books. I did indeed enjoy them for the most part - they were uneven, with some fantastic stories and some that were... ok. Overall I really enjoyed them. I was pretty spoiled from having read the TSR sourcebooks but I still enjoyed the reading. I was a bit surprised by some heavy doses of BDSM in some of the stories. I think, overall, I enjoyed the fun the two had in their adventures - and misadventures. They messed up a lot - they lost their trueloves while they were making a drunken raid on the Thieves' Guild. There was an undercurrent of the protagonists doing what they wanted to be doing, something I didn't always find in swords and sorcery fiction.

Lankhmar has a bit of a mixed record in RPGs. I liked the AD&D Lankhmar, especially for non-magic characters. When Mongoose Publishing had the RuneQuest license they published some Lankhmar material. I think RuneQuest is a great fit for Lankhmar but I found the Mongoose lacking in quality. Pinnacle has done a series of Lankhmar books for Savage Worlds - I'm not intimately familiar with them but they seem to be of good quality.

Overall, I probably consider DCC and RuneQuest the best possible matches for Lankhmar. DCC is awfully close to what I'd consider the perfect system for Lankhmar out of the box - it doesn't require extensive modification. It does include rules for luckier and more bad-ass characters, dispensing with the zero-level funnel. It also makes it easier for characters to heal without the benefit of clerics. Adventures are designed for parties of varying sizes, including very small parties of two or three characters, very much in keeping with the setting.

There's a few things that I've found a bit rough with DCC Lankhmar. It's been a lot harder on PCs than I'd've expected. There's been no fatalities yet but some pretty major/permanent style injuries. The rules do have some options for a bit less deadly game. I'd glossed over them, deciding to try the rules as written, but I think should we do some more adventures I might try them out.
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