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An Unkindness of Ravens is coming

Fail Squad Games - Wed, 03/21/2018 - 16:05
An Unkindness of Ravens

The next Lands of Lunacy adventure is well on its way. the project is shaping up for a launch early this spring! This is a real challenge and a solid adventure that will span many sessions at the table while really pulling at character sanity.

Don’t let madness just slip through your hands.

The post An Unkindness of Ravens is coming appeared first on Fail Squad Games.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Ghost Panzer: Shooting While Moving Ain’t Happening

Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog - Wed, 03/21/2018 - 12:54

The big lesson of the Ghost Panzer tank combat scenario is that moving and shooting just isn’t going to happen. If you’re in one of those massively well-armored T34’s, then you’re going to fail your proficiency check on the turn you’re moving into position. So you wait. The next turn, you’d like to be able to hit a German tank so you stay still. Making you something of a sitting duck. Even then, due to the low-initiative nature of the Russian tank crews, you still have less than a 50/50 chance to take a shot– because the Germans are going to be on the move.

On the other hand, being a sitting duck is not such a bad deal when you’re a Russian. The solid front armor of the T34 tanks are pretty much better protection than anything else you can do. So you line up, hang back, and wait for the Germans to come to you. This is a simple scenario where the winner is the person that kills the most tanks– and the Russians win ties. So they can afford to let the Germans come to them.

The German Panzers are pretty awesome, though. They’re slow and lightly armored in comparison. But they shoot a lot. And critically, their crews have about a 50/50 chance of being able to take a shot while on the go. And the Panzer IV has a gun on it that very nearly ignores even the best armor.

Now… I’ve played this scenario by the numbers and I’ve played it with absolutely no idea about any sort of sane strategy. I have to say… it was fun trying to play this “wrong.” Tanks were scattered all over the board and facing every direction. Germans would position themselves just out of my firing arc so that I’d have to take a -1 to proficiency when I had to change facing. It was an absolute nightmare of carnage and destruction and not a great day for the motherland.

I’ve wanted a playable tank game for a long time. Certainly, whatever it is that miniatures players tend to do is way too complicated for my table. This is just right. In Ghost Panzer, a tank that is shot by another tank is either dead or (more rarely) probably dead. The tanks are described fully by weapon, armor, movement, and proficiency values– in such a way as to encourage players to rediscover their nation’s doctrine. And the only thing that is even close to being confusing in the rules is the terrain modifiers and line of sight stuff.

Especially with the new “Remastered” edition here, you’ve got a MicroGame level of rules density combined with the sort of game components people expect from a contemporary board game. Even better, you’ve got everything you need to blitz Russia!

If you are looking to branch out from euro games and role-playing games and into historical wargames, this is one that is liable to give you a great deal of bang for the buck. Like everything else Jim Krohn has designed, it’s engineered to give you a great deal of flavor and nuance from a relatively small number of “almost invisible in actual play” type rules. Check it out!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Red Prophet Rises

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 03/21/2018 - 11:13

By Malrex & PrinceofNothing
Merciless Merchants
Levels 3-5

Trouble stirs in the Borderlands. Khazra, Red Prophet of the Bull God, has united the fractious People of the Bull and proclaimed the promised time is nigh. The Bull God demands blood! Fanatics raid the outlying villages, farmsteads and towns for sacrifices. None are safe! Unbeknownst to Khazra, a power older than man stirs under the earth, fed by the blood of sacrifice. Can a band of unlikely heroes prevail where all before them have failed? Are they brave enough to face not just the minions of the Red Prophet, but the eldritch terror of the Obelisk that Thirsts? The land will suffer terrors lost to time–unless heroes step up and answer the call! A module for 3-6 characters of levels 3-5.

I’ve had a rough couple of months. I was happy to run across this adventure and bumped it up in the appearance queue, so things may appear out of order over the next couple of weeks. Just imagine this review appears a week from now.

This 39 page adventure details a canyon and its caves (43 rooms over two levels) that inhabited by a blood-sacrifice cult. With shadows of both the warrior cult from Conan and the enemy from 13th Warrior with a little Zardoz tossed in, it provides a great dynamic environment that has its own thing going on aside from the parties involvement … up to and including “the cult all end up killing themselves by accident.” The environment starts off “mundane” and then gets freakier as the party gets in to the heart of the caves. Well organized and evocative, this is the kind of environment you want to run.

I’m terrible at reviewing good adventures. I never know where to start. I guess can being with the writing.

The writing is evocative without being verbose. At one point there’s a captive centaur forced to fight an opponent to the death. He continues trampling his opponent on the ground “long after the cheers of the crowd have ceased.” Recall, this is a warrior blood cult. Ouch! That’s the kind of writing you get. In this adventure. It doesn’t drone on and on with endless descriptions of room contents or wether the doorway is eight foot tall or nine foot tall. Instead the writing conveys the SENSE of he place. And because it does it can leverage every life experience the DM has had to allow them to fill in the blanks. The horrified onlookers. A blood warrior, sullen with his jaw hanging open, averting his eyes from the massacre. A guy a little too much in to it. All of that can brought by DM to expand the locale as needed, reacting to the players. Good location descriptions don’t describe an locale, but rather the SENSE of the locale. ““Rough-looking men interrupt gulps of ale and bites of charred rabbit with rambunctious laughter around a sizable fire pit.” Indeed!

That same writing then turns around and uses white space, bolding and bullet points to great effect to organize the text. A small text paragraph to convey the sense and then bullets to expand the mechanical aspects. This allows the DM to scan the text quickly and effectively to locate the information they need to run the adventure. The dichotomy of adventure writing is that you get to ignore ALL sense of grammar and style in order to convey the sense of the place … but it has to be perfectly organized to allow the DM to easily run it at the table. This adventure does that.

There’s a nice little time table presented that shows what’s going on at the camp when. Locations have brief notes related to the time table that don’t get in the way. There’s an order of battle for some rooms. “The guards in room 5 might hear a prolonged combat …” or … “If an alarm is raised then …” There’s a summary sheet of monster stats so you’ll have them all at your fingertips when running this. It’s almost as if the designers *gasp* oriented the text so it would be useful to a DM running it at the table! Oh the Humanity!

The rumor table is in voice for the beleaguered people whispering tales of the raiding warriors. The entire place is written as a neutral living environment, a module, not necessarily entirely dependent on the PC”s actions. Up to the point that their blood sacrifices finally work, they raise a god, and it slaughters all of them and eventually maybe blots out the sun. The wanderers chart has a couple of allies and/or prisoners on it. (Even if “33% chance every 10 minutes” seems a little frequent …) The map has some loops in it and feels like caves in a canyon. (Or at least a fantasy version thereof.) The magic items are new and interesting.

There’s mount presented for a Paladin (that’s one of the potential hooks) that FEELS like a paladin’s mount. Aeyron, grandon of the King of Horses! Fuck yeah man! Now THAT’S a paladin’s mount!

Little rattlesnakes. Giant snakes/ Cauldrons of boiling blood. Death match games. It’s conan turned up to 11.

There’s even a faction! (Well, besides the prisoners, allies you might meet.) The old shaman doesn’t like the turn the tribe has taken and may recruit the party. This part could be handled a little better … maybe one paragraph on an outline of plan, but I still appreciate having what there is.

Likewise the hooks are essentially non-existent. A little more guidance in getting the party involved would have been nice. As is, the mount or maybe hearing some rumors of a blood cult or raided villages is all there is … and the later is a little weak unless you’re running HEROES. It is 2e, so maybe that’s ok.

Obviously, I like this. As you get in to the caves in the canyon you start to encounter freakier and freakier stuff. STarting with just camped out tribesmen in the canyon and then pentagrams, black obelisks, and cauldrons of blood inside. This is a place, not a railroad. It is that rare of things: A Good Adventure.

This is $5 at DriveThru. The preview is six pages. Page two shows some order of battle/alarms, as well as ath rumors table. The wandering chart and cave map are also included and shows the potential depth the adventure can generate. The last couple of pages are some of the locations, and give you a good look at the location writing and organization. A great preview.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Wednesday Comics: Storm: The Hounds of Marduk

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 03/21/2018 - 11:00
My exploration of the long-running euro-comic Storm, continues with his adventures in the world of Pandarve. Earlier installments can be found here.

Storm: The Hounds of Marduk (1985) 
(Dutch: De Honden van Marduk) (part 4)
Art by Don Lawrence; script by Martin Lodewijk

An aircraft carrying the newly evolved hound and a group of the Theocrat's soldiers lands in a field outside of town. They carry with them a device to locate the Anomaly aka Storm.

Meanwhile, Storm and friends are meeting with the rebel leader. He wants to know why Storm as the Anomaly is so important to Marduk. Storm reluctantly explains Marduk's theory as to how his travel through time and space has filled his body with some sort of energy. Storm demonstrates:

But that's enough to make him show up on the Hound's device. The Theocrat's men track Storm to an abandon temple.

The rebel leader tries to sell Storm on letting the rebellion harness his power. Storm isn't buying it. The rebels detect the incoming Theocrat troops. The temple is full of ancient traps. They kill some of the troops, but the Hound figures out how to avoid them and a contingent makes it through. I firefight breaks out, and the rebel leader attempts to get Storm and friends away.

The Hound, again thinking quickly, uses a prismatic Tear of Pandarve to reflect the energy beam from the booby trap against the rebel forces.

He leads the Theocrat's men forward, but they are stymied by another trap.

Meanwhile, Storm and friends have had about enough of being pushed around by the rebels:

Unaware what's going on in the other room. The rebel leader surrenders to the Hound and his troops who have just made in through. He promises to give them the anomaly in return for his life.


"Gaze Into The Eyes of The Dragon!" The Master Manipulator of Magick For Your Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 03/21/2018 - 05:44
"I have walked my way since the beginning of time. Sometimes I give, sometimes I take, it is mine to know which and when!"Merlin Excalibur 1981 Is there a lynch pin that holds Arthurian literature & legends together? Well that spoke around which all of the events happen is Merlin. Up till now I've resisted taking about him. But I think its safe to assume that we can do a bit of a spinNeedles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

[REVIEW] Halls of the Minotaur

Beyond Fomalhaut - Tue, 03/20/2018 - 21:45

DCC #35A: Halls of the Minotaur (2006)by Harley StrohPublished by Goodman Games0-level funnel
Halls of the MinotaurWe knew we were royally fucked one minute into the game, in round one of our first encounter. Two PCs had just gone down in combat, and it was clear we were both outnumbered and outclassed by our enemies. We had miscalculated the odds, and were on a suicide mission right from the first step. One of my characters had a Strength of 3, and another was a hobbit haberdasher with a pair of sharp scissors; our opponents had real weapons, including crossbows, and they were dug in in an ambush among the bushes. Then it happened. In the face of certain death, you might as well give it your best shot, and go all out. We rushed them out of sheer desperation and hacked at them until they went down and we won. Then we won and won again while expecting the worst, usually at terrible costs, but we got better and won some more. And we killed the minotaur.
This combination of overwhelming odds and reckless heroism is the addictive idea Goodman Games had hit on with what would eventually become the DCC “funnel” concept, pitching a handful of zero-level nobodies into the meat grinder and seeing what comes out at the other end: ideally, a few battered heroes, and lots of bloody paste. The play style is one way to achieve an approximation of the low-level D&D experience under 3rd edition rules, and it has been canonised in the DCC RPG as an element of the character creation process. DCC’s power level is a kind of compromise between the 3e and old D&D approach – the characters are fragile, but there are mechanisms and extra abilities to compensate for that weakness, including a post-battle body recovery rule (essentially a saving throw against actually buying the farm). In this review, I am looking at one of the early examples of these “grinder” modules; it was originally made for 3.5, while we played it at a convention DCC game, with six players running three zero-level characters each. The review will also contrast how the module reads vs. how it was run by our GM.
As mentioned above, Halls of the Minotaur pits a bunch of hapless villagers against a marauding minotaur and its underlings. The action begins in a monster-infested forest, before it moves into a dungeon dug into a steep cliff, then a citadel on top of the cliff. Most of the keyed encounters begin as combat encounters – you move into a new area, fight a group of monsters (and if you are careless, deadly reinforcements), then you can check out the local details. Setpiece combats in cool locations – at a forest ambush site, before a demonic idol flanked by braziers, on a rope bridge, etc. – serve as the key attraction. The module has an element of infiltration/stealth that can make the combat situations (the preparedness and grouping of enemies) easier or harder, and the PCs will need all the advantages they can wrest from their environment. There is also an element of non-linearity that is almost real and feels real for about half of the adventure, but turns out to be largely illusory (there are a few branches and alternate routes early on, but the true way through most of the place is one way only, and the rest are blocked off by increasingly contrived ways).
As a typical feature of the early DCC modules, the room descriptions often give you the kind of wacky, imaginative room ideas you’d get in the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks – say, a dragon’s head rising out of an underground river, or a throne room concealing a deadly ambush, or fighting your way through the dungeon to emerge in a castle on top of the cliff – but they are somehow never actually as wild and out there when you interact with them. Likewise, the environment has layers of history and some really decent visuals, but again, it doesn’t amount to much, since it is a series of kobold battles in a fancier than average dungeon environment.
Or is it? This was an adventure that had gained a lot in the telling. Around the table – and remember, this was a casual convention pickup game – it felt real. Fairly standard areas took on a character they didn’t have in the text I read later. The desperation of the action – whose unfairness had turned us into crafty, vicious little opportunists – imbued the game with authenticity and a sense of working against time. Little touches to make the environment more mysterious – like turning some fairly standard kobolds into strange beastmen, or refining  standard encounters into indecipherable enigmas – gave it a touch of fantasy that had gone beyond the standard D&D playbook. That is to say, a good GM can do much with the material even with a fairly light touch; but also, this is a module with more untapped potential than it seems to have on first sight. It really did play better than it reads – had I come across it when I was still trying to find gems in DCC’s 3.5 module library in vain, I might not have seen the gem in the rough.
Which is not to say Halls of the Minotaur is a great module. It is a decentish one with typical design issues of its time and publisher. It always feels like the encounters are overwritten – much boxed text and followup writing are expended to say relatively little (developments in the old-school scene since 2006 have been massive in this respect). The 3.5 stat blocks are cumbersome, using mechanically complex methods to express interesting, but relatively simple ideas. I have already mentioned the other stuff. It is 12-16 decent pages lurking in a 32-page package (although with a Doug Kovacs cover and great illustrations by Stefan Poag). However, if you don’t mind giving it a thorough read and some thought to adapt it for yourself, the good stuff is more than enough to carry a fun, action-packed adventure.
The module credits its playtesters.
Rating: *** / *****
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Magic of Western Fantasy

Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog - Tue, 03/20/2018 - 13:30

Over at Men of the West, Boethius has delivered a first rate piece about the foundations and devolution of the fantasy genre:

Old England folklore is a curious blend of pagan beliefs mixed with Roman civilized rituals that were baptized by Christianity to be something more than just pagan worship of the unknown and nature.

The fey played a large part of their fantastical world view. Elves, brownies, fairies, pixies, gnomes, sprites: Merry Old England was practically lousy with them.

The horns of the Elfking’s courts could be faintly heard in the dawning mists. Pleasures and powers beyond mortal ken danced just out of reach at times, but those that wandered into feyland had more than to worry about than just the obvious traps. It was an alien place fit for alien minds.

Elves had no souls, doomed to be shut out of the gates of Heaven forever. And any man, woman, or child that fell under their sway dealt with the damned and their corrupting influences. The mortal’s soul was on the line. The power of the fey could grant wishes unimaginable, held wealth untold, powers unexplainable, but it also could drag a man into Hell.

And yet, the horns blew softly, seductively, through every age where there were those that still could remember Merry Old England in her awful splendor. The Romantics made it part of their stock and trade, doing what they did best of blurring the sharp edges and casting much in a soft cloak of Nostalgia by making the good sweeter than it should be and darkness only one more shade.

Even Mole and Rat from Wind in the Willows would encounter a vestige of that time through Pan in Chapter 7, The Piper At the Gates of Dawn. Have a read, it’s not long.

The Elfking was no friend to humanity, and his kingdom was marshalled to confuse and tempt any mortal seeking something beyond the bounds of Christendom. Softly, softly the feykind would lead anyone foolish enough to his eternal doom.

However, Tolkien had seen something different. He had seen that Elvenkind, out of all the fey, had been transformed by the fierce light of Christianity.

Read the whole thing!

As great as Tolkien was, you end up losing a great deal when you arbitrarily treat him as the starting point of the fantasy genre. And face it, most people do. For the vast majority of readers and gamers, fantasy is defined by the transition from Tolkien to Terry Brooks and Stephen R. Donaldson to Robert Jordan and George R. R. Martin.

Most people don’t realize that there were other approaches that managed to thrive right up through the seventies. They don’t know that when D&D was first coming together that it was Lord Dunsany that would have been considered to be the gold standard of the genre and that Tolkien was a late bloomer in comparison. They have no idea that fantasy had a surprisingly broad following during the 1920s and 30s, and that the genre’s exemplar, A. Merritt, was hailed as “The Lord of Fantasy”.

In the span of two generations, the fantasy canon was wiped away. The key reference points were first diluted and then erased. People that point out that this is so are greeted by a small chorus of people claiming that this is obvious. But there is a larger chorus of people that will deny it. And there are those that once persuaded that will insist that there’s nothing extraordinary about this at all. Times change. People change, they say. Cultures change, too.

And they die.

And there is a strange magic to it, I suppose. Something has happened. Go back and look again at those old stories of elves, brownies, fairies, pixies, gnomes, sprites… those tales you might have once dismissed as being childish and silly compared to the serious fantasy of today. The stuff that is so “realistic” it is as devoid of genuine heroism as it is of the concept unadulterated evil.

The folklore of Old England just got a little bit stranger. And weirder. And more wondrous.

It also got more relevant.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Cryptozoic and Warner Bros. Consumer Products Announce Release of Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman Inspired Vinyl Figure

Cryptozoic - Tue, 03/20/2018 - 13:00

Cryptozoic Entertainment and Warner Bros. Consumer Products, on behalf of DC Entertainment, today announced the March 21 release of the Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman inspired vinyl figure. The 7-inch inspired by figure pays homage to actress Lynda Carter, who famously played the title character in the popular 1970s Wonder Woman TV series. In addition, a limited edition Caped Variant version of the figure—featuring a red, white, and blue cape—is available directly from Cryptozoic. 

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Box Breaking 240: Small World From Days of Wonder

Gamer Goggles - Tue, 03/20/2018 - 03:07

In this Box Breaking Matt takes a look at Small World from Days of Wonder. Take a look at the game that puts conquest on the map.

Click here to view the video on YouTube.

Small World is one of my favorite games and it should be somewhere on your list too!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Wild Weirdness of D3 City of the Gods by Dave L. Arneson and David J. Ritchie For Old School Campaign Construction

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 03/19/2018 - 17:32
The PCs journey 4,000 years into the past to the land of Blackmoor! The party of adventurers are sent to the City of the Gods by the leaders of Blackmoor to acquire divine magic, either by bargaining or by stealing it! So over the weekend I looking over D3 City of the Gods by Dave L. Arneson and David J. Ritchie & thinking about the Egg of Coot (again).  D3 has always been a bit of mixed Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Ghost Panzer: Running Across the Street Isn’t Trivial

Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog - Mon, 03/19/2018 - 12:43

I’ve played the quick infantry training scenario of Ghost Panzer several times now and I have to say… there is a lot here to like.

The Germans play completely different from the Russians due to their higher morale, better unit cohesion, and greater effectiveness when reacting or on the move. When filtered through the rules, the numbers on the counters really do capture the “flavor” of how each side behaves on the battlefield.

The system just plain works, too. You can keep an enemy unit pinned down with suppression fire, then send some other guys around their flank in order to move in and finish them off. When the target (almost assuredly) fails their morale check before the melee phase, they will more than likely simply evaporate.

Meanwhile, crossing a street is insanely dangerous. All units get a “free” chance to take opportunity fire. Even units that have already taken their turn and are marked “used” get a chance for opportunity fire against adjacent enemies. By spending a command point, your heavy weapons team can take a rule-bending long ranged “final opportunity fire.”

And under those circumstances those morale checks can be a killer. First, your guys might just stop moving altogether when they come under fire. Later on, they may decide to fall back in order to take cover.

This scenario is just a MicroGame-sized chunk of action… but everything here works. It’s very easy to teach. It’s easy to set up and takes place all on one map panel. My wargaming pals on the other side of the world have been recommending this one for years. Glad to finally know what all the buzz was about!

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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Ruined Abbey of St Clewd

Ten Foot Pole - Mon, 03/19/2018 - 11:19

The Ruined Abbey of St Clewd
Gavin Norman & Greg Gorgonmilk
Necrotic Gnome

I ended up with another magazine adventure to review, Wormskin #3. This twelve digest page adventure describes the surface level of a ruined abbey in the Dolmenwood. (The entire issue, and I suspect magazine, is devoted to the Dolmenwood setting.) Clearly written, and also clearly limited by its “just the surface ruins” approach. There’s not much content, which forces one to ask some hard questions. It’s also spooky as all fuck.

Let’s talk about “spooky as fuck” first. I seem to remember an old 3e SRD monster book called something like Nightmares & Dreams. It was full of horror themed monsters and did a great job bringing the creepiness to life. This does the same thing with one of its principal encounters. The Gloom is an undead creature formed from a bunch of dead crows. It collects things, like teeth or corneas. It’s a kind of tall skinny man in finery. Offering candy to children. Or encaged in an iron tree cage being freed by dumb kids. You can run in to some kids in this adventure, maybe playing in a very old graveyard. A graveyard with a bunch of open graves, freshly dug up. And the kids all have dirty hands … seems they’re charmed and have been stealing teeth for the Gloom. I’m just a hack reviewer and can’t get CLOSE to the creep that the adventure brings with regard to the Gloom or the children. It’s really well done.

I might also comment that the writing here is very clear. I’m been trying to figure out why and I can’t really put my finger on it. Maybe because it goes from “what the party sees first” to the general to the specific. It tends to focus on stuff that the party will be interested in, and thus directly on play at table rather than trivia (with a single fucking notable exception.) An evocative sentence that you might use when the party first shows up. A line of DM text explaining things. Another line of trap/damage/search mechanics. That’s what the entries all feel like … but I’m not actually sure that’s what’s going on. Whatever. I find the writing style quite effective.

The adventure also devotes 2.5 pages, a huge amount for a 12 page adventure (20%?) to a series of seven murals in the ruined church. It goes in to detail on each. Except for one, the last one, I can find no reason why it does this. It just seems to be trivia, and is completely different from the writing in the rest of the adventure, which is quite focused on actual play. Maybe it bears fruit in the next issue, which describes the underground level?

The whole thing comes off as a bit sparse. Oh, sure the Gloom/children thing is GREAT, but the rest of the level is essentially non-existent. A couple of different ways to find stairs down is about it, except for one hidden treasure. Everything is looted. The murals thing is a big miss, again, unless it pays off in the next dungeon level. Six locations, with two of them having four or five sub-locations. It seems a little sparse. IDK.

As a horror themed stand alone this should work. I’m just having problems reconciling the sparseness with my classical view of an “adventure.” It may be the episodic/zine nature just didn’t work well here and you need the second level for things to click. Or maybe I’m being nice,

This is $5 at DriveThru. The preview shows nothing of the adventure,

Here’s the text from location #2, Graveyard. Something about this turns me off at first glance … the length, one paragraph, no bolding I’m pretty sure. But then, reading it … it seems perfectly suited to run. What the players see. What happens when they follow up. Mechanics. GREAT text organization.

“Crumbling stone walls — now sprawling with ivy and buckled by the intruding roots of looming yew and holly trees — surround the abbey’s graveyard, wherein lie the remains of several hundred monks of the lower orders (the more senior monastics were interred in the crypt beneath the chapel).A thorough inspection of the dates of the graves reveals that no one has been buried here during the last 350 years. It is also noticeable that many of the graves are in the process of being carelessly dug up. There is a 2 in 6 chance of one or more of the children described in area 3b being present in the graveyard during the day.”

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Crashing the Sea King's Party in a Yellow Submarine

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 03/19/2018 - 11:00
Imagine this underwaterOur 5e Land of Azurth campagin continued last night with the party hearing a desperate plea for aid from Old Freedy, the kaleidoscopic tophat-wearing frogling ambassador from the Land of Under-Sea. It seems the utopia of Under-Sea has been overrun by the evil toad people from beyond the Blue Wall. Kully's father, Cory, and the cat-man Calico Jack were in Under-Sea at the time and are now aiding the froglings in finding champions.

The party quite reasonably wonders what they can do against a toad people army. Old Freedy explains that their are not actually that many toads, but that are too tough for the froglings to handle. The party was suggested by Cory Keenstep and Calico Jack (who had heard of them through his sister, Calico Bonny). Freedy discloses they have hired the party's old friend, the steam-powered  Commodore Cog to command the submarine craft they brought from Under-Sea.

This is all pretty incredible, but the most adventurous members of the party are eager to do it, and they overrule the more strictly avarous members. The first step (Freedy now reveals) is rescuing Cory Keenstep from the Sea King's folly. It seems he beat the libertine old merman in cards too many times, and the King won't let him go until he has gotten his money back.

The party traveled down a tube of airy water to the Sea King's palace. Only the female members were allowed inside by the sahuagin guard. They learn that the Sea King is sulking in his sanctum to avoid his ex-wife Cecaelia, who had taken over the second floor lounge. She was monopolizing Cory's attentions there. On a tip from some sea elf party-girls, Shade drugged an octopus body guard so that the males in the party could sneak in the back door. Unfortunately, the sahuagin and his four sharks caught them in the act and a bloody underwater melee ensued. The party was victorious, but at least 3 were seriously wounded.

Into Bowels Of The Caverns Of Tsathoggua - The Volcano Lands Olathoë' Session Report Twelve

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 03/19/2018 - 06:07
The caves of Needleham partially give up some of their forbidden secrets but the lost & the damned are being harrowed within a monstrous cave with far weirder goings on! Savage monsters & lost travelers from other dimensions, weird worlds, & even other multiverses are being dragged to this distant corner of  Earth but for what sinister purpose?! Strange & savage horrors awaited our Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Dan's Top 19 RPGs - #12 - Marvel Super Heroes

19th Level - Mon, 03/19/2018 - 01:59

There have been a number of RPGs based on Marvel Comics but my favorite remains the original game, as published by TSR in the 1980s. It's been around 25 years since I've played the game but I still have very fond memories of the game.
I believe TSR made the game from 1984 to 1993. There were two main rules sets - the original basic game in 1984 and the advanced game which was releases in 1986. TSR later published a revised basic set. The game reflected the changing Marvel universe - it began with a strong Bronze Age of comics feel, though over time it acquired the Iron Age feel of late 1980s and early 1990s comics - the proliferation of X-Men teams, supernatural characters, etc. Though strongly rooted in the Marvel Universe, the game had rules for your own characters, teams, headquarters, etc. 
The mid-1980s saw a number of "table-based" RPGs - Chill, Gamma World, Marvel Super Heroes, and Conan are the biggies I can think of. Of the TSR games, I think Marvel did it best. Below is the "universal table" from the original game:
In terms of action, the universal table was great - it greatly mimicked the feel of comics, with characters going flying in battle, getting briefly knocked off their feet, etc. The characters had 7 abilities - Fighting, Agility, Strength, Endurance, Reason, Intuition, and Psyche - to this day, remembered as FASERIP. Each ability had a comic sounding rank - Feeble, Poor, Typical, Good, Excellent, Remarkable, Incredible, Amazing, Monstrous, and Unearthly. It's worth noting I quoted the abilities and their ranks from memory - again, despite not having played in over two decades. That's how well the game was done.
Characters had Health and Karma stats as well. These were based off of their physical and mental abilities. Health was a fairly typical "hit point" style ability. Karma was a character's ability to influence fate - bonuses to dice rolls. In the advanced game Karma could also be spent to try "power stunts" - non-typical uses of power. Spending Karma was also used for improving abilities and getting new powers. Karma could be pooled by teams, giving a common resource. You gained Karma by being heroic - and could lose it by non-heroic actions. Characters who killed lost all their Karma - and a Karma Pool would also be wiped out by a character in it who killed (keep an eye on Wolverine).
Additionally characters had Resources and Popularity, reflecting their relative wealth and how well-liked they were. Villains could have negative Popularity, reflecting how feared they were - and sometimes even well-meaning mutants might fall into that category.
Marvel Super Heroes worked great both in campaign play and for quick games. As I wrote this overview, it occurs to me it had an influence on games like Fudge, Fate, and Icons. One of the things I remember most about playing the game is how much it felt like a Marvel Comic - clearly one of the game's design goals and one it realized admirably.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Fake Virtues are a Cover for Real Vices

Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog - Mon, 03/19/2018 - 00:35

Wizards of the Coast’s transphobic drow continue to be the gift that keeps on giving:


Thanks to Carl here for helpfully summarizing everything wrong with second edition D&D in one image.

(And come to think of it, this reminds me that Gygaxian Naturalism is probably more correctly termed Greenwoodian Naturalism.)

Oh, and if you haven’t seen it already, don’t miss E. Reagan Wright’s “So old and young, and so gay”. If you think he’s exaggerating about the Left there, then you’re more than likely out of the loop and misinformed.

Here’s a primer if you’re so inclined:

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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Cupcake Scouts the RPG Now Available

The Splintered Realm - Sun, 03/18/2018 - 19:18

The Cupcake Scouts Song
We are the cupcake scoutsWe’re brave and kind and smartAnd when a vampire tries to biteWe stab it in the heart.
We are the cupcake scoutsAnd baking brings us joyBut sometimes we go to graveyardsThe undead to destroy.
We are the cupcake scoutsWe learn our lessons wellBut if a demon rises upWe send it back to Hell!

Cupcake Scoutsis a roleplaying game for two or more players. One player takes on the role of the Scoutmaster, the kindly spirit who sends the scouts to slay foul creatures and makes sure that they tuck in their shirts. Other players will take on the roles of cupcake scouts, girls who have joined a troop to make friends, learn how to bake, and drive the dark blight of chaos from this world.             To play the game, you need this book, a few standard 6-sided dice, pencils, some index cards or paper, and an activate imagination. You should probably have some cupcakes or brownies, too, because those make everything better.
Order your copy now!

“The person responsible for making the things you really want to see is you.”

Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog - Sun, 03/18/2018 - 15:07

Here’s one of the luminaries of the OSR throwing down the gauntlet to a very familiar complaint:

Things that I believe that will make everybody hate me, part XVII:

1. The very purpose of identifying a “community” is to recognize some specific difference from the general population. The very definition of a “community” must exclude most people from it for it to even be a community.

2. If you think the OSR is too straight/white/male making too much straight/white/male stuff, well, even if that was 100% correct… where’s your supplement? Adventure? Version of The Rules?

Every one of us in the OSR had to decide that something that we wanted wasn’t being given to us, so we made it ourselves. And each of us continues to do our own thing. If you think that’s lacking in some way or another, that’s not our responsibility, it’s your opportunity.

The person responsible for making the things you really want to see is you. Embarrass us with your riches. We can’t stop you. In fact, we’re waiting for it. And you. Really. Step on up.

You know… if “step on up” is the answer when you’re sort of a niche of a niche in a scene that’s already a niche group… then how much more would it apply to a supposedly massive silent majority that’s perpetually put off by the social justice bias of Hollywood, publishing, and television?

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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Azurth Digest--Still copies available

Sorcerer's Skull - Sun, 03/18/2018 - 14:00

The first issue of the Azurth Adventures Digest  print edition is still on sale, but only about 10 copies remain! Twenty-eight full color pages at 5.5 in. x 7.75 in. with art by Jeff Call and Jason Sholtis. There are random tables for the generation of quirky Motley pirates, a survey of interesting and enigmatic islands, and a mini-adventure on the Candy Isle. Plus, there are NPCs and a couple of monsters, all straight from my Land of Azurth 5e campaign.

 Go here for the print(+pdf) edition, while supplies last. If you only want the pdf, well, that's always available here.

My Next Project

The Splintered Realm - Sun, 03/18/2018 - 00:54
I've been working on a project for the last month, keeping it sort of on the down low... I am exceedingly proud of it, and I am excited to share it with you. I will tell a bit more shortly, but here's an image I drew today, an Imp Trickster.

More to come...


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