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DIRECT SALE: Black Canary Noir Edition DC Bombshells: Series 3 Vinyl Figure

Cryptozoic - Fri, 04/05/2019 - 17:00

Even her Canary Cry has a darker edge! Black Canary Noir Edition is an eye-catching variant of the regular DC Bombshells: Series 3 figure. Like the previous releases in Cryptozoic’s popular Noir Edition series, it sports a stylish gray color scheme, inspired by the timeless look of film noir.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Planets For Planes

Sorcerer's Skull - Fri, 04/05/2019 - 11:00

I alluded to this yesterday, but I thought I should expand on why I have a bit of trouble with the "Planes as Planets" idea. First, I should say, I think this is fine for a certain sort of "magic is misunderstood science" pulp settings, and it would work wonderfully with a conception of planet something like the ancient idea of the crystal spheres because then the planets basically are planes. (GURPS Cabal by Kenneth Hite sort of takes this approach.)

True, the planes as typically presented are a bit abstract, and any many cases it might not be immediately apparent what adventurers should do with them. On the other hand, "planes as planets" runs the risk of too much mudanity. In a magical setting, I feel like the environments need to be sufficiently strange (and challenging!) to explain why you just don't have them exist on the main setting world (or beneath it).

I think science fiction might offer some suggestions. This can get tough, because adventurers don't usually go around equipped with the sort of gear space explorers have to deal with hostile environments (though it certainly could be available to them). This means sticking a bit more to pulpier sci-fi with more human-friendly environments for inspiration.

Here are two examples from the work of Stanley Weinbaum I think would work:

Weinbaum's Uranus from "Planet of Doubt" is permanently shrouded in green-gray mists (visibility only out to a few feet) and heated not by the too-distant sun, but by volcanism. There are strange, swirling beings (or what appear to be beings) of solidified mists with "the faces of gargoyles or devils, leering, grimacing, grinning in lunatic mirth or seeming to weep in mockery of sorrow. One couldn't see them clearly enough for anything but fleeting impressions—so vague and instantaneous that they had the qualities of an illusion or dream."

Those apparitions are not what they seem, but I won't spoil it for you--and of course, it doesn't really matter to your setting what Weinbaum did with them, anyway.


Then there are giant, tubular beasts resembling a larger, stranger version of the processionary caterpillars of Eath--or when they are forming a "train," Jason Sholtis's googlopede. They are a hazard that can't be defeated by brute force (probably, though multiple fireballs cure a lot of problems!), but rather have to be overcome strategically.

All you need is the addition of some treasure player's might want, and Weinbaum's Uranus is ready to be explored.

Weinbaum's Venus from "Parasite Planet" is even more interesting, though its shear hostility may make it less suitable. It's tidally locked, with a desert hot side and a frigid cold side, and a strip of more hospitable (relatively) twilight zone. That zone is a mostly jungle, hotter than anything on Earth, plagued by mud eruptions that make encampment tricky. It's teeming with life of an unsavory, but gameable, sort:
A thousand different species, but all the same in one respect; each of them was all appetite. In common with most Venusian beings, they had a multiplicity of both legs and mouths; in fact some of them were little more than blobs of skin split into dozens of hungry mouths, and crawling on a hundred spidery legs. All life on Venus is more or less parasitic. Even the plants that draw their nourishment directly from soil and air have also the ability to absorb and digest—and, often enough, to trap—animal food. So fierce is the competition on that humid strip of land between the fire and the ice that one who has never seen it must fail even to imagine it.If that's not enough, the air cannot be safely breathed, except right after a rain, due to the risk of inhaling mold spores that will sprout in the lungs. Food or water left exposed for even a short period of time begins to growth fuzz.


Terrans brave Venus because of its bounty plant-derived substances for pharmaceuticals, predominantly an anti-aging drug. Similar "potion ingredients" might tempt adventures. Venus also as a very D&Dish creature:
...the doughpot is a nauseous creature. It's a mass of white, dough-like protoplasm, ranging in size from a single cell to perhaps twenty tons of mushy filth. It has no fixed form; in fact, it's merely a mass of de Proust cells—in effect, a disembodied, crawling, hungry cancer. It has no organization and no intelligence, nor even any instinct save hunger. It moves in whatever direction food touches its surfaces; when it touches two edible substances, it quietly divides, with the larger portion invariably attacking the greater supply. It's invulnerable to bullets; nothing less than the terrific blast of a flame-pistol will kill it, and then only if the blast destroys every individual cell. It travels over the ground absorbing everything, leaving bare black soil where the ubiquitous molds spring up at once—a noisome, nightmarish creature.Again, something that brute force might not be the best way of countering.

Those are just a couple of examples. Weinbaum's fiction is in the public domain at least in some countries, so visit the internet and read more about them.

[ZINE] Echoes From Fomalhaut #05 & The Lost Valley of Kishar (NOW AVAILABLE!)

Beyond Fomalhaut - Fri, 04/05/2019 - 10:58
Echoes From Fomalhaut #05 / The Lost Valley of Kishar
I am pleased to announce the publication of the fifth issue of my fanzine, Echoes From Fomalhaut. As before, this is a 40-page zine dedicated to adventures and GM-friendly campaign materials for Advanced old-school rules, with cover art by and illustrations by Denis McCarthy, Stefan Poag, and the Dead Victorians.
In The Enchantment o Vashundara, I am happy to welcome Zsolt Varga, who has written the titular adventure, the runner up in a module writing competition I was judging last Autumn. Adventure and wonder await those who would venture into the palace of a god, and free him from his current predicament… or leave him to his fate and make off with his treasures? This 3rd to 4th level scenario shows that you don’t have to be a lord or patriarch to visit strange otherworlds, or have a hand in the fate of deities.
Echoes #05Returning to the Isle of Erillion, two of its small towns are presented in a manner inviting adventure, conflict, and player engagement. The Divided Town of Tirwas is an overgrown village in the north, where old communal customs clash with the rule of the feudal Landlords who have seized power and divided the town among themselves. 18 keyed locations are described with adventure hooks and NPC notes, and just enough detail to get going. Further adventures await under Tirwas in Plunder of the Stone Sacks, a dungeon scenario for 3rd to 5th level (45 keyed locations). The Stone Sacks, a set of limestone caverns, were once used as a communal shelter from sea raiders, and are now used for storage, or lie abandoned. Yet strange things are afoot and there may be more to the place than meets the eye… Finally, in Sleepy Haven, everything is fine. Or is it? Visit the sleeping fishing community to find out (8 keyed locations).
While both towns were created for the Isle of Erillion (described in Echoes #02-04), they should also be easy enough to use in a modular fashion, placed in a campaign setting of your own. Player maps for Tirwas and Sleepy Haven are provided on the obverse and reverse of this issue’s map supplement, included with all purchases.
The print version of the fanzine is available from my Bigcartel store; the PDF edition will be published through DriveThruRPG with a few months’ delay. As always, customers who buy the print edition will receive the PDF version free of charge.
***
The Lost Valley of KisharBut that is not all! In addition to Echoes #05, I am also pleased to announce the publication of The Lost Valley of Kishar, a 32-page adventure module for 6th to 8th level characters, and the winner of the 2018 adventure writing contest. Venture into a lost world of savage beasts and ancient sorceries – and discover an old mystery from beyond the stars! Whether you have come for the strange fruits of an enchanted tree, in pursuit of a great winged ape, the gold of a lost temple or a magic mirror, glory and death await in equal measure in… The Lost Valley of Kishar!
“Somewhere, only a few days’ travel from a busy trade route, there lies a valley surrounded by untamed wilderness. It is surrounded by cliffs forming the shape a ring, unnaturally steep and tall, as if they had been wrought by human hand. No one remembers who had originally erected the ruins standing within the valley, and who had nurtured the wondrous tree which had once drawn pilgrims from distant lands. Kishar’s priestesses have been long forgotten – but the tree’s blessed radiance persists. As if under an odd compulsion, all manner of beasts have been drawn to the valley, and in time, there emerged others. Those who came from far beyond human imagination, and were already here before the first priestesses…”
***
Shipping note: Do note that due to postage cost changes, a flat shipping fee is in effect: you will pay the same whether you order one, two, or more items (larger orders may be split into multiple packages and shipped individually – this does not affect the shipping fee).
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Six Rites & Spells of The Spectral Phoenix For Space Age Sorcery & Your Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 04/05/2019 - 03:18
'Carl why are we out here in the middle of the Martian night!?'Because I saw it out in the dust storm again over by the ruins yesterday.''The Spectral Phoenix. That god thing you claim spoke with you.''Look colour me skeptical Carl but do know how nuts that sounds?'Martin didn't have time to react to the knife that found its way into his stomach by Carl's hand.The violence was too quick & strikeNeedleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Five Spells Of Space Age Sorcery & Lovecraftian Space Opera

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 04/04/2019 - 17:31
"An alien sorcerer crawls to a lone stone at the edge of the universe & calls upon the power of unrivaled fury!The space & dimensional ways quake with the stirrings of an ancient power & the ley lines at the ends of the universe buckle under the pure power of cosmic might. He calls upon ancient pacts & demons flow to his side from the darkest of places on the small rock. His form wracks & Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Steal the Eyes ... Scratch That

Roles & Rules - Thu, 04/04/2019 - 11:12
That feeling when you're playtesting your long-delayed megadungeon and there's a 20' high bird god idol with glowing orange eyes and one of your players -- who has in fact probably never seen this picture:



follows her rogue's instinct to climb up and see if those eyes are a) gems and b) pry-able ...

but no, they are just magic light cast on stone eyes.

In what is not really a fit of pique and more like dogged mission completion mode, she then takes hammer and chisel and chips off all the light-bearing stone, raining a shower of little half-glowing, candle-strength chips on the floor ...

which turn out to be a useful small treasure in their own right.

Confirming that it's much more fun to redraw the path of ages, then follow it.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Weird Solar System of "Life on Other Worlds"

Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 04/04/2019 - 11:00
"Life on Other Worlds" was a feature that appeared periodically in Planet Comics in the 1940s. Most were drawn by Murphy Anderson, but the writer is unknown. I am not completely sold on the sometimes promulgated "Planes as Planets" idea in regard to D&D's Outer Planes, chiefly because I think it sometimes sells planes and planets a bit short on weirdness, for some reason. Reading some of these "Life on Other Worlds" segments and thinking about them as planes as caused me to rethink that position.

Take Saturn, for instance:


Mercury is more conventional, but still:



Figuring out the scale of Viridstan's Map

Bat in the Attic - Thu, 04/04/2019 - 03:57
One of the mysteries of the original run of Judges Guild products is the scale of the map of the hexes on the City State of the World Emperor.


Nowhere on the above the map or in the text of CSWE is how big each hex is and has remained a minor mystery for the past 35 years.

Recently I realized that the city map to Tarantis is drawn in a similar style to CSWE. While it doesn't have hexes it does have a scale.

So I superimposed a section of Tarantis on top of CSWE and resized Tarantis until the main street, alleys, and building look comparable to the same on the CSWE map.


I then made the Tarantis map transparent and moved the scale over on of Viridstan's hexes. And viola! It looks like each hex is 120 feet.


While my works is an elaborate guess it makes a lot of sense. It unlikely to be 240' feet, but it could have been 60 feet. Or the 60 yards of the Thunderhold Map. Making the scale 120' would make the size of the building comparable to those in Tarantis.
If I ever get around to drawing the City State of the World Emperor that the scale I will go with.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Death of A God & The Tomb Of Pan Dungeon Session Report '89

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 04/03/2019 - 16:49
I saw a city in a lonely land:Foursquare, it fronted upon gulfs of fire;Behind, the night of Erebus hung entire;And deserts gloomed or glimmered on each hand.The City of the Titans  (1915) by Clark Ashton SmithThere was a quick debate on Twitter about how gods should never be killed in Dungeons & Dragons style games. This reminded me of one of the most dangerous dungeons our party of playersNeedleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

[STUFF] The Dungeons of Morthimion

Beyond Fomalhaut - Wed, 04/03/2019 - 11:52

[Players wishing to adventure in Castle Morthimion: STAY AWAY!]
Work in ProgressInspired by reading the recently published Black Maw dungeon levels, and playing in a friend's S&W-based game, I was once again bitten by the megadungeon bug. I started putting some thought into running a canonical OD&D dungeon exploration game – the proverbial huge ruined pile built by generations of wizards and insane geniuses. Nothing Castle Greyhawk-sized (thus, not something that would accommodate multiple parties playing 24/7), but hefty enough to feel expansive and mysterious, and true to the tone of the three booklets. To avoid overreach, and give myself some structure, I decided to stick to a brief keying style I experimented with in Zuard Castle, an older thought experiment (but with just a bit more detail). In fact, Zuard Castle became the base for the dungeons of Morthimion.
My general idea for the dungeon structure is based on six main levels (of which five are depicted here). The background idea is that the sixth level is a kind of dimensional interconnector, dumping hapless critters from all over down in the deeps, which battle each other, and gradually filter up to the surface through passages and gates, menacing the surrounding lands. Morthimion Castle was abandoned to its fate when the mining operation underneath hit the monster motherlode, and has pretty much gone to the dogs since - now occupied by a senile and dangerous 11th level Wizard and his retainers. (In a world which otherwise has a limit at LVL6) The surrounding forests (to be mapped as a wilderness maze, pointcrawl-style) are so bad that they are separated from the civilised lands by a Hadrian's Wall kind of construction. These woods are a first testing ground for the adventurers who venture from the civilised lands.
General Level PlanThe dungeon levels are fairly self-explanatory, with multiple themes, and a number of interconnections. I am particularly interested in developing the "Sideways Level", a vertical environment populated by flyer types, and allowing for some interesting dungeon tactics. Another central feature of note is a grand staircase to levels III and IV, but one which has a 1:3 chance to transform into a one-way slide. Multiple secret levels, reached after the ways of accessing them are learned, are planned (some within the "ruined pile" itself). Keying is much more dense than the Greyhawk standard (to compensate for the fact that we don't play as much as the Lake Geneva crowd back in the day), but the notes are fairly light.
I currently have most of the map for the first and second levels. Following tradition, the first level is a mixture of storerooms, jails, magical enigmas, deathtraps and other things you would find in a realistic castle basement. The openings in the walls are doors, and the rectangular symbols are heavier gates (the kind you roll for to lift). The initial entrance is through a dry well in the courtyard, with a tithe extracted by the Wizard's henchmen. The Level II stairs are to the north and south, the former behind a locked gate, and the latter controlled by a large robber band. I have tentative plans to use the empty space for further development, probably accessible from down below.
***
The Dungeons of Morthimion have already gone through a trial by fire testing round. I originally intended to slowly sketch out a few levels, and stock them in fits of inspiration in a piecemeal fashion – the scrap of paper idea collection phase if you will. Then, 23:30 Friday night, I realised I had forgotten to bring along my regular campaign folder, and the game would be on Saturday afternoon. Ooops. So I got up Saturday morning, had breakfast while numbering the rooms, then wrote the damn Level 1 key between 8:00 and 11:30 – the time I had before packing up for the afternoon and having lunch. This kind of creative pressure (recalling the immortal tunes of Crash Dive on Mingo City) tends to be good for me, because I took my notes and map, along with a printout of Greyharp's single-volume OD&D book, and we had a great time.
Level 1Since they were very brief, I typed up my notes and created an annotated map last night, and am posting it for your interest down below. This is rough stuff, pretty much verbatim with the bare minimum of clarifications (mine had a bit more monster stats – you can find them in the OD&D booklets), and a two-paragraph background. I may clean it up later for publication if we get there, maybe, but it will remain in a terse, focused format even if I do.
***
I am really proud of my players – they were dying left and right in Castle Xyntillan, but those lessons proved useful. Here, they survived with a single casualty, who froze to an ice statue while trying to extract a precious gemstone from a stone head (as the old wisdom goes, “The risk I took was calculated, but boy, am I bad at math”). They moved quickly, made snap decisions, avoided risky fights (I kept rolling powerful monsters who had come up from the lower levels), and were quite successful at finding the good stuff, including a 6000 gp crown. When all was said and done, they had mapped perhaps more than a third of the level over two expeditions. Random findings/remarks:
  • Some monsters play more of a channelling/blocking role, restricting player movement through the dungeon.
  • Stuck doors (and doors becoming stuck again) are a vital part of OD&D, and opening them is a major time sink / random encounter risk.
  • Damn right you need encumbrance rules, and bulky treasure. By the end, they were considering if they could haul out a particularly heavy marble throne.  :D
  • I did reduce random encounter numbers, not wishing for battles with 300 orcs. I swear there was a note in OD&D about the same, but the game's organisational issues being what they are, I couldn't find it.
  • A cluster of storerooms ended up containing several instances of cloth, rugs and tapestries, and were promptly dubbed "The Crypt of Karl Lagerfeld".
  • They found, but didn't attack a band of 50 bandits, even though they were then 14-strong. Smart thinking, although they may have done it with some losses.
  • Charm person became very useful in recruitment.
  • Creative problem-solving: finding out if an insane hermit is chaotic or just disturbed by walking him to a nearby chapel of Law, and forcing him to pray; buying a ball of yarn to put the spirits of dead kittens at ease.
  • About the dead character who had died for a gemstone: “He has gifted us with more than 500 gp of profit - by dying, he relinquished his share of the loot.”
  • They first thought their initial 900 gp haul (after multiple rooms with no treasure) was exceptional. Being reminded of the XP rules, they reassessed their priorities and became even more efficient at finding, evaluating and transporting treasure.
  • There were two characters per player, plus henchmen. A single player opted for one 2nd level PC, a Cleric with 3 Dexterity and 2 hit points. He survived the expedition.

The characters:
  • Xang, Fighter 1
  • Xing, Thief 1 (a concession to new-school D&D!  :D The only casualty.)
  • Tycho the Ascetic, Cleric 1 of Light
  • Weirlord, Magic-User 1
  • Xingar, Fighter 1
  • Fatalgor, Thief 1
  • Brutus, Magic-User 1
  • Rianh, Fighter 1
  • Brother Tivold, Cleric 2 of Light

Their henchmen:
  • Ruphart the Guide (acquired via charm person because he didn't want to come down to the dungeon - no honour among murderhobo scum)
  • Sanislo, light foot
  • Wul, light foot
  • Morton Melf, Elf 1 (freed captive)
  • Lydia Luckless, Thief 1 (freed captive)

Download: Castle Morthimion - Level 1 (1.7 MB PDF)


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Winter’s Daughter

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 04/03/2019 - 11:18
By Gavin Norman, Frederick Munch, Nicholas Montegriffo
Necrotic Gnome
B/X
Levels 1-3

The tomb of an ancient hero, lost in the tangled depths of the woods. A ring of standing stones, guarded by the sinister Drune cult. A fairy princess who watches with ageless patience from beyond the veil of the mortal. A forgotten treasure that holds the key to her heart.


This 32 (digest?) page adventure details a nineteen room dungeon with a heavy fey bend. Gavin experiments with formatting and has a decent number of interconnecting rooms and puzzles to explore. A solid journeyman effort, if a big page-heavy.


For (reasons) you are going in to an old knights tomb. Once there you probably get asked from someone inside to find and deliver a ring to a fairy princess. There’s about eight pages of overview and background that relates a fey/human war a few hundred years ago and a hero who banished the fairy ice king …and fey dude is looking for round 2. Thus a kind of fey-heavy background and location, with them being the more classical fey/fairies than the bullshit they turned in to in later D&D. Of the nineteen rooms about four are outside the heroes tomb, and about four more are in the land of faerie, leaving elevenish in the tomb, proper.


The adventure is pretty solid, content wise. Each room pretty much has something to fuck with, examine, investigate, puzzle over, and so on. Look at a mural to find a secret word, figure out what was dragged where from scrape marks on the floor. There’s a statue with a blindfold on you can take off. Skeletons float and dance together near the ceiling in one room. A mirror freezes you in place. Each room, just a little bit and a part of a larger whole. Cultists outside greet you warmly, thinking your appearance a boon, and their sacrifice happy to be one. Frost elf knights and nobility waiting for a wedding in faerie. There’s a little bit of interactivity in just about every room.


It’s also got a decent theming. Magic is glamour. The goblins are the “merchants” variety, and chasm leads not to death but a gentle float in to the realm of faerie. Gilded mirrors, and owls with violet eyes. Elven knights, ice wines, and foppish nobility. A troll in hessian garb that is of the “moss” variety rather than the carrot nose variety. This has that airy vibe that a good fey adventure does. Fey being who they are, Holy Water and sunlight works wonders in dispelling their glamours, a nice thematic touch.


The most noticeable feature though is going to be Gavins play at formatting. He’s trying something new, I think, and experimenting with a room format that allows one or two room per page. Large grey-boxed heading draw your attention to the major features of the room. Under those are key description words, bolded. WHITE MARBE STATUE. A fair maiden (long, flowing hair and robe, upon her brow a star) Beseeching silence (the statue is posed facing the stairs, with a finger raised to her lips) Blindfolded (a black cloth wrapped around the statues eyes, covering them) Round plinth (marble, 3’across, 1’high.) And then also some bullet points like *Removing the blindfold (the inside is embroidered with golden crucifixes) And then follows another grey boxed section for another feature of the room, the stairs down. It’s in interesting format and It works fairly well for drawing the eye and allowing for expanding detail as the players ask follow up questions and probe further.


The use of adjectives and adverbs is good. a candle is “thick” and slime is in “sheets.” Brass is tarnished, skeletons slowly waltz and speak in a “distant whisper.” This is the sort of verbiage I can get behind.


He goes further with leveraging the maps. There’s a little “mini-key” on them to help the DM during play and there’s no messing around with duplication …In one room there’s a chasm and, momentarily confused, I checked the map and yes, there was a chasm! Thus map features and whitespace are leveraged to provide still more resources to the DM during play.


I will say that the background is also done in bullet-point style and I’m not sure that works. I don’t think it’s reference material, during play, and perhaps, as an evocative piece, some freeform might have been better. Likewise there are bits and pieces that feel out of place and break immersion. The main quest item is a “ring of soul binding.” This links the ghostly knight to his fiancée, the fey princess. But, it’s described in the back as a normal magic item would be, even though it’s unlikely to ever be used as one, and in particular effects other than “destroy”, etc. Better, I think, to NOT explain the knight/princess magic and simply make them bound through their love and the betrothal ring. More explanation than that is not really needed and detracts from the mystery.


But, overall, a great effort. There’s thought here in how the thing is constructed and how it tries to orient itself to the DM’s use. A little slow, I think, or maybe, melancholic? It’s a perfectly adequate adventure and I’d not hesitate to drop it in a hex crawl or some other locale. and, of course, in Bryce-speak “perfectly adequate” means one of the The Best.

This is on DriveThru for $7. The preview is nine pages and gives you a great idea of what you’re buying. Check out those last four pages to view the format.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/270795/Winters-Daughter-OldSchool-Version?1892600

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Stalwart Age 2 Almost Here

The Splintered Realm - Tue, 04/02/2019 - 21:27
In addition to the four releases for Tales of the Splintered Realm, the Stalwart Age continues unabated... here is the cover for issue 2. The book itself should be up for sale by the end of the week.

I am REALLY digging this design for the covers, and look forward to seeing 5 or 10 of these side-by-side to see the whole tapestry of Doc's adventures as they come together...


How to Create Loveable Non-Player Characters While You Supercharge Your Sex Appeal

DM David - Tue, 04/02/2019 - 11:37

When roleplaying game players have affection for the friends and allies in a campaign’s supporting cast, the game improves. Players who feel an attachment to non-player characters will strive to help and protect them. That draws players into the game world, raises an adventure’s emotional stakes, and encourages player characters to act like responsible members of their community.

How can a game master make players care about imaginary people? To help answer that question, I asked for advice. Hundreds of game masters weighed in. Many suggestions linked to research that shows how people can increase their real-world charisma. The same qualities that make imaginary people likeable can work for real people like you. Will these techniques really supercharge your sex appeal?

Yes. Trust me. I write about Dungeons & Dragons on the Internet.

How can you create likeable NPCs (and also apply the techniques to become more likeable)?

Make characters distinctive

In a roleplaying game, before characters can become likeable, they must become distinct and memorable. If characters blend into a game’s supporting cast, no one will care for them. So key characters need traits simple enough to flaunt in a roleplaying scene and quirky enough to stay memorable.

For GMs comfortable acting in character, traits might include mannerisms, speaking voices, or a phrase someone uses and reuses. Some characters might have distinct passions. Wallace adores cheese. Others might have quirky habits. Perhaps the informant at the bar cracks raw eggs in his beer.

Traits that defy expectations often prove most memorable. In D&D, the beholder Xanathar would be just another Lovecraftian horror if not for a beloved pet goldfish.

In a roleplaying game, subtle traits disappear. Broad strokes work best.

In the real world, quirks make you interesting. When you share your passions, your enthusiasm shows. All these traits make you more likeable.

Make characters flawed

Flaws often make the most likeable traits. For instance, romantic comedies always seem to make their female leads a klutz. Such movies start by casting a gorgeous actress, and if her character is good at her job, no one will empathize with Ms. Perfect. How could she be unlucky in love? So filmmakers make these characters clumsy. Meanwhile, Hugh Grant, a similarly gorgeous co-star often played characters with a certain shy hesitancy that made him relatable. Even Indiana Jones may be handsome, smart, and brave, but he panics around snakes.

Flaws make fictional characters relatable. After all, we all feel acutely aware of our own flaws.

Movie leads serve as the imaginary stand-ins for viewers, so we rarely mind if they seem better than us. In roleplaying games, our own player characters become our stand-ins, so we accept perfection. But in NPCs, we favor flawed characters.

In life, competent people who fall to everyday blunders and embarrassments become likeable thanks to something called the Pratfall Effect. We relate to flawed people too. None of this means you should purposely embarrass yourself, but when you goof, own it and take it in good humor. People will like you for it.

Make characters relatable

People like folks similar to themselves. In life, if you share an attitude, background, or interest with someone, you have the start of a friendship.

In a game, you can create NPCs who reflect bits of the players’ personalities and interests. For instance, some players inevitably love books, so NPCs who share that affection almost always make friends at the game table.

In life, you can make a good impression by finding a shared anchor that connects you to another person. You become relatable.

Relatability explains why a fondness for pets like Sylgar the goldfish makes such a likeable trait. At any game table, players who love animals will identify with such affection.

A desire for connection also explains why powerful non-player characters become disliked. These characters don’t just steal the spotlight—any hint of arrogance or request for deference shows the NPC putting themselves above the players. In the real world, a lack of humility also makes people less relatable and likeable.

Make characters useful

According to Olivia Fox Cabane, author of The Charisma Myth, some charisma comes from a person’s power and from signs of a willingness to help others.

While players dislike NPCs powerful enough to overshadow the party, players favor NPCs who can help. Often useful NPCs act as a source of secrets, clues, or as a guide. Perhaps a helpful NPC pilots a boat or casts a spell outside the party’s repertoire. Don’t make friendly NPCs good at any talents the players want for their characters. Those characters become rivals.

Make characters authentic and vulnerable

People love dogs and children partly because they always reveal their true emotions. In roleplaying games, the same goes for NPCs too stupid for guile.

“Because most NPCs only exist to oppose, trick, or act as disposable exposition devices,” writes Tom Lommel, “the players inherently distrust or dismiss them.” Authentic characters break that pattern, so they work particularly well in roleplaying games.

In life, likable people are authentic, says Karen Friedman, author of Shut Up and Say Something. “They are comfortable being who they are, and they don’t try to be someone different,” she says. “They are approachable and sincere even if what they have to say isn’t popular.”

Often people avoid showing their authentic selves because that makes them feel vulnerable. What if people don’t like me? Will I be judged? But people admire folks brave enough to be vulnerable.

Make characters struggle

Sometimes vulnerability comes from characters thrust into a bad situation. R. Morgan Slade and Tom Lommel both named examples: Players might witness NPCs caught in an unfair deal or by a false accusation. NPCs might struggle with a sick child, a debt, or their own vices.

We admire characters for trying more than for succeeding. Give an NPC a goal to struggle for, but out of reach.

In a 70s TV show, the tough-guy detective Kojak sucks lollipops to cut his smoking habit. This trait works on several levels: The visible habit defies his hardened image, making the quirk memorable. Sucking candy like a child makes Kojak vulnerable. His battle against smoking shows a struggle.

Make characters ask for help

When players help NPCs, a quirk of psychology called the Benjamin Franklin Effect makes the NPCs more likeable. When we do something for someone, we justify the good deed by supposing we liked the person from the start. Our rationalization makes the affection real.

In life, you can trigger the effect by asking someone for a small favor.

In a game, players do favors and even save lives. If players save an NPC’s life, they can become particularly attached. When people invest in someone, they feel connected. The investment becomes a sunk cost, and people unconsciously work to believe the reward was worth the price.

Make characters show warmth

People reveal warmth by showing concern for another person’s comfort and well-being. We appreciate warmth in others because it demonstrates a generosity that may help us, even if we just need understanding and a cool drink.

In a game, GMs can have NPCs show warmth just by offering an imaginary chair. Brian Clark suggests building an emotional bond by having NPCs sharing wine, serving a meal, or defending the party against criticism.

In life, warmth is an unappreciated trait leaders need.

Make characters show admiration

Everyone loves getting a compliment—if it’s authentic. People of give compliments show warmth and generosity. In life, avoid complements on outward appearance. Instead seek chances to give genuine compliments praising things people choose, or especially traits people worked for.

Compliments come from admiration, which makes a likable trait in the game world. Many GMs cite examples of players favoring NPCs who admire the player characters.

“Tell them that a little girl with a bucket helmet and a stick sword runs to the strongest character and asks if she can join the party because they are her heroes,” writes Niko Pigni. “They will love that NPC.”

In most campaigns, player characters grow into heroes. Sometimes, NPCs should treat them as celebrities.

Respect reveals a sort of admiration. Brandes Stoddard writes, “Players like and respect people who offer them respect and social legitimacy.”

Make characters entertaining

When romantic comedies feature ordinary-looking leads, they cast comedians. We like characters who entertain, especially when they make us laugh. In life, the most likable folks make jokes at their own expense or that tease folks about traits outside of their core identity.

In roleplaying games, stupid or otherwise exaggerated characters can be funny and entertaining enough to be loveable. Recently, I played in a game where a foolish goblin who fancied himself king fit this role.

I take my player characters seriously, but I often give them humorous quirks. My monk recites his master’s nonsensical aphorisms and pretends they hold great wisdom. “The stone that weeps in silence weeps best.” My sorcerer points out ordinary things like a bed, and says, “Oh, this inn has straw beds! That’s much better than where I come from. We only got a bed to hide under on our birthday.”

Make characters optimistic

Part of my affection for my sorcerer stems from his optimism. We like people who show optimism because it lifts us. Optimism brings confidence and suggests competence—all traits that foster charisma.

Mixing traits

NPCs don’t need all these qualities to become likeable. Adding too many traits will dilute them all and waste creative energy. A few likeable qualities make a loveable character.

Author Eric Scott de Bie writes, “One of the NPCs in my current D&D game has been dubbed ‘the cutest dwarf ever.’ Not because she’s a romantic interest or anything, though the low-Charisma, half-orc bard might have plans, but because she’s cute, optimistic, and helpful. And she has a dire weasel animal companion.” This NPC checks optimistic and useful, plus she brings a pet.

Minsc from the Baldur’s Gate computer games appears on lists of gaming’s most beloved characters. As a companion, he’s useful, but he gained notice for an authentic lack of guile, optimistic enthusiasm, entertaining dialog, and for being the proud owner of Boo, a “Miniature Giant Space Hamster.”

Meepo the kobold from The Sunless Citadel surely ranks as one of D&D’s most loved NPCs. Meepo serves as his tribe’s Keeper of Dragons, but he struggles to find his missing dragon. He is distraught, making him seem authentic and vulnerable. He needs help, but also becomes useful as a guide and intermediary. In the hands of many dungeon masters, Meepo’s broken Common, exaggerated woe, and low intelligence add an entertaining comic element. No wonder Meepo became irresistible.

As for Meepo’s sex appeal, perhaps some of these traits work better in fiction. Instead, just tell folks that you’re a dungeon master. It’s a thing now.

Related: See part 1, How to Make Non-Player Characters That Your Players Will Like.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Devil of Murder Cliffs

Ten Foot Pole - Mon, 04/01/2019 - 11:33
By Casey Christofferson
Frog God Games
S&W
Levels 3-5

In the pale light of the witching hour when the moon shows off its twin horns,
Tis said that a devil rises from the deep with a murderous taste for the soul.
You will know ere he stalks for the crows love to talk
About how they have picked clean your bones.

Let’s see what the Frogs are up to these days!

This 39 page adventure details a small regional with a bandit camp, some gnolls, an inn, a druid, and some loggers. There’s a meta-plot thing going on where the inn, bandits, and a ghost have some stuff going on. It feels more like the outline of an adventure, with a lot of generic detail added to it. The emphasis on act 1 & 3 is too short, I think.

Part 1: You arrive at the inn. It’s about a page long and then the inn is described, room by room, up until about page 20. The inn room description is 9 pages long with the “mission introduction” contained on a 10th page. You get your mission: defeat the bandits &| druid. Part 2: the wilderness including the bandit camp, gnoll camps, druid, evil mountain altar, logging camps, etc. 6 pages, 8 with the wanderers. Part 3: After defeating the bandits/druid you come back for a feast. Then all hell breaks loose. 1 page.

This feels more like the outline of an adventure. Imagine I wrote a page of plot. Then I write the outline of some locations to go visit. Then I expanded those locations with a bunch of generic detail, over several pages. That’s what this feels like.

The introduction/hook is a couple of paragraphs about four bandits (1hd) attacking the inn, a lady inside yelling at the party to kill them, and then her asking the party to kill the bandits and their ally, the druid. It’s almost a throw-away. I guess it’s meant to be expanded by all of the context provided in the NPC backgrounds and situation overview that appear before this. It feels like a cumbersome way to handle things. Yes, all of the NPC’s in the inn kind of make sense, but the way the “plot” is condensed in to just a couple of paragraphs seems awkward. I think maybe it could have used a little less of NPC description up front and maybe a little more in the “welcome to the inn!” sections.

Likewise, the wilderness sections are weird. A wandering monster table followed by some wilderness locales. There’s a couple of gnoll lairs that expliplify this. Just six or so cave rooms, with some generic descriptions and generic gnolls. Leaders, wives, bodyguards, young … it could be the B2 cave. It feels flat, and somehow could be replaced with “gnoll lair with 6 rooms, 12 gnolls, a chief, 2 wives, 8 young, and 2 bodyguards. 300gp” It feels weird. There’s a lot of text but it doesn’t really DO anything.

Party 3 kind of exemplifies this. It’s about a page and deals with consequences. A dinner party, maybe escaped prisoners if the party captured any and then a hunt for them in the inn, and a ghost possessing people to cause trouble, and maybe an attack by gnolls and bandits on the inn, all at the same time. First: AWESOME! I fucking love chaos in an adventure, especially at the end. A billion things going on at once! Delicious!

But, more to my point, it’ feels weird. It’s almost like THIS is the actual adventure and everything else just led up to it. But it’s covered on one page. Suddenly, the EXTENSIVE room by room inn description makes sense. If the party is doing a hide & seek with the escape prisoners then you need a full map and room description. It’s still weird though … the extraneous detail of the inn. And, yes, the designer is right, the party is likely to explore and get in to trouble in part one, so a map kind of makes sense then also. But nine pages worth?

It’s all a kind of super-weird choice. There’s this evil mountain alter that has a magic item that will be pretty hard/impossible to recover, given the permutations and lack of hints. But then it once again becomes a focus in the end of party 3, when a ghost can possess someone there. Except they can do it in part one also.

There is something to this adventure, but the emphasis and the way ideas are presented is out of whack with the clarity. Specificity is missing, and instead we get this kind of outline format that’s then expanded upon with genericism. And then it’s WAY long while the more interesting sections are very short.

And then the treasure is quite light for S&W. The gnolls have 400gp. The bandits little more. What/how the bandit officers patrol is buried in the description of the officers tent instead of the camp overview. Information is misplaced and wrongly emphasized all over the place.

Again, the concepts are not bad, but it’s quite cumbersome. Well, the inn people are baddies who betray you, which triggers lifelong D&D trauma of always sleeping together in inns and never eating or drinking their food and never making friends/allies anywhere. The DM’s party in murder hobo survival is an important tale to tell.

This is $10 at DriveThru. There’s no preview. Sup with that froggies? How about letting us see what we’re buying ahead of time when you charge us $10?

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/270859/The-Devil-of-Murder-Cliffs-Swords-and-Wizardry?1892600

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Encounters In A Martian Bar Before the Gunfight Started

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 04/01/2019 - 11:00
Art by Jeff Call01 A jovial human trader eager to unload a large, glowing jar containing squirming creatures he claims are Mercurian dayside salamanders.

02 A shaggy, spider-eyed Europan smuggler waits nervously for her contact.

03 Four pygmy-like “mushroom men," fungoid sophonts from the caverns of Vesta. They are deep in their reproductive cycle and close proximity gives a 10% chance per minute of exposure inhaling their spores.

04 A Venusian reptoid lowlander with jaundiced eyes from chronic hssoska abuse and an itchy trigger-claw.

05 Two scarred, old spacers in shabby flight suits.  They're of human stock mutated by exposure to unshielded, outlawed rocket drives.

07 A cloud of shimmering lights, strangely ignored by most patrons, dances around twin pale, green-skinned chaunteuses. It's  actually an energy being from the Transneptunian Beyond.

08 An aging, alcoholic former televideo star (and low level Imperial spy) with 1-2 hangers-ons.

09 A Venusian Wooly who just lost a Martian chess game to a young farm-hand who doesn't know any better.

10 A Martian Dune Walker shaman on his way to a ritual at a nearby Old Martian ruin, with a bag of 2d6 hallucinogenic, dried erg-beetles. He dreams of driving all off-worlders from Mars.

Castles & Crusades, Old School Mars, & Appendix N Authors

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 04/01/2019 - 05:39
 "Gaunt giant and passionate beauty, they dragged their thirst-crazed way across the endless crimson sands in a terrible test of endurance. For one of them knew where cool life-giving water lapped old stones smooth -- a place of secret horror that it was death to reveal!" Queen of the Martian Catacombs by Leigh Brackett  Part of the reason that the war between the forces of light & Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

6 things D&D 1e can do for you (and you didn't know)

The Disoriented Ranger - Sun, 03/31/2019 - 18:20
There is an excellent post over at Marlinka's Musings you should read, as it inspired this post to some extent. Daniel writes at some point in his post that D&D is about killing things and taking their stuff. The game is good at that, but if you want something else in it, you maybe should look into other games for inspiration (he names FATE and Nobilis as examples). It illustrates his point well and works for the argument he's making. But it got me thinking: is it true? Are we actually needing those other games to have aspects like narrative flow or philosophical musings in D&D 1e/BECMI as written?
More a Development of Insight than an Evolution

I'll start with a heresy: most of what is sold to us as new evolutions in game design is merely a designer exploring something that is already existing in the original games and giving it a different form*. This hobby of ours is not even half a century old and I think in a way we are still trying to find the words to explain what happened in 1973 and why it mattered.

Yeah, one of those posts ... Simple proof of this is that we (as in: humanity as a whole) have always been telling stories and always will be. Same goes for playing games (another abstract form of telling stories, if you think about it). We learn abstract thinking by listening and telling stories, which in turn helps us understanding the world. Preparing us to handle it, as it were. We have the science/philosophy/art to proof this for a long time now.

I've long been saying that roleplaying games are not doing much more than offering various tools to expand language to a degree that the output of an exchange gets a specific flavor mixed with a good dose of uncertainty of outcome, while keeping within the rules of suspension of disbelieve. Those tools manipulate the narrative with specific terms and outcomes and developments that are deemed favorable for the intent of the individual game. However, the collective narrative is the thing and we really know how to tell stories.

There's also lots of science about how language works and why, so I could go and rest my case right there (or at least that's the thesis): if roleplaying games are understood as tools that expand language to form a narrative in a playfull and uncertain way and if that is the innovative part of that original design, then most of what comes afterwards cannot be more then just variations and expansions of what the original games already formulated.

Oracles: expanding language with external tools for thousands of years now [source]Or to put another spin on this: my theory is that if those rules of yore are read with our more modern interpretations of what a role playing game is or can be, we will find that those ideas are already in there to some extent or at least came up pretty fast.

However, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, so I'll try to do the title of this post justice, name 6 modern game design trends and show how they'd already been part of the first editions (I'll draw from OD&D and BECMI/D&D RC for this, if I need to):

1. The System Shapes the Long-Term Narrative

The classic 5 saves in D&D had been a great way to guarantee different class reactions to the narrative environment between classes as well as with character advancement. Players are relatively autonomous to do as they please, so no character will feel alike, even if it's the same class. Campaigns will also differ from DM to DM, so the rules for advancement are the only somewhat reliable constant in all of this. Now, Saves are a character's passive reaction to the environment, not player controlled and only to some extent within a DMs control, which means, a characters reaction to the environment is something every player will experience THE SAME over the course of each characters career. It's one key aspect why fighters feel hardy, thieves feels dextrous and wizards feel well versed in the magic arts: they react that way to the challenges the environment throws them (system-wise).  This is true for all first editions of D&D.

2. Players Decide the Difficulties of their Actions

You will often hear that in the olden days DMs would set you a difficulty and you either make it or not. Sometimes people will add that you could argue some bonusses because the situation (or a rule) allows for it. Modern games will often allow rolls with nuanced results, like, say, partial successes. However, there has always been something like the "play without the dice" and even if not everyone had realized this in the beginning of the hobby (which I doubt, actually, since the early versions had been pretty rules light, negotiation must have been the main mode of gaming), it's common sense today for players to explore and use the environment to their best knowledge to gain an advantage before the first dice fall. So the difficulty of a roll was never the DM fiat many would make it to be, it was the end of a negotiation and if the players did play it right, that roll (if  necessary at all) would be an easy one.

3. Character-Driven Narratives instead of Murder-Hobos

It certainly didn't start that way, but BASIC already introduced the idea that monsters could just be "overcome" with wits instead of combat and Moldvay also offers experience points for playing your character and class well (as well as for great ideas and heroic play). Later in the BECMI series clerics will get xp for helping others of their alignment, domain play offers xp, as do jousts and leading an army into war will also garner a character xp. So it's not just "kill and loot" and it is interesting at this point to note that on higher levels (up to level 36 with the BECMI series) there wouldn't be enough monsters or treasure in the world for a group to gain enough xp just with killing and looting (which is why late in the development of 1e you potentially gain more xp for playing your character than for anythiung else ... read here for details). Also: there wasn't that heavy an emphasis on high ability scores and lots of freedom for coming up with who your level 1 character is ...

Diplomacy can be fun, too! [source]4. Scope

Epic, year-spanning campaigns or one-shots, fantasy or steampunk or science fiction, as many classes as you can come up with (want an example how, have one), highly customizable toolbox of rules (from very low to very high complexity), lots of original material (still in print!), highly compatible with newer versions of D&D (and other games, for that matter), just as easy to house-rule and over 40 years of fan-made material freely accessible on the internet (another example), with all the experience and advice you could need to last several life times of gaming ... that's D&D 1e in a nut-shell. Few games can do that much, most won't even come close.

5. It's not Randomness, it's Controlled Variation

Random Encounter Tables, Random Encounter Reaction Tables, Random Treasure Table, Morale ... Going by the rules, the DM gets to decide bery deep in the manifestation process what how how things happen. This is by design and it has a very simple reaon: it (1) reminds the DM that there are more possible outcomes to a situation than he could come up on the spot and it (2) also illustrates that you can still have some controll within that randomness by chosing the selection of possibilities a random table offers. Lots of games try (and achieve) some of the same effects with story circles or shared narratives to produce recognizable yet unexpected variation, but D&D made this work right from the start in it's own way.

6. The Cheat is in the Game

Many modern games claim that one distinctive new element to older roleplaying games would be that modern games enable players to influence play from a meta-perspective with concepts like story points, for instance. It's always some sort of meta-currency that could help getting characters out of tight spots. The thing is, that's not a new  or "modern" idea at all. I'd say that it was part of those first editions from the beginning in form of magic items, spells like Wish and wonders like Ressurection, you just had to play long enough to earn them. In modern gaming terms you had to "unlock" them, so to say, as they'd only be accessible to higher level characters. In a way it is part of learning the game to reach that point (it's like that famous G. Gygax that character background is what comes with the first 6 levels ...). Experienced players (or so is the theory) will have all the meta-currency they need to keep their characters afloat for as long as possible.
 

And that's that ...

I was aiming for 10, but that might stretch it a little. The result of this little exercise (for me at least) would be that, well, "there's nothing new under the sun" doesn't quite cut it. Of course there is beautiful and great and creative modern games out there and there's definitely room for more.

However, the closer I look at those first editions (D&D RC is one of my favorite things in the world, as you might be aware), the more I come to the conclusion that it was more the inability to completely express what they had in hands when they published it. They had been quick to adjust, for sure, and many of the first alternative rulesets published were arguably nothing more than what the game intended to begin with: variations of the original game (even when not published by TSR).

Furthermore, and I'll close with this, I hope I helped to show that many of the now popular facettes we have in newer games were also arguably already part of those first games. I mean, sure, you could argue that there might be some better ways to use the dice (or something else entirtely, like cards) and there's still lots to explore. But damn, they did a lot right from the start and even where they weren't entirely on target, it ended up being strong enough to become part of popular (gaming) culture on more than one level.

Please feel free to share your thoughts on the subject. I know, lots of this comes down to taste, and I'm not as much interested in hearing subjective claims about what new game is superiour. Instead I'd love to hear about games that are truly innovative in their approach and why.

Either way, thanks for reading!

[source]
 * Conversely it's the discovery and enhancement of those ideas that made games like Vampire: The Mascerade so popular, so there definitely is merit to the process.
 
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

(5e) Horror at Havel’s Cross

Ten Foot Pole - Sat, 03/30/2019 - 23:15
By Richard Jansen-Parkes
Winghorn Press
5e
Level 2

When a group of archaeologists put out a call for adventurers to help them escort a valuable artefact back to civilization, nobody expects anything out of the ordinary. However, our heroes have more than mere bandits to deal with at Havel’s Cross… Undead monsters roam the night and an ancient artefact stirs within a long forgotten temple. Getting to the bottom of the mystery will require a strong sword-arm and an even stronger stomach.

This six page adventure has three encounters. It’s free text format make it hard to use during play. Any detail is lost.

So, up front, I loathe the “archeology” thing in D&D. That implies a 19th century setting and I like my D&D less Victorian/Edwardian. Miners, lost kids, there’s lots of reason to have some people disappear and someone to want to find them.

Positives: It only uses the D&D basic rules. That’s a good approach. The basic rules are enough for most people to have and it would be great to have a rich amount of data to pull from. It also uses bullet points to convey information, particularly when you question someone. If Bob has some information for you then you can expect to find three or four bullets points, each with maybe a couple of sentence. The first few words of each sentence coney the subject of the bullet, so you can scan it easily enough to find what you need. Bullets: good. Putting the important stuff first so you can easily find which bullet is which: good. There’s also a section where a DC check on a dead horse (or inside an inn) can help inform you that there might be undead involved. That sort of thing is good. I quibble with putting it behind a DC check to begin with, but at least it’s not an empty check.

And on the bad side … garbage read aloud: it’s too long and it tends to try to tell the players what they feel, etc. On the DM text side I’m going to mention something else related: “It’s like staring in to a nightmare.” Uh huh. These are both symptoms of a large problem: the adventure tells instead of shows. “You feel scared” is telling. I’m not scared. At all. It’s lame and breaks immersion. But if you describe a scene and the players GET scared, or they think “man, that’s out of a nightmare!” then you have SHOWN. This is substantially more effective. And of course, no one pays attention after two read-aloud sentences.

Did I mention there’s a roll to continue? You need to roll a DC 12 in order to find a door in order to continue an adventure. Don’t put your adventure behind a DC check that the party can fail. Yes, every DM on earth is gonna hand wave it. That doesn’t mean you did right when writing it.

The major issue, though, is the organization.

This is now the second or third adventure that is organized in paragraph form. What I mean by that is, imagine you write out the adventure without any section heading, keyed room entries, and the like. Just one long document of text, only broken up by paragraphs. Then bold a word or two. That’s an extreme example, but it’s essentially what’s going on in this adventure, and the other few like it I’ve seen. Wherever this shit is coming from it needs to stop.

There’s no keyed map. It attempts to describe the map in the text. “There’s a chamber to the left” says some read aloud. Somewhere in the text that follow is a paragraph or two that describes the chamber to the left. There’s a window to look in, but you have to hunt the paragraph that tells you what you see. The complete and utter lack of effective organization is a major pain.

If I were forced to run this close to RAW then the adventure I would run is “Contacted to find a missing archeologist. Find a dead horse outside an inn. Dead people in the inn and some goblins/a hobgoblin. Go to the dig site and find temple with empty room, a room with some ghouls, and the final chamber.” I mean it, that’s what i would run, almost verbatim, that is contained in the adventure. I would supplement this with the bullet point data, because it’s easy to find, but that’s it. I’m not gonna take ten minutes to read the room, etc when the people show up to it. It’s more important to me that the players be engaged in the game then I run the adventure as written. That means that ALL that extra detail, beyond what I typed above. Is completely worthless and should never have been written/included. Unless, of course, it’s organized in such a way that I can find and reference it during play.

But as written, now, in the free-form text flow it uses? No fucking way. This is just some generic throw-away stuff that’s hard to use, and that’s not compelling enough for me to make an greater than usual effort.

https://www.dmsguild.com/product/191126/Horror-at-Havels-Cross–A-Basic-Rules-Adventure?1892600

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Clark Ashton Smith's Novella The Plutonian Drug To The 'Old Solar System' Campaign Setting & the Slow War

Swords & Stitchery - Sat, 03/30/2019 - 21:15
The Plutonian Drug is one of the cooler early efforts by Clark Ashton Smith & fits right into the Old School Solar system nicely. The connections are there for the other H.P. Lovecraft's circle of writers & the Plutonian drug lays down some very deep connections indeed. The Plutonian Drug, published in Amazing Stories for September, 1934 isn't that well known outside of fans of Lovecraft & Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Humble Beginnings

3d6 Traps & Thieves - Sat, 03/30/2019 - 17:04
The first not-a-kid's-song I can remember learning the lyrics to was Longer, by Dan Fogelberg. Ignoring the bits about yucky love-and-stuff, the lyrics really spoke to me and sparked my imagination. Between that, and the animated version of The Hobbit, I was well on my way to starting the fantasy world that would become Avremier - a few years before discovering Dungeons & Dragons.

Longer - on YouTube


Longer spoke of moving the seasons as if that was something people could do (well, that's how I heard it). If you know how the seasonal cycle works in Avremier, you'll see the impetus. It mentioned "mountain cathedrals," which became dwarven citadels to my mind. And books, it talks about books. Deal sealed.



Afterwards, I delved into Norse myth. Dungeons & Dragons burst onto my life. The Last Unicorn hit the screens. I was reading every fantasy or sci-fi book I could get my hands on.



The avalanche could not be put back into the bottle.
















Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

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