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Some Thoughts On Adventurer, Conqueror, King, Rpg's Heroic Fantasy Handbook

Swords & Stitchery - Sat, 07/27/2019 - 17:27
"The Heroic Fantasy Handbook is a rules supplement that brings the flavor of heroic fantasy to your favorite role-playing game. Cleaving away decades worth of assumptions and expectations about how characters heal, fight, and adventure, how magic works, what spells do, and more, the Heroic Fantasy Handbook offers a fresh way to play with familiar D20 fantasy mechanics."Its been over a year Needles
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(5e) Acid Metal Howl

Ten Foot Pole - Sat, 07/27/2019 - 11:18

By Joseph Lewis

Dungeon Ages Adventures


Levels 5-8

In the deep desert lies the dead city of Yumar, the source of countless bizarre rumors. Was it destroyed by a demonic metal sphere? Did it sink into a pit of acid? Were its people transformed into cursed beasts? Is it ruled by vicious thieves or mad nuns? In fact, the only thing stranger than what happened to Yumar a century ago is what will happen a few days from now…

This 48 page adventure details a lost desert city with about nine-ish adventuring sites, from small to large. It’s laid out and organized well, easy to scan … and has The Sandbox Problem. Still, great for 5e.

48 pages for nine locations seems a bit long, even if some of the locations are little mini-sites. Worry not. The fonts and whitespace are generous with this one. Locations are nicely organized with relevant data grouped together and page breaks used to separate things when appropriate. Laid out in front of you, it’s easy to maneuver through the text and find the information you are looking for, from locations, to motivations and personalities, to area descriptions. From a usability standpoint this does well. I’m not sure the format is one to take as platonic, for usability, nut Joseph had an idea of what he wanted to do for this adventure and the format works with it well. There are many paths to get to usability.

Bullets, whitespace, numbered lists, offset boxes, page and section breaks all play a part. But then … I wouldn’t be Bryce if I were ever happy with something. The adventure falls down some on what I might call cross-references. Usually I use this to refer to literal cross-references. A key containing a little (room #7) or a locked door with a (key: room 5) next to it. If information is LIKELY to be important to the DM then a little pointed to where it is is a nice addition. These sorts of cross-references do occur in at least one part of the adventure (DM text next to a locked door noting the key location) but they could be a little strong in other areas. Further, there’s a need in another way: what people know. There are a few factions running around the ruins. At least two would like you take care of the others. But … it is then natural to ask some questions. You want us to kill/drive off the nuns? Why? What do you know about them? Etc. There’s not much guidance in that area. A cross-reference to the nuns, or a summary of what they know/relate would have helped out there. Nightmares? Sleeping? Where’s that nightmare table again? These are small-ish things but they seperate a really great adventure from merely a good one. 

The major issue with the adventure though, is The Sandbox Problem. IE: why do the players care? In an older D&D it might be just for the loot, for XP. In modern versions though there tend to need to be other motivations to gain XP. The hooks presented lead the party to know ABOUT the city but not to give them motivation to go there, other than pure curiosity. Exploration is valid, if your group is in to that, but rumors of loot, faction motivations that tip the party off to it, and so on, would drive things forward a bit more. The city feels a bit passive because of that. It COULD serve as a site for the DM to insert their own goal, a book, bell, candle or some other mcguffin. But, still, it feels like the factions, while not friends, are more passive. More dynacism to drive things forward toward something would have been appreciated.

Interactivity is good, there are lots to see and do if the party is so motivated. Obvious flesh-to-stone people are depressed, if save, for the same reasons as that TNG cryo-sleep episode. A dancing gecko as treasure? Count me in!

Yeah, I’ve got some complaints. A better “view” of the elevation issues would have been nice. Wanderers seem heavy on slogs up the cliffside to the top by foot or fly spell. But, read-aloud mentions things to follow up on. One of the first is an acrid smell … which you can follow to a location. You can see sites in the distance and trek towards this, this is explicitly mentioned. I love that. At one point you can force your way in to vault via lockpick instead of the keys … which causes a treasure golem to appear. My apprehension at gimping player abilities (lock pick) is not quite as strong at higher levels as stronger divination and bypass magic is available. Or, maybe, it is but there’s example of GOOD challenges vs BAD gimping.

This is a decent adventure. A little focus in the future on evocative descriptions, without growing longer, and some solutions to ever-present Sandbox Motivation issue would knock this over the top. As is, inserting a little player motivation, like a staff they are after, etc, solves the motivation problem. While this may hover between No Regerts and Best, it’s 5e and I’m happy to see a decent 5e product.

This is $3 at DriveThru. The preview is 25 pages(!) Page 8 has a good “vision” overview and is a good preview, generally, of the formatting that the adventure uses. Overall it’s an excellent preview of what you are buying, from a writing and organization standpoint.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Using CM1 Test of the Warlords by Douglas Niles For Old School Sword & Sorcery Campaigning

Swords & Stitchery - Sat, 07/27/2019 - 04:33
"The king requests your presence in the honorable kingdom of Norwold. If you're worthy, you may be appointed lord of a dominion filled with friendly villages, sturdy fortresses, and raging band of monsters.Raging bands of monsters?Well, yes, and you may have to lead your forces into a war or two. But you'll be ready for the challenge. You'll be ready for treacherous spies who conspire to Needles
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A Harn City for $1

Bat in the Attic - Fri, 07/26/2019 - 17:52

Columbia Games has launched a Cities of Harn kickstarter. Harn is a fantasy medieval setting that been in publication since 1983. It second product was called Cities of Harn and detailed seven cities on the island of Harn (Aleath, Cherafir, Coranan, Golotha, Shiran, Tashal, and Thay). Each city had a map, some background, a listing of two to three dozen businesses, and a handful of building mapped out and detailed including castles. All tersely described.

It was a popular product largely because it was medieval fantasy. Which made it easy to adapt to one own fantasy setting. I used just about of the cities to represent various towns and cities in my Majestic Wilderlands.

For example I used the Harn City of Shiran to represent Gormmah a capital of one of the factions in the Viridistan Civil War.

There are a couple of things you should be aware of.

PDF Only
It is PDF only. The purpose of the kickstarter to fund art and writing to expand the original cities. In recent there been a concerted effort by Columbia Games to get everything for Harn back in print. Along with updated to the latest standards that has been set for new Harn Articles.

Mainly for location like cities is that we get a tad more on the personalities and motivations of the NPCs and more fleshed out buildings and interiors.

The Price
At the $1 level, Columbia Games will give you the PDF for the City of Shiran, before the kickstarter ends. The reason for this is because Harn material has always been priced at a premium level. Which can be a tough sell. The Harn material is good but it is that good? Doing the kickstarter this way hopefully will entice to you get to buy into one of the higher levels if you like Shiran.

However the $1 for the Shiran is a sweet deal for what you get.

Is Harn worth it?
For me the answer has been yes, however I do what I can to cut cost due to their pricing. I am a Harnquest subscriber which dings me $20 to $30 four time a year and gives me the latest releases and half price on their PDFs. And I take advantage of sales when they come up.

And the fan support for Harn is second to none at

Just look at the crazy stuff that has been posted for just one of Harn's city: Tashal.

Example: Eastside City Block
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Cryptozoic and Hobby World Announce Release of Spyfall: Time Travel

Cryptozoic - Fri, 07/26/2019 - 13:00

Cryptozoic Entertainment and Hobby World announced the limited release of Spyfall: Time Travel at Gen Con, August 1-4, followed by a full retail release in September. In this latest social deduction card game in the popular Spyfall series, 2-8 players take on roles in memorable locations from history, as well as some futuristic locations. The twist is that one of the players is secretly a spy and does not know the location.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Our Land of Azurth party in Hero Forge

Sorcerer's Skull - Fri, 07/26/2019 - 11:00
Tragically, Hero Forge still doesn't have a frog folk race option, so poor Waylon gets left out, but we've it can replicate the other members of the party pretty well:

Erekose, Human Fighter

Shade, Elf Ranger

Bellmorae, Dragonkin Sorcerer

Kairon, Demonlander Sorcerer

Kully, Human Ranger

Adapting Dungeons of Dread For Old School Sword & Sorcery Campaign Play

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 07/26/2019 - 06:10
"Dungeons of Dread is a collection of four classic, stand-alone Advanced Dungeons & Dragons adventure modules -- S1: Tomb of Horrors, S2: White Plume Mountain, S3: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, and S4: The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth -- complete with original black-and-white interior art."Stay in a hobby long enough & you might witness your own play as you go at the table top Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Paizo Starfinder Mini’s under new license with Archon Studios

Gamer Goggles - Thu, 07/25/2019 - 21:42


Archon Studio to fulfill Kickstarter backer rewards

REDMOND, WASHINGTON (July 25, 2019): Today, Paizo announced that Archon Studio will be taking over the license for Starfinder Masterclass miniatures, formerly produced by Ninja Division. As part of the agreement, Archon Studio will fulfill backer rewards for the Starfinder Masterclass Miniatures Kickstarter.

“Thanks for all of your patience as we worked with Ninja Division and Archon Studio to get this done. We’re looking forward to some epic minis!” said Paizo VP of Marketing and Licensing Jim Butler.

“We’re excited to work with Paizo to bring the Alien Archives of the Starfinder universe to life on your tabletop,” said Archon Studio CEO Jarek Ewertowski. “We can’t wait to leap into the adventure with you!”

Archon Studio will be producing plastic miniatures instead of resin. They will also be starting over with Kickstarter fulfillment; this means that backers who have already received resin miniatures from Ninja Division will receive those minis again from Archon Studio, this time in plastic.

Archon Studio will also be creating all-new Starfinder Masterclass miniatures. Each month, they plan to produce 4 or 5 of the minis announced during the Kickstarter plus 1 brand-new mini. These minis will be available for sale at your favorite local game store, on, and on (The Kickstarter-exclusive miniatures of Candy, Cola, Seelah the Paladin, and Epic Obazaya will not be available at retail.)

Archon Studio plans to ship Kickstarter rewards in waves. Approximately every 6 months, the pledge rewards produced during the previous 6 months will be shipped to backers free of charge. Additionally, any time a Kickstarter backer purchases any Starfinder mini from Archon Studio—whether that’s a new mini or a duplicate of a Kickstarter mini—they will also ship any released Kickstarter miniatures due to that backer for no additional charge. Details of which minis are shipping when, and how to purchase other miniatures, will be posted on the Kickstarter page.

Archon Studio will be fulfilling backers in Europe, and Ninja Division will be shipping to the rest of the world. Paizo does not have specific answers to fulfillment questions: if you’re a backer with a question about your order, you’ll need to post the question to the Starfinder Masterclass Kickstarter page.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

DC Deck-Building Game: Rebirth — Overview

Cryptozoic - Thu, 07/25/2019 - 21:18

DC Deck-Building Game: Rebirth will be in stores on July 31! There has been a lot of speculation on the forums about this new release and all of the differences between it and the main competitive format in the DC Deck-Building Game series, so I will try and clear up a lot of the mystery, but without spoilers!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Let The Monster Suit The Purpose - The Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Kicstarter & Dr

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 07/25/2019 - 18:09
From the side lines I've been watching the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea kickstarter for  Hyperborea Other Worldly Tales for  The Lost Treasure of Atlantis™ and The Sea-Wolf's Daughter™. If you haven't checked it out then my all means take a look & show your support if your so inclined.  And no I'm not looking for a free module or any such crap as that. What the kickstarter Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

It’s a Trap!

Torchbearer RPG - Thu, 07/25/2019 - 13:00
Fall by Rebekah Bennington

Hello friends!

I want to apologize for this blog’s recent hiatus. Many of you probably don’t know that my other hobby (apart from making games) is coaching women’s flat track roller derby. 

I coach two teams in the Gotham Girls Roller Derby league: Manhattan Mayhem (a home team) and the Gotham Girls Roller Derby All-Stars (a travel team). Over the past six weeks, Mayhem has played twice (a victory against Queens and a loss to Bronx), and the All-Stars have played five games across two tournaments (victories against New Jax (Jacksonville, Fl.), Arch Rival (St. Louis, Mo.), Victoria (Melbourne, Australia), Crime City (Malmö, Sweden) and Dirty South (Atlanta, Ga.)).

As you can imagine, I’ve been a little distracted! The good news is that both teams are now headed into the post-season. Mayhem will play Bronx again for the local championship in August. The All-Stars still have a few more games ahead, but our success has put us back in the #2 spot ahead of Victoria, and we hope to reclaim the Hydra from Rose City (Portland, Ore.) at the International WFTDA Championships in Montreal this November.

In the meantime, I’ve got a little breathing room to think about games once again — which is good, considering that this time next week I’ll be at Gen Con (Burning Wheel will be at booth 2150; come say hi!). On to Torchbearer!

If You Trap It…

Last week, Luke and I participated in an AMA at the RPGdesign subreddit. Near the end, Lord Mordeth of our friends at Mordite Press asked about traps in Torchbearer (Build a Better Man Trap, page 127).

Is a failed test the only way to get a condition? Is a condition always accompanied by and effective success in the intent of the test?

I’ve really struggled with some of the logic from “Build a Better Man Trap” for years now. It’s hard for me to grasp how intent works with forced tests. For example, the Health Ob 6 test from the spike version of the Chute to Hell, or the Ob 3 Health test from the Dart Trap.

In these cases, I would think that the “intent” of the roll was to avoid gaining a condition. If you fail the Ob 3 Health test vs. the dart trap, you haven’t really succeeded or gained anything, you just got saddled with a condition. This seems to contradict the “failing forward” logic at work elsewhere in the game. I think most people simply gloss over this, and certainly that’s what we do and it does work fine. But the logic has always eluded me.

Lord Mordeth

This exchange helped crystallize for me something that is not explicit in the text. I think the natural tendency is to think of traps as something intended to kill or injure, but Torchbearer requires that you think about them differently.

First, conditions in Torchbearer are generally either the result of the grind or a failed test. And when a condition is given as the result of a failed test the character always (always, always) achieves the objective of the roll. The only way to get injured by a spear trap is to fail the Health test to avoid it but get a condition and successfully avoid it? What? How does that work?!

Second, there are only three ways for the GM to give a character the Dead condition: as a result of a kill conflict, as a result of having the Injured condition and failing a test involving the risk of physical harm or as a result of having the Sick condition and failing a test involving sickness, disease, poison, madness or grief. In the latter two instances, the GM is also required to inform the character’s player that death is on the line prior to the roll.

Given those limitations, how do you make a death trap in Torchbearer? Well, you don’t. Not really.

Here’s the secret: The objective of traps in Torchbearer is not to injure or kill. Those things are a byproduct of a particular trap’s method, but the objective is something else. People install traps to capture you, move you to another location, prevent you from opening something or going somewhere or even to fool you. If they happen to give you a condition instead? Well, that’s life as an adventurer for you.

The objective of the pit trap in Under the House of the Three Squires is to alert the guards to the adventurers’ presence and give the guards an advantage in the subsequent conflict. The objective of the sleeping gas panel in The Dread Crypt of Skogenby is to allow Haathor-Vash’s minions to capture interlopers that get too close. The trap vault in The Secret Vault of the Queen of Thieves is meant to fool adventurers into thinking they’ve actually found the vault, and perhaps trap them or keep them busy digging until Hsivin the Defiler’s cultists can get at them.

You get the idea. Once we have a trap’s proper objective in mind it should be much clearer how we can employ a twist on a failed test. The pit trap brings the guards running. The sleeping gas panel puts the characters to sleep. The trap vault might leave the characters trapped under rocks or standing outside the entrance to the vault which is now blocked off by fallen rocks.

We can also start thinking about conditions. The characters involved in the test get a condition, but they overcome the trap’s objective. When the pit trap goes off, the characters leap to safely but painfully bark their shins on the edge (injured), or they leap off but their hearts start racing (afraid) when they hear the distant guards wonder about the noise but go back to gambling. They inhale just a little of the sleeping gas (exhausted) but don’t get captured. They escape just ahead of the falling rocks but not before they understand the trap vault was just a trick (angry or injured).

So that’s it. When making traps for your Torchbearer games. Think about what the builder was trying to achieve and base your twists and conditions on that objective.

What do you think? Does that help traps make more sense for you?

P.S. Roller derby is one of the fastest growing sports in the world. There are currently 463 Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby Association member leagues on six continents. If you’re curious, there’s almost certainly a league near you. Do yourself a favor and check it out!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Everything Goes Better with Ravenloft

Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 07/25/2019 - 11:00
Well, maybe not everything, but I think Ravenloft could mix with several of the other D&D settings like chocolate and peanut butter.

Art by Bruce PenningtonBlood Red Sun [Dark Sun/Ravenloft]
Some Dying Earth stories have more than a touch of the Gothic to them (Clark Ashton Smith's Zothique stories immediately come to mind), so this is really a natural. As the sun dimmed and sputtered, the Dark Powers grew stronger and fed upon the energy of the planet, slowing leeching it of life. Replace the sorcerer-kings with the Dark Lords, and (probably) loose the mists. Some tweaking of the domains might be in order, to make them a little less Dracula and a little bit more Vathek, but that's up to you.

Planet of the Vampires [Spelljammer/Ravenloft]
Each domain is a world, and the mists and phlogiston are combined into one. Maybe give Spelljammer more of a 18th Century or even Victorian vibe: Combine Kipling (his sci-fi stories like "With the Night Mail" and his horror yarns) with Stoker.

And why limit myself to AD&D settings?

Terror Under the Eternal Sun [Hollow World/Ravenloft]
I'm thinking ditch most of the Hollow World idea, except for it being the repository of things preserved from the outer world. Take it back to it's Burroughsian roots and have a land of dinosaurs and mostly primitive peoples, except for these areas and mists containing weird, otherworld realms of madness. Probably the realms of dreads should be a bit smaller, maybe just a castle and a village in some cases. Like Turok meets Dracula.

Some Random Thoughts & Praise Tonight For the The Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master's Guide By Gary Gygax & Mike Carr

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 07/25/2019 - 03:07
The Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master's Guide By Gary Gygax & Mike Carr has some very iconic parts to it but the book itself is a classic. The book is a snap shot in time when Advanced Dungeons & Dragons ruled the table.  But what makes the The Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master's Guide stand out even today to me is the utility of the book. Everything for the AD&D dungeon Needles
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Weird Wednesday OSR Film Inspiration - Disney's The Black Hole Film from 1979

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 07/24/2019 - 21:31
I actually saw this movie at a drive in back in 1979, I was nine years old. It pretty much screwed me up for life. The movie plot is as follows: It is the year 2130 A.D. An Earth exploratory ship, the USS Palomino, discovers a black hole with a lost ship, the USS Cygnus, just outside its event horizon. Deciding to solve the mystery of the Cygnus are: the Palomino's Captain, Dan Holland; his Needles
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Let's Gel

3d6 Traps & Thieves - Wed, 07/24/2019 - 20:00
One of the most contrived and ridiculous D&D monsters of all-time is the Gelatinous Cube. A nearly-invisible mass of slime that just happens to be exactly the same size and volume as those ridiculous 10' x 10' dungeon corridors.

Those opening sentences do not reflect my own opinions. They are the edited and condensed views of quite a few op-ed pieces I've seen on this wondrous Internet of ours.

This is another example of, in my opinion, the disservice done to our beloved hobby by overwrought rulebooks that strive to tell players exactly how their game should be played. Yes - that's my opinion. Filling up an entire page with exposition that explains just how to include a monster, along with the actions said monster should probably take in combat - well, at what point can we just dispense with the DM?

While I acknowledge that many players want or even need all these rules and guidelines, it does make for more bloated and expensive rulebooks, bigger learning curves, drawn-out and rules-heavy gaming sessions, and tons of wasted space. Do we need an entire (5E) page for the Piercer? Do the (5E) monster illustrations really need to fill half a page? I've found that a lot of players and DMs prefer not to use something that they don't like or understand in the rulebooks. And, of course, the premise of the game actively encourages this. I've even met some folks that do without the classic dungeon environment entirely because it's just too silly to them. That's fair.

And I'm not insisting that the older editions are "better" than the new editions. 
Just so we're clear.

For myself, I prefer to actually treat what I read or see in a D&D book as guidelines - all of it. By way of example, let's take the Gelatinous Cube. This is a classic D&D monster. How do I know? It appears in the first release of the game in 1974/1975, and in every core monster book from 1E thru 5E. Still, people make sarcastic comments about the thing. How does it even kill people? How slow or dumb do you have to be to get caught by one? Well - that depends on the DM.

First - the 'Cube is not a hunter. It's a scavenger. It isn't chasing you down. The 'Cube is almost invisible in its natural state. This means that a lot of its prey comes to the 'Cube. You're strolling (or fleeing) down a corridor and - SPLOOP! And, that's just in default mode. If the DM really wants to 'Cube a PC, there are plenty of ways. Dead-end corridor - and a 'Cube glops its way into the other end, blocking your only escape route. You fall into a 10' x 10' x 10' pit...and...heeeeeeeere comes a 'Cube - just the right size to *PLOP*. Let's not even bother with slides or teleporters. It's like dissolving adventurers in a barrel full of acid.

What follows is MY version of the Gelatinous Cube for MY setting. Your turgidity may vary.

The Gelatinous Cube is an amorphous mass of transparent protoplasm. Being amorphous, it can change shape without much effort at all. When the 'Cube is 10' x 10' x 10', it is typically filling the empty available space around it. Otherwise, the creature can be a sphere, a pyramid, a torus, a giant puddle, a shapeless mass - or just about any other simple form that suits its immediate needs or environs. Somewhere near the center of the gelatinous form is a kind of "cognitive center" or "brain."

But, the Gelatinous Cube is non-intelligent. That is true - but the Slithering Tracker isn't.
The 2E entry - since it has a nice illustration.
Oh, look - another transparent, paralyzing monster made of jelly. But, this one is smaller, faster, and smarter. Still, my mind likes to connect and share things. Sometimes, the whole can be more interesting (and deadly) than the sum of its parts.

Consider the Slithering Tracker as the "brains" of the Gelatinous Cube. However, the 'Tracker is often out and about - hunting. During these times, the 'Cube is its usual mindless, scavenging self. On the rare occasion that the 'Tracker is part of the 'Cube, the 'Cube is treated as a smarter monster - but the 'Tracker is usually easier to see because it has recently fed on blood. The Gelatinous Cube becomes a two-part monster with an increased threat potential.

Were I inclined to accept text and illustrations at face value, the setting of Avremier probably wouldn't even exist - and I sure wouldn't be creating these fun monster variants. Maybe most players aren't used to DMs that innovate. I can understand that. It's not necessary for an enjoyable game. But, the attraction of D&D for myself is the spaces between the rules, stats, and pictures. That's what I strive to fill.

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Cryptozoic Announces Release of Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: ANNIHILAGEDDON Deck-Building Game

Cryptozoic - Wed, 07/24/2019 - 13:00

Cryptozoic Entertainment announced the limited release of Epic Spell WarsTM of the Battle Wizards: ANNIHILAGEDDON Deck-Building Game at Gen Con, August 1-4, followed by a full retail release in September. Fans who purchase any entry in the Epic Spell Wars series at Cryptozoic’s Booth #503 at Gen Con will receive the exclusive Studd Spellslammer & The Juice! Promo Card Set. Gen Con attendees can also buy the limited edition Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards Statue.


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OD&D Half-Orcs

Zenopus Archives - Wed, 07/24/2019 - 12:54
Orc or Half-Orc? 

An Orc by Greg Bell from OD&D Vol 1, looking more human than later depictions...

Half-orcs were first introduced into D&D in late 1977 in the Monster Manual in a section at the end of the entry for Orcs, which notes orc-human hybrids as just one type among others (orc-goblins, etc). Following Gygax's pattern of briefly introducing concepts and then expanding on them in later rulebooks, the next year's AD&D Players Handbook added them as a full-fledged character race. Here I imagine what the entries might have been had they been introduced back in the original D&D booklets and then carried forward.
Fictional LBB entry:
"Half-orcs: Generally feared, but characters are assumed to be of the rare type able to pass as human. While they may opt only for the fighting class, due to their warlike nature they may progress up to 9th level (Lord). They are able to speak the language of Orcs, and see well in dimness or dark but do not like bright light as noted in CHAINMAIL. Tribal affiliation should be noted (Orcs of the Mountains, etc) as there is often great inter-tribal hostility".
Fictional Greyhawk entry:
"Half-Orcs: Half orcish and half human, they are on average about five and half-feet in height, muscular in build, and weigh 180 pounds. Characters are assumed to be among the rare 1 in 10 half-orcs that can manage to pass as human. Like half-elves they gain some abilities from each heritage. Half-orcs have infravision and can see monsters up to 60' away in the dark."
In addition to working up to 9th level in fighter, half-orcs can work up to the 5th level (Cutpurse) as a thief, and those with 17 or 18 dexterity can work up as high as 6th level (Sharper) or 7th level (Pilferer), respectively. Half-orcs can work simultaneously as fighters and thieves, but no bonuses for abilities above the normal are then given, and earned experience is always divided evenly even if the half-orc can no longer progress in the thief class. When acting as thieves, half-orcs can wear only leather armor. 
Half-orcs with a wisdom score of 9 or more may also become Anti-Clerics (Clerics for Chaos), and only working up as high as 3rd level (Village Priest). If they so opt all experience will be divided in equal proportion between fighting and clericism."
Blackmoor would then add half-orc assassins with unlimited advancement.
Fictional Holmes entry:
"Half-Orcs — are part orcish and part human, about five and half-feet tall and muscular in build, weighing 180 pounds. Most look orcish, although the rare individual appears mostly human. Due to their competitive and combative nature they excel as members of the fighting class. Half-orcs have infravision and can see 60 feet in the dark, and can speak Common, albeit in a gruff and ungrammatical fashion, and the language of Orcs. A tribe of origin should be noted, such as Orcs of the Vile Rune, as the different tribes cooperate poorly and often fight among each other.
Also, in the CREATING CHARACTERS section add a minimum of 13 Strength and a maximum of 12 Charisma.
Notes: -The level limits are reverse engineered from AD&D. For other races, most of the maximum level limits of the LBBs are one lower than that in AD&D. So, a max fighter level of 10 in AD&D gives them a corresponding max level of 9 for the LBBs (this limit is not modified by Strength as this doesn't factor in AD&D for Half-Orc Fighters).
-For OD&D, no ability score adjustments as these are AD&D additions; dwarves, elves, and hobbits don't get ability score adjustments in OD&D.

-For the Holmes entry I modified the assumption that characters appear human, as he was less humanocentric than Gygax and half-orcs appear in several Boinger and Zereth stories:

  • "Trollshead" (Dragon #31) has a number of half-orc brigands. Being brigands, these wouldn't need to look human.
  • "The Sorcerer's Jewel" (Dragon #46) has four half-orc servants of a lady in town; this is what I was thinking of - they are quickly recognizable as half-orcs to Boinger, so that indicates they aren't mistaken for humans. So orcish-looking half-orcs are okay in town in Holmes' imagined setting.
  • "Witch-Doctor" (bonus story in Tales of Peril) also has a relatively civilized half-orc character.
Written up for a post in response to a query on OD&D Discussion.
See also:

20 OD&D Backgrounds which includes "Orcish".

Gygaxian Orc Tribes
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Towering Temple

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 07/24/2019 - 11:11
by Don MacVittie Hellebarde Games Castles & Crusades Levels 2-3

The temple of Anu-Hittain sits atop an unnamed mesa in the desert and welcomes all who visit. But the gates are closed and smoke is pouring from the temple high above. Can you discover what has happened?

This 23 page adventure details a temple with about three levels and about forty rooms … in about nine pages. It’s not terrible. The designer does a decent job with the read-aloud and the DMs text doesn’t generally overstay its welcome. The writing needs to be more evocative and the interactivity tends to the combat side of the house … or things that lead to combat. It reminds me a lot of the mid to late 1e era before the T$R text ran out of control. 

See that cover? It’s got little to do with the adventure; the entrance is at the base of the mesa and there’s no signs that the mesa is a temple except fot the entryway and some glass windows a little ways up. So, bad cover. 

With that out of the way, this isn’t bad. It’s not particularly good either, except in the way it generally keeps itself from being bad. The read-aloud tends to the short side of things. In and out. It also tends to mention features in the room for the party to investigate. A pile of crates mory decayed than the rest, or a pile of jewels in a fountain. This leads the party, naturally, to those locations and the encounter to follow: centipedes or water snakes. This is good. A good encounter is D&D results from a kind of back and forth between the players and the DM. The DM describes someplace generally. The players follow up on the details the DM mentions as the DM mentions moe specifics of the things they follow up on. It’s a social game, a back and forth. A writing style that encourages that sort of player/DM interactivity is to be appreciated. If the read-aloud mentions a body next to a door then the players investigate, notice burn marks, and maybe now know something more about the door. 

It does fall down a bit though in being evocative. Hallways are “long” and marble is “grey” or “white.” That’s not particularly evocative. English is a rich language and substituting other adjectives/adverbs for long, grey, white, large, big, small, etc can bring along an entire host of benefits. Richer words can bring an overloaded context with them, a richer meaning. Scrubbing out the boring words and replacing them, or a word or two extra (no more) more really kick up the read-aloud to another level and make the environments much more evocative.

You can see this in other areas as well. I hesitate to call this dullness, but its a kind of abstraction of detail that leads to a kind of bland flavour. “There are four statues of Doorne” (a desert god) or “there’s a statue of a woman.” These are kind of generic. The players are sure to ask what they look like. Providing two or three extra words for each of those major objects, in order to enrich them, in turn enriches the entire room and brings it more alive for the DM and for the players and they both benefit. The DM now has a richer view of the room and can ad-lib better, while the players have a more memorable experience from the read-aloud and then also from a more inspired DM. 

There’s an aside or two to the DM in the adventure which are appealing. In one case a zombie in the next room can rush to the aid of another room. “Well, rush as fast as a Zombie can.” Likewise, selling a looted idol is referred to as “Faithful of Doorne will not take the theft of this idol well.” These are nice notes that help convey moods and scenes to the DM without a lot of text.

Of course, Room 10 doesn’t tell us that the zombie from room 9 will come in help. That’s in room 9. Which is useless in room 10 because I’m not looking at the text for two rooms at the same time, am I? This is a common mistake that designers make, this kind of idea that the DM is going to hold the entire adventure in their head at once. Or, you need to read through and take notes … in which case why didn’t the designer make things clearer in the first place? 

There are some other gaps here. There’s some flinds you can talk to, but there’s no real notes on what they know or even any overview of the situation (in the beginning of the adventure) for the DM to paraphrase. Again, read and take notes and/or hold it all in your head. The DMs text also can get long in places. It generally does a good job of keeping it short and in using paragraph breaks and whitespace to organize its information well. It falls does though, usually, in trap rooms. It gets a bit pedantic in describing things which turns the DMS text in to a quarter page or more of text. Tighter editing and less prescriptive text would be the key here, perhaps with some use of bolding. 

It can revel a bit much in the history and former uses of places, which is NOT good DM text. It’s doesn’t do this enough to really make it hard to run, and usually only in rooms with nothing else going on. Still, its padding. I’ve included a couple of example of this at the end. They don’t really add anything to the adventure in terms of players interactivity. History and background rarely do. When they do then I’m ok with their inclusion, but otherwise they just tend to distract and make it harder to find the DMs text that you need to run the room.

I sorely wish that the interactivity were a bit better. It feels like most of it is related to combat. An alter, an opened sarcophagus. A disturbed corpse. A giant idol. The amount of screwing around with stuff that leads to something other than combat is rather rare. That leads to situations where the party is loathe to interact, which is ENTIRELY the wrong lesson to teach. Let’s not view this an extremist position, of course interactivity leading to combat is ok. But there needs to be some that doesn’t also. 

So, It’s ok. Not great. More interactivity, pruning back some of that DM text, more evocative writing. All of that would pop it up a notch or two. Still, not bad. But, in 2019, with the embarrassment of riches in adventures, is there room for Not Bad?

This is $6 at DriveThru. The preview is great at six pages, showing you about fifteen rooms. You can get an idea of the read-aloud, the nature of it and if its good enough for you. The good and bad things the DMs text does. It’s a good preview.

“It is the custom of this temple that each person, before heading down one of the adjoining halls, wash their feet in this pool. That was before the attack arose.”

“This is the embalming area. This lower level of the temple has most recently been dedicated to caring for the dead, and this room is where bodies were prepared for funeral. Sallim, with the help of his water priests, turned the embalmers’ equipment upon them while they were still alive. Then the priests raised them as Ghouls for reasons that Sallim did not understand.”

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Wednesday Comics: Jimmy Olsen & Dragons

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 07/24/2019 - 11:00
Weirdworld: Dragonmasters of Klarn
Back in 2010, I gave the rundown of Marvel's fantasy series Weirdworld. Most of it was collected back in 2015, but the story "Dragonmasters of Klarn" from 1981-1982 in Epic Illustrated and Marvel Super Action #1 by Moench, Buscema, Nebres, and Severin got left out. Marvel corrected that this week with a thin but complete collection of this story. While it's probably not as good as "Warriors of the Shadow Realm" is very much worth checking out.

Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #1
Matt Fraction and Steve Olsen present a humorous tale of Superman's danger-prone pal (reminiscent in tone of Fraction's FF). Olsen is banned from Metropolis by his bosses at the Daily Planet (who tolerate the cost of insuring him because he's internet fandom is the only thing keeping the venerable paper afloat in the digital age) and winds up in Gotham! Easily my favorite read last week.

Of chests — and floors — and ceiling-attacks

3d6 Traps & Thieves - Wed, 07/24/2019 - 01:04
We often eat with our eyes first. That adage seems to apply to RPG monsters as well. Sometimes, no matter how deadly or inspiring a monster entry is - that all-important illustration can make-or-break even the most ancient of dragons or the most influential of demon lords. Some monsters have even been defined by their illustrations through the years. The mimic can change its shape to look like just about any dungeon feature or furnishing. But, those early illustrations of belligerent  treasure chests have fixed that image into just about everyone's minds.

After browsing enough poorly-researched "Worst/Dumbest Monsters in D&D" articles, I feel confident in this presumption. I've even seen blogs where the question is posed: "how does a mimic move?" The premise is that a killer treasure chest just doesn't have any obvious means of locomotion.

Personally, I've never had a party encounter a mimic in the form of a treasure chest. A wardrobe, sarcophagus, door, or gargoyle statue - yes. Even though it is specifically detailed in the Monster Manual entry, the mimic is still seen today as a "mouthy treasure chest monster." Though, to be honest, I do love the imagery of it. Still, I tend to lay the blame for this on the 2nd Edition Monstrous Manual.
One thing that turned me off from 2E was the tendency to explain and define everything. For me, all this accomplished was an increased word count and decreased interest. Suddenly, every monster entry had to fill at least an entire page. Personally, I don't feel that giant sea urchins deserve an entire page - barely a mention, actually.

Anyway, it seems to be the imagery that counts. Text is entirely negotiable. The mimic attacks with a lashing pseudopod. It doesn't even bite. Still, this is the current vision of the mimic - the tongue must be the pseudopod.
Again - I do like the imagery. I just sense some disconnect between the later editions of the game that expend so much effort in detailing every aspect of the adventure, only to have so much fall through the cracks. People who ask how a mimic moves don't seem to be paying much attention. Maybe the word, "amorphous" is too obscure for the casual reader. But, now, in 5th Edition - the mimic does have a bite attack! An acidic bite attack! The toothy maw became so popular that the game itself adapted.

Through the years, I've noticed that certain types of monster will get a bad rap. Some players seem to have issues with "surprise monsters." Those creatures that blend in with the dungeon and let you just walk into their hidden clutches. Kinda makes you feel dumb sometimes. Seems unfair. Never mind that this happens in nature all the time. These monsters just get under their skin and simply aren't realistic. You know - like the rest of the typical realistic D&D world. The idea of creatures specifically evolved to thrive in a ludicrous habitat like a typical dungeon is simply untenable, for some reason.

Monsters like the mimic. The lurker above. The trapper. Hey - I can see the point. These are very specific adaptations. Though, I mostly see the logic hand-waved to the machinations of mad wizards that create wacky monsters for fun and profit. That's never been my thing. For my own setting, I've made the mimic, lurker above, and trapper one-and-the-same monster. Yep. The mimic can look like anything of stone or wood. A chest, a ceiling, a floor. It has adhesive. It is amorphous. Seriously - why bother with three separate entries for the same kind of tricky, camouflaged, shapeshifting, ambush monster?

Along the same lines, come back next time for a little chat about the nifty relationship (in my setting) between the gelatinous cube and the slithering tracker.

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