Tabletop Gaming Feeds

Templar Knight Mayhem - Tegel Manor Session Report Five Inside The Monastery

Swords & Stitchery - Sat, 09/07/2019 - 03:52
Tonight's Tegel Manor session was interesting to say the least as the PC's found themselves in the middle of an inter dimensional raid. They ran into a patrol of Aldebaran raiders & found themselves back to back with the bastards. Some dirty tricks & a bit of psionics allowed them to get past the patrol & get the better of them. That's when things got interesting they managed to save Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

"Hey, You a Cop Bro?" Step-by-Step Character Generation in Working Grave

Two Hour Wargames - Sat, 09/07/2019 - 01:51


So you want to be a Cop? Good; here’s how we do it:

·      “You are a Star, Officer Jones!” (Star or Grunt?)·      “Basic, uh? Good, you’ll fit right in here at New Hope City.” (What Race?)·       “Since you’ve finished your training, you are now officially a Police Officer.” (What Profession?)·       “Reports from training say you’re quick as a cat and pretty good at figuring out stuff.” (What are its Attributes? Stars choose one (Quick Reflexes) and roll for one – (Logical).·       “Well you’re in pretty good shape so that’s a plus.” (What is its Rep? We recommend starting at Rep 5).·       “Tests say you’re pretty smart and are good at talking to people. That’ll help a lot.” (What are its People and Savvy Skills – People 5 Savvy 4.·       “Here’s your weapon.  Here’s your jacket as well.” (What is its Weapon? Big A$$ Pistol – AKA B – 2. Two shots. Also has armored vest.·      “We’ve checked you for Enhancements and you’re clean. Stay that way!”(Does it have Enhancements? NHC PD should nothave Enhancements.·       “All right Jones, go downstairs and see if they’ve got a Partner for you and good luck!”Officer Jones is a Rep 5 Basic Star. Has the Quick Reflexes and Logical Attributes. People Skill 5 Savvy 4.  Armed with B-2 and wearing armored vest. He’s a newbie so Street Cred of 0.
Character Journal
Name Reputation Weapon Officer J. Jones 5 BA – 2 & Vest Star/Grunt Monthly Rep d6 Lifetime Rep d6  Star 0 0 Race Months Passed Profession Basic 0 Police Officer Street Cred Miscellaneous
0 Currently no Partner assigned. Jones is a newbie, new to New Hope City.
Roll 2d6 vs. Rep for Partner – Passed 2d6 – Sorry, no Partner for you; budget cuts you know.That’s it:·       Choose Star, Race, Profession (Cop), first Attribute, People and Savvy values.·       You are given a B-2 and vest.·       You roll for one Attribute and to get a Partner.
Easy peasy, take you 5 minutes to set up. Now let’s go on your first Encounter. You get ten years on the force with two Encounters per month. The 1st is Involuntary and given to you, the 2nd is Voluntary and you can choose to or not to have one.
I roll for the 1st Encounter and score Arrest Someone. Coming soon!
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Aldebaran's Raid - Tegel Manor Session Report Four & More OSR Mayhem!

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 09/06/2019 - 19:38
Switching it up with the Victorious Rpg by Mike Stewart & Amazing Adventures! by Jason Vey , when last left our heroes my version had plane jumped into its new destination. An alien jungle world and things were getting very interesting at the old colony cities on this new plane. Last week the player's PC's heard blaster fire coming from the nearby cities and fires raging. That's whenNeedleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Carnacki Ghost-Finder

Sorcerer's Skull - Fri, 09/06/2019 - 11:00
I recently discovered there are a number of readings of William Hope Hodgson stories on Youtube. They vary in quality of course, but all the ones I've listened to are decent. Try this one:


Review & Commentary on Advanced Dungeons & Dragons - I11: "Needle" By Frank Mentzer For Your Old School Campaign

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 09/06/2019 - 05:45
"The king's notice asked for adventurers to undertake a mission to a far land. It was marked with the rune for "high danger, high reward" so of course you volunteered.The king has heard of a great obelisk that towers over a ruined city in a far country. He wants to know more about the obelisk and its strange powers. Your job is to find the obelisk and bring back a report to the king. The Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Lords of Mars

The Viridian Scroll - Fri, 09/06/2019 - 00:19
I made a new game.





I'm almost too tired to talk about it right now, so I'm just going to let you have a look! It's a pastiche of John Carter of Mars based on Nate Treme's Tunnel Goons. More on the making of it, and its future, tomorrow.

Enjoy. Comments, typos, etc. welcome.

Get it here: https://rayotus.itch.io/lords-of-mars





Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Retro Review & Adventure Retooling With N2: The Forest Oracle By Carl Smith For Your Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 09/05/2019 - 20:20
"The land lies under a curse. Fruit drops to the ground, its pulp black and rotten. Leaves curl and wither on the branches. Animals flee the parched vale, or starve. Long ago, the Downs prospered under the care of Druids, but the priests of nature have retreated deep into the woods and rarely show themselves. One old man claims that the Druids have the power to save the valley, if only someone Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

1d10 Random Undead Royalty Wasteland Encounter Table For Your Old School Campaign

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 09/05/2019 - 19:39
They come from across worlds, skittering through cracks in the universe to be a plague upon mankind. They have many names many of which have been forgotten over the eons. These princes of the undead have their very existence cursed & they are nothing more then mockeries of life itself. Across the eons they come sometimes to feed upon life, they devour not only flesh but the very souls of their Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Review & Commentary on Advanced Dungeons & Dragons - I10: Ravenloft II: The House on Gryphon Hill For Your Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 09/05/2019 - 18:44
""I AM THE ANCIENT ... I AM THE LAND ..." Your screams still echo in your room. Cold sweat soaks the bedsheets and trickles down your back. It seemed so real! The great towers of a darksome place called Ravenloft ... it's misty vales and the terrible tragedy of a man who had sold his soul to unlife. Now the sunlight streams through the window with the promise of a new day. The dread nightmare Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Holmes Games at Pacificon

Zenopus Archives - Thu, 09/05/2019 - 15:33
"Tegel Manor mapping" by Guy Fullerton showing a marked 20-sider in use
Over at K&KA Alehouse and Dragonsfoot, Guy Fullerton has posted a con report from Pacificon Game Expo 41, which took place this past Labor Day weekend in Santa Clara, CA, which includes two different Holmes Basic games he played in.

These included Tegel Manor DM'd by Thom Hall:

Open Role Playing
Fri 7 PM
to 11 PM
(4 hrs)R-475: Tegel Manor
Presented by Thom HallHolmes Edition Basic D&D published by TSR
Regular signup, room for 6 players
Regular Game, New to gaming, Characters/Armies Supplied, All Ages
Location: Prospector 1 - ADescription:Bob Bledsaw's Tegel Manor published by Judges Guild in 1977. Tegel Manor, a great manor-fortress on the seacoast, is rumored to be left over from ancient days...

...and a Holmes + Greyhawk City State of the Invincible Overlord game DM'd by DF/ODD74 member peterlind, which I didn't see on the event listing.
Guy also ran two sessions of AD&D himself:
Open Role Playing
Sat 9 AM
to 3 PM
(6 hrs)R-321: The Mere Beneath
Presented by Guy FullertonAD&D 1st Ed. published by TSR
Regular signup, room for 6 players
Regular Game, General gaming experience, Characters/Armies Supplied, Thirteen and older
Location: Prospector 1 - ADescription:Descend a waterfall to explore the watery caverns, and plunder an ancient Hydromancer fortress. Exploration (no plot) and danger (no fudging). Lvl 4-5
Open Role Playing
Sun 9 AM
to 3 PM
(6 hrs)R-323: The Garden of al-Astorion
Presented by Guy FullertonAD&D 1st Ed. published by TSR
Regular signup, room for 6 players
Regular Game, General gaming experience, Characters/Armies Supplied, Thirteen and older
Location: Monterey - ADescription:Rumors say this secluded valley contains a garden of enchanted fruit trees, and gems the size of eggs. Your party surely has the strength to drive off the primitive beast-men within, and reap the rewards. Classic module by Gabor Lux, aka Melan. Exploration (no plot) and danger (no fudging). Lvl 6-9
Now that you've read the event descriptions, head over and read about how the games went.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Bring on the Magic! (Part IV)

Torchbearer RPG - Thu, 09/05/2019 - 13:00
The Magic Circle by John William Waterhouse, 1886

Hello friends!

I’ve got a couple more magic items for you this week. In D&D terms, the Pair Dadeni, in particular, is closer to an artifact than a magic item. Both are very powerful and adventures or even whole campaigns can hinge on them.

You can find items from past entries here:

If you use any of these items in your game, please tell us about it. Enjoy!

Myr’s Magnificent Manor

This exquisite puzzle box is crafted of linden and rosewood with inlays of walrus tusk and pewter. The priceless treasure was once the crowning achievement of the Enchanter Myr of Svanland. Slats, cunningly hidden hinges and pivots allow one to manipulate the box in a multitude of ways. If one can discern its secrets, it can unfold into a comfortable manor house complete with a hearth, a hall with trestle table and benches, a private chamber that can comfortably sleep three people, a study and storage.
Effect: Unfolding the puzzle box into a manor requires an Ob 3 Lore Master test, though it will refold itself without a test upon command. In Camp, the manor provides shelter from the elements, tools for Cook, +1D to recovery from Exhausted for those who sleep in the bed, space to keep one magician’s library and space to store 12 slots worth of inventory. There is room for others to sleep in the hall, but they do not get a bonus to recovery. The puzzle box will lose its  magic if damaged.
Inventory: Pack 2
Type: Magical container

Pair Dadeni

The legendary Pair Dadeni of Valland—the Cauldron of Rebirth—is much sought by adventurers and warlords. The legends say that any dead creature, be it human or beast, placed within the black cauldron returns to life. Crafted by giants, the vast iron cauldron is said to be as big as a lake, and perhaps it could masquerade as one if buried in the earth.
Effect: Anything dead placed within the cauldron returns to life on the following dawn. The resurrected being permanently loses one nature descriptor of the GM’s choice and erases the Dead condition. If a living being is forcibly placed in the cauldron, it arises as Deathless, slave to the will of the one who sacrificed it. If a living being willingly climbs into the cauldron, it will shatter. Its magic will be destroyed forever and those given new life by it, whether living or Deathless, will die.
Inventory: Special. The cauldron is so vast, only a team of giants could hope to move it.
Type: Magical container

Deathless Nature 4Might 5Guarding, Pursuing, SlayingInstinct: Obey the master.Type: Undead

Special Rules: Cauldron Born. Animated and enslaved by the magic of the cauldron, the Deathless are mute, undead horrors. They cannot speak and cannot be reasoned with. Nor will they flee (save from those invoking the Fury of the Lords of Life and Death). They never tire and they never stop when following their master’s orders. However, they will not act on their own accord. Without orders they are quiescent.

Hit Points Flee
9Kill
7Trick
4

Other Conflict Hit Points: Within Nature: Roll Nature, add successes to Nature rating. Outside of Nature: Roll half Nature. Add successes to Nature rating. Note: Deathless will never engage in Convince or Drive Off conflicts. They cannot Riddle but they can be Tricked.

Armor: Whatever armor the Deathless wore in life. Chain, shield and helmet are common.

WeaponConflictADFMSwordKill
Capture(+1D)(+1D)(+1D)(+1D)ShieldKill
Capture — +2D — — Tireless
TreadFlee/
Pursue — — — +1s Deathless Description

A mockery of human form, the Deathless are mute, tireless, undying slaves to the will of the one that created them. Their mouths are sewn shut and their eyes burn like fiery coals.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The City at the Center, Reprise

Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 09/05/2019 - 11:00
Anton Furst"I live now, only with strangersI talk to only strangersI walk with angels that have no place"- Bruce Springsteen
It is the living (and dying and living again) embodiment of Reality 2.0. A ring and a promise. The strange loop that sustains itself and possibly the entire multiverse. Born out of the last war and the first cause (second iteration), it has no history and is nothing but history.

Its sights. Horizonless urban landscape, sprawling vertiginously upward in two directions to loom overhead, darkened narrow, cobblestone alleys feeding into modern thoroughfares awash in neon, lined with deco skyscrapers and gleaming glass spires, rooftop slums perched on skeletal high-rises, ramshackle mobile markets, the rusted out carapace of dead factories, dutch-angled slabs of never-finished freeway tagged in occult scripts, geodesic domes housing lush gardens, gargoyles that sometimes take flight, the sky gray with spasms of occasional pixelation, a sparking blue-white point instead of a proper sun.


Its sounds. The rattling rumble of an elevated train, the high-pitched invective of angry fairies, the beat drifting from open nightclub doors, the patter of street dealers, the nervous shifting of strange animals and the groan of heavy-laden carts, the growl of engines, the squeak and hiss of arthritic pneumatic joints, the distant crackles and pops of spells met with gunfire, the wail of sirens.

Its smells. Fast food thick with alien spices, stale alcohol and sweat, a hint of ozone, a stray whiff of expensive perfume, burning oil, cigarettes.

(sensory-based format borrowed from Jack Shear)

Review & Commentary on Advanced Dungeons & Dragons - REF5 Lords of Darkness For Your Old School Campaign

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 09/04/2019 - 21:31
"The Undead. Denied the eternal rest of Death, cursed to wander the many planes and worlds forever, their very existence a mockery of life they constantly crave yet cannot have. Created by the foulest of magics, they have only one thought, on burning goal: revenge against the living. Or do they? "Back in Eighty Eight I received  REF5 Lords of Darkness (1e) as a gift one Christmas from my Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Darkland Moors

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 09/04/2019 - 11:18
By Jeff Dee UNIgames 1e Levels 3-5

A huge, monstrous presence rampages through the farms and villages of Darkland Moors, throwing the locals’ formerly peaceful lives into turmoil. What manner of giant is responsible, where is it taking its captives, and what is their fate? To restore peace, our heroes must scour the misty Moors and track the beast to its lair!

This ten page adventure fits 21 encounters in to four pages. A hexcrawl in search of a marauding giant, it does a decent job with hex rules. The encounters are more of a setup for the DM to fill in with a writing style that is not always consistent in how it conveys information, especially where enemies are involved. I respect the hex crawl stuff and think the format for the hex crawl has possabilities, but the details need work to make it worth something to check out.

This is a hex crawl, searching for a marauding giant in some fog-covered moors. Dee does a good job of summarizing some basic hexcrawl rules.  Movement is covered: 2 per day on foot or 4 by horse. Likewise he covers getting lost in a very simple manner, as well as basic “what you can see in the next hex” landmark details. Concise hexcrawl guidelines have always been lacking, IMO, but this is one of the best summaries of basic hex crawl rules I’ve seen. It’s not worth it just for this but it does show that Dee has pretty good understanding of how things are supposed to work, and the need to transfer that to the audience.

The encounters are presented as general situations which the DM is then left to expand upon. Recall the 21 encounters in four pages? That includes several ruins and village/towns. The ONLY way to do that is to present the general situation to the DM and let the DM fill in the details. There’s nothing wrong with that, in fact it’s the general manner of all hex crawls. 

The encounters, though, feel flat. The detail is, again, abstracted to a degree that it removes the life from the encounter. I think I can understand the why of this; you can’t fill in the details of these largish locations and still have a decently-sized product. Some of the hexes would easily be their own adventures if expanded upon in this way. 

I would suggest, though, that there is another path. Rather than writing a very generalized and generic abstracted description the encounter/situation could instead be imbued with brief bursts of color. “A local farmer blinded the giant before being eaten.” is one of the sentences. Better, I think, would be some local color for this farmer, his family, or something else. Picking out one thing per encounter, maybe the most significant part of the place, and adding/changing the wording for some better adjectives and adverbs or more color. I’m not arguing for a significant increase in word count but rather a better use of those words, targeting some aspect of the encounter. 

As always I’m looking for something that inspires the DM while they are running the encounter. Something that the DM’s own imagination can build upon and be leveraged by the designer to add more the encounter than what’s written. In this adventure, in particular, the page count could be about the same with some trimming. The map and hex crawl rules note what can be seen from each hex … and then each encounter ALSO notes what can be seen from this hex. Doubling down on the information is quite necessary and the word count could have been used to add some color, some building blocks, to the actual encounters.

The writing also, at times, feels tacked on, especially where enemies are concerned. You’ll get a paragraph description of a place and and then another paragraph description of enemies which can totally change the vibe and what’s going on in the first paragraph. This happens multiple times but the first encounter is a good example. A ruined farmhouse, as if a mighty blow had been dealt to an upper corner. All valuables looted. Just some broken simple furniture inside. And then the next paragraph tells us how 11 large spiders live inside, it’s got a web-festooned interior, and there’s treasure. All of which kind of contradicts a bunch of info in that first paragraph. Or, at a minimum, the first paragraph totally leads you down one path when the second one yanks you back a different direction. It’s almost as if they were written by different people who only knew “ruined farmhouse” and one write an empty farmhouse and one wrote a monster farmhouse and an editor just slapped them together. There’s no cohesiveness at all. 

The hex crawl summary is great. The terseness/length of the situations is about right, I think. The descriptions though are too generic and too disjointed. It needs work.

I also note that this is listed as being for “Advanced rpg games.” Man, T$R really did a number on the old employees. From the Eldritch ENterprises use of generic stats to the dancing around “1e” stuff. These people have WOUNDS.

This is $2.50 at DriveThru. The preview is three pages. Good news, it shows the hexcrawl summary rules! Bad news, it doesn’t show you any of the encounters. A preview really needs to show you a few of the encounters so a potential purchaser can see what they are getting … or not.


https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/126811/JD2-Darkland-Moors?1892600

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Wednesday Comics: Dreadstar and Grimjack

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 09/04/2019 - 11:00

Yesterday, in a post-holiday flurry of package deliveries, I got the first volume of Jim Starlin's Dreadstar Omnibus in hardcover. I already have the pdf, but it didn't prepare me for the gorgeousness of the actual book. Can't wait for the other volumes!

Oh, and hey kids, a comics podcast! The next episode of the Bronze Age Book Club by yours truly and some other Hydra notables dropped today:

Listen to "Episode 4: GRIMJACK #1" on Spreaker.

Charioteer for Kickstarter

Two Hour Wargames - Wed, 09/04/2019 - 02:37
Here's a mock up of Charioteer, one of the games coming to the Kickstarter later this month Will have a 11 x 17 board (similar to this one), cards and counters. Streamlined version of the minis rules and more challenging. Totally playable solo


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Herbert Zamboni

The Viridian Scroll - Tue, 09/03/2019 - 15:25
TLDR: It's a monster, it's a puzzle, it's either one depending on how you approach it. Neat design.

This morning I played in an online game of Delving Deeper with Cody Mazza of the No Save for You podcast. (He and I talked about Delving Deeper recently in a two-part episode.) Cody was running Greg Gillespie's excellent megadungeon, Barrowmaze, so I don't know whether to credit him or Greg with this idea.

The party is following the tracks of a rival gang of explorers. (The Bogtown Bastards if you must know. Curse their rotten hides!) We came upon a room at the East end of a hall, with an exit to the North. In the middle of the room (and filling most of it) was a huge quivering mass of flesh and several dead bodies. We needed to get to the door on the other wall, but were understandably reluctant to try and pass this quivering mound. I suggested tossing in a body in the corner opposite the wall we wanted to get to. The mass grew legs, stood up, shambled over to the fresh corpse and then dropped down on it. While it was raised up, we saw faces of other dead people in its belly. Yikes!

I named it Herbert Zamboni – because we plan to come back with a monster charm spell and use it like a zamboni to clean out the hallways for us. Even this time around we used it to polish off dead bodies so that they wouldn't reanimate as zombies, which is something that seems to be happening in the Barrowmaze. After leaving the dungeon it occurred to me that it might actually BE the thing turning corpses into zombies. Like maybe it eats corpses and poops out zombies. We'll see.

Anyway, I liked the fact that this encounter was either a monster or a trap, depending on how you approached it. We could have tried to fight it or burn it, but instead we decided to trick it. (I only had 2 hit points, so you had better believe I wasn't going to try and fight this bugger.)

I drew a picture of Herbert later. At the last second I added some subtle/weird eyes. Or are they nipples? Or maybe both - eyples that lactate milky tears. Shrug.


Herbert Zamboni
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

10 Things in Pathfinder Second Edition I Like (and 1 I Don’t)

DM David - Tue, 09/03/2019 - 11:15

In 2008, Paizo sent designer Jason Buhlman to the Winter Fantasy convention to sample the upcoming fourth edition of Dungeons & Dragons and report on the game. Paizo founder Lisa Stevens recalls the outcome. “From the moment that 4th Edition had been announced, we had trepidations about many of the changes we were hearing about. Jason’s report confirmed our fears—4th Edition didn’t look like the system we wanted to make products for. Whether a license for 4E was forthcoming or not, we were going to create our own game system based on the 3.5 System Reference Document: The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.” See The Unintended Consequence That Ruined Fourth Edition D&D’s Chance of Success, But Proved Great for Gamers.

While fourth edition featured a bold new design aimed at saving D&D, Pathfinder became an alternative that refined D&D’s 3.5 edition. For a time, sales of Pathfinder rivaled D&D. But after nearly 10 years, Pathfinder needed an update. So in August 2019, Paizo released a second edition. In a post, lead designer Jason Buhlman named the update’s number one goal: “Create a new edition of Pathfinder that’s much simpler to learn and play—a core system that’s easy to grasp but expandable—while remaining true to the spirit of what makes Pathfinder great: customization, flexibility of story, and rules that reward those who take the time to master them.” Even new, Pathfinder 2 offers more character options than fifth edition.

On reading the new rules and playing a short introduction, I can share 10 things I like in the new game, and 1 thing I don’t’.

1. “Ancestry” instead of “race.” In the The Hobbit, Tolkien calls hobbits a race, and started the custom of referring to elves, dwarves, and other fantastic kin to humans as races. But the term “race” has a common meaning different from the game meaning, which leads to confusion. Referring to even imaginary “races” as intrinsically talented, virtuous, or corrupt feels unsavory at best. “Species” makes a more accurate term, but its scientific flavor makes it jarring in fantasy. Pathfinder replaces “race” with the more agreeable term of “ancestry.” Unless Wizards of the Coast resists an innovation “not invented here,” expect to see “ancestry” in some future sixth edition.

2. Fewer action types. The Pathfinder team saw new players stumble over the original game’s zoo of swift, immediate, move, and standard actions. In a bid to simplify, this second edition consolidates the action types into a system that gives characters 3 actions and 1 reaction per turn. This means even new characters can attempt 3 attacks per turn, although the second strike suffers a -5 penalty and the third a -10 penalty. In practice, only more proficient attackers will land extra attacks. Most spells require 2 actions to cast. When I played a Pathfinder 2 demo, its simpler actions proved very playable, even elegant.

In a related refinement, Pathfinder adds clarity by calling a single attack a strike. This avoids the confusion that the D&D rules sometimes cause by using the same word for an attack and for an attack action that can include multiple attacks.

3. Animal companions level up. To many D&D players, animal companions offer a special appeal, but the game’s support for pets remains shaky. Pathfinder devotes an entire section to animal companions and familiars, showing pets the attention they deserve. Rather than keeping animal companions close to their natural abilities, pets improve in lockstep as characters level, making them capable of staying alive and relevant.

4. A manageable encumbrance system. D&D measures encumbrance by pound. While this system seems to add complicated bookkeeping, it proves simple in play because everyone ignores it. Pathfinder measures encumbrance by Bulk, a value representing an item’s size, weight, and general awkwardness. You can carry Bulk equal to 5 plus your strength bonus. Bulk streamlines encumbrance enough to make tracking playable. (Plus, the system charms the grognard in me by recalling a similar rule in Runequest (1978) that tracked encumbrance by “Things.”)

5. User-friendly books. Paizo devoted extra attention to making the core rulebook into an easy reference. For instance, the book includes bleed tabs, and I love them. These bleed tabs don’t show how to play a metal song on guitar; they make finding chapters easy. Unlike typical tabs that jut from the page, bleed tabs show as printed labels on the page that go to the edge and appear as bands of color. The book combines an index and glossary into a section that defines game terms, and also leads readers to pages containing more information. Every game rulebook should include these features.

6. Degrees of success. Roleplaying games often include core mechanics that determine degrees of success or failure, but D&D only offers one extra degree: a 5% chance of a critical on attack rolls. The Pathfinder 2 system delivers a critical success on a 20 and a critical failure on a 1. Also, a check that exceeds the DC by 10 or more brings a critical success and a check 10 or more less than the DC brings critical failure. Pathfinder avoids the punishing effects that make some fumble systems too swingy. For instance, a critical failure on a strike just counts as a miss. Sorry, no fumble tables that lead characters to put their eye out. Where natural, fumbles and criticals affect spell saves. For example, a successful save against Gust of Wind lets you stand your ground, and a critical save leaves you unaffected.

7. The Incapacitation trait of spells. Save-or-die spells have proved troublesome in high-level D&D play. Campaigns that build to an epic clash with a fearsome dragon instead end with the beast helpless in a force cage and stabbed to death in a dreary series of damage rolls. Pathfinder gives spells like Force Cage and Banishment the Incapacitation trait. Creatures twice or more the level of the spell typically need to fumble their save to fall under its effect. To me, this beats D&D’s solution to the same problem, legendary resistance.

8. Character customization without decision paralysis. Fourth edition D&D focused on offering players vast numbers of character options. Players uninterested in the solitary hobby of character tinkering soon found the options overwhelming. For my characters, I turned to the Internet to find character optimizers who sifted through countless options and helped me choose. Pathfinder aims to give players room for character customization without forcing a bewildering number of choices. The system works by presenting character options as feats. At each level, players make selections from small menus of feats. Even first level characters of the same class can play differently, and they grow more distinct as they advance.

9. Skill DCs replace passive checks. Pathfinder dispenses with passive perception and passive insight in favor of Skill DCs, “When someone or something tests your skill, they attempt a check against your skill DC, which is equal to 10 plus your skill modifiers.” Often skill DCs work just like passive abilities, like when a stealthy character attempts to beat someone’s perception score. In the most common use of skill DCs, a sneaking creature would roll against a character’s perception skill DC.

Without passive perception, a game master must roll secret perception checks to learn if exploring characters spot traps. Passive perception aims to eliminate such die rolls, but I consider rolls to find hidden traps useful. Without a roll, DMs just compare set DCs verses passive scores. DMs who know their players’ scores decide in advance what traps get found, with no luck of the roll to make the game surprising. Skill DCs also replace opposed ability checks—a second core mechanic with skewed odds that clutters the D&D rules.

10. Limited opportunity attacks. To encourage more movement in combat, Pathfinder 2 limits the characters and creatures capable of making opportunity attacks. At first level, only fighters start with the capability. Opportunity attacks mainly existed to help front-line characters protect the unarmored magic users in the back, but D&D and Pathfinder make once-fragile character types more robust now. Opportunity attacks make sense as a fighter specialty, especially if that encourages more dynamic battles.

That makes 10 things I like. What do I dislike?

Pathfinder 2 features a proficiency system that leads to the sort of double-digit bonuses that D&D players last saw in fourth edition.

In trained skills, every Pathfinder 2 character gets a bonus equal to at least 2 plus their level. This steady advance makes characters feel more capable as they level and rewards players with a sense of accomplishment as their characters improve. “The best part about proficiencies is the way they push the boundaries for non-magical characters, particularly those with a legendary rank,” writes designer Mark Seifter. “Masters and especially legends break all those rules. Want your fighter to leap 20 feet straight up and smash a chimera down to the ground? You can do that (eventually)!”

As in fourth edition, Pathfinder game masters can justify the sky-high DCs needed to challenge high-level characters by describing obstacles of legendary proportions. At first level, the rogue must climb a rough dungeon wall; by 20th level, she must climb a glass-smooth wall covered in wet slime—in an earthquake. At first level, you must negotiate with the mayor; by twentieth level, he’s king. And you killed his dog.

At least as often as fourth-edition dungeon masters flavored higher DCs as bigger challenges, they just paired routine challenges with higher numbers. That tendency leads to the downside of such steep increases in proficiency. In practice, characters usually just advance to face higher and higher numbers for the same challenges. In fourth edition, a steady rise in attack bonuses and armor classes meant that monsters only made suitable challenges for a narrow band of levels. This may also apply to Pathfinder 2.

I favor fifth edition’s bounded accuracy over the steep increases in proficiency bonuses featured in Pathfinder 2. For more, see Two Problems that Provoked Bounded Accuracy.

Aside from these 11 things, how does Pathfinder differ from its sibling Dungeons & Dragons?

Gamers often describe Pathfinder as more crunchy—more rules heavy—than fifth edition. After all, the core rulebook spans 638 pages! But that book includes content that D&D splits between the Player’s Handbook and Dungeon Master’s Guide, and those books include almost exactly the same number of pages. In some ways, Pathfinder proves simpler. For instance, its system actions and reactions simplifies D&D’s action types. Still, Pathfinder devotes more crunch to describing outcomes and conditions. For example, in D&D, characters make a Strength (Athletics) check to climb, but the DM gets no help determining the outcome of a failure. Pathfinder describes outcomes: A climb failure stops movement; a critical failure leads to a fall. D&D describes 14 conditions; Pathfinder describes 42.

Without playing more Pathfinder 2, I feel unready to label this post as a review. Nonetheless, I like most of what I see and I’m eager to play the game more.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Some thoughts on Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax Part II

Bat in the Attic - Mon, 09/02/2019 - 22:52
This is the second in my series post about the legacy of Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax.

 

I consider myself informed on the legacy of the two men and the history of DnD and tabletop roleplaying. There are other that have spent far more time, and money on the subject than I. Sharing what they learned in formal films and books.

However for each of us to come to our own conclusion on the topic we need a path to get there. The sources I have used were the following

Playing at the World by Jon Peterson
The Hawk and Moor series by Kent David Kelly
The First Fantasy Campaign by Dave Arneson and the Judges Guild Staff
Dave Arneson's True Genius by Rob Kuntz

Gygax Q and A series on various Forums
Dragonsfoot
Enworld

The TSR Q and A series on Dragonsfoot

Old school forums such as
The Comeback Inn
The ODnD discussion forum.
Knights and Knaves

Recently there an another new source of information the Secrets of Blackmoor documentary which I haven't gotten completely through yet.

Browsing through the above when you have the time and interest will lead you to other sources that I haven't mentioned.

The reason I haven't given you my opinion yet is that throughout the recent round of discussion there are lot of editorializing and opinion given but nobody is explaining how you can form your own opinion. Especially in a way that is compatible with the time and budget you have for a hobby. Everything that list except for the First Fantasy Campaign should be readily accessible to anybody reading this. You don't have to digest it all at once. Just read (or watch) through what you can when you can.

Eventually you get to a point where you have your own answer to the questions I posted in Part 1.

And no I am not going to make you wait for a Part III for my answer.

So what does Rob think?

  • Would have Dungeons & Dragons be written without Dave's help or Dave running the Lake Geneva session?

My conclusion is no. In the absence of that session happening in Lake Geneva maybe Gygax would have followed up man to man section of chainmail with a Metagaming Melee type wargame or some other type of wargame that had the players playing individual characters (like Gladiators). But it is Dave Arneson who the first to put all the element that we know as tabletop roleplaying. And more important did the work to figure out how to make it fun and interesting.


  • What was involved in developing the idea of a tabletop roleplaying campaign in Dave Arneson's Blackmoor Campaign.

Blackmoor started out as a miniature wargame campaign. Not a traditional one where the players were in essence the armies on board. In Blackmoor, like in the various Braunsteins being run, the players played the actual commanders and other important characters. Not just the good guys but the baddies as well. 
Dave's role was that of a neutral arbiter. He created the setting, drew up the rules to resolve battle, logistics, and prices list. Within those constraints the players were free to do anything that they would as if they were there. In short a wargame campaign but a very sophiscated one.
What turned Blackmoor into the first tabletop roleplaying was Dave's willingness to say yes. When Peter Gaylord wanted to play a wizard, he said yes. When Dave Fant figured out how to transform into a vampire, he said yes. And so forth and so on. Week by week the focus of the Blackmoor campaign shifted from a struggle between good guys versus bad guys to the individual exploits of the players as their characters.

My opinion that it is the introduction of Blackmoor dungeons the defines the clear line between two phases of the campaign. Prior the dungeon Blackmoor was mostly a wargame campaign, afterwards it was mostly about the exploits of the individual characters.

The reason I picked the dungeons, because the First Fantasy Fantasy campaign and other anecdotes clearly state that the good guys players were punished with exile because they lost Castle Blackmoor to the baddies by spending too much time exploring the dungeon. Instead of learning their lesson when they arrived at Lake Gloomy they went off to explore new dungeons.

I know my statement makes it sound like a AHA! moment. But I can't stress enough that this developed over weeks and months. With Dave and his players constantly trying things out.

When Dave goes down to Lake Geneva to run that fateful adventure. He has nearly two years of running Blackmoor under his belt. The same amount of time Gygax used from the writing his first manuscript and running the Greyhawk campaign, to the publication of Dungeons & Dragons.

Also keep in mind as Gygax ran Greyhawk, Dave continued to run Blackmoor that the two corresponded frequently.


  • What would have happened to Dave Arneson innovations if Gygax never had written Dungeons & Dragons?

So here the thing, Dave does not have a lot of published works to his name. Nearly all of the anecdotes paints Dave as a genius at running campaigns, making wargames.  But shined when it was face to face not words on paper. But Gary Gygax was able to see a project through publications and did so a number of time prior and after Dungeons & Dragons.

So what would have happened if Gygax never had written Dungeons & Dragons. We would have seen Megarry's Dungeon boardgame at some point. We would also probably seen wargames where the players played individual characters. Probably something like GDW's Engarde, the first Boot Hill, or the later Metagaming's Melee and Wizard by Steve Jackson. We would have probably seen some Braunstein scenarios published.

But without that Lake Geneva session run by Dave inspiring Gygax, we would have not have tabletop roleplaying. When I read through First Fantasy Campaign and the various accounts, I notices there is a lot of focus on the wargame side of the campaign. In terms of rules, scenarios, the miniatures, and the props being made.

But because Dave had to travel to Lake Geneva, he couldn't bring all that so brought the part of the campaign that was easier to transport (and popular in its own right) the dungeons. Hence Gygax was inspired to run his own dungeon campaign, Greyhawk.

My opinion that the dungeon was the perfect setting to convey how different this game was. Compared to other type of adventure locales, the dungeon is clearly focused on players acting as individual characters. In this case exploring the monster filled maze.

Gygax contribution to the development of tabletop roleplaying was to take what Dave did and figure out to make it work for himself. Then write it in a way that was understandable for everybody else to learn for themselves.

In my view that was as an impressive feat as Dave developing the concept of tabletop roleplaying. Is why I view that there is no path to what we have as a hobby and industry that doesn't run through the two of them.

Wrapping it up
There are people who wrote whole books about the subject (and filmed documentaries to boot). I can't encompass all that into two post. What I can do is outline for you the path I took to reach the basic conclusions I reached above. Hope this help.

In the meantime
Fight On!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Mothshade Concepts Patreon

3d6 Traps & Thieves - Mon, 09/02/2019 - 20:29
Now that there is a Patreon for the Avremier project, this blog will no longer contain much Avremier content. Changes are nigh. Worlds are shifting. There is no slowing down.


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

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