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Updated: 1 day 21 hours ago

On Classic Gaming the Second Week of July, 2018

Fri, 07/13/2018 - 12:00
What a busy week. Those of you who join me for my chill Twitch streams know that I've been hard a work on an exciting project (explaining the dearth of posts so far this week) but rest assured, I've got plenty of stuff in store. This week's a doozy and time is moving pretty fast, so lets get right into business!

New releasesFaux Pas is out!

Disclosure, I'm a big fan of Nick's and he's been my friend for years. This is his first release that he's charged for. It has an audio recording of the module along with it. That's exciting.

"The first symptom is a popping sound from the belly. It can
happen at anytime, and the afflicted never feel it coming.
They’ll be having a friendly chat one moment, then pop, and
now they’re trying to kill people.
Thus begins Faux Pas, the first in a series of adventures from HOCUS publishing. . . .Faux Pas features the art of Anxy P., and layout from no less a figure than Christian Kessler (of Fever Swamp fame). I also got a lot of help throughout the process from Jarrett Crader (editor of numerous LotFP publications), and OSR luminary Evey Lockhart.
Faux Pas, A system neutral adventure. The players discover a town beset by a mysterious illness with symptoms worse than death. It breeds violence, madness, and mutation. It turns people into things that are no longer themselves.
The Inquisitor General has been warned. He’s on his way here. When he arrives he’ll burn every building to the ground and torture everyone living until they confess to the devil worship that obviously brought this evil into the world.
Will the players discover what’s really going on, and how to stop it, before the Inquisitor arrives? Or will they just loot the place and run away?"

Also, there's a couple of Kickstarters tearing things up.

NGR, Neoclassical Geek Revival has been tearing up some lists. Asking for about 600$, it's currently sitting at nearly 12,000$. It's got some pretty big draws. As well as being a classic retro-clone, it also collects all of Zzarchov's many very high-quality adventures together in a book for print. You can also have your choice of illustrated versions of the game from Alex Mayo, Chris Huth, and Dyson Logos. Really, it seems like a great deal, for a collection of good stuff, and giving work to a great group of people.

Then there's woodfall, a small setting that can be dropped in your setting. It's got a neat aesthetic and the little graphic of "Your setting" with a hole in it, with woodfall fitting right in.

Goblinoid games is also running a fully funded version of a new Advanced Labyrinth Lord guide. With the existences of Basic/Expert for sale, as well as B/X Essentials, I have the ruleset I like.
Hot takes of the weekGavin Norman made a huge announcement of a new partnership with Quality Beast! I'm pretty sure it means higher quality and faster releases from Necrotic Gnome. I don't know, we'll have to wait and see.

Patrick conducts another interview with one of the most creative minds in classic gaming. Ben L. talks about early proto-childhood gaming and how the memory affected his creativity today.

This Lamentations/Basic D&D conversion of Dark Sun rules has been making the rounds, and it's pretty impressive.

Drama at the Ennies, isn't there always? Did the wrong people get nominated? Is the Old School Renaissance a Voting Bloc? Rule changes about judges are coming. A publisher hires a bodyguard for Gencon. Big money is on the line for the winners. It looks like we're finally big enough, we're getting a taste of that civilization movin' in from out east.

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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

On Classic Gaming for the first week of July

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 12:00
Happy explosion day! I pity the dogs.

New ReleasesOn monday, the exciting B/X Essentials Monsters dropped. Back in the golden days, it was suggested to cut apart your books and organize them by section so that basic and expert weren't split apart. However, in spite of the brilliant design, this never happened. Now we have Gavin Norman stepping in and giving us a real companion to the creature catalogue! It's all of the basic/expert monsters in one document!

That said, it's currently .pdf only, until the odious and publisher unfriendly process of getting the print version to people finally finishes. It's terrible and I feel for anyone trying to provide print copies from any onebookshelf user. That said, it is coming (even if it's weeks out).

I'm very much looking forward to the combined addition as well as some of the expansion books.

That's not all, the new release from Glenn Seal has finally dropped; The Midderlands Expanded is out. I've just recently gotten it and haven't had time to dig too deeply. At first glance it's filled with page after page after page of evocative description and setting information. The original midderlands covers the center of this twisted version of the british isles, and this covers some of the surrounding area. I can't wait for my hardcovers to arrive! I'm not a fan of the green art, but the line art is excellent and right up my alley.

It comes with a pile of bonus material and I'm loving digging through it. Glenn is turning out good work here, I may post a more detailed review if there's some interest.

There's so much terrible stuff out there. It's important to remember, that this isn't a critique, it's a highlighting of exciting things that have released and happened this week. If I reviewed something, would I say what I don't like about it? Yeah. I'm just glad there are so many people putting their best out there, even if it's bad.

Like, really bad. Laughably terrible.

Braver men than I. Moving on.

Patrick, author of so many wonderful products, notably Deep Carbon Observatory and Veins in the Earth finally got the chance to interview Bryce Lynch, the most prolific reviewer of gaming products, with over 1,500 posts and upwards of 2000+ reviews. Needless to say it's a pretty wonderful discussion. Check it out here: Patrick Interviews Bryce.

Rumors
The biggest news of the week are the ENnie-Award Nominations and the resulting twitter drama about who meets the right qualifications to be the type of person who should be nominated for an award. Unsurprisingly, classic gaming is all up and down the list of nominees. Is it weird that Gnome Stew has like a repeating nomination? I've read the blog, and well, it isn't in my top five list of blogs. Is it really that beloved?

Remember. The ENnies are popularity contest, and classic gaming is paradoxically nearly the sole source of innovation in tabletop gaming. Since classic gaming has all the cool people, let's go win that popularity contest!

In all seriousness, there's a lot of new talent on that list, and a bunch of exciting stuff to check out.

The other thing is Blogger and Comrade Beloch has engaged in a mission to improve our community. From organizing reviewers to posting public domain art to putting people in touch with each other, it's a real grassroots movement!
Do you want to make a meaningful contribution to the OSR? Something that will stand out from yet another blogger writing about yet another house rule that nobody will ever use? Something that will make the community better? According to yesterday's thread, here's how you can do that, sorted from least to most effort. Here's a link to the list.Here's a request for people to help with "Blogs on Tape";  It's good and exciting stuff. But now it's the weekend. There's Drawing Dungeons, today and Dungeons and Dragons after work. Hope you have a great weekend, and we will see you on Monday!

This post is Patreon supported, and I really want to be able to pay my rent next month. Almost there. support me or tip me!
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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

On the Terrible Tragedy of Adventures

Thu, 07/05/2018 - 12:00
Since I've begun my journey of self-employment, I've been investigating things out of a desire to stave off the pendulum of entropy. What keeps my bank account from degrading?

So this leads to some investigating into what sells and why. I've been producing these art-heavy designed modules in the form of Megadungeon. We're somewhere around 200 rooms in 3 issues? So that's easily 40 or 50 hours of play. The art is helpful and necessary, providing tools for the Dungeon Master to run the module quickly, enabling his own personal skill at running games. But it's not narrative. It's an adventure environment with lots of useable tools and widgets.

But the problem is, people aren't interested in modules to run. Gabor Lux says:
"People know and it is blatantly obvious that most of the adventures out there which are being published are not being thought to be played or run. They are reading materials. . . A lot of people just read it as sort of a fiction and maybe as a source of indirect inspiration to get the examples and ideas." He continues, "That's where a lot of adventures fail, . . . is that they are not written with games in mind but with reading material in mind. They are bits and pieces and cannon. You can never even run them because it's a railroad and it would fall apart in your hands, but people buy it for their shelves or for daydreaming about being gamers."This isn't difficult to tell. It's part of the insight I had while writing the Gygax module comparison. The modules are written so that the twists are hidden. That way the reader experiences surprise when it's revealed. As a tool, do I want such an important detail deep in the text?

And that's it really. I was eating with family and friends, and one said "I didn't enjoy it when I played D&D in the army." I perked up and immediately drilled down. "Why?" He said, "All they do is go from one fight to the next."

It's easy right? You're busy, no time to prep. Everyone wants to play, just follow though the dungeon, read the text and fight the fights. There. You played D&D.

Well.

There's no way all the adventures that are sold are played. I play D&D a couple of times a week and have campaigns that run 50-80 sessions with people I've known for years, but most people don't. You'd have to play a lot to get through all that. Dragon Queen and Tiamat took upwords of 50 weeks. Long past the publication date of the next two 5e releases.

Joseph Manola says on his blogAgainst the Wicked City:



 "Bryce often points out that the vast majority of adventure modules are written in a way which makes them almost useless for their supposed purpose of 'running a game in real-time at the table'. This is so obvious, and so trivially demonstrable, that its continued persistence strongly indicates that this is in fact not what most adventure modules are being used to do, and probably not even what most of their purchasers want them to do, even though it's exactly what most of their authors assert they are actually for."RPG books written like novels proliferate not only because many people have no idea how to write useable adventure modules, but because that's precisely how they will be read by a large segment of their target audience. For such readers, reading the book, and imagining what the experience of playing it at the table might be like, takes the place of actually playing the game.
Bryce the erudite reviewer at 10 foot pole who searches the sewers for diamonds says:
"No one wants the wrong thing. I would say that it's easy to go with the flow. Adventurer's League, show up on Wednesday night and play. WOTC pushes an adventure to the DM every week, almost no prep. And if you try and run something NOT Adventurers League, or D&D, or the most current version of D&D, then you face additional hurdles. I'm not sure that 'Apathy' is the right word, but a lot (a majority?) of folks are happy enough. I'm guessing that just enough of their sessions have just enough fun to keep them strung along, as they chase the high. It takes effort to seek out something different. It takes effort to get out of your comfort zone. When I'm at my best I want every thing in every day to always be awesome, and everything else isn't worth my time."It's a little bit like enlightenment. One commenter on a thread said, "Surely lengthy published adventures/campaigns have to be broadly railroad by design, however well disguised that is." Because he's never seen blue, it's not possible for blue to exist. Can you describe color to a blind man?

The problem with this is, Megadungeon, and other things that are designed as tools to be used at the table are both a lot more work then a linear series of fights and not nearly as fun or interesting to read. Great, gripping, narrative literature it ain't. It's a tool to hold in your hand so you can run a game.


The list of platinum items on DriveThruRPG isn't filled with art objects. The majority of the platinum sellers are some core books, but there's a lot of items from Raging Swan Press and other small-press blog post like releases. 2$ for guildhall urban dressing. 4$ for "What's this Exotic Mount Like, Anyway". All of these type of aids lacking covers, and almost art free, and contain about 1,000-3,000 words of content. That's what's selling.*

But because it's designed as a tool for play, and isn't as enjoyable to read, it's less appealing to the majority of people who buy modules. And really, if that's what they want, we should give it to them, right?**

*I am not casting any aspersions on Raging Swan Press. Bully on Craig for finding success.
** Obviously not, it is a labor of love, but I'm going to have to slow down the pace because it takes each issue quite a while to earn back the art costs from producing it.

Do you like Megadungeon? If you support me or tip me it will help me continue to produce it! Also, there's HD ready maps for Virtual Table Tops available on the Patreon!
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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

On the Explosion of Independence

Wed, 07/04/2018 - 12:00

Happy Independence Day!
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

On the Horror of the Critical hit

Tue, 07/03/2018 - 12:30
It needs to be common knowledge.

Critical misses and failures mean that the fighters and other combat focused characters suffer the most, turning them into the least consistent combatants. 
Why? A "critical miss" roll of 1 comes up a flat 5% of the time. Fighters make the most attacks. They will also then make the most critical failures. So the people who are best at fighting are those that critically fail at it most often. 
In nearly every edition of Dungeons and Dragons, the strength of fighters comes from their combat ability. Turning them into the least effective combatant quickly neutralizes their main trait and contributions. 
This is just a basic design consideration many Dungeon Masters may not consider. I come not only bearing knowledge of a problem, but also a solution. 
Any class that relies on fighting, for example, any class that gets an 'extra attack' does not fumble on a 1, but instead must roll again, fumbling only if the second roll comes up 1. This causes fighters to critically miss .25% of the time and other classes to critically miss 5% of the time. 
No muss, no fuss, and you're not twisting the balance of power towards spellcasters.
I provide insights like this for a meager living. It'd be great if you support me or tip me!
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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

On the Life and Death of Elisabeth Sladen

Mon, 07/02/2018 - 12:00
There was a towering man of obsidian, his face covered in black so dark you couldn't see where it ended and the suit began.

But the lighting was dim. The golden man told the obsidian man that when the time came, they let their people end, rather than be ruled by him. In the light, it was difficult to separate costume from actor. British, many of them unsurprisingly trained in the shakespearean manner, used their entire body as if they were on stage.

It cast a raw immediacy on the performance. The dimly lit cheap-foam background faded into the background, as the golden man sonorously intoned, "So now you are King, as was your wish. I salute you from the dead. Hail, Eldrad, King of nothing."
Oh the rage of Eldrad. The Doctor and Sarah stood meekly in the corner. "Is this my reward?!" he screeched, storming menacingly around the room, his figure looming over them. "I CREATED this world It is mine, mine by right!". He moved in the suit, his training making it look as if a mountain shook in anger.

The Doctor gives that childish smile to sarah, beloved companion, and quips about someone having done their work for them. Sarah coquettishly says "I wouldn't want to live down here, and I wouldn't want him as a leader."

Like a player that just gave a dungeon master a terrible idea, and suddenly finds himself the recipient of the dungeon master's rampant glee at his new love; Eldrad grins and looks at Sarah, "Yes, I shall be King. The Earth people. . . . I shall rule them! I shall be their god!"

A chase ensues, and the Doctors flawless plan is 'hide and trip him with my scarf into a bottomless pit.' I wonder if this is the kind of plan seven year old's come up with because they watch Dr. Who, or if all small children have such pure beliefs in good intentions.

Sarah leaves the Doctor almost immediately after. When I was a child, I had difficulties due to some personal afflictions that turned out not to be character flaws and poor willpower but an illness that improves with medication. Sitting on the cold brass floor of the TARDIS, handing the doctor one fisher price sci-fi power tool after another, she cried out "I'm sick of being cold and wet! I'm sick of being shot at, terrorized by bug-eyed monsters" I empathized with her. He was on an adventure, and being on an adventure is hard.

It is, right? We are all on an adventure right now, and someday it ends. I identified with her stress and fear. The Doctor continued as if he did not hear her. He was implacable. Nothing she could say or cry would ever move his stoic indifference. And Sarah said, You know what? Fuck this. I'm out.

That's the worst she could do to hurt the man who couldn't listen. That was the harshest thing she could think to do, was to say, I have to deny my true nature to you, because your indifference to my suffering is too much. The most extreme response becomes the only response. You have to get out. Don't you? For yourself, I think you do.

Rewatching it now, it's clear. Sarah is a young child throwing a tantrum. The Doctor is not a romantic interest (unless perhaps you have a serious Electra complex). He is an indifferent parent. An abusive parent.

But he does love Sarah.

He, of course, unaware of anything she has said, gets a call and has to go home. He can't take her to Gallifrey of course! She returns to the room, carrying a tennis racket and a suitcase in her right hand, and a jacket along with a potted plant in her left. A stuffy lies on the floor.

He then experiences a sharp pang of compunction over how he will break the news to her. He says, without turning to face her, "You're a good girl, sarah." And she yells back, no! It's too late now for any of that. I've got to go! It's because they always apologize. And they really do love you.

When he hears what she said, his face lights up and he turns around. "How did you know?" She flinched. He said, "I can't take you with me, you've got to go."

Her voice cracking she says, "Oh, come on. I can't miss Gallifrey." She can't figure out if he's doing this to hurt her. "Oh, you're playing one of your jokes on me, trying to get me to stay." I don't think he's playing jokes. Even though the subtext is heavy above, it's not that the Doctor is a missing stair or represents an abusive parent. He's a representation of the nature of the universe which generally gives a field completely empty of fucks about how we feel.

He tells her she's home. South Croydon. Hillview road. She awkwardly smiles, standing on the street, accompanied by a pink owl and potted plant. She looks around and sees she's not on Hillview road. She's not even in South Croydon.

So, Sarah is an undefined child. Elisabeth herself even said so, saying "Sarah Jane used to be a bit of a cardboard cut-out" So after raising her daughters, Elisabeth went back to Doctor Who. When her character meets him, years later, she doesn't recognize him. Instead of the doe-eyed ingenue, she's now a tough-as-nails investigator.

When it's time to go, and his identity has been revealed, she confronts him. First thanking him for taking him with her, and then implying that she's single because no one ever measured up. It seems like being taken about and having life-threatening adventures as a child might affect your relationships in your life. That damage done, it leaves Sarah, or Elisabeth Sladen, to fill the role of protector, her own life and happiness denied her, because of her time spent too close to the truths of the universe.

She tells him good-bye, and he makes light, saying "Aww, it's not goodbye.", She says, tears in her eyes, as she looks at him. "Just say it this time, please." and she walks away overwhelmed with the closure she's finally received. He leaves her K-9, their synthetic dog assistant. She's confused, because K-9 had been destroyed. She asks him how he's here. He tells her, he's new, he replaced the damaged and destroyed K-9, that he's a new, upgraded model. She says, finally with closure instead of pain, "He does that."

She returned and played the role for children, this time not as a careless adventurer, but as one who guided children, protecting them as they explored the unknown, with her faithful robotic dog companion.

You know, I had a dog named K-9 growing up. A dalmation. Beautiful dog, happy, impulsive. Dumb as a box of rocks, but wonderful. She would, while we were walking in the woods, run ahead as fast as she could on the shaded asphalt streets that twisted through the wild forest paths, realize we weren't there, and then turn around and bolt back to us, always impatient, always exhausted.

She took the role, not just on the show, but in life, as Sarah Jane, Sarah Jane who became a hero to children, Sarah Jane who survived the Doctor and surpassed him, Sarah Jane who survived the doctor twice, it made it all more devastating when she was struck by cancer in February of 2011 and died several months later. She is missed.

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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

On the month June in (classic) Gaming

Fri, 06/29/2018 - 14:00
What a hell of a month!

This month was complicated. I am currently in free-fall, falling back on only my faith in myself. It was productive in spite of itself. I had my sleep study and got a continuous positive air pressure machine which radically altered my life. I've drastically cut down on caffeine and have had very strange sleeping patterns.

Look. The study said I had 170 interruptions average an hour. The longest of which lasted 32 seconds. Even if every interruption lasted 1 second, that's nearly 3 minutes not breathing an hour. The fact that they last much longer than that. . . I had been going without sustained REM sleep for a long time now. I was living in the realm five minutes before bed, where exhausted set in from the very moment I woke up.

What a weird hack. Sleep apnea kills, flooding your body with stress hormones every time you can't breath, causing arterial damage. This stress gives people heart attacks and the damage is cumulative. Some bright monkey built a weird box to fix this by blowing air into your face. If you're overweight, tired a lot, go see your doctor. Mine is quiet and completely covered by insurance. Last night I had only 14 interruptions an hour, and my average is now under 10. Your families and friends love you.

I only do a few Hearthstone arena runs a week, far to few to qualify for the leaderboard (which requires 30 runs or more).  But this month I played about 15 arenas, averaging 4.7 wins with a win percentage 68% (130ish wins, 75ish losses). Taverns of Time has been great fun. The above may not seem infinite, but with the improved quests, I've gotten a ton of gold this month. Here's the video of my 12-win arena run (and a quick "For the King" party wipe)

Speaking of "For the King" It's a hex-based rogue-lite where you take a team of three adventurers (with unlockable classes) and collect treasure, clear dungeons, and try to stop an ancient evil. It's a pretty fun and exciting implementation of a random hex-cralwish type game. First, It's Fun! Second, on the hard mode, it's very tense and every decision matters. You can see my quick party-wipe on the easiest level here in the above broadcast. After every win, you can spend lore to unlock more things, classes, items, events, etc.

But that's not what we are here for!
New ReleasesOh, man I'm excited about Mothership! "Mothership is a sci-fi horror roleplaying game where you and your crew try to survive in the most inhospitable environment in the universe: outer space! You'll excavate dangerous derelict spacecraft, explore strange unknown worlds, exterminate hostile alien life, and examine the horrors that encroach upon your every move" A space horror game from Sean McCoy, who I have to disclose, is a friend of mine. Still, I've seen the design of the character sheet, and it's brilliant. It's available as pay what you want on DrivethruRPG with a 4$ suggested price.

Look at that cover art! It's a great design, with a definite classic aesthetic. You're not playing heroes, you're playing men trapped in metal coffins surrounded by the void. It's also complete in less than 40 pages. And you can jump right in, character creation is on the record sheet. Go check it out!

There's also the new adventure Shadows of the Forgotten Kings, with art by Dyson Logos and Chris Huth, and written by Zzarchov Kowolski. "Caravans do not make it through anymore. A handful of tattered survivors have made it back to the city and reported being assaulted by wave after wave of panthers that would attack, retreat, and attack again in replenished numbers. The merchant houses want their lucrative route back. The villages need grain and supplies; their people cannot live forever scavenging fruit and huddling by their hearths in fear every night." Kowolski has a great talent at making visceral and very real feeling villagers and situations, so this is exciting. Gus, who we talked about leaving in our last rumors section has spent some time writing extensive reviews, and he has a good one of this adventure located here if you're interested in a solid breakdown.

The Beast is a strange product, a handwritten complete one page game about a gothic horror scenario, where you work for a reprehensible baron and there's a village attacked by a beast. You have to kill it for the baron that you hate. It's pay what you want with a suggested price of a dollar. I'd complain about it missing a list of gothic tropes or scenes, except for the fact that its free, one page long, and contains a beast generator that is very suggestive of scenes. You need to be familiar with horror tropes and I imagine anyone who's interested in this probably is. Seems like a great replacement for a night of gaming as a one shot for the right group.

There's a 7 page download that just collects the rules for polymorphing from Pathfinder. I'm used to editions where this is handled by a single paragraph.

Although I don't play his great high-powered immortal-style Godbound role playing game, any Kevin Crawford release is worth noting, so we have The Lexicon of the Throne, which contains just a whole lot of expansion content for Godbound.

Another download that looks like a passion project is the Thousand Year Sandglass. It's a set of expansion rules for labyrinth lord (B/X) for running Arabian Nights-style games. The writing seems solid. The author seems to have a real passion for the subject and it shows through in the material.

I'm going to say something about the Hidden Halls of Hazakor, which I almost just passed by. This thing here, man. Ok, it's an adventure module, written for children to run, with an expected age of 12. I, just. . . I ran Temple of Elemental Evil when I was 12.  I'm mentioning this because it's great. I mean, bully on Scott Fitzgerald Grey on putting this together. But here's the problem, who's this product for? If I were a 12 year old Dungeon Master, I wouldn't be looking for a module. You're twelve? Like, your job is to hang out and play? So mostly you have a lot of time to make adventures. And when you do go looking to buy an adventure, it's because it's one that someone you respected said was cool.

The issue with this is that it's for adults to buy for their children to run. Is that a problem? I dunno. Did you want to wear the pants your mother picked out for you when you were 12? Perhaps I'm overthinking it. I think a more useful tool would be adventures that teach adults how to run role-playing games for children.

There's some professional talent behind it, and it's certainly written for an average reader, someone who might not know the definition of summarize. It's very comprehensively and clearly written, a little cliched, but the dungeons aren't linear, and the advice that I saw mostly seems very solid. I'm not giving my opinion, because I'm not quite sure what it is yet.

Issue 4 of the unofficial Lamentations of the Flame Princess 'zine Black Dogs is out! "Issue IV contains: guidelines about social interactions with NPCs, instructions for designing NPCs, skills and experience house-rules, an adventure on a dangerous mountain pass with new creatures, and advice on setting up a campaign." It's good stuff. 3.00$ for the .pdf, or 6.50$ for a physical copy plus .pdf. Also Back to basiX #5 is available, a B/X fanzine.

Have we seen Times that Fry Men's Souls? It's an classic hexcrawl set in "Demented Colonial New York and New Jersey" It's 136 pages, and is extensively illustrated. 10$ in pdf only at RPGnow, but also 10$ in print from lulu. So I haven't gotten my copy yet, but it looks impressive!

For those of us in the hobby a long time, GURPS Classic: Wizards is finally available in .pdf from RPGnow, and it's an interesting reference for any referee about spellcasting archetypes, in addition to being invaluable for GURPS referees. 7.99$

Finally, Sacrebleu is pretty amazing. Great cover art, pay what you want with a .50 cent suggested price, it's about goblins with world war one rifles that you don't tell the players about and having the players being stuck on a tropical island with them. It's useful! It has ideas and creativity! It's exactly what we are always talking about wanting. The future is now!

As always, none of the above is sponsored. Products I purchased I purchased with my own money, and they are nothing more then things I happen to think are good. I don't talk about the things that are bad. If I've missed something, let me know.

Was that an awesome list? I'm still hustling just to make rent. It'd be great if you support me or tip me!
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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

On the week of June 1st in classic gaming

Fri, 06/01/2018 - 12:00
It's been a rough day, and I'm doing this late, so I apologize for paucity. I've also gotten some feedback about layout and discussion of products. A lot of this is balanced by the huge number of products that come out each week. It leaves me to ask, what's better? An overview of lots of different things, or a more in-depth highlight of just a handful (3-5) products? My initial thought was the former, but if preferences is for the latter, let me know.

Without further ado:

Highlights

Underground comics is finally out!
Down twisting passages, you’ll find dungeoneering dogs, slumbering giants, eldritch sacrifices, bottomless pits, brownie poets, and more!
I'm excited about this, just because of the artists involved. New work from James V. West, Karl Stjernberg, Jason Sholtis, Luka Rejec, Stefan Poag, Trey Causey and Jeff Call. Lots of exciting names in that list. I haven't gotten my copy yet, so I'm unsure as to the official format and frequency. It's 36 pages for 2.99$.
I think it's phenomenal for a group of artists in the classic gaming scene to put something like this together, but can't imagine the economics of it. That's so many full pages of art from so many talented artists. I hope we see more of it from the future.

Luka Rejec, one of the artists above produces beautiful work in the vein of Moebius. Really. It's actually why I hired him to do the cover of the third issue of Megadungeon. He's recently begun working on his setting, the Ultraviolet Grasslands. There's a free  78 page setting book he's put up. It's available here at DriveThruRPG. Here's what he has to say about the setting:
The Ultraviolet Grasslands (UVG) is a rules-light rpg pointcrawl module inspired by psychedelic heavy metal, the Dying Earth genre, and Oregon Trail games. It takes a group of ‘heroes’ into the depths of a vast and mythic steppe filled with the detritus of time and space and fuzzy riffs.The UVG is for referees, game masters, judges, players, and fans of role-playing games who want to run a months’ long science fantasy Marco Polo-style voyage across a weird, old world.The UVG is for any gamer who wants to mine it for inspiration, adventuring locations, odd characters, maps, items, and random encounters.The UVG is also an artbook knitting together my art and maps and writing. Yes, every nut and fault, from layout to lamarckian monstrosity, is my own work.It is also still a work in progress. The responsibility for every typo, every error, and every missing stat block, is entirely mine.Now, enter the silver machine.I'm excited by this. Alex Hakobian of Bloody Eye Games released Broadsword this week. It's got a bunch of art from people like Gennifer Bone, Eric Quigley, Devin Night, Gary Chalk, and Jenna Fowler. And it's about the intersection between board gaming and traditional role-playing games. 
Broadsword is an epic fantasy adventure game that seamlessly brings together elements from classic board games with elements from tabletop roleplaying games to result in something truly extraordinary — not quite a full RPG, but much more than a simple board game.Complete Rulebook - Everything you need to play the game. Just grab some friends and either a gridded game mat or a virtual tabletop and get ready to start your adventure!
Finally, James Shields is having a Kickstarter for some of his stock art, and it's pretty incredible. The art is designed using layers, so you can customize the presentation. It's a great way to give stock art purchasers the opportunity to get something individualized. But that's not the only thing: It's also a way to pick up a lot of related .pdfs on the cheap. At the 15 dollar level, you get 15 books, from role-playing games to modules to setting books. There's even more at higher levels.
James is a great artist, so I'm always glad to see more of his work.

So, yeah. I'm going to be checking that out this week.

John Carlson and his blog dwarven automata, handed out links to his wilderness hexcrawl tracker to go along with his dungeon time tracker.

Also, this isn't a new release really, but some of the things +Jonathan Newell is doing is just really incredible. I mean, look at it.
I love all the cool drawings.

Did you know there is a Glorantha comic book? I didn't. Prince of Sartar has been running since 2014. Color me amazed.


New Releases

Chance, a young classic gamer got some great art from Michael R and Evlyn M. and put together a new zine: Extinguish the Sun #01. Here's what he has to say about it:

Extinguish the Sun is a zine for fans of the Old School Renaissance (OSR) and associated games. This issue contains a systemless description of the City in Chains, a metropolis bound by the walls its long-dead yet still ruling monarch built around it, and rules for running a post-apocalyptic Mad Max/Tank Girl-inspired campaign in B/X.

It's 3.00$ Just for Evlyn's beautiful art alone, that's a steal. The fact that Chance is a creative force in classic gaming is just a great bonus. It's also available on rpgnow here.

Probably why Prince of Satar showed up in my feed, there's a full color release of the Glorantha classic role playing game.

Palladium Fantasy has a release of PFRPG 12: Library of Bletherad. Palladium products are a blast to read, usually. Also The Rifter #76.

James Spahn AKA barrel Rider Games released a 91 page art-free Swords & Wizardry streamlined adaptation called Untold Adventures.

From Raging Swan Press, we've got a Sun & Sand Compilation as a campaign starter. It's got 3 villages, a place of power, their desert setting book, along with 20 events/locations in the sunscorched desert. It's nice, along with a discount on the package deal. I mean, the individual releases have been combined into a single print volume resource for desert campaigns, which is both useful and convenient.

There's a book from Dancing Lights Press, Arcane Theory by Berin Kinsman, a 79 page book containing some ideas for story generation and story effects of different magical ideas.

Castles & Crusades has two modules and a setting available for sale. The Burning Firmament is an adventure for levels 4-6. Caverns of Ambuscadia is an adventure for levels 5-6. Both are written by Davis Chenault. Also, there's a bundle of the Inzae setting, a brutal land created by a dying dragon. There's some setting books and an adventure in the bundle.

Steve Jackson Releases

Grups Classic: Warriors
Car Wars: Truck Stop
Gurps Basic Set, Third Edition, Revised
Autoduel Quarterly #8/4
The AADA Vehicle Guide Volume 2 Counters
Gurps Classic: Undead
The AADA Vehicle Guide Volume 2


Wizards of the Coast Releases

FMA1 Fires of Zatal
B1-9 In Search of Adventure
Poor Wizard's Almanac II


Rumors

Is Yoon-Suin getting a second edition? Over in the official Yoon-Suin G+ community, David McGrogan asks what people would like to see in a hypothetical edition of Yoon-Suin.

The creator of the HMS Apollyon megadungeon is stepping away from classic gaming because it isn't fun for him anymore and he's maintaining his site as an archive.

He said "the 'OSR' scene this blog is devoted to has become a rather disgusting place where crass commercialization is strangling a formlerly creative amateur community" and I have to ask, do you agree? I can't say that I do. Not only do I make my living making these things, I'm glad I live in a world where I can get so many awesome things.

Would any of these great zines and things, these comics, these wonderful dreamlike works of art be made for free?  Is 3$ for a book full of Chance's writing and Evelyn's art "crass commercialization"? Perhaps its a question of value. Maybe people are less likely to create because there's more commercialization? It it strangling them? What do you think?

We will see you next week!

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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

On the week of May 25th in the Old School Renaissance.

Fri, 05/25/2018 - 12:00
Holy crap! We've had a crazy week, let's get right into you beautiful people!

Big News
Warhammer 40,000 is the origin of grimdark! ("In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war") Home of the immortal rotting carcass of the golden emperor who sends his brave genetically modified and tortured half-human marines to purge and burn corruption and heresy, now have adventures for kids of all ages!
"Catholic Space Nazis sound like awesome villains, how can they be the heroes?"
"By comparison."
You heard it folks, Warhammer 40k Children's books.

Warhammer Adventures

The 41st Millennium and the Mortal Realms are fantastical places, ripe for adventure.

Like you, we love these worlds, and we’re always looking for new ways to share them with all kinds of fans. Today, we’re delighted to announce a new type of Warhammer fiction and 2 new series that are sure to excite young readers and parents* eager to introduce the next generation to the joy of Warhammer.
Warhammer Adventures is an exciting new range of books coming next year for boys and girls aged 8-12 years old featuring younger protagonists having thrilling adventures and facing off against dangerous enemies.
They are gonna sell like hotcakes.
 Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes is on the horizon, coming on the 29th. If you're curious what's inside, check out Kiel Chenier's take on it in his tumbler post: Is Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes worth your money?

We are all Grognards here, even you youngin's. So we like our Dr. Who Classic. Fortunately Twitch.tv is going to have a 7 day marathon of classic Dr. Who. So grab your Scarf and Jelly Bellies and take a look at adventure ideas and hokey terrifying to children effects. Should be a good time. Over 500 classic episodes from the 26 seasons of classic Doctor Who will air worldwide on the live streaming video platform Twitch from May 29th. Fans will be able to watch adventures from the first seven Doctors – from 1963’s An Unearthly Child to 1989’s Survival – while chatting live to thousands of other viewers around the world. This epic screening of classic Doctor Who from May 29th until July 23rd follows Twitch’s successful marathons of Power Rangers, Bob Ross: The Joy of Painting and Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.
 YoutubeQuesting beast covers the brilliant Chthonic Codex. In addition he has a discussion with Scrap Princess on how to improve spells in Dungeons and Dragons.

Mr. Welch talks about the King's Festival on Mystara. (I love this guy!!)

Speaking of Mystara, here's an interview with the Japanese developer on what material they were forced to cut from the action-beat-em-up Chronicles of Mystara.

Greg Tito acts like a madman, coming on stream with "Job Titlte here/Twitter here" as his contact. They got it fixed about 5 minutes in. He talks about the Stream of Many Eyes livestream and other streaming casting decisions and covering other news on 5/22/18.

Mike Mearls isn't sick any more and he's working on the Soul Knife Monk subclass on the Mike Mearls Happy Fun Hour 5/22/18.

Here's a link to this week's Heroes of Jordoba, Uncle Matt's Live D&D game.

Faerun History posted Tales from the Tavern -Hulburg- Forgotten Realms Lore and History
KickstarterSo here's the thing. This whooole industry is a shitshow. I'm not supporting or recommending any of these kickstarters. Caveat Emptor

The Dice Dungeon: It's a cool dice game, where you build a dungeon inside. . . a cardboard dungeon waffle. How long do we think that cardboard waffle is gonna last? They get props for the commitment to the dragon mask in the video.

Arcane Scrollworks 2: Second Level Spells You can get pieces of paper with scroll art on them. I guess this is a prop or something you frame?

There's this unfinished super generic dungeon crawler that hasn't funded yet. Comments by backers are generally negative, talking about the poor art quality, and the lack of . . . anything . . . interesting. You could take a look at Dungeons Runners! On second thought, Camelot is a silly place.

Deluxe Metal Meeples are high quality meeples by Campaign Coins who's had 4 successful campaigns.

Welcome to Yarnia! It's a knitting pattern! It's an RPG! The video is filmed in a room filled with boxes and a fish tank. It's nearing 30,000$! It's got almost a week left. There's mugs and . . . yarn patterns, and how the hell do you get 30,000$ for that? There's a book! There are these knitted cat
Welcome to Yarnia!things! I guess you knit a companion animal for your character? I don't understand anything about this Kickstarter! Brilliant!

Yarnia is the best damn thing I've ever seen. I mean, in all seriousness, treating a knitted 'choose your own adventure based on your stats' as a record of your adventure hits all the shamanistic notes for me. It's a record of your adventure in the artistic flow. Also, Yarnia. Cause you knit with yarn.

Maybe some of  you don't knit, or cross-stitch, or crochet. I have and this is crazy appealing. The woman looks super trustworthy. She seems to have one failed and two successful kickstarters that appear to have satisfied backers. Maybe it's worth a trip to Yarnia?

Dark Fable Miniatures has a pretty attractive line of Orc Miniatures, of the humanoid face variety. If you're looking to expand an orc force, they aren't bad.

I don't know what this is, or if it's any good, but this Map Maker is hitting some of the right buttons with it's folder and pouch setup.

Games worth checking out!Bryce Lynch certainly has a lot of nice things to say about this adventure, and it's free! Check out Mines, Claws, & Princesses.

"The groom is dead, the bride Sunnhild taken. Men rave in pain whilst their women wail in sorrow. Blood mixed with tears, the chieftain Erfried cries out “Only you are left who can hold a sword. Go now. The orcs ride to Sanjikar and you must follow.”"
And then there's the Esoteric by Emmy Allen:
Picture the adventuring party of most old-school games. A band of thugs, occultists, criminals, weirdos and outcasts who, rather than settle into normal society, risk everything exploring the dark, dangerous places of the world. Perhaps they will become rich and powerful, perhaps they die unceremoniously.
Keep this same adventuring party, and picture their equivallent in the modern day. A world with police, the internet, chain stores... The same band of thugs, occultists, criminals, weirdos and outcasts drift into the underworlds of organised crime and the esoteric.
This, then, is the premise of Esoteric Enterprises: the occult exists in a dangerous black market, where organised criminals traffic in magical grimoires and relics alongside narcotics and weapons. Hidden from the public eye, various gangs, cults and covens struggle for influence and resources in the dark tunnels beneath every city. And beneath that, stranger things lurk; inhuman creatures turn their cold gaze on the mortals who intrude on their subterranean realm.
New on RPG now!There are over 200 products released in the last 7 days. Here is a selection of some of the most interesting.

Embers of the Forgotten Kingdom by Metal Weave Games. There's no stats in this book. You know that campaign where you're just like "If you want to write a book, you should just write a book?" Well that's what this pastiche of the Dark Souls setting is. It's a kickstarter success, which paid for the art, and only has a .pdf option on RPG.now. It's a region you can add to a campaign.

The Storyteller's ArcanaThe Storyteller's Arcana seems to be a dual-statted (1e/5e) set of tools for for Dungeon Masters to use in their games.

The Greydeep Marches is a fantasy setting that is dealing with dark powers from an ancient empire and a threat in the mountains to the east. It doesn't show much in the preview. It's 34 pages for 7$

PC15- The OSR Chymist, this is a back-porting of the Pathfinder alchemist class to old school rules.

This weird product. I mean, this must be the future. You can buy this in pdf or softcover in all different weights of paper. It's called "Non-human Player Codex for Early Era Fantasy Gaming" and it's the rules for dwarves, elves, etc, for three rulesets, Original Edition Characters, Labyrinth Lord and Advanced Edition Companion. Why do you need just the non-human races? Who is this book for?

There's a DCC release from Studio 9 Games (C. Aaron Kreader) called Greenwood of the Fey Sovereign. It's a low level adventure, with a wild elf class. I can't get a look at the adventure proper but the art looks interesting.

Raging Swan had a few releases this week, Languard Locations: Low CityMonstrous Lair #8: Ghoul Nest,

Wizards Releases:
Boot Hill Wild West (3rd Edition)
Amazing Engine: Bug Hunters

Steve Jackson Games Releases:
GURPS Classic: Ultra-Tech
Autoduel Quarterly #8/3
Car Wars Midville
GURPS Classic: Autoduel
The AADA Vehicle Guide

Just a note that I also check the new releases on the DM's Guild, but it's like swimming through a sewer.



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On Gygax Design II

Thu, 05/24/2018 - 12:00
Let's look at the background section of the adventures B2: Keep on the Borderlands, and Return to the Keep on the Borderlands. Part I of this article is here.


Keep on the Borderlands has a four paragraph background, and a two paragraph starting encounter. The expectation is that the background is read aloud. 



The Realm of mankind is narrow and constricted. Always the forces of Chaos press upon its borders, seeking to enslave its populace, rape its riches, and steal its treasures. If it were not for a stout few, many in the Realm would indeed fall prey to the evil which surrounds them. Yet, there are always certain exceptional and brave members of humanity, as well as similar individuals among its allies - dwarves, elves, and halflings - who rise above the common level and join battle to stave off the darkness which would otherwise overwhelm the land. 
I mean, he wrote it as if it pulsed fire in his heart.

The starting scene is particularly appropriate because it instructs the players to introduce themselves to the gatekeeper, and thus the other players.

What follows is six pages detailing the keep itself. We're going to talk about this in a minute.

The Return to the Keep on the Borderlands has a five paragraph introduction, and a two paragraph starting encounter.

But wait? What chicanery is this?!

The introduction is not to be read to the players and contains ancient history. What's more it's dull. No, really. I'll—just look:

Such, at any rate, was his plan. In the event, Macsen found that retirement agreed with him. He devoted all his time to managing the affairs of the garrison and the Keep, . . . Fortunately Macsen had chosen his castellan well. Devereau was a faithful henchmen, an archer who only remained behind because of a crippling wound received in an early adventure. . . Today it is a small but thriving community once more, less populous than of old but warded by people who have invested years of hard work making this into their home and been willing to defend it to the bitter end. That's how it ends. That's the call to adventure. Let me sum up.

Once a dude got a keep, and it was too much effort to dick around with assholes in the woods. And so other people did it, and then all the monsters were dead. Then he went off and died in war, and the rest of the people stayed and now they are strong and happy.

Two paragraphs on a dude that's dead. Story that's both boring and not accessible to players of the game, and the call to adventure is "It's a safe, nice place."

The starter encounter has a paragraph of read aloud text as you approach the keep, and you are hailed by a guard. The boxed text makes no horrible affronts, only slightly telling the players what they feel or do. Then there are eleven pages detailing the keep.

So Much of the KeepWhy do we care about the keep? What can we learn about the way it's presented in the module? What's in those six pages?

Amazingly, it's very gamified. Each section of the keep is a tool to drive the adventure. Gygax meticulously details the arms, armaments, and tactics of people in the keep in addition to documenting the location of every loose copper piece.

What's noticeable is the expectation that the interior of the keep will be explored as a dungeon environment. The players walk in, and then walk around to all the different places. Let's look at some of the gamification of the environment:

1. Main Gate: "Two men-at-arms. . . require that persons entering the keep put their weapons away and then escort them to area 3."
3. Entry Yard: "All entrants, save those of the garrison will be required to dismount and stable their animals (area 4). The Corporal of the Watch is here [and] is rather grouchy, with a low charisma, but he admires outspoken brave fighters and is easily taken in by a pretty girl."He doesn't have a name, but he gets a personality. Further:
Map by Dyson Logos3. Entry Yard: Cont. "A scribe. . . records the name of each person who enters or leaves. . . Lackeys will come to take mounts or mules. Any goods not carried will be stored in the warehouse. Another lacky will then show travelers to the Traveler's Inn."
This connects directly to the entrance scene, informs characters of the stables, that there's goods in the warehouse, and then walks them over to the inn. Which is at area 15. If you're using the map, this walks the characters directly past every other interesting player facing building on the map. To wit:

They walk south past the stables and warehouse, directly towards the bailiff tower (at 6), then west directly past the smithy/armory (at 8) and the provisioner and trader (at 9-10) and the fortified loan office on the south wall (at 11).

By the time they've reached the tavern, they've been exposed to everything there is interesting to do in town for a new adventure, but it doesn't stop there.

Areas marked 7 on the map are private apartments, and Gygax provides two. A jeweler who will exchange gems and money for the characters, and a priest who is willing to assist the party in the caves (but spoilers secretly is chaotic and will attack the party—I've killed more than one player who came to the priest for aid and got a cause wounds for their trouble.)

The apartments (and their many empty partners) are set up for the Dungeon Master to introduce characters of their own. Though this is not explicit, the introduction does say "Special quarters are available for well-to-do families, rich merchants, guild masters, and the like."

How do we know that the information that's listed here is deliberate and not just something compulsive Gygax did because he was an insurance actuary? Because of what he leaves out. He does not detail the normal family members of the personages of the keep.
"The five small apartments along the south wall are occupied by families of persons dwelling within the Outer Bailey of the KEEP."This is the only sentence addressing what Gygax felt were non-game entities. They aren't described, given treasure, etc. because they aren't likely to be involved in gameplay. The smithy's grandmama isn't going to need combat stats, and the players aren't likely to interact with a house full of women and children, so those "apartments . . . are occupied" is all the text that is given.

This deliberate presentation of some things and not others is designed for what the Dungeon Master needs in play. What if the keep is attacked? What if the players attack the keep or try to steal things? Well, that information is there for those Dungeon Masters. The contents of the bank and warehouse are documented. 

Can you figure out why? I can. Because I've played Dungeons and Dragons before.

Where is there to go in this keep? What can the players do? Those questions are also answered in the text, in a very sort of computer game, pick the smithy menu, here's some information about that encounter.

What's in the northern half of the outer bailey—you know, the part the characters don't walk past on the way to the tavern—is unsurprisingly the things the characters will need after their first foray out into the wilds. 16 is the guild house for travellers, 17 the chapel for priests and healing, and most importantly, the gate to the inner keep, which you can only gain access to after you have accomplished deeds in the caves.

You can't go home againIn Return to the Keep on the Borderlands, the map remains very similar (with one or two new tricks). The guard challenge is repeated and they are met at the gate by a named non-player character, Sabine the Gatekeeper who directs them  to the stable, warehouse, marketplace, and inn/tavern. Everyone in the sequel is given names ("The second floor houses. . . Laurl, Charl, Wort, and Joop.")

Each home in the sequel has details of their occupants, no statistics, just a story about what type of person they are.
"A quiet man who keeps mostly to himself, Reece. . . has since married a local woman (Asgrim, a young widow whose first husband marched off to the battlefield while they were still newlyweds, never to return). They have a three year old son, Decius, and a year-old daughter, Nadya."I don't see how the above is accessible or useful to play. He's a cobbler. When will the players intersect with this information? Why is it detailed? 7f details three sisters who are milkmaids and their schedules throughout the day, but should I references 7f which I'm deciding who's in an area?

Each paragraph is giving me a little character story or vignette. . . and no tools to integrate it with what's actually going to be happening at the table. The presentation is convoluted bullshit with zero effort given into what I'm supposed to do with that information.

It gets worse. The players can't buy anything at the smithy "Rafe can make horseshoes, nails, and bits with ease, but weaponsmithing and armor-forging are beyond him." followed by this useful gem that can in no way impact our game, "The keep once had a resident weaponsmith in Mascens day who kept the garrison supplied."

!?

Let's play a game. In what world where you have sat down with your friends to play Dungeons & Dragons is the following information useful?

"Beasley's daughter, Calista, divides chores and responsibilities with her husband."

"Most folks only stay here for a few days, but some stay for extended periods."

There's literally thousands of words detailing small family relationships, who's married to who, local town politics, organized only by building title:"Guild House" under which you find, Greeves and Peta who are the grandparents of Jess who is in the one-eyed cat.

Is the adventure about small town drama? If it is, why is it so poorly organized? How would I keep this web of stories and relationships straight without re-writing everything?

Every entry in the original adventure contained information that I might need. And it did so in the correct place. Anything else, it left me to create and keep track of (such as the large number of un-named guards and people)

There are some bright spots. Even though entirely too many words are used, there are an entertaining collection of colorful characters that the players can collect as henchmen. There's no indication of where they are located in the keep next to their stats, but: Third, a warrior who wears a bronze mask all the time, Brother Martin, a fair cleric who makes sure that everyone provides input (even shy people), Opal, a neutral moon cleric who's Lawful-Chaotic alignment axis changes with the moon. A clever but loony mage, a manipulative necromancer who just wants to find a way to worship at the hidden temple, and a cowardly thief.

Then there are three keep encounters, one keyed to happen after the first three times the characters return to the keep.

If the intent was to detail family relationships, following the form of Gygax is the worst way to organize it. Even though the original module has six pages devoted to the keep, it just feels like six pages of tools for the Dungeon Master to respond to players ideas and successes. Whereas the house descriptions in the sequel are devoid of any mechanical information.

I can see how you could interject some of this drama into the lives of the player characters, but I want to be clear. The text provides no tools to assist with using this information in play, besides creating the unexciting situations: A ward falls in love with her step-father, or how the twenty some-odd members of the Lum clan make up most of the militia. etc. What's more is that the format actively works against this.

I can run the keep with a single pass over Gygax's text. I couldn't even understand the second adventure unless I spend the time to reorganize all the information it gives me.

Next time, we'll look at the wilderness and cave encounters proper.

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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

On Endless War II

Tue, 05/22/2018 - 12:00
After admiring Warhammer Fantasy for nearly my whole life, I decided to play one hundred multiplayer matches in the loving rendition Creative Assembly has made of the game. This is that story of a dwarf warrior in the end times. . .

"War has come. My name is Bedun Leatherarm. I fight for clan and glory in the end-times.

Thorin upon his throneI was reassigned after the last battle, and found myself on a battlefield near Castle Drakenhof lead by Thorgrim Grudgebearer himself.  I didn't get too close, but he sits upon a golden throne, with the great book of grudges lain open in front of him, and four powerful dwarves carry him upon the field.

This force was much more traditional, 450 brave and stout dwarven warriors, over 100 slayers, and nearly 200 of the finest thunderers you've ever seen, gleaming brass and steel in the hazy morning light. Across the grass the runesmith stood assaying the cannons and twenty-one brave irondrakes, who burn the enemies of the dawi.

We saw the damnable red and purple flag right after first light. Mistress Tither-me-nethers or some such, and her "Brave Knights and Men" were on a "Holy Quest" which unsurprisingly took the form of artillery fire on our positions. Their aim was worse than my one-eyed grandmothers'.

Looking out across the plain, there were nearly 1,000 men. Even from here, the ground shook when they began to march. Thorin's eyes darted back and forth. He made a signal, and a unit of slayers took off for forest cover to the east. Artillery fire continued to come in, but other than some minor injuries to the Gob-Lobber crew, no damage was taken.

Dwarven artillery on the barrel however, strikes a mite 'arder and faster than any man-made shite. Dozens and dozens of men were torn apart as they rushed our cannons, while all our soldiers stood, ready and waiting.

One thunderer was killed by a stray missile, before the vollies opened up. Men died. Then over the shoulders of the warriors, flames from the irondrakes burned the front line, torching any who survived the opening vollies. But the damnable sprite wove some dark magic and the burned skin unburned, flesh unpeeling. Dark and damned these human souls must be.

Thunderer fire rang out, each time, a dozen men fell. Flame burned flesh, and then the front lines crashed together. Grail knights darted out from the trees in the west, but were met by the deadly twin axe blades of a unit of slayers. They turned and fled. The other unit of slayers moved forward out of the eastern woods, sprinting down the battlefield to the back line of the artillery. They crossed hidden by trees and terrain!

The thunderers shifted. Two units targeted the grail knights, and the rest fired crosswise into battle, taking down any man engaged in combat with brave dawi. Thorin and the runesmith remained calm, directing the battle.

The Fae Enchantress astride her unicornMore dark blessings rained down from the faerie kite, turning her men into savage combatants, infused with the power of the fay. Dawi fought, and the front-eastern flank buckled, and the dawi fled.

Within moments, each of us felt the runic power strengthening our armor and restoring our vigor.  They moved onto our grudge lobber, and Thorin waded in alone to give them what for.  In the rear, the grail knights charged the thunderers and horses and men fell as the slayers continued to give chase.

The slayers managed to catch one man and bring him down, but the hooves of the grail knights thundered on the ground as they charged the thunderers! Aye, they batted a few Dawi around, but none'tha worse for wear. But the grail knights did tear back and forth, causing some distress until they realized, there were dawi all around. The slayers caught up, and thunderers tore into the unit.

Meanwhile, the stealthy slayers finally brought justice to the rear line. Their axes tore through the lightly armed and armored catapult crews shutting down the ranged fire on our troops.

Aye, on some fronts we were not holding, on others we were, but any who did make it into our line, found that if you attack one group of thunderers, you expose your back to three others. One unit of men chased the firedrakes clear through our entire encampment. It was a hundred men when they gave chase. By the time they fled the field, naught but 20 remained.

Thunderer fire is not to be taken lightly.

Our leaders stood unharmed, the enemies back line destroyed, their men crumbling and routing, and we remained the victors on the battlefield that day.

Dwarves Vs. Wood Elves (loss)
Dwarves Vs, Britannia (victory)
Is anyone interested in downloading the replays of these battles?

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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

On OSR gaming releases 5/18/18

Fri, 05/18/2018 - 12:00
Welcome to gaming releases this week!

This is my first attempt at something like this, so feel free to give me comments and suggestions!

There were over 200 products released in the last 7 days, what follows are highlights only. If you'd like to be highlighted, get at me during your release week!


Steve Jackson released a large number of Car Wars .pdfs!

Pandius Provided the Poor Wizard's Almanac: The Year of Chaos
Popular threads on the vault include a civilization, wilderness and monsters density poll; and of course the Mystarn's community response to the denigration of the setting by Matt Sernett during a podcast and his subsequent apology, and their attempt to address the "endemic disrespect for Mystara [in] the community at Wizards of the Coast." Mystara is one of the most D&D-like settings ever created, with ancient human empires, magical flying cities, immortals and a hollow world.

Unearthed Arcana covers the new playtesting rules for centaurs and minotaurs leading to reddit postulating the infinite centaur because medium creatures can ride centaurs who are themselves medium size. It's centaurs all the way down!

Greg Gillespie has 5 days left for his funded Barrowmaze: Highfell - The Drifting Dungeon Megadungeon for Labyrinth Lord and other Old School Role-playing game.



Saturday May 12th
  • Corporatocracy: Company Rule in Fact & Fantasy, by WMB Saltworks
    • A quick perusal shows information about both historical cases as well as specific ideas for campaigns that can be caused by certain company interests. The text is excessively wordy, "Usually, of course, we refer to corporations in a business sense. It can be useful to remember, however, that not all companies are corporations." If you can take that sort of meandering well, this may be of some use to you.
Sunday May 13th
Monday May 14th
Tuesday May 15thWednesday May 16thThursday May 17th
If you find this post useful, and you'd like to see it every Friday, then now is the time to support my Patreon to make sure I can continue to afford housing and which totally enables putting this together every week. 
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On Gygax Design I

Thu, 05/17/2018 - 17:20
It's unspoken in the rulebooks all over the place.

You are just supposed to know certain things from the culture of wargaming. But it blew up way past that microculture.

The immediate casualty was the adventure. This has been my focus now for over a year. What went wrong? Why are the modules Gygax wrote good, while others that ape the style are so bad?

Keep on the BorderlandsLet's just start with the introductions. 
"You are not entering this world in the usual manner, for you are setting forth to be a Dungeon Master. Certainly there are stout fighters, mighty magic-users, wily thieves, and courageous clerics who will make their mark in the magical lands of D&D adventure. You, however, are above even the greatest of these, for as DM you are to become the Shaper of the Cosmos. It is you who will give form and content to all the universe. You will breathe life into the stillness, giving meaning and purpose to all the actions which are to follow. The others in your group will assume the roles of individuals and play their parts, but each can only perform within the bounds you will set. It is now up to you to create a magical realm filled with danger, mystery, and excitement, complete with countless challenges. Though your role is the greatest, it is also the most difficult. You must now prepare to become all things to all people."-Gary Gygax, "Keep on the Borderlands"
Let's see.
"You are not entering this world in the usual manner" is literal. He presents this powerfully as descending not only personally into the realm of fantasy, but the, and I quote, "become[ing] the Shaper of the Cosmos. It is you who will give form and content to all the universe."
Heady stuff. 
Let's look at the introduction of Return to Keep on the Borderlands by John D. Rateliff 1999, at the tail end of the dark ages of Dungeons & Dragons:
"Return to the Keep is an update of the classic adventure, detailing what has happened in the Caves of Chaos and the Keep itself in the two decades since brave adventurers cleaned out the monsters and departed for other challenges. The rules have been fully updated. . ., encounters have been fleshed out, and the section of advice to inexperienced Dungeon Masters expanded and rewritten. In the main, however, Keep on the Borderland remains what it has always been: A series of short adventures, distinct enough that player characters can catch their breath between each section, that smoothly segue together. Altogether, this adventure gives novice players and characters a chance to learn the ropes without getting in over their heads; characters who survive will have learned the basic tricks of their trade, just as players and Dungeon Masters will know the basics of good gaming."
What the f$% happened here? Do you see this shit? Apologies to Rateliff, but I try to edit my blog posts better then this introduction. There's just extra, redundant, words in excess of the words that are needed, for some reason that's a reason there's extra words for a reason. Right? 
"A series of short adventures." is the short description of "Adventures distinct enough that player characters can catch their breath between each section". How about "In the main, however". What purpose does that equivocation serve?
An example from one of the worst printed module of all time, N2, The Forest Oracle. Although terrible, it's common in quality to the vast majority of material on RPGnow and DM's Guild. But I'd rather not punch down on amature creator, so consider this a stand in for the type of dross you find on onebookshelf. 
"The Forest Oracle is an AD&D module for levels 2-4. It is an independent adventure, and not part of a series. It can be integrated into any existing campaign or played as a separate adventure to help initiate players into the world of AD&D." -Carl Smith Forest OracleEvery single word of the above introduction is patently obvious. The level range is on the cover. You can integrate any adventure into an existing campaign or play it as a separate adventure.  This is literal wasted space. Compare with original borderlands text.

The point I'm driving at here, is Gygax used every word of the introduction to drive home a mind-blowing idea, the introduction was copied for the sequel by a writer who writes as if he gets paid by the word, and the worst adventure writers don't even understand the point of the introduction so they just say truistic generic comments. "This is a module." or one of my personal favorites "This module is for X level characters, but you can run it with higher or lower characters if you increase or decrease the difficulty."

No shit?

Why did I pay? How does this help me? What does this do for me?

Dungeon Master TextThis text varies between each individual module.

Let's look at the original keep:
This module is another tool. It is a scenario or setting which will help you to understand the fine art of being a Dungeon Master as you introduce your group of players to your own fantasy world, your interpretation of the many worlds of DUNGEONS & DRAGONS Adventure. THE KEEP ON THE BORDERLANDS is simply offered for your use as a way to move smoothly and rapidly into your own special continuing adventures or campaigns. Read the module thoroughly; you will notice that the details are left in your hands. This allows you to personalize the scenario, and suit it to what you and your players will find most enjoyable.Which commits the sin of being obvious, but considering the dearth of modules at the time, this was good advice then. Is the pass I'm giving the above text unfair?

The DM should be careful to give the player characters a reasonable chance to survive.Hopefully, they will quickly learn that the monsters here will work together and attack intelligently, if able. If this lesson is not learned, all that can be done is to allow the chips to fall where they may. Dead characters cannot be brought back to life here! Then, Gygax lines out his conception of Dungeons & Dragons:
The KEEP is a microcosm, a world in miniature. Within its walls your players will find what is basically a small village with a social order, and will meet opponents of a sort. Outside lies the way to the Caves of Chaos where monsters abound. As you build the campaign setting, you can use this module as a guide. Humankind and its allies have established strongholds—whether fortresses or organized countries—where the players’ characters will base themselves, interact with the society, and occasionally encounter foes of one sort or another. Surrounding these strongholds are lands which may be hostile to the bold adventurers. Perhaps there are areas of wilderness filled with dangerous creatures, or maybe the neighboring area is a land where chaos and evil rule (for wilderness adventures, see DUNGEONS & DRAGONS@ EXPERT SET). There are natural obstacles to consider, such as mountains, marshes, deserts, and seas. There can also be magical barriers, protections, and portals. Anything you can imagine could be part of your world if you so desire. The challenge to your imagination is to make a world which will bring the ultimate in fabulous and fantastic adventure to your players. A world which they may believe in.He is a priest, his sermon dense with meaning. Note particularly "will meet opponents of a sort" and "hostile foes of one sort or another".

Jeff Dee's art is a treasureThis is the first module, a teaching module, the first time many of these things had ever been seen. Yet the form of treating it as the first-ish publication anyone may ever see, is not something that other and later modules needed to copy. A lot of the text in the original B2 is almost an errata—a detailed description of procedures in play for lost or confused Dungeon Masters. Other then a few pointed notes, I'm going to excise this from the analysis, due to the singular artifact of "being first".  A rules addendum is tangential to our examination of Gygax's content versus the imitators of form.

Of particular note:
To defeat monsters and overcome problems, the DM must be a dispenser of information. Again, he or she must be fair - telling the party what it can see, but not what it cannot. Questions will be asked by players, either of the DM or of some character the party has encountered, and the DM must decide what to say. Information should never be given away that the characters have not found out - secret doors may be missed, treasure or magic items overlooked, or the wrong question asked of a townsperson. The players must be allowed to make their own choices. Therefore, it is important that the DM give accurate information, but the choice of action is the players’ decision.It's bolded like that in the original text.

In Return to the Keep on the Borderlands, the text and advice is largely similar and fascinating. Perhaps Ratcliffe was just warming up earlier and needed a sharper editor for that paragraph. I'd like to quote  things that indicate people carried true knowledge always with them, even as those who claimed to be kings had lost that knowledge. To wit:
"Boxed text can either be read out loud by the Dungeon Master, or simply paraphrased in his or her own words. Paraphrasing is often preferred by experienced Dungeon Masters. . ." "Players have a habit of doing the unexpected; resist the temptation to force them to follow a particular track." "For purposes of this adventure, the Dungeon Master is strongly urged to use the optional rule that grants experience points for treasure (at the rate of 1 XP per 1 gp value); this sends the message to the players that there are a multitude of right approaches to take (combat, stealth, negotiation), not a single preferred method of play."This was in 1999, before the release of 3rd edition, where traditional games of Dungeons & Dragons and Vampire were advising Dungeon Masters to invalidate their players choices, and modules consisted of badly constructed railroads of the sort a grade schooler might create. In the darkest moment the hobby of Dungeons & Dragons has experienced, light still shone.

Next time we're going to look at the background section of the adventures and dig into things both nitty and gritty.

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On Endless War

Tue, 05/15/2018 - 12:00
After admiring Warhammer Fantasy for nearly my whole life, I decided to play one hundred multiplayer matches in the loving rendition Creative Assembly has made of the game. This is that story of a dwarf warrior in the end times. . .

"War has come. My name is Bedun Leatherarm. I fight for clan and glory in the end-times.

This is the tale of my first battle. . . and loss. One of many.

I joined with the Iron Shanks, who talked of 'wheedy elves' that we were going to cut down on the plains of Waldenhof. Two regiments of thunderers with their weapons of iron and fire bolstered confidence among the throng of warriors. We also had a unit of irondrakes and slayers! I had no faith in what those non-traditional dawi would bring.

And the cannons. Beautiful cannons. Immediately effective. We set up on a hill in a simple box formation, the slayers and irondrakes hidden in the trees and just began raining fire upon a wood elf regiment of eternal guard, standing in the open. Our engineer directed the fire to devastating effect.

We could hear the screams from where we stood! 30 dead in one volley. 5 more died in the next. Still, the elves stood, unmoving. What cold hard creatures to send their own to die like that. I drew in my breath, assured of success as I watched our cannons work. 49 died before the elves dained to move.

Arrows from waywatchers hit the shield of the warriors on the left flank first, doing little damage against dwarven wood and steel. Our rangers and firedrakes opened up and the swift elves fled, downing firedrakes with their arrows as they left, their preternatural ability to fire while they ran devastating our troops. Suddenly from the trees behind us, a hidden unit rained arrows at the rear of our thunderers!

Our rangers and firedrakes moved forward taking heavy damage, trying to fire on the enemies front, while warriors moved to the back. Another unit had chased off after some archers and was getting picked apart! I grabbed my axe before I felt the hot spray on my face.

Dragonsbreath! From not one but two dragons! The thunderers panicked and fled. A Glade Lord sat grinning aboard his dragon, casting bolts of energy around the field. Arrows came from every direction as the forest dragon landed and engaged our thane in combat. Where were the slayers?!

Later I would come to find out they had foolishly given chase to faster elves. Chaos reigned as we ran back and forth between target to target, the elves taking to the air and peppering us with armor piercing arrows the entire time.

The dragons, their elven lord astride danced, back and forth, causing chaos among our ranks, until we could stand and fight no more.

And so we turned, and fled. "

Thus ends the first battle of Bedun Leatherarm.
Dwarves Vs. Wood Elves (loss)

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On Dungeon Stocking

Mon, 05/14/2018 - 12:00
I’ll tell you a secret. I am very, very not good at restocking dungeons. I love what’s inside them when I make them. The original idea is pristine. I don’t want it to change and therefore procrastinate at the necessary task.
Originally I approach restocking as one would designing the dungeon. This was a mistake. Restocking dungeons shouldn’t feel like repeating work you’ve already done. The other issue is that of time, it is actually a necessary, active task, requiring doing. This is inconvenient and is often down far enough the pole to just be ignored.
I didn’t have any idea how to restock dungeons and research didn’t really provide a lot of insight. Nearly all of the advice boiled down to "Think about what would realistically happen next with the people in the dungeon." Is this an insight? Yes, in a megadungeon campaign, the dungeon itself is the stage the game takes place on, identical to the overworld map in a traditional campaign.
Can a space be cleared? Oh, to scour it clean. We love to eliminate the fog of war, till all is known to us. The nature of the megadungeon is that it can't be known to us. It is a representation of the unknown; the metaphysical darkness, into which we venture in an attempt to retrieve some vital forgotten knowledge and return with it to the tribe of man. The success of the adventure->treasure->level->adventure cycle is that it so naturally mirrors a hero's journey through life.
There is without question a resonance with that idea.
So, I don't restock a dungeon, as much as I treat the dungeon as a space in which adventure occurs. Here's what that concretely looks like.
The ProcessI  ask for an encounter check when they are on a "thoroughfare" and moving throughout the dungeon, once for their movement times 10.
To unpack: No matter how you design your dungeon, certain areas will be the 'grass crossings' on a college campus. Players will just find themselves traversing that area due to it being the shortest route to where they want to go. It's also where you're most likely to meet random traffic, which the hazard die roll will certainly provide. Because the terrain is already explored, they've already poked and prodded with their 10' poles, they can traverse it at somewhat normal speed, 10 times their normal movement. So whereas an unencumbered party could explore 120' in a turn, now they can move 1,200' in that same turn.
Rolling one encounter for every 600'-900' (really 60-90 squares) encourages finding shortcuts and handles getting to and back from play at the start and end of each session. No party is moving around unencumbered.
That's most of it. We've got the other situations.

QuestsQuests are how I logistically handle restocking the dungeon. I have never in my life ever sat down and rolled to restock rooms. I don't think I have it in me.
Every area in the dungeon has. . .things. Resources. If an area's been explored, and I'm looking to "restock it", it initially happens with a quest. I have a selection of Non-Player characters in town, with their own storylines within Numenhalla, who provide quests. Preparation for a session usually involves designing one new quest a week (to replace the last one they took). Each dungeon section has a pre-built set of rumors and possible quests I use to help me.
Let's look at some of resources in the crypts. The Altar of Hierax can grant a long rest, The Anamneopolis allows speaking with the recently deceased. In the upper crypts, there is a pool along with a skull wall that whispers secrets. That's really what I'm talking about: What's still got juice in it after the players have extracted the treasure?
Then the restocking happens when you insert an antagonist for the quest. Note that this doesn't have to be a monster or new encounter. Perhaps some tunnels have collapsed, the resources is corrupted somehow or destroyed. The fact that the quest takes them somewhere they have been and the new obstacle/opponent exists makes the dungeon seem like a living place.
So preparation boils down to rolling on a combined quest table and inserting whatever idea is cool for an antagonist. I can manage one cool idea a week.
Setting up shopThis is the other problem. The players will meticulously map out an area and say, "Why don't we establish a beachhead here?"
The mega-dungeon represents the unknown dark into which we venture—the literal mythic underdark. You can't move into the mythical underdark!
Part of the greatest challenge of running a megadungeon is to keep the impression of it as a threatening unsafe place as the players grow in power, without robbing them of feeling empowered. We have many tools we can use to do this, cutting experience to the bone to slow player advancement, creating a threatening environment that kills players to remove experience gained from the players and more subtle methods such as scaling encounters based on party size and insuring that both overwhelmingly weak and overwhelming strong opponents are encountered.
But most importantly, Numenhalla is a time-locked dungeon. You can only enter it once a week, meaning moving in means surviving for a week. Can they? Even if I approached the problem as a neutral arbiter, I would consider it unlikely. There are worse things then I have listed on my encounter table.
But I'm not a neutral arbiter. I'm representing the chaotic unknown depths, the mystical underworld. As such, chaos abhors order and will react to attempts at colonization aggressively.

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On the Crypt Contents

Fri, 04/13/2018 - 12:00
I'm not exactly angry about this, but more like I don't understand it.

There's a crypt. Inside there are lots of coffins and places where they put dead people, and valuables. Characters soon realize that robbing graves while they are down here doesn't hurt the dead any. So you either create specific treasure or a sort of randomized set of options.

We are all together on this point so far, yeah? But then you look at the actual contents and it's dull shit! Like, the precious moments of my life are slipping away, and I'm rolling on some crappy table full of uninteresting crap with my friends out of. . . what? Obligation to find a rotten string?

Well, it's complicated.

First, it's effectively a slot machine. Players pull the lever, possibly roll the hazard/encounter die, and then get the contents. It clearly is less exciting if it only returns danger or treasure. You want the uncertainty and excitement.

You also want the possibility of empty. The problem is, you want them in the right ratio.

Pulling a LeverI like to think of my players as rational actors. They are going to try to get money with the least amount of risk possible. Therefore, anything that doesn't present as profitable will likely be ignored.

I resolve this by having the first coffin they examine have a "Good" result. (No Quantum Ogre here—I don't care how they examine the first coffin, or even if they do)

I often think chances for something interesting to happen are far far too low. There's a problem of scale where people assume that certain things will be referenced more than they are. Random encounters are a good example. A ~15% chance of an encounter per roll that's made 3 times an hour, means you'll have 2, maybe 3 wandering encounters usually? And yet many (many many) products contain a table with 12 boring monster entries. 6 would make a lot more sense, more likely to give an idea of an ecosystem, and you could design more interesting encounters than (8-12 Bugbears, EL3).

So for crypts, how many will their be? 8? 12? In a session, perhaps, there could be more. If the players are actively engaged in this endeavor, then it should have value. If nearly every roll results in "nothing" then it becomes kind of a tedious task.

When designing a slot machine, you want the good to be good, the bad to be terrifying, and a neutral result to be a relief. Based on these results, the expected number of crypts or coffins you might find, I like to have a 1/3 chance of each option occuring. There's an additional cost if opening these crypts causes noise or a roll of the hazard die. If done quietly, robbing graves and crypts, One hazard die per 3 graves looted is rolled.

Contents of Crypts, Graves, Catacomb burial niches, and other corpse storageThe original Numenhalla Contents of Crypt/Coffin table reads:

Roll Result Roll 1 in 6 chance of treasure 1) Empty 1) 2d6x10 coins 2) dust 2) Jewelry 1-2 pieces 3) corpse 3) 1d4x100 coins + 1-4 gems 4) corpse 4) Magic Item 5) Ash Wraith 6) Mummy

Coins are 1-2 copper, 3-4 silver, 5 gold, 6 platinum.

This is simple and effective. However, it's also right near that random table quality we are talking about. Writing this down and adding it to your module isn't helping.  we are looking for more evocative and flavorful text.

Not just text worth paying for, but a real opportunity to delve into the unknown of another human's mind. So yeah, it's worth it.

Numenhalla Crypt tableThe first crypt looted or investigating is filled with dust and a set of six pearl dice worth 100 gold each, they sell for 800 gold coins as a set. There's also a small cross set with tiny diamonds worth 900 gold coins.

Thereafter oll 2d6 when looting tombs. The first D6 determines the contents, the second D6 determines if there are valuables present (1 in 6). Conditions last until removed by the hazard die. Coins are 1-2 copper, 3-4 silver, 5 gold, 6 platinum.

1) Monster!
2) Empty
3) Dust
4) Corpse
5) Corpse
6) Oddity

Monster Table
1) Stuffed full of ash, swirls into room, 10-40 Ash Wraiths attack.
2) The corpse lurches free, flailing about. 1 zombie attacks.
3) The coffin contains a black ooze. Initially it stays motionless, lashing out to attack people at the most opportune moment.
4) While examining the crypt, spikes and shatters from the shadowplane burn through the area. These do 2d8 damage, with a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw for half (save versus breath weapon for half)
5) Ghouls have caught the scent of unearthed grave dust, 3d12 descend on the party.
6) Yellow mold bursts out of the crypt in a cloud 40 feet in diameter. It does 2d10 poison damage and grants the poison condition, unless a  DC 15 Constitution saving throw is made. The character takes another 1d10 damage at the start of each of their turns. They may attempt a save at the end of every round. (save versus poison or die).
7) Winds and sand blow out of the crypt as a mummy lashes out at the party
8) When even gently disturbed, a swarm of crawling claws pushes open the crypt and attacks.
9) Inside this crypt lies a Helmed Horror that animates and attacks. 3d4 other Helmed Horrors arise and break through nearby shallow crypts within 20' of the party to attack.
10) The crypt ejects bones like a fountain that turn into 6d6 skeletons.
11) A heavily armored knight lies here, until red fire burns from his eyes. 1 Death Knight attacks.*
12) A Nezumi assassin lies in wait here, and will attack with his poisoned daggers, DC 15 Constitution save or fall to 0 hit points and start making death saves (save versus poison or die).*
* Options 11 and 12 can only occur once. After they both occur, roll a 1d10 on this table.


Oddity Table1) Energy swirls around the room as the corpse inside is exposed. Rapidly, the corpse draws in energy becoming more and more lifelike, until the tempest passes and the nude dark haired beauty awakes.
2) 3 colored beams emanate from the enclosure, striking 3 random characters. The blue beam raises the experience of the character to the midpoint of the next level, the red beam permanently increases strength by 2, the black beam causes the character to appear as a photographic negative, causing death and necromantic spells to be cast as if the caster were 2 levels higher, and granting a +4 bonus on saves versus death.
3) Though the crypt is empty, mist rises from the floor, restricting visibility to a maximum of 50'.
4) The corpse of a giant lizard lies well preserved in this crypt.
5) There is a cracking sound, and suddenly several areas nearby are flooded with a slick substance. All terrain is difficult. You may treat it as non-difficult terrain, but must succeed at a DC 20 Dexterity saving throw (save versus paralyzation) or fall prone.
6) A pool of spiritstuff lies within the crypt. A wizard can perform an augary or clairvoyance here on a successful arcana roll. Death spells are enhanced near the pool.
7) As soon as the lid comes off, hundreds of ravens and other dark birds begin pouring out of the crypt. Several thousand eventually fly off.
8) The lid was keeping pressure on a pipe, and when disturbed, the crypt spews out a black cloud to 30 feet obscuring vision.
9) Inside the crypt is a stone passage that seems to lead to another area of the dungeon, through a 5' wide tunnel.
10) A strange vine lies in this crypt, growing through various skulls along its length. It is very resilient, but otherwise normal.
11) This 'Crypt' is actually the basic workings of a flesh vat. If the 15 stone monstrosity is extracted and it's repaired with 1,000 gold coins of augatic parts, you can be the proud owner of a medium sized flesh-vat.
12) Melted candles and wax are lining the bottom of this crypt

Treasure Table1) Leather straps that held this corpse inside this coffin glow with ancient runes. Binding these around yourself grants protection equivalent to leather +1, provides a +1 bonus to saves and prevents the user from having their soul removed from their body.
2) 2434 coins are precisely stacked in the form of a human merchant.
3) In the crypt is a dagger-shaped recess. If a dagger is sacrificed, a secret chamber snaps open, inside of which sit 4 magical daggers. The daggers return to their owner at the end of the combat round. Each does their normal damage, plus 2d4+3 elemental damage for a total of 3d4+3 damage. The elements are Pathos, Ice,  Mirrors, and Shadow.
4) A leather strap with a hemispherical diamond set in the center, focuses the mind. It grants a +1 bonus to intelligence and access to either 2 sorcery points, 4 ki points, or a free second level slot.
5) Inside a small faded box, with a pattern of roses on the cover, lies a few dusty documents. These when presented to any official, military or government officer, or anyone inquiring into your business, will say whatever is necessary to pacify the official and convince him that you meet all his expectations.
6) An ancient amulet, with a bare space with a setting for a gem. It provides a +1 bonus to saving throws versus elements. If a gem is set into the amulet, it increases the bonus to saves by 1 per 5,000 gold pieces of the gem, up to a maximum of +4 to saving throws versus elemental damage
7) Two keys lie within the crypt, a 1"brass barrel key with a horse shaped bow (73), A 3" bronze barrel key, with a cross shaped hole in a flat bow.
8) A ceramic flask is engraved with the name Gilgithas. Gilgithas is a chain demon who's essence is trapped in the flask. If freed he will perform one service. 
9) A set of 12 marbles made from gemstone, 100 gold each, 1500 for the set.
10) A large wooden plank, which encumbers 3 stone has delicate etching of a boar hunt in the woods. It is worth 1,200 gold.
11) Various silver trinkets, badly tarnished and set with semi-precious gems, all told worth about 300 gold coins.
12) A goblet that turns holy water into a liquid that cures disease and illness.
13) A 3" diameter jeweled loop that turns anything passed through it invisible until the next sunrise.
14) A vine necklace that exudes alteration magic. When donned, it comes to life and threads itself though the nasal cavity and sinuses of the wearer, looping around outside the back of the head. While worn, the wearer can breath water. Removing it takes a full round and leaves you stunned for the next round.
15) A crystal bracelet summons a suit of frozen armor that surrounds the bearer, granting them an armor class as chain, but without restricting their movement. Any fire damage will be nullified but cause the armor to dissipate for 1 minute.
16) A vial contains a pungent liquid. As an action, you can take a quaff and vomit a bolt of bile and acid in a 30' line that does 4d8 damage with a dexterity save equal to your constitution modifier, plus your proficiency bonus plus 8 for half (Save vs. Breath weapon). There are six doses in the bottle.
17) Inside this is a geomancers staff made of fragrant hickory. It has the head of a ram which is inlaid with 5 onyx. This acts as a +3 Quarterstaff with 10 charges, and it gains 1d6+4 charges at dawn. If you expend the last charge, roll a d20, with a roll of 1 indicating the staff is destroyed. Spells. You can use an action to expend 1 or more of the staffs charges to cast one of the following spells from it, using your spell save DC. Aura of Vitality (1 charge), Erupting Earth (2 charges), Banishing Smite (3 charges), Antimagic Field (8 Charges)
18) A greatbow made of yew wood, known as the Thorliusson Bow. The grip is wrapped in dull brown leather. The bowstring is actually a fine chain made of normal electrum. Accompanying the bow is a quiver of oiled brown leather with sheep fur trim. It contains 23 barbed +3 arrows with shafts of cypress wood painted yellow-orange and fletching of two mustard yellow feathers and one dark brown feather. It is a +2 bow, and any non-magical arrow fired through the bow can be used to cast entangle centered on the target once a day. The targets are ensnared with electrum chains.
19) A ray pistol sits discussed in this crypt. It shoots bolts of flame energy that do 1d8+1 points of damage. It has a 1d12 ammunition die.
20) This body is wearing two electrum gauntlets set with a rare white jade. They can be removed from the crumbling body without difficulty.

Replaced used entries with one of the following
A set of earrings with black agate, worth 150 gold coins.
A copper headband set with a malachite worth 80 gold coins.
An electrum mask of a tiger, vibrantly painted, worth 600 gold coins
A silver cloak pin, set with three tiny rubies worth 400 gold coins
A small leather sack containing 100-400 coins.
Six small tiger agates worth 30 gold coins each (180 total).
A diamond worth 1,000 gold coins.

A Professional Nod to Gus L, who does crypts right.

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On the Righteous

Tue, 04/10/2018 - 12:00
We are beset by a plague of the righteous.

That feeling is a glorious one, too often set aside by the unrelenting hostility and blunt reality of the real world. When are you within your body, when you are hungry, tired from hard labor, in struggle and pain, we no longer have the clarity of being righteous.

But when those things are set aside, deferred in the same way evolution is deferred by actions we take to dictate our convenience, oh how righteous we can become. There's even science in it. Even the worst of us believes he's above average. Nearly everyone who thinks that is wrong.

The reason this is important is because we are at or near an apogee. Things are, by every quantifiable metric, the best the have ever been. To note: Parents are half as likely to lose a child as they were in 1990. In thirty years, global poverty has dropped from 40 to 10%. [source] The world is so at peace, open warfare has almost been eliminated [source], Historically, violence has been all but eliminated [source][source], Nearly every human worldwide (6.5 billion) has access to drinkable water [source], in 1820, only 12% of all humans could read. Now over 83% can [source] World production has increased over 100 times in the last 200 years. [source] Access to electricity, food, I mean, it's nearly impossible for you to understand just how blinking wonderful ever little last damn thing is.

Your WarlordsBut there's a war on, and don't doubt that it's a war. Those waging it simply desire power and control. It isn't even about money—they have more than they need. This isn't imaginary. We are involved in a culture war. It's a war because harm is being done. There is a public space (the internet) and people are being driven away from it and livelihoods are being destroyed. We're beyond physical warfare, for now, we're engaged in a war of culture between various factions, who wish to co-op you for your own ends.

You see, the insanity that the culture war is thriving on, doesn't exist. Not to dismiss their concerns. But the realities of these situations is well educated, well meaning people, are gaining more and more power and resources to make things better and better for all people everywhere all the time. In all cases. Do you not believe me?

Behold, the infamous C-16! The Canadian "transgender law" of great dispute. No matter what you think, no one can read the discourse over the bill and claim for one second that the people discussing it aren't well-educated, well-meaning, and passionately interested in creating the best society possible.

So if you're caught up in this culture war, because you've voluntarily entered yourself into someone's system of control or perhaps have become a victim to it, driven out of spaces, harrassed, and just not involved because it's too difficult to bear the constant conflict, then, well, you are a sign that the culture war is winning and we are losing.

I was guilty of being a righteous man. It is a trait of youth, and now that I am older, I fear myself then. I think a smarter man than I am would also fear the righteous. They are so pure and certain in a world with no certainty. By it's nature, someone has to suffer from that.

One of the prime conflict of adulthood is assimilating into society. It's always been difficult to do so, perhaps more today without rites of passage and the changing world. Much easier to claim corruption of what came before and in your own certainty to attack the old world with fire. Those who would create this new better pure world (over our insanely good one) never imagine that the gun they wish to aim at others would ever be aimed at themselves.

I'm just a man, who like you, longs to not suffer indignity and maintain my pride. But that is not the way the world works. You cannot exist, they must have you within their control. Shared articles, advertisements, data mining, facebook and cambridge analytical. All lies to get you within a system of control.

And now that we're almost to the point of sounding like a paranoid rant. . . this is relevant to Dungeons and Dragons because-
Fire down belowThis is the nature of man. In a world of Dungeons & Dragons, you have, by definition, tremendous inequality. There are archmages with incalculable power, god-cults, hoards driven forth by demi-gods. One group of people is focused on their basic needs. Another, with power, immortality, and wealth—they can become the most righteous of all.

Secondly, it reminds us that the environments that we explore, ultimately are the workings of the nature of men. In a literal sense, it is a man who creates the adventure, so it is his depths you are exploring. In a more figurative sense, the real encounters in Dungeons and Dragons are those of thinking peoples. Peoples who not only have been co-opted into someones system of control, but also individuals who are human.
You shut your mouth
How can you say
I go about things the wrong way?
I am human and I need to be loved
Just like everybody else does

Many people have difficulty imagining that other people are truly different than them.A large portion of the world finds the idea of wiping with paper and sitting on toilets to be a disgusting practice. Ancient romans had no concept of hetero- or homo-sexuality, rather they viewed sexual preference (and sexual power dynamics) related to who was the penetrator or penetratee.

Yes, functionally we are all human. But the ways in which we approach and think about life are radically different. Those ancient peoples would seem alien. But to their thinking, their beliefs and logic are irrefutable.

When the players interact with someone, they are not a caricature. As different as they were, there were a million romans smarter then you. You know your well held beliefs? There are people with 50 more IQ points than you that hold the opposite beliefs for extremely logical reasons you may struggle to understand. Why is this not so for all people?

It is.

Your environments should be shaped by minds like these.
Your characters should have minds that make them people, not caricatures.
Your monsters should have interactions with characters that make them monstrous.
The worst monsters should be people. It isn't Tiamat that's the danger in Dragon Queen, it's her cult.

The game is a form of catharsis, one made all the more meaningful by real choices, choices that feel real when people are represented as people. The mechanical nature of this is simple. They should have concerns outside of whatever purpose they serve in the game, monsters and humans alike.

Oh, but why this topic? I've long passed a time of righteousness. I'm going to enter the culture war just as far as designing adventures that are easy to use and creativing evocative dungeons enters it. I'm not going to worry about how others or society might describe me. I know my truth, and how I'm viewed by other people—my own conscious will guide me, as difficult and treacherous a road that is. . .

Any day you're drawing dungeons is a good day. Relax, live your best life and enjoy. And I hope to see you free.

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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

On the Upper Crypts

Fri, 03/30/2018 - 16:39
And here reside the upper crypts.
As always, 600.dpi png versions are available for my Patreons for use with VTT. Megadungeon #3 is coming.
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On the Lower Crypts

Thu, 03/29/2018 - 12:52
Work progresses on Megadungeon #3. Here are the lower crypts.
Upper crypts will be posted tomorrow!
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs