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Tabletop games and adventures
Updated: 3 days 12 hours ago

Ennies and the OSR

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 16:04

The OSR (Old School Renaissance or Revival) community is comprised heavily of small indie publishers working multiple jobs, solo entrepreneurs who LOVE games, small companies scraping to get by, or giant companies with very deep pockets. WOTC and Paizo haven’t ignored the OSR as they release and re-hash old titles, so they are included. Of course Paizo had a major hand in making the OSR possible with Pathfinder’s divergence from D&D 3.0 pushing the limits of the Open Gaming License.

What does this have to do with the Ennies?

I’m glad I asked. The Ennies are the yearly awards at the worlds largest RPG convention, Gen Con. They recognize excellence in the gaming arena and there are a lot of nominees. However, it’s also become a “David and Goliath” battle. For the most part, many small indie producers take the nomination as an honor and check out. It’s difficult to wrangle votes for an indie publisher even for the best of products when you are up against huge markets, giant companies, and deep promotional pockets. Small press publishers don’t print 300,000 copies of anything, or have thousands of marketing dollars. And it’s not for lack of quality, it’s often for lack of voice. They also don’t have mailing lists and magazines that are 100,000 or more subscribers deep.

WOTC, Paizo, and other big players of course, do produce note-worthy products with mind-blowing art, writing, and production value. Again, they can afford to do this with dozens or hundreds of hired minds. When an OSR entrepreneur creates something of note however, they too deserve the recognition and reward of a glimmer of hope of achieving the notoriety an Ennie brings within the community. We shouldn’t ignore the small voice in a gale of the storm at sea. Consideration of these small OSR companies (Like Fail Squad Games) in these big oceans can make or break the scenario for some.

Who of note in the OSR  are nominees?

Some of the nominees taking on the goliaths are as follows:

These are all small press OSR folks producing quality gaming materials who are up against the goliaths of the industry for votes and attention. Being nominated for an Ennie is certainly an honor, but winning a category can truly shift gears for a small press. I urge all the Fail Squad Games readers and supporters to check out these entries to this year’s ENnie awards and consider them along side the others when you are voting.

Share their links and their products. They deserve a splash of the spot light. Trust me when I say – This isn’t an easy business to survive in, it takes LOVE of gaming to make it happen at all.


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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

A Piece of Gaming Mecca or Magic Item?

Mon, 06/04/2018 - 20:29
Magic Items and Nostalgia Me at 330 Center St with leaves for the project

This piece of cardstock vibrates with the essence of gaming. The artisanal paper is hand-made from sample adventure printings, damaged well-played modules and leaves collected from 330 Center Street in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. For those who don’t know, 330 Center Street was the home of Gary Gygax and is the birthplace of Dungeons & Dragons. The world and gaming were forever changed from this modest little home.

The leaves were collected, cleaned, destemmed, then soaked for months to make the fibres pliable enough to be added to paper. Tears were shed as classic adventures and sample printings were pulverized for the pulp. These adventures and leaves were then hand-pressed to create this one of a kind card stock that carries the essence of gaming in every cell.

Lloyd Metcalf, Art director of Gary Con and CEO of Fail Squad Games collected the leaves, made the paper, and finally adorned each piece with thoughtful art in archival ink. Each drawing is intended to bring the essence of classic Dungeons & Dragons and RPGs to everyone who holds it.

Since the first piece was created, it has come to be believed that dice resting on this paper are imbued with the luck and adventures of legend. Is it possible that a roll in a game might somehow be altered by the will of all the heroes of center street, and the uncountable nostalgic adventures that were had with the paper that was recycled into this one little square?

I will have a very limited supply of these at North Texas RPG Con this year (2018) at the Fail Squad Games Table. All artwork is unique and different to each piece.

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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

All for Ten Bucks

Fri, 04/20/2018 - 14:48
This Week Only

This week all Fail Squad Games paperback modules are just $10. Even the full color specials – Time to clear the shelves and make room for new stuff!

Lands of Lunacy, 1E, 5E, All print module adventures are just TEN BUCKS this week! Some of these won’t be back once they are sold out, so grab them all while they are on sale.

Go to the store and get them in your basket now!

*All except Those Dam Goblins*

You can find the all at the FSG online store.


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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Hell Hath No Furry

Sun, 04/15/2018 - 21:05
Hell Hath No Furry Who let the dogs out?

Some hellhounds have escaped their domain in the Lands of Lunacy (or a small island on the Elemental Plane of Fire). One of Brimfire’s (a fire giant) hounds discovered a jewel that opens a portal to the Prime Material Plane, and the hounds are wreaking havoc hunting and terrorizing the mortals.

The newest adventure to hit the virtual shelves from Fail Squad Games. a 6 page, full color Interlude adventure. BECMI / Labyrinth Lord rule set – for just $3.00.

Don’t have $3?

Join the Fail Squad Games Guild and get it for half off – ($1.50). Just pop up to the upper right hand section of the site and sign up now.

Click here to pop over to the store now.

Thank you for supporting Fail Squad Games, there are plenty more fun adventures, free stuff, and games to come!

~Lloyd M (worker Goblin)


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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Free Stuff Section

Thu, 04/12/2018 - 13:58

FSG is adding a “Free Stuff” page to the site. As time allows it will get new additions, tools, NPCs, Monsters, Pregens, and encounters to add to your adventures. All focused on old school gaming. This will be a place to add tic-bits to your game that are unique, unusual, and helpful for un-prepped DMs (The story of my life). Being an under-prepared DM was one of the core reasons I started creating adventures and supplements!

Expect – BECMI, Labyrinth Lord, OSRIC, 1E type of material, not to mention Lands of Lunacy and other slick stuff to keep your players off-guard.
Bookmark the page HERE also don’t forget to “subscribe to blog” at the bottom of the page so you won’t miss anything.

For some real up-coming treats, sign up for FSG exclusives at the top-right of the page.

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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Are print products like the phone book now?

Wed, 04/11/2018 - 14:19
Digital Gadgets

I love electronic gadgets, tablets, and laptops, and they are handy for gaming. Searchable PDFs of modules, supplements, rule books, the E-version of RPG books are everywhere and usually quite a bit cheaper than the print version. It seems like a no-brainer to bring them to the table. Does this mean print books are becoming obsolete?

I sometimes feel like I should lead the charge in the switch to digital media for gaming. I have a degree in communications / new media, I write in Word, Layout, illustrate, and design in the adobe suite. All of our products from Fail Squad Games are in digital format. However, when I sit down at the table to game and see devices come out I start to lose the magic. Even tablets that I KNOW are there with character sheets and game rule books on them show up and I feel… kind of funny. In fact, I like having my laptop handy for maps. I can’t deny the usefulness of these tools. After about 10 minutes, I start to realize that this makes me feel awkward too.

There is some essence about the game of Dungeons & Dragons (and the variants of it) that resides in books, paper, and pencils.

What is it?

I can’t put my finger on what it is exactly. Newer players to the hobby don’t seem as inclined to feel it, but it’s different. I feel that when a player is looking up a rule or spell in a book, they still hear what’s going on and what’s being said. When it’s being looked up on a device, I personally feel like the table is being shut out. Even if someone tells me it’s not true, I feel like it is.

Is it just nostalgia that keeps me stuck to the idea of the feel of books? The sound of turning pages and dragging a finger across the words to find that spell – A piece of the game lives in that for me. Am I just a stodgy old fart resisting change?

My trouble with PDF

I personally struggle to read PDFs. I don’t like that sitting at my computer staring at a screen. They fit uncomfortably on a tablet, requiring me to scroll side to side. Even when reading on a tablet with a PDF that fits, I tend to put my feet up, squirm around, accidentally touch the screen or the power button, or get distracted by a comment on Facebook or Twitter. A piece of the game, even when I’m on my own time, is captured between the printed pages. Adventure and inspiration builds up in the air between pages. When I flip them open, I can SMELL it!! Sometimes it’s elven forests, sometimes it’s an otyugh – depends where I’m reading.

Even when I am writing adventures, I sit at my desk with MSWord open. My outline, rough maps, and mechanics books (Rules cyclopedia, AD&D, Labyrinth Lord) are in print. I know I can download and search them in pdf, and I lose the excitement of designing an adventure if I do.

While slowly learning Roll20 and preparing to run adventures there, I think I will continue to keep my books in my hand. Will it satisfy the itch that can only be scratched at a table?

The smell of chips, the fizz of soda, the side jokes, breaks where you talk about what’s happened. A piece of this hobby is certainly physical and I think that printed books will not go out as fast as phone books and Ma-Bell booths.

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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Women Who Game

Tue, 04/10/2018 - 16:22
I am reading through the Rules Cyclopedia in short bursts. To the women who were gamers in the 80s through 90s and stuck with it and kept gaming: I truly salute you. It takes a real love of the game that not many have, to do what you have done. That is, to keep gaming with the wind pushing against you. The language in the Holmes, BECMI and AD&D rule sets is needlessly masculine, and I don’t mean just a little bit and I am not exaggerating “Needlessly“.


I am trying to imagine how it would feel if I sat down to a game with a table full of women. Then I read the rules and the entire text was “she” based, my character would be limited based on gender, and I STILL would return for weeks, months or years to play the game. Sometimes even with the men or boys ridiculing me for not “getting it”. I’m slow, but I really am starting to “get ” it. Maybe this article is long overdue from Fail Squad Games.
Women who game TRULY did and do love the game, because you are still here and playing after all this time. The Authors Before I continue, I would like to make it clear that this is NOT a personal dig at the original authors of any edition of D&D, BECMI, AD&D. I know many of them and have a deep respect for them as creators of my favorite game, and ultimately my career. I hope they consider this article as a constructive critique if they haven’t changed with the times, and as a sign post to personal growth if they have. The Excusing Text In all the old school books like Rules Cyclopedia, BECMI, and AD&D there is a paragraph that reads something like the following (from Rules Cyclopedia): Pronoun Note
The male pronouns (he, him, his) are used throughout this book. We hope this won’t be interpreted by anyone as an attempt to exclude females from the game or to imply their exclusion. Centuries of use have made these pronouns neutral, and we feel their use provides for clear and concise written text.

As a young teen / preteen reader this made perfect sense to me. I accepted this and never understood why girls or women would feel any twinge of issue with anything about the game. Ok, I could kind of get the chain mail bikini thing, even back then. but hey, images of Elise Gygax sold me the book IN a chain mail bikini!

Was it really THAT bad?

Yeah, it was that bad. As an adult, and an RPG producer in 2018 re reading the text, even I find it distracting as an aging white male. It really is that bad. Come at the text as if you were your daughter reading the book and it sheds a little light on it. Let’s look at a paragraph, there are so many, but I’ll just pick ONE. Rules Cyclopedia page 7

A Magic user is a character who wields magic. He has little or nothing in the way of fighting ability,  and in the early part of his career he has little in the way of magical ability either. But as he gains  in experience, he becomes a powerful character and can wield powerful spells. The magic user’s prime requisite is his intelligence.

For that one paragraph a masculine tense is used SIX times. there are only 61 words in that paragraph! Only the very first sentence doesn’t reference the magic user being male. This paragraph isn’t a cherry picked exception in the book. It’s a standard example of the text.

I know what you are thinking, “Oh dammit! another article by a ‘Social Justice Warrior'” or some such crap. Please, stop right there. This is an article by a long time gamer and a publisher of games and most importantly a DAD to a young woman who likes to game. I am writing this article mostly as a father, secondly as an author, and thirdly as someone who wants everyone to game at my table.

So how do you fix that?

I wanted to write, but the texts I read with the gender pronouns seemed the only logical way to build a sentence. When I first started writing in the genre, I recalled those excusing paragraphs, but something didn’t sit quite right. There were growing pains in the gaming world and a number of solutions came up.

  • Use she instead of he everywhere. [The same issue but in reverse. this just feels like vengeance]
  • Use he / she [ ok but clumsy to type and read. What about those who are neither?]
  • Use he in one instance, then she in the next. [Yeah, this happened around the 3.0 – 3.5 days and it is AWFUL to read and confusing as hell!]
  • Use they or proper nouns or reword the sentence to not need a gender. [This is the Fail Squad Games fix and many other OSR publishers are getting on board]

So how would the sentence above read if published in a Fail Squad Games module today?

A Magic User is a character who wields magic. They have little or nothing in the way of fighting ability and in the early part of their career have little in the way of magical ability either. But as the magic user gains  in experience, they become a powerful character and wield powerful spells. The magic user’s prime requisite is intelligence.

It takes about 15 minutes of thinking when you first start writing this way. It makes more sense, the text actually reads smoother when written this way. It is more “clear and concise written text.” The Game master is either “GM, they, their”. Why assume he/his/him at all? After about 1,000 words in, this is the natural way to write and when you read gendered text it’s almost painful. I cringe when I see new authors in the RPG genre writing this way.

Characters with a gender are of course referred to as their gender in the game, it’s a simple, easy thing to do that makes your product better.

Helmets off to the Women

All through this, there are women who loved the game so much, they let this slide. Even when the rules set their maximum strength less than their male counterparts. I always found this troubling and in poor design even as a teen player.

Here’s to you for sticking with the hobby. Here’s to you for gaming through in an instance where, if the tables were reversed, I doubt many – if any-  men would be left standing. I salute your strength of character. I salute you for your love of the game and some who changed perceptions from the inside out. I also humbly apologize for anything you have endured to get here. I love BECMI, truly love the game. I love AD&D, all its authors, artists and contributors. I don’t like this one aspect of it and what it has done.  It was absolutely not necessary to write this way. It is my job as an inheritor of the hobby to fix it.

I will still play the games. I will ALSO continue to produce gaming supplements for the old systems and their clones. I WON’T be using that language in any Fail Squad Games product. I hope I can invite those who aren’t on board, to get on board. You’re on a sinking ship if you think you MUST write he, him, his a half-dozen times in a brief paragraph of 60 words.

What this Isn’t

This isn’t the chain mail bikini debate. I know Tarzan, Conan, Red Sonja, and Caldwell’s babes. This is a pronoun debate. A simple change in literary thinking that improves our hobby as a whole. As a young reader, I didn’t realize what this does to a line of thinking. As an adult dad, I do. As they say in Goonies, “This is OUR TIME! Down here!”

This is OUR time. We are inheriting this hobby from the previous generation. it’s time to fix this. With a couple of minutes of thought, any text can be written without the he, his, him bit. I don’t care that it was used my Shakespeare, Defoe, or any others for centuries. It’s not an excuse to use it now. It’ REALLY is not an excuse to purposefully use it in a hobby that wants to be inclusive. If anything, gaming incorporates the disenfranchised and this language should be something that our hobby leads the way in changing.

I welcome your comments below. If you think you must write with gender *fight me* I’ll rewrite your example text.

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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Tregen Firmstone

Mon, 04/09/2018 - 02:07

A BECMI Character Created with Labyrinth Lord using Rules Cyclopedia straight 3d6 method.

Tregon Firmstone

Tregon is no stranger to heavy armor and hard battles, but prefers the quiet movement of his fine leather.
“I can’t feel the stone clunkin’ round in all that metal.”

Tregon is a hardy, solid dwarf of good reputation among his kin in the mountains. He works hard, is likable, with a good humor. He always sees the best in folk and sometimes to a fault. He can be quite gullible. Trevon believes most things that people say are the truth, and has lost his savings more than once because of his blind trust in others.

Tregon prefers the home life. His mother’s Sweet potatoes and onions makes up his favorite meal. He has come to admire halflings for their enjoyment of good food and drink and never misses an opportunity to visit them when he can. While he loves home life under the security of the mountains, a wanderlust occasionally takes hold of him and his curious nature keeps him from holding a life-long work in the dwarven society.

Click image for full size character sheet

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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs