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OSR Review & Commentary On Dungeons & Delvers: Black Book By David Guyll, & Melissa Fisher From Awful Good Games

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 06/19/2019 - 01:00
"This extensively playtested, profusely illustrated, lightweight-yet-complete roleplaying game is an homage to the "Easy-to-Master" black box of the first role-playing game (and the first version or edition that I ever played) that does everything I wish the original did (which might also include some stuff you wish it did, too). Like the black box, the Dungeons & Delvers: Black Book contains Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Hookin On Hump Day #193: A Yarny Link Party!

Moogly - Wed, 06/19/2019 - 01:00

Get ready to refresh your wardrobe with the latest round of Hookin On Hump Day! In #193, we’ve got 4 unique crochet garments, and something to make your home pretty too. And best of all, every one of them is free! Get all 5 of these lovely patterns below – and then add your own...

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The post Hookin On Hump Day #193: A Yarny Link Party! appeared first on moogly. Please visit www.mooglyblog.com for this post. If you are viewing this on another site they have scraped the content from my website without permission. Thank you for your support.

Categories: Crochet Life

OSR Campaign Commentary - The Spark of Mystara Divinity M2 Vengeance of Alphaks (Basic) By Skip Williams & Some OSR Hi Jinks

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 06/18/2019 - 18:56
"Divine heroes in a broken world, men and women who have seized the tools that have slipped from an absent God's hands. Bound by seeming chance to the Words of Creation, these new-forged titans face a world ravaged by the mad ambitions of men and the cruel legacy of human folly. Their foes are many: the jealous parasite gods that suck at the wounds of the world, the furious Angelic Host that Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Building Avremier - Part Seven: Collaboration

3d6 Traps & Thieves - Tue, 06/18/2019 - 18:25
Continuing from Part Six...

The Lord of the Rings and other Eurofantasy provided an extensive foundation upon which to build a setting. I was going in different directions for my own world, and it was important that my players were on board for the adventure. Toward that end, I would listen to their questions and concerns as they made and ran player characters.

Q. Why were Humans the pinnacle of the adventuring community? Why could they advance in every class without limit?
A. Because humans invented and established adventuring as a career and lifestyle. Non-human races had only recently expressed any interest or inclination in risking their lives in the occasional pursuit of riches or glory.

1974 - When EVERYone wore a beard.
Q. Why were there no non-human clerics?
A. Because there were no non-human gods. Humanity brought its deities with them to this new world. Non-human races did not worship gods.

Q. Why were humans essentially in charge when they had shorter lifespans and no natural advantages to compete with non-human races?
A. In Avremier - they aren't. Humans simply have more need for secure settlements and extensive civilizations.

Even then, the races of Avremier looked nothing like this.And so-on...

Answers like these helped shape the setting. Humans were aliens. Dwarves, elves, gnomes, and halflings were native races with most of their roots in the Faerie realm. Some of them adapted in part to human culture in an effort to better interact and coexist with their new neighbors. The setting was still humanocentric in that humans were the ones dedicated to adventuring - but not so much that other races were reduced to second-class citizens or convenient caricatures.

With the end of the Wars of the Harrowing, humanity was limited in part to extensive "reservations" of land. The surrounding wilderness was ancient and inimical to humankind. Other races had their own settlements, but set pretty far from those of humans - and often in climes that humans found difficult to endure. Thus, did the realm take shape - with humans in the relatively safe spaces, and the other races in their outside places.

Not that some of those other races didn't mingle a little. Halflings, especially, seemed to enjoy dabbling in human culture. Dwarves were pretty friendly and accepting. Even most of the elves stopped killing humans on sight after a few decades of uneasy peace. I wanted the non-human races to FEEL non-human. Players could run their characters however they wished, but the dwarves, elves, gnomes, and halflings of Avremier were certainly not just selected human attributes taken to extremes. For humans, there has yet to be a true Industrial Age - their civilization seems firmly set in the Adventuring Age.

After this, so many other aspects and details of the setting seemed to fall into place.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Steven Universe Trading Cards - Sketch Card Preview Part 5

Cryptozoic - Tue, 06/18/2019 - 18:11

Please enjoy the fifth preview of Sketch Cards from our artists. Steven Universe Trading Cards will be available June 19! Links to contact the artists can be found below the images of their work.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Smart cities, difficult choices: privacy and security on the grid

Malwarebytes - Tue, 06/18/2019 - 17:17

All is not well in the land of smart city planning, as the latest major planned development from Google’s sister company Sidewalk Labs continues to run into problems in Toronto, Canada.

A groundswell of support?

Building a city “From the ground up” is apparently no longer a thing: at least some folk with a hand in digital urban design are saying it’s “From the Internet up” now. The plan was to take Toronto’s waterfront and transform it into an innovative smart city location. Sidewalk Labs got the contract to design a big chunk of Toronto’s waterfront in 2017, with potential for expansion.

New tech and an eye for environmentally-friendly design should have been the icing on the cake. Instead, continued delays over revealing what is happening is leading to complaints and protest groups like Block Sidewalk who aren’t happy with the direction things have taken.

A bump in the road

As it turns out, planning something like a smart city is incredibly complicated, and things appear to be slipping behind schedule. Worse, nobody seem to be able to tell the residents exactly what’s coming in this brave new world of digital connectedness. Google’s Sidewalk Labs want to try and set a “Global standard” for how user data should be treated, but there’s still no real information available as to how this will work in practice.

Interestingly, it’s the data privacy concerns now primarily coming to the fore, as bigger tech critics weigh in. It’s no fun when your project is on the receiving end of comments like, “A colonizing experiment in surveillance capitalism” or “…a dystopian vision that has no place in a democratic society,” especially if your main aim was to build some wood paneled houses and a functional drainage system.

Various resignations from the advisory panel and even the former privacy commissioner of Ontario, stating, “I imagined us creating a smart city of privacy as opposed to a smart city of surveillance” has definitely not helped to smooth out concerns.

The clear signifier is that early buy-in is crucial in getting one of these projects off the ground. Without an early affirmation of what to expect, people will dig their heels in and say no regardless of what’s on offer.

Puebla, in East-Central Mexico, is a good example of this. They have 15 locations slated to become smart cities. Santa Maria Tonantzintla has essentially refused to go any further after a lack of information as to what’s coming next. Demolishing some local landmarks certainly didn’t help matters. I would’ve linked to the 15 cities project, but the website is offline, which may or may not be very on brand for this kind of enterprise.

What is a smart city?

Good question, and one we may take for granted. Defining a smart city can be an exercise in frustration, but experts broadly peg them as one of two distinct flavours: top down, and bottom up.

Top down smart cities

These are major projects put together through a combination of governments, city councils, and major technology vendors. Ideally, an entire city is constructed from nothing, with the essential technology backbone required to make it all work in place from the outset.

Someone, somewhere sits Wizard-of-Oz style with a large control bank ensuring every aspect of day-to-day living works seamlessly—from trash collection and street lighting to traffic flow management and energy use.

That’s how it pans out in an ideal world with no need to worry about things going wrong, anyway. As you’ll see shortly, things tend to go wrong quite a bit. For now, let’s look at the next style of smart city.

Bottom up smart cities

This is what people who live in a city get up to when left to their own devices (pun probably not intended). Crowdfunders, crowdsourcing, smaller disruptive organisations working with communities to make things work more efficiently; it’s all here, and it’s as potentially chaotic as you’d imagine.

Piecing the puzzle together

Of course, it’s usually tricky to slap a city together from scratch and be home in time for supper—most of our towns and cities are already here with us. What we mostly have is a haphazard assemblage of council-led approaches bolted onto crumbling infrastructures while independent apps and community projects simultaneously do their own thing. The residents are by and large caught in the middle of this ebb and flow, and there’s never a real guarantee any of it is going to work as expected.

Smart city shenanigans

Despite their best efforts, projects can and do run into troublesome situations. Many of them aren’t even strictly security related; you’re probably more likely to fall victim to negligence or poor planning. Even so, the end result is still the same, whether or not someone hacked the Gibson, and a problem will still cause headaches. Below, we look at a few issues facing both top and bottom styles of smart city.

Top down smart city problems

1) In the UK, Westminster ran into issues when the company managing the city’s street lights went into administration. With nobody at the lightbulb wheel, residents were amazed to find some 8,000 street lights blasting away 24/7 for an entire week. The local council had to pay a “small fee” to the new company administrators to get things resolved.

While you’d think a contingency plan would be in place for contract explosion at this level, it somehow ended up being missed. Nobody wants to go to bed with typically much brighter smart bulbs pouring in through the window, not to mention the power drain/environmental impact. A simple but effective example of how sometimes top down gets it wrong.

2) What if an entire neighbourhood’s identity vanished from online maps to the extent that it’s data-driven invisibility meant you might never find it? That’s exactly what happened to the community of the Fruit Belt, aka “Medical Park,” courtesy of bad data not only from Town Hall but also a variety of mapping startups, tech orgs, and data brokers.

The residents’ fight to reclaim both the name and the location’s acknowledgement as a physical space is quite something. As with Westminster and their 24/7 lights, we see another situation where defunct companies leave unforeseen problems in their wake with nobody to play clean-up.

3) There’s also the threat from hacks in a top down system; control the hub, control the city. Exposed devices, default passwords, vulnerabilities, and critical flaws—all ready and waiting for someone to come along and take advantage. You expect a street light to break or a pipe to burst. What you don’t expect is people tampering with early warning systems or road signs displaying random messages.

4) Sticking with that same theme, a lot of work has been done in this area by the Securing Smart Cities project, which looks at ways companies, governments, media outlets, and more can work together to address these concerns. Amongst other things, they’ve done smart research on how CCTV systems can be a danger from something as banal sounding as not covering up labels. They’ve also explained how bad actors could scale up attacks to (for example) knock out air conditioners across multiple streets or an even bigger radius with the aid of some $50 equipment. That may not sound like a big deal, but in hot weather it could be potentially lethal for the sick or elderly.

5) Hong Kong residents protesting the proposed extraction law chose to avoid using their Metro cards for travel for fear of being tracked by the government. Instead, they opted for cash payments like tourists tend to do. This data has been used in the past for law enforcement, so one can understand their apprehension. In a place where even advertising has been used to name and shame litterbugs via DNA, this raises potent questions about where, exactly, power lies when so much of our day-to-day existence is at the whim of top down systems.

Bottom up smart city problems

1) Tracking in the age of smart tech is something people are naturally concerned about. When I looked at the hacking simulation NITE Team 4, I mentioned tracking someone’s phone via smart billboards. I was particularly taken by this appearing in a video game, because it’s a supposedly out-there concept that doesn’t sound real but (shocker) it is.

Wandering the streets, whizzing by in a car, walking around some shops? If your Wi-Fi is enabled, it’s quite possible you’re being tracked for marketing purposes.

2) What happens when your landlord and/or building complex decides the time has come for everybody to receive smart locks whether they want them or not? Chaos is what happens. Not everybody is a fan of taking control over basic functions like premises security away from the resident, and there’s multiple compelling reasons for not having them installed.

Case in point: What if there are potential security issues? What happens if the power goes down while there’s an apartment fire? What if the locks just stop working while you’re asleep? Who has access to the data? Before you know it, it’s all gone a bit legal and some people in suits are probably shouting a lot.

3) Of course, we can’t go on without the increasingly large mess that is IoT/smart home technology and domestic abuse cases. It’s a chilling example of what can go wrong with too many random technologies are mashed together in real-world settings with a malicious actor in the middle.

Quite often, there’s zero chance of the abused person being able to figure out where bad technology things are happening, and it can be a challenge for tech experts familiar with these issues to find a decent starting place for their investigation.

Sandcastles in the sea

We’re scratching the surface here, but there’s a lot to take in where constructing a smart city is concerned, whether government-led or people doing it themselves. There are also some huge success stories in smart city land—it’s not all disasters, broken street lamps, and roadsigns yelling about zombie outbreaks.

For example, Bristol in the UK springs to mind as a great example of how to retool a city in a way that makes sense. There’s still a long way to go before we have other smart cities to rival Bristol though, and that probably applies to the somewhat embattled Toronto waterfront project.

As these projects drag on, issues of data, privacy, and consent appear to be the places where the primary battle lines are drawn. Without some solid answers in place, generals may find themselves run out of town by a cheerfully tech-unenhanced community.

The post Smart cities, difficult choices: privacy and security on the grid appeared first on Malwarebytes Labs.

Categories: Techie Feeds

The 10 Greatest Dungeons & Dragons Adventures Since 1985

DM David - Tue, 06/18/2019 - 11:10

This list of the 10 greatest Dungeons & Dragons adventures since 1985, draws from ratings, reviews, and appraisals from D&D fans, and then uses my completely unscientific aggregation of opinions to rank the 10 entries. The list only includes adventures printed as stand-alone titles under the D&D or Advanced Dungeons & Dragons brands. For more on why I chose to rank adventures published after 1985, see Why Did So Many Classic Adventures Come From 7 Years of D&D’s 45-Year History?

10. The Gates of Firestorm Peak
The Gates of Firestorm Peak (1996) is a second-edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons adventure by Bruce Cordell for levels 5-8. The adventure that introduced the Far Realm to D&D starts as a well-crafted dungeon crawl, and then builds into an unsettling confrontation with Lovecraftian monstrosities. See the full review.

9. Tomb of Annihilation
Tomb of Annihilation (2017) is a fifth-edition Dungeons & Dragons adventure by Chris Perkins. Will Doyle, and Steve Winter for levels 1-11. Tomb of Annihilation mixes the dinosaurs and lost world of Isle of Dread, with the overgrown jungle ruins of Dwellers of the Forbidden City, with a deathtrap dungeon inspired by Tomb of Horrors. Every one of those influences appears on the Dungeon magazine’s 2004 list of 30 greatest adventures, and the mix plays better than any of them. See the full review.

8. Sunless Citadel
The Sunless Citadel (2000) is a third-edition Dungeons & Dragons adventure by Bruce Cordell for levels 1-3. As the introductory adventure to third edition, Sunless Citadel delivers the monsters, treasures, and even the dragon that new players expect from D&D, but the adventure serves much more than D&D comfort food. Start with a deeply evocative location: a castle dropped into a rift by some cataclysm. Add a lost dragon wyrmling, a tainted tree at the heart of the ruin, a fresh humanoid monster, and one of D&D’s most unforgettable characters, Meepo. See the full review.

7. Vault of the Dracolich
Vault of the Dracolich is a D&D Next adventure By Mike Shea, Scott Fitzgerald Gray, and Teos Abadia for level 4 characters. Vault of the Dracolich rates for its outstanding execution of a multi-table adventure. By design, a team of dungeon masters runs several tables of players who explore different parts of a dungeon at the same time. As the adventure runs, groups can interact, briefly gathering, exchanging resources and coordinating plans. The event ends with all the groups fighting a climactic battle. See the full review.

6. Madness at Gardmore Abbey
Madness at Gardmore Abbey (2011) is a fourth-edition Dungeons & Dragons adventure by James Wyatt with Creighton Broadhurst and Steve Townshend for levels 6-8. Madness at Gardmore Abbey combines the best qualities of fourth edition’s encounter design with a sandbox of adventure locations, villains, and a single powerful thread that binds them all together. That thread comes from the scattered cards of a Deck of Many Things, perhaps the most irresistible artifact in D&D. See the full review.

5. Dead Gods
Dead Gods (1997) is a second-edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons adventure by Monte Cook for levels 6-9.
Dead Gods boasts more than the best title of any D&D adventure, it features the most audacious storytelling. For example, in one chapter, players create temporary characters to play out past events. The adventure spans the planes, ending in a climax that brings the party to the astral plane where they battle atop the 4-mile-long corpse of the demon lord to stop the creature’s resurrection. See the full review.

4. Curse of Strahd
Curse of Strahd (2016) is a fifth-edition Dungeons & Dragons adventure for levels 1-10 by Chris Perkins with Adam Lee, Richard Whitters, and Jeremy Crawford. Curse of Strahd captures everything great about I6 Ravenloft and expands it into a full campaign. While Ravenloft mainly stayed in a castle, Curse of Strahd gives players the freedom to roam the cursed land of Barovia. Although Curse of Strahd features a strong design, the vampire Strahd and the fearful gloom of his domain make the adventure’s best parts. See the full review.

3. Lost Mine of Phandelver
Lost Mine of Phandelver (2014) is fifth-edition Dungeons & Dragons adventure by Richard Baker and Chris Perkins for levels 1-5.
The adventure that introduced fifth edition serves D&D’s expected and favorite ingredients. To longtime fans, the elements may be familiar, but superb execution makes the adventure a winner. After the first encounter, players experience samples of dungeon crawls, quests, and mini-adventures. The adventure provides enough clues to keep even new players from feeling lost. See the full review.

2. Red Hand of Doom
Red Hand of Doom (2006) is a 3.5 edition Dungeons & Dragons adventure by Richard Baker and James Jacobs for levels 6-12.
Red Hand of Doom starts with the fantasy trope of an army of evil sweeping the land, and then casts the characters as heroes working to slow the march. Their missions span the landscape and vary from diplomatic meetings to dungeon delves. Along the way, the adventure accounts for the players choices, successes, and failures. See the full review.

1. Night’s Dark Terror
Night’s Dark Terror (1986) is Basic/Expert Dungeons & Dragons adventure by Jim Bambra, Graeme Morris, and Phil Gallagher for levels 2-4. The adventure starts strong with a widely-imitated episode where the characters defend a freehold against a goblin attack. The events of the siege make the night of terror. After the first episode, the adventure’s scope expands. Players explore more than a wilderness, with eighteen locations, including a number of mini-dungeons, a ruined city, a riverside village, a frontier town, and a lost valley, while active villains oppose the characters. See the full review.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Some OSR Monster Tactics With Kuntz & Ward's Gods, Demi - Gods, & Heroes for original Dungeons & Dragons

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 06/18/2019 - 05:33
"Know, oh prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the Sons of Aryas, there was an Age undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars - Nemedia, Ophir, Brythunia, Hyberborea, Zamora with its dark-haired women and towers of spider-haunted mystery, Zingara with Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

[REVIEW] Into the Jungle

Beyond Fomalhaut - Mon, 06/17/2019 - 21:09

Into the Jungle (2019)by Christian PlogforsSelf-published
“The Vietcong dug too deep.” This is one of the games whose core idea can be summed up in one brief sentence. It will probably be sufficient to establish your reaction to it – it could sound fascinating, stupid, or absolutely tasteless. It is certainly original, even if it combines two well-known genres in the form of old-school D&D and Vietnam War combat. As the background goes, the Vietcong inadvertently broke an ancient seal while digging tunnels, and “pigmen, skeletons and other fantasy monsters are spreading out into the jungle around the area.” CIA-sponsored patrols have been sent in to disappear without a trace. Whatever the source, both the Americans and the Communists want it gone.
To reiterate, this is NOT primarily a Vietnam War game with fantasy elements; it is a fantasy dungeon crawl set in the Vietnam War, featuring modern combatants in what are presumably fairly D&Dish dungeon crawls and wilderness expeditions. “Dragons and helicopters”, so to speak – a setting which thrives on the juxtaposition of fantasy and recognisable modern technology. Would a squad of Vietnam-era conscripts fare well against gnolls, jungle vampires and dungeon bigfoot? Here is the time to find out.
Operation ManualIt would be a lie not to admit this bonkers concept was sold to me through the game’s presentation. It looks and feels like a half-declassified military file (at least a civilian’s idea thereof), with a typewriter font, “classified” sections where the text can benefit from ambiguity, and stark black-and-white stencil illustrations of mostly guns and helicopters. It is even called an “Operation Manual”. The game comes in the form of several modular, landscape-oriented pages which could be arranged in any order after printing, or laminated and split up during play between the players and the GM (since the precise order does not matter that much). It is compact and logically laid out. For a minimal system, it is very well presented.
The game rules are based on Into the Odd, one of the worthwhile old-school systems which take a step beyond “here be my favourite edition of D&D with some house rules or extra streamlining on the top”. ItO is not a variant, but an in-depth rethinking of the D&D concept, with its own play dynamic, strong implied setting, and support material (which establishes the game more firmly than just a set of mechanics). Like pre-supplement OD&D, ItO is a small, mean, fairly deadly game that has more going on than initially meets the eye. It is far superior to its essentially interchangable rules-ultralight rivals. Consequently, ItO has always seemed to serve as a fertile ground for good spinoffs – like D&D itself, it is a good baseline to build on.
It is all very simple. Your characters are defined by three ability scores (Strength, Dexterity and Wisdom) rolled with 2d6+3, and also the basis of an ability test mechanic used for “saves” and more general actions. Characters get 1d6 Hp per level. Characters are also defined by a random class skill (PCs with low ability scores gain a second one as compensation), 2 weapon skills, a few disposable squad members (these flunkies have 1 Hp and 1 weapon skill each), and gear – some standard, some rolled on extensive random tables. Characters are further rounded out through a series of random background/personality tables.
Your average player character might look something like this: Doug “Taco” Cavezza, Strength7, Dexterity 7, Wisdom 2 (he sucks!), Hp 5. He has two class skills due to low stats, First aid and Leadership (he can remove stress points from comrades, a valuable skill). He can handle Submachine guns and Infantry rifles. Doug has two companions, Dwayne “Doc” Ferguson (1 Hp, pistols), and Howell “BooKoo” Hendrix (1 Hp, pistols).He gets two combat weapons (M16, Ingram MAC-10), one melee weapon he is not good at (utility/combat knife), misc. gear (jungle fatigues, combat boots, M1 helmet, belts and pouches, a rucksack, and a canteen). He can pick 2 standard items (a flashlight and maps), roll 1d4 more (a 4! He gets sunburn preventive cream/foot powder, a camouflage helmet cover with mosquito net, a poncho and 2 frag grenades), and roll for one special item (a fragmentation vest!).As miscellaneous details, Doug is attached to friends, he is courageous, and he was an electrician before the War. He has a secret he is not telling.
Character Sheet (front)The character generation process and the power level are a strong suit of Into the Jungle – your guys are fragile enough to make expeditions risky, just simple enough to make to render their inevitable loss okay, yet just detailed enough to get invested in. The high randomness of the system drives home that these are essentially everymen who got drafted and shipped out after basic training, and like old-school D&D’s murderhobos, their survival hinges more on a combination of guile, opportunism and luck than any innate ability. Doug up there is certainly a random loser swept up first by world events, and then by Dungeons Fucking Dragons manifesting in the centre of the Nam jungle. However, like in Dungeons Fucking Dragons, thinking laterally and exploiting your equipment can save your bacon, and characters do gain a good supply of random mundane gear to use in various mcgyveresque ways.
Nevertheless, and even taking into account a fairly generous dying mechanic, this is a swingy, low-powered, high-risk game. Like ItO, there are no attack rolls, only damage, reduced by an armour score that tends to be zero for PCs, and up to 3 for monsters (a rifle does 1d8 points of damage). Consequently, going into battle without an advantage is always a coin toss in Into the Jungle, and fighting dirty reigns supreme. A slot-based encumbrance system is in effect (you can carry as many extra items beyond the basics as your Strength score). You also accumulate “stress point” for basically everything (including mosquitoes, leeches, heavy rain and walking in the thick jungle where you might get ambushed), and characters who get 4 SPs start experiencing Traumatic Stress Disorder, which gives a 5e-style “disadvantage” on your rolls (roll twice, take worse result). Stress can be eliminated via rest, socialising, your friendly drugsssssss, and rolling while under the effects of disadvantage (which also burns away stress points).
Into the Jungle’s character generation is great, and it has one of the better lightweight modern-era systems I have seen. In that respect, it is fairly close to Into the Odd’s simple but robust original rules (as a caveat, the upcoming revised system seems to be taking a slightly different approach). The “GM section”, the background information for running adventures, is less well realised. It still shines where it employs random generation. There are great tables here for generating fast missions, including a hilarious codename table – e.g. “Operation Tunnel Ninja” may be a reconnaissance mission in some tunnels, to eradicate a vampire spawn pit in the Mekong Delta, ending with a party; “Operation Bay of Eagles” would be to infiltrate a crash site as a search-and-destroy operation against two giant spiders in Phuoc Tuy province, ending with 5 days R&R in Hong Kong. It also has guidelines for random encounters and locations (“a small waterfall with a blue lake and submerged ruins”, “someone is having a BBQ”, “rice paddies with mortar craters”, “mountain plateaus”), and a good selection of wildlife, monsters and rival NPCs (from “Lesser false vampire bats” to “Pigmen”, “Dungeon toads” and “Dryads”, and from Spetnatz teams to Viet Cong commandos). This is a superb kaleidoscope of “Vietnam Movie” imagery and fantasy stuff to combine and extrapolate from.
Guns and Guns and More GunsAnd this is where it stops and runs out of steam. A well-realised GM section, complete with support material for running Vietnam-style dungeons and perhaps other types of adventures are missing; as are useful exploration procedures. This may be quibbling about a mini-game, but what makes a game more than a ruleset is the surrounding galaxy of information – the stuff which helps the players get their characters’ bearings in the milieu, and the GM’s guidelines for creating and managing the same. This is what makes a game like traditional D&D (in its various incarnations) great, the stripped-down ultralight systems so dissatisfying, Into the Odd pretty cool, and Into the Jungle an “almost there” game. It separates the wheat from the chaff. This is a game that needed a great intro adventure (this is of course hard – even ItO slipped on this particular banana peel), maybe a condensed Keep on Hill 330. It would also have benefited from a more in-depth treatment of GMing, including specific procedures for organising play in the scope of an adventure or a mini-campaign. But that kind of information is not there, and the game feels unfinished. Unfortunately, the two minuscule and frankly underwhelming supplements released so far aren’t helping. I mean, Dinosaurs in the Jungle. Sure. But it doesn’t fill out the gaps which should have been filled out.
In conclusion, this is midway between a well-developed thought experiment and a potentially great full RPG – it has a strong premise, and parts of it are nicely rounded out and admirably well presented. It almost manages to embed its rules in support material which make the game worth playing in a sustained manner. Yet it also has gaps which deserve to be filled in, and in the end, it does not feel like a game that fully grasps its own potential. It would need further elaboration for that. This does not mean additional mechanical detail – those parts, in fact, are just about right – rather, a developed and complex vision of a game that has gone through a rigorous testing phase, and which presents a rich framework to build on. Perhaps one day.
The publication includes a special thanks section to people who may be playtesters. It is, also, completely free!
Rating: *** / *****
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Review & Commentary On M1 Into the Maelstrom (Basic) By Beatrice Heard & Bruce A. Heard

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 06/17/2019 - 17:09
"Alphatia, the most ancient empire, land of arcane and obscure secrets. It has grown for centuries and its might now overshadows the cauldron of civilization. Some say the Alphatians come from elsewhere, but no one knows for sure. Beyond the scope of mortals broods an evil mastermind, still in darkness. Once a betrayed emperor of ancient Alphatia, now an entity of the Sphere of Entropy, he Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Namaste Bag Review and Giveaway

Moogly - Mon, 06/17/2019 - 15:00

The Namaste Bag line from Jimmy Beans Wool is unique, high end, and incredibly thoughtful – these aren’t your standard “project bags.” Get a closer look in the Namaste Bag Review, and enter to win your own on Moogly! Disclaimer: This giveaway is sponsored by Jimmy Beans Wool; all opinions are my own. The Namaste...

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Categories: Crochet Life

Beneath the Temple of Edea

Ten Foot Pole - Mon, 06/17/2019 - 11:11
By Vance Atkins Leicester's Rambles B/X No fucking level stated

This twelve page single-column adventure features a sixteen room linear dungeon with hobgoblins-ish enemies. A few nice features can’t save it from itself or the mish-mash of text that makes up each room. It’s a monster! kill it and move on.

There’s a small temple with six encounter areas and then an underground cave with the rest. The temple is a highlight, with statues holding lamps (nicely illustrated by an included photo, btw. Art that compliments an adventure is rare and this was the perfect art choice for this feature.) With four or so rooms per page the writing is kept relatively tight.

It’s doing something weird with the writing though, something that’s off putting and I can’t quite put my finger on it. I’m kind of referring to it as a meandering style. I can’t exactly figure out the specifics, but its a loose writing style, with the focus of the writing, and organization, on things other than the rooms subjects?

There’s a loose phrase of two in the writing that’s obvious. “Examination may show that …” well, no. First you’re using the word “may” and second you’re phrasing this as an if/then. IF you examine the door THEN it [may] show that … It’s much more solid writing to say that there are scorch marks around the handle. (Which is a hint to the lightning trap on the door. I like trap hints for players who pay attention.) In another point there’s some commentary that a certain thing “may make it a dicey proposition!” A loose comment or two isn’t all that bad and if sprinkled wisely can provide a little humor/prodding to the DM.

But this isn’t what I’m talking about when I say it’s a meandering style. There’s weird background padding padding showing up before important room elements. Longtime readers will note that I prefer that obvious things occur higher up in room descriptions. The towering statue glowing red and shooting lazer beams from its eyes should be the first thing mentioned … unless there’s something else even more obvious when you walk in to the room.

Room 5, the monk living quarters, is a good example of this.

5. Manse – Up a short flight of stairs is the former residence of the temple monks. Its occupants were killed or carried off during the incursion from ‘below.’ The sparse furniture and fixtures here are overturned or broken and show more signs of struggle. There is nothing of value left beyond some cookware and thin clothing. One of the ‘guard lizards’ for the hobgoblins in the caverns (below) has wandered in here in pursuit of rats and is tearing apart the decaying corpse of a dead monk.

Up a short flight of stairs … the former residence. Killed or carried off. The guard lizard showing up last. Better would be a guard lizard eating decaying corpses in a ransacked living quarters, or something like it. The adventure text is almost conversational the way it meanders from the room approach (obvious from the map) the background, former room use, decorations, and then finally the obvious thing. And multiple rooms are like this in the adventure. They lack a strong focus. They are not overly long, but the writing feels loose and the interactivity feels empty, not a good combination.

The map is essentially linear. It does have a nice feature or two, with same level stairs and some escarpments to liven things up. But a linear map is a linear map. There’s little room to explore, you just kill what’s in the room and move to the next one.

I find these small and linear adventures quite unsatisfying. I know this is how many people run their home games, but as a prepared adventure it just doesn’t seem worth it. Then you add some substandard text and, well, why?

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru, with a suggest price of $1. The preview is five pages and shows you the map and the first six rooms. It’s representative of what you should expect, so good on it.


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Modification Monday: Nordililou

Knitted Bliss - Mon, 06/17/2019 - 11:00


Patterns: Nordiska and Lilou Knitter Extraordinaire: Nyarzelia (Ravelry Profile) Mods: Nyarzelia combined The sweater design of Nordiska and the colourwork charts of Lilou for a new take on tehd esgin. Details can be found on her project page, here. What Makes This Awesome:  When you love a colourwork chart, isn’t fun to think of how to

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Categories: Knitting Feeds

Something Wonderful Happened After a Doctor Phoned a Pastor

Just Call Me Pastor - Mon, 06/17/2019 - 11:00

The phone call (several decades ago now) was from a doctor, a member of the congregation I was pastoring. He had just informed his patient, Cedric (not his real name), that there was no treatment — neither surgery nor medications — to arrest his advanced bone cancer metastases.

After breaking the news gently to Cedric the doctor had asked if he would like to see a pastor and Cedric, somewhat shaken, had replied yes, so the doctor was phoning me to make an appointment for him.

But when the time for the appointment came, Cedric did not show up. I was not surprised. I had learned a bit more about him and thought prayer with a pastor was one of the last things he would have been interested in.

He and two other unmarried brothers lived on a farm a few miles from town. The three were reclusive and I learned that they wouldn’t have seen the inside of a church more than a half dozen times in their lives. I asked a church member who knew the area well if I should I go to the farm to look him up. He advised me not to.

But a few weeks later during a visit to another church member in the hospital, I saw Cedric’s name on the patient list near the entrance. He was in room five in the bed nearest the door.

When I introduced myself I could see he recognized who I was. There he lay, the head of his bed raised slightly and a Bible open and face down across his chest.

We conversed briefly about the words he had been reading from John’s Gospel, and before I left him I asked if he would like to open his heart to the Lord Jesus. He nodded in the affirmative, so I prayed a short prayer of repentance and faith, which he repeated after me.

It was my custom, after I had visited with two or three parishioners, to sit in the car in the parking lot for a few moments to review in my mind each visit before driving away.

That day I had mixed feelings about my visit with Cedric. I didn’t even know him, nor he me. Why didn’t I make the first visit just a friendship visit ending with a short prayer? Had I been too hasty? Was he really ready for that new believer’s prayer? I was hard on myself.

But a day or so later when I visited him again I could tell he was waiting for me to come. That began, as I recall, a string of visits across two months, as his body wasted away. First he was moved to a single-occupant room. Then, as his condition advanced, he was placed on a Stryker frame.

It became evident to me that, in that initial prayer weeks before, he had experienced God’s love and forgiveness. Due to his weakness, our visits were short, but they were enriching to both of us.

One day as I approached him I asked, “What are you thinking about these days, Cedric?” He responded matter of factly, “I’m thinking about dying.” That prompted a short but faith-enriching conversation. He obviously had the assurance of eternal life through a living faith in Christ.

The next time I saw him he said, “I would like to be baptized.” I replied that I would come back the next day to do this. There was a reason for one-day delay. In a close-knit community I wanted to be sure I was the main pastor if not the only pastor ministering to him. I didn’t want to invade another pastor’s territory for church services.

On my next visit, I said to a nurse, “Cedric tells me he wants to be baptized.” She understood immediately and provided me with a small basin. Then she offered a white towel, saying, “You may use this to wipe any excess water from his head.”

There the two of us were alone in the room, one strapped to a Stryker frame, the other holding a small basin of water. There was no instrumental music, no congregational singing. After a few words of instruction I raised my voice slightly and said, “Cedric, I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” I wiped the excess water from his forehead. After a short prayer I left him.

The next day I made my last visit. As I bent over his bed he said in little more than a dying whisper, “Yesterday was the most wonderful day in my life.” He was referring to his baptism.

I had Cedric’s funeral. His brothers were there. I told his story. I expect to see Cedric again.

Photo credit: nerissa’s ring (via flickr.com)

Categories: Churchie Feeds

Another Visit to the Alex Toth Casting Agency

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 06/17/2019 - 11:00
Need a different look for an NPC or a weird monster of some sort? Check out the model sheets and concept art created for Hanna-Barbera by the late, great Alex Toth:


Dragon, Four-eyed:

The rulers of the cat people:

A wizard and his pets:

A wizard with a nose piercing and fairy lackeys:


Looking For Group - Mon, 06/17/2019 - 04:00

The post 1305 appeared first on Looking For Group.

Categories: Web Comics

No Regrets

Knitting | Work in Progress - Sun, 06/16/2019 - 20:36
Not long ago, I ordered yarn for what will hopefully become a light-weight, season-spanning shawl worked in a rich rainbow of vibrant gemtones. (Charlemont by Valley Yarns)

Because the price was right and online color selection can be tricky, I included a safety skein of a subdued purplish shade in case some skeins refused to play well together. It's a perfectly lovely color, but as you can see, it's significantly softer and less saturated than the ones above.

While I have no clue what I'm going to do with this lone singleton, I have no regrets. With 439 yards to play with, there's plenty of latitude to either use it on its own or pair it with another wayward orphan or odd ball from stash. I'm willing to live with that uncertainty for now, while I focus on swatching and casting on the next big thing, my rainbow shawl.
Categories: Knitting Feeds

Happy Birthday OSR Haul & A New Free Blackmoor book - Fall of the Dwarves: A Free PDF Campaign Expansion to the CBI-2 The Rand Sourcebook By Havard Blackmoor

Swords & Stitchery - Sun, 06/16/2019 - 19:00
So my other half had a birthday OSR surprise for me done up by a local printer. Done in black & white, plastic covers, & a spiral binding in the booklets. These are for the table top & lay out from the pdfs have come out quite nicely. 'Ghosts – The Incorporeal Undead' By James Mishler, Jodi Moran-Mishler has been on my 'must get' lists. Godbound Rpg By Kevin Crawford is another one on my Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Mutant Massacre In The Capital Last Night's Actual Play Session Report

Swords & Stitchery - Sat, 06/15/2019 - 18:08
In last night's game the adventurers came face to face with some of the followers of Entropy. Mutant abominations. horrors that were the result of twisted mockeries created by those Immortals who seek the end of all things. If you've been following the controversial blog posts that I've been doing on The Immortals Box set by Frank Mentzer & Aaron Allston's Wrath Of The Immortals Box SetsNeedleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Amazon Women, Pulp Fantasy, and Old School Game Mastering Advice in The Fantasy Trip

Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog - Sat, 06/15/2019 - 16:03

The year was 1980 and Steve Jackson’s first complete role-playing game design hit the market. A pivotal time in gaming to be sure!

Sign of the times: there are no amateurish drawings of naked women in the pages of this module. But take heart! This game nevertheless has its foot firmly planted in the staggeringly awesome days of gaming’s primordial past. A scantily clad Amazon chick not only appears on the cover but also as an explicit option for unironic play:

AMAZON: The beautiful, dangerous female warrior. She probably has high DX and wears little armor. Talents
include Sex Appeal, Unarmed Combat, Bow, and Thrown Weapons — plus several other weapon talents.


If you shelled out big bucks for the recent monster-sized Kickstarter edition of this game, don’t bother to look for this. This was evidently expurgated for being way too spicy for the high strung pearl-clutching gamers of today. (Fortunately for us pulp fantasy fans, Tarzan remains in the archetype list for the Woodsman “class”– though the name was character type was updated to “Ranger”.)

One surprising bit that was left 100% intact, however, is this choice bit from the game’s background setting of Cidri:

This enormous polyglot world was chosen as a background for two very good and totally opposite reasons. The first is variety. Cidri is big enough to hold thousands of Earths; it has room for the world of every Game Master who’ll ever put pencil to hex-paper. There’s room here for every sort of fantasy adventure to coexist — in a logical manner. And it provides a workable rationale for the weird melange of legend, historical fact, prehistory, science fiction, and sheer wild imagination that characterizes the work of the best fantasy gamers.

What an astonishing line there!

Granted, anyone that is familiar with role-playing games of the 1970’s could see why Steve Jackson would say such a thing. And Cidri is truly a bizarre game setting. It’s like Philip José Farmer’s World of Tiers series mashed up with Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber. It’s like a weird inversion of the default setting of the much later Steve Jackon  release of GURPS Fourth Edition– instead of “Infinite Worlds” it’s Infinite World!

Rough sketch for the cover of the Melee MicroGame? A stray illustration from the 1980 edition of In the Labyrinth? No on both counts! It’s a picture of Dejah Thoris by Frank Frazetta!

But look at that sentence again. It is very much like how I have (on many occasions) attempted to describe the best work of A. Merritt, H. P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and Leigh Brackett to a generation that is almost entirely unfamiliar with the pulp era. And here Steve Jackson in 1980 casually declares the work of the best fantasy gamers to be JUST LIKE THAT. He had no idea that there was about to be a sea change in how people even conceived fantasy to even work!

Incredible. The intrinsically weird/pulpy foundations of fantasy gaming confirmed!

But wait, there’s more treasures to unearth in this old game!

In Steve Perrin’s review of it from the April/May 1980 issue of Different Worlds, he says this: “Perhaps the best part of the book is a column by publisher Howard Thompson, describing the story-telling requirements of being a GM. Truer words were never spoken.” Story-telling? Sounds potentially heretical to me! Too bad purchasers of the new edition will not have the benefit of this awesomely TRUE gaming wisdom from the dawn of the hobby. Steve Jackson deleted it for some reason!

But don’t worry. I have the text right here:


Most of you will eventually want to design your own labyrinths and take a turn at being Game Master. A fantasy role playing game is certainly more enjoyable when you can provide fun and adventure for your friends. In our experience, there is one philosophy of game-mastering that consistently leads to success. That is this: A GM is a solo entertainer of an unusual new variety. He is a writer, performer, and group facilitator rolled into one. Players participate in an adventure campaign for entertainment — not to let the GM be a petty god and manipulate their characters at will. It takes practice, attention, and sensitivity to lead a group through an adventure and leave them feeling good (win or lose) when it’s over. Thinking of yourself as a semi-professional entertainer like a bard or other
small-group yarn-spinner will help.

Don’t try to control the action or predetermine specific outcomes for everything. Your labyrinth and its supporting environment must be flexible enough to evolve as a result of the players’ actions, be they successes or failures. There must be room for players to build, destroy, live and die as they choose. This doesn’t mean that things should be easy. Player characters will get killed — fairly regularly, for the careless or headstrong. As a GM, you must be firm – but not so attached to your creation that it doesn’t also become something of the players’.

You needn’t bully your players or allow them to intimidate you. There will be points of disagreement during play, of course – but the best way to handle them is to postpone any
real discussion until a “critique” period after the game session. Players should feel free to ask questions or make comments about the GM’s actions, but it shouldn’t go farther than a few brief comments while play is going on. If you goof, and a player catches it immediately, you ought to fix it then and there IF you can do it without breaking the “feel” of the adventure. The ability to do this is a mark of the experienced GM. Real disagreements should always be discussed AFTER an adventure, in preparation for the next. You can stand by your actions and refuse to discuss them — but to the detriment of your campaign.

Remember – you are an entertainer. The adventure unfolding is your “act.” Nurture the story, let it build, involve players in the action. Within the framework you’ve constructed, let events happen as they will. What you and your players will create is a spontaneous experience that can be a rewarding entertainment “high.”

— Howard Thompson

This is solid, straight ahead advice. If all you had were a bunch of fantasy game materials from the seventies you’d probably hit on this eventually. The Hickman Revolution was a not even a glimmer in anyone’s eye at this point, of course. And Steve Jackson’s own particular brand of role-playing philosophy (which would fully flower in the mid-eighties with GURPS) was not yet in evidence in any of The Fantasy Trip’s material.

Of course the approach to role-playing that would become dominant in this century in the aftermath of TSR’s demise was even further off. Which is intriguing. One thing that sets The Fantasy Trip apart from original D&D that it has in common with D&D 3.5 is the hyper-regulated combat and movement system.

Here is Steve Jackson’s own rationale for why he developed it from his designer’s notes in The Space Gamer 29, July 1980:

It started in early 1977. I had just found out, much to my surprise, that I could design games… people were buying Ogre, But the game that I was playing a lot of myself was Dungeons & Dragons. And like everyone else who tried an early version of D&D, I wanted to make some changes. The polyhedral dice were irritating– but the biggest problem was combat. The D&D combat rules were confusing and unsatisfying. No tactics, no real movement– you just rolled dice and died. T&T was the same way. Monsters! Monsters! was more detailed in some ways, but still allowed no tactics. So I did something about it.

Amazons from the original edition of Dungeons & Dragons and 4th Edition Tunnels & Trolls. If your game doesn’t have them, it sucks!

Indeed he did. Steve Jackson would end up making two of the greatest microgames in history, which is pretty cool given that he’d already created the definitive microgame with his debut game design.

Steve Jackson is far from being the only person that could look at the first two role-playing games and declare the combat system to be completely broken. Of course at the time he wrote that, we were decades away from anyone being able to provide a cogent argument for why the nature of those early systems were a feature, not a bug. But given everything we’ve seen in five decades of role-playing at the tabletop, we have to ask. Is a hyper-regulated combat system intrinsically bad for rpgs? Is that the root cause that made D&D 3.5’s completely linear “everybody wins nobody dies” adventures the gaming travesty that it is…?

It’s a reasonable question, really. After all, the Melee/Wizard adventure “The Lost Lair” published in The Dungeoneer 11 in 1979 did not embody the design principles outlined in Jaquaying the Dungeon even though it was created by the person whose name would become synonymous with the idea.

The seeds of destruction really are there, perhaps. But given Howard Thompson’s spot on game mastering advice included in the original edition of In the Labyrinth, I have to say…. It doesn’t have to be that way!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs


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