Tabletop Gaming Feeds

Wretched New Flesh Post Cards From Avalidad Rpg & The Works of J.G. Ballard as Old School Campaign

Swords & Stitchery - Sat, 09/16/2023 - 18:49
Wretched New Flesh Postcards from Avalidad is one of my favorite rpg's from the Red Room. But how does this mix with say the works of surrealist Science Fiction author J.G. Ballard?!  Good afternoon & deeply sorry for my absence. Real life and work has been taking inreasing amounts of my time lately. I wanted to take a bit of time out to speak about the Wretched New Flesh rpg from the Red Room.  Needles
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Carry On

Doomslakers! - Sat, 09/16/2023 - 14:37

Been in a funk lately. I was working on the new game every day, kind of obsessed with it, then I got COVID. Seems like that's when the funk started. Been kind of flitting around since then, not focused on a damn thing. Arting randomly, no focus at all.

But such is life. I have a wandering mind. Sometimes it's worse than other times. I would probably fit into some category of neurodivergent, but I'm not dysfunctional enough to give a shit about checking.

Even unfocused, though, I still draw a decent amount. I berate myself for not doing much but then I look at my art stack and realize it just keeps growing and growing and growing. Even my daughter, who draws all the time, comments "How do you just keep drawing so much?".

I guess my issue is that I see all these accomplished comics creators, for example, who did x number of issues of their book over x decades and I'm like "Where's my x book?". I don't really have one. People know me either for The Pool, Pan-Gea, Black Pudding, or my pin-up art. I think. I'm so god damn random I can't even tell if any of that is true.

Here's a logo I recently drew for a character aptly named Hoofnar. Great visual concept. I even have a cool cover for it, pictured here. But I've been unable to settle on the character's core. Is he a goofy bastard bumbling through a cartoon world? Is he a serious straight Conan riff? Is he something else? I don't know. It's got me locked up on doing him.
I mean, this idea has legs, right?

Meanwhile there's Zarp. That little red bastard has been with me for 23 years and I've drawn lots of little comics about him. I even drew a 16 pager at the end of 2022. I want to get that into print. But I'm stumbling around not sure if I want to do a dedicated Zarp comic or not.

And now, suddenly, there's this Hymla idea. She's a badass warrior chick. She's thick and mean and missing a tooth. I like her a lot. She deserves a comic too.
Picture it in FULL COLOR.
Come to think of it, the Hymla piece, in color, would make a fucking sweet 11x17 poster. I might do up a few and sell them, signed and numbered and all that.
All of this leads me to the inevitable concept of a simple anthology comic wherein I can just dump all my comic book ideas. Like Random Order Comics, which makes sense. I already did a Random Order Comics & Games zine back in the oughts. And my imprint is Random Order Creations (established 1994, and consistently used ever since).
Which leads me to this concept.

Yeah, I'm a creative mess right now. But that's cool. I've always been a mess. I still keep messing around.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Scourge of the Tikbalang

Ten Foot Pole - Sat, 09/16/2023 - 11:11
By Zzarchov Kowolski Self Published OSR/NGR Level ... 2?

A vicious Tikbalang has been reported in the area and it is terrorizing the village. The townsfolk are too frightened to attempt to hunt down the beast and the village elder is cautious about emptying  the town of defences, since there are pirates in the neighbouring village. A heavy reward in golden  treasures is offered if the rumours can both be proven true and solved by bringing the head of the beast to the elder. If the beast is not slain, the villagers may need to kill those it assaulted, lest they give birth to more Tikbalang. It is hoped that, if the original beast is slain, the children will be born as normal human children.

This sixteen page adventure describes a simple situation in a small primitive village. It’s got that air of believable humanity that Kowolski excels at, while also being a bit simple for the page count.

You are summoned to small primitive fishing village. A young maiden has been attacked in the jungle by a tiklabang and is preggers! All is lost unless you kill the best so her child will turn out human and not tiklabang!. Her fiance came upon her just as the beast disappeared. Another young lady has been attacked also. A local hunter has seen tracks in the forest of its hooves. The wise woman has has a vision of it. Oh, uh, her fiance didn’t actually see the beast. And he thought the sounds he heard sounded good, not like an attack. The other chick needs to be te center of attention. The hunters brother is sweet on the preggers chick. And the wise woman is VERY senile. Yuppers. The headman is trying to keep a bunch of people from getting killed, especially the first chick and the hunters brother. Cause the fiance is a corn fed lad in his 20’s with a fucking machete, leader of the village militia. A good example of what Truth s in an adventure, I’d say. There’s something going on, but its not exactly what the surface might appear to be and the party is going to have to dig a bit to get there. A far cry from the very earnest villagers we find in nearly every other adventure. This is the way the world actually works, people doing their best with all of the pettines and greed seeping through where possible if they think they can get away with it. The party isn’t so much heroes as much as cleaning up a fucking mess that is dumped on them. This is life. And, the mess can be cleaned up by grabbing a horse head … the only one of which is available is in the next village, 2km away, which is currently occupied by pirates! The journey is the destination in man Zzarchov adventures, just as it is here.

There’s this air of believability, of relatability, in the adventure. The hulking young man with the machete, ready to kill his fiance if she cheated on him. The actual lover, who goes crazy is confronted too hard, attacking the party against all odds, with a small iron knife. The  entire thing comes across as imagined first. “This is the what could happen, this is the way life works” and then put down on paper and turned in to an adventure. The concept not constrained by the game system. And these are, i think, some of the best adventures. 

This is a sticky adventure. It’s a relatively simple one, so its got that going for it, and the concepts and people involved are easy to remember and run. One quick read-through and you don’t really need the book anymore. Which is a kind way of me saying that you can’t run this at the table using the book. It’s just free form paragraph formatting. That;s not reference material you can use at the table. But, making the content sticky is a valid methodology as well and it works here, partly because it IS such a simple adventure. 

A few more villagers would have been nice. And, the attack on pirate village is not really detailed. No map. No events. Just a note that the captured villagers wont be happy to see the party either, for fear of being blamed for the horse theft. 

I’m going to regret this. Like Old Bay, this thing is going to stick around with me forever. As a side trek one pager it could be great and I’d think of it that way. Not really verbose, not really wasting words, but, the stickiness of it makes the book not needed once you know it. And while you COULD run it based just on my review, why not buy it, since it’s a charity adventure?

This is $4 at DriveThru.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Hex Crawl 23 #244: Faery Jerboa Character Race/Class Levels 1-5

Roles & Rules - Sat, 09/16/2023 - 08:38

Three hexes southwest, eight northwest of Alakran.


A player in the Game of Bronze wished, for reasons of humility, to run a character that was both underpowered and incapable of speaking to all but one other regular character. The result was the faery jerboa -- a character class certainly weaker than the rest, but which can be up-cannoned by starting at level 3. Escaped from the faery plane by mysterious means, the character, Oelita, gave up the chance to lead the whole party back through a rift. Surely some other tract of desolate land will begin to feature the details of the deserts of Faerie, which were developed in some detail for a player choice that never happened.

Original art by Lui!


Race/Class Features

You are a Tiny-sized creature, with STR - 6, DEX +3, CHA +3.

Your leaping Speed is 30 feet.

You speak only Jerboa but understand Common and can learn to understand other lamnguages. You level up immediately on gaining the requisite xp, with no need for training.

As a faerie jerboa, you gain the following features.

Hit Points

Hit Dice: 1d4 at level 2, 1d6 at level 3+

Hit Points at 1st Level: 1
Hit Points at Higher Levels: Level hit die + your Constitution modifier per faerie jerboa level after 1st


Armor: None
Weapons: Simple weapons, tiny-sized (1 hp damage maximum)
Tools: Choose one: thieves' tools

Saving Throws: Dexterity, Charisma
Skills: Stealth plus any three of: Acrobatics, Arcana, Insight, Nature, Perception, Survival


You start with the following tiny-size equipment:

  • (a) any simple weapon made of thorns and twigs
  • (a) a explorer’s pack or (b) a scholar’s pack

Tiny: You are a large jerboa about the size of a hamster. May not carry equipment with a total weight greater than 1 lb. May move through any larger opponents, and move and hide into any place a hamster could fit.

Flitting Defense: You have Reaction: If you can see a non-area attack against you, you may make a DEX save with DC equal to the attack's final hit roll to avoid the attack's effects.

Keen Smell/Hearing: You have Advantage on Perception checks involving these senses.

Limited Flight: Once per minute you can fly with speed of 20' for one turn.

Limited Cantrip: You may cast one Sorcerer cantrip from your list. You regain this ability after a long or short rest.

Sustained Flight: Twice per minute you can fly with speed of 25' for one turn.

Premonition:  You have Reaction: Before an area effect would damage you, you may leap 30' (possibly leaving the area and taking no damage).

Faerie Spellcasting: You are a spellcaster with your Faerie Jerboa level minus three. Charisma is your spellcasting stat and you use the Sorcerer spell list. You regain all spells each short or long rest but may only cast each spell once from the list before a rest.

Unlimited Cantrip: Choose one of your cantrips. You may cast it each turn.

Full Flight: You may fly with a speed of 30'.

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The Splintered Realm - Fri, 09/15/2023 - 22:44
To the surprise of nobody who has followed my blog for any length of time, my productivity fell off the cliff right around the first of September. It MIGHT be that it coincided with the start of school. I just checked my history, and I often go from 20-30 posts in August to 1-3 in September, and then I start to slowly tick up again the following spring, peaking in the summer before crashing to earth again.
I managed to get a bunch of Army Ants pages in the pipeline by the end of summer, so I've been releasing new pages every day, and today finally hit the point where I had to go in and start adding more pages again. 
All of my creative energies at present are being devoted to staging our high school's production of "Romeo and Juliet", which I just cast on Tuesday and which has its first read through on Monday. I'm pretty jazzed for it. Maybe I'll share more about this at some point. I don't know if this will make as much sense to anyone else as it makes to me, but the pivotal fight sequence between Romeo, Mercutio, and Tybalt is underscored by the entirety of Ah-Ha's "Take on Me" and it's going to be sublime.
Trust me.
I would love to give you an update on gaming and comics stuff, but there isn't one, and I really just wanted to pop in, say hello, and remind you that the Army Ants pages are being remastered, released a page a day over on Comic Fury.  
I was thinking I might get a little solo gaming in this weekend, and the possibility is still out there... if so, I'll post about it. If not, I'll probably touch base again after "Romeo and Juliet" closes on October 27. 
Be well.

Tegel Manor - Worlds Without Number & Cities Without Number Rpg - Arrows & Andies - Session Report

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 09/15/2023 - 15:26
 The action picks up from the last time here on the blog.The operators in last night's game were able to track the CYBER-NETTERs back to thier base. Yet the party were attacked by bandits before reaching the base! The bands had the party pinned down with arrows and small arms fire! After several successful rolls & plenty of flanking the party managed to pin one of the bandits down. The party Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Hex Crawl 23 #243: Wild Pigs of the Dryland

Roles & Rules - Fri, 09/15/2023 - 12:29

Two hexes southwest, nine northwest of Alakran.

Here we have a population of wild pigs that roams the adjoining regions. Technically, taxonomically, they're not pigs but peccaries or javelinas, half-sized compared to the normal wild boars in your fantasy game. They travel in groups of 10-40, mark their territory with musk, and live off desert plants and nibbling at the edges of cultivated fields. They are the target of an annual autumn hog hunt held among the Wahatti special forces, in which axe-beak riders flush out the game and move them toward the infantry, which has at them with sling, bow, and spear.

For ordinary travelers, to be realistic, they pose no threat unless these are hungry times for the herd, or unless the travelers want to emulate the warriors of Wahattu and feast on the gamy, strong-scented meat of these near-swine.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

D&D’s Biggest Controversies Ranked—6. The Melnibonéan and Cthulhu Mythoi Disappear From Deities & Demigods

DM David - Fri, 09/15/2023 - 11:33

In 1980, TSR published Deities & Demigods complete with sections describing the Melnibonéan mythos of Elric and H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos. Meanwhile, another game publisher, Chaosium, prepared to release the licensed games Stormbringer and Call of Cthulhu based on the same stories. They sent cease-and-desist letters to TSR.

The legal demand put TSR in a bind. TSR had gained letters granting permission to include the sections from Lovecraft publisher Arkham House and from Elric author Michael Moorcock. Armed with these letters, TSR could have fought. “The company wasn’t rich at that point,” explained TSR executive James Ward. Brian Blume, TSR’s head of operations, “didn’t want to go to California, get a California lawyer, and spend time and money winning the case.” TSR could have stopped selling Deities & Demigods, but it sold great. Pulling the book meant pulping copies on hand, reprinting, and paying new costs. Reprinting the book with fewer pages would take time. During the lapse, some customers would lose interest and TSR would lose sales.

So TSR worked a deal with Chaosium. In exchange for keeping the Elric and Cthulhu content in Deities & Demigods, TSR allowed Chaosium to make their Thieves’ World supplement compatible with Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.

Despite trading for permission to keep the mythoi, TSR removed them from new printings of the book. Brian Blume likely feared the content would lead gamers to a competitor’s games. And besides, the change led to a shorter, more profitable book.

For the full story, see The True Story of the Cthulhu and Elric Sections Removed from Deities & Demigods.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Witchmire Rumors

Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 09/14/2023 - 11:00

 A few rumors regarding the Witchmire on Gnydrion:

  • “Does the Witchmire seem forlorn in aspect? Well, so it is. But it is also locale of historic importance as the site of the Landfall, which is to say, the place of humankin’s advent on Gnydrion.” 
  • “I take you for experienced travelers, inured to the variegated configurations human appetite and proclivity may take, so I will speak with candor unadorned by circumlocution: The prominent families of Gamory are perverse. Their cult seeks congress of a carnal nature with ieldra.”
  • “The witch Heth has come to live on an island surrounded by treacherous quag. She wears the semblance of a crone, but in her true form she is youthful and very beautiful. She holds a treasure of jewels and fine trinkets lavished upon her by wealthy suitors in her homeland.”
  • “Last winter, a mushroom-hunter of Draum made it known he had happened by a Black Obelisk with an aperture where before there had been scatheless stone. Word perhaps traveled as far south as Ascolanth, for scant months ago a party led by a trio of sorcerers arrived. They hired a guide and undertook to find the Obelisk. None of that expedition returned.”
  • “Are you familiar with the ditty? It speaks of the disappearance and looked-for triumphant return of  Prince Wanaxandor. He found it expedient to flee more civilized regions after his ill-planned efforts to overthrow the rule of his uncle, the Panarch. He is popularly supposed by rustics and simpletons to be in hiding, gathering a force armed with dire alien armaments, plundered from the Black Obelisks for a repeated attempt.”
  • “Wollusk is no more in the grip of rogues meager of scruple than most habitations similarly situated far from civilization, but Zeniba and her Devils have a zeal in the application of violence that borders on obsessive. My admonition: watch yourselves and do not attract undue notice!”
  • “A famed medium from the South has recently arrived. She offers intercession for the folk of the region with the wrathful presences of the Mire. She asks no compensation at present for her services. Popular opinion is divided between those that regard her as a fool and those that judge her insane. I am broader of imagination than most and accord both concepts a measure of validity. Be that as it may, I suppose she will need escorts in her endeavors.”

Hex Crawl 23 #242: Another Dry Lake

Roles & Rules - Thu, 09/14/2023 - 10:45

One hex southwest, ten northwest of Alakran.

This dry lake is even older than the one that serves Gesshed, and much drier. Still, water falls here in the rainy season, but it seeps through the ground and is gone. There are reasons to believe that two groups have dug or exploited underground passages to steal this water from its underlying table. The first are the Small Hairy Men.  The second are the cruel slave-keepers in the hills to the west. Certainly, both populations seem inexplicably well-watered, and morning dew catchers can only explain so much of it. Perhaps, in Gesshed, the civilian governor Zakiti seeks people conversant with peril in underground spaces, to take some picks and spades and start digging up the lightly chalk-crusted lake bed?

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Review & Commentary On Horde Wars Basic D12 Rpg System By Blackwall Games

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 09/14/2023 - 05:57
 "Horde Wars is a fast paced Medieval Fantasy D12 RPG.  Horde Wars Basic includes the first four levels of play and over 100 Beasts, Monsters and NPCs to battle.  Character creation rules, a starting adventure, sample town, and treasure generation tables are included.  There are also seven pre-generated Characters." So I grabbed Horde Wars Basic tonight at the recommendation of a friend. Horde Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

D&D’s Biggest Controversies Ranked—7. D&D changes the game’s original handling of races and humanoids

DM David - Wed, 09/13/2023 - 18:54

When D&D creators Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax adopted the word race for the playable species in D&D, they used the term in the same sense as the human race. More commonly, “race” refers to human groups who share superficial traits common to their ancestry, and that use recalls a long history of people using ancestry and appearance to justify mistreating and exploiting people. The choice of the word “race” weighed the game with problems that lasted until today. And D&D’s issues with race go beyond the baggage that weighs on the word.

“In the old days, elves and dwarves and some of the other playable options were very much the product of folklore, and in folklore, elves and dwarves were embodied metaphor,” said D&D’s lead rules designer Jeremy Crawford. “They were metaphors for different aspects of the human psyche. So elves were often associated with more elevated lofty aspects of the human psyche. Dwarves were often associated with the industriousness that some people manifest.” If fairy tales, these metaphors became talking creatures. “You can meet a demon that’s embodied evil. You can meet an angel that’s embodied good. You can meet a dwarf that’s the embodiment of industriousness and hardiness.”

Often gamers enjoy playing metaphors and relish taking the role of an ale-loving, hammer-smacking dwarf who craves gold. Sometimes gamers like to play characters who stand out for their unique qualities, such as a dwarf wizard who happens to love tea and gardening. When the D&D team made faeries a playable race, tiny barbarians became widely popular. A chance to play a raging fairy that felt one of a kind delighted players.

Through most of D&D’s history, the rules penalized or blocked players who wanted a character who defied a race’s archetype. At first, rules blocked many combinations of race and class, so a dwarf simply couldn’t become a wizard. Later, the game added racial ability score modifiers that encouraged characters to fit the archetype of their chosen race, so half-orcs gained strength and constitution, but lacked charisma. Originally, half-orcs only excelled as assassins. The modifiers meant a player who wanted to play something like a dwarf wizard had to settle for a less efficient character. Most players disliked suffering a penalty just to play a certain combination of race and class.

Also, ability score modifiers raise troubling reminders of how real ethnic groups can suffer from racist stereotypes that paint people as lacking certain aptitudes. D&D’s unfortunate use of the word “race” makes those reminders far more powerful. D&D races can include robot-like warforged, tiny fairies with wings, and humanoid dragons that breathe fire and lay eggs, but they all represent sorts of people in the game world.

In 2020, the D&D team decided that some of the game’s rules and lore aimed at treating non-human game people as metaphors had to go. To “pave the way for truly unique characters,” Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything stopped linking ability modifiers to race. Now, players could create a dwarf wizard with a green thumb without settling for a less efficient build than a similar character who happened to be an elf.

Players also wanted game people to have just as much potential to be good and virtuous—or to be wicked—as real people.

Humans have a knack for imagining human-like qualities for animals, monsters, and even inanimate objects like desk lamps. When a human-like character also shares qualities associated with a human group, we tend to imagine that that character as part of the group, so a cartoon truck with eyelashes and a bow seems female. When imaginary creatures share qualities associated with real human groups, this tendency can create troubling associations. For example, Gary Gygax created drow to resemble the photo-negative of Tolkien’s elves. Instead of having dark hair and white skin, drow featured white hair and black skin. A dark-skinned race characterized as evil without exception creates a troubling association. Drow are imaginary, and Gygax never intended to link drow to real races, but the association remains. Suppose you read a children’s book featuring imaginary talking dogs. In the tale, all the golden dogs are good and pure, while all the brown dogs are wicked and savage. Instead of thinking, “Well, they’re just imaginary talking dogs,” you would say, “Oh, hell no,” before hurling the book across the room.

The D&D team wrote, “Throughout the 50-year history of D&D, some of the peoples in the game—orcs and drow being two of the prime examples—have been characterized as monstrous and evil, using descriptions that are painfully reminiscent of how real-world ethnic groups have been and continue to be denigrated. That’s just not right, and it’s not something we believe in.”

This belief shows in the alignments listed for creatures in the game. The 2014 Monster Manual listed drow and orcs as evil, but newer books characterize them as having “any alignment.” Even demons and angels now get “typical” alignments rather than unvarying ones. Some of this just reflects an extra emphasis. The 2014 Monster Manual already explained that “the alignment specified in a monster’s stat block is the default. Feel free to depart from it and change a monster’s alignment to suit the needs of your campaign.”

More recently, the D&D team announced that the 2024 update to the game would scrap the term race, likely in favor of the word species. Unlike races, the differences between character species go beyond superficial, so the term “species” fits better, even if its flavor seems a bit scientific for a fantasy game.

Some folks have pointed out that the word “species” brings as much historical baggage as “race,” because real world racists once pretended that people who looked different were different species, and then used that as a way to justify all sorts of injustices. Still, “species” likely rates as the best of all the imperfect options.

The controversy came from different perspectives. Some gamers favored characters that fit mythic archetypes—a valid preference. Some gamers loved the D&D they grew up with and felt angry about any changes that implied the old game included elements that felt racist. Some gamers wanted a game with unalterably evil humanoids, so young and old orcs could be killed without question. And many just followed an allegiance to their ideological team and raged at change.

Related: How D&D’s Rules Changed To Encourage More Varied Groups of Heroes Than Those in the Pulp Fantasy That Inspired the Game

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OSR Commentary - The Unholy Combination B/X & Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Together

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 09/13/2023 - 15:34
 When it comes to B/X Dungeons & Dragons I'm often left thinking about B/X Dungeons & Dragons. And this blog entry picks right up from here on the blog.  And the legacy of Dungeons & Dragons. Expert D&D expanded the horizons for players by several orders of magnitude from Basic. The PC options increased, the stakes became higher, the adventure possibilities climbed, and yet there seemed to be Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

D&D’s Biggest Controversies Ranked—8. TSR Demands That D&D Players Stop Sharing Their Fan Creations on the Internet

DM David - Wed, 09/13/2023 - 11:33

TSR’s web page in 1997

In 1994, when file sharing on the internet typically meant logging into a FTP server hosted by a university for uploads and downloads, gamers used the new technology to exchange their own D&D creations like monsters, classes, and spells. TSR management felt that even fan creations for D&D belonged to the owners of the game, so to stop gamers from freely sharing any D&D content on the internet, the company took two steps: First, a TSR representative sent letters to the administrators of servers hosting D&D content and in some cases content for other games. “On behalf of TSR, Inc. I ask that you examine your public net sites at this time and remove any material which infringes on TSR copyrights.” Because universities hosted most of these sites, the notices led to a quick wave of shutdowns. Second, TSR insisted that fans who wished to distribute their D&D creations exclusively use a server run by a TSR-licensed company. The process required creators to add a disclaimer granting TSR exclusive rights to publish or distribute the content.

The demands alarmed D&D fans. Many creators feared that TSR would bundle their creations in a CD-ROM or start charging for online access. The more conspiracy-minded worried that TSR would simply gather content and pull the plug, eliminating a source of competition.

After a year enforcing the policy in the face of the backlash, TSR eventually stopped sending cease-and-desist letters that threatened people posting their own D&D creations, and started focusing on actual copyright infringement. TSR online coordinator Sean K. Reynolds said, “Without actually changing the TSR policy, we just kind of mitigated our enforcement of the policy.”

For the full story, see part 1 and part 2.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Cosmic Gate

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 09/13/2023 - 11:11
By Gustavo Tertoleone Black Dog OSE Level ... 4?

a secluded village in the mountains holds the entrance to an old complex of rooms where secrets from the holy church lie dormant. Getting in there can be a difficult task, but the occurrences in the village above it can turn the task deadly impossible.

This 52 page adventure, with no level range provided, describes a dungeon with thirteen rooms. More LotFP than OSE, it is STUFFED full of treasure. Some decent Indiana Jones puzzles and a smattering of monsters lie in WAYYYYYYYYY too much text. Another skip.

Ok, so, you got this village. 44 normal villagers live in it. They have a church with a dome. Inside the dome is art work a thousand gp. Oh, and the dome is covered in gold worth 100,000gp. 100k. Fortunately, for the party, the villagers are mostly infected with astral larvae, so, go ahead and kill them all and take all that gold. I guess the villagers are there to keep the party from just doing whatever they want, but, really, only 44 humans? I mean, parties routinely slaughter kobolds more than that in number. Once you get in to the church catacombs you’ll find them STUFFED with artifacts. And I mean STUFFED. Dozens of unique items. THis thing goes above and beyond in being a monty haul … a word I have not seen used in quite some time.

The village is supposed to be a part of the adventure, but, other than the priest name and “44 villagers” we are getting no information at all, except a How Is This Villager Crazy table. They hunt the party if they think they know the villagers are infected or they see the party trying to dig out the catacombs, which take six days, so, you can expect a villager hunt. There are also some mushrooms growing on cow dung that can give the party ESP powers, to help track down the larvae infested villagers, I guess. It’s a nice touch and would add a lot … IF more were done to bring this villager to life. Like, a name or two maybe? As is there’s nothing. N O T H I N G.

And that’s a problem. 53 digest pages for thirteen rooms. And how can this be? Not because of the Kwisatz Haderach, that’s for sure. No, it is room descriptions that take two pages. And page after page of artifact descriptions. It’s the usual culprits. A LOT of backstory for things in rooms. We get the full history of the bat-man thing that lives in room one. That contributes nothing to the adventure. And this happens time and again, with room entries, in simple paragraph format, going on and on with backstory that does not contribute to play at the table. This combines to create the usual mess that you have to fucking dig through to find information. And, that includes trying to figure out which rooms have creatures in them. You have to really dig to figure out if there’s something in the room thats going to eat the party. No Bueno. “A long time ago, a bat, attracted by the smell …”

Read-aloud, while sometimes good, can tend to be long. And it’s in italics. And it’s in some weird fucking flourish fucking font. WHich means you get to struggle through the fucking shit. It’s hard as fuck to read. Don’t fucking do that! Try to keep the read-aloud short AND DON”T USE FUCKING WEIRD FONTS! I don’t really give a flying fuck if this is a coffee table book. I’m trying to use it at the fucking table and I can’t do that if I’m struggling to read the fucking text that I’m supposed to be fucking using. 

And, while a minor point, there is a fundamental lack of understanding about randomness. The old wound. “Roll to find what artifact the party finds and if its magical.” That’s not how we do things. That’s not the point of randomness. You, designer, roll, on your own. Then place it in the text. I note that this would ALSO cut down on the amount of fucking pages and text to dig through. If you want to make a cess pit with ALL of the treasure in it, and roll to find which treasure, over time, as the party searches, that’s fine. But, in that case, the treasure actually exists. You’re just rolling to find the order (and how many wanderers show up in the mean time …) But NOT to figure out if a room HAS a treasure. 

So, long, long LONG entries. Hard to read-read-aloud (which, generally, is not bad in being evocative in this adventure) and a lack of any form of formatting at all to make things easier on the DM. Padded to all fuck and back with a conversational style. Some decent vibes here, with Indiana Jones style puzzles (not traps) and a nice monster selection. 

Also, fucking christ, entities form outer space in an adventure? Europe in an area between SPain and France? The Church? This seems like a Lamentations adventure. Especially since A Fungus From Outer Space is now the most overused trope in fantasy gaming thanks to LotFP.

This is $8 at DriveThru. The preview is six pages. You get to see a bunch of blank pages and table of contents. Shitty preview that gives you no idea, as a DM, of what to expect. And, of course, no fucking level range anywhere.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Wednesday Comics: DC, December 1982 (week 3)

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 09/13/2023 - 11:00
My mission: read DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! This week, I'm looking at the comics at newsstands around September 16, 1982.

Camelot 3000 #1: Barr, Bolland, and Patterson present DC's first "maxi-series." Earth in the year 3000 is being invaded by aliens. In London, Thomas Prentice flees to a historical dig site and opens the crypt of King Arthur Pendragon, who rises and kills Tom's alien pursuers. Arthur takes him on as his squire. The two steal an alien spacecraft and fly to Stonehenge. There, Arthur calls forth Merlin. They all go to find the Lady of the Lake, who--rising from the cooling waters of a nuclear plant--throws the sword Excalibur to Arthur, but it disappears in midair. At the United Nations, a rock thrusts up from the floor of the assembly room. Stuck in the rock is Excalibur. Interesting enough story, but the real draw here is the Bolland artwork.

Brave & the Bold #193: Burkett and Aparo give Nemesis his last hurrah by again teaming him up with Batman. This will be his last Pre-Crisis appearance, but he'll return in the Post-Crisis Universe in Suicide Squad #1. Nemesis contacts Batman to enlist his help in an operation against a The Council. It' seems Irene Scarfield is in cahoots with the terrorist organization the PLA and wants to use them to kill a congressman who's pushing through anti-crime legislation. 
The two make a coordinate attack from two fronts. Batman goes looking for the terrorist Bloodclaw and Nemesis goes after Scarfield. After a lengthy search, Batman locates and confronts Bloodclaw, but during the struggle, the criminal falls to his apparent demise. Nemesis tracks Scarfield to a secret base where the Council attempts to send a helicopter bomb on a mission, but Nemesis hijacks the chopper and brings it down to the Council headquarters, sacrificing himself in order to eliminate the Council leadership for good. 

Daring New Adventures of Supergirl #2: Kupperberg and Infantino/Oksner pick up where the last left off. Supergirl is clashing with Psi, a young woman being manipulated by psychic researcher turned moral crusader, Pendergast.  Supergirl exerts her powers and breaks free from Psi's psychic trap. Then she fights back and begins beating Psi, while arguing against Psi's morally monstrous goal of destroying Chicago to wipe out "decay". Psi, in moral conflict, finally breaks off the battle and teleports away. Later, Psi reports to Mr. Pendergast, who tries to kill her for her failure. Psi blitzes him with a mental bolt, which somehow mutates Pendergast turning him into the monstrous embodiment of what he claimed to want to destroy. He becomes a slime-being calling himself "Decay."

Green Lantern #159: Barr and Pollard/DeCarlo bring back Evil Star who we haven't seen since issue 133. Evil Star is a villain I didn't know anything about until starting this read-through, but he's kind of interesting. He's a guy who was trying to achieve life extension but the device he created to do so corrupted the user and turned them evil. He is aware of the personality switch and part of him mourns it, but he is unwilling to give up his life to be rid of it. He destroyed his whole planet in the name of keeping it.
Anyway, his current plan is to spread his evil light throughout the universe, corrupting everyone. But Hal sacrifices himself and tells Evil Star to make him evil and spare everyone else. So Green Lantern turns into Evil Star's sidekick, and together they spread terror in a neighboring world. But when he is about to destroy a dam to cause a flood, Hal remembers his friends, Carol and Thom, and his predecessor, Abin Sur, and these memories help him break free from Evil Star's corruption. Hal flights back to Evil Star and defeats him again, this time taking off the component of the Star Band that makes it a weapon.
We get some other things setup: On Earth, a kid named Donny Weems finds a strange crystal, and he gets in a trance when he grabs it. In Oa, the Guardians dismiss the Green Lantern Eddore of his current mission, saying it's now out of his space sector.
In the Tales of the Green Lantern Corps backup by Rozakis, Moore, and Rodriquez, aquatic Green Lantern Penelops of Penelo (who looks like an eyeball with tentacles), finds the seas of his world being artificially heated invaders shooting some kind of weapon at the sun. Penelops saves his fellow inhabitants and flies to confront the aliens.

House of Mystery #311: Paris Cullins pencils this issue's "I...Vampire" story. Bennett wanders through the streets of New York City and stumbles into a theater, where they're showing a documentary about the Woodstock. When he sees a young Deborah Dancer, he remembers the way they first met.
In 1969, Andrew Bennett and Dmitri Mishkin visited Woodstock on the hunt for Mary. The Cult of the Blood Red Moon is using the festival as a cover to recruit new vampires. Deborah Dancer is there with her friends, and they're invited to a private party with the Blood Red Moon. Bennett rescues her, but he is too late to save the others. When Deborah is later cornered by her former friends turned bloodsuckers. They are suddenly destroyed by the overwhelming positive emotions at Woodstock during an awesome Hendrix guitar solo. Really, that's what happens! It's a known vampire weakness. Anyway, from that day on, Deborah joins Andrew and Dmitri in their crusade against vampires.
There are a couple more stories but neither have vampires getting dissolved like a Wicked Witch hit by a bucket of water by a cool guitar solo, so they aren't worth the time.

Legion of Super-Heroes #293: Levitz and Giffen/Mahlstedt bring the Great Darkness Saga to a very satisfying conclusion. Things start bleak for our heroes. The mind-controlled Daxamites are rampaging across the galaxy. We get cameos by the Heroes of Lallor, the Wanderers, and Dev-Em putt up a fight, but they are no match for the forces against them. The Legion calls in their reserves including the Legion Subs.
The main battle is joined on Daxam. With reversals and last minute saves, a plenty, including the reveal of the child as Highfather and the restoration of one of Darkseid's clone servants to the form of Orion. Then Superboy and Supergirl arrive just in time, their powers bolstered by Izaya despite the red sun. Darkseid blasts Superboy back to his own time, but Supergirl fights on. Her struggle gives the Legion time enough to regroup around Darkseid, and Saturn Girl declares he's lost.
Perplexed, Darkseid realizes that his long sleep has made him too weak to fight the Legion and simultaneously control billions of slaves. The Daxamites are now free, and the Legion's allies are leading them in an assault. Darkseid admits defeat and after uttering a curse that the darkness will keep growing within them until it destroys them, he vanishes, taking Apokolips with him.
In the aftermath, the White Witch joins the Legion, Light Lass quits, and Brainiac 5 tells Supergirl he is finally over his crush on her. Kara, before she leaves for the 20th Century, remarks that that is a pity, since she was noticing how cute he was.

Night Force #5: Wolfman and Colan/Smith set most of this issue in a Soviet "Science City" in Siberia. Colan seems to have seen pictures of this place, but his version is decidedly more futuristic. Wolfman tells us it's all about psychic research. This is where Vanessa gets taken, and this is where Gold and Caine have to go to get her back. Vanessa at first is treated kindly, but then the administrator springs a trap and reveals he plans to torture her and still her power. Meanwhile, Caine and Gold get to know each other while almost dying out in the snow before reaching the city and getting captured.
So far, I feel like this is the well-done series that probably doesn't get its due, being out of step with the continued ascendancy of superheroes.

Sgt. Rock #371: So Kanigher and Redondo are out to make a point about the replaceability of the soldier and how it's the mission that's important, but what's memorable here is that the story has Rock and a few of his men coming to rescue of the rest of Easy from an ambush by riding a log down a river. Then there's a non-war story about a too wily for his on good general who survives Earth's final war and then rockets to a paradise planet that turns out to be deadly. That one's by Kelley and Randall.
Kanigher and Mandrake are back with an interestingly illustrated but silly ode to paean to the G.I.'s boots. Fianlly, Kanigher and Truman dubiously depict the kamikaze pilots as modern samurai. 

Warlord #64: I went over the main story in this issue here. In the Barren Earth backup, the crashed the humans that survived the crash and the Qlov assault start trekking across the desert to--well, anything. Most of them are killed by weird creatures along the way. There are a lot of them in this desert! In the end, only Jinal is left, and her pants have disappeared along the way! She finds herself surrounded by robed and veiled people with weapons on lizard-back.

Hex Crawl 23 #241: The Small Hairy Men

Roles & Rules - Wed, 09/13/2023 - 07:45

Eleven hexes northwest of Alakran.


In tunnels and burrows honeycombing this ridge of hills lives from time immemorial a tribe of not-quite-human creatures called the Small Hairy Men. You may treat them as kobolds, except there is nothing reptilian or dracomic about them. They are spindly and hunched, covered in fine dark hair, with a coarse shock growing wild around the head and chin. 

The Small Hairy Men only come out at night, in groups of 4-24, and must live off the proceeds of their hunting in the hills to the west, or on whatever secrets their underground tunnels hide. They only attack at odds of 5:1, and even then will harry with wicked slingstones before closing in with flint knives.

Beyond this, little is known about them, and speculation abounds on what they have at the end of their burrows and whether there are any Small Hairy Women.  They are left alone in general; the best policy is to travel only by day in the region of their ridge. A legend does go about that if you can catch one of them alone, and corner them without escape, they will submit and become your willing servant for life.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

D&D’s Biggest Controversies Ranked—9. D&D Infringes on Tolkien by Including Hobbits, Ents, Nazgûl, and Balrogs

DM David - Tue, 09/12/2023 - 11:11

Battle of the Five Armies (TSR 1977)

When D&D co-creator Gary Gygax penned the original D&D books, he took fantastic creatures and magic from every source he knew and added them to the game. He never considered who owned the ideas. Surely a few references to hobbits in a game that originally reached a minuscule number of hobbyists would pass unnoticed. So the first D&D books and supplements included references to hobbits, ents, nazgûl, and balrogs.

In April 1977, TSR went too far by releasing an unlicensed game based on The Hobbit called Battle of the Five Armies. A note under the title said, “From ‘The Hobbit’” and revealed that TSR had applied to trademark “The Battle of the Five Armies.”

The board game reached hobby shops just as marketing started for a television adaption of The Hobbit. Perhaps, TSR figured that the game could benefit from the movie publicity, while escaping the notice of any lawyers. This calculation proved wrong. Worse for TSR, the board game drew legal attention to D&D.

Hobbit (TV Movie 1977)

The Hollywood production company behind The Hobbit owned the non-literary rights to Tolkien’s works, and that included games. The man running the production company, Saul Zaentz, would later gain fame by suing John Fogerty for plagiarizing his own songs. (Zaentz owned the songs Fogerty wrote for Creedence Clearwater Revival, so when one of the artist’s new songs sounded too much like “The Old Man Down The Road,” Zaentz took Fogarty to court. Fogarty would strike back by penning the song “Zanz Kant Danz.”) Zaentz‘s company sent TSR a cease-and-desist notice.

TSR killed the board game and cut words coined by Tolkien from D&D. They used synonyms while leaving the fundamental concepts unchanged. Hobbits became halflings, ents became treants, and nazgûl became wraiths. The Eldritch Wizardry supplement dropped the note that said Type VI demons were sometimes called balrogs. Eventually, the D&D version of the demon would become balors.

Next: Number 8

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Hex Crawl 23 #240: A Useful Vendor on the Road

Roles & Rules - Tue, 09/12/2023 - 06:17

Ten hexes northwest, one north of Alakran.


Encounters along the tilted gargantuan paving stones of the ancient Road of Flowers are not always about swindles or robbery. Some of the people you meet can be useful. Such is the case with Sharyukin.

Sharyukin is a tall, slender man who dresses in silks and wears his hair up in an elaborate style, giving him a womanish look. His narrow eyes are steel-gray and he shades himself with a great green parasol. A vendor, his goods are all in and on a four-wheeled wooden cart, which is pushed diligently by a muscular, sun-baked, beetle-browed man who answers to "Turtak."

Sharyukin is a dabbler in the arcane, a hanger-on of wizards and witches, a sometimes fortune-teller and purveyor of dubious curses as well as relief from same (often as part of the same operation.) In short, he's a wozard-3 and Turtak, fighting with a wooden hammer and whip, is a barbarian-6.

Through luck, gods' grace, or some kind of astrological quirk, Sharyukin's cart will always hold the second-best thing to what the party needs. You might run into him when you need healing potions for the next adventure, and he offers you heroism or weapon resistance potions at the same price. Need torches, and he's got a little lamp with scented oil. Need armor, and he's got a fine shield.

His other trait is that in each city he visits, he knows exactly the right person to buy any curious or precious object. This, he never buys treasures in coin, but trades an object worth on to 1 1/2 times its worth for it, for he is sure to sell at 2 -3 times the book value. To this end he keeps treasures worth 2000, 1000, 500 and so forth gp. 

Finally, there are rumours of a curse that keeps robbers and theieves away from the cart. These happen to be  true; the cart contains an untouchable treasure, a gleaming black opal discretly engraved with the old Urig characters for the Void. Touch it, and a wave of necrotic energies doing 20d6 damage erupts within a 20 foot radius, save (WIS DC16) for half damage.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

OSR Review & Commentary On Vice: Sandcove Under Fire by The Red Room For The Wretched Role Playing Game

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 09/12/2023 - 02:48
 "The job consumes you, sucking away your humanity day by day. Maybe you still cling to some semblance of ideals, or maybe you’ve embraced the dog-eat-dog law of the streets.Either way, you’re in too deep to get out clean… The criminals and crooked cops you deal with are not cardboard cut-outs, but complex souls wrestling with their own demons. Even the worst monsters have some shred of humanity Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs


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