Tabletop Gaming Feeds

I'm Number (3)1!

The Splintered Realm - Wed, 06/05/2024 - 21:40
It may not sound THAT impressive, but I'm very happy that Stalwart is now number 31 in the most popular under $5 category on DriveThruRPG. Ever since RPGNow was hoovered up, I have not had a game appear on any top whatever list there, so it's been a couple-three years. I appreciate all of the support and enthusiasm for the game, and I'm having fun creating game content. I've added quite a bit already to both of the resources for Stalwart, and the size of the game's total 'content' has almost doubled in a few days...
It is a HUGE help, if you've bought the game, if you also post a review or at least give it a rating in stars. This is a way that the larger community sees that real people are actually looking at the game and liking it.
Parenthetically, I can see how the makers of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe (and Who's Who in the DC Universe) had to struggle with timeliness and continuity - and I'm a one-man operation! For example, which 'Vesper' do I present? The one from the core rules of Stalwart Age, or the one that she became later in my Doc Stalwart novella, when she ascended to the throne of the Shadow Lands? Since comic characters are constantly changing (and then changing back), what is the 'iconic' version to include in the book? I want to sort of 'freeze the game world in time' for convenience, but I'm also starting to think about stories to tell with Skye Stalwart, and if that was to happen, then characters in the game world are going to evolve and change. Heck, Mikah has gone from a naive sidekick trying to figure out his powers to the Chronicle, Keeper of the One True Story. They are both "Mikah", but they are fundamentally different characters. I suppose that I'll just constantly update the World of Stalwart to be current to the newest release, but that may mean that some useful game content gets written over - unless I keep adding new character variations and evolution as they happen, keeping a record of the old ones. It's a living document with infinite space to work (I presume that Google Docs has no maximum page count), so I should be okay...

A Survey of Session Braunsteins

Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog - Wed, 06/05/2024 - 20:08

I think one of the biggest disappointments in my life was taking part in a playtest for an rpg product put out by what was my lifelong favorite game company at the time. I was shocked to see that “play testing” had been redefined as being “proofreading”. Nobody in any of the discussion showed any evidence of having played any games at all.

That never set well with me. I’m I can say now that I am completely surrounded by people that actually run games. Everything I talk about on this blog has been tested in real ongoing campaigns. Even better, people take notes on how these things go over so that we can identify what works and iron out what doesn’t. It’s exciting.

I still haven’t wrapped my head around all the implications that stem from our latest round of testing. Across the board, though, players consistently get excited about session Braunsteins no matter how they are set up. There seems to be a real split in whether to play things “loose” or “strict”. Just for me personally, I would rather see people leaning into playing their roles than seeing them executing a series of lame actions that make no sense just to pick up a few points. On the other hand, it’s clear that some of the point systems do tend to solve problems that have cropped up in the looser sort of games.

Which is to say… we are debating the exact same things that the guys in the Blackmoor group were hashing out in the tail end of the sixties. The jury is still out.

One thing I can say for sure right now is that I do think that guys like Scutifer_Mike and Night Danger deserved better scores than what they received. In the first places, they had to do all this stupid stuff without having the chance to be mentored directly in either the Trollopulous or Dubzaron campaigns. Secondly, they deserve extra credit for running games in person with people that are not at all among the usual suspects. Finally, there should have been a hype criterion that measured how much excitement and buzz they were able to generate with their games– which in their cases was rather substantial.

Of course, the most important criterion of all would have to be whether or not the session report was something that someone from outside of our circles could use to get a good enough idea of what we are doing that they can just go off and manage to do it themselves. I thought Robert the Heel’s game was especially good in this regard. I may not ever run a Braunstein with a point system like what he used there, but I definitely feel like I have a handle on what sort of play dynamics would emerge from it if I elected to do so. This is extremely useful to everyone that is betting their entire campaign on this extremely volatile set of game design ideas!!

Anyway, take a look at this video and the session reports that are linked in the show notes. This is the most exciting thing going in rpgs right now. I think Planet Tobor TV was right when he said, “You guys are doing the ONLY thing for the hobby. This is the Way Gaming Should Always Have Been.”

Very inspiring! Very bold! Also, very true.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

A Traveler’s Guide to the Echelon Forest

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 06/05/2024 - 11:11
By David Lombardo

The Echelon Forest stretches a great distance, making it an awkward obstacle to bypass without crossing through it. Attempts to pave roadways through the woods have always met with failure, sometimes violently, so the crossing is usually reserved for small parties or individuals. It is a strange, isolated place. Alive in more ways than could be usually said for a forest. Within the woods time flows and weather changes at their own pace, and in their own ways. Although largely boreal, It is not restricted to a single clime’s plants and animals. Crossing need not be hazardous, the forest is not malicious, but it is also not entirely safe. Granting the forest its rightful respect is recommended to any who wish to cross quickly and unharmed

This 32 page adventure is not an adventure. An adventure has to have something happen. It is the D&D version of a walking simulator. 

I shall elaborate. I’m not a grumpy old man. I know, I know. But you’re wrong. I have an issue with expectations. I get excited and then am crushed by disappointment. That’s different than being a grumpy old man. My other hobbies tend to be full of old men. And they are grumpy. They hate everything new. They hate that the world has passed them by and that people seem to no longer jump to obey when they open their mouths and have dared to have other opinions. I think the kiddos are great. Life, and change, are a delight. I am, though, somewhat mystified at times. I get, for example, that some people don’t want to play a game and would rather have an experience instead. Engage in an activity, so to speak. It’s not for me and I will be happy to tell you a hundred reasons why I think it sucks shit, but I understand that they can exist and people can like it. And then it gets pushed to the logical extreme and I just am completely lost. I can no longer understand any appeal at all. “We’re all gonna sit here and stare at the blank wall, quietly and awake, for eight hours.” Uh. Ok. And thus we come to today’s adventure: a walking simulator. 

This is a generator for a forest adventure. You do a die drop to create the paths and then roll on some tables to determine which of the points in the booklet to populate where, with the  middle of the forest all being the Heart Tree. I’m going to ignore the die drop portion of this, since it’s just used to determine the map. After that you use the points in the booklet to populate the map. And this is the only reason I’m reviewing this, because there were points. It was not advertised as a generator but rather a way to organize the points provided. 

The first signs of trouble were in the introductory pages. “There are no combat encounters here, and no explicit challenges or puzzles. Just the forest, the strange things within, and the changing weather.” Yup. The designer just told us that there is no content in this adventure. And that checks out. A pair of eagles make their nest in the crook of a large tree. A bearcave,, 50% it’s empty. A lean-to, a simple structure constructed of local materials. Signs of a campfire inside but otherwise uninhabited. Those are three of the points you could encounter. And I’m not really cherry picking nor am I giving a summary of the encounter. Those ARE the descriptions of the encounters. That’s it. That’s all you get. There’s nothing else. No generator for whats there or anything like that. Oh, no, you get a generator for the season and the weather. Hot dry and full of life, says the summer generator. Great. 

As the designer told us, there are no challenges here. Or even any encounters, I would assert. Just an idea for something. No real descriptions. No evocative writing. No interactivity OF .ANY. KIND. Nothing. 

What, then, is an adventure? “an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity.” says the arch-heretic of joy, Websters. Unusual? Maybe? Exciting? That’s not this adventure. Is a walking simulator a game? It shares a medium with games. But, without challenge, is it? (WHich, I note, is the same question often asked of the story game people.)

There is no game here. Not even close. There are no challenges, explicitly. There is no evocative writing or anything to bring the unusual to life. There is barely the unusual, or, rather, barely the outline of the unusual. 

This is $5 at DriveThru. There is no preview.


I also checked out Largshire. This is a village supplement with seventeen locations in about 31 pages. It is massively overwritten, although there is an attempt to include a plot element in each locales as well as a secret. It just came off a boring though. Your village supplement is in another castle, Mario.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Wednesday Comics: DC, September 1983 (week 1)

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 06/05/2024 - 11:00
My ongoing mission: read DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! Today, I'm looking at the comics at newsstands on the week of June 2, 1983. 
The Meanwhile... column in this issue mentions a number of projects in the works. The ones that won't ever see publication are Teen Titans/X-Men volume 2, JLA/Avengers (not this version, at least), and a Firestorm graphic novel.  The ones that will come out include Thriller, Nathaniel Dusk, Infinity, Inc., New Talent Showcase, Star Trek, and Atari Force, as well as the Star Raiders and Warlords graphic novels. Joe Kubert's The Redeemer is an in-between case as it will see print but not until 2013!

Wonder Woman #306: The Kane cover here differs from the previous sort of iconic covers in that it looks like it might have something to do with the issues contents...but doesn't! Mishkin and Heck/Giacola pick up where last issue left off with Trevor down under the onslaught of Aegeus and Wonder Woman jumping to his defense. Aegeus is out for revenge and has gotten special daggers from Vulcan to do the deed. These daggers are strong enough to destroy one of Wonder Woman's Bracelets of Submission, which according to this story puts her in danger of losing her mind in some unspecified way. She still beats Aegeus though by spinning him around, so his dagger slashes dig a whole into the ground, then leaving him there. There's some more stuff about Abernathy's crimes, and it turns out that it was a hawk in the government looking to use his past to turn public opinion against a new treaty with the Soviets. Wonder Woman thwarts another attack on Trevor (whose already in the hospital with a dagger lodged internally) by Aegeus, but she has to let him go because somehow, he's involved with the U.S. government and this mess with Abernathy...I don't know, the explanation given made no sense to me. Anyway, Trevor pulls through, and Aegeus slinks off.
The Cavalieri and Bair (credited as Hernandez)/Gaicola Huntress backup is let down by its art. It's all a hallucinatory sequence (presumably caused by an injection in a previous issue) where the Huntress confronts her fears: the insurmountable legacy of her father and the dark side of her mother. Dr. Strange makes a cameo in one trippy panel. 

Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld #5: Granch manages to get ahold of the amethyst again, and he and his monstrous siblings tumble through a warp into Amy Winston’s classroom, outing her to her parents at least if not the school and the cops. Meanwhile, Dark Opal is delivered his tribute, Princess Emerald and the implication is that he kills her, though this happens off-screen. Prince Topaz is unwilling preparing for his wedding, as he doesn't want to marry Princess Sapphire, but is instead smitten with Amethyst. Mishkin/Cohn and especially Colon continue to turn out solid work on this series.

Blackhawk #261: Evanier and Spiegle send the Blackhawks off to protect world leaders from being assassinated by Hitler lookalikes after der Führer's nutty scheme to enhance his rep after being seen to personally kill his adversaries is revealed. Andre and Chuck meet with the French underground and protect De Gaulle. Stanislaus and Chop Chop head to the Soviet Union to protect Stalin. Olaf and Hendrickson go to protect Roosevelt who is secretly visiting London. Blackhawk also heads to London to protect Churchill, but he is captured by the one remaining assassin. Still, Blackhawk and Churchill together prove capable of the defeating the killer. With the mission done, the Blackhawks learn that Domino has escaped from British custody. The team is tasked with finding her while Hitler commands her to kill Blackhawk.

DC Comics Presents #61: Wein and Perez/Marcos and Hoberg team Superman with OMAC, his first appearance since the end of the Warlord backups in '81. I would say the plot seems derived from Terminator, but that film is over a year away, so it can't be. Intercorp sends its robot assassin, Murdermek, back in time to kill Buddy Blank's ancestor, Nathan Blank, so that OMAC will be wiped from history. OMAC follows through time and both arrive in 20th Century Metropolis. Murdermek acquires a gang armed with future tech, while OMAC meets Superman and in typical comics fashion they have to fight. Eventually, they team up and Superman takes on the very powerful Murdermek while OMAC deals with his thugs. Nathan Blank is saved, but his identity remains a mystery to the characters (if not the reader) at the end of the story. Brother Eye helpful figures out a way to transport OMAC back to the future.
Given the usual approach to team books, I expected some retcons or at least some tying up of dangling plot threads from OMAC's story, but no, it's just a team-up.

Fury of Firestorm #16: Ronnie and Stein both are in the featureless, black nether reaches of their (I guess) combined mind as Firestorm. They can't remember how they got there. Stein calms Ronnie and gets him to slowly relate what he remembers. He calls they discovered Lorraine Riley had been kidnapped, and they had another tangle with Multiplex. Then he remembers he tried to visit his father at work and discovered he was acting strangely and making comments as if someone was after him. Eventually, they are able to discover what he is that that caused their state, what they can't remember--what Ronnie is blocking. Firestorm tried but was unable to save his father from an explosion at their home. The effect of the delayed reveal is marred by it being given away on the issues cover, but if you ignore that and just go with the interiors, Conway and Broderick do a good job with the structure.

Justice League #218: Burkett jumps into the writer's chair with Patton/Tanghal still on art. This story is fine, I guess, but it seems as throwaway as last months. It's like filler. Super-powered androids appear and kidnap various top athletes, including Black Canary. The robots prove too tough for individual Leaguers, so the whole team goes into action. While Superman, Elongated Man, Green Arrow, and Red Tornado try to stop the androids from further abductions, Aquaman, Hawkman, and Wonder Woman attempt to trace them to their base. It turns out Professor Ivo is behind all this. He's been monstrously disfigured as a side-effect of the immortality serum he drank (back in The Brave and the Bold #30), and he plans to use a machine powered by the life-energies of people with the needed genetic makeup to restore himself.  Aquaman, disguised as one of the androids, sneaks into the base destroys their power source, allowing the Justice League to abruptly triumph.

Review & Commentary On Independence Games Thorpe Class Merchant Vessel By Michael Johnson For The Clement Sector Rpg

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 06/05/2024 - 05:25
 "The Mighty Lee!Nearly five years after the debut of the Lee-class merchant vessel, the BSI design division put a proposal to the CEO of Boone Starship Industries (BSI) that a direct competitor for the Cascadia- manufactured Atlas-class should be considered given the sales success of the Lee. It was further suggested that a design team should be tasked as soon as possible to commence work Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Heading to NTRPG Con in the AM

Tenkar's Tavern - Wed, 06/05/2024 - 01:21

Over the next few days, posts may become spotty as I enjoy everything that NTRPG Con has to offer.

I'll try and regal you with con photos and more :)

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Damned In The Past! - Wretched Darkness Session Report With 'The Pundit Files Invisible College: the 1930's Campaign'.

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 06/04/2024 - 05:57
 "The PC's in tonight's Wretched Darkness/Wretched Vigilantes game were investigating the Acolytes of Pain cult back in the the latter part of April. Here's the session report. . Well, they followed the cult members on a murder spree and got way more then they bargained for. They followed several cult members to an abandoned military base just outside of Los Vegas. Because theNeedles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Humble Bundle - Delta Green RPG Collection

Tenkar's Tavern - Tue, 06/04/2024 - 01:52

I remember Delta Green when it was a supplement for Call of Cthulhu. My, how times have changed. Now it's a full-blown RPG in its own right. The Delta Green Humble Bundle is 18 bucks for 20 PDFs

This is like nothing anyone has ever understood. This is the apocalypse.

Fan of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos? Delta Green is the premier modern day setting for cosmic horror roleplaying, casting players as operatives for a top secret government organization tasked with keeping the eldritch at bay. This bundle includes everything you need for endless adventure in this thrilling world! You’ll get the Agent’s Handbook and Handler’s Guide core rulebooks plus an entire library of sourcebooks, adventures, and game aids to keep your gaming group busy for as long as your sanity can handle!

The Tavern is supported by readers like you. The easiest way to support The Tavern is to shop via our affiliate links. The Tavern DOES NOT do "Paid For" Articles and discloses personal connections to products and creators written about when applicable.

DTRPGAmazon, and Humble Bundle are affiliate programs that support The Tavern.  You can catch the daily Tavern Chat cast on AnchorYouTube or wherever you listen to your podcast collection. - Tenkar

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Stalwart Superhero RPG Resources

The Splintered Realm - Tue, 06/04/2024 - 01:14

Here are some resources for your Stalwart game:

- The Core Rules are now available in pdf.

- The Stalwart Companion includes new and expanded rules and options.

- The World of Stalwart includes setting material, characters, and adventures set in the game's default setting. 

- The Stalwart Age is a blog that has significant background set in the world of the game (albeit using the rules for the Stalwart Age RPG). Much of this will eventually be adapted to the Stalwart Companion and the World of Stalwart resources.

A celebration of action management

The Splintered Realm - Mon, 06/03/2024 - 21:55

The single best 'innovation' of Stalwart is the idea of action management. Here it is in a nutshell; you have a number of potential actions each round based on half your tier die, and half that many (rounded down) are available to you at full power.

So, if you are a D8 paragon, you can attempt up to 4 actions per round, but only 2 are at full strength. You can attack twice at d8, or 4 times at d6 (in the simplest application). If a foe is hard to hit, you might want the bigger die. Against large numbers of weak foes, you might take the bonus actions.

The awesomeness of the system comes when you are doing multiple things. Want to travel your full movement? That's one action. You either have one or three left - up to you. You have genuine decisions to make with resource management every round that change how your character operates, and which gives a lot of variety to combat without any additional rules.

Even better, it gets rid of all of the rules for how long things last for; how long is that foe under your mind control? How long does invisibility last? How long can you hold that car up with your telekinesis? Hey, if you want to dedicate an action to it every round, you go right ahead. You can stay invisible for hours if you feel like you want to dedicate one action every round to doing it. There's a genuine cost to maintaining powers over time, and decisions to be made - I now have three enemies under mind control, but I cannot do anything else... do I drop the mind control on one, or just accept I'm taking the -1 shift on anything else I do? Decisions... decisions... decisions. It makes the game a LOT more tactical without ANY additional rules to memorize or numbers to crunch. It's all hard-wired into that one mechanic.

And by the way, hyperspeed just eliminates all of the penalties and gives you the full assortment of actions every round. The flash gets to act 6 times per round, and doesn't take a penalty - and he can travel a mile with one of those actions (or six miles in the full round). He can run a mile to the store, grab something off the shelf, run to the counter, drop $10 on the counter, and run a mile back home in six seconds. It's easy to solve in game within the existing framework.

This eliminates the action creep that made its way into Stalwart Age... characters were getting insane numbers of actions just so I could keep things cinematic and moving. Now, just this minor shift in the application of the rule makes hyperspeed feel like hyperspeed without the numbers increasing at all.

Review & Commentary On HOSTILE Situation Report 011 - Black Moon By Paul Elliot For The Hostile Rpg

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 06/03/2024 - 16:31
 "Another routine supply drop - this time to a remote moon, site of a terraforming project. Your ship suffers some unexpected damage during landing, but the terraformers seem happy to help."Then the terraforming experiments seem to go wrong, and your crew are prime suspects. Why are some of the colonists behaving oddly, while others seem scared? What's going on?""What is the secret of the Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs


Doomslakers! - Mon, 06/03/2024 - 12:00

I've always had this weird creative roadblock related to paper size and art format.

I love seeing comics that use the American standard 8.5x11 format well. It's the size of paper we were most likely to have lying around the house, so it's got a nice stripped-down vibe to it. A no-frills, can-do kind of paper. Don't gimme no gimmicks, I ain't fancy, just get a sheet of paper and start drawing!

But also... a standard pack of white 8.5x11 paper is really shitty to do any finished art on. A standard sheet is about 75 GSM (25 or 27 Lbs). That's just typing paper. Very thin and fragile. A few too many erases and you've got shredded paper. Plus it takes ink like a whining child.

My preference is for something like a 270 GSM (100 Lbs) bristol board, smooth. I can live with cardstock, which is 225 GSM (80 Lbs), but it tends to be less smooth. I am a smooth paper guy, probably because I've always been mostly into pen/brush and ink, not so much into the graphite or paints.

One of my favorite papers is Borden & Riley Paris Paper for Pens, an ultra-smooth, ultra-bright white paper. It's not thick like bristol, but is durable and dense. It's designed to take ink very crisply, without any bleeding. And it does the job. But if you work wet, you might not like this paper. It'll buckle with heavy applications of wet media. If you're using a lot of pens, like Microns or brush pens, it's the bee's knees.

Standard comic compared to 8.5x11
So anyway... I am a bit obsessed with format. I need to know before I go into a comic book project exactly how I'm going to print it. Because that shit matters. If I just start drawing on an 11x14 pad, for example, and I take advantage of the whole page, then I've established a comic book format of the American standard magazine size. It'll convert to an 8.5x11 book or perhaps a European comic format, like Heavy Metal or Tin Tin.

But American comic books are typically 6.625 x 10.25... they are taller and skinnier than 8.5x11. Your 11x14 comic page, when shrunk down to fit a standard comic book, will have a huge area of white space above and below the comic... much more than you probably intended. To combat that, if you are going to print in standard size, you need to have larger margins on the sides. Use as much of the page as possible on the top and bottom, but you need to squeeze up your sides to fit that comic format. When working on 11x14, for example, you might go with a live area of 8.4x13.

Ok... see I'm down in the weeds here. I just wanted to express my thoughts about paper size and format.

Right at the moment I'm staring at a pack of 11x17 smooth bristol. Very nice. And 11x17 is a fairly standard size to work on for classic comic book making. At least that's what I've been told many times. I have used it and it's great, but it's bigger than I'm used to and it takes longer to finish a page. When I work on comics I like to feel the vibe quickly and move fast, cranking out pages as much as I can because I know that iron is going to cool down and be less workable. I try to strike while it is hot.

Then I start thinking about paper and... oh boy.

Hey, FYI... most of the pages of Pan-Gea were drawn on that Borden & Riley paper I mentioned above. I bought pads of 11x14, then cut them in half! So each page of Pan-Gea actually only measures 7x11. They fit very neatly into that standard American comic book format. But they are drawn basically 1:1 ratio... and most comics guys will tell you that you need to draw larger than your printed final version. The shrinking of the art to fit the format helps clean up your lines and makes everything look tighter.

And it's true. But also, it's a bit of bullshit. It's only good advice if that is the effect you are going for. This is an art form, not a science. If you want to draw comics on little post it note and BLOW THEM UP to fit a comic page, that's your bag, man. Do your thing. Could look rad. I don't know.

Comics is a wide open medium for creating. You should do what you feel like doing.

This post... is an example of turning on the nozzle too high and trying to fill a small Dixie cup. You're welcome.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Faces of Clay

Ten Foot Pole - Mon, 06/03/2024 - 11:11

By James S. Austin
Tacitus Publishing
Level 9

After a house fire tragically took the lives of a young family, their farm found itself left to the devices of the pasture’s fae inhabitants, a band of ruddy brownies. The capricious creatures quickly deduced that absent their human counterparts, the morning deliveries of cream would cease. After a heartfelt moment of loss, they realized that the cow penned in the barn afforded the answer to their problem. Making a new home in the barn’s hayloft, the brownies settled in and learned to utilize the farm’s clay golem. The creature now handles the manual chores and keeps out intruders while they enjoy their sudden good fortune, rubbing their swollen bellies.

This seventeen page adventure has one encounter. A new record in shovelware, I do believe! Yesirree! Seventeen pages! And one whole encounter in that! We’re lucky, I guess, it’s not forty.

There’s an abandoned farmhouse. It’s got a barn. There’s a paragraph of read-aloud that describes the farmhouse, and nothing more. There’s nothing that describes the fame, as a whole. There is, though, separate read-aloud for if you’re looking at the east or west side of the barn. So here’s that. I guess. I mean, it’s not really all that different and contributes nothing to the game. So.

What am I supposed to do here? What am I supposed to review? You fight one clay golem and, like, eight brownies. Maybe. If you don’t roleplay it out. That’s it. You go in to the barn and see a bunch of clay masks hanging from the ceiling. That’s a nice touch. And if you fight the brownies they could, at some point, let loose some chickens to run around at your feet. Yeah! That’s it.

You can roleplay your way out of this, making friends with the brownies. The golem only gets involved if you fight the brownies. Otherwise, you just listen to a WHOLE lots of read-aloud text, in italics of course.

I’m not fucking around here. There’s nothing in this. A level nine adventure with a clay golem. That’s it. “The first and second-floor ceilings are ribbed with arches to handle the heavier snowfalls during winter.” Woooa! The height of play, that little bit of description! TO keep the winter snowfall off the roof! I mean, it’s not winter, so.

I don’t know what to say here. The barn, outside and in, has over a page of read-aloud. None of which is very pertinent to the encounter. None of which is very evocative. The DM text tells us, like eight different times, that the brownies made/make the clay masks. What do you do here? How do you review this? “It sure does have a lots of skill checks to role play with those brownies!” You walk in, look at a mask scene, the brownies fuck with you, and maybe fight and maybe talk to them. That’s, what, two sentences in another adventure? Maybe three? What am I supposed to review? Every word written? “Well, I don’t know, maybe use the subjunctive clause here …”

One encounter. One. Maybe. Seventeen pages. The effort here is astounding. Theoden, King, what is man to do with such cruel fate? Courage Merry! Courage for our friends!

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru with a suggested price of $1.

Belvedere’s Books of Unusual Encounters

I also checked this out. It has 300 little encounter ideas. Each is about a paragraph long, so about two or three per page. The unusual part holds true. One of them has a religious procession chanting and ringing bells, with a ten year old boy being carried around who never ages. He’s a doppelganger who fund a good gig. Or the village where everyone ends every sentence with “Long live Duke Fluxion, long may his kind and benevolent rule guide and protect us all!” No sir, nothing unusual there. Slightly absurdist, or in some cases heightened reality, but not really over the top. I liked it enough to save it as a resource for my game.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Final Sunday Before NTRPG

Tenkar's Tavern - Mon, 06/03/2024 - 01:17

We're less than a week away from NTRPG, which means I'm "busier than a one-legged Indian in an ass-kicking race", as my grandpa used to say. There's always a few RPG projects that I'm trying to finish up and this year is no exception. I am though, throwing in the towel on probably half of my "things" because I just don't want the stress. Most of these things are for me and nobody will be the wiser on what doesn't see the light of day this particular convention.

No...this year will be much more laid-back than my norm. Between a work trip kicking my ass (I brought home a summer cold that I'm just recovering from) and some unexpected home repairs having to take up my most valuable of resources....oh, and my workplace kind of sort of tried to tell me I couldn't go to the con this year. Yeah, that wasn't going to fly. I take one scheduled vacation a year (NTPRG) and they can have me do whatever for the other 360 days of the year. They've had this on the books for a year and if management cannot get the manpower figured out, that's not my burden to bear.

So yeah...I'm not going to take on undue stress so I can enjoy myself.

NTRPG is basically the beginning of the summer convention season, so if you have things you need to do before Origins, or maybe's your sign to check in on your state of affairs now.

I'm happy with the games I've gotten into to play, but I don't have and guests coming in this year like I've had in the past. Just gaming...some drinking, and giving Bad Mike too much money.....

Hopefully I'll have a good end-of-con report.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Hashtag Blessed

The Splintered Realm - Mon, 06/03/2024 - 00:50

No lie, I am one of the luckiest dudes in the world. As I've been working on Stalwart, I've been going through my drawings and notes and older materials, and I realize that the superhero world that 12-year-old me wished I had is here. It's the setting and the characters and the stories - and the game - I was always hoping to find. And, while it is not entirely original, it is still its own unique thing; I think of it like the Incredibles - it's all familiar and based in stuff you already know a lot about, but it's also entirely its own thing. 

I cannot believe how lucky I am to have this fully realized world that I just get to play around in and make stories for and generate cool stuff to go with. And, now, I have (almost) a game that fully aligns with it. I LOVE Stalwart Age - but Stalwart is better. It's more playable. It's more intuitive. It's cleaner and faster and more internally consistent. 

And as I was doing dishes, I realized that, while Stalwart Age was about Doc, this game is really about his daughter. Yes, he's a character in this world still, and probably its most famous one, but the character whose story seems more salient at the moment is his daughter Skye. She belongs on the cover, so I'm putting her there.

I also had this cool comic script pop to mind. I'll just describe it here, but I'll write the issue soon enough. It is after Doc goes on a mission to save his daughter from the Null Zone (I still haven't written these issues - I am waiting for the big piece I'm missing that pulls it all together to emerge. I'm getting closer...).

Anyway, this story takes place six weeks after she is successfully brought home. One of the long-term consquences is that both she and Mikah age dramatically due to exposure to the unstable energies of the Null Zone. So, Doc has just learned he has a daughter and rescued her - and now she is leaving for college.

The whole issue would be the letter she writes to her father about how, even though he needs time with her, she needs time to figure out who she is in this world. It's this somber meditation on fatherhood (because I'm a sucker for that - my daughter is turning 16 in a few weeks, and I'm starting to feel the pull of fate inexorably drawing her into her adult life). So the whole thing is Doc going around, doing maintenance on the Beetle, sewing his costume, and getting his boots ready for the next mission. Meanwhile, Mikah hangs up his costume for the last time and moves into Mr. Silver's old office, which is his now. Meanwhile, the text of the letter underscores everything. The last images are the three setting off into their new roles - Mikah starting a new file, Doc going on his first solo mission in a long time, and Skye hovering over the skyline of the new city she will be living in - San Helios, on the west coast of the Americas. 


Update on Stalwart

The Splintered Realm - Sun, 06/02/2024 - 20:27
I've done a full-scale reformatting of Stalwart. You can view it here.
A few things:- I think I'm locked in at 16 pages for the core rules. I don't want to go longer than this or it undermines my basic goal of getting the game into a tight package. I can still add a few things and stay within 16 pages.- I've also given up on print as an option here; at only 16 pages, you can print it yourself! It would be four sheets of regular copy paper (5 with the cover). I changed the formatting (again) to 8.5 x 5.5 digest size with .5 margins. This is best (from my perspective) for looking at on a device. It looks really good on my phone.  - I've sprinkled a mix of old and new art. I took some of my favorite images from the prior game and added some bolder line work to bring them up to speed. I was surprised at how thin much of the linework was that made it into the original rules. I guess I was nervous about using thicker lines - no idea why that was. I still have a few new pieces to draw (or older pieces to upgrade)... we'll see.- I got rid of most of the tables. The larger tables were taking up a lot of room, and they weren't particularly attractive. I simplified things to bulleted or numbered lists. There are still opportunities to add to the gifts, tags, energies, and limitations lists, and I'm sure I'll add a bit to each before all is said and done.

Playtest #4 - Enter Doc Stalwart, Stage Left

The Splintered Realm - Sun, 06/02/2024 - 18:20
The Mighty Doc Stalwart
Legendary Hero (D12/6[3]); Hits 24; Move 30’; Hero Points 8
Might D16 (8); Mind D12 (6); Power D6 (3); Reflex D8 (4)

Invulnerable; Leaping; Flight (jet pack 60’)

Brawl (+1); Popularity (+1); Profession (Science +2); Stalwart (+2)

Goonsquad Brawler

Normal Thug (D6/3[1]); Hits 12

Might D6 (3); Mind D4 (2); Power D4 (2); Reflex D6 (3)

Machine Pistol (D8); Kendo Stick (D8)

Gila the Monster

Paragon Villain (D8/4[2]); Hits 18; Move 30’; Villain Points 4

Might D10 (5); Mind D4 (2); Power D6 (3); Reflex D6 (3)

Amphibious; Invulnerable (5); Weapon, Claws (D12)

Brawl (+1); Popularity (+2; lizards/amphibians only); Sneak (+2)

Limitation: -1 shift if he is out of water for more than 24 hours.

I moved Doc up to D16 might - (in Eddie Murphy Gumby voice) because he’s Doc Stalwart, dammit! Also, I want to roll D16s. Because they are my preciousssss….

I decide that the ninjas were not replaced (those are not cheap), but four goonsquad bouncers are now standing watch in the warehouse when Doc arrives. He knocks on the front door, and then rips it off the hinges (I rolled a 2 on the first try, so he breaks the door handle; then I rolled a natural 16). “Guess you all didn’t hear me knocking. No problem. I’ll just let myself in.”

He doesn’t bother rolling initiative. He lets the brawlers each fire their auto pistols at him. Two of them hit, rolling 4 and 1, but all of these bullets just bounce off of his skin. He strolls in among them and starts swinging. He rolls 4, 8, 2, 6, 6, 5. These become 5, 9, 3, 7, 7, 6. He hits six times. He deals (rolling D12 six times): 8, 6, 5, 4, 7, 1. He drops the first with the 8 and 6, drops the second with the 5 and 7. He uses the 4 and 1 on a third, breaking his arm and forcing him to drop the pistol. They both fail their morale check (decided that will be DT 6; added that to the core rules draft).

He descends the stairs (seeing the blood from the ninjas) and enters the sewers. Gila uses 1 action to gather a found weapon (just added those to the rules as well). He has a chunk of concrete and rebar that he smacks against Doc’s back. He hits for 5 damage, but the entire thing just crumbles against Doc’s back. Doc turns and hits him with 3, 11, and 5 (which are 4, 12, and 6 after his brawling bonus). He hits three times, dealing 4, 13, and 9. Gila soaks 5 from each, so suffers 8 and 4, for 12 damage. He’s at 6. 

Gila claws twice, (I just realized I was letting Zealot take 5 attacks when his max is 4… oops. Not that it did him much good - he still got thumped good). He hits with a 6 (misses with a 2). However, the claw only deals 6, so Doc is able to soak the whole thing. Doc punches him with a natural 12. I rule that this is critical damage (see below). Doc rolls 16 for damage, and puts Gila 6” into the concrete wall. He then uses an attack action to finish him. He carries Gila’s limp body (not dead, but hurting like crazy) towards the lair of Sudoku. Trouble awaits…


  • Doc barely worked up a sweat; this makes sense. Captain Marvel is not going to have much trouble with Killer Croc; Thor is going to rip through the Lizard. These are not comparable foes, so it makes sense that the fight would be one-sided. I’d hope so. If Doc was taking on the entirety of Zealots’ rogue’s gallery (oooh. Maybe he’ll do that next!) it would be different. We’ll see.

  • I started thinking about critical hits during the fight. It doesn’t make sense to have a max roll be a critical hit, because a D4 would crit 25% of the time, while a D20 would only crit 5% of the time. That makes no sense. I could see crits happening if your attack exceeds the dice rating of your foe; so Doc would score critical damage (+1 die shift) if he rolls an attack of 9 or better against Gila (since Gila has a D8 dice value). You can’t land crits against foes in the same tier (unless you have a bonus to hit) or higher, and the greater the difference between you and a foe, the more likely you are to crit. This makes a lot of sense. 

Businesses As Usual - TRey Causey's Strange Stars & Citybook VI: Up Town From Flying Buffalo

Swords & Stitchery - Sun, 06/02/2024 - 17:48
 If you've been following our Strange Stars sessions then you know that at sometime everything is  going to go back to Circus. Circus.  With Circus I had to get a series of higher class up town sections. Fortunately, I had the answer already on my book shelf! Coming out in '92 Citybook VI: Up Town this is part of the iconic Cataylist series. Citybook VI: Up TownNeedles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Zealot Playtest #3

The Splintered Realm - Sun, 06/02/2024 - 17:16

Paragon Hero (D8/4[2]); Hits 16; Move 30’; HP 4

Might D8 (4); Mind D8 (4); Power D4 (2); Reflex D10 (5)

Armor (4); Jump (swingline 120’) Melee Weapon (battle staves D10)

Brawl (+2); Infiltration (+1); Stealth (+1)

Gila the Monster

Paragon Villain (D8/4[2]); Hits 18; Move 30’; Villain Points 4

Might D10 (5); Mind D4 (2); Power D6 (3); Reflex D6 (3)

Amphibious; Invulnerable (5); Weapon, Claws (D12)

Brawl (+1); Popularity (+2; lizards/amphibians only); Sneak (+2)

Limitation: -1 shift if he is out of water for more than 24 hours.

I reworked the stat blocks for Zealot and Gila a little bit (just tweaks here and there), and changed the picture for Gila (mirror imaging it) so that he and Zealot aren’t in the same pose. I must really like that pose - I used it twice without realizing it. At least they now look like they’re going at each other.

I’m on a kick at the moment of building street-level villains for Zealot, so I’ll just keep doing that and build a little Rogue’s Gallery for him. I’ve already decided how Sudoku fits in to his ‘story’ a bit, so putting together a few more Batman-level foes (i.e. directly swiped from Batman the Animated Series) is on the priority list.

Anyway, Zealot has defeated three goons and two ninjas, and now is on to the basement. An open sewer grate in the boiler room has muddy tracks leading towards it, with clear claw marks. Zealot recognizes it immediately as Gila the Monster. He drops into the sewer tunnel and calls out for Gila, who emerges from the shadows. “Been waiting for this a long time, Zealot”. He cracks his knuckles and charges…

Round 1: Gila wins (8 vs. 1) and attempts two claw attacks. He misses with a 1 and 3. He spends 1 villain point to bump that 3 (+1 from brawling, +1 from villain point) to a 5. He hits and swipes at Zealot’s head. He deals 12 damage (dang!). Zealot’s armor soaks 4, and this leaves Zealot at -2. He is felled. His head smacks against a pipe, and he crumbles into the thick water. He spits out blood.

Round 2: Zealot rolls a 5, and stands back up, now at 8 hits and on his first recovery. He clicks his sticks together. “You’ve been practicing.” Gila wins initiative again, and hits with a 6+1=7. He deals 6 damage, and Zealot’s armor soaks 4, leaving him at 2. Zealot attacks with a flurry of five attacks, getting 6, 6, 5, 4, 2. With his bonus, these are 8, 8, 7, 6, 4. These all hit. Gila has such low reflex that it still makes sense to go for the extras (since he will hit with a roll of 2 or better). We’ll see about damage… he rolls five times for damage, and gets VERY lucky… 8, 8, 8, 7, 1. The one gets totally soaked, but after invulnerability he deals 3, 3, 3, 2 - so 11 points. Gila is at 7. 

Round 3: Gila hits twice (8+1=9 and 4+1=5). These deal 5 and 6 damage respectively. This drops Zealot for a second time. He tries to stand back up, but rolls a 1. He collapses in the water. Gila laughs as he drags the fallen hero into the lair of the one paying him all that money - Sudoku.


  • Well, Zealot lost. I’m not entirely surprised. This would be a tough fight for him at full strength, and he walked into the battle already licking his wounds. It’s okay, because my D16’s just arrived (yay!) so now I’m going to playtest Doc Stalwart. That should be fun. This gives reason for Doc to go in search of Zealot, since Sudoku will now have him in a classic deathtrap. That’s fun.

  • I like the synergy between evade and invulnerability. Some foes are easy to hit and hard to damage; others are hard to hit and hard to damage. I think that heroes will need either high evade or high invulnerability for optimal survival. Spidey and Flash will be okay because they have such high reflex. The Thing and Power Man are okay because they have the high invulnerability. Captain America has solid but unremarkable ratings in both, so he can manage. Characters like Magneto and the Invisible Woman are going to need to project force fields to offset the fact that they have no other way to evade or reduce damage. This also feels comic-accurate.

Artists I Like: Marie Severin

Doomslakers! - Sun, 06/02/2024 - 14:19

Part of this series about creators who make me happy.

I love the fact that I can discover "new" artists I never really heard of before... even if I have really heard of them before! Marie Severin fits that description because I'm positive I saw her work at some point as a kid in some comic or another. And I know I heard the name. But I didn't know Marie was a comic artist. Go figure.

Born in New York? Check. Born a long damn time ago? Check (1929). A KILLER artist? CHECK. Marie Severin had all the right stuff to be a Mighty Marvel Master. And she was. I think she is probably best known for drawing the Hulk, Doctor Strange, and Not Brand Echh!, which was Marvel's in house parody comic sort of riffing on Mad, I think.

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