Tabletop Gaming Feeds

Castle Rabid

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 08/30/2023 - 11:11
By Kormar Publishing Kormar Publishing OSR Level 3

Deep in the forest, a forsaken keep holds treasure and the secrets of a crown won and lost. Seek fortune in the dust of fallen nobility, navigating through beastmen, a chaos cult, and bizarre sadists from beyond this earthly realm. Beware the horrors of CASTLE RABID!

This 25 page digest adventure features a three level dungeon with around 35 rooms. Beastmen, cultists and alien dero are highlighted through a bullet heavy, but clear and evocative writing.The themes are inconsistently displayed, but the individual rooms are solid.

Beastmen mean Warhammer! And, I guess, weirdo druid-like cult people also mean Warhammer? And Dero! A fine take on dero! To quote their description: “albino knee high freaks, black saucer goggles, totally hairless” And, they bring a little bit of tekno to the table with their pneumatic exsanguinators and etch-a-sketch writing tables that they are always taking notes on. We toss in a few “hulking mutants” and we get the low down: dero come up from underground, do some experiments and are taking notes while corrupting the former bandits in a ruined castle, with some cultists thrown in to help control the masses of unwashed they have to deal with. All in the form of a standard three level dungeon crawl. Which, I think, is an issue. But I’ll get to that …

So, Gart the hunter got this hunting lodge/inn thing on the edge of the forbidden forest. His daughters gone missing. He’s pretty sure its those smelly unwashed religious tyes that took out the nearby ruined castle. Or, in the designers words “Gart is a fine hunter, but he’s getting old. There are six other kids that need wrangling. He offers a wagon and two draft horses, Bert’s dowry, to anyone who can return his daughter to him alive.” Later ol Gart is referred to as “Father of the year.” 

This is the first sign in the adventure that the designer gets it. Those sentences are enough to let me know that something in this adventure is going to be worthwhile. It might be a shitshow of formatting and long text, but dude knows whats up. Joke adventures sucks. But adventures that know that they exist in an absurdist world? It is rare indeed when those are totally fuck ups.

The formatting here is going to be controversial. It’s bullets. Like, HARD. CORE. bullet points. Like, three per room or so. SOmetimes more. SOmetimes less. The pure unadulterated lack of shame in JUST using bullets is wild to see. It’s jarring an offputting, but I can’t argue that it doesn’t work.  The first one is usually what you are going to get from approaching a door to the room. The sounds or smells or something. Pretty nice. And then the second is what you would immediately notice. Like, the big ass fucking ogre in the room, who “Supposed to eat trespassers, but has a taste for pack animals and would love a captive audience for his terrible jokes.” And then maybe a tertiary description of the room. “Walls strewn with torn banners, crooked elk heads, and rusted polearms. A skeleton is impaled on one of the elk horns. Rotten smelling furs piled in the center of the room as a bed.” So, first things first, then whats obvious, then the details of the room. That’s exactly how you’re supposed to write the fucking thing. Uh. Like, exactly. I don’t think I’ve seen it done with such rigor before, at least not without those terrible “Light: Door: FIrst Sight: fucking headings that I loathe so much. 

And the writing, the imagining of the room, it’s pretty good. That’s the first room of the dungeon I’ve quoted above. The ogre gets a little detail. Pack animals, captive audience. It could help bring him to life if needed. And the torn banners and CROOKED elk heads? That’s great. Rusted polearms. This room has been IMAGINED and then described. That’s exactly what a room should be handled. A skeleton on an elk horn is just that extra bit to let you know your’e playing D&D. I’m really pretty happy with almost all of the room descriptions, much more so than usual. Not over the top, but a really good job of imagining it. Like those Dero, reimagined as a kind of tiny Grey alien. And cultists wearing furs and animal horns. Beastmen that are beastmen. It’s done well.

There’s no order of battle, which is kind of bad. Treasure seems light? There are a couple of hoards to be found, with spotty treasure description. The  maps are pretty plain affairs, about ten rooms per level.

If I’ve got a problem with this adventure (and I do) it’s that the vibe is off. 

I don’t know how to better explain it. It feels disconnected. From itself? I don’t understand it as a … lair? The beastmen. The cultists. The dero. The other people running around …. It just doesn’t come together as a whole. The individual rooms? Fine. But they don’t seem to be working together. I don’t mean that there’s a red dragon in one room and a gold one in the next room. It’s just that it doesn’t feel like one complex. It never feels like a home to beastment, or cultists, or dero. I don’t know why. SOme sort of disconnect between the rooms? Again, the writing is good and the theming should be, in theory, great, sith the cultists, beastment, dero triad. But they really don’t ever seem to … riff off of each other? No. I don’t know. They feel disconnected form each other. Yes, I know I’ve said that a few times now. I don’t know what I’m trying to say.

It’s a decent adventure. If the disconnect thing wasn’t there then it would be a REALLY good adventure.

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru with a suggested price of $2.50. The preview is all 25 pages. You can kick some ass with this one, and it doesn’t deserve the three star rating it has on drivethru.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Wednesday Comics: DC, December 1982 (week 1)

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 08/30/2023 - 11:00
I'm reading DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! Today, I'm looking at the comics at newsstands on the week of September 2, 1982. 

Wonder Woman #298: Frank Miller cover on this issue. Mishkin and Colan/McLaughlin continue the Aegeus story. Wonder Woman consults the Magic Sphere on Paradise Island and learns Bellerophon's history. On Themyscria, the island which the Amazons abandoned for their new home centuries ago in this Earth-One continuity, Bellerophon tries to get the location of Paradise Island out of Steve Trevor because he wants to get ahold the Amazon's healing Purple Ray. Aegeus tries torturing Trevor, but Steve escapes into the temple of Athena. There he and terrorist Sofia see a vision of Athena, who tries to persuade Sofia to turn against Aegeus. Steve grabs Athena's scepter, which he saw destroy one terrorist, and hides it under his jacket. Unfortunately, he's recaptured by Aegeus who knocks an approaching Wonder Woman out of the sky with a thunderbolt.
In the Huntress backup, the would-be superhero Blackwing is captured by the gang running the protection racket and they take him to their boss with Huntress following behind. The boss is called Boa, and he's got a big, pet constrictor--though Staton doesn't appear to have used photo reference in drawing the snake. Huntress busts in and takes out the gang, but Boa sicks his snake on her and the gang leaves while she struggles in the animal's deadly grip.

Arak Son of Thunder #16: Thomas and Gonzales/Alcala bring Arak to Byzantium as he continue his search for Valda. They are in from trouble from the beginning as he has to save Satyricus from an angry mob after he accidentally destroys an icon. Luckily, the duo are aided by General Cometas who they met last issue. he gets them in the see the young Emperor Constantine VI who is being presented with potential wives when Valda catches his eye.
A fight breaks out and Arak intercedes to help her. He's ordered to swim across a pool to prove the turh of his words. In the water, a monster comes out of a mosaic and attacks him--or seems to, as no one else can see it. Despite successfully completing the challenge, Arak and Valda have upset the emperor's and he orders their deaths.
In the backup, Valda and Malagigi attend of fair in Paris. While Malagigi meets with the local Count, Valda explores the market. She encounters a pickpocket dwarf named Brunello who sells her a baby elephant. As she leads the elephant through the streets, Valda is attacked by saracens who claim that the elephant is stolen and think she's the culprit. Valda holds her own against their superior numbers until Malagigi arrives and use his magic to end the fight. The saracens taken possession of the elephant, while Valda and Malagigi are glad to let them have it.

Blackhawk #253: Evanier and Spiegle put the spotlight on one of The Blackhawks in this story. The team (minus Hendrickson) is summoned to a meeting with command to discuss Hendrickson's future with the team. The eldest Blackhawk's mental state is called into question after it is discovered that he is writing letters to his wife--who was killed a year before. Blackhawk promises to speak with him.
When the team returns to Blackhawk Island where Hendrickson was left on duty, they find that he is gone. Putting together clues, they realize that he has located a secret Nazi air base by measuring the fuel load of downed aircraft. And they thought he was crazy for always siphoning the fuel!
The Blackhawks follow to the location specified and find and destroy the air base, but Hendrickson is shot down. A German pilot finds his crashed plane, but Hendrickson outdraws his opponent with pistols. Hendrickson reveals that he has always known that his wife was dead. He simply wrote the letters to her because he was lonely and felt ignored by his teammates. 
DC Comics Presents #52: Kupperberg and Giffen introduce Ambush Bug. He's the villain here and a good bit different from the character he will become. The story guest stars the New Doom Patrol (a team Superman doesn't even know exists until this story). A being of black energy is wrecking Metropolis and Superman's attempts to stop it are complicated by the teleporting agent of chaos, Ambush Bug. The Doom Patrol tries to lend a hand and let him know that the being is actually an out of a control Negative Woman, but Ambush Bug's machinations makes Supes distrust them. Superman's character is different in Kupperberg's story than what we are used to seeing: he's testier, quicker to act, and more fallible than the usual portrayal. It makes him a better mark for Ambush Bug's shenanigans.

Fury of Firestorm #7: Conway and Broderick/Rodriquez introduce the Québécoise, terrorist super-villain Plastique. She's spurred to action after Firestorm thwarted the impact of the attack by her fellow terrorist Andre by absorbing the energy. She happens to choose the offices of the New York News Express, it happens to be a day where Ronnie has come with the intention of telling his reporter father that he is Firestorm. Being held hostage by Plastique with the Express staff, Ronnie can't change to Firestorm without revealing who he is to everyone! Stein comes to his rescue by sneaking past the police into the building and shutting off the power, so they can become Firestorm unseen. After rescuing the hostages, Firestorm dissipates Plastique's costume, so the bombs drop to the floor before she can detonate them.

Justice League #209: The final chapter of Crisis on Earth-Prime. Don Heck is the artist here, with Conway scripting, per usual. The All-Stars, JLA, and JSA meet with FDR to recap the success of their teams. There is still some work to be done, though. Power Girl, Firestorm, and Steel are in Geneva, Switzerland, looking for more missiles. They find them along with Johnny Quick. The missiles get launched, but the heroes take them down in mid-air. 
After meeting with Professor Zee and cluing him into his megalomaniacal assistant, he gives Green Lantern, Firebrand and Zatanna his prototype time machine, which they use to travel to 1962 on Earth-Prime. There they're ready to take action when the Crime Syndicate arrives on the scene in a Time Vortex. The heroes surprise the villains and defeat them. The Soviet missiles aren't stolen, and Earth-Prime's history proceeds as it should.
On Earth-Two 1942, the heroes take the fight to Per Degaton's base and capture him and his men. Huntress takes care of Own-Man who had been in hiding, gloating over the others' defeat. History is restored, so that no one even remembers this Crisis having occurred. All and all, a nice arc, though perhaps a little longer than it needed to be.

Adventure Comics #494: The only new story here is The Challengers of the Unknown by Rozakis and Tuska/Mushynsky. Picking up where last issue left off, the Challs to be compare notes and decide some gangsters mad at Rocky for ruining their attempts to fix a match where the ones that sabotaged their plane. They pay them a visit, but they turn out not to be the culprits, so the mystery remains.

Hex Crawl 23 #227: Dry Hills of Dhuga, With Thoughts on Ecology

Roles & Rules - Wed, 08/30/2023 - 07:43

Six hexes northwest, four north of Alakran.


This higher ridge of hills parallels the greener ridge described previously, but has not been jealously guarded by the Black Gazelles, so is more despoiled from centuries of high-intensity goat grazing. Sparse acacia bushes and clumps of horsetail grass make poor diet for a herd of goats, let alone sheep.

It might well be asked what all this background on the ecology of the Dhuga has to do with players and their experience. They see terrain, they use terrain; they have no goats to bring to market (usually); what's the point?

An ecology background's purpose is to give plausible, if not perfectly worked out, constraint, development, and depth to an adventure. Consider the sentence "The troll lives on fish from the stream in room 5." Never mind that an underground blind-fish ecosystem can't really supply the troll with enough biomass to live. The fig leaf of plausibility at one stroke gives the troll a motivation (to go to room 5, to defend it), becomes a suggestion for dealing with the troll (give him fish, or more likely, something to eat other than goddamn fish), and adds color, texture, and foreshadowing to the adventure (if the troll is defeated in his lair, a pile of fish bones suggests the nearby stream).

But all of this needs to be visible and knowable to the PCs.  The green vs. dry hills contrast, in other words, needs an adventure for the unearthing of the explanation to be of use. Perhaps ...

There's a goatherd, Kinnik, a man getting on in years with hollow cheeks and a perpetually droopy set to his mouth, who is encountered on a "lair" roll in this hex (1 in 20 chance). His goats eat poorly here on the steep hillsides, and he resents the Black Gazelle parkland to his southwest. Implausibly, he offers the party the 200 gp he has saved away in a jar if they will help him guard his herd as he goes to graze them in the rich meadow of the Green Hills described previously. The full explanation for the ecological situation, he holds back on, finally only saying that "ruffian bailiffs" from the city hold the meadow for "landed interests," and assuring the party that these can be easily chased off by people of such skill at arms and witchcraft as they.

In truth, this sets up a confrontation with a hunting party from the Black Gazelles, possibly (1/3 chance) containing the Radiant Prince himself. If they're not careful, the party will find themselves on the wrong side of the law of Eryptos. Kinnik, meanwhile, is quick to flee the scene with or without his goats, and thereafter flees the hills, for he is an agent sent by enemies of the Prince to suborn trouble. If the gazelles are beaten in combat, this will become knowledge in Eryptos, and if they abuse the party, this too will become knowledge, both to the Prince's detriment.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Paranoia & Sentries - Hostile Rpg Campaign Updates Involving - White Dwarf (Issue 30 - Apr 1982) & Zozer Games Kosmos 68

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 08/30/2023 - 02:06
 Call me a time traveller but tonight we were looking into White Dwarf issue #30 and two articles popped out. First can we talk about that distinctive cover artwork on White Dwarf 30 Cover by Nicholas Bibby? Biggy's  interesting & old school Brit Science Fiction artwork crosses the lines from Fantasy into Science Fiction. And before I forget happiest of birthdays to Marc Miller! "Androids in Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Bundle of Holding - The Nightmares Underneath (Old-school dark-dungeon tabletop fantasy roleplaying)

Tenkar's Tavern - Wed, 08/30/2023 - 01:54

I do like a heavy dose of "dark" in my fantasy settings. Years later, I still feel that Midnight was one of the best FRPG settings ever. So, of course, I'm finding The Nightmares Underneath Bundle to be very tempting.

Adventurer! This new Nightmares Underneath Bundle presents The Nightmares Underneath, the old-school horror-fantasy tabletop roleplaying game from Chthonstone Games. The physical world faces invasion by deadly "incursions" from the Realm of Nightmares that manifest as dungeons. To destroy the incursion, your fantasy adventurers must risk nightmarish curses, face the dungeon's monsters, and loot its treasures. Use your loot to improve your home community, making it more prosperous and helpful for your expeditions into the ruins from the Age of Chaos, where you may find items of great magical power to banish the nightmares.

The Nightmares Underneath, a standalone game by Johnstone Metzger (Class Warfare, Adventures on Dungeon Planet, Wizard-Spawned Insanities), creatively adapts the systems common to old-school fantasy RPGs, replacing hit points with "Disposition" and introducing new alignment and spellcasting rules. We presented the 2016 First Edition of Nightmares in the November 2017 OSR 5 Bundle. This new offer brings you both editions, plus many incursions, monsters, and hexcrawls, for an unbeatable bargain price.

For just US$9.95 you get all three titles in our Nightmare Starter (retail value $45) as DRM-free ebooks, including the complete The Nightmares Underneath core rulebook in both its First and Second Editions (plus the free edition); the straightforwardly named Dungeon Full of Monsters, written for Labyrinth Lord with conversion notes for Nightmares; and a 36-page book of dungeon incursions, City of Poison.

The Nameless Grimoire for The Nightmares UnderneathAnd if you pay more than the threshold price of $23.12, you'll level up and also get three Bonus Nightmares worth an additional $60, including the Nightmares spellbook The Nameless Grimoire; the large-scale wilderness sandbox setting Only Monsters Here; and The Metamorphica (revised edition), a system-agnostic resource to generate mutations for dark fantasy, horror, transhuman sf, post-apocalypse, and even superhero campaigns.


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

S7 Stains Upon The Green, Adventurer, Conqueror, King Rpg, & the Borderlands Campaign - The Red Tide & Dark Wizard games module number #6 The Moving Maze of the Mad Master!

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 08/29/2023 - 21:18
 So let's pick up from right back here on the blog. And let's talk about the Red Tide setting for a moment which is for a Labyrinth Lord campaign with a sorta East Asian flavor. And this setting could easily be tied into both  "Stains upon the Green"' & Dark Wizard games module number #6 The Moving Maze of the Mad Master! DW#6 is actually an island encounter with the PC's with mad master's maze Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

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

DM David - Tue, 08/29/2023 - 16:10

Today’s Dungeons & Dragons focuses on letting players build custom characters to suit their taste, but for half of the game’s 50-year history, the rules emphasized rolling a character and playing the numbers the dice gave. Especially at first, gamers demonstrated their play skill by making the most of some random combination of scores. Original D&D paired non-humans with particular character classes, so dwarves could only become fighting men. Every elf, dwarf, and (until 1977) hobbit fit their race’s archetype. Mainly though, gamers loyal to the game rules played humans, because the rules limited the number of levels non-humans could gain. For example, a dwarf could only reach level 6. Largely human parties suited the taste of D&D co-creator Gary Gygax. Ability scores hardly mattered, and with limited character options, characters became distinctive as they adventured and won magical gear. Those magic trophies served as mementos and made one elf play differently from all the others.

Today’s game looks very different. If a party contains a single human, the group rates as unusual. Player’s typically want characters who feel extraordinary from level 1. Often, that means playing the best ale-loving, hammer-smacking, dwarf who ever craved gold. Sometimes that means playing a dwarf wizard who happens to love gardening. The countless tiny, fairy barbarians that have joined my tables show that players relish a chance to play a character who defies type and at least seems one of a kind. Non-human characters only match a racial archetype when a player chooses it. To most players, the old rules that made races fit a stereotype now feel confining. Sometimes, those old rules even feel like a troubling reminder of outdated attitudes.

This evolution took all of D&D’s 50 years. This post tells the story of the change.

“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,” says 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.” In 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.”

Early D&D included rules that made characters fit the archetype of their chosen race. The game restricted non-humans to particular classes and blocked their advancement to higher levels. Later, the game added racial ability score modifiers that encouraged characters to fit certain archetypes, so half-orcs gained strength and constitution, but lacked charisma. Originally, half-orcs only excelled as assassins.

Gary Gygax favored the sort of human-dominated fantasy that appeared in the fiction that inspired him. To Gary, non-human level limits explained why humans dominated D&D worlds despite the extraordinary talents and longevity of elves and dwarves. Gary wrote, “If demi-humans, already given some advantages, were as able as humans, the world would be dominated by them, and there goes the whole of having a relatively familiar world setting in regard to what cultures and societies one will find in control. So, a demi-human is unlimited in thief level only, as that this a class not destined to control the fate of major groups or states.

“Why are humans more able to rise to higher levels than demi-humans?“ Gygax wrote in a internet discussion. ”Because the gods say so, and don’t like pointy eared types with curly-toed shoes, squat miners with big beards, hairy-footed midgets, etc.” Gygax intended the comment as harmless fun at the expense of make-believe creatures, and in 2005 most readers read it that way. But now the comment reads in a way Gygax surely didn’t consider. In our history, people have justified inflicting countless horrors on other humans by claiming that God disapproved of some group. Talking about even fictional half-humans like this raises uncomfortable echoes.

This adventuring party was pictured in Arduin Grimoire III

Even in D&D’s first years, not every player shared Gygax’s taste for games where most characters resembled the human heroes of Poul Anderson, Fritz Leiber, and Robert E. Howard. When J. Eric Holmes wrote the 1977 D&D Basic Set, his draft explained, “An expedition might include, in addition to the seven basic classes, an African witch doctor/magic-user, a centaur, an Amerindian medicine man/cleric, a lawful werebear, a Japanese samurai fighting man and a half-human, half-serpent naga”. The published book cut most of those options, leaving only “a centaur, a lawful werebear, and a Japanese samurai fighting man.” In Dragon 53, Holmes wrote about the set’s limited character options. “I am personally sorry to see the range of possibilities so restricted. The original rules (the three little brown books) specifically stated that a player could be a dragon if he wanted to be. I enjoyed having dragons, centaurs, samurai and witch doctors in the game. My own most successful player character was a Dreenoi, an insectoid creature borrowed from McEwan’s Starguard.” Meanwhile, Arduin Grimoire III (1978), an unofficial supplement to D&D, included pictures of an exotic adventuring parties that scarcely resembled a typical group. Author Dave Hargrave wrote, “The fact is that most players want individuality in their characters.”

When Wizards of the Coast purchased TSR, new CEO Peter Adkison steered D&D to more flexible character options. “My biggest beef with the older rules were the consistent limitations on what characters could become,” Adkison wrote. “Why couldn’t dwarves be clerics. Why could wizards of some classes only advance to some pre-determined level limit? Why couldn’t intelligent monster races like orcs and ogres pick up character classes? In my mind these restrictions had no place in a rules set but should be restrictions established (if at all) at the campaign-setting level.” The 2000 edition scrapped non-human level limits and rules that limited each race to particular classes.

Still, ability score modifiers remained in the game, and they stayed in the 2014 Player’s Handbook. Lead rules designer Jeremy Crawford said the modifiers “are specifically there just to reinforce the traditional D&D archetypes for dwarf adventurers, elf adventurers, halfling adventurers, and so on.” The modifiers meant a player who wanted to play something like a dwarf wizard had to settle for a less efficient character.

Experienced players rarely settled, so the ability score modifiers felt like as much of a restriction as the old rule that limited dwarves to playing fighting men. As for new players, the ability score modifiers became a trap. A player who fancied playing a halfling barbarian would later learn their character suffered a permanent limitation. Restrictions that force players to make interesting choices can make better games. Much of the fun of character building comes from choosing among enticing options, but for players set on a class, the choice between one race and a plainly weaker option adds nothing. “All games are about making choices and making meaningful choices,” Crawford said. “But we want the choices to be between things that are all fun and interesting. Like a great example is making the choice between the classes where it’s an open-ended field and you get to just choose the one that sing to you. What we don’t want is choice where just hiding inside it is some kind of trap. And that’s what the traditional ability score bonuses often feel like to people.”

Aside from adding a trap—and not the fun kind—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. 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.

Our characters in roleplaying games represent us in the game’s imaginary world. They might be just-pretend types like dragons, vampires, and robots—sometimes pronounced warforged—but we identify with them because our game world stand-ins think and feel mostly like us as people. Our characters represent people, and if they’re people, we can imagine them enjoying the same versatility and potential as real-world people.

To “pave the way for truly unique characters,” Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything (2020) 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. “It is not our assumption and never has been in fifth edition that those bonuses in the players racial traits are true of every member of the race,” said Crawford. “As the game continues to evolve, and also as the different types of character people make proliferates and becomes wonderfully diverse as people create types of characters that many of us would never imagine. It’s time for a bit more of those old assumption to, if not pass away, to be something that a person can set aside if it’s not of interest for them and their character. It’s with that in mind that we created this system to be true to our philosophy. We sometimes talk about when we give DMing advice to whenever possible say yes. This is a system about saying yes to players. That yes, you can play the dwarf you want to play. You can play the elf you want to play. You can play the halfling you want to play.” In D&D, player characters stopped serving as metaphors.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

OSR Review & Commentary On Barbaric! 2nd Edition by Omer Golan-Joel For 2d6 Cepheus Engine Powered Rpg's and Old School 2d6 Science Fiction Rpg Campaign

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 08/29/2023 - 15:21
 "Barbarians! Civilized men huddle behind tall stone walls, trembling at the thought. The soldiers of civilization tighten their shield walls against the oncoming onslaught. And then they come. Savage men and women, screaming at the top of their lungs, oblivious to fear, frothing at the mouth from rage and lust for war. Wave after wave, they storm shields and fortifications. Many die; the pagan Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Hex Crawl 23 #226: Green Hills of Dhuga

Roles & Rules - Tue, 08/29/2023 - 07:43

Seven hexes northwest, three north of Alakran.


Plants might grow in a particular place in a dry climate because a reserve of ground water lies below; or a source of surface water flows through; or because the terrain channels rainwater to the place; or that the composition of seas and high mountains herds rain-laden clouds that way. But a place may simply be green because grazing animals are discouraged from going there; and that is the case for this area.

A meadow vale in the midst of these hills is the reason why villagers and herders shun them. This vale is known to be jealously guarded by the hunting parties of the Prince of Eryptos, the Radiant Gemsbok of Autumn, in the person of the chariot company, the Black Gazelles of Gilded Horn. It is a resting place for these noble hunters and their guests, a grazing spot for the sturdy gazelles.

A mixture of fear and respect for the Gazelles has kept generations of sheep- and goatherds away from the meadow and even the hills around it. Old people remember much more herding in and around the Dhuga, villages now hardly even ruined walls in the brush, whole clans of wandering herders. The wave of husbandry overwhelmed and defoliated many of the hills, which are still recovering, some more quickly than others thanks to their proximity to water sources. Only this district remains intact. If the Gazelles are encountered here on a sortie from their fortress there is a 1 in 3 chance they will be pursuing or harassing a random shepherd who is verging on their territory, and another 1 in 3 they will be lounging in the meadow valley.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Flip Through 93: Elder Scrolls Call To Arms

Gamer Goggles - Tue, 08/29/2023 - 01:42

In this Flip Through Matt takes a look at the quick start rules and the complete rules for Elder Scrolls Call to Arms from  @Modiphius  . I can’t wait to start playing this with my boys. The books are well constructed and full of great art.

Thanks for watching. I look forward to doing more in the future

The post Flip Through 93: Elder Scrolls Call To Arms first appeared on Through Gamer Goggles.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Hex Crawl 23 #225: Snakes in a Lake

Roles & Rules - Mon, 08/28/2023 - 20:19

 Eight hexes northwest, two north of Alakran.


Like the Lake of "Vampires," this lake is an overflow for the irrigation waters of the Rows of Muttra. It is less accessible to the Road of Flowers, so its perils are less evident. But by common report it is the watering and breeding place of a population of poisonous snakes, the black and white striped dipsas serpents to be precise. Tiny and hard to see, the dipsas' bite, rarely felt, brings death through a great thirst and consuming of the vitals with choleric humor. Indeed, just as the mosquito-ridden Pulka'al is dotted with the remains of the dead, so this nameless "Lake of Thirst" has within eyesight always one or two corpses of unfortunate man or beast who have rushed there to take their last desperate drink. 

Unfortunately for human assassins, the venom of the dipsas decays rapidly and is useless an hour after bring removed from the creature's fangs. Only the live creature will do, and there are many recorded cases of these easily concealed serpents being used for surreptitious murder.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Kickstarter - DragonSlayer (Greg Gillespie's Old School Clone)

Tenkar's Tavern - Mon, 08/28/2023 - 18:00

I know what some of you are saying, as I've heard myself ask it many times over - Do we need yet another OSR ruleset? The answer, surprisingly, is yes, so long as the new ruleset has something new to offer. ShadowDark is very much Old School while being built on a 5e rules engine and adding the torchlight gimmick, and it works very well.

Well, earlier today, Greg Gillespie of Barrowmaze fame, launched a new Old School ruleset titled Dragonslayer. So, what does Dragonslayer offer that brings something new to the table? Let's see how Greg states it:

Once upon a time, as kids in the late 1970s and early 1980s, we played the first role-playing game created by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.

There were options at the time. Some played Basic and some most moved to First Edition (as best they could).

Most of us kept using the Basic Engine (elegantly restated by Tom Moldvay in 1981) and grafted the chrome of First Edition onto our existing style of play. We used First Edition spells, character classes, monsters, and all the adventures. We left behind lame rules that bogged down gameplay and made it feel like actuarial science (for example, counting segments for spells or weapon-speed factors, among others).

This wasn't Moldvay Basic and it wasn't First Edition.

This was the edition we all played. We called it .75 or halfway between BX and 1E.

This is the ruleset that I've played for decades. This is how I play medieval fantasy role-playing games. This is the way...I want to play fantasy role-playing games.

This is the ruleset I used to create and play some of the most popular and evocative megadungeon adventures on the RPG market today:

Barrowmaze, Archaia, HighFell, and Dwarrowdeep.

Both Archaia (2017) and Dwarrowdeep (2022) won the Three Castles Award for Independent Game Design in recent years. the DragonslayerTM Role-Playing Game.

DragonslayerTM is a 300 page rulebook with cover art by legendary ex-TSR artist Jeff Easley.

The DragonSlayer Kickstarter is about 26 USC in PDF and about 63 USC in Print plus PDF. I say "about" because Greg is Canadian and the prices are converted by Kickstarter into USC. When you read the word "about", you need to read it with a Canadian accent ;)

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

Remastering Pages

The Splintered Realm - Mon, 08/28/2023 - 13:46

As I go through the process of re-mastering the pages, I have the benefit of three things:

1) I know where the story is going! I've already got the whole thing done, so when I make edits, I know how these are going to affect other things. One of the biggest edits is that I'm changing the setting from the back yard to the larger area around Warwick Pond. This is necessitating some edits, and will require a little bit of re-drawing later on, but it's a relatively small edit that (to me) has significant implications. It makes the world of the ants, and the forces they are dealing with, much larger. It doesn't change the story per se, but it changes the context of the story.

2) I'm just a better writer than I was 30 years ago. I would HOPE so. It means that I can layer in more subtle things that help frame the ants, their worldview, and some of the larger themes more consistently. 

3) The font I'm using is how I wish my lettering looked. The lettering, to me, has always been the weak point in my comics, and being able to use a font cleans the pages us SO much. 

Also, time and space has given me an appreciation for my work as an artist. It's a good comic. I'm proud of it. I'm going to be very happy to have a definitive edition that is clean and tightened up that I can add to my shelf and share with people. 

The Tomb of Firkin

Ten Foot Pole - Mon, 08/28/2023 - 11:11
By Simon Miles Dunromin University Press OSRIC Levels 3-5

Thelkor Boghammer and his band of Dwarven murder-hobos opened up the tomb of the Gnomish Firkin family a few months ago. They had a bad time of it and the sole survivor, Tutlin, is drowning his sorrows and desperate to sell the map he made of the tomb to any eager adventurers he comes across. His map contains a clue to a secret way he never realized was there – can any more noble adventurers decipher the clue and find the riches without being slaughtered by the Undead guardians? Or, failing that, could your characters do it? 

This 46 page adventure contains a dungeon, with three themed areas and about sixty rooms. Long read-aloud. Long DM text. Nothing to do but stab people. It harkens back to the old days. The bad old days.

Come and listen to my story about a man named Bryce, A poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed … Do you remember how the jungle used to go? Back when the OSR was fresh and new? I do. It was hell. I mean, it’s hell now. It was a different hell? Instead of the Flavour System of the Month system we have now it was more of a Slog Through Meaningless Text style. Lots and lots and lots of read-aloud. Lots and lots and lots of DM text. And not much actually going on in the dungeon. Lots and ots of stabbing, I guess. And that’s what we got going on here. Lots of text. Mundane to the point of simulationist. A bad time.

Abstracted text. “You are all sat in the Inn considering your recent experiences and wondering what you might do next. The discussion turns to rumours and legends you’ve heard …” Yeah, sure , it’s fucking intro. But we don’t abstract text. And we don’t use the word “you”. No second person writing in adventures. Ever. We right specifics. That grounds the adventure. And no, you don’t need to describe every fucking thing. But you DO need specifics on some things. Like  making the fucking intro something that I’m not going to sleep through. “You stand at the crossroads of a hallway …” Jesus christ man, I thought this shit was known? I thought it was fucking obvious that you don’t do this? But not in this throwback adventure. It’s like the last ten years have not existed. Same old same old. 

And there’s read-aloud. Lots and ltos of read-aloud for every room. And there’s DM text. Lots and lots of DM text for every room. It’s perfect. The players will be bored while listening to the read-aloud, the boring read-aloud, drone on and on and then they can be bored again while the DM tries to scan the mountains of text that make up the DMs notes for the room. Fucking paragraph after paragraph. Wall of text levels of writing in places. It’s fucking insane. Again, it’s like the last fifteen years have not existed. I’m not sure how someone can be so disconnected. I mean, I don’t follow the crowds too much on social media, but I know enough to know which way the fucking wind is blowing and what the trends and lessons are. But this … How do you publish on DriveThru, for OSRIC, and still be this out of touch with what you need to do in an adventure?

“There is no hazard here and everything of value has been robbed out. The plinths are solid stone.” Yeah. Sure. Mountains of read-aloud for that. And mountains of DM text for little to no interactivity. Just that the room is empty. That the barrel is full of water. That the crate is empty. You can stab things. You can stab a lot of ghouls. That’s fun, right? And then you can stab a lot of hobgoblins in the second part of the dungeon. And then you can stab a bunch of goblins in the third section of the dungeon. Stab stab stab. Stab stab stab. “The hobgoblins in this room will respond to the hobgoblins in the other room in two rounds.” Well, great. Maybe put that fucking information in the room where we need it? 

“The floor of this chamber is …” That’s how, I don’t know, 80% f he rooms start. “This chamber is … “ It’s fucking padding man. 

There’s just nothing here man. Mountains of text to no effect. A throwback to the bad old days. You gotta make an effort man. You gotta get better. You gotta make at least a small effort to learn what to do. I mean, you kow enough to use english and not random gibberish, right? And to write from left to right? Why not expand that jut a bit and figure out how to present a good adventure for the DM? That would be effort? Ah

This is $3 at DriveThru. The preview is ten pages. You get to see no rooms. But, take a gander at that writing. Imagine those are the rooms. You’ll get what you need to know from that.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Cleric and the Rituals of Faith

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 08/28/2023 - 11:00

Over the weekend, I read this interesting blog series about how polytheism worked in the real world. Check it out. 

Anyway, it got me thinking about how D&D/rpg polytheism might be made more realistic without changing it much. Granted, it's a bit of an uphill battle since rpg polytheism of the D&D variety is very unrealistic in a lot of ways, but I'm going to focus here on one thing and that's Devereaux's central point in the early articles: religion is mainly about ritual not metaphysics.

This is actually pretty good for the D&D cleric, because they are largely soft on metaphysics and philosophy (short a lot of worldbuilding) but out-of-the-box do a lot of things like spells and special abilities that could be glossed (and roleplayed) as rituals. It's sort of transactional, even mechanistic from a modern lens, which is good for D&D because that's what clerical magic is. 

So, clerics are the most religious (in what Devereaux relates is the Roman sense) because they have the most effective deity-related rituals (spells) and they are the most diligent in their performance (it's their job). The use of the cleric to the adventuring party is this very religiousness: their ritual performances always get results. 

I think it would take relatively little roleplaying in this direction and reframing of these abilities in a more religious ritual context to make it feel a lot less merely mechanistic and a lot more flavorfully mechanistic.

[REVIEW] The Arcane Font of Hranadd-Zul

Beyond Fomalhaut - Sun, 08/27/2023 - 21:47

The Arcane Font
of Hranadd-Zuul
[REVIEW] The Arcane Font of Hranadd-Zul (2023)

by Daedalus


Levels 2–4 “plus henchmen”

Hello, and welcome to part SIX of **THE RECONQUISTA**, wherein entries of the scandalous No Artpunk Contest II (banned on Reddit but the top seller in the artpunk category on are subjected to RIGHTEOUS JUDGEMENT. As previously, the contest focuses on excellence in old-school gaming: creativity, craft, and table utility. It also returns to the original old school movement in that it assumes good practices can be learned, practiced and mastered; and there are, in fact, good and bad ways of playing. Like last year, these reviews will assume the participants have achieved a basic level competence, and are striving to go forward from that point. One adventure, No Art Punks by Peter Mullen, shall be excluded since Peter is contributing cover and interior art for my various publications. With that said and solemnly declared, Deus Vult! Let Destiny prevail!

* * *

A shrine known for a font that can grant magical powers for a price has become the focus of multiple competing groups. A magic-user, looking for the font’s energies, has been captivated by an evil plant monster, and serves it loyally. A band of grimlocks want to destroy the plant to worship the font as a manifestation of their god. A drow swordswoman has escaped here with a macguffin, and is pursued by a humanoid band who want her dead and the macguffin for themselves. The plant monster wants to enthrall and feed on more victims. This adventure uses a Dyson Logos map for a small dungeon adventure with 25 keyed areas, and lets loose the PCs among the factions.

Designed to be
messed withThe result is a sort of compendium of dungeon design good practices – a good mixture of encounter types, dungeon factions, non-linearity, monster tactics and a sense of wonder are all present. The locale is effective as a derelict place of mystery, with the statues of mysterious goddesses, scavengers which have moved in, and enigmatic puzzles you can mess with. This element of exploration and interaction is the adventure’s strongest point; whether it is messing with two magical mirrors that allow remote observation of key locales, stealing votive coins from the shrine of a death goddess, or exploring a laboratory setpiece, fun possibilities are presented and explored. It is not just single-function stuff – there are deeper layers of interaction and multiple possibilities to explore. There are enough environmental clues to help you along, but experimentation is tempting. You find a dead body, followed by a killer trap, and if you fall for it, it is richly deserved. The combat encounters offer good variety – there is a battle on a bridge spanning a larger cavern with a swarm of spiders dropping down from the ceiling that should warm every GM’s heart, a large grimlock gathering you can crash, or moving NPCs who are all different in their approach and threat type.

The faction conflict is central to the adventure, and it is impressively developed. There are opposing forces active in the area, they are on the move, and some of them also have bases to fall back to. This is quite outstanding, although as it tends to be, the dungeon is too small for this scope of intrigue. It is a grand play on a small stage – to work properly, it would need a place that would be three or more times as large, with generous empty space between the keyed areas.

Discovering the Ruined e-Thot RoomUser-friendly presentation is just as prominent in The Arcane Font of Hranadd-Zul, and every trick from the book is on display. Room entries use multiple-level bullet-point formatting, underlining, cross-referencing, the works. NPC motivations are explained, terrain features described exactly, there is a table breaking down XP and treasure, and even a “what happens after the adventure” page. Paradoxically, this becomes the module’s largest flaw and the main obstacle to actually using it. Things are over-explained in the text – describing the presence of mundane doors where the map would suffice, or dwelling on insignificant dungeon clutter, or the motivations of a mimic and a carrion crawler (it is what you expect). Underlined keywords are too frequent, and don’t draw our eyes to the relevant bits. The effect of presenting the entire text in two-level bullet pontese is more disorienting than helpful – a lot of it would have worked better as plain text, with the bullet points reserved for relevant material. The point is not that these layout practices aren’t useful, but that their role should be supportive, not overwhelming. Here, it is overwhelming.

All things considered, this is a decent adventure, but it would be a better one if it had a larger sscope, and especially if it wasn’t trying to be so helpful. There are strong elements in the factions, the exploration, and the generally well-written text, but in the end, we return to the eternal wisdom: less is sometimes more. Would I use the adventure as it is? No. Would I be interested in a new one that fixed its issues but kept its good points? Definitely.

No playtesters are credited in this module.

Rating: *** / *****

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Things Dragonic & Monsterous in OSR & Castles & Crusades rpg Campaigns - Dragons

Swords & Stitchery - Sun, 08/27/2023 - 19:44
" Casiodorus Rex: Did you ever hear of King Gaiseric? Oh no, of course not, you weren't even born. He was my brother, a great King and a valiant man-at-arms. When he ascended the throne, the dragon was unbridled. No one knew where it might strike next. So, he brought forth his broadsword, assembled his best company of fighters and went out to do battle. He was never seen again. But his attack Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Hear Me Out: TTRPG Achievements

Tenkar's Tavern - Sun, 08/27/2023 - 19:16


So this last week I've been playing Minecraft off and on, deciding to go back to a Survival world I'd pretty much abandoned because I was an idiot who let the Wither loose in the Nether. I thought maybe if I let loose a bunch of Iron Golems they'd take care of it, but no....

....after a few (more) character deaths, and loosing a bunch more "leveled" gear, I decided I'd enlist some help, which I haven't done yet, but while I'm waiting for that help I've spent my time screwing around and I was surprised when I was awarded a Diamond Achievement, which means I managed something that less than 10% of players have done. While I'm screwing around, why not work towards some more achievements. Some were easier than others, just because the crap I've been my home base has a huge "aquarium" I built that has a full-up conduit, which means my "character", as it were, is able to breath underwater. Spend an in-game day underwater and ding! another Diamond Achievement (0.78% of players).

This got me to thinking that it'd be cool if we had achievements for table-top RPGs. Now I know darned well that this would be a HUGE ask of our community because I could see this being fractured beyond belief, but at a table/GM level....very doable. If it was actually a community thing then we could get something that looks like a cohesive art style across achievements, but right now....we just got me.

I spent a few hours, probably waaaaay too long, trying to come up with 600dpi 1" .png's for the 20 19 (I accidentally listed one twice) Achievements I came up with. I stopped a little more than halfway because it was more than a Sunday morning's work. Clearly I took some liberties with the graphic ideas, but not all:

(20 points) Designated Survivor:
Bravely ran away as the only party survivor from a fight you couldn't win.

(5 points) Flawless Victory:
Win a combat encounter without any of your allies taking damage.

(5 points) Resourceful Fighter:
Defeat an enemy using improvised weapons or environmental objects.

(10 points) Avenger:
In a subsequent battle, defeat an enemy who had previously killed a party member.

(20 points) Revenger:
In a subsequent battle, defeat an enemy who had previously killed your PC.

 (10 points) Jester:
Successfully stop the game for 1" because you lightened the mood with your witty repetoire.

(20 points) Highlander:
There can be only the lone survivor of the battle.

(5 points) Melee Master:
Win a battle using only melee attacks, without an party member relying on ranged attacks or spellcraft.

(5 points) No Mercy:
Defeat an enemy while they are incapacitated or at a disadvantage.

(5 points) Lost and Found:
Return to a location you've been to more than a month before and discover a hidden treasure.

(10 points) Underground Adventurer:
Spend more than a month of in-game time underground.

(20 points) Death's Door:
Survive a combat encounter with only 1 hit point remaining.

(20 points) Critical Master: Land three critical hits in a single combat encounter.

(20 points) Living Legend: Have a character make Name Level.

(5 points) Silent Negotiator: Resolve a significant conflict without resorting to combat, using only your words and diplomacy.

(20 points) Take One for the Team: Place yourself in harm's way and take a wound that would've killed another party member.

(20 points) Campaign Chronicler: Keep a detailed in-character journal or diary chronicling the party's adventures for an entire year's time (in or out of game).

(10 points) Divine Inspiration: Role-play a conversation with a deity, and survive the experience.

(10 points) Linguist: Fluently converse in five or more fictional languages during a single game session.


Obviously this is just and idea, and only a start, but I'm thinking of these achievements kind of as a counter to the GM Kill Stickers I've made to adorn my Gm Shield.


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Phil File Card

The Splintered Realm - Sun, 08/27/2023 - 18:46

I'm playing with the file card design. I worked out a file card for Phil as of the beginning of the Army Ants comics (I cheated a little and gave him a 1-point discount since the gear he has adds up to 16 Clout but he only has 15). This is, of course, for Army Ants '81 the RPG, which is a companion for Army Ants '81 the comic, which is a re-master of my original comics from the 1990s... which takes place in 1981. Because it does.  

Hex Crawl 23 #224: Spires of Zan

Roles & Rules - Sun, 08/27/2023 - 06:46

Nine hexes northwest, one north of Alakran.


These natural stone formations are flat-topped, twenty to a hundred feet high, of width varying from an ox's pen, to a fine house's foundation, to a pedestal for a whole village. banded in red, orange, and purple. 

They are remarkable for what has not been done to them -- the originals, or blanks if you will, of the similar stone formations not far to the north, so artfully carved by ancient hand into the so-called Petitioners of Fate.

Now, they are merely a landmark, but one effective in quelling the fear that beasts of dray and burden feel when they spot the looming forms of the Petitioners across the dry plain. If an animal is brought to the Spires of Zan and induced to take fodder in their shadow, so the belief goes, it will not balk at the sight of the Petitioners. Indeed, a detour here is recommended to new travelers from the west who stay at the Caravanserai further down the road. Scoffers come to woe if pressing their beasts on to Eryptos, past those monuments made in a time gone by.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs


Subscribe to Furiously Eclectic People aggregator - Tabletop Gaming Blogs