Tabletop Gaming Feeds

La Danse Macabre

Ten Foot Pole - Sat, 09/11/2021 - 11:08
By Michael Gagnon Self Published For Coin & Blood Levels 2-4

Dark things stir under our feet. Creatures born of vile necromancy or dark will. The undead rise from their grave in “La Danse Macabre” an unofficial adventure module for “For Coin & Blood” and other OSR products.

This eleven page adventure, with an interesting cover to lure me in, features a five room dungeon in a graveyard. There are a few interesting concepts involved, but, in the end, it’s just Yet Another Poorly Implemented Concept with The Usual Language & Formatting Issues, to disappear in to the ether.

So, the worlds got some intelligent undead in it, and, they are offered as a player class: The Wretched. Well, more intelligent undead than usual, this is an attempt to give skeletons from Danse Macabre type vibes. It is written as a confusing mess of if this then that, with long conversational style, stretching to a page and half for one of the rooms. Helping this along is a left justified paragraph formatting, ensuring that it will be difficult to understand where one paragraph ends and a new concept begins and contributing to a Wall of Text type feel. No bueno. Mixed in to this is an attempt at an evocative description or two; a muddy graveyard covered in half-buried bones is one of the highlights, described in as many words as I just used. So, conversational style, a lot of if/then and then statements, some attempts at evocative phrases that get lost in the larger formatting issues. Repeated information, such as unlit sconces … that it then tells us that the party can light. This mashup of a description of a place and the actions a party might take in that place … which usually ends up creating a mess in the text, as it does here.

It wants to create this very political environment. You learn about a powerful & rich widow who has hired some mers to clean out her family graveyard of undead so she can bury her dead husband in two days time. It wants you to talk to her, and spends some time describing how the party could sabotage the mercs before they head out to do the same job. In the graveyard crypt you get a little vignette of a skeleton dude in robes giving a sermon, who is interested, perhaps, in getting the parties help for his quest to turn all ife in unlife … allowing the party to ally with him and his minions against he mercs and/or the widow when she shows up in two days time. (Fun fat: if you do this, he gives you a skeleton dude as a retainer! Nice reward that.) SO it wants this tripod with the widow, the mercs, and the skeleton dude. None of which is explored much, but ALL of which is covered with a lot of “if you do this then they will do that” type of statements, along with direct statement to the DM in many places about things the party could do, like “they could blackmail the widow with this information” and so on. But it’s all mixed in, it’s all a mess as presented.

The actual dungeon is not much to speak of. A few undead skeletons. Some lackluster rooms to poke in, not very well described. There’s just not much to do. A few combats with skeletons. Maybe talk to the main skeleton guy, maybe. The IDEA is that this is a dynamic environment, with the tripod, but that doesn’t come across and isn’t well supported for that.

(There may be some English As A Second Language issues in this, but I don’t think they cause any major issues, or minor ones even, other than noticing some phrasing issues.)

This is 5.50 at DriveThru, with no preview.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

'Pioneers & Pirates' More 2d6 Campaign & Sector Expansion notes

Swords & Stitchery - Sat, 09/11/2021 - 05:59
 Cepheus Deluxe has lots of tools for doing some excellent random world generation, fighting other creatures, and engaging in space battles, handling the risks of interstellar speculative trading, &  exploring new worlds,etc. Since this set of tools is perfect for existing Cepheus Engine rpg games then I decided to see if it could pimp out my upcoming Hostile rpg campaign setting game. Since my Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Review & Commmetary on Zozer Games Hotzone For The Hostile Setting For Cepheus Engine

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 09/10/2021 - 20:36
 "Hot Zone – that’s the crew’s name for LS809, a burning hell-hole orbiting Gliese 9028. It’s where they need to be, the location of a missing hyperspace probe. Acting strangely, whilst plotting new hyperspace co-ordinates, the probe has crashed-landed on the Hot Zone.Now the ICO want it back - quickly … and quietly.But the planet won’t let them take the prize so easily. This is a truly ‘hostile’Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Zargon's Wraith - B4 'The Lost City' By Tom Moldvay & Venger Satanis's Revelry in Torth

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 09/10/2021 - 18:45
 One of the things that's worked out in the past that one of my players reminded me of last night is the fact that while the PC's are staying in Omar's house. They may want to get back into B4 'The Lost City' By Tom Moldvay. And yes that's right we set the lost city as a backdoor dungeon into the black pyramid of Cha'alt. Which is kind of the point because parts of Cha'alt is a bit of homage to Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The First Folk of the Wilderness

Sorcerer's Skull - Fri, 09/10/2021 - 11:00

This is a follow-up to this post.

The First Folk were the earliest inhabitants of the Western Lands, that is certain. Their tradition holds that all people emerged from the navel of the Earth, somewhere in the far west, but that they, the Children of the Dawn, were specially loved by the gods who taught them their secrets, which the first Folks used to found the earliest civilizations in the world in the Eastern Lands.

Some human scriptures teach that the First Folk are the hybrid children of rebellious greater spirits, sometimes falsely called gods, and humans. They cite the Great Flood as the True God's punishment for the iniquities of the First Folk and their parents. This religious condemnation did not stop human tribes from studying under the First Folk and learning their craft and science. Of course, these humans, too, committed the same sins in the eyes of God, perhaps, for was not their island home destroyed in a cataclysm for their wickedness?

After the Flood, the surviving First Folk lords and their people returned to the shores of the Western Lands. There they found members of their own race, fallen in their own reckoning, living primitively in the endless forests. They sometimes met these kinsfolk in peace, sometimes in violence. They raised new cities, though perhaps not as glorious as those in the East. The barrows and ruins of these people are still found, though in the end a strange fall overcame them, so that they were only a shadow by the time the first humans came West. 

These human tribes sometimes warred with the surviving First Folk from the East, but over time became beloved of the the First Folk of the woodlands. Later human tribes would not be so receptive to the First Folk ways.

The Folk of Forests have receded ever further as human civilization has encroached upon the dark wood beyond the mountains. It is wise for travelers to abide by their rules and attempt to placate them, however, as they have be known to punish those who do not respect their ways.

The First Folk of the east were taller (perhaps as tall as 8 feet, with some of the ruling class of the great kingdoms of the East even taller) and in general, considered more beautiful than humans. Their lifespans were exceedingly long--before the Deluge they were immortal--and their physical capabilities exceeded those of man. Their eyes and sometimes their faces, were said to have a subtle radiance about them, perhaps a suggestion of their Celestial heritage. The Folk of the Forest are not as tall, and often more angular, but still strangely beautiful, possessed of a glamor, it is said.

Using Zozer Games Crew Expendable & Cepheus Atom Together For 2d6 Campaign & Sector Expansion

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 09/10/2021 - 03:11
To expand upon my Hostile setting campaign tonight I sat down with Hostile's Crew Expendable  book.; "CREW EXPENDABLE is a supplement for Cepheus Engine and the HOSTILE setting. It provides players with a comprehensive campaign of routine space travel - interstellar haulage carried out by blue collar ‘space truckers’, working Joes just trying to make ends meet, and to stay alive.""The book Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

'New Members & Mecha on Cha'alt ' Session report # 2 S3 'Expedition to The Barrier Peaks ' With The Castles & Crusades Rpg Aligned With The Star Ship Warden Rpg book

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 09/09/2021 - 17:36
 Let's pick this up right where we last left off, our heroes were dealing with the feral elves & veggie pygmies. The party were trespassing on their hunting ground & the elves wanted to know why! So with a bit parley the party explained they were there for the Warden science vessel for exploration. For the trade of an enchanted knife the elves would act as a guide into the interior of the vessel.Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Ten Years of the Zenopus Archives

Zenopus Archives - Thu, 09/09/2021 - 13:57

Ten years ago today, I made the first post to this blog, "What lies in the (undiscovered) deeper levels where Zenopus met his doom?", which was titled after Holmes' question in the coda to the Sample Dungeon. It was essentially just a teaser post, with just two links, both still active: one to the Zenopus Archives site, which was already under construction, and one to the Holmes Basic subforum on ODD74. But soon after that I started to post regularly, which ballooned to 65 posts in the last four months of 2011, and then 130 the next year, a pace that I have not kept up with since. But I have kept at it, and now it's ten years later, which is almost three times as long as the original era of Holmes Basic, and I have no plans for stopping.


TSR celebrated their 10th Anniversary with a Collector's Set, so I'm doing the same with 10 years of highlights, a sort of "Collector's Set" for the Zenopus Archives:


Holmes on Tolkien

Caves of Chaos Revealed


Warlock or How to Play D&D without playing D&D?

How Zenopus Met His Doom 


The Cthulhu Mythos in D&D in the 1970s

Holmes Manuscript Series


20 Backgrounds for OD&D

Fearsome Monsters


Visualizing Castle Greyhawk

Beyond the Door to Monster Mountain


Con Report for NTRPGCon 2016

Gygaxian Orc Tribes


Holmes Ref 2.0

Tales of Peril Book Club


Gygax's "Dungeon Delving" Playtest Reports

The J. Eric Holmes Photo Gallery


The Holmes Basic G+ Community Archive

In Search of the Brazen Head of Zenopus at Gary Con

The Master's Lair, A Play Report


Release of The Ruined Tower of Zenopus 

In Search of the Brazen Head of Zenopus at Scrum Con


d20 Unexpectedly Intelligent Monsters in the Monster Manual

Holmes Basic Cover Art: Exhibited!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Guest Post: Trollopulous Reloaded

Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog - Thu, 09/09/2021 - 11:27

Jeffro asked, so when asked one gives it the college try. After hiatus, Trollopulous rises again. 

It was Jeffro’s fault the last time too. Hard to think it was five years ago and more. Back then Jeffro and I were playing wargames at our local club. We’d meet after work, get tacos, and ride the bus to the club and chat about our gaming dreams – one of which was to run AD&D 1st edition as closely to the rules as possible. But then Jeffro moved out of town and we never put out chats into action. Nonetheless, I did start an 1st Edition Oriental Adventures game soon after. I had three players who notoriously cheated on their rolls. They quit after five sessions. The reason being given is they didn’t like AD&D and wanted to play Werewolf or some other similar game that I wasn’t interested in. What didn’t the like? Well, I’m pretty sure they didn’t like the TPK we had in the first session. This was my own fault. I’d repurposed the Lamentations of the Flame Princess module Tower of the Stargazer into the OA game. It’s one of the safest LOTFP modules and I didn’t force them to drink the poisoned wine. Still. Then the other thing they didn’t like was saving throws. Saving throws? Yep. Too scary. They hated the idea that their character could die at the whim of a dice drop. And, 1st ed AD&D low level saving throws are rather difficult. But, I had a good time in the other sessions and their barbarians did level up 2nd in a memorable fashion by using the scrolls they’d found as smoking papers. Still, the game ended. They didn’t want to play AD&D and I didn’t want to run the games they preferred. That was that.

And the world changed. Now, subject dispersal and a tyrannical dystopia Jeffro set out on the quest again. Riding a mutant moose called the Internet, we played online in the most stupid way possible, plain video call. No Roll20. No online dice rollers. Just mics, jerky video, and the honor system for rolls. And it worked. Jeffro’s written all about it. Go read his columns. If you are here you likely already have. It was some of the best AD&D I’ve played ever. Certainly, better than the time that guy came at me with a carpet knife but that’s another story.  Then Jeffro kicked it up a notch. He introduced Patrons, mediated by Twitter DM with game news advertised through the Trollopulous News Service twitter feed. But then it stopped and now what?

Trollopulous rises again. Under new management. Jeffro asked me to take up the reins. And, it’s big boots to fill. I’ve never used Patrons, I’ve never used 1 ot1 time, and I’ve never not used modules. But, Jeffro asked so we ride again. 

This time it’s going to be both sessions, 1 to 1 time, and patrons. And like our own world there has been a Great Reset. It’s not all the same players and not all the same patrons. Hopefully, unlike our own it will also be a bigger world. And it is already. In preparation used the DMG Appendix B, to generate the lands west of Trollopulous. The method shown is random but, did pretty well in generating a playable setting. It does have its quirks. I ended up with five cities, all within a hundred miles or so of each other and few on water. But, that’s the beauty, like the Traveller planet generation system you roll and then you rationalize what you got. And the table below summarizes what I got pretty well – likely years’ worth of gaming is what I got. Assuming of course, that players decide to travel that way.  Play’s can be perverse that way.

The Lands of the Five Cities

So, I put out the call and players and Patrons are rolling in. It’s catch as catch can. Whoever shows is whoever plays. Similarly I’ve only a small number of Patrons and could use a few more but that’s okay. I’ll play the other patrons until others show interest. It’s the DMs job.

One problem I have is I don’t quite know where everything left off. As a player I only got the parts of the action relevant to my character. No matter. We begin at The Octogon – the Adventurers Aid Society which lies in the western reaches of Trollopulous (360 miles away from The City). 

The Lands of Trollopulous

The party starts as five and becomes six as the night goes on. The first sessions characters are:

  • Druggo Hairycock – 2nd level Thief
  • Franz – 1st level Fighter (a former henchman)
  • Tancred – 1st level Paladin
  • Pius the First — 1st level Cleric
  • Slomo Goldberg – 1st level Cleric
  • Fagor the Half-Orc Hero – 4th level Fighter

Our party meets and trades rumors. 

  • At the Octogon resting from their travels is a large diplomatic mission of the Five Cities heading to Trollopulous. Representatives of the Five Cities are there with their retinues – about 250 living (presumably) souls or thereabouts.
  • An earthquake has struck leaving the AAS in a shambles and most importantly the AASs rental dungeon collapsed. 
  • A plague has struck Trollopulous, apparently starting within the High Panderers Society but now spreading among the general populace. The city has locked down and quarantined itself.
  • A dragon has been seen flying west over the barrier mountains.
  • A fleet of strange ships has been spotted entering South Bay.

 The party mulls this over and decides to first go check out the Diplomatic mission. From the get go it’s obvious there are tensions between the various five factions which include: 

  • Sahar, a bellicose paladin of the City of St. Therese. He tells them St. Therese is the largest and most important of the Five Cities. Not yet strong enough to dominate them all but, soon the evil ones will be bested he promises. Sahars retinue is fifty horse of cavalry
  • Emlyn, a cleric form the City of Wisdom Glen. She’s very much an earthmother given to flower wreaths and gentle touches. Her retinue is all handmaiden clerics. They are allied with St. Therese. The 
  • Azothinaktus, a saturnine visaged counter to Sahar from the City of Hammerhand.
  • Ruks, a warrior of the City of the Three Regiments. He’s angular fierce in golden armor and a high crested helm. The City of the Three are mercenaries who sell their services to the highest bidders from the other cities. He has fifty golden armored foot who stand at attention, march in time, and glare at all and sundry with their square eyes.
  • Hasthoth, of the City of Yauhiklendusz. Hastoth remains unseen. He travels in a giant rune-carved steel palanquin whose poles are carried between mammoths. The retinue is of slender courtiers in robes of unknown color who faces are blank as waxen masks. 

From their inquires the group finds that the Five Cities are clearly allies only of convenience (or possibly inconvenience). Sahar and Azothinaktus argue and look daggers at each other. Emlyn stands between them making peaceful entreaties while the robed servitors of Hastoth shuffle this way and that on mysterious errands. Ruks and his golden warriors look on impassively at all. 

Having gathered what they could about the envoys, the group then decides to check out the collapsed cave. Druggo discovers that he can wriggle through the rocks to find the passageway beyond is not completely blocked. Large glowing beetles crawl randomly about he dark hall. He comes out and soon the party has cleared enough rocks to let the others enter. They proceed and kill a couple of the glowing beetles which sends the others scurrying away down the hall. Proceeding cautiously ahead they discover a vast sinkhole, perhaps the result of the earthquake. Glowing beetles crawl the walls of the sinkhole. Forty feet down at the bottom of the hole sits a glowing rectangle. Druggo convinces the others to lower him down on a rope. He approaches the glowing rectangle and notes that the border is ringed with symbols similar to that of Hastoths palanquin. Boldly Druggo lowers himself into the opening only to discover himself pulled to one side to find himself laying in a giant square or park surrounded by huge cyclopean towers. The land is litters with rocks and crystals. Druggo isn’t there long when he spots several large cone-shaped beings enter the far side of the square. At the apex of each cone are several tentacles – some tipped with eyes, strange cones, and claws. They stop and Druggo sees the eyestalks and cones on all of theme rotate in his direction. Ripples wave up the bodies of the cones and they slowly start to move in his direction. Not liking the looks of things Druggo jams a handful of the rocks in his pocket and leaps back through the shining rectangle.

Back into the sinkhole Druggo is pulled out just in time to see a large beetle hauling itself out of the gate. It’s significantly bigger than the glowing beetles. They flee out of the delve and call it a day. 

The rocks Druggo grabbed turn out to be valuable jewels which they sell at the AAS. They spend a night and recruit a band of the other adventurers to join them back at the sinkhole. Unfortunately, Tancred is not feeling well this morning. He has some marks on his throat, has lost a couple HP, and a point of both strength and constitution. They consult with Emlyn who heals him but is not able to restore his strength. 

Nonetheless they head back to the sinkhole. There are a lot more of the glowing beetles and the party and their hirelings kill a good two dozen and drive them back. But, at the sinkhole the large beetles are coming. First one and soon another joins it. In sequence the two start hammering their abdomens into the side of the sinkhole. First there is a vibration and soon the whole place is shaking. The party makes saving throws to keep their feet and all do. That’s enough for the session and they head back to the Octogon. 

So, they we are. It’s mostly been getting oriented and a minor delved. Each player ends up with 391 XP (223 from combat & 168 from treasure). 168 gp each. 

So, we now have downtime. Druggo spends the week spying on Hastoth’s palanquin. Over several days staking out the box Druggo observes this:

  1. the robed servitors come and go nearly always from one shadow to another. Sometimes it seems like they just disappear. Also, their faces don’t seem right — unnaturally still, waxy even.
  2. A few days in they set up a kind of lean-to tent around the box and several goats are led into it. There is a terrified maa-ing then silence and the snapping of bones.
  3. The robed servitors seem to be delaying the diplomatic mission leaving for Trollopulous. Members of the other delegations arguing with the robed servitors.

Things aren’t going well for Tancred. Each day he wakes up with one less strength and constitution. He asks Emlyn to cast a Remove Curve which has no effect. Talkin with the other delegations he does learn that the people of Wisdom Glen are prone to wasting sickness. Tancred entreaties Emlyn again who tries a Heal spell to no effect. The next day, weaker than ever, Tancred watches as Azothinaktus and Sahar argue then challenge each other to a duel. They fight and Azothinaktus is killed but not before Sahar is also wounded with a poisoned dagger. The Hammerhanders load up Azothinaktus’s body and ride off in a huff. The handmaidens of Wisdom Glen tend to Sahar. 

The following day one of the young handmaidens comes and tries Dispel Evil on Tacred. Which works! His strength and constitution then start returning at the same rate they were lost. Tancred does see Emlyn looking at the young handmaiden with an uncharacteristic cold expression. 

Also one night the skies lit up with an aurora borealis and a giant golden unicorn like beast was seen flying west through the sky. The following day a band of a hundred or so riders are seen west of the Octogon riding south. 

There are other things going on in the background. But, that’s what’s publicly available. 

Other rumors:

  • The whereabouts of the late Elric’s Demonsword are unknown. Last seen entering the cavemen jungles.
  • A large band of cultists was massacred several months ago at their archeological dig. A mysterious shield was recovered from their diggings. But, the Cleric who claimed the shield absconded with it the very night it was found.

So, one session in and there is more than enough for it to go any which way. So far the tools in the DMG are working just fine. We shall see what happens next. 

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Dungeons Are Contrived for Fun Games

DM David - Thu, 09/09/2021 - 11:15

The ancient Egyptians used canopic jars to store the stomach, intestines, lungs, and liver of corpses embalmed as mummies. I’m surprised that as a longtime D&D fan, I learned that fun fact only recently. Credit Jen Kretchmer, the author of The Canopic Being from Candlekeep Mysteries. The group for my D&D weekend started our tier 3 games with this standout adventure that built mummy lore into an ingenious villain.

After playing the adventure, I remembered that the dungeon’s lack of stairs caused a silly controversy. A preview by James Haeck reveals the feature. “It’s filled with fantasy elevators, and ledges are accessible by ramps rather than by stairs. If you have a player in your gaming group who wants to play a wheelchair-using character, this is a great adventure to borrow dungeon design ideas from. After all, it is a fantasy world. If it’s a player’s fantasy to kick ass in a wheelchair, why not?”

Some D&D fans grumbled that such a dungeon defied history or D&D tradition. In D&D, any closed environment meant to be explored, infiltrated, or raided qualifies as a dungeon, and those places almost always include substantial allowances to make play more fun, most often including oversized spaces with plenty of room for fights. D&D dungeons owe as much to history as fire-breathing dragons do. As for D&D tradition, the original 1974 D&D books recommend sloping passages and sinking rooms as tricky dungeon features. Dungeons can make such allowances and still murder characters.

James asks, “If we didn’t mention that the dungeon was fully accessible here, would you have even noticed that there were ramps instead of stairs?” True. Nobody noticed.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Solar Trek Episode Guide - Updated

Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 09/09/2021 - 11:00

In honor of Star Trek's 55th anniversary (yesterday), it seemed like a good time to revisit my 2019 posts on Solar Trek, a solar system confined, more hard science fiction rationalized Star Trek. Here are all the posts to date, titled with the TOS episode/setting element that inspired it.
The introductory post
The Orion Syndicate
"Return of the Archons"
"That Which Survives"
"The Cloud Minders"
"The Trouble with Tribbles"
"Tholian Web""The Amok Time""The Way to Eden"

OSR Review & Commentary on Cepheus Deluxe rpg for Your Old School 2d6 Science Fiction & Science Fantasy Gaming

Swords & Stitchery - Thu, 09/09/2021 - 02:10
" Starships riding fire across the sky. Heroes and villains exchanging laser fire. Desperate spacers struggling against an alien monstrosity. Vast planetary vistas, flying cities, moonscapes, mad robots, and first encounters. In short: high-action science-fiction adventure that stimulates your sense of wonder. Cepheus Deluxe puts you in the shoes of an adventurer visiting distant stars and Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Light of Hope

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 09/08/2021 - 11:14
By Andrew Sammler Self Published 5e Level 8

With the continual darkness still overhead, adventurers embark on a journey to deliver Good Mead supplies to some of the Ten-Towns to lighten the mood and allow people to blow off steam. On the journey, the characters will be providing joy, light, hope, celebrations, competition, honey wine, and baked goods.

This 35 page adventure uses about fifteen pages to describe a couple of combats (three?) and a few skill challenges, the rest of the page count being the appendix monster stats. It strikes me as a 4e AL adventure: a pretext and then a [fight or skill challenge.] With logical inconsistencies that tear at suspension of disbelief, I guess it’s fine if all you want to do is roll-play.

Your level eight characters get to escort a wagon full of mead barrels to two towns. Escort mission. Of beer. As level eight’s. It’s not magic beer or anything. It’s just mead. Because the two towns haven’t had any for awhile and it will make them happy. I don’t know man, maybe it’s a thing in this setting that level eights deliver beer. Oh, and the quest giver is an asshole, f you ask questions he starts to get rude and impatient and berate you. I’ve never understood this. “Ok, fuckface, how about you deliver your own beer? Maybe you haul it in your asshole since I’m about to start shoving these barrels up yours!” Yes, I do want to play D&D tonight, why do you ask? Ok, yes, I suck it up “we will deliver your beer Mr ungrateful asswipe. Please, pretty please, allow me to go on this adventure and play D&D tonight.” 

On the way to the first town a blizzard starts. This if course means that you are about to be ambushed. And you are, by undead. Who form ranks with the rear rank shooting arrows at your mead barrels while the front rank protects them. I must say, this pretty much robs the undead of any wonder or mystery, treating them like the robots in the prequels. Nothing really undead about them, they just act like die rollers, which is what everyone in this adventure is. Flavorless die rolling. Oh, and, there’s a dude sneaking up behind you. Afterwards you can track him. Even though there’s a blizzard. I don’t know. Hang on, I’ve got a call from my wife, I have to go home. What? Why, yes, I am divorced for a couple of years now. Oh, I misspoke, I meant to say it’s a spam call and I can keep playing D&D.

When you get to both towns you are given some busy work. “Were gonna have a party tonight, I need your help.” Trovus suggests that first thing in the morning the characters clean up and prepare the warehouse space for the battle of wits tomorrow, which would include dusting, straightening tables, lighting the torches, preparing the dragonchess sets, etc. Slow news day I guess. Then starts the party and our friendly D&D players get to make a series of skill checks. Want to play dragonchess? Make a series of skill checks. Want to do the riddle contest? Make some skill checks. Want to participate in the handstand contest? Make some skill checks. 

The issue is not the festival. This sort of party participation shit has been around forever. The issue us the abstraction of the game. There is NO detail to the contests. Just make some skill checks. No “And Frenkie performs the Rubinate hook moving his platinum dragon to Huma-well 4!” No drama or local colour. No favour of any type. Just make some skill checks. This is the worst sort of things. Roll dice. *YAWN* 

Oh! Oh! I forgot! The dude who sabotages your mead barrels in the ambush? If captured, he won’t give up his employer. Because, I guess, “sabotaging some mead barrels” is the crime of the century even when compared to the fire & toture that the party will bring down on him. Th real reason is, of course, tha the designer wants to have a climactic battle with the bad bad, complete with reveal, at he end of the adventure and finding out sooner would spoil that. 

Did I mention that there’s an assassin in a little hut you visit, trying to kill the person inside, and the MASSIVE FORCE OF UNDEAD waits out back, because, that’s what you do as the big bad; when you have a massive force of undead 10’ away from your victim you instead send one lowly human to do the job. For that matter, the entire adventure revolves around a necromancer wanting to make the town unhappy, and thus sabotaging the mead delivery. A necromancer that seemingly has a bajillion undead at their disposal. Why not just fucking kill people and burn their crops, houses etc? Why fuck around with “sabotage the beer delivery?” 

Because that’s the adventure. A pretext. Written for the wrong level. A pretext. An excuse to roll a bunch of dice in combats that make little sense. A pretext to have some abstracted skill challenges. It reminds me, for all the world, of those terrible 4e RPGA games I used to play up at Winter Fantasy in Fort Wayne.

Sure, it’s formatted nicely enough. But at some point you have to recognize that you’re playing Warhammer and not D&D. What does it even mean anymore to say “I like playing D&D? What does that mean?

It’s 11:11am and it’s time to drink.

This is $5 at DriveThru. The preview is fourteen pages; more than enough to get a sense of the writing style, formatting, and what you are buying.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Wednesday Comics: DC, December 1980 (wk 1 pt 1)

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 09/08/2021 - 11:00
I'm reading DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! This week, I'm looking at the comics at newsstands on the week of  September 11, 1980. 

Batman #330: A gangster on death row sends assassins to make sure Batman dies before he does. Meanwhile, Batman and Robin are trying to find Lucius Fox's son, who's gotten tangled up in a plot by the crime lord Falstaff to get at Bruce Wayne. Wolfman has Batman and Robin disagreeing over how to deal with the the confused, young Fox, an extension of their disagreement over Grayson quitting college. This is consistent with Wolfman's portrayal of their relationship in New Teen Titans, but he doesn't show up outside of his stories. Talia also appears here, but doesn't do much. The last assassin, a guy with an Old West gunfighter theme is an interesting character, but I suspect he doesn't appear again.

DC Comics Presents #28: Wein and Starlin continue the story of Superman's fight against Mongul and Warworld. Here, Superman teams with his cousin, Supergirl. They are presented here as much more powerful than we typically see them portrayed today (this is sporadically true of other Silver Age heroes, like Flash, as well, in this era). The Super-cousins use "microscopic vision" to follow the trail of subatomic particles to Warworld and telescopic vision to surveil it. We get Mongul's tragic origin, which is basically that he's a former dictator kicked out by his people in favor of a dictator who was just as bad (in Mongul's opinion). The Kryptonians hold their own against what Warworld can throw at them until Mongul's brain burns out commanding the station. They finally defeat it by having Supergirl fly at superluminal speeds and smash a path straight through the station, which Superman uses to enter and reprogram its systems at super-speed. But where does Supergirl end ip?
The backup story is perhaps the first genuine "What Ever Happened to..." in the series. Tiefenbacher and Kane have the Old West hero Johnny Thunder and his sometimes competitor, Madame .44 teaming up and revealing their true identities--and true feelings--for each other. Then they get hitched! Kane's not at the top of his game here, but he still draws great Western action.

Flash #292: Either some time has passed since last issue, or Fiona Webb got over her fear that Barry Allen was trying to kill her really quickly after learning the truth, because Bates and Heck have the two on a date at a carnival. A carnival where the Mirror Master gloats over his plans to defeat the Flash. The Flash's foes seem to physically warp/transform his body a lot, and Mirror Master is no exception. He makes Flash uncoordinated by mirror-image reversing his body! The Flash figures this out and manages to save himself then Central City. He outruns a reflected "solaser" beam and has time to paint a building in silver nitrate before the beam arrives. During all this Fiona Webb is on again, off again, based on perceived slights on Barry's part due to his distraction while dealing with Mirror Master. Sometimes she has a point, but it makes her look really high maintenance! Nice to get a "done in one" story.
In the back up story, Conway and Perez have Firestorm tangle with the Hyena, who attacks a police station because they are corrupt and not doing a good enough job, I guess? Then, he heads off to stop a robbery. I had no idea the Hyena was a vicious vigilante until this story.

Ghosts #95: The first story goes back to a schtick Ghosts hasn't played up in a few issues: the idea that the stories are real, but gives it a bit of a "meta" bent has it purports to be the story of why the author (Kashdan) didn't write the story the editor assigned to him about Gurney Castle, which includes a meeting with a ghost in that castle. Clever, but there isn't much to the story beyond the conceit. "Spectral Bullets Cannot Kill!" by Wessler with that distinct Henson art I've come to appreciate is better. A mobster sends a hitman to kill a guy with a gambling debt. The man pleads his inability to pay due to his recent car accident, but the mobster has no pity. In anger, the man puts a curse on the hitman's gun. When the time comes for the deed, the bullets don't hurt him. He taunts the hitman that their "spectral" nature. The hitman returns to the mobster to admit failure to find the man already there. The mobster demands he shoot again, but when the hitman does, the bullets pass through the other man and hit the mobster. The twist: the bullets were ok, but the man was a ghost, having died in the car accident. The next Wessler yarn isn't quite as good. A man plots the murder of his friend in a cave so he can get the girl, but rainwater erases the paint trail he had left for his own exit. The only trail he can find proves to be blood leading him back to the scene of his crime.

In the last story by Kupperberg and Adams/Blasdell, Dr. Thirteen the Ghost-Breaker returns, having last been seen in 1977. This story also features an appearance by Rutland, Vermont. Thirteen has retired from the fraud-exposing business to write books and make the talk show circuit, but a mysterious man named Kowalski asks him to take a case in a Rutland community theater where unusual occurrences are being blamed on the ghost of a playwright, Tilson. Thirteen quickly discovers it's all being faked by an actress who's trying to get out of her contract, but it turns out that Kowalski was the real name of Tilson.

Jonah Hex #43: Marshall Jeremiah Hart takes a look at the body of the businessman Hex supposedly killed and something doesn't add up. Still, he sets out after the bounty hunter, only stopping to contend with the Spast Brothers who want their sibling out of jail. Instead, they wind of joining him. Meanwhile, Hex is again promising Mei Ling he'll put down his guns as son as he gets this last bounty, the man who shot the banker. On the trail, Hart gets the drop on Hex. He tells him that something about the alleged crime does add up, but he still has to take him in. Unfortunately, Apaches get a drop on them both. They bear a grudge against Hex going back to the incident where his face was scarred. Working together, they manage to escape, but then the Spast Brothers prepare to spring an ambush.

Weird War Tales #95: "The War That Time Forgot" is back for the first time since 1976. This story by Kanigher and Reyes is typical of the WTTF sort in that the dinosaurs are Godzilla-sized, far bigger than they were in reality. The Devil Dinosaur-red tyrannosaurus carries around a Sherman tank for much of the story after the tank crew rescues the native woman that was intended to be a sacrifice to him. The crew booby traps their tank and blow up the monster. This is by far the best story of the issue. 
The next by Kashdan and Ayers/Adkins has an Imperial Japanese experiment to breed a voracious insect to act as a defoliant going wrong when the insects decide to dine on their creators. The next story by DeMatteis and Forton has a wealthy businessman, Geller, hounded by people accusing him of being Nazi war criminal Geisen. A Holocaust survivor claims to recognize from the camp. That night, Geller seems to awaken in the concentration camp. He is beaten and tries to escape, then is taken to the showers. As he screams and cowers in terror, it's revealed that this all has been a bit of theater. He's been drugged and brought to a movie set by the Holocaust survivor to torture him into confessing, but--oops--his assistant comes running in with a message from Israel clearing Geller of being Geisen. He's actually the camp doctor, Reinhart, who was sympathetic to the prisoners and was tortured by his superiors for his actions. The trauma caused him amnesia. Now, the camp survivor remembers why his face was so familiar! The final story by Kanigher and Carrillo is a riff off the "Angel of Mons." Both the Brits and the Germans troops glimpse what they believe to be the flowing robes of an angel leading them to victory, but it turns out to be scythe-wielding death for all.

'Dude, you wrecked my mech!' Session report #1 S3 'Expedition to The Barrier Peaks ' With The Castles & Crusades Rpg Aligned With The Star Ship Warden Rpg book

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 09/07/2021 - 18:27
 So while one party of adventurers is dealing with the Rapture of the Deep adventure on another Earth. Our starwort heroes are moving to get to the "Warden" science vessel from Gary Gygax's S3 'Expedition to the Barrier Peaks' using Troll Lords Amazing Adventures. Things didn't go as planned for the players. RAP036C Tavshar Battler Archon From Alternative Armies Once upon a time there was a groupNeedles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

I’m working on the Battlezoo Bestiary!

Blog of Holding - Tue, 09/07/2021 - 14:53

The Battlezoo Bestiary is a big D&D Kickstarter that’s going on RIGHT NOW: it’s at $130,000+ as I write this. For $39, you can get a big hardcover of new monsters, in either PF2 or 5e format. And that’s where I come in.

I’m working on the 5e versions of the monsters along with star editor William Fischer. Naturally the Battlezoo monsters will be fully business-card-ified, with meaningful and calibrated CRs, and incorporating the lessons that William and I have learned from working on the Monstrous Menagerie together. The Monstrous Menagerie plus the Battlezoo Bestiary will make a nice set: a leveled-up book of standard monsters plus a book of original, out-there monsters to surprise and delight.

There’s some amazing monsters in here! I can’t wait for you to unleash them on your unsuspecting players.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Without Encumbrance, Strength Is a Roleplaying Choice for Sub-Optimal Characters

DM David - Tue, 09/07/2021 - 10:38

Of the 6 players gathered for my weekend of D&D, nobody showed up with a character with a strength higher than 8. Fifth edition D&D makes Strength a common dump stat because the game lacks an encumbrance system that players use. I’ve never played fifth edition with the option, mainly because I’ve never played this edition in a style that encourages the bookkeeping. Encumbrance fits with a gritty style of dungeon crawl that focuses on counting torches, rations, and perhaps abandoning copper pieces in favor of more portable loot.

When encumbrance feels like an accounting exercise that players ignore, Dexterity becomes king. By selecting ranged or finesse weapons, a Dexterity-based character can approach the damage of a similar character based on Strength—more with optimal feats. Plus, a high Dexterity enables an AC nearly as stout as the heaviest armor, wins initiative, and improves common Dexterity saves rather than rare Strength saves.

With encumbrance justifiably relegated to a seldom-used optional rule, a more evolved D&D design would boost the value of Strength with some advantages over Dexterity. After all, mighty warriors swinging great big swords form a deeply resonant part of fantasy and the game. I want to play those characters without feeling like I made a sacrifice for the sake of roleplaying.

For more, see A Game Design History of the Dump Stat.

Next on Thursday: Dungeons are contrived for fun games.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Upcoming on DM David

DM David - Tue, 09/07/2021 - 10:35

A month back, I gathered with five other gamers for a weekend of non-stop Dungeons & Dragons, an event that I overheard my mom saying sounded like “just an awful time.” She comes from a generation that recognized golf and fishing as the only leisure activities grown men could admit to enjoying, but she would not have rated those as a pleasant either. Her assessment of a fun weekend amuses me because we both understand that people like different things, and I like D&D. My group of enthusiasts started with new characters and jumped levels after each adventure until we capped the weekend at level 20.

D&D play at Origins 2016 with the D&D Experience in the balcony

For 9 years, I’ve written here about D&D. When I started, I figured I might run out of topics after a few months and stop. The ideas kept coming, and part of the fuel came from gaming conventions where I spoke with other gamers. For March 2020, I had a trip to GaryCon scheduled, but the pandemic pulled the plug. So a lack of such fan gatherings left me feeling short on inspiration.

The 6-person convention brought D&D thoughts, discussion, and a fresh surge of ideas. Our high-level play led to three posts on tier 4 games. Some of the thoughts lead to a variety of shorter posts that I plan to deliver twice a week until I run out.

Also today: Without encumbrance, Strength is a roleplaying choice for sub-optimal characters

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Empire of the Petal Throne rpg & Metamorphosis Alpha rpg - Slow Boat Generational Ships

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 09/07/2021 - 03:40
 When the Human Empires collapsed unto the micro planes and was cut off from the rest of  TEKUMEL along with the rest of its universe. There were literally thousands of star ships in hyperspace along with  worlds cut off from the Human Empires. This basically means that both Gamma World first edition or Metamorphis Alpha 1st edition  rpg might be places where the planar gateways were cut off all Needles
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OSR Commentary On The Gamefound Project 'Down We Go'

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 09/06/2021 - 22:33
 Tony Vasinda contacted me about promoting 'Down We Go' a really simple not so much a retroclone as a one rule set of rules. Very simplistic & self contained; "Down We Go captures the heart of Old School tabletop RPG flavor with simple core rules. This globally-developed game includes procedures, adventures, hexcrawls, and a new core setting. Venture to Infinopolis a twisting city that hungers Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs


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