Tabletop Gaming Feeds

OSR Commentary On 'Hawk The Slayer' film From 1980 As Inspiration For Your Old School 2d6 Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 09/06/2021 - 18:01
"Two brothers locked in deadly combat till the end of time !""Hawk, having suffered the ignominy of watching both his father and fiancée die at the hands of his brother, Voltan, sets out on a quest for companions to aid him in his fight to stop his brother's reign of evil and free the Abbess" This is going to pick up right where  OSR Commentary On 'The Sword & The Sorcerer' film From 1982 As Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Announcing THE RISE OF ROBO-HITLER (and how to stop him)

The Disoriented Ranger - Mon, 09/06/2021 - 12:12

Some might have heard rumors, some saw the signs here on the blog, some had been warned back in the day on g+ ... This is going to happen now, folks. Or rather: it is happening already for a long time and now we are playing it and artwork is being drawn and level-design is (almost) done ... we are way beyond the point of no return. It'll be just as gonzo and wild as people know from Monkey Business. So far it's one hell of a trip and, well, let's say, going places. #bunkersploitation

Daniel has been trying his pen a bit on some of the ideas I threw his way and we decided to use it for the first official announcement. Behold:

This tells a lot on one side, but not much on the other, so here's the pitch:

It's the year 1967 when US intelligence agencies discover a bunker full of Nazis deep in the Austrian Alps. They seem to be working on something monumental. Something that will change the face of earth, if it comes to pass. So world governments throw their ressources together to send a rag-tag team of professionals to face the unbelievable darkness that brews deep down in this bunker full of bogey men (and women) from a past thought overcome. This module will feature Lizard-Men!, Mutants!, Dark Science!, lots of Nazi cannon-fodder!, uncanny robotics! AND - of course - the titular ROBO-HITLER!!1!

- includes all the gore you can imagine -

This will be crazy-grindhouse fun and huge. Four levels with sub-levels, new monsters and items your wizard shouldn't own and morale dilemmas (maybe). Definitely lots of action and bombs and gunplay. We have way too much fun playing this (and I hope that will translate). It'll also feature additional rules to tweak Labyrinth Lord towards more of a grindhouse experience. It'll be called be67 (or "The be67 Supplement") and I've already given the tour for that here on the blog (looky here, for starters).

Expect more details in the very near future :)

Needs a revision, but here we go ...

Oh, and of course you stop him by playing this. Hehe

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Hidden Necropolis

Ten Foot Pole - Mon, 09/06/2021 - 11:11
By Robert Nemeth Caulbearer Press Five Torches Deep/5e Levels 3-5

Miners at a copper mine in the foothills of a large mountain range have discovered the remains of an ancient civilization and something more mysterious. A lone survivor of the mine arrives at the nearby town, but is delirious from his experience. Will the adventurers sent to unravel the mystery find out what dark fate has befallen the mine?

This forty page digest adventure uses eighteen pages to describe a mine dungeon with thirteen rooms. Long read-aloud and a “encounter room and stab” design mentality combine with an overly focused attention to mechanics to detract from any sort of an interesting environment. 

The mine here is just a couple of room leading up to an underground pit mine about 90’x90’ that, evidently, had about fifty miners working it, given that there seems to be about fifty miner zombies scattered throughout the dungeon. Zombies, and everything else in the adventure, do one thing in this adventure: as soon as you enter the room they shuffle forward to attack you. Or, in the immortal words of the overly-flowery read-aloud “they seek to extract your essence.” And, don’t get your hopes up, there’s nothing special about having your essence extracted. No brain eating or black clouds coming from their mouths or parasitic finger thingies. They just attack with pickaxes. Enter a room, get attacked. Enter another room, get attacked. Maybe make some kind of dex check to climb up something or open something. Or, some kind of int check to find out something meaningless. What was that version of Doom where you basically just entered a room and the doors slammed and creatures appeared? Like a hundred little set pieces. Except these are not set pieces. We all bring a part of of us to what we review and I’m not afraid to say that I find this the most boring type of D&D to D&D. I know, I know, some people like 4e and minis combat. This isn’t that, but it FEELS like that. There’s no real tension in the encounters. No “I wonder what will happen if we open the coffin” or “Oooo, I know this is a bad idea but I’m going to do it anyway!” It feels mechanistic.

And this feeling is probably enhanced by the focus on mechanics in the adventure. The DM text really likes describing mechanics. In detail. And I’m not talking trap & door porn, where the mechanics of the trap are given too much detail. No, this game mechanics detail. Like let’s write a long paragraph on how to walk down the corridor and all the checks one has to make and then the checks after the checks. And then the checks are the parts of the DM text that are highlighted, to call out the 5e specific rules for that system. This draws your eye to them, even if you’re not playing 5e, making it harder to grok the mechanics and other text as a whole. 

And let’s talk read-aloud. The read-aloud that makes just about every read-aloud mistake that can be made. It’s long, violating the 3-4 sentence guideline. People don’t listen to long read-aloud. Their attention wanders. They pull out their phones. They don’t care anymore. It’s in italics. Long sections of italics are harder to read and comprehend. And, it’s in a weird fucking italics font, making it all the harder to deal with. It uses phrases like “appears to be” and concentrates on a second-person perspective, saying things like “You can see some tracks off to the left” instead of “There are tracks off to the left.” When read-aloud is a quarter of a page or longer, there’s an issue. It’s focusing too much on exact specifics, where the doors are, for example, instead of giving the impression of the room for the party to follow up on with questions to the DM. 

Oh, let’s see, what else. The local garrison is too busy with road patrols to go check out the Serpent Men reports. The serpent man portions of the dungeon are rather drab, meant to be enhanced by a “general dungeon features” section earlier in the book, which will no doubt be forgotten and dropped during play. Doors have not been used in quite some time and thus are harder to open, in spite of the zombification event just happening. Zombies at the entrance don’t show up to ambush the party unless the party miss their perception check. I have no idea how that works. 

The titular necropolis is one room, has two animated stone statues, and a gold scepter. Talk about a let down …

The wandering monster tables are by far the most interesting part of the adventure. A pair of ogres with a halfling in a sack over their back, harpies who want just one person to bring back to the nest to feed on, a face-saving bandit with an ostentatious name, Stirge who attack pc’s with BO, a troll who lures PC’s with the sounds of a drowning child. That shit is good. 

Production values on this one are high. But, in terms of design, it gets almost everything wrong … unless you just want to fight shit and exploration, role-play, wonder and joy are just a sideline to you.

This is $4 at DriveThru. The preview is six pages, only the first of which shows you one encounter, the first one. It’s a decent example of what to expect, just assume that everything else is more badder than this.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Weird Revisited: Herculean Labors on Labor Day

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 09/06/2021 - 11:00
Labor Day is a good time to take a look back at a post I did back in 2013 on the Labors of Hercules (the link there will refresh you on the background) through a science fantasy lens in the Gods, Demi-gods & Strangeness setting I did some blogging about back then.
1: In the first labor, Hercules killed the Nemean lion. Given the Olympians penchant for genetically reviving extinct species, this was probably a cave lion of some sort. Perhaps a specimen of Panthera leo fossilis as big as Panthera leo atrox, the America cave lion: something like 8 ft. long and 4 ft. tall at the shoulder. The being invulnerable thing is probably just fanciful exaggeration--or is it?

2: Next, Hercules and Iolaus took on the Lemaean Hydra. A multiheaded serpent is the sort of creature spawned by Echidna.

3: Hercules only captured the Golden Hind of Artemis (the Cerynitian Hind). This was one of a group of specialized genetically engineered deer of genus Eucladoceros kept by Artemis. They were engineered so (like modern reindeer) the females had antlers.

4: Next Hercules captured the Erymanthian Boar. I've written about these "giant boar" previously.

5: The stables of Augeas were really, really disgusting. Why were his livestock immortal?

6: After that, Hercules slayed a group of Stymphalian birds--which of course aren't birds at all.

7: Hercules captured the rampaging Cretan Bull. As previously established, this creature wasn't the father of the Minotaur. Instead, it was a large auroch as enraged and violent as that big buffalo in White Buffalo (1977).

8: Capturing the Mares of Diomedes was difficult because they were carnivorous. They must have been some mad creation of Olympian science.

9: Next Hercules stole the belt of the Queen of the Amazons, Hippolyta. This belt was a gift of Ares and a symbol of her authority, but didn't have any particular powers. Probably.

10: For his next labor, Hercules does a little cattle-rustling. He goes to an island of Erytheia far the the West (probably modern Spain) and steals special cattle (likely bioengineered to produce something for the Olympians--perhaps a component of nectar or ambrosia?) from Geryon. Geryon is said to have three bodies, which probably means his consciousness runs in three duplicates. He also had a 2 headed dog.

11:Returning to the far west and still messing with Olympian pharma, Hercules stole the Golden Apples of the Hesperides. He had to kill a dragon (or a guardian of some sort) and dealt with Atlas, who was the artificial intelligence of an installation that protected against threats from space.

12: Finally, he captured Cerberus. This guardian of Hades is a nanite swarm often taking the vague form of a large three headed dog.

Have a good Labor Day!

Expedition To The Deep Session Report #1 - The Free Gamma World Adventure GW5 'Rapture From the Deep' & S3 'Expedition to The Barrier Peaks ' With The Castles & Crusades Rpg Aligned With The Star Ship Warden Rpg book

Swords & Stitchery - Sun, 09/05/2021 - 18:58
"A terrible menace from the sea is threatening villages all along the coast. Whole shoreline communities have been disappearing without a trace.The remaining area inhabitants have banded together and sent for a group of experienced heroes to help. They want to know what could be causing these horrible events, and more importantly, what can be done to put a stop to them. Is it some new terrifying Needles
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Terror Bees Adapted From Godzilla: The Series - Season 1, Episode - 09 Hive For Cepheus Atom & Those Old School 2d6 Science Fantasy Role Playing Campaign

Swords & Stitchery - Sun, 09/05/2021 - 13:16
 First created by the Japanese Black Dragon Society as a part of Japan's nuclear weapons program during WWII. on a remote  South American  island. This joint program was done in conjontion with the German high command. The island's geothermal volcanic base proved ideal for the power requirements. But after the first ninety days several mutant Kuiju life forms appeared. The mutated giant bees wereNeedles
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OSR Commentary On The 'Sword of Kos' Fantasy Campaign Setting & The “At the Shrine of Othrys” 5th edition adventure - Bringing it Back To The OSR

Swords & Stitchery - Sun, 09/05/2021 - 02:13
“At the Shrine of Othrys” begins in the rugged foothills surrounding ominous Mount Othrys, located in a desolate wilderness on the Greek mainland and the legendary headquarters of the Titans during their war with the Olympian Gods. Characters have learned about the presence of an ancient shrine that has lain untouched and hidden beneath the hills for a century and, even as cultists respond to a Needles
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The Witch of Underwillow

Ten Foot Pole - Sat, 09/04/2021 - 11:11
By Merric Blackman Self Published 5e Levels 1-3

Save a kidnapped child! The villagers fear the forest, and rightly so. When wolves drag a child into the forest, there is only one option: find brave adventurers to follow the wolves and save the child! However, are there things the villagers aren’t telling the adventurers? What dark fate awaits them when they face the Witch of Underwillow?

This eight page adventure features six encounters on the trail of a baby stolen by a witch, with a nominal Ravenloft setting. Decent creepy and writing, along with DM text that that is to the point, helps make this a solid adventure, although featuring a few odious concepts and “extensions” that are, at best, half-hearted. A straightforward one session stab and grab. Merric has a solid head but can stumble on delivery, and this is no exception.

First, competent adventure. The read-aloud, while trending to the longer side of the three-four sentence rule, is fairly evocative and concentrates on the important shit. Hearing that a baby went missing while mom was hanging laundry, the RA for the house covers a fallen-down house in three sentences, and then the backyard with laundry line and overturned baby basket in two, finishing with “A dark forest runs along the edge of the yard.” You get the three main things: the house, the laundry/basket/yard, and the forest. Plus, the imagery of the laundry line, overturned basket and dark forest beyond summons up on not images on dingo got my baby, by The Witch movie as well. This sort of eerie farmhouse/woods thing that only a melancholy Sunday afternoon mood at dusk can match. And Merric does this sort of thing time after time in the adventure. The red-aloud is decent and focuses on what it needs to. The images painted tend toward the eerie, and the supporting DM text is generally to the point, focusing on the important aspects of the adventure, abstracting where necessary. The interior of the house gets two sentences, with a third on the “twist”, in a separate paragraph. And, the major topics are generally kept in separate paragraphs, to help locate information better. I would prefer a bolded word or two to help focus attention to the correct paragraph further, but, whatever. 

I should also cover the use of themes and cultural heritage. Good adventures can leverage that shared culture we all have to bring more to the adventure than the words otherwise could. That laundry line, basket, and woods, for example, leveraging all the media we’ve seen of those situations. The mother is actually “simple” and a bit insane … because the baby is a doll … bringing in the horror aspect to the game (this being a Ravenloft adventure.)The witch lives in the required tree root ceiling house, right out of 13th Warrior, and her door has a golden keyhole … which should be immediately bringing up folklore vibes. Not to mention a witch stealing babies and wolves in the forest. The use of this in the adventure leverages MORE, and that’s a GREAT thing.

And then he goes and mucks it up by relying on the worst tropes of adventures.

You see, the witch has  “decided to lure the adventurers to her lair, weaken them with some tests, and finally kill them herself (if the tests don’t do it first).” This is lame. Luring adventurers and testing them. A thousand thousand bad adventures have this premise. It’s the “I couldn’t think of anything more interesting” premise. Merric goes on to say that “In my campaign, her motivations were never revealed, as the characters killed her before she could even negotiate with them – the perils of trigger-happy players.” Yeah, play stupid games and win stupid prizes. I would re-frame “trigger-happy” as “smart.” But, whatever. The fruit of the poison tree is that the innkeep is instructed by the witch to hire to the party. This, alone, is no great sin. After all, up till now we could just ignore all this “test” and “hire” bullshit and just run a nice “evil baby stealing witch” adventure. But then we face an issue, and, I’m sure, the reason for the nonsense: I presume everyone knows that the womans baby is not a baby. Thus, including one feature, a desire to have a doll of a crazy-woman stolen instead of a real baby, leads to the sins piling up. Now, to be fair, you do get a few words of advice on the players detecting the deception and the innkeep breaknig down, fearful for his family, and ratting on the witch. But …

The trend continues. The door with the golden lock can’t be Knock’d. Yes, I fucking know that Knock fucks things up. Yes, I know that the witch wants the party to complete her “tests” first and knock bypasses that. Themes the breaks. You want to play D&D then you don’t get to gimp the fucking players. Don’t want Knock to fuck things up? Play a game not meant for dungeon-delving and one more suited for horror. I’m not morally opposed to The Oracle living on top of a mountain, or requiring the golden fleece before helping, but too much of it breaks the immersive nature and brings on the eye rolling. 

On top of that, the “combat” encounters feel like tack ons. On the way through the first you get to fight wolves. Ok. Sure, they live in the forest and you DO get a nice “glowing red eyes in the shadows” bit. But then, on the way out after fucking her up, you also get another wolf, a dire wolf blocking your path. The pretext is that its either her boon pact entity taking revenge on the party or a rival of hers throwing some shit at the party. In reality it’s a “I feel like I need another encounter” encounter. It feels like a tack on and doesn’t fit in. Yes, it IS the third wolf encounter in the adventure and three is a magic number, but it also feels like Merric got lazy with it. 

So, a workmanlike effort by Merric. Decent concept, but could have used a little more thinking in a couple of the concepts behind it and a few of the encounters. And the options for “She Is a Good Witch”, etc, in the appendix, don’t really expand those options in any meaningful or interesting way. It’s an ok adventure, decently evocative, better than most, but a little … uninteresting?

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

One Stat To Rule Them All?! - The Revolution By Night - Commentary on The Nightshift Companion Kickstarter

Swords & Stitchery - Sat, 09/04/2021 - 05:23
 So looking around Timothy Brannon's Otherside blog about his & Jason Vey's Night Companion Kickstarter.  But what struck me is this little nugget of information that Tim, ' Guidelines to convert your game to a unified mechanic: both d20-based and percentile-based options are covered'. This little nugget smells of something that I've noticed for years now. That is that many folks converted 'Call Needles
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Setting Up A Warpland Campaign With Sword of Cepheus rpg Resources

Swords & Stitchery - Sat, 09/04/2021 - 00:11
" The sky has been turned into a mind bending kaleidoscope, occasionally delivering mutagenic maelstroms that change forever the appearance of both the landscape and its people.Abysses have punctured reality, corrupting it all with their infectious energy while seducing with power those insane enough to listen.Sometimes you've got to figure out games as you go. Take for example Warpland rpg whichNeedles
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5 Days Till New Beginnings Kickstarter Launch

Two Hour Wargames - Fri, 09/03/2021 - 22:00

 5150 New Beginnings Kickstarter

Check out the free stuff on the 8th,

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Using 'Level of the Lost' By Michael Curtis With Troll Lord Games Starship Warden rpg

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 09/03/2021 - 18:50
 "Venture into forgotten territory! When a long-sealed section of the Warden is opened and a renowned explorer goes missing, new opportunities arise for adventure and danger. Rumor has it that one of the fabled Command Rings, potent artifacts of old that grants the wearer complete control over the drifting starship, lies waiting for the taking beyond the forbidding gate. Does your band of daring Needles
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Concerning the OSR, Everything is All Right.

Bat in the Attic - Fri, 09/03/2021 - 14:12

Over the summer and recently I seen posts and opinions on the direction of the Old School Renaissance or OSR. Just keep in mind that due to how it came about. A result of discussion and sharing on the Internet combined with judicious use of open content like the D20 System Reference Document. Because of this, differences in content, tone, and feel are not only expected but inevitable. 

Everybody has equal access to the foundational material and the situation is such that one can do quite a bit within the time one has for a hobby. Even when it something more involved like getting a work in shape for publication. 

The result is that the OSR is confusing kaleidoscope of many voices doing their own things. Which is a good thing in my book as this ensure that your voice will be heard if you have the interest and time. Plus thanks to digital technology it only take a few hundred folks interested in particular take to keep it going.

The downside is that if you have a specific interest and it not being handled by anybody then the only recourse available is to do it yourself. Encouragement or promotion might work but the only way to ensure that something gets done is for somebody somewhere to pick up the available tools and starting making stuff.

Which why what I said back in 2009 is still true today, the OSR belongs to those who do.

Finally remember what you see, including myself, is just a slice of a much larger effort. With nearly 8,000 items on DriveThruRPG alone, I would not trust anybody's assertion that the OSR is about anything in particular other than it that probably originated in a theme or set of mechanics associated with the various classic editions of the world's most popular roleplaying game. 

But if you look at specific groups and specific individuals, like myself, then that will not be the case, and that there will be a specific focus. For me it been mostly about sandbox campaigns, hexcrawl formatted settings, letting players trash settings ,and when needed using rules based off of Swords and Wizardry. Other folks have their own focus.

One particular thing I want to mention that matured quite a bit since 2009 are virtual tabletops. Even after face to face gaming resumes it former place, the development of VTT software, like Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds continue to allow people separated by geography or circumsantces to get together and play the games they like and love.  And the best part you can switch easily between a VTT and face to face when time and circumstances permit. Both start with the same material and require pretty much the same type preparation although there are differences in how the session are handled. 

As always Fight On! and have fun with the stuff. It yours to do as you will whether it is playing, promoting, sharing, or publishing. 

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Deep Dweller Adapted From Godzilla The Series Season One Episode 'Tourist Trap' For Cepheus Atom & Those Old School 2d6 Science Fantasy Role Playing Campaign

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 09/03/2021 - 04:54
 The Deep Dweller developed by the Nazi third columists of the inner Earth during the 'Occult Wars' as a self sustaining bio weapon. This  like fish monsterousity is prone to violence & destruction at a moment's notice. The Deep-Dweller looks mostly similar to a frogfish of colossal dimensions, it has a large mouth full of fangs that are its main weapon, protrusions protrude from its head, a row Needles
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The Ruined Tower of Zenopus: September Starter Sale

Zenopus Archives - Thu, 09/02/2021 - 14:12

DMs Guild is having a "September Starter Sale", with select introductory adventures up to 30% off through September 7th, and The Ruined Tower of Zenopus has been selected, so it is currently only $1.39!

As a reminder, if you missed the announcement last fall, the pdf now includes a full-page illustration by Chris Holmes (son of J. Eric Holmes) and a printer-friendly dungeon map. The purchase also includes a separate png file of the dungeon map suitable for VTTs (optimized for Roll20).

For old-school enthusiasts, here on the blog I also offered notes on retro-converting it:

Running It Retro, Part I 

Running It Retro, Part II

The adventure went Platinum back in January (1,001 sales), and is now close to 1,500 sales. However, the next badge (Mithril) at DMs Guild doesn't come until 2,501 sales are hit.

Find it here:
The Ruined Tower of Zenopus on DMs Guild

Click here to read reviews of the RTOZ by various bloggers 

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

A Different West

Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 09/02/2021 - 11:00

 Being in sort of a Old West/Frontier mood of late, I got around the checking out a couple of things that had been on my list for a while, but I just kept never getting to.

The Nightingale (2019) is an Australian revisionist Western from the director of The Babadook. In it's basic plot, it's a tale of revenge, not unlike Hannie Caulder (1971), but the resemblance to traditional revenge Westerns, even revenge Westerns based around women, really ends at the plot synopsis. It's more interested (like many revisionist Westerns) in examining the plight of indigenous peoples, but it takes the particular angle of the allowing its oppressed Irish woman protagonist to develop empathy, through recognizes the points of similarity between her experience and that of her Aboriginal guide. While perhaps not as brutal the last Australian Western I watched, The Proposition (2006), it is tough viewing in places, particularly the assault on the protagonist and her family. Still, it's a good film on its own terms, and it's always interesting to see Western film tropes and themes played out in places besides North America.

The Wind Through the Keyhole is the last book (to date) written by Stephen King set in the Dark Tower universe. It's outside the main story of that series proper, but includes those characters in framing device. While sheltering from fantastical storm, part tornado and part polar vortex, Roland relates a tale of his youthful days as a gunslinger to his friends. Embedded in that story is another story, a Mid-World "fairytale," that his mother had read to him as a boy, "The Wind Through the Keyhole." This story within a story tells the tale of a young boy living on the edge of the Endless Wood who must contend with a malign fairy, a swamp (complete with a dragon), and his own encounter with that same sort of storm, in a trek across a dangerous wilderness to get a cure for his mother's blindness from the wizard, Maerlyn. 

King's feel for his fantasy world keeps getting stronger. While there are clear points of intersection with our history, he relies less on characters or incursions from our reality (or realities like ours). The Dark Tower novels that were mostly about Mid-World (Wizard and the Glass, Wolves of Calla) were my favorites of the series, and I think this short novel does what they do even better. I wish King would write a collection of other Mid-World tales.

Wednesday Comics: November, 1980 (wk 2, pt 2)

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 09/01/2021 - 11:00
My goal: read DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! This week, I'm looking at the comics at newsstands around August 28, 1980. 

Legion of Super-Heroes #269: This is one of the best Conway/Janes issues so far, which is not to say it's spectacular, but it's better than Space Genies. It's approaching election time for Earth's new President, and Colossal Boy's mother gets drafted to run. There's the relationship stuff LSH is known for, but as Shadow Lass and Mon-El are pitching woo, others are celebrating with Colossal Boy's family, and Timber Wolf is moping, the Fatal Five (in league with the mysterious Dark Man) attack. I'm looking forward to the next issue of Legion for the first time in this experiment, I think.

Mystery in Space #113: This continues to be pretty good. The first story by Kashdan with art by Michael Golden and Bob Wiacek has 3 earthlings answering a want ad for computer specialists on a mysterious world. They find the planet to be a paradise, but something about it seems almost to good to be true--and sure enough it is. The inhabitants all have computer brains so they can be immortal, but for some reason they need old fashion human brains to direct their society. When the computer specialists (now prisoners in a gilded cage) have to get computer brains to keep from dying of old age, they place an ad for new specialists. 
The next story by DeMatteis and Grandenetti, has a 2000 AD sort of vibe. The absurdly violent General Windsinger looks into the eyes of a strange alien on the battlefield and is transported to an alien menagerie and what he takes to be a gladiatorial contest. He slaughters his opponents, but then discovers he was the one that lost. The aliens were offering souls ready to leave violence behind in an eternal paradise, but despite his subconscious yearnings, his actions prove he isn't ready. He's returned to the battlefield where he sheds a single tear. "Gremlins" has great Kubert art and a script by Wein. It involves stranded spacemen mistaking the intentions of creatures that look like small, neotenic versions of xenomorphs. The final story by Kashdan and von Eeden, has mankind discovering a species of four-limbed ape-creatures that are highly trainable. They plan to have these creatures replace robots as domestic servants and menials. You know this is going to end badly, but the how is surprising. When the creatures rebel and start killing their masters, they are regrettable exterminated. It turns out the robots used a poison to make the creatures violent because they didn't want to be replaced!

New Adventures of Superboy #11: Lex plots revenge against Superboy, but his device malfunctions and just causes Superboy to develop the power of "bio-magnetism," which really just means he attracts objects to himself he wants to attract (so more selective bio-gravity, but anyway). Eventually, the power grows beyond Superboy's control, and he steals Lex's notes to see how to stop it. Flying out into space to a "cosmic whirlwind" or "space vortex," which pretty much a black hole, but it looks like a whirlpool in space. He uses it to siphon off the "bio-magnetic" energy, but then it traps him--just like Lex always intended. Superboy escapes, of course, by going limp and riding waves of swirling gas. Lex is so angry he says he would rip his hair out--if he had any! In the backup written by Rozakis, Lana's father seems to have found a real genie, but it's really only a over-helpful Superbaby making the wishes come true. Pa Kent instructs his son on how to set it right. This is one of those stories where the toddlers (Superbaby and Lana) talk like fictional cavemen not actual children.

Sgt. Rock #346: This lead story is one of those Kanigher yarns that drives home the point over and over. He also engages in some parallelism between the wisdom of Sgt. Rock and the German unit commander, which is another thing Kanigher falls back on a lot. The conceit here is you don't see the enemy, but he's always there, and a few new recruits learn that lesson the hard way.  The other stories are all over the place, uncredited and often not particularly good. We get "The Star-Spangled Banner" as the narration to a battle with aliens, a former "Water Boy" finally getting the chance to man the machine gun in War World II, a Confederate cavalryman and his horse from artillery fire, and finally (best of the bunch) "Detour" by Kelley and Bissette, where a German tank commander takes out a U.S. bomber and tank in North Africa, only to fall prey to carelessness when his cigarette butt ignites the oil on the ground, and immolates both sides in a funeral pyre.

Super Friends #38: The alien Grax is back and he's teaming up with criminals and helping them commit crimes by using a device to make the Super Friends insubstantial. Soon, our heroes are insubstantial enough they risk floating away. Luckily, the Wonder Twins figure out a way to utilize their powers and with Wonder Woman's lasso, come to the rescue. These stories have more to them than the cartoon episodes, but not much more. Fradon's art helps, though.
The backup story by Bridwell and Oskner is actually more interesting. It's a solo story for Seraph, hero of Israel from the Global Guardians. He's visiting a settlement when it's attack by bikers posing as "Arabs." They are actually thieves after a treasure of Solomon, but they figure the PLO will take credit for the attack anyway. Seraph stops them but gets so worked up that he almost kills one of them after the guy surrenders. God takes away his powers and speaks to him in a booming voice (or either Fourth World Source writing, it's not clear). Seraph has to go and pray and repent to get his powers back.

Unexpected #204: The first story by Case and Calnan is an unusual (for DC horror titles) psychological horror piece. A child star is pushed by her overbearing stage mother to appear and stay child-like even as she becomes a teen. Eventually the girl snaps and kills her mother, then retreats into child-like fantasy. The next story by Ms. Seegar, Newton and Blaisdell has a philandering magician casting spells to woo a young woman away from her beau, but the magician's witch girlfriend has other ideas. In "The 13 Hex" by Wessler and Payne a man's date to a carnival is troubled by the continued reappearance of the number 13, convinced it harbingers bad luck. The man is too pre-occupied with his debt to organized crime and the hitman that's after him to worry about that. In the end, the date is the assassin, and the number 13 is unlucky for her, but not for her intended victim!  

Unknown Soldier #245: Kanigher and Ayers have the Unknown Soldier in occupied France trying to protect a blind Allied agent who knows the whereabouts of German missiles armed with a deadly chemical agent. The agent's beauty and kindness has the Unknown Soldier lamenting his own disfigured features. They are captured, but when the Unknown Soldier escapes and goes to rescue the woman, he discovers she's really German agent, and essentially a female version of himself, her face having been scared by Allied incendiary raids. Next comes a chase down snowy mountainside. The Soldier's toboggan jump across a crevasse fortuitously allows him to drop explosives on the German rockets below. The German agent dies in the explosion presumably, and despite her attempt to kill him, the Unknown Soldier feels regret.
In the backup story "The Vanishing American" by Kanigher and Yeates, a cavalry patrol, eager to wipe out an Indian tribe whose warriors they have already killed in reprisal for Custer's Last Stand, is led into an ambush by the tribe's women. In the Dateline: Frontline story by Burkett and Estrada, the reporter, Wayne, makes the decision to take an assignment in Bataan, while the woman he's been dating decides she has to volunteer to become a nurse in the European Theater.

Warlord #38: Read more about it here. The OMAC installment continues the battle between the IC&C and Verner Bros. I don't know if my supposition last month regarding these being Marvel and DC stand-ins is right, but it's amusing in the light of our era where AT&T owns Warner Bros. Anyway, Starlin definitely delivers the action in this installment.

Challenging High-level Characters Without Breaking the Dungeon Master

DM David - Tue, 08/31/2021 - 10:53

A the highest levels, Dungeons & Dragons lets super-powered characters travel otherworldly realms and battle threats that approach the power of gods. That grand scale lets dungeon masters enjoy the fun of loosing our imaginations’ unlimited special effects budgets, and of pitting the characters against any threat we can dream while feeling confident the players will win. But to DMs new to running high-level games, that power level can also feel unmanageable. I‘m here to help.

My last post shared advice from Adventurers League administrator Alan Patrick for improving top-level games by circling back to recapture elements that make low-level games compelling. This new post offers more help for challenging high-level characters and their players in combat while dealing with the mental demands of running tables with so many powers and effects in play.

Give the characters more to do at once. A D&D character’s limit of 1 action, 1 bonus, and 1 reaction never lifts, so while high-level characters gain more options, they can only choose a few.

Much of the joy of playing games comes from weighing options and making crucial choices. The delight and challenge of playing high-level D&D comes from having all the answers, but only so much time—a dilemma that creates interesting decisions. Every round offers a choice of possibilities. Which will best win the day?

For high level characters, Alan Patrick seeks to build encounters around multiple, simultaneous problems or challenges to be resolved. Those include battlefield traps and hazards, secondary objectives, countdowns, and other elements that demand attention. He recommends avoiding situations that simply ask characters to work to avoid an obstacle. Instead, make players choose which of many possible outcomes they should spend their energy to reach.

The final showdown of Alan’s adventure DDAL00-03 Those That Came Before presses every player to make tough choices on every turn. The main foe drains health to regenerate, so it makes an obvious target, but the creature’s allies seem even more punishing. When I played the adventure, my group struggled to decide who we could most afford to ignore. Meanwhile, many of the monsters spewed worms that posed a deadly hazard we couldn’t ignore. I found my attention riveted as I wrestled over how best to use my power on my upcoming turn.

In that encounter, Alan hit his design target.

Make the party run a marathon. When high-level parties rest, they recover tremendous resources, including new helpings of the reality-remaking 9th-level spells that even 20th-level characters can only cast once per day. If you prefer not to let the party coast through adventures because they tackle encounters at full strength and then cut through every problem one wish at a time, then time pressure becomes essential. High-level characters feature enough resources to run a daily marathon. Make them. Tier 4 adventures work best when players must face obstacles in a race against time.

Give preferred targets maximum hit points. The moment a key foe takes the field, they become the favored target for attack. In fifth edition, the sort of masterminds behind an evil scheme or capable of attacks that threaten a group also suffer from too few hit points to flaunt their best tricks. The hit dice formulas in the monster books represent a range of possible values. For obvious targets, dial up health to the maximum value.

Give the headliner a warm-up act. In this analogy, the headliner is that primary foe who makes an obvious target. If a high-level party can start fights by targeting that lead foe and unloading all their attacks and powers, the heroes will beat every encounter in a hurry. So build encounters like live entertainment, with a warm-up act that starts the party before the headlining boss monster appears.

Managing high-level battles

The threats capable of challenging high-level characters also tax a DM’s skills. Every monster, power, and hazard adds more choices and more to manage at the table. If you’re like me, you sometimes struggle to handle it all. Some techniques can ease the load.

Seek uncomplicated monsters to fill groups of foes. D&D’s high-threat monsters almost always include menus of powers that add complexity. Such creatures play fine at lower levels where one demon makes a potent threat, but when these creatures gather in the groups needed at high levels, they slow the game. The Monster Manual offers very few high-challenge creatures that remain simple to run, so uncomplicated, hard-hitting foes such as giants and mariliths prove especially useful.

Bring monsters in waves. Challenging high-level characters often means more monsters and more complicated monsters, which can mean that players wind up spending too much idle time between their turns watching the DM run monsters. Instead, add creatures in waves that come as the the players thin the foes already in the battle. The delayed arrivals maintain tension without dragging down the DM with too much activity.

Favor traps and hazards that trigger on an initiative count. Battlefield traps and hazards help challenge mighty heroes, but effects that trigger during a characters’ turn add more to the DM’s memory load. Recently, when I ran an encounter in a fiery environment that inflicted damage to creatures at the end of their turns, I kept forgetting. When I changed to inflicting damage on initiative 0, I added the fire damage effect to my initiative tracker and remembered it. That made me and my iron golems happy.

Add legendary and lair actions to your initiative tracker. Add markers in your initiative tracker for any legendary actions. If you opt to change when legendary monsters use their extra actions, reposition these markers, but the reminders lift the burden of remembering the actions.

Use average damage. In the fourth edition days, I would sometimes attempt to speed high-level battles by using average damage for monsters like the edition’s designers recommended, but some convention players felt slighted by my shortcut. Now, D&D gives average damage as the standard for monsters, so players accept it and I welcome the option to skip damage rolls. Sometimes, if a blow threatens to drop a character, I roll that damage in view of the players. Perhaps a low roll spares the character. Instead of rolling handfuls of dice for things like spells, I use a die-rolling app on my phone.

Delegate. Instead of managing all the extra demands of high-level play, delegate some of the effort to the players. Let one player track initiative, another run allies, and a third handle the hazards. You can even have someone count the damage dealt to monsters. Spreading the work makes games move faster, so everyone enjoys more time adventuring. Plus, when players gain more to do, they remain engaged in the game and have more fun. See How to Run Better D&D Games By Doing Less.

Related: All the Troubles That Can Make High-Level D&D a Bitch To Run, and How To Solve Them

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Lord of the Rats Adapted From Godzilla: The Series - Se1 - Ep06 Cat and Mouse For Cepheus Atom & Those Old School 2d6 Science Fantasy Role Playing Campaign

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 08/31/2021 - 06:21
 First encountered during the mutant rat infestation of New York City back in the early '00's. But the mutant rats are a cross bred artifically engineered species that goes back the early 30's. The inner workings of the Thule Society in proto Nazi Germany were looking for a terror weapon. The German scientists used early occult technologies to expose several rat colonies to the weird energies Needles
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Shakespeare Deathmatch Game Overview: Part 2

The Splintered Realm - Tue, 08/31/2021 - 00:52

I knew that beyond the four basic attack cards, I wanted something that would change play; I wanted there to be unexpected events, twists, and turns that could snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. I didn't want this to be random, but I wanted there to be a bit of strategy and luck combined. I ended up with two things: trickster cards and when revealed effects.
Trickster cards are kind of like wild cards, but they allow you to do something else on your attack, in addition to attacking. These allow you to do things like improve your hand, get a card you really need, or even to completely flip damage with another player. Sometimes, you know that a particularly good trickster card is out there, and the pressure is on to take a player out before they get a chance to use it. It puts a clock on the game, increasing intensity as you try to out-maneuver your foes.
"When Revealed" are strategic effects you choose to activate. You can play the entire game without ever revealing your character - but you get a perk when you do. It allows you to evade imminent doom, or to strategically move damage to another player (depending on the effect your character has). I have found that these also are a big matter of play style; my wife routinely waits as long as possible to reveal her character (and sometimes never does), while I look for opportunities to reveal, and jump on the first chance I get that makes sense. Neither option seems to be particularly more effective than another, but both are strategic, and both cause other players to adjust their strategies in response. 


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