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Wednesday Comics: DC, May 1980 (part 1)

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 04/14/2021 - 11:00
My mission: read DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! This week, I'm looking at the comics at newsstands on the week of my 7th birthday in February 1980.

All-Out War #5: My favorite story this issue is Kanigher's and Granidenetti's Force 3 tale about Fredric (the Polish pianist--also Jewish we find out this issue) bringing a reckoning to the Nazi tank commander who killed his wife in the taking of the Warsaw ghetto. Granidenetti's gritty and almost primitive style (at this point) is great for this sort of thing. Black Eagle has a confusing (to me at least) adventure regarding a supposedly miraculous church--with a brief cameo by the Haunted Tank. Archie Goodwin and Rico Rival provide a downer tale of the Italian invasion of Ethiopia, proving these war books aren't all American jingoism. And then there's the Viking Commando to be ridiculous, as usual.
Batman #323: Catwoman's committing crimes again--or is she? After two (and a half) issues of misdirection later, it would appear, no, it's C-lister, Cat-Man. 
DC Comics Presents #21: Elongated Man has contracted some illness--and before Superman can cure him so has everyone else in the world. Turns out its an alien attack that actually transform anyone who gets it into that alien species. Superman sciences up a cure using the Gingold extract. It seems like the hyper-competent Superman is something lost with the Byrne reboot.

Flash #283: "Featuring the Trickster," is seldom a description I associate with a great comic. He's a little bit more menacing here than usual, but it feels like mostly this issue is about Bates setting up Barry Allen's new status quo after the climatic solution to the "Who Killed Iris?" storyline. The Heck/Chiaramonte combo on art is not great this issue, either.
Ghosts #86: "The Phantom City" has Michael Golden art and is a sort of a novel tale of an architect killed by home-invading bikers who die in the titular city construct by architect's son's toys and imagination. The cover story "Harem in Hell" from Allikas and Rubeny is about a guy more in love with the ghost wives (he murdered) and only keeps his new living one around to do housework. Of course, the tables are turned in EC fashion.
Jonah Hex #34: The Confederate survivors of Ft. Charlotte capture Hex, but luckily also a saloon gal who knows him a favor--and then sacrifices her life so he can escape. which is really a bit above and beyond, I think. 

Justice League of America #178: This issue I had as a kid. I think I still may have the cover--and a great one it is by Jim Starlin. Despero is back, and up to his usual chess-playing tricks in this Conway/Dillin joint.
Secrets of Haunted House #24: A man returns from a near death experience to find he now shares his body with a spirit of a killer in a Kashdan/Carrilo story. Sutton and Nasser offer a cautionary tale about what reading too much about the meaning of dreams might get you: eaten by demonic entites, as I'm sure you guessed. Maggin and Rubeny in a nonhorror tale offer a "humorous" alternate take on Noah's ark.
Superman #347: Superman encounter's an alien "ghost." Actually kind of an old school Doctor Who sort of story in basic plot, I think. Art by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, and here he gives us a real disco-era alien design.
Superman Family #201: Everything here is pretty business as usual, except for this crazy Supergirl story by Harris and Mortimer. Supergirl is fixated on this guy Peter Barton, who is in turn attracted to this fellow professor--except for the fact he erroneously believes her to be Supergirl. Supergirl challenges his male ego or something, he muses. Anyway, at a hypnotism demonstration, Supergirl's absolute infatuation leads her into accidentally super-hypnotizing Barton into becoming a super-villain. In the end, he can safely pursue the woman he's into because he believes he's somehow made it so she will never become Supergirl, and the real Supergirl has to hide herself from him, lest he get "triggered" again.

Weird War Tales #85: In the perplexing lead story, Kanigher and Castrillo have a mysterious spacecraft visiting the Earth over various eras, where we seen scenes of violence. In the end, when the surface the Earth is consumed by nuclear fire, the craft deems it time to beam Satan down to hell on Earth. Who was carrying the Devil around in a spaceship? Anyway, the second story has art by Tom Sutton. It's about a cursed, immortal warrior sowing chaos in the Hundred Years War, only to be laid low by the Black Plague.
Wonder Woman #265: Conway and Delbo have Wonder Woman teaming up with Animal Man (or "A-Man" as he says he's called here) against the Cartel. The story has A-Man calling the Mod Gorilla Boss a "publicity stunt." I wonder if this is an attempted retcon or just a dismissive way of talking about the original story? 

Top Comments – Pages 1493 – 1494

Looking For Group - Tue, 04/13/2021 - 15:47

Tuesday, YOU are the star! We curate our favourite comments from the previous week’s comments on lfg.co and Facebook and remind you how clever you are. Here are your top comments for Looking For Group pages 1493 – 1494 Looking […]

The post Top Comments – Pages 1493 – 1494 appeared first on Looking For Group.

Categories: Web Comics

The Dungeon Mapper: From Half of D&D to a Forgotten Role

DM David - Tue, 04/13/2021 - 11:57

In 1977, when I found the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set, I noticed that the dwarf description included a lot of fluff: stocky bodies, long beards, and an ability to detect slanting passages, shifting walls and new construction. I figured the slanting-and-shifting thing would never affect the game unless some dwarf skipped adventuring for a safer job as a building inspector. “Your rolling-boulder ramp isn’t up to code. Someone might not trip.”

Years later, I realized the dwarven fluff actually helped players draw the accurate maps needed to keep characters alive. Sloping floors and shifting walls made more than a nuisance. In the mega-dungeons of the era, greater threats prowled on lower levels, so tricks that lured characters too deep threatened their lives. Lost explorers deep in a sprawling multi-level dungeon could run out of resources before they got out. Originally, the spell find the path found an escape path.

Level 1 of the dungeon under Greyhawk Castle photographed in 2007 by Matt Bogen

In early D&D, one player assumed the role of mapper and transcribed a description of walls and distances onto graph paper. The original rules present mapping as half of the game. In the example of play, the referee—the title of dungeon master had not been coined yet—spends half the dialog reciting dimensions. The rules’ example of “Tricks and Traps” only lists slanting passages, sinking rooms, and other ways to vex mappers. The text’s author, Gary Gygax, suggests freshening explored parts of the dungeon by adding monsters, but also through map “alterations with eraser and pencil, blocking passages, making new ones, dividing rooms, and filling in others.”

Despite the emphasis, many gamers found mapping less compelling. By 1976, the first D&D module Palace of the Vampire Queen included players’ maps to spare explorers the chore of transcribing dimensions. By fourth edition, labyrinths had changed from mapping challenges into skill challenges. Such mazes were no more fun, but they saved graph paper.

Today, only players who play D&D in an older style draw their own maps as they explore a dungeon.

Did anyone ever think translating distances to graph paper added fun? Or was mapping another way to thwart players who tried to steal the quasi-adversarial referee’s treasure. (In that original example of play, the Caller finds hidden loot, and the Referee responds by “cursing the thoroughness of the Caller.” Rules question: Must the Referee curse aloud or can he just twirl his mustache?

Blackmoor scholar Daniel H. Boggs describes mapping’s appeal. “If the DM is running the game with a proper amount of mystery, then mapping is one of the joys of dungeon exploring. In my experience, there is usually at least one person in the group who is good at it, and it is lots of fun to see your friends pouring over maps trying to figure out where to go or where some secret might be.”

In 1974, D&D seemed so fresh and intoxicating that even duties like mapping found love—just less love than the game’s best parts. Then, exploring a hidden version of the game board seemed revolutionary. Even the wargames that relied on umpires to hide enemies from opposing players let everyone see the terrain—and only a tiny community of enthusiasts played such games. In 1975, when Tunnels & Trolls creator Ken St. Andre attempted to explain dungeoneering to potential players, he could only reach for a slight match. “The game is played something like Battleship. The individual players cannot see the board. Only the DM knows what is in the dungeon. He tells the players what they see and observe around them.”

As fans of competitive games, D&D co-creators Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax relished tests of player skill more than many D&D players do now. To the explorers of the mega-dungeons under Blackmoor and Greyhawk, map making became proof of dungeoneering mastery. In the game’s infancy, different groups of players mounted expeditions as often as Dave and Gary could spare them time. Separate groups might compile maps and keep them from rivals.

While recommending slanting passages and sinking rooms, Gary seemed to relish any chance to frustrate mappers. Describing a one-way teleporter, he crows that “the poor dupes” will never notice the relocation. “This is sure-fire fits for map makers.”

Dave favored fewer tricks. Daniel Boggs writes, “Arneson would actually help map for the players by drawing sketches of what players could see in difficult to describe rooms.” In early 1973, Dave Megarry, a player in the Blackmoor campaign and designer of the Dungeon! board game, mapped much of Blackmoor dungeon during play. Megarry’s maps proved more accurate than the versions published in The First Fantasy Campaign (1980), a snapshot of Arneson’s Blackmoor game.

Still, Dave Arneson expected players to show mapping skill and deal with setbacks. In a 2009 post on the ODD74 forum, he wrote, “A referee ‘happy moment’ was when the mapper was killed and the map lost. ‘OK guys now where are you going?’ What followed was 15 minutes of hilarious, to me, fun. A non-player character gave them a general direction. Another was when the mapper died and the players couldn’t figure out how to read the map. Again an NPC saved them.”

“In terms of tricks, Arneson primarily relied on complexity,” Boggs writes. Despite ranking as the first dungeon ever, Blackmoor includes rare vertical twists. “The combination of connecting shafts, pits, elevators, and literally hundreds of stairs across levels is just astounding. There is also the fact that the dungeon is segmented, so portions of certain levels could only be accessed by stairs on other levels or via secret doors. Secret doors abound in Blackmoor dungeon and most of Arneson’s dungeons.”

Nowadays, the task of transcribing explored rooms and halls to graph paper lacks its original novelty, but turning unexplored space into a map brings as much satisfaction as ever. Sometimes as my players explore, I draw the map for them on a grid. For some sessions, I bring a dungeon map hidden by scraps of paper fastened with removable tape. Players can become so eager to reveal rooms that they vie for the privilege of peeling away the concealment. While running Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage, I loaded the maps on a tablet and concealed them under an erasable layer. All these techniques eliminated the chore of mapping for the pure fun of discovery.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Madam Maze’s Cabaret of Carrion Delights, D&D adventure review

Ten Foot Pole - Mon, 04/12/2021 - 11:30
By Nick Milton Nick Milton Publishing Generic/Universal/No Stats

Deep inside the bowels of an Elderwolf god lies a crumbling cabaret. Like an intergalactic traveling circus, the cabaret is constructed from ingested realities, only the truly bizarre and profane making the cut. Haunted monasteries stand side-by-side with chateaus run by monstrous flies. Preceding over the amusements is the mysterious Madam Maze, and she has a business opportunity for you. She hands you a spool of Alchemist Twine and offers you riches and safe passage back to your reality if you can frankenstein together a new act for her. Use whatever limbs from forgotten entities you can find still roaming about her kingdom. Time is running out and the seedier elements of her cabaret are awakening. Stretch Lords sharpen their fingers and Hemogoblins sniff the air for blood. Can you make it out in time or will you be consumed by the madness?

This 29 page “adventure” describes … I don’t know what the fuck it describes. An interdimensional freaky-deaky place with five sites each with a about a half dozen or less locations in them, all with a body horror theme and that light slight winking style so popular in some circles. 

You’re in a bar. The people inside starting screaming, tearing at and off their clothes, to reveal a message on their skin “Madame Maze’s Cabaret of Carrion Delights! Outside an emaciated 29 story direwolf show up, knees, opens her mouth, and a skeleton in a tophat steps out and chains her mouth open. To get in to the cabaret you have to offer him a part of your body. Well, that’s one of the hooks anyway.

A Berlin song? A Mo simpsons quote? Commentary about our artist friends? A kind of exquisite cadaver of parts, art, and words, the tone of this one makes it hard to stomach. Get it?! Get it?! It takes place in a stomach! A quote from the designer states “I’m a firm believer that body horror can be hilarious and quirky.” A common theme among artists, and this one certainly channels the artist nature of the the paroxysms of intoxication. So, we’rve got a body horror cabaret inside of a demi-god star wolf constellation. It’s run by a virus blob woman who wants you to stitch together a new act, literally, to amuse the bored dilettantes of the star wolfs pups, who sit in the front row of the cabaret. One of the acts of which is “a monstrous hairless cat with a nub tail licks itself casually as a weeping naked man begs it to clean him.” Successfully channeling the post modern nature of stage plays and the artist body horror, this may be the best supplement yet to refer to when you are looking to spice up your characters journeys through the planes of hell. Otherwise, you’ll need a group that can handle the nod-nod wink-wink nature of the cabaret and its locations … all set inside the stomach of a cosmic dire wolf. 

The writing herein can be frustrating. There can be long sections of italics ro ruin the eyes. There can be information related in paragraph form, events and plot and details that are hard to pick out. And yet parts are bolded to draw the eye. And yet that bolding doesn’t have enough weight to REALLY draw the eye. The ideas, always interesting, range from the more mundane, like “a cultist who ha stitched a wolf pelt on to his skin (another hook)” to the REALLY out there. “Lively music can be heard from the end of the wolfs throat” (which appears in the throat scene but should be in the mouth scene, in order to lure the players in) Great imagery. Great thoughtfulness. But, poor implementation. There’s a gift shop in one location. One of the creatures has an attack that will “remove any element from your body that is not ABSOLUTELY necessary for you to be technically alive. Their blade fingers work quickly.” Ok ….

So, it’s weird, the way that only our art friends can be weird. It uses bolding and offset boxes, cross-references and so forth to help bring some organization to the weirdness. And yet … it justifies only have five cabaret patrons by saying that business has been down lately. No doubt, but, just like ancient dour dwarf fortress, perhaps in the infinite multiverse we could find one in which the business has been down but there are a few more than five patrons available to be present? 

In the end, you stumble about, to location after location, trying to find things to stitch together. A chef wants something daring, something forgotten and something fresh for his sauce. Tasting the sauce heals all your childhood trauma and turns poison effects to healing effects on you. This is the tone. These are the encounters and situations that you encounter. 

It’s system neutral, with no stats. Mayhap a good choice. I would suggest, though, that while it is system neutral, I don’t think it’s game genre neutral. I suspect it works better for those more indie type games and less well with stat heavy games. Polaris comes to mind, but the tone is off. Maybe Mork Borg. Reformatting it, throwing off the chains of “ The Standard D&D Adventure” and embracing the less structured play style of those other genres would have worked to this adventure’s favor, I think. 

This does a better job of describing an alien/hellish environment than other supplement I’ve seen. All of those decadent drow cities and hell planes supplements pale in comparison. If you can handle the tone then you’ll find some truly off the wall things, with full on body horror present everywhere. Rough to follow in places and with encounters that are a lot more opened (on purpose) and subject to interpretation, it struggles with that, I think. It’s not TOO open ended, mostly, but its really close to the line of being pointless. Or, pointless in a way that Alice in Wonderland is pointless. You have a task and are trying to bend a truly bizarre world to your ends. 

“An unmotivated beam of light shines on a statue of an adorable baby Lich on the south wall. The space from statue to door is 25 ft. Approaching the statue will cause you to grow younger and the Lich Statue to grow older, its cherub-like form swelling with carved hatred. By the time you get to the foot of the now monstrous Lich you are a toddler with the equivalent mental capacities. Crawling into the Lich’s folded hands will reverse the magic and a token will plop out of the Lich’s back. The struggle is convincing a toddler to crawl into the hands.”

This is $5 at DriveThru. The preview is the entire thing. The art gives you a good indication of whats to come. For writing, I’d check out page five of the preview for the descriptions of the maw and throat. Some bolding, some boxes to bring order to the chaos, but still too rough to scan quickly. I would note, as well, that these are the more mundane of the encounters. It never really falls over on to the Weird for the Sake of Being Weird side of things, but it’s really really close. This isn’t the “normal” weirdness of avant guarde adventure, of the poser weirdness of some Venger stuff, but weird as only the exquisite corpse can be; with structure.


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Star Trek Endeavour: Agents of Influence

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 04/12/2021 - 11:00
A continuing campaign in Star Trek Adventures...

Episode 5:
"Agents of Influence"Player Characters: The Crew of the USS Endeavour, NCC-1895, Constitution Class Starship (refit):
Andrea as Lt. Ona Greer, Engineer 
Bob as Capt. Robert Locke
Gina as Cmdr. Isabella Hale, Helm Chief
Eric As Lt.Cmdr. Tavek, Science OfficerTug as Dr. Azala Vex, Trill Chief Medical Officer
Supporting Cast:Toshiro Mifune as Admiral Nogura
Synposis: Endeavour is summoned to Starbase 24 where they receive an unexpected visitor: Admiral Nogura. Nogura needs the ship to undertake a mission to the Ivratis Asteroid Field on the Klingon Neutral Zone ostensibly to search for debris from the recently destroyed scout vessel USS Ranger, but actually they wish to recover both the surviving Ranger crew and the 3 deep cover Starfleet agents that had recently ended their mission on the Klingon homeworld of Qo'noS.
Pretending to be smugglers, the Captain and a team enter the asteroid belt to look for the Ranger survivors. The mission is particularly urgent for Lt. Greer whose sister is captain of the Ranger!
Commentary: This adventure is based on a novel by Dayton Ward of the same name. In the novel, it is Ward's Endeavour crew that is being sought by Kirk and the Enterprise.
Nogura is mentioned in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but never seen on screen. Somebody helpfully made this image of him, though:

From Unbelief to Faith in Christ

Just Call Me Pastor - Mon, 04/12/2021 - 11:00

The Christian Scriptures repeatedly present the resurrection of Jesus as a historic fact and a central issue for faith in Christ. Scripture also reports that many moved from unbelief to faith that he had indeed risen from the dead. As recorded in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, this was so for Simon Peter and the other disciples, Mary Magdalene, and a gathering of 500.

In this blog we’ll see how faith came about for a Jewish rabbi who was initially passionately resistant to faith in Christ Jesus.  

We first meet this man as Saul of Tarsus, a highly educated young rabbi in Jerusalem who was present when Christianity’s first martyr, Stephen, was dragged outside the city and stoned to death (Acts 7:54-8:1). 

Stephen, a disciple of Jesus, had  just recounted a large piece of Israel’s history before the Sanhedrin, the ruling council of Jerusalem. At his conclusion and in response to their refusal to believe in Jesus, he courageously charged them with resisting the Holy Spirit as their ancestors had done. This enraged them, and they responded by stoning him to death.

Saul stood guard over the executioners’ coats and apparently looked on approvingly as Stephen was cruelly murdered (Acts 6:8-8:1).

We next meet Saul walking the road between Jerusalem and Damascus, a distance of approximately 206 miles. He carried letters from the high priest, authorizing him to arrest and bring to Jerusalem men or women in the synagogues of Damascus who were committed to this new “Jesus cult” (Acts 9).

How intense was his commitment to his assignment? He is described in the Acts of the Apostles as “breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples” (Acts 9:1).

As he and his companions approached Damascus, however, a brilliant light flashed around him, and he fell to the ground.  

As Acts 9 documents, a voice asked, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”Saul responded, “Who are you Lord?” The voice replied, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.”Saul got up, and having been blinded, was led by the hand into the city.

In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. God instructed him to go to a certain street where Saul was waiting. Ananias was afraid because of Saul’s reputation, but he obeyed. Saul’s sight was restored, and he was baptized and filled with the Spirit.

Within days, Saul (renamed Paul, and now St. Paul) was preaching the Gospel in the synagogues of Damascus where he had earlier planned to search out disciples of the “Jesus way” to be persecuted or killed. With his remarkable turnabout and new zeal, his life soon came under threat from status quo Jews in Damascus. So great was the threat that fellow believers had to lower him over the city wall in a basket to escape. 

Years later, after his many travels to establish churches in Asia, Macedonia and Greece, he set his course to return to Jerusalem. At his stops for fellowship with members of young churches along his route, tears of love and faith flowed among them. Believers pleaded with him not to go to Jerusalem, but he remained resolute. 

Arriving in Jerusalem, he was very soon in trouble with mobs who at times called for his death. As a Roman citizen, he was protected by the Roman military. He was also tried by Roman authorities one after the other: Felix, Festus and Agrippa. 

Three times while he was held in Jerusalem, and then for most of two years in Caesarea, he pointed back to his spiritual turnaround on the Damascus road. That encounter with the living Christ became the defining moment of his life.  

Due to his Roman citizenship he was treated with some consideration by the authorities in Caesarea, before being sent on to Rome for a trial under the emperor’s court. 

In Rome, false accusations raised against him again and again aroused the masses. This gave him the opportunity to bear witness to his faith in Christ, though always grounded in Israel’s historic faith. 

For instance, he assured those who heard him at his trial under Felix that he was still a full-fledged Israelite (Acts 24:14-16).  

While facing his likely execution as a martyr, in a letter to the Galatians, he witnessed his living faith in the resurrected Christ thus: 

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

Paul had become ablaze for Christ.

Image credit: coolio-claire (via flickr.com)

Categories: Churchie Feeds


Looking For Group - Mon, 04/12/2021 - 04:00

The post 1495 appeared first on Looking For Group.

Categories: Web Comics

The Darness Beneath Brightwell Manor, adventure review

Ten Foot Pole - Sat, 04/10/2021 - 11:28
Tim Bannock Self Published B/X or 1e Levels 10-14!!!

The reclusive Brightwell family has been corrupted by the whispers of a vengeful sorceress-turned-fiend. When this newfound master suddenly grows silent, the madness infecting the household is no longer focused, and cannot be contained. Mayhem spills across the countryside. Meanwhile, deep below the Brightwell estate, the family’s patriarch Eldon Brightwell inflicts horrifying experiments on both servants and family…

This 53 page adventure uses about thirteen pages to describe about sixty rooms in a manor home with a couple of basement levels. It’s minimally keyed, bland, and a 5e conversion.

It’s got clean and clear maps that are easily read, and uses a landscape format to provide easy to read three-column text. It doesn’t mess around with too much backstory, and puts most things like that in an appendix, which also has a reference for NPC’s to be found in the manor. It’s extensively hyperlinked. The first of the map pages also describes the general features of the house, like windows and doors, which is useful to have on a map so that they are “always on” for the DM to reference duringplay.

Now that the good is over with …

First, it’s a 5e conversion, it looks like. It calls for rolls with advantage, making perception checks, and so on. I get it, 5e sells more than anything else so make the adventure for that. And, of course, just like with Roll to Continue, this kind of stuff can be easily ignored by a DM and/or converted on the fly. But it shows a lack of caring. If you’re converting to another system shouldn’t you actually convert it to that system? Especially if you claim in the the introduction that “This adventure uses 1E and B/X style OSR mechanics …” Uh. No. It uses 5e mechanics. Anyway, that’s me being petty. As I said, just as with a lopsided page count of adventure to supporting material, which this has, I think it tends to be indicative of those things that don’t bode well.

You are a 14th level adventuring party in 1e/B/X. In both cases you’ve all probably got your own keeps, etc. In B/X, in particular, I think you’re walking godlings, based on my experiences with my players. So one of the hook is that the village hires you to look in to the goings-on at the manor. *sigh* By giving us each new land holdings? There’s one hook that makes sense, as you visit looking for lore/alchemical components. Again, who cares? But, again, it shows a general lack of level awareness in the conversion. Time and again adventures are produced for high levels that should be lower level adventures, and their strain to make them high level shows.

“Room 2: Foyer – Unwatched and unguarded.”

“Room 1: Porch – Three scarecrows nailed to the porch columns (actually corpses!). 

“2-1. Stairway & Hall – Signs of carnage, blood trails leading to Area 2-2”

This then is a minimally keyed adventure. Take the 1e DMG and roll for “dungeon dressing.” Ideally, this would serve as inspiration, the designer riffing off of the rolls and their imagination coming up with something to put in the room. Or, you could just put “Signs of carnage” as the description. It’s an abstracted description. No specifics. “Dried foodstuffs, but supplies are getting low.” You could do so much more with that. Replace that sentence. Add another one. Done! But you’d have something much livelier, something that danced in the DMs head. 

Traps? “One of the steps is creaky. Roll a save or the next monsters are alerted.” The alerting is good, and a creaky step is a classic, but the traps in this tend to be of the “Gotcha!” variety. There’s little to no warning. Thus they are just punishments for not min/maxing your save rather than a dose of interactivity that you can explore and play around with.

In general you need between about 200k and 400k xp to gain a new level at levels 13-14. Let’s say 200k. With a party of four that’s 800k experience to gain a level. Let’s say you’re leveling every … 6 sessions? You need 133,000 xp. Do you think that there’s 133,000 gold in this adventure? Do you think this adventure is a true 1e conversion?

Creature descriptions are boring. Magic items descriptions are boring. Treasure descriptions are boring. Everything is abstracted descriptions. “Zombies are mindless creatures.” 1d6 gemstones with 500gp each. A potion usable by all classes. At one point there are two gibbering mouthers in a room. I THINK they are supposed to be the wife of the manor lord? It doesn’t say, but might imply it if I squint. No personalization. No touches like “wearing his wife’s dress” or  “combing its hair.” Just two gibbering mouthers in a room. Why two? I don’t know, that would require effort.

The focus here is misplaced. It’s not overwritten, to be sure, and I appreciate that. It’s clear that some care was taken in trying to do a few design related things. But the room descriptions and encounters are so bland. Abstracted descriptions. Mundane interactivity. No focus on the wonder that is D&D.

This is $5 at DriveThru. The preview is all nineteen pages of the encounters/dungeon. This is good. You can tell exactly what you are buying beforehand. Nice clean layout.


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

[STUFF] The Nocturnal Table – Fantasy Grounds Integration

Beyond Fomalhaut - Sat, 04/10/2021 - 11:25

Now Even More NocturnalGuest Post by EOTB

I am pleased to announce the release of the Fantasy Grounds version of The Nocturnal Table. This version of the city adventure game aid was developed by EOTB for the virtual tabletop, and integrates the different features of the supplement into a complex system. You can use it to generate encounters and local colour, with all statistics and details at your fingertips.

I have to stress that this is a tremendous work that takes a loosely interrelated collection of “idea” tables, and not only connects them in a way that makes sense, but adds fine-grain detail on the level of individual statistics, and features like caravan generation (something that’s fun but rather busy work on paper). It should be a formidable toolset for FG users who like city adventures. Whether you prefer to use the general encounter system, the 300 more specific entries, or the “local colour” tables to generate inspiration for your games; individually, as a whole, or in unimagined combinations: these tools are here for you to use at your leisure! I am much indebted to EOTB for his conversion effort, and particularly with sharing the results with the gaming community. Much appreciated!

With that, I give the floor to EOTB!


* * *

This Fantasy Grounds module requires the Fantasy Grounds rule set for 2nd Edition AD&Dfor use. Three (free) community additions or modifications to that base rule set are highly recommended to fully use The Nocturnal Table's ability to generate content in addition to table results:

OSRICfor2Emod found at: https://www.fantasygrounds.com/forums/showthread.php?60442-OSRIC-conversion-for-2E&highlight=OSRIC

OSRIC Magic Items Mod found at: https://www.fantasygrounds.com/forums/showthread.php?61083-OSRIC-Magic-Items

AD&D Core 1e Extension (if you want to use the module in the most 1E-like environment possible; not really required if preferring to use OSRIC content in a 2E rules engine) found at: https://www.fantasygrounds.com/forums/showthread.php?37986-AD-amp-D-Core-1e-Extention

The Nocturnal Table - Fantasy Grounds adaptation (39.8 MB)

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Adapter's Notes

A good set of tables is gold to the harried DM. The 1E DMG is still used by referees of many varied systems just for its tables; other supplements have similar utility. But for urban encounters, The Nocturnal Table by Gabor Lux (Melan) is one of the best table supplements this adapter has ever encountered.
The book itself is not very large - 56 digest-sized pages. But like all excellent sets tables their impact to the game can't be counted.
In adapting these tables for Fantasy Grounds in my own campaign, I sought to leverage their utility by ensuring all the content they indicated was pregenerated. I wanted the tables to produce gameable results in Fantasy Grounds as opposed to mere direction or ideas. This necessitated creating all the various record types implicit to the tables, and linking them their output. The very useful OSRICfor2E mod by Sterno , and OSRIC Magic Items mod by AlterZwerg were drafted for contributions to the effort (many thanks to you both for you great work!), and their entries are prominent throughout this mod, but the unique flavor of Melan's implied setting demanded many new records of varying types.
Please note there are some table results which draw upon content in the above modules. The user should load them if desiring all of the entries to auto-populate . Otherwise such results will generate a error message. (The user may still manually generate details in these cases)
These mods are freely available at:It is hoped that in addition to serving up results for immediate play, that the templates bundled into this mod ease and speed the creation of adventure modules and other content. While OSRIC monsters are well-represented in existing mods, this mod contains an NPC of every character class from levels 1 through 12, including new types from Melan's world such as Amazons, and the Kung-Fu Monk adapted from Kellri's Dangerous Dungeons. There are also types of fighters with appropriate equipment, such as Northmen, Pirates, Nomads, and more. All of these include such conveniences as XP formulas, with a maximum XP value pre-entered (to be modified according to the appropriate XP formula as the DM sees fit).
Use of Celestian's 1E Extension
This adapter uses Celestian's extension with the 2E ruleset, to get as close to the "OSRIC Experience" as possible in Fantasy Grounds. In using non-monster NPCs this requires a compensating effect for To-Hit rolls and Saving Throws in the combat tracker, as NPCs by default use the 1E monster to-hit table and fighter saves - and the monster to-hit table is particularly generous at low levels compared to most non-fighter class types.
These compensating effects, found in the "Effect Features" area of the main tab on NPC entries, may not be useful if using this module without that extension, or different ruleset. If so each DM should remove those entries.
Celestian's 1E Extension is freely available here: https://www.fantasygrounds.com/forums/s ... -Extention
Adaption Choices
Due to the layers of "pulls" required by the multiple levels of tables in The Nocturnal Table, the tiers of tables are set up and named alphanumerically; beginning with a number, lower numbers belonging to higher-order tables so as to make them appear first on the lists. Odd-numbered tables generally apply to encounters; even-numbered tables generally apply to "dressing" or "colour". The basic structure as follows:
  • Primary tables in the group "The Nocturnal Table - Encounters" are named starting with an "00", "01", or "02"; however, for the most part "00" tables don't pull playable content directly - I am not sure why, perhaps there is an upper limit to how deep in a table structure FG can pull into an encounter. The "00" tables are primarily to determine which of the largest "01" tables will be used, anyway, but when embedding the "01 tables into the "00" tables, no results returned. Unlike when using the "01" tables directly. So use the "00" tables as direction only, unless they return a "special" encounter - which they would pull directly.
  • "02" tables comprise most of the "urban dungeon dressing" type tables in the book.
  • "03" tables feed the "01" encounter tables; e.g., a table of fighters is an "03" table that feeds an "01" result that could be any of multiple character classes.
  • "04" tables feed the "02" tables; these are less numerous but many of the colour/dressing tables are implicitly two layers deep as they contain a null chance; so the first layer yes/no choice is a "02" table, while the "if yes" table with all the individual colour entries is an "04" table.
  • Late in development it was determined to add systems for pilgrim and caravan generation, as these are table results comparatively hard to wing (and rarely do DMs have a few caravans or pilgrimages just lying about). These also followed the two-tier system with the main tables taking "05" designations, and their sub-tables "07"
  • treasure results are "06" tables in their own group, feeding other tables as needed
  • A fully numeric system proved hard to search in related groups as the table list grew. So, while it is admittedly ugly, relevant abbreviations were used and tiered. This kept groups together and also allowed quick searches such as "npc" to pull up small lists of related tables, such as when generating pilgrimages.
  • It is hoped that by maintaining list proximity and search distinction, that users will be able to navigate the many tables should they need to find a feeder table quickly. But the main tables, always near the top of group lists, should be the only necessary references in normal play.
  • One item to be aware of: FG doesn't seem to perform multiple sets of die rolls into one encounter; e.g., an encounter with travellers will generate the leaders(s) into the encounter but not the second set of random number of common travellers. Some few table results direct you to manually ADD a random number of some NPC type to an encounter result generated.
Every adaption requires choices to make certain things work. A close comparison of the tables in the original work with the table structure in this module reveals some structural differences; e.g., in Melan's tables you generated a fighter and then rolled the fighter's level. In FG, to generate a working encounter record it is necessary to have a subtable of pregenerated fighters of the entire level range, that the master table draws upon. While the structure may vary slightly by necessity, every effort has been made to ensure the table function is maintained.
In some instances of low probability, this would have required even more tables than is included. An example is alignment. I was faced with a choice of generating multiple tables of alignments so that classes with restrictions wouldn't return incompatible results. It was chosen not to do this, as incompatible results are possible but not frequent; the DM should instead review and modify in such instances. But this and similar examples are few and far between.
Often the complexity of the table interactions raised questions as to which type of output (chat, story, encounter, etc.) was the most efficient selection for inserting results immediately into play while also recording/transmitting to the DM the most useful information provided by the tables (sometimes which output omitted the most useless data squibs the interacting tables generated, too).
In each case the DM should consider their own preferences vs what this adapter has set, and change as they see fit. Encounters, stories, and chat are the most frequently used for results other than treasures.
Most encounters have a random element to the number of NPCs appearing. When output to chat you will see this number; when output to an encounter this information is not provided. In testing, the fastest path from "encounter has occurred" to the combat tracker was to have the encounter box and type auto-generate and throw dice to adjust the number appearing in the box, rather than get the number appearing and manually create an encounter box. If the other method is more convenient, reset the output type to "chat" from "enc" in the top-level table.

Here a ghoul entry was rolled and a ghoul encounter box was created, but it only has "1" ghoul in it. Cross referencing the roll of 41 showing in chat with the table, we see there are 2d8 ghouls encountered. Those dice are thrown and the encounter box is updated to 12; I hope there's some elves in the party...

If the referee wishes a spread of hit points among large numbers appearing of the same type, drag-copy that NPC type in the encounter and assign; e.g., the referee wants to throw five militia with 2, 4, 6, 6, and 9 hp at the party. The one militia entry in the encounter box should be drag-copied three times so that there are 4 militia entries; each entry assigned one of the hit point results and the entry of militia assigned 6 hp set to two appearing. If one entry for the militia type is used in the encounter box and hit points are left blank, the number of hit points will be randomly rolled (once) on 1d10 but all militia will have that same random roll result of 1d10 hit points. If it doesn't bother you that all militia in the encounter have, perhaps, 4 hp, then none of the above is necessary of course.
The more detailed encounters numbered from 100-399 are listed in story entries and include embedded encounter and parcel entries. We've discussed adjusting the encounter boxes, but also review the parcels to ensure the appropriate amount of equipment loot remains after an encounter completes. Some number of each type of loot is already in a parcel, but this will rarely be accurate for common equipment to that encounter as-played.
Purely random encounters generated from the tables won't have parcels pre-made; the referee may manually generate one and add such treasures and items to it as are appropriate.
To reduce the size of the file, common armors were not added as discrete items to NPCs or parcels, but if taken by PCs as loot these can be added as necessary to parcels via drag and drop from The Nocturnal Table or OSRIC Items group(s). Likewise, experience points derived from an encounter likely require adjustment for number encountered, possibly hit points rolled, and the value of treasure taken.
Every effort was made when customizing a base template for a specific NPC to update associated stats; e.g., if different armor resulted in a different movement rate, or if morale was higher or lower than base template morale for this level. However, each time I review results I'll find another instance where some aspect was missed. If you notice any anomalies between the record entries and any story entries, presume the anomaly is an omission and correct it. The 3rd level fighter in standard plate mail shouldn't have a move rate of 90 or 120; the stray thief or assassin with a high dex but utterly standard thief ability scores should be adjusted, etc.
There are magic items, spells, and other odds and ends named in The Nocturnal Table as published in hard copy which aren't detailed; the detailing is left to the user. In Fantasy Grounds I have put some flesh on those bones in order to provide a useable game item for play, but that flesh is my best guess and not further direction from the author. In all cases you, the user, should modify such items at will.
Near the end of production this module was back-ported to FG Classic due to issues with the Author extension that creates the module from the entries, and also embeds the illustrations, not yet being compatible with FG Unlimited. This introduced some anomalies in that multiples of D4, D6, and D8s were dropped from items, spells, etc. (e.g., weapons doing 2d4 damage, etc.) and also some text were re-rendered with formatting artifacts. Every effort has been made to locate and correct these anomalies, but if some are missed you have the adapter's explanation, and they may be corrected by inputting the missing information.
Lastly, this adapter is still a novice at Fantasy Grounds, ignorant in coding and unable to work in the raw data files, scouring wiki pages and forum posts when unable to find a way to produce a result. It's entirely possible, and likely, that a FG pro would notice parts of these tables constructed inefficiently, or even clunkily, because I didn't know a better road to Rome. In these cases, I apologize in advance.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Our Heroic Age

Sorcerer's Skull - Fri, 04/09/2021 - 11:00
This post first appeared in 2015...
  Though we played a lot of fantasy games (mostly AD&D) in my middle and high school years--probably more than anything else--our longest campaigns (defined as the same characters in the same setting/situation) were in superhero games. While we'd played with Villains & Vigilantes and with the first editions of TSR's Marvel Super Heroes and Mayfair's DC Heroes, our "Heroic Age" really got started in '86 after the release of the Marvel Super Heroes Advanced Set.

Our first and longest running team was called the New Champions (taking the name from the L.A. based team of the Bronze Age and the idea of a new iteration from The New Defenders, which had just ended the year before). Our characters were street-level/near street-level characters, some of which were reformed villains. We picked the characters from the pages of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, for the most part, rather than going with well-known characters. I used Paladin, my brother, Puma, and our friend Al, Hobgoblin (the former Jack o' Lantern version). That was the core group of players and characters, but other players and other Bronze and early Modern C-listers joined the New Champions ranks at some point: White Tiger, Madcap, Shroud, and Unicorn, among others I've likely forgotten. The team had a West Coast era (borrowing from West Coast Avengers, which I had a subscription to), as well, and probably at least one "all-new, all different" period--but it was also part of the same continuity.

The second edition of DC Heroes, was probably our last gasp of superhero gaming. The Marvel games had mostly been over the summer and with a crew somewhat different than my usual gaming group, since none of us were able to drive yet and it was tough to get together when we weren't in school. By '89 though, that wasn't the case, so the DC group was largely the same as my Dungeons & Dragons and GURPS crowd. This time, we made up our own characters and our own super-hero universe. Lower key, more "realistic" superheroes were the order of the day. About half of the group (which was never named as a team, really) didn't wear costumes, and the villains were are somewhat quirky, and many of them didn't wear costumes either. I suspect the primary inspiration was the Wild Cards universe, but Thriller, the New Universe, and Doom Patrol might have been in there, too.

We played some 4th edition Champions after that and maybe some GURPS Supers, but neither of them had the ease of use of MSHRPG or DCH so they didn't last long. These two campaigns created some truly memorable characters--or at least memorable sessions.


Looking For Group - Thu, 04/08/2021 - 04:00

The post 1494 appeared first on Looking For Group.

Categories: Web Comics

5150 New Beginnings Kickstarter Coming Soon!

Two Hour Wargames - Thu, 04/08/2021 - 01:36


 Everything non-Military 5150 New Beginnings in one book. ALL the rules from all the scenario books and much more.

Will include optioins for

  • PDF versions
  • Printed book
  • 1" Color counters
  • Battle BHoards.
  • Card Decks.
  • City Tiles.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Fire in the Hole, dungeons and dragons adventure review

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 04/07/2021 - 11:11
By Derek Jones Self Published Castles & Crusades Levels 4-6

Blovar Thistletine, a wealthy halfling, decided recently to remodel the wine cellar in his summer home.  Work progressed well for a few days until the crew arrived one morning to find a tunnel had mysteriously appeared in the floor of the cellar.  The crew tied a rope to one of the workers and lowered him down the shaft to explore.  A few minutes later, they could hear the poor worker’s brief scream of agony and the rope went slack.  All they recovered when they pulled up the rope was a charred end.  The workers refused to continue their work.  Mr. Thistletine is offering a handsome reward for a party of adventurers to explore the shaft and eliminate any threats to his beloved wines.

This nineteen page adventure uses six pages to describe 31 rooms in an underground bandit lair. It’s a hack-fest. It has some hints of knowing how to format things, but falls down on implementation.

I’m not going to judge this negatively for just being a hack. Some people like that. And, not even an exploratory game has to explore all the time, hacking IS a part of the game after all. This IS a little lop-sided in that direction, but then again so were the B2 kobold caves, I guess. (Although its been fifteen years since I looked at it.) So, it’s a hack. At the end there will scores and scores of slaughtered 1hd gecko-men and the water floors will run red with blood. The gecko-men looks like normal men, mostly, and can stick to the walls. That’s kind of fun. It combines both the “use a lot of humans” stuff that I generally prefer with actually having some monsters. Eel-men, etc would all do the same, I think? It’s aking to using chaos-men and mutants in Warhammer, I think. Keeping it grounded. And, there’s an order of battle for their getting indeed, which is nice to see. 

The map is hand drawn and clear enough. The adventure notes that all but two areas are flooded to 4” of standing water, and others have lights on. This should have been noted either on the map or by text on the map. These sorts of “always on” things should be front and center for the DM to refer to throughout the game. Either shade the map, etc (not feasible in this case since its hand drawn, at least not easily) or just put the text on the map. I note, without comment, the abundance of magical torches in the hallway that light the way … that only work inside THIS lair. *sigh* There goes immersion. Wait, now I’ve commented. Fuck.

Wanderers are doing something, although they are almost always gecko-men. A hint of humor is present in places, with them tormenting small cute animals or their leader pissed at the magic tapestries that show his mens devotion being transferred to his fire priests. Treasure is … ok? There’s about 5k in “normal” treasure and then also a scroll work 10k to certain buyers. That feels low for a a hack, and a little strange that its so portable.  And the 10k scroll could use more to it, given the lopsided nature. It would add a lot to a game if it were.

The adventure is using room names in combination to the room keys. So, something like “10. Larder.” Using room names is good, but they could be overloaded with a descriptor, such as “Viscera Larder” or some such. Set the DM’s framing early so they absorb the text in that context. There’s also a decent number of rooms that are empty. Such as that larder. And by empty I mean “the room has no text at all.” So you get “Larder” and nothing more. Or, for a living quarters “Empty. They are all out raiding.” Thus the descriptions of the rooms are VERY MUCH on the extreme minimalism side of the spectrum. So much so that I would suggest that there is not much here at all to work with. This is one step more than Palace of the Vampire Queen, and not a big step at that. 

This feels like the outline of an adventure. Something that gets produced that the final draft is then created from. While it states its a hack, it could do a little more to enhance SOME interactivity to break things up. And it could do more with its writing to create evocative descriptions. You’ve got a lot of choices in what you use at the table, why not choose something that does those things?

This is $1 at DriveThru. The preview is all nineteen pages. I can’t fault the dude for either the preview or the price. Like I said, the designer has some ideas of how to do things right but just isn’t there yet in implementing them.


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Wednesday Comics: DC, April 1980 (part 2)

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 04/07/2021 - 11:00
My mission: read DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! This week, I'm looking at the comics at newsstands around January 24, 1980.
Action Comics #506: It turns out the Kryptonian hairy hominid android was a ploy by it's creator to save all of Krypton's children from the coming cataclysm. Now it's threatening to steal all of Earth's children. Superman uses time travel and has Superboy inadvertently destroy it with a James Kirkian paradox. It is locked in on Superman's brainwaves to eliminate him--but it can't harm a child, so it explodes. Pretty clever, Cary Bates!
Adventure Comics #470: More forgettable Starman and Plastic Man adventures. The Plastic Man story by Martin Pasko has villains with construction-related pun names. That's really the only thing I remember about it.

Brave & the Bold #161: Conway and Aparo have Batman and Adam Strange switching places to solve a mystery. In the end, it doesn't amount to much, but it's a clever concept.
Detective Comics #489: You might think ass-kicking Commissioner Gordon was an invention of Frank Miller, but no Kupperberg and Novick have him going into a prison overrun by the inmates to secure the release of hostages and singlehandedly turning the tables on the ringleaders. Alfred gets to beat up some thugs, too, in a solo tale by Rozakis and Delbo. The Atom tries to fix the JLA satellite computer and gets in a fight with subatomic aliens. Batman gets two stories: one has him weirdly dismissive of the supernatural despite all the times he as encountered it--including possibly this very story! In the second, he's on the trail of the Sensei for the death of Kathy Kane. Bronze Tiger makes a (brief) appearance.
Green Lantern #127: This is an action-packed issue, with an all-out assault by the Green Lantern Corps to retake Oa from the Weaponers of Qward. A number of (nameless, never seen before) Lanterns die in the assault, and Jordan only prevails with the unexpected aid of Sinestro. A good issue, but I don't really feel like Staton quite delivers in the way another artist might have.
House of Mystery #279: The most ridiculous (but entertaining) of these three stories is by Barr and Noly Zamora and features con men named Ecks and Wye (get it?) in the Old West, apparently committing murders in a werewolf fashion, then charging the town for anti-werewolf supplies. When Ecks decides to double cross his partner, the twist is revealed--Wye really is a werewolf!

Legion of Super-Heroes #262: This is a sort of Star Trekian tale about an old spacecraft out to entertain it's long-dead captain. Better than the last couple of issues; particularly, the art by James Sherman.
New Adventures of Superboy #4: Superboy foils Astralad's every attempt to reveal his secret identity as nerdy Joe Silver to his classmates and thereby become popular. Then, the boy of steel convinces Joe it was all a dream so he gives up on making his life better by changing the past. I'm not sure Superboy was completely in the right on this one.
Sgt. Rock #339: Much of this issue is a flashback to Rock's participation in an unnamed attack that I assume is meant to be the Dieppe Raid (or its DCU stand-in). Rock definitely gets around a lot in this war.
Super Friends #31: This issue has Black Orchid! And Kryptonite! I honestly don't remember much else, other than the Ramona Fradon art, which I always find charming.

Time Warp #4: Two of these stories are time travel yarns, but not your usual ones. The one by Allikas and Ditko sees scientists deciding to prevent nuclear conflict by offing Einstein (there's an old Frederick Pohl story with the same basic idea, I think), but they can't do it. Instead, they take him back to the 18th Century--where he changes the future by giving Native Americans the atomic bomb! There's also an overly complicated tale by Kashdan and Patricio where a mutated astronaut landing in the future starts infecting the defenseless population with the common cold, so naturally the future-folk go back in time to ensure the astronaut never gets a cold, only to doom their future with a disease the cold would have prevented! 
Unexpected #197: Jockeying over an inheritance leads greedy relatives to ruin in a treasure hunt, a guy euthanizing stray cats for cash runs up against a witch's cat, and a horror writer gets the inside scoop first-hand from a vampire.
Unknown Soldier #238: The Unknown Soldier plays pied piper to get a group of Hitler-loving kids away from a German commander using them for human-shields in a Haney/Ayers tale. In the backup, an Olympic skier puts his skills to use leading his company in North Africa--in ways as ridiculous as you might imagine. It illustrates a common theme in these war books: the American G.I. heroes often prevail due to Yankee ingenuity. Out-of-the-box thinking is more often the key to victory than badassery.

Warlord #32: The first appearance of Shakira. More on it here.
Weird Western Tales #66: In a somewhat offbeat tale by Conway and Ayers, Scalphunter winds up in Pittsburgh, where he is nursed back to health by a single mother. To help the family, he goes to work in the factory besides her and her children, but revolts against the ill-treatment and poor conditions. The woman and her kid refuse to go with him, because it's the only life they've known.

Top Comments – Pages 1491 – 1492

Looking For Group - Tue, 04/06/2021 - 15:30

Tuesday, YOU are the star! We curate our favourite comments from the previous week’s comments on lfg.co and Facebook and remind you how clever you are. Here are your top comments for Looking For Group pages 1491 – 1492 Looking […]

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Categories: Web Comics

Steal This Rule: Numenera and XP for Discovery

DM David - Tue, 04/06/2021 - 12:17

By popular reckoning, the original Dungeons & Dragons play style centered on killing monsters and taking their loot. But D&D’s experience rules focused less on killing than folks think. The monster and treasure tables provided as much as three times as many XP for gold as for slaying. Savvy players learned to snatch treasure without a fight. Their characters lived longer that way.

Still, gamers criticized the rule for awarding experience for gold as unrealistic. For example, in the original Arduin Grimoire (1977), Dave Hargrave wrote that in his campaign experience “points are given for many reasons, but NOT for gold or other treasure. After all, it is the act of robbery, not the amount stolen, that gives the thief his experience.” The second-edition designers agreed, because they removed XP-for-gold from D&D.

But D&D co-creator Gary Gygax never aimed for realism. He intended to reward players with XP and levels for doing the things that made D&D fun—for exploring dungeons and for taking risks when surely the Oerth merchant trade promised wealth with no chance of a painful death in some murder pit. D&D’s third-edition designer Monte Cook gets the point. He writes, “I’m a firm believer in awarding players experience points for the thing you expect them to do in the game. Experience points are the reward pellets players get. Give the players XP for doing a thing and that thing is what they’ll do.”

Over time, D&D players started spinning stories about topics other than that time we killed a troll for gold. Originally, every character chased treasure; now, characters pursue adventure for justice or for honor or for countless other reasons, including treasure. For this sort of campaign, the classic awards of XP for gold and XP for slaying both fall short. In Using Experience Points To Make D&D More Compelling, I suggest awarding XP for overcoming obstacles, but during D&D’s exploration pillar, the obstacles often miss the point.

If a party finds a secret door to the magic fountain, should they earn less XP than the party that killed the monsters guarding the obvious route? If obstacles bring rewards, then the party who finds the secret misses XP. If discoveries win points, then both groups gain for finding the fountain, and perhaps the observant party gains for finding the secret way.

Discovery is the soul of Monte Cook’s Numenera roleplaying game, so the game awards XP for discoveries rather than for overcoming challenges or killing foes. In D&D, similar awards can spotlight the goal of exploration: discovery.

For investigation and exploration adventures, the obstacles come from a lack of information. Reward the party for the discoveries they make.

To reward explorers for discovery, get a copy of your map and highlight the features to find: magic fountains, hidden shrines, magic items, keys, maps, hidden passages, and clues to the prince’s disappearance. Divide the number of XP characters need to level by the number of discoveries you hope they make before advancing. Then mark each discovery with the point award it brings. (See Using Experience Points To Make D&D More Compelling for a helpful table of points.) If you like precision, adjust the points so bigger discoveries bring bigger rewards. Optionally, you can mark obstacles the group must overcome and include them with the discoveries. Some gamers favor calling D&D’s exploration pillar its discovery pillar instead. This XP method fits that notion perfectly.

Flashing back to 1973, perhaps Gary should have chosen this XP system for his dungeon-crawling game. How would that small change have shaped the way we played?

Related: XP Started as One of D&D’s Breakthrough Ideas. Now the Designers Don’t See the Point

Dungeons & Dragons stopped giving XP for gold, but the insane economy remains

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

What a Savior!

Just Call Me Pastor - Mon, 04/05/2021 - 14:20

By request of Glenn Teal, interim pastor of the Greenville (Illinois) Free Methodist Church, Kay and I recorded for his congregation a video message about Jesus’ last words on the cross. Jesus did not deliver these words in a dying whisper, which is what we would expect. Rather, he proclaimed in a loud voice: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” You can view the video here.

For those who don’t read online, here are my two primary points:

First, after a brutal flogging and crucifixion, when Jesus died, his life was not taken, it was given,with a firm, loud voice, according to plan, to save us from sin and death.  

And second, Jesus then ascended to the right hand of God the Father, where, on behalf of believers, he intercedes for us even now.  

Hallelujah, what a Savior! May all the world know that Jesus died and rose again, to free them from sin and death. And, as well, may all know that, for those who trust in him, Jesus is interceding actively on our behalf before the Father!

A blessed Easter to you and your loved ones.

Image credit: Kimber Shaw (via flickr.com)

Categories: Churchie Feeds

The Sleep of Reason, dungeons and dragons 5e adventure review

Ten Foot Pole - Mon, 04/05/2021 - 11:11
By James Hanna, Brett Sullivan, Isaac Warren Fey Light Studio 5e Levels 2-4

The towns of Bassu and Inloc are at each other’s throats. But behind their mutual loathing lies a threat greater than either knows. A fiend in the form of a nighthag invades the sleep of the town leaders night after night, haunting their dreams and transforming them into nightmares.

This 54 page adventure uses 32 pages to describe about 24 encounters, the vast majority of which are social. The designers had a vision, but it fell far far short of that in implementation, leaving you with something that is nigh unrunnable in its present form. Which is too bad, the basic idea is decent. I’m considering changing my life goals, after reading this, and adding “beating in to people how to use skill checks” as a new project.

Two houses, alike in dignity in fair Ver … oh wait, no. This thing has the elements of adventure that I like. Or, at least, it claims to have them. A hex crawl exploration of the wilderness. A strong social element as you work the factions and NPCs within two towns, rallying them to your cause! Who wouldn’t like that? A little intrigue, a little social, a nice crawl, and then stabbing the shit out of something and looting some fucking treasure! Well, that was the promise anyway. No doubt the vision of the designers. That’s what made me leave my nice safe little bubble of shitty OSR adventure and venture once more in to the land of shitty 5e adventures. In practice, its garbage, of course.

I have now said just about everything nice that I will about this adventure. Good concept. There are a couple of VERY nice art pieces, by Tithi Luadthong and rangizz, that seem out of place. Not tonally. They work for that. But it’s like Aya Kato did your Get Well Soon card for a coworker that you feel apathetic about. Conceptually, there are a few decent ideas, like the hag living in a dead and rotting GIANT snake in the swamp. The descriptions are shit, but conceptually its good. The recruitment of allies, again good in concept but shitty in execution. There’s a hint, here of there, or decent writing. At one point if you mention “The Maiden”, a swamp ghost-like apparition/myth, then the guards and their goats both shift uneasily, the goats bleat softly, and the captain says something like “Nothing good comes from that swamp.” in order to twarn the party off of The Maiden. That’s fucking great! That’s what I’m talking about when I mention specificity and detail. No the color of the fucking innkeeps trouser buttons, but things that add to the actual game experience. 

The back cover contains the marketing blurb while the drivethru description is just bunch of little JPG images, with no text. Well, the images have a few words of text. WHo’s fuckingidea was that? You’re burying your marketing blurb on the back cover where it will never be seen and essentially nothing NOTHING about it in the actual storefront? I’m not a fucking expert on this shit but that seems counterproductive? In the extreme?

It’s full, FULL of shitty skill checks. Which is weird because they claim to have a system of “social moves” for you to use which, no doubt, turns the heart of D&D, roleplaying, in to even more of a dice fest and rules mastery then it already is. This thing is LITTERED will skill checks. I guess because it’s a social adventure, or thinks it is one? And I’m pretty sure that nearly every single one of them is implemented badly. Every one. Every single one. There are about twenty rolle to continues in this adventure. Twenty. These are places where you can’t continue the adventure unless you pass a skill check. In practice, this never happens. If you fail then the DM fridges and the game moves on. So why the fuck do you have a roll to continue? You’re forcing people to make dice rolls for no reason other than making a contest against a skill check. It doesn’t make fucking sense. The outcomes are all the fucking same. It’s unreal.

Try to use your intimidation skill? Roll a 24+? (Which I’m pretty sure is good …) then the DM is told it doesn’t work and the NPC works around it. What the fuck man? Why? Becusa it will break the designers vision for the fucking adventure? Jesus H … let the fucking party enjoy their fucking success! And, those eighty gazillion skill checks you make? They are essentially meaningless. Just little window dressing bits of information for the most part, teasing out descriptions and tone. Which, again, works against the fcking adventure. You WANT the tone out there. You WANT the details out there to set the tone. Don’t hide the heart of the fucking adventure behind a fucking skill check. 

It starts with combat. Lame. “STart your adventure with a combat to get the party going” says all of the bad old advice. Pfft! You bring the body to the nearest town. The gate guards say “Hello strangers who have just admitted to killing one of our town members. Please come in and enjoy yourselves!” What the fuck! Seriously?! 

NPC descriptions are bad, long and hard to use. The hex crawl has like one sentence for each hex, most of which are just boring “asps attack” or “roll a DC19 to avoid hazard” types. No detail. Nothing interesting. 

The actual format is TRYING to be helpful, but has gone COMPLETELY overboard with boxed and offset text. The page is COVERED with it, so much so that you can’t actually tell what the fuck is supposed to be going on in the encounter. Why are we here? Whats the line of path to follow? It TRIES to tell you that, but its so seriously broken … I know I mention putting this stuff in a lot, but, there’s a fucking limit. It’s supposed to help you find and run it, not obfuscate the game. 

The hag is an actual monster instead of an old women. Lame. The snake description, the sum total of it while inside, is “Within the snake, its ribs curve around to create a grim hallway illuminated by green glowing orbs along its length. The floor shifts slightly underfoot, pressing into the unspoiled viscera below.” The viscera part is good, but, fuck man, we’re inside a giant snake, how about a little more? Oh! Oh! And the subplots?! They are LITERALLY in a place called the Town Quest Center. Seriously. The questgiver gives them quests. Well, it’s a townsperson, but thats how its referred to. If you do enough fetch quests then you unlock the plot quests. Ug.

So. Good concept. It knows what its trying to do. It has just made every single bad choice possible to get there.

This is $6 at DriveThru. The preview doesn’t fucking work.


I leave you with this screenshot of one of the scenes. I dare you to figure the fuck out what is going on here and how to run it. I dare you. Go ahead. You’re running the game. The players are sitting the fuck in front of you. Right now. They are staring at you. They glance nervously at their phones, ready to pick them the fuck up if you stray for thirty fucking seconds. Run this fucking encounter.  Where the fuck is the actual plot to this encounter? I know where, but you have to fucking hunt for it. Seriously, you get … five seconds. Set up a time. Starts it and then glance at the page for five seconds then tell me what the scene is about and how to get it going well. And, I’m being GENEROUS in giving you five seconds. I really think it should be less than two. No fucking cheating!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Guns of Middle-earth

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 04/05/2021 - 11:00

The Shire, particularly in the first published version of The Hobbit, has a number of (at the earliest) Victorianisms. I don't see why you couldn't run a sort of 19th Century version of Middle-earth that would make those not be anachronisms, or at least not as much of an anachronism, as we might want to not tie ourselves down to the feel of a specific part of the 19th Century.

The rangers of the North would be like Mountain men or frontier scouts.

Gondor might have the architecture and general vibe of Old Mexico or Spanish California.

And Mordor perhaps becomes some sort of Steampunk industrial nightmare.

Weird Revisited: People of the Feud

Sorcerer's Skull - Sun, 04/04/2021 - 14:30
This alternate, sci-fi origins of Mind Flayers and Gith-folk first appeared in 2016...
There was a colony ship, sent out from Earth or a world very much like it to settle a new world. It's navigators had been genetically modified to take advantage of a new drive system allowing FTL travel. The majority of the colonist were placed into cryogenic suspension for the voyage.

Something went wrong. Inadequate shielding? Purposeful sabotage? No one remembers. The navigators began to mentally breakdown, expose to psychoactive and mutagenic properties of the manifold outside normal spacetime. The ship was stranded stuttering in an out of spacetime.

The navigators began to develop psionic powers and with them certain physical requirements. Boosted quantities of certain neurotransmitters. No synthetic source was available, but there were the stored colonists to feed on.

To help them manage the ship and their food source, the former Navigators awakened a military contingent, a few at the time. They mentally enthralled them and enslaved them. Molding them over generations.

As generations passed under the accelerated mutagenesis of the manifold, both the Navigators--calling themselves the Masters now--and their soldier caste had diverged significantly from their original genotype. The Masters had long ago authorized larger scale awakening of more of the colonists to serve as a more docile slave caste--and cattle.

The Masters grew complacent and removed from human concerns and feelings. They didn't see the revolution coming. A soldier named Gith lead a coalition of the soldiers and the menials against their oppressors they now called Mind Flayers after their manner of feeding.

The former Masters were either killed or used their power to flee into the non-space. The coalition that had brought about their downfall did not long survive. Former menials resented the soldiers as long time collaborators and the soldiers disagreed with the menials attempts to master Mind Flayer psionic disciplines.

When the ship was finally cannibalized and destroyed, two cultures had emerged as firm in their hatred of each other as they were in their former masters.


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