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[REVIEW] Fire in the Hole

Beyond Fomalhaut - Sun, 04/04/2021 - 09:55

Layout magic: No fucks givenFire in the Hole (2021)

by Derek Jones


Levels 4–6

This adventure is one of a rare breed: a Castles & Crusades scenario. While much of the modern “OSR” owes its existence to an ancient flame war among C&C’s playtesters, the game itself does not seem often discussed, and the official adventures have not really ignited the public imagination. However, Fire in the Hole – an amateur module available for the cost of ONE Dollar Americain – is not only a recent publication, but an actually decent effort. It will not win awards for cover art by OSR luminaries (being a white page with a page number and Times New Roman text on it), nor layout (using mostly two-column Times New Roman), nor digital maps (the maps are perfectly legible scanned pencil work), but it is a fine modular scenario to fit into an ongoing campaign, and occupy perhaps one night of gaming.

Fire in the Hole has a strong “little people have big problem” premise: while extending the wine cellars of hobbit gentry Mr. Thistletine, the workers found a mysterious tunnel leading downwards. One worker lowered with a rope disappeared with a horrid scream, and was never seen again. Adventurers were called in to investigate. On the other side of the tunnel, we find a dungeon level populated by a band of gecko-men, who raid the outside world through maic portals. These not particularly formidable, but decently organised chaps are divided between their allegiance to a chief and a group of scheming priests, offering opportunities for sowing division and making short-term alliances with the dungeon inhabitants. Or just killing them all without going into deep contortions about their motivations (sorry, gecko guys). It is all small-scale, petty, and walks a fine balance between “raiding humanoid lair” and “strange underground place”: low-concept, just done well.

The area where the module shines is found in its basic construction. The dungeon level is a real pro effort of alternate routes, ambush points, reserve barracks and hidden passages. A loud and messy assault will end up with a bloody and desperate corridor battle against overwhelming odds (even for a strong party). Quick and decisive action and some improvisation helps lead to victory. The level’s relative openness allows the characters to execute a surprise strike (and the entrance hole is right in the heart of the gecko-man lair), but also to have them surrounded and cut off from escape.

The quality of the design shines through in the small details. The order of battle provides an outline of gecko-man defensive measures, while the random encounter chart features them engaged in random activity – “tormenting a cuddly little animal” and “plotting to harvest a little stink-juice from the troglodytes” are possible outcomes, providing not just colour, but information and a possibility for more complex interaction. There are “barrack rooms” treated correctly; in a few broad-strokes sentences or just as a room name instead of meticulous-obsessive detailing. Special rooms with a stronger spotlight receive more attention, as they should, and they showcase the adventure’s imagination and whimsy: a forge staffed by mechanical ogres who will cart off fallen combatants from a melee to forge them into enchanted bone weapons. A tiny pocket dimension accessed from a fire pit. A magical tapestry which follows the balance of power on the level through what it is depicting. A less powerful and less deadly cousin to the deck of many things, with fun draws like “enmity between you and Squishsquash, a water elemental” and “gain service of an ogre”.

Not everything is good. Fire in the Hole repeats C&C’s annoying “feature” of embedding whole stat blocks into the flowing room key, perhaps the least practical solution ever devised for presenting monster info. The tactical setup, while it represents one of the adventure’s main strengths, is a bit too tight in the beginning. There is a non-negligible possibility that the characters descending into the very first chamber make enough noise to bring the whole combat roster down on their necks. In this case, the adventure may take place in a single cellar room; and should the company be victorious, the rest will be a not very challenging mop-up operation in a dungeon largely emptied of its defenders. In this case, having the first areas be lax and even temptingly easy should deliver a more even play experience. There could be a bit more treasure.

In summary, Fire in the Hole is a labour of love, and a very fine effort if a beginner work. It has charm, good fundamentals, a very solid map and combat setup, and the right scope for a modular one-session adventure. It fulfils the original promise of Castles & Crusades. It is just one buck, too, making it much better value for the money than pretty much everything from itch.io.

No playtesters are credited in this publication.

Rating: **** / *****


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

A Tomb to Plunder, dungeons and dragons adventure review

Ten Foot Pole - Sat, 04/03/2021 - 11:31
By FEI Games FEI Games Inc OSR Levels 1-3

one-off 1st-3rd level OSR hack-n-slash mini-adventure. Includes the new monster “Guardian Statue”

… Your party is traveling from one place to another when you spot a rotting backpack that is still worn by a decomposing body partially hidden in some tall grass. Closer inspection reveals a hand drawn map that hints to a location that might be a small tomb or crypt. Could this be worth checking out? From the various landmarks drawn on the map this location appears to be in this area. The next village is not far away and they might have some idea on where this is located …

This eight page dungeon describes three rooms, a door, and two hallways. The shovelware industry is alive and well, with little content, no good descriptions, and padding and abstraction galore. Plus, FEI Games can’t be a man cause he doesn’t smoke the same cigarettes as me, DEVO version. 

The first sentence up there, the one that doesn’t start with a capital letter? The one that inspires the imagination with it’s “includes the new monster …” statement? That’s the publisher blurb on DriveThru that’s supposed to make you want to buy the product. Look, I dont’ marketing either. As a good midwesterner it feels wrong. But you have to do SOMETHING to let people know what they are buying and get them interested. I mean, I might not like to do it, and it might feel wrong to me, but you need to engage in it to get people to want to buy the thing, right? Even _I_ recognize that. The second paragraph up there is the first one in the adventure, all in italics as read-aloud, and serves, I think, as a much better blurb. I mean, there’s nothing to that encounter other than what it says. And, it’s a masterful work of abstraction. You are travelling “from one place to another”. Wow! Exciting! “Hints at a location …” Sign me up! “Various landmarks …” Oh boy! I can’t wait! This is textbook abstraction. It’s nothing but padding. I suspect it’s written like that to insert in to any world, but specificity is the soul of narrative. It still sucks. 

The adventure is full of such abstractions and padding. Rooms “appear” to be empty. Which we all know is never the case. And it just padding. Everything in the world “appears to be “ something. It’s the way your senses work in a world cursed by consciousness. Padding and abstracted.

“Put in your treasure” a column of text tells us. Joy. Not even the loot is done. Why would you want this? If you had to do the work yourself then why would you buy the adventure? Does it make sense that a DM is going to creature interesting treasure on the spot for a party that just reached the end? No, of course not. 

“These tattered banners are worthless but may be of interest to a historian” … with no treasure value listed. Making something worth more to one party than another is an good concept, but you need enough to put in to make it worthwhile. Likewise, another room has unknown writing. The fucking game has a spell that has a decippher language impact. What the fuck does it state, even generally? We’ll never know. 

“You feel like something bad is about to happen.” and “as the last person enters the room the door slams shuts and locks.” OMG these are bad. You don’t address the party in read-aloud. You don’t, especially, tell them what they feel. You describe an encounter in such a way that the PLAYERS says “oh, wow, I feel like something bad is about to happen …” THATS what makes a good description. And, the old it slams shut and locks trick? LAME! LAME! LAME! LAME! LAME! LAME! LAME! LAME! LAME! LAME! LAME! LAME! LAME! LAME! LAME! LAME! LAME! LAME! LAME! LAME! LAME! 

“The monsters have no treasure” the adventure tells us. Well no fucking shit, man. That’s why there is none listed. That’s not how one spends their word budget! Most of one column is spent describing one simple poison gas trap. This ain’t no way to run a railroad.


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs


Sorcerer's Skull - Fri, 04/02/2021 - 11:00

I happened to see one of the old Ewoks cartoons on Youtube the other day. It was a pretty good fantasy cartoon of the era. It prompted me to recall than "Endor" is the Quenya name for Middle Earth, which may or may not be relevant.

Anyway, I feel like halflings/hobbits could be replaced with ewoks with very little difficult and bring a slightly different feel to things.

[ZINE] Echoes From Fomalhaut #08 (NOW AVAILABLE!)

Beyond Fomalhaut - Thu, 04/01/2021 - 17:36

Welcome to Castle Sullogh!

I am pleased to announce the publication of the eighth issue of my fanzine, Echoes From Fomalhaut. This is a 52-page zine dedicated to adventures and GM-friendly campaign materials for Advanced old-school rules, with cover art by Stefan Poag, and illustrations by Denis McCarthy, Graphite Prime, and the Dead Victorians.

The first adventure in the zine takes players to the shores of the Twelve Kingdoms, a cold land of rival petty kingdoms and strange wonders. Here stands Yrrtwano’s Repose, a ruined manor house whose walls now protect an entire village. Lord Yrrtwano’s time has long passed, but he sleeps under the manor still, and the great hunter is said to slumber most uneasily! This is a dungeon adventure with 15 keyed areas, for levels 3-4 (my players brought a small company of NPC knights to share the glories and the dangers).

The sullogh are coming! The zine’s titular scenario, Castle Sullogh, was the penultimate adventure in our Isle of Erillion campaign. This woodland ruin had stood in its place from the beginning, just within reach, but always too formidable to tackle until the adventurers had no other choice left. It is suitable for levels 5-9 (much depending on the party’s approach – ours was repelled pretty badly on their first foray, and had to turn to more careful infiltration on subsequent tries), and covers 55 keyed areas, including buried secrets, the quarters of three powerful witches, and the halls of the murderous sullogh who were brewed for murder!

This issue also describes the western half of the lands of Thasan, “beyond the City of Vultures”. Arid wastelands dotted with tiny pockets of lush vegetation lie next to deep blue seas where islands hide weird inhabitants and unknown dangers, and two great empires, one ancient and sinful, one recent and fanatically pure, clash over parched wastes devastated by ancient catastrophe. Venture into the dreaming ruins of Zangul and shadowy Korlag Thyr; walk the Road of Iskarades, and try your guile against the wily masterminds of Virkat and its great Judgement Machine! Great phantasms and jewelled palaces await – and therein lurk beauty, strangeness and death in equal measure. This is a large hex-crawl describing half of one map sheet with 103 keyed and briefly described locales (which is where our games were located).

Long time in the making, Echoes #08 is a larger than usual issue, with a double map sheet: one of them a splendid players’ colour map of the Isle of Erillion, courtesy of Istvan Boldog-Bernad, who made it in Wonderdraft. (He also played Armand the Scumbag, human assassin, in our campaign.) The other sheet contains GM’s maps: one of Castle Sullogh, and one of Thasan and its strange lands.

The print version of the fanzine is available from my Bigcartel store; the PDF edition will be published through DriveThruRPG with a few months’ delay. As always, customers who buy the print edition will receive the PDF version free of charge.

Map sheets, booklet, and UVG dice

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Gang Lords of Lankhmar, DCC adventure review

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 03/31/2021 - 11:21
By Harley Stroh Goodman Games DCC Level 1

The City of the Black Toga: Home to hundreds of back alley courts, rotting tenements, and an endless number of gangs, whose fortunes rise and fall as surely as the tides of the Inner Sea. Each gang vies against the others, pitting beggar against bravo, slayer against thug, and gang lord against gang lord. It’s a Lankhmar story that’s been told a thousand times, and would be entirely forgettable, save for one key element: the characters. The initial stakes are small as the gangs vie for control of a small slum. But as bodies begin to appear in the Hlal and the shadow war threatens to spill over into street violence, the price of blood favors those who trade in swordwork and black magic. If they hope to survive, the PCs will need to be both deadly and cunning by turns. For when the first rule of thieves is to never kill the hen that lays brown eggs with ruby in the yolk, old hands know it won’t be long before the Thieves’ Guild moves to protect their interests. May Death himself have mercy on those who stand in their way.  

This 32 page adventure outlines a gang war in a neighborhood slum. It has most of the gameplay elements down right, if flavorful,  but doesn’t quite know how to present them in a way that makes it easy to run. Highlighter City.

A slum neighborhood. Three minor gangs. One gets uppity ands hires the pc’s to shake things up, he wants total control of the neighborhood. Things go downhill in a series of strikes, retaliations, and escalating events that cause others from outside the neighborhood to notice. It ends with, perhaps, the party in charge of one of the gangs, setting up a fine fine city adventure campaign. And I do LUV me a city adventure campaign! 

A city adventure campaign forces the party in to a more cautious play style. Uh, hopefully, anyway, since it IS the party. No more wanderers, they get to learn of, and live with, the consequences of their actions. Their own neighborhood. How the other people in the city react and so on. It places back the social control of Keeping up with the Jones’s and not being ostracized by everyone else around you. Like the fence. Or the temple. And, of course, not getting squished like a bug but those MUCH higher up on the ladder.

And that’s what this adventure is trying to do, and largely accomplishes, I think. In a tortured way. There’s a neighborhood tension tracker. The more people you kill, etc the higher the tension in the neighborhood. As it gets higher things in the neighborhood start to change, people get wary. As it gets higher the criminal element in charge of the city tells you to cool it. And then assassins show up. And the city guard starts hassling you more, singling you out. And then they stop hassling you and actually start doing their job. And finally, if left to get high enough, the Overlord notices, puts the neighborhood under martial law, and the guard goes house to house in a brutal crackdown to find the party … and the neighborhood isn’t going to appreciate that, I’m sure. Thus the social element returns to D&D. Yeah!

Other elements help feed in to the overall vibe. There’s more than a few encounters with scouts on rooftops, keeping track of the party. There are good summary overviews of the what’s going to take place. The core of the adventure is events, on a timeline, that the DM drops in, supplements by a few location descriptions, of the three gangs and a few other “notable” places in the neighborhood. There is a web of relationships, in places, and a great sense of flavour. The doorway to one of the gang hideouts has a bunch of rusty knives, cleavers, etc hanging over it by strings, or an old crone at the tavern who is brought dead vermin by the neighborhood orphans to cook … and fight to defend her. Great great ideas and situations in this in to which the party can then dip their toes to pour their own brand of gas on things. It’s a sandbox driven by a timeline. 

But, alas …

There are two things wrong here. First, the trivial. Goodman clearly has a style guide which states that read aloud is in italics. LAME! Hard to read! There’s not a lot of it, but there are multiple sentences when it shows up. Lame! Well, at least in 2018 they had it that way.

More importantly, they don’t know how to format an adventure like this, or, Harley doesn’t know how to write one like this, in order to make it easily playable. There’s just too much for the “standard text paragraph” to handle. “Here’s everything about the place in paragraph format” is too much to hold in your head. It’s hard to find things. It’s hard to grab elements to shove in to your game and enhance it. I don’t think I’d be able to keep in my head the shopkeepers general reactions to the party, the old crone, the orphans running around, in addition to the main plot elements. But THOSE things are what is going to make the adventure immersive. Those things are what is going to make this one of the best adventures the party has ever played in. But, the DM has to be able to find it, remember to include it, remember to enhance the adventure with that flavor. And that just breaks down after a certain point. You can’t hold everything in your head. That’s why “always on” map text is important. That’s why summary sheets for NPC’s are important. That’s why its important to have a format other than paragraph form for longer and/or more complicated sections. 

This is a GREAT city adventure. It oozes with flavor. It can set up things that the party will be enjoying for a LONG time and talk about forever. (Also, remember, i LUV city adventures.) But, I don’t think you can run it in a way that takes advantage of it all, without some serious highlighting and creating your own notes and summary sheets. Are you willing to put in the work? 

This is $7 at DriveThru. The preview is six pages. You get the overview/summary, the timeline of events, and the first event laid out. From that you can get a good idea of both the flavor and a hint of the difficulty in running the thing to maximum effect.


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Wednesday Comics: DC, April 1980 (part 1)

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 03/31/2021 - 11:00
Continuing my read through of DC Comics output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! This week, I'm looking at the comics at newsstands around January 10, 1980.
Batman #322: Captain Boomerang shows up and pretends to be a real threat. I'm of course, biased by Boomerang's portrayal in the 80s Suicide Squad and later. Still, he doesn't do himself any favors of tying Batman to a giant boomerang as a death trap--a repeat of something he did to the Flash. Catwoman getting a terminal diagnosis from a doctor who neither names the conditions and suggests that some ancient Egyptian herbs (also unnamed) are the cure is also pretty silly.

DC Comics Presents #20: This story by O'Neil isn't really much of a team-up. Green Arrow pursues a oil tycoon, Bo Force, who's looking to get an exotic energy rich flood emerging from a geyser, and Superman just shows up to save the day in the end. The art by Garcia-Lopez looks good though!
Flash #284: I got to give it to Cary Bates. I have never been much of a Flash fan, and I would have not pegged this era to the place I'd get turned on to it...and well, I haven't exactly, but it's better than I expected! Last issue ended with Zoom and the Flash heading unstoppably into the distance past in the time bubble, but Flash jumps out, preferring to take his changes than spend eternity with Zoom. He winds up in a domain ruled by the Lord of Limbo, but other prisoners help him make his escape. The issue is very specific in its 1980 setting, and implies Barry Allen is "about 30" years old, and that he's been the Flash for about 10 years. Heck's art gives it a Marvel vibe, but the lack of direct confrontation between hero and villain feels un-Marvel.
G.I. Combat #219: Despite my previous griping about the Haunted Tank strip, the first story here by Kanigher and Glanzman is pretty good. Jeb plans to shoot it out with one of those honorable German officers whose path he's crossed twice before across different fronts of the war and two continents. A passing American patrol picks off the officer, before we get to see who would come out the victor. It's followed by a goofy but amusing O.S.S. story where an assassin uses trick shoes to take out his target. The other stories are typical war stuff.
Ghosts #87: The horror titles are lackluster this month. This one has a distasteful tale involving a freakshow that was likely inspired by Browning's Freaks. The other stories are merely forgettable.

Jonah Hex #35: Fleisher reveals an important part of Jonah's backstory, telling us why he quit the Confederate Army (due the the Emancipation Proclamation). Just about everything that could go wrong for him does so after that point, and his hunted as a traitor by his former allies and countrymen. There's some amusing stuff at the beginning with Hex taking down a group of outlaws.
Justice League of America #177: Conway and Dillin are mostly doing set-up here in that classic "each hero gets their own story" sort of JLA way. The reveal at end gives us the return of Martian Manhunter, who hadn't appeared since '77 and hadn't appeared in JLA since 1974.
Secrets of Haunted House #23: This issues "highlight" is a story by Wessler and Frank Redondo about a man saving his grandkids from fire ants. I recognize invasive fire ants were more of a "hot" (heh) topic in the '70s, but c'mon, Destiny! Is there nothing better in that weighty tome of yours?
Superman #346: Lois investigates a crooked game show and discovers Amos Fortune (a villain I only knew from the Who's Who) behind it. He uses his "Murphy Machine" to cause people to have bad luck. Unusual premise by Conway but still a bland story.
Weird War Tales #86: Two World War II yarns, one with a giant monster, and the other by Zilber and Sparling with a Twilight Zone-esque premise: a young soldier can make anyone disappear by willing it. Nothing special.

Wonder Woman #266: Continuing that story of Diana's time with NASA. It's okay. It's got another installment of the Wonder Girl story, too.
World's Finest Comics #262: The lead story here by O'Neil and Staton, where Superman and Batman battle a one-shot villain called the Pi-Meson Man, is probably the weakest--but at least it doesn't have an old lady with gravity control powers as a villain like the finale of the Green Arrow/Black Canary story. This time around, the old woman does look like an old woman, thanks to Tanghal and Colletta. The Aquaman story by Rozakis and Newton leaves me with a couple of questions: How does Aquaman's computer work underwater? And, does this story which mentions Barbara Gordon as a Congresswoman take place prior to the stories from the last couple of months mentioning she lost re-election? The Hawkman story by DeMatteis and Landgraf also references some recent DC events. I'd forgotten what it was like to have comics that came out on a consistent enough schedule they could actually have a shared universe! The last story, a Captain Marvel tale by Bridwell and Newton, gives backstory to the wizard Shazam, which I was unaware of. Fun stuff, if nothing groundbreaking.

i’m writing the monstrous menagerie

Blog of Holding - Tue, 03/30/2021 - 15:20

I haven’t posted for a while, but rest assured I have been busy on D&D stuff that I think you’ll like.

I’m a lead developer on enworld’s upcoming Level Up RPG, which is a crunchy version of 5e written with the benefit of 7 years with the system, written by a huge cast of talented designers.

and, what’s really been keeping me busy, I’m the lead writer on Level Up’s bestiary, the Monstrous Menagerie.

The core game book and the bestiary are launching next year, and right now I’m knee deep in monsters.

What will the bestiary look like? Imagine a fully-compatible reboot of the Monster Manual with the math fixed a la monster manual on a business card; with added tactical options for monsters; with hundreds of new variant monsters, including a lot more high-level opponents; with an expanded NPC section; and with lots of encounter prompts built into each monster – combat tactics, example monster groups and treasure for parties of different levels, name lists, tables of random behaviors and environments; and new encounter-construction guidelines that are easier to use and provide a more consistent challenge than the official ones. I’m getting my complete wishlist of what I want in a bestiary. And it’ll be released under the SRD, so you’ll be able to play with it and expand it however you want.

A couple of example monsters have been posted over at enworld, including this ancient green dragon.

I’m proud of how it’s coming out and I can’t wait to finish writing it so I can get my hands on a copy and start using it!

With all that monster construction taking up every second of free time, I’m delayed on some new toys that I’ve been meaning to get you. RSN I plan to get you folks the following:

-Within days or weeks: Version 1 of the long-promised Blog of Holding improved treasure tables! (I’m also doing the treasure tables for Level Up, so you can expect equally mathematically rigorous treasure tables in the Level Up core book next year.)

-Within weeks: another distributor of the Dungeon Generator poster! With Inktale gone, I’m looking for another service with high enough print quality to do justice to all those tiny little details.

And finally – I haven’t looked into how to get old flash games working. If someone figures it out, let me know and I’ll post the instructions so we can continue to play Dungeon Robber.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

How to Build a D&D Cleric Who’s Super Fun in a Fight

DM David - Tue, 03/30/2021 - 11:00

In Dungeon & Dragons, clerics suffer from a reputation as the dull class that folks dutifully play to support the party. Forget that. In fifth-edition D&D, clerics can enter a fight like a tornado, damaging every foe around them, dodging blows, and attacking, all in the same turn.

Plus, their faith gives clerics a ready-made hook for playing the sort of big personalities that make roleplaying fun.

At level 5, D&D classes leap in power. Martial classes typically gain an extra attack, potentially doubling their damage dealing. Monks gain Stunning Strike. Wizards and Sorcerers gain fireball, which delivers 5th-level power for a 3rd-level slot. Bards and Warlocks gain hypnotic pattern, a spell that turns fights into beatdowns. (See How Part of D&D that Everyone Avoided Shaped the 5th-Edition Power Curve.) The 3rd-level spell that lifts clerics in power lacks the flash of fireball or hypnotic pattern, but it makes clerics more fun in a fight.

Spirit guardians summons spirits that surround you to 15 feet and that damage enemies who enter or start their turn in that sphere. Spirit guardians rates as one of the most efficient spells to up-cast with a higher-level slot. I played a cleric to 20th level and loved casting spirit guardians at 8th or even 9th level to deal 8d8 or 9d8 damage to any foes near me. Clerics on the move take their 15-foot sphere of divine fury across the battlefield, forcing more foes into the destruction. If the party ever gains boots of speed, give them to the cleric!

Spirit guardians suffers from an obvious drawback and an overlooked one. Obviously, the spell requires concentration while encouraging clerics to go into the thick of a fight. Also, the spell requires clerics to see allies to exempt them from the guardians. That means invisible allies or even friends around the corner can’t be spared.


Starting at 5th level, the fun battlefield cleric starts combat by casting spirit guardians and moving into the thick of battle. On turn two, cast your favorite combat cantrip—or just dodge—plus cast spiritual weapon for another strike, and then keep moving to include the biggest groups of foes in your radiant doom.

Ability scores

To build a cleric, make Wisdom your highest score, followed by Constitution. Choose an odd-numbered Constitution score. Traditionally, clerics rely on Strength, but a cleric’s cantrips can bring more damage than weapon attacks, especially with the Blessed Strike option in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. Only domains that grant heavy armor proficiency might actually benefit from Strength. A 13 Strength enables you to wear an affordable suit of chainmail without losing speed. A 15 Strength enables you to wear plate without slowing. Low strength dwarves can wear heavy armor without losing speed, so ironically the D&D rules reward creating agile, pencil-necked dwarves who defy their archetype. If your domain lacks heavy armor proficiency, choose Dexterity as your third highest score.

Why choose an odd Constitution score? Clerics surrounded by spirit guardians become an immediate target for attack. Through any damage, they must maintain concentration by making Constitution saves. The War Caster feat can help, but the Resilient (Constitution) feat proves better. If you start with a Constitution of 13, then taking Resilient (Constitution) before level 5 adds 1 to Constitution and helps your save about as much as War Caster. Then your save continues to improve with your proficiency bonus. If you play your cleric to high levels, you can add War Caster later.


If your campaign uses the standard rules for ability scores in the Player’s Handbook, hill dwarves and variant humans make particularly good clerics. Wood elves also work well if you favor Dexterity and speed over Strength. If your campaign uses the custom origins from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything and you prefer weapon attacks, pick a high elf and choose Booming Blade as your bonus cantrip. You can strike a foe, and then when they flee your spirit guardians, they take thunder damage. This combination works best with cleric domains such as life and tempest that grant the Divine Strike feature.


The forge and tempest cleric domains excel for clerics capable of fun battlefield fury. Both domains grant heavy armor proficiency.

Forge. The forge cleric brings improved AC to heavy armor and the 1st-level searing smite spell powers weapon attacks until you gain better spells to concentrate on. Opt for Strength over Dexterity. At level 7, you get the underrated wall of fire spell. Sadly though, wall of fire also competes for concentration.

Tempest. Once tempest clerics cast spirit guardians and become a target, they can use Wrath of the Storm to heap punishment on foes who hit back. Plus, the spell thunderwave and the Thunderbolt Strike feature both let you push away creatures so you can move freely around the battlefield. The tempest domain makes a flavorful combination with that high elf who makes attacks backed by the booming blade cantrip.

Other domains gain some versatility while remaining especially fun in a fight.

Life. Choose a life cleric to gain the durability of heavy armor while becoming the best healer in the game. Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything adds the aura of vitality spell to the cleric list. This domain gives that spell game-breaking power. (See The 7 Supreme D&D Character Builds for One Thing.)

Light. Choose the light domain if your notion of fun in a fight includes blasting things with fireball. For a light cleric, opt for a high Dexterity and ignore Strength.

Essential spells

Cantrips. Select guidance. Forge, tempest, and other clerics who favor weapon attacks should prepare sacred flame for the undead-slaying potency of radiant damage. Clerics who rely on damaging cantrips should choose toll the dead for maximum damage—unless you roleplay your light or life domain cleric as someone loyal to their ideals. (If you’re not a grave domain cleric, you can still prepare toll the dead, but you should feel bad about it.)

1st level. Prepare healing word to heal without slowing your attack. Add guiding bolt for attacks at range. Before 5th level, prepare bless. Once you reach 5th level, spirit guardians becomes a better spell to concentrate on.

2nd level. Prepare spiritual weapon. Aid makes one of the game’s best spells to cast using a higher-level slot. Although silence requires concentration, prepare it. Silence hinders enemy spellcasters, stops guards from calling for help, and lets you chop through doors without announcing your location.

3rd level. Prepare spirit guardians, mass healing word, and revivify. Invest 300 gp in diamond dust for revivify’s components. You may rarely cast revivify, but when you do, you become party MVP.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Snotsoil Mire, Dungeon and Dragons adventure review

Ten Foot Pole - Mon, 03/29/2021 - 11:38
By Sean F. Smith Self Published Mork Borg Level ?

Quality writing like this and a willing to spend $6 on a four page adventure comes from the support of my generous Patreon supports. Support me today. Uh … For support, or something.

The edge of the Bergen Chrypt is flooded. Into that slick swamp, the ducal twins of Schleswig fled. Bring them back. (Or at least their signet rings. We’ll pay the same.)


This four page hexcrawl is devoid of content?

The designer write something I kind of liked. I saw this pop up and was like, “Woooah, six dollars for four pages?!?!” But, as you should all know by now, I am a dreamer. I believe in a world in which a four page adventure is worth six dollars. This is part of the lies I tell myself to make it through the day. A short page count doesn’t necessarily mean a bad adventure! Money is meaningless, mostly, these things cost less than half of one cocktail in a bar, so the cost is trivial. The person who just came up to me at the gas station is telling the truth and really did just run out of gas and needs $5 to get back to Forth Wayne, home of Taylor and Winter Fantasy. I have the luxury of living these small lies; it keeps me optimistic and, in spite of what you generally read here, from being a bitter old man. You, gentle readers, get to peek inside that optimism and see it continually shat upon. I know my lies are not true, but I want to live in a world in which they are. You get to see me deal with my own hypocrisy three times a week.

Mork Borg: a decent idea currently being flooded with shit. Near the beginning of the OSR there was a trend where publishers converted their adventures for old school play. They just took whatever they had, some pathfinder or 3.x adventure they wrote fifteen years ago, and just did a stat conversion to Labyrinth Lord or OSRIC or something. They usually forgot to remove the skill checks and had things like “Make a DC32 perception check to find the giant cave entrance.” One adventure published for 23 different systems. It was a blatant low effort money grab. My true contempt is reserved for those publishers. I usually try to separate critique of the creation from critique of the creator. You may have written something bad but that doesn’t mean you are a bad writer. Those money grabs are a time where I give myself permission to break those rules. Sure, they all do it, but you have to retain a bit of plausible deniability or else the optimists get pissed.

Which brings us to todays review of Snotsoil Mire. 

The adventure has four pages. Single column, digest I think, with A LOT of whitespace in there. There is no art to take up space, or justify the cover price. It’s done in garish hot pink background that burns the eyes. A nice light baby blue is used, as well as yellow, just in case the hot pink color scheme should not give your eyeballs nightmares. Each of the six hexes has three possible encounters. The landwhale attacks, the aire if full of cold light rain (etc), or someone twists their ankle. Just about dix words for each of the three entries, most repeated on other tables. That’s it. 

RPG’s can teach us a lot. The vocabulary in the 1e DMG for example. I learned the definition of chutzpah from the 1e Paranoia game, geez, must have been in the eighties. A person who kills their parents and then begs for mercy because they are an orphan, I seem to recall. Chutzpah.

Is this thing a fucking joke? Did Sean have some kind of bet going with someone else where the point was to write the pointless thing ever and give it a high price tag? What the fuck is the point of something like this? This sort of garbage is the kind of thing people wave around as a banner. “Look, THIS is what can happen so you should ban X!” 

Mayhap the designer can fill us in on their thinking? See! See! I’m STILL optimistic that this isn’t some fucking troll product.

Congratulations Sean. You have written something iconic. You will now forever be associated with this. Bloodymage, Alfonso Warden, FATAL, Smugglers Cove. Snotsoil Mire & Sean Smith.

This is $6 at DriveThru.


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Chicken, Fried

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 03/29/2021 - 11:00

Our Land of Azurth 5e game continued last night with the party prepared to confront the chicken mutant who was in the reactor room of the Gander chicken plant. They were uncertain what these strange suits were they found or the "radiometers" so they went back to consult the computer. It explained, but the explanations weren't of much help. It did elucidate why their keycards could open the door: you had to have a priority keycard of some color. 

Waylon went back and looted the bodies of chicken mutants they had killed to find a keycard. With a stack, they were able to find one that worked and entered the reactor room. 

The reactor room was really loud, so they were able to get the jump on the mutant. Even impaired in their movements in the bulk radiation suits, they made short work of him. It turned out to be a good thing, too, as he was apparently trying to cause a meltdown, according to the computer.

The party let the only surviving chicken mutant leave with his life and some money. He didn't seem happy, but he did it. Then, they negotiated a deal for the citizenry of Falgo which got them jobs in the factory in exchange for food. How the simple folk of Falgo were going to adapt to working in a mechanized factory the party left to the people and the computer to figure out.

With that good deed behind them, they were once again on the road to the Virid Country.

Seeking Faith During Holy Week

Just Call Me Pastor - Mon, 03/29/2021 - 11:00

During Holy Week 2021, March 28 to April 3, Christians will gather in cathedrals and storefronts. They will assemble publicly in free societies and secretly where persecuted, but always with joy and for the same purpose: to remember the events that led up to our Lord’s crucifixion and resurrection. And to worship him with thanksgiving.

I’m going to summarize the events in the week as recorded in chapter 12 of the Gospel according to John. Consider reading this chapter several times this week to deepen your understanding of Jesus’ time among us in human form. 

Verses 1-3: A week before his crucifixion, Martha, sister to Mary and Lazarus, whom Jesus has recently brought back to life from death, puts on a special dinner in Jesus’ honor.

Verses 4-8: The dinner is interrupted by Mary’s generous act of worship with expensive perfume. Judas, the betrayer, and also identified as a thief, criticizes Mary’s action. The implication is that Judas may have had designs on the money that sale of the perfume might have brought “for the poor.” Jesus states that the real function of Mary’s gift is figuratively to prepare him for his death.  

Verses 9-11: A large crowd of Jews discover Jesus’ whereabouts and arrive to see him, but also out of curiosity to see Lazarus. The leaders of the people, seeing that Lazarus is part of the reason for the growth of numbers of believers in Jesus, add him to the list of those they must kill.

Verses 12-19: Jesus enters Jerusalem on a colt. The people shout “Hosanna,” thinking mistakenly that he has come as an earthly king. The Lazarus followers continue to spread the news of Jesus’ marvelous sign. The numbers of believers in Jesus increase. Leaders opposed to Jesus, called Pharisees, are exasperated at Jesus’ popularity. We see their growing hatred for Jesus.

Verses 20-22: Greek-speaking converts to Judaism seek audience with Jesus, prefiguring that Jesus has come for all the people of the world.

Verses 23-28: Jesus replies to their request by declaring what discipleship costs any who would follow him. “[The person] who loves his life will lose it …” And he declares his own willingness to die and prays to the Father to — by his death — “glorify your name.”

Verses 28-33: A voice is heard from above. Crowds mistake God’s voice for thunder or the voice of an angel. Jesus offers further words about his death and its meaning; in essence that it will seem like Satan’s triumph but in reality will signify Satan’s defeat.

Verse 34: Quite understandably, the crowd expresses confusion about who Jesus is. Jesus explains that, while he will be with them only a little longer, he is the light of the world.  

Verses 37-41: Even after so many miracles during Jesus’ time on earth, there were some in the crowd (and today) who would not believe. Why? The Apostle John explains by quoting Isaiah 6:10 about how some cannot see…

Verses 42-43: Among the Jewish leaders some believed but kept their faith a secret so as not to lose their standing among their fellow leaders “for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.”

Verses 44-50: In a closing statement Jesus raises his voice to speak of his connection with his Father and to speak of the ultimate consequences of not believing in him.           

Seek faith renewal by reviewing this chapter each day of this week, slowly and with prayer. A blessed Easter to you.

Photo credit: joey zanotti (via flickr.com)

Categories: Churchie Feeds

Sunday Mail call - The Eternals: The Complete Saga Omnibus & OSR Commentary

Swords & Stitchery - Sun, 03/28/2021 - 19:46
 "When Jack Kirby returned to Marvel in the 1970s, scores of amazing concepts would spring forth from his limitless imagination - and THE ETERNALS was his mind-blowing masterpiece! Kirby unveiled a secret history of humanity, races known as Eternals and Deviants, and a host of towering Celestials come to bear judgment on the Earth! It was a jaw-dropping saga that could have only come from the Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Monuments

First Comics News - Sun, 03/28/2021 - 18:24

WASHINGTON, D.C., 3/28/21 – Sci-fi fantasy graphic novel THE MONUMENTS will be available on Kickstarter on April 1st!

THE MONUMENTS is a 140 page, beautifully illustrated, mystery/adventure story from Oliver Mertz (FIRST LAW OF MAD SCIENCE, MAYBE SOMEDAY), Michael S. Bracco (THE CREATORS, NOVO), and Mike Isenberg (FIRST LAW OF MAD SCIENCE, FUBAR).

The Kickstarter sign-up can be found here.

THE MONUMENTS is about a fantasy world in which four warring city-states are forced to come together to face a common enemy: giant mysterious mechs. Right before wiping out the entire civilization, the mechs all power down for no clear reason, leaving the survivors to rebuild their world together.

800 years later. The world has moved on. The city-states are now united as one nation: a land littered with massive robotic relics that serve as monuments to a long-forgotten war.

After centuries of dormancy, one of these long-frozen mechs suddenly powers up, revealing a man who is confused, misplaced in time, and still very much alive.

Categories: Comic Book Blogs

Cinematic Superhero Rpg Universes

Sorcerer's Skull - Sun, 03/28/2021 - 14:30

While we may be past the era of "peak television," we seem to be entering the era of peak superhero TV. The CW and HBOMax have got new DC shows, and Disney+ has the latest Marvel offerings. Then there's a few other things on Amazon Prime like The Boys and Invincible. The superhero dominance of the box office got put on hiatus by the pandemic, but it has gone on long enough now to get backlash.

All of this makes me wonder when we'll get a superhero rpg with more of a cinematic vibe, much in the the same way we got a number of rpgs with a "animated series" aesthetic (some of that could be pragmatic, though. There may be more artists able to do a cartoony style willing to work at rpg rates). Of course, you don't have to want for a new game to run a cinematic style campaign. You could even reboot an old campaign in a cinematic version.

What would "cinematic superhero universe" mean in a rpg context? I haven't really fully formulated an answer to that but their are some traits I can think of:

  • Fewer superhumans (though they are getting more all the time!), particularly villains
  • Lower power levels (in general), but...
  • Fewer "skilled normal" masked heroes. (Captain America seems super-strong in the CMU; Falcon as more gadgets)
  • Fewer secret identities, fewer masks
  • Less colorful costumes
  • A smaller array of possible origins
  • Heroes more likely to engage in potentially lethal action
In general, cinematic universe changes seem similar to "ultimate universe" changes. They are more "realistic" versions of the characters.


First Comics News - Sun, 03/28/2021 - 10:04

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Blade Runner 2049 The Storyboards HC, $50.00

Adler Volume 1 TP, $16.99
Star Wars Insider #201, $9.99

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Our Not-So-Lonely Planet Travel Guide Volume 1 GN, $12.99

Wildflowers HC, $12.95

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86 Eighty Six Light Novel Volume 7 SC, $14.00
Hero Is Overpowered But Overly Cautious Light Novel Volume 6 SC, $15.00
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Rampage Of Haruhi Suzumiya Light Novel SC, $15.00
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86 Eighty Six Volume 2 GN, $13.00
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Kaiju Girl Caramelise Volume 4 GN, $13.00
Karneval Volume 11 GN, $20.00
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Love Of Kill Volume 1 GN, $13.00
Lust Geass Volume 3 GN, $13.00
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Courier Liberty And Death #3 (Of 3), $5.99
Grimm Fairy Tales #47, $3.99
Van Helsing Black Annis #1 (One Shot), $5.99

Categories: Comic Book Blogs


First Comics News - Sun, 03/28/2021 - 09:49

This week’s Cosplay Girl of the Week Jannet Sorekage

If you would like to be the Cosplay Girl of the Week! Please send your photo to Giovanni.Aria@firstcomicsnews.com and you will be considered for inclusion in a future edition of Superhero Girls!

Categories: Comic Book Blogs


First Comics News - Sun, 03/28/2021 - 09:46

This week’s Cosplay Dude of the Week

If you would like to be the Cosplay Guy of the Week! Please send your photo to Alex.Wright@firstcomicsnews.com and you will be considered for inclusion in a future edition of Superhero Dudes!

Categories: Comic Book Blogs


First Comics News - Sun, 03/28/2021 - 09:21

This week’s Cosplay Team of the Week

If you would like to be the Cosplay Team of the Week Please send your photo to Alex.Wright@firstcomicsnews.com and you will be considered for inclusion in a future edition of Superhero Team!

Categories: Comic Book Blogs


First Comics News - Sun, 03/28/2021 - 09:08

Brian “Road Dogg” James, was hospitalized Saturday after suffering a heart attack, according to his wife, Tracy James.

Categories: Comic Book Blogs


First Comics News - Sun, 03/28/2021 - 08:34

The Event Will Be Held At The San Diego Convention Center Over Thanksgiving Weekend

San Diego Comic Convention today announced dates for their November convention. Comic-Con Special Edition will be held as a three-day event over Thanksgiving weekend, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, November 26-28, 2021 at the San Diego Convention Center. It is our hope that by Fall conditions will permit larger public gatherings.

Comic-Con Special Edition will be the first in-person convention produced by the organization since Comic-Con 2019, and the first since the onset of the global pandemic COVID-19. The Fall event will allow the organization to highlight all the great elements that make Comic-Con such a popular event each year, as well as generate much needed revenue not only for the organization but also for local businesses and the community.

“While we have been able to pivot from in-person gatherings to limited online events, the loss of revenue has had an acute impact on the organization as it has with many small businesses, necessitating reduced work schedules and reduction in pay for employees, among other issues,” said David Glanzer, spokesperson for the nonprofit organization. “Hopefully this event will shore up our financial reserves and mark a slow return to larger in-person gatherings in 2022.”

As details are still being finalized, badge cost, attendance capacity, and related information will be forthcoming.

Categories: Comic Book Blogs


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