Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Screw "If" - "When" The Tavern Podcast Comes Together...

Alright, "The Tavern" will be putting out an OSR podcast. No date yet, but between the vague time frame definitions of SOON!, soonish and "not so soon", I'd put it around midway between soonish and "not so soon" ;)

I'm figuring two steady chairs and a guest each episode - bloggers, writers, artists - basically content creators. Not really big on the idea of doing straight up interviews, as my technique would probably fall along the lines of "interrogation". Instead, the third chair would get to put their input to the topic at hand.

Talking megadungeons? Grab +Joseph Bloch for the third seat. Talking Swords & Wizardry? Strong arm +Matt Finch . ACKS? +Tavis Allison .  Mapping techniques? +Dyson Logos and +matt jackson . Successful and on time RPG Kickstarters? Maybe +Kevin Crawford or +Zach Glazar .

BTW, the above are just examples of the way I would want the third chair to run. None of the above have been begged  strong armed  cajoled contacted yet, as the podcast doesn't exist except in the planning stage.

I'll be spending the next couple of weeks researching the technical hurdles. Thankfully, I can use OSX or Windows, so software wise I can grab the best  easiest to use and comprehend in the shortest amount of time

I expect there will be a few "negative number" episodes to work the kinks out prior to any "official" launch.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Mini Review - One Night in Slateholm (Gaming Fiction)

One Night in Slateholm is +Chris Gonnerman 's 1st Volume of what will hopefully be a multi volume set of gaming flavored fiction.

Although I felt the start of the story was slow, when it hit it's speed the virtual pages flew by. A warrior and a half elven magic user  / thief get in over their necks trying to save a young woman from an evil wizard. Sure, it may seem like a hokey premise, but it works.

We get to see some classic spells get put to use (charm person and web were two of my favorite spell scenes), well done dungeon scense and most importantly, I only caught one typo.

If you enjoyed the classic TSR fiction - this is better than most and sticks closer to the gaming rules sources. Definitely a good yarn if your are looking for some gaming fiction for your virtual bookshelf.

If you have a Kindle and an Amazon Prime account, you can even read it for free ($3.25 otherwise)

If I Were to Podcast...

I've gotten a decent amount of feedback about a possible OSR themed podcast. There seems to be an interest in one, which is damn cool.

I didn't plan to be the one hosting it, but there seems to be some interest in that too - God knows who would want to hear my New York accent on a semi-regular basis but hey, not my problem ;)

There does appear to be a huge learning curve in getting this right, so I'm not going to do a "GMS" and give a date (and then another and yet another), as this shit may never happen. Then there is the software, hardware, evening wear - it took me years to become an effective and hopefully entertaining blogger - it will take me months (at least) to figure out how to do a barely passable podcast.

I do believe I have enough friends in the OSR to ensure there would be a constant stream of interesting guests - and I have some cool thoughts on that too.

Alright - time for research and a time sink check ;)

How Mongrelized is the Ruleset You Run?

I run a Swords & Wizardry Complete game - actually, I run two campaigns of S&W. It isn't pure S&W though...

In addition to a ton of houserules of my own, I use some charts from ACKS, magic items from AD&D and adventures written for the DCC RPG (as well as a "Luck" variant inspired by the DCC RPG).

Is it any wonder that mongrelmen are one of my favorite "old school" monsters? :)

So, do you run your games "by the book" or do you use a houserules and rules sourced from other RPGs?

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Podcast List - Part One - The Core Four

I'll be putting up that link list of podcast love in bits and pieces. Today, I thought I'd start out with the podcasts that are my core ones - the ones I listen to the moment a new episode is available for download, even if it means coming back to another podcast in mid episode later.

They won't appeal to everyone. A simple truth but still truth. Still, if you haven't given something on today's list a listen to and you are at all interested in gaming related podcasts, these are a good start.

Happy Jacks RPG Podcast - Stu, Stork and the rest of the Happy Jacks gaming miscreants will be happy to help you make your game better. Whether you agree with them or not isn't so much the point as they often don't agree with each other. They are experienced gamers and are very comfortable with the podcast medium.

Do they annoy me? Sure - the whole "Google Christ" (instead of calling it Google Plus) thing is played out. Some of the belching could be cut down, as it exceeds the amount we used to do during our teenage games. The biggest annoyance was Tappy and his "I don't know shit but I'll pretend I know the answer for everything" attitude. I almost miss him and his arrogant ignorance.

Still, it's a gaming podcast that my wife will listen to, and that speaks volumes. Excellent production qualities. The podcast that made me a podcast listener.

Usually updates each weekend.

Roll For Initiative - 1st Edition AD&D Podcast - +Vincent Florio and crew are the other gaming podcast that my wife will listen to. She feels like she's sitting at the table with those on the other end, which mean's they are doing something right. Informative and relaxed, it is a natural fit to my core list of podcasts.

My sole annoyance? Giving everyone the title of "DM". It's a common theme on all the Wild Games Production Podcasts. I think it's corny. So kill me.

RFI updates on a less regular schedule than Happy Jacks, which causes me to refresh my podcast app on a near daily basis to ensure I don't miss an episode. Actually, maybe that is a good thing ;)

Fear the Boot - Dan and crew have a nice, relatively short length per episode (compared to others on this list), RPG podcast. I don't want to call it philosophical in nature, but the techniques they talk about can get even a grognard like me thinking in new ways. Happy Jacks and Fear the Boot have been crossing the streams recently, which has made for some interesting cross pollination.

Drawbacks? It can be dry compared to the podcasts I've mentioned above. Well, maybe not dry, but it can lack a certain energy.

Spellburn - Yep, a podcast for the DCC RPG. Jim, Jobe, and Jeffrey do an amazing job with the show. I'm not even running DCC at the moment and haven't been for about half a year, and yet these episodes are some of the most enjoyable for me to listen to.

Except that everyone has the title "Judge" (part of the WGP shtick) I really have no complaints - except for the hiatus they were recently on. Hopefully they are back to regular episodes.

Alright, that's the Core Four. More in a day or two :)

All This Talk of Podcasts Got Me Thinking - I Can't Find one that Talks About the Clones

I just sent this as an email to Wild Games Productions, but I feel it it also something that can be talked about here:
I wouldn't mind seeing a podcast that touches upon Swords & Wizardry, Labyrinth Lord, Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, Mazes & Perils, Delving Deeper, Dark Dungeons, OSRIC, Scarlet Heroes, Hackmaster, LotFP Weird Fantasy, Castles & Crusades, Blood & Treasure, Adventures  Dark and Deep (edit) Stars Without Number, Other Dust, Ambition & Avarice, Fantastic Heroes and Witchery, ACKS and the like. There is certainly a lot of ground to be covered, and none of the clones exactly matches up to the editions they are emulating. 
News about releases, talk about houserules, melding different rules sets, online (VTT) gaming yapping about the various clones - that sort of stuff. 
We all love the originals, but most (many) of us play the clones (better editing, layout, clarity and the like).  
Just thought I'd throw that out there. I think Vince and the crew could pull it off.
Now, I'm sure I missed one or a dozen of the retro clones out there with my above list.

In any case, I just think it would be fun exciting just damn cool to have a podcast devoted to the clones. Differences, highlights, game breakers, supplements, adventures, houserules, interviews and the like. Just for the love of he that is holy, please don't give the hosts the title of "DM" ;)

I'm sure +Vincent Florio  and crew have a ton of shit on their plates already but I think it's a viable idea. I know I wold listen to it :)

So, good idea, bad idea, no good idea goes unpunished idea?

Guest Poster - Pete Spahn -Terminology Deathmatch: Adventure vs. Supplement

Way, way back in the long, long ago, TSR began releasing products to support the core Dungeons & Dragons and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons rulebooks. These products were labeled "Adventure Modules" and they differed greatly in content, design, and reception. Some were cherished and adored. Others were hated and reviled. All were accepted as "adventures".  I have long believed that the varied response to these products was not only due to personal preference, but also due to the actual design elements of these "adventures", some of which were not really adventures at all.

If you break down the content of these "Adventure Modules" you will actually see they are two types of products---adventures and supplements. For purposes of this article, an adventure is a series of outlined events that happen without character intervention, and in fact the outcome of these events can only change through the actions of the player characters. A supplement on the other hand is a location, with plot hooks, encounters, and places to explore and perhaps even things implied to be going on in the background, none of which requires the PCs to do anything.

Take a look at some of the classic adventures of the past: Night's Dark Terror, Curse of Xanathon, Assassin's Knot, Saltmarsh Series, Ravenloft, Red Arrow Black Shield.

Curse of Xanathon fits the criteria of an adventure. Badly. It's a horrible railroad that forces the PCs against a high priest who is unkillable the first time they encounter him. Only after they are forced to run from him (another railroad) do they learn how to kill him. Everything in it points to bad adventure design, and yet it is still classified as an adventure because the PCs are required to DO something to further the course of events.

A much better example of an adventure done right is Night's Dark Terror which has the PCs traipsing all over the Duchy of Karameikos trying to stop a magic-user who is uncovering the secrets of ancient magic. If the PCs do nothing, this mage and his organization of slavers could potentially become very powerful.

Ravenloft is another good example. The PCs are transported to the demiplane (which some might call a railroad) and must DO something in order to escape. Sure, they can bounce around in the village and forest, killing vampires and werewolves and such, but pretty soon Strahd is going to come looking for them which gives it a sense of urgency that is not present in a supplement.

Assassin's Knot and the Saltmarsh series involve investigative work, with consequences for inaction (or incompetence). In Saltmarsh, if the PCs do nothing, the coastal village will eventually be overrun by sahuagin.

Red Arrow, Black Shield involves the PCs traveling from country to country in an attempt to rally support for their army. Each country swayed commits troops to the final mass battle. Again, the PCs are required to DO something to complete the adventure.

Were these the greatest adventures ever written? Of course not. At the time, I don't think the folks at TSR really had a clear idea as to what made a good commercial adventure which is why you see dungeon crawls, investigations, wilderness treks, etc. all labeled as "adventure modules" and plot hook railroads accepted as standard fare. I think if they would have been classified better and a little more thought given to player motivations, some of them might have been better received.

Now let's talk about a few supplements: Tomb of Horrors, Keep on the Borderlands, Isle of Dread, Temple of Elemental Evil, Castle Amber.

Tomb of Horrors not an adventure? Keep on the Borderlands not an adventure?  Isle of Dread not an adventure? Madness!!! We've all run those adventures countless times!

But hear me out. As I said above, an adventure is more than just a mapped location with some plot hooks and encounters. There needs to be some sense of urgency, some sense that the PCs affect a course of events through their action or inaction.

Take a good long and honest look at the Keep on the Borderlands. You get the keep, some encounters in the wilderness, and of course, the Caves of Chaos. These are places to adventure in. They are not adventures in and of themselves. There is no reason for the PCs to get involved in anything happening in the text or on the map and there are no consequences for action or inaction. The encounters are mostly static. The PCs can raid the Caves and return to the keep at will, then return to the Caves, and although there are some minor suggestions for what the monsters might logically do to adapt, there is no sense of urgency for the PCs to do anything.

Compare this to the Lankhmar: City of Adventure supplement (or my own Guidebook to the City of Dolmvay). Like the Keep on the Borderlands, each has mapped locations, plot hooks, and encounters that set the stage for memorable adventures. However, none of these products are adventures in and of themselves. The PCs are not required to DO anything. They can wander around, pick fights, explore locations, etc., however, if they decide to do nothing, there are no consequences for inaction.

Can you have adventures using the Keep on the Borderlands, Tomb of Horrors, etc.? Of course you can! In fact, they are designed that way. However, again, that does not make them adventures. Anything you say about adventuring in the Keep on the Borderlands you can just as easily say about Lankhmar or Dolmvay.

Tomb of Horrors is an extreme example of this. It's basically a high-powered dungeon without the surrounding maps and encounters to give it context (i.e. a Caves of Chaos with no Keep). If the PCs leave the Tomb, no big deal. Nothing happens. Isle of Dread is the same way. You have an excellent map with tons of interesting locations and encounters, but if the PCs decide to leave the island, well it'll still be there if they wish to return. Castle Amber is basically just a romp through a magical castle (and can be considered something of a railroad as well).

Temple of Elemental Evil is basically a crawl through a large dungeon although one could argue that the evil rising in the old temple gives it an implied sense of urgency that pushes the module towards the "adventure" category.

I'd like to point out my own Blood Moon Rising adventure for a clear example of what I classify as an adventure. It is set during a festival. There are a number of events that take place during the festival, some of which surround the opening of a demon gate. On the last night of the festival, a host of demons will be unleashed.

That is the outline of the events that occur if the PCs decide to stay in their rooms with the covers pulled over their heads. Now, the kicker is that the PCs can disrupt this whole chain of events by getting involved, locating the demon gate, and closing it which prevents the demons from being unleashed on that final night. If they act: they save the village. If they do nothing: demons.

So in closing, a series of events that only vary with PC intervention. That is a published adventure. A location with plot hooks and encounters. That is a supplement.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

A New Look for Tenkar the Dwarf

+Craig Brasco , thank you for the latest portrait of Tenkar the Dwarf!

I really do want that beer stein - who needs a more traditional weapon when you can have this?

It must be magical...

Podcasts - Do You Listen to Them and Which Ones do You Listen to?

I find myself listening to gaming podcasts on my daily commute, to the point that I probably should just cancel my Sirius / XM as it is hardly ever used these days.

My plan (as suggested last night by +Joe D ), is to put a link of gaming podcasts on the right side of The Tavern's page, so the readers can sample what are some of the better podcast out there, in my humble opinion.

The thing is, I am sure I'm missing some of the better ones myself, so I need you, the patrons of this fine establishment, to point me in the right direction.

My personal "go to" list of podcast includes the following (in no particular order besides alphabetical):

Dead Games Society

Fear the Boot

Happy Jacks

RPG Circus

Roll for Initiative

Save or Die


THAC0's Hammer

What say you? What's missing from this list? What have I overlooked over the last 2 years? Tell me.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

On the Eve of Easter - How Often do the Dead Come Back in Your Campaigns?

I'm sure I've asked this before, but with Easter nearly upon us, it seems like a question that fits the moment.

Raise Dead is a 5th level Cleric Spell and Resurrection is 7th (not going to touch upon the various incarnations of Reincarnate with this post).

Now, there are all sorts of ways to control abuses of the spells above, but played as written, a 7th level Cleric in S&W could raise the dead once per day. Think about it. A cleric of 7th level or higher could live like a king in a medium sized town.

Well, unless the cleric himself gets killed.

Raising the dead rarely comes up in campaigns I've played in or run, but by the book, death becomes fairly cheap to beat early on in "D&D-esque" RPGs.

How does it play out in your campaigns?

Mini Review - The Monastery of Inexorable Truth (S&W Adventure for Levels 3-4)

+Purple Duck Games has released it's first Swords & Wizardry compatible adventure - The Monastery of Inexorable Truth.

Now, i am most certainly biased in favor of this adventure as my group and I playtested it with the author, +David Przybyla (who is also a regular member of our group). We used PCs from my regular campaign along with me rolling up a 3rd level cleric. It was so brutal and yet so damn good.

I really thought we were going to be TPK'd more than once, but in the end everyone in the party survived. We certainly did better when we started thinking out of the box (my instinct was to go in head first, but then again, I rarely get to play and not DM- maybe that's a good thing ;)

Nice amount of action, enough going on to make you think - and think again - and a background story that makes sense - if the party figures it out. It took us three sessions to wrap this up, but I expect most groups would take two. We are slow starters :)

I can't recommend The Monastery of Inexorable Truth enough. (even includes a blank map for VTT use - well done +Mark Gedak )

From the blurb:


It is said that the truth will set you free... but is that, itself, the truth?  The monks of the Order of Veracity built an amazing monastery complex in the frozen mountains, using the heat of natural magma flows, in order to contemplate the truths of their stern god, Ket the Unbroken.  When they were given a wondrous tome, the Codex of Inexorable Truth, they thought that all of the truths in the world would be theirs to behold... and it would be a lie to say that their bones rest easily because of it.  But the truth can be a valuable thing, and your party of intrepid adventurers has been tasked with obtaining the truth borne in the pages of the Codex, and must journey to the dark halls of frost and fire- to learn the Truth.

The Monastery of Inexorable Truth is a Swords and Wizardry adventure for player characters of the 3rd and 4th level, including the map and key to the Monastery, five new monsters, and rules for administration of the Codex of Inexorable Truth, a powerful artifact held within the Monastery. Challenge your players to explore the domain of Ket the Unbroken, where to be tested is to find the truth of one's inner self- if you survive!  Get it now from the intrepid investigators at Purple Duck Games!

A Call to Arms! - OSWARP is Looking for DMs (East Coast OSR Con in July)

Man, it's almost surreal. My last gaming con was Gen Con 93 - over 20 years ago. Now, in 2014, I'm attending two Old School RPG Cons - North Texas RPG (NTRPG) Con in June and the Old School Wargaming and Role Playing(OSWARP) Con in July. Pretty exciting.

While NTRPG was it roots well set, OSWARP is the new kid on the block, and is technically a "Con within a Con", as it it happening in conjunction with DexCon in Morristown NJ, a fairly large east coast gaming con with a long history.

OSWARP is happening on July 4th and 5th -  a Friday and a Saturday.

I'm loving the idea of an east coast OSR centric con and it will be exciting to be there for the inaugural one. Not sure what I'll be running, but I doubt +Joseph Bloch will let me in the doors before committing to running something.

Currently they are looking for DMs (the following is from +Joseph Bloch 's Greyhawk Grognard blog:
We're looking for you to run a game! If you volunteer to run enough games (64 player-hours' worth if you're getting the special OSWARP membership), you get comped into the convention altogether. Types of games we're looking for: 
- Old-school RPGs (Basic, AD&D, White Box, BECMI, Metamorphosis Alpha, Boot Hill, T&T, Runequest, Traveller, C&S, FASA Star Trek, etc. etc. etc.) 
- OSR retro-clones and associated games (OSRIC, Labyrinth Lord, S&W, C&C, DCC, Barbarians of Lemuria, etc. etc. etc.) 
- Wargames (hex and counter types and others, like Afrika Korps, Third Reich, War in Europe, Campaign for North Africa, Kingmaker, Starfleet Battles, other AH/SPI/Victory Games/etc. - doesn't have to be from the 80's) 
- Miniatures (historical miniatures from any era, Chainmail (with or without the fantasy supplement), Battlesystem, etc.) 
- Anything else you think would be appropriate for an "old school" convention
You'll find the game master submission form right there on the DexCon registration page. (DexCon is happening July 2-6, and a DexCon membership doubles as your OSWARP membership.)

Make sure you select OSWARP in the "type of game" section in the form when you fill it out. And when you do send in a game proposal, let me know (this means Joseph Bloch) either in the comments at the original post or by email, so I have some idea of what's coming. I'll be doing regular updates as games come in, so as to drum up interest, and have some ideas for stuff at the con that requires I know what's on the horizon.

And don't forget, when you pre-register for the convention, use the code OSRDX17PX30, and you'll get a $30 discount off a complete membership. To take advantage of this deal, you must sign up for 4 Oswarp-labeled events once the schedule is posted, or two OSWARP events and the OSR Team Dungeon Crawl. (Which, if you're reading this blog, you were probably going to be doing anyway, but just in case...)

That means you get into Dexcon, and can play as many RPGs, board games, video games, LARPs, miniatures games, and wargames as you can put into your schedule over 96 hours for just $40, including all the OSWARP games you can handle. That's pretty damn good. (If you're just planning on coming for the Friday/Saturday OSWARP programming, that's still the best option to choose, in terms of price.)