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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Getting Back to GM'ing - Like Riding a Bike?

Maybe its more like driving a car in my case.  I'm fine with driving until I start thinking about it.  At which point, instinct goes out the window.  I start to over think (which may be why I have to look straight ahead when my son drives with a wall close on the left hand side... I start to over think).  When I start to over think, I get nervous.

Anyhow, I haven't run an RPG session since 1996 - I'm 15 years removed from it.  With the start of renovations, I'm also a step closer to running a game of Tunnels & Trolls or Swords & Wizardry via Fantasy Grounds.  I'm excited and scared by the whole concept.

Could be worse.  I could be terrified I guess ;)

Next step is painting the ceilings and the moldings...

Caution! Work in Progress

Today we actually started renovating the two rooms that are going to be the new master bedroom. We opened up the archway between the rooms, saved some antique molding for future use, measured for the wallpaper (old plaster walls that were previously wallpapered), started removing old wallpaper... busy busy.

It is almost addictive, as you can see the progress taking you closer to you goals. My son was hoping for it to be more like demolition work, but in truth it was more like surgery... we needed to save as much of the antique molding as possible.

Now I need to move a lot of my gaming material. Much of it was being stored in these 2 rooms, which were storage and a guest room up to now. I bought some of the large storage bins from Bed, Bath & Beyond in preparation last nite. My coupons expired back in '09... they never batted an eye.

It is very exciting. Of course, I've never wallpapered in my life, so my mother is going to hold my hand initially. That's okay. I'm a grown man with a game collection that can take up a whole room, easily. I'll take my mom's help without flinching. ;)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Manure Spill at the Lord's Gate Backs Up Wagons to the City Square

Pretty much every fantasy city map I've seen shows a city surrounded by walls, water or both, with limited means of egress, generally limited to city gates. What happens to the daily flow of traffic, both personal and commercial, if you close off some of those gates due to an unforeseen accident, such as a cart of dung, piled high, tips over when leaving through the main gate, spreading waste everywhere and requiring men and time to clean up?

Traffic jam for the most part. Which could be a big advantage to those looking to smuggle goods in or out of the city. Overwhelmed city guards may push folks through without the usual search or questioning. Tolls may not be collected. Tempers may flare.

See, I'm watching traffic and tempers build in Lower Manhattan this morning, as the Lincoln Tunnel has been closed due to a tractor trailer accident. Cars, trucks, buses - all are using alternate routes to cross the Hudson River, but there is only so much additional volume the remaining tunnel and bridge can take. Traffic is coming to a stand still.

I suspect it would play out similarly in a fantasy setting. Real life again invades my view of a fantasy urban environment ;)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Mini Review - Bean! The D2 RPG - 2nd Edition (Solo and Group Play)

Bean! The D2 RPG has just released it's 2nd edition.  I happen to like Bean! a lot, and not just because it has a bit of a Tunnels & Trolls feel to it.  I like it because it's a nice, simple system that should be an easy one to introduce new roleplayers.

Some of you (like the recipients of the copies of Bean! I gave out a few months ago) may be wondering if they need to upgrade to the new 2nd edition.  You don't need to, but it is a nicer and fuller presentation.  Some of the stuff added to the 2nd edition was first presented in the free 1st Edition errata, such as skills and custom archetypes.

Now, if you are new to Bean!, this is definitely the version you want. A fuller spell list, more monsters in the bestiary, mounted and ship to ship combat, a cleaner explanation on how to roll... it really is a nice package.  Just like the original Bean!, you get a Solo and a GM adventure included in the rules.

Don't forget to pick up your free Bean! adventures.

From the blurb:


BEAN! is an easy-to-master, rules-lite, d2 RPG system! It's perfect for introducing new players or children to the hobby, and will keep veteran gamers rollin' their beans with a system that's flexible and easily customizable to any setting. Complete in one simple volume, spend less time reading and more time playing!


The d2 game system is unique and quickly memorized, so simple, yet able to handle any situation on the spot, without having to thumb through volumes of obscure rules. The best part? You get to toss your beans! With a d2 dice system, you could use standard dice for "high or low" "odd or even" rolls, you could toss coins or any other objects that have two distinct sides, but we recommend plain ol' beans! They're cheap and plentiful, some people really enjoy customizing their own beans, and a handful of beans keeps the game moving along quick and easy!


This Second Edition features a streamlined rules presentation, rules for Skills, Custom Character Archtypes, Mounted Combat, plus new monsters and spells.

Simple, versatile, and sometimes silly, welcome to BEAN!

There's a Seal! There's a Seal in the Water!

Geraldo is always good for a quote - "There's a man! There's a man in the water!"

This past sunday I took a 3 hour cruise in New York Harbor to go seal spotting Not what you would expect in the waters off of the City That Never Sleeps, but I counted nearly a dozen (the official count was 19 seals spotted). Apparently in the summer months, the same ship also does whale spotting cruises. At $24 bucks a person (at least for the seal spotting) I'm sure to be going again.

All of which got me thinking. In my neighborhood in Queens (one of the boroughs of NYC) i've seen rabbits, wild turkeys, opossums, raccoons... all species that one associates with a less urban environment. All on city streets or yards. Not parks. Not cemeteries.

So why don't we have more kobolds and goblins living in the sewers of major (and not so major) fantasy cities? They'd adapt to the urban environment even better then the wild animals i mention above (although they would also be present). Why search for adventure at low levels, when you can be recruited to keep the goblin population in the sewers in check.

We frequently hear stories of bears causing issues in the suburbs, but what if a young and hungry owlbear was roaming the streets at night going through the refuse? Thats a job for (expendable) adventurers.

edit:  The ArmChair General has a nice post building upon this one.  Check it out here.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mini Review - Beneath the Ghoul Lair (OSRIC)

March has been a really good month for "Old School" releases.  I think I need to take a day off from work just to get to all of the recent releases I want to look at, let alone earlier releases I haven't gotten to.  Someone want to add more hours to the day?

Beneath the Ghoul Lair, a Westgate Adventures! Dungeon Raiders! module (I hope I got all that right - so many titles - heh) is the latest release from Johnny Rook Games.  Aimed at a party of levels 2-4, I'd advise they have access to silver weapons if they don't yet have a magic weapon or two in the party.  As you can guess from the title, there be undead in them there hills!

BtGL is setting light in nature.  The hook is a decent one that can be placed just about anywhere.  The stronger you make the hook, the more you party will be involved in the story evolving around them.  You can drop it as is, and it should work, but tweaking should make it a better fit.

There are 2 nice dungeon maps that would have fit well into any classic TSR module if they were only done in that horrible classic blue.

Four new magic items, a new spell (which looks familiar) and three new monsters (one of which looks familiar, but i guess its new to OSRIC).

From the blurb:

This adventure is designed for 4-8 characters of levels 2-4.
A pack of vicious ghouls recently attacked a group of adventurers.  The party's ranger tracked the ghouls back to an old cave but dared not go inside as it was too dangerous.  A plea has gone out to any able-bodied adventurers nearby to clear out this undead infestation.  You and your allies have heard the call and set out urgently for the cave to end the threat, find some treasure, and hopefully survive the horrors beneath the ghoul lair!

About Dungeon Raiders! Modules
Dungeon Raiders! games:
  • Are "story-light" modules designed for quick adventure, great treasure, and fantastic stories!
  • Are designed for any campaign setting while maintaining good content and high quality playability!
  • Are great for one- to three-night game sessions when players want to "just go get some XP and gold!"
  • Can be easily expanded into much larger games or stories!
  • Are sensible, not rediculous, and fun, suited for any new players or old players wishing to revive and keep alive the spirit of classic role-playing!
Black and White interiors, 19 pages.

Damn the Wintry Weather!

Last Friday we hit 75 degrees in NYC. Today I awoke to snow on my car and sleet in the air. I'm done with winter. You can take it back.

Yeah, I know this isn't game related in the least, but I was due for a weather rant in any case ;)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The World is Ruled By Cats (at Least My Corner Is)

I'm a firm believer in this.  If you have a cat, you do for them.  Dogs do for you.  Kinda.

My little girl is a talker, she's extremely vocal.  Her different cries all mean something, and I've learned them over the last few years.  At the moment she is telling me to go to bed.

She understands a number of words... well, more like a handful then a number.  We each speak in our specific language, so we use two languages for one set of communication.

Damn, that seems like a crap load of work.

Still, it makes a lot of sense in a fantasy setting.  The Rock Trolls communicate with grinding noises, yet they understand the Gnolls and their yapping / barking language.  Maybe not word for word, but they get the ideas that are being communicated.

Alright, the lady is getting pissed, and she's just a cat.  Just wait until I actually understand women ;)

When The Wiz Speaks, I Listen

ChicagoWiz left a comment on my blogpost about Fire in the Jungle. As he planned to also post about FitJ, he jokingly wondered if we should have a "Jungle Week" theme. There may be something to that.

We've already touched on that with the Hot Elf series of posts (thanks James and the Underdark Gazette), but that was pretty much tongue in cheek. There really is no reason there couldn't be a theme of the week (or month) where if a blogger were so inspired, they would make a post during the week (month) that hits upon the common theme.

All of us see things from our own perspective, so even 20 blog posts from 20 different bloggers on the same general subject will be very different. The OSR has many nooks and crannies that haven't been explored, or could use more exploration, or are just fun to write and read about.

It could to be very loosely organized or not even organized at all. We all saw how the Hot Elf series went viral. It didn't need much of a push.

All this is me thinking out loud. Just throwing the thought out there. If the wet toilet paper sticks to the ceiling, we may just have something. ;)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Mini Review - Fire in the Jungle (Your Choice of Old School Rules)

Fire in the Jungle is a sandbox setting for the Old School ruleset of your choice.  Dustin Brandt, author of said sandbox and fellow blogger was kind enough to send me a copy to review.  I'm grateful, as it's a great read.

Jungle settings aren't usually the first choice of setting for most of us, I think because it isn't a setting that we can relate to.  North America and Europe are pretty much jungle free.  For gaming purposes, it gives the players a wild, alien world to explore.  It  keeps them on their toes.

Justin gives us a nice assortment of tools to bring the jungle to life.  We get natural medicines, major NPCs and monsters (most of which are native fauna with a twist).  We also get a Jungle Event System.

The Jungle Event System is similar to a Wandering Monster Table, but it isn't just adversaries to be fought. It's locations, events, personas.  The short of it is that is is much more useful then a Wandering Monster Chart.  I need to borrow this concept for the next game I run, Jungle or not.

We get a detailed and keyed hex map, with hexes listed and detailed briefly when there is something important there.

Then we come to the Ant Tunnel Exploration System.  Modeled on those lovely ants that visit in the summer, but much larger, these ants and tunnels are a challenge for any party.  We are also gifted with a Tunnel Event Chart - lets just say ant tunnel exploration should entertain both the party and the GM.

Next, we are given The Tomb of the Monkey God.  If this dungeon doesn't get the party lost, they are better mappers then me.  Oh, and more random tables.

A Player's Handout Sheet rounds out the package.

I'm still amazed at how much "stuff" Dustin squeezed into 16 pages.  It is certainly reads as if it much more.  Fire in the Jungle is almost system neutral, in that the few D&Disms could easily be converted to Tunnels & Trolls without much effort.

I'm not sure if I'd run this as is, but as its a sandbox, who will run it as is?  It's certainly made me think about jungle adventures and how it could be a nice change of pace to take a party out of civilization and drop them in the jungle.  Very well done and worth the price of admission, even if it's just to crib the charts ;)

From the Blurb:


A ready-to-go jungle adventure or a toolkit for creating your own jungle setting. This supplement contains:
  • A brief history of the jungle’s troubled past and the natives who have survived there.
  • A color judge’s map of the jungle with dozens of described locations to explore.
  • A color player map to give the player’s a vague understanding of the shape of the jungle.
  • A comprehensive Jungle Event System that reflects the harsh reality and wondrous excitement of journeying through this jungle.
  • The Ant Tunnel Exploration System provides a framework for running adventures in these infinite, living tunnels.
  • The Tomb of the Monkey God.  A dungeon module with an Escalation mechanic that ratchets up the tension the longer the PCs remain inside the tomb.  Unique, overlapping color map of this four-level tomb.
  • Plus a variety of monsters, NPCs, hirelings, magic items, etc.
  • And, of course, the cover art by Rommel Joson and the back cover art by Edbon Sevilleno.

Spring Cleaning Turns Up a Surprise From my AD&D Days

For the most part my AD&D stuff is packed away.  I just have way to much stuff to keep rarely needed stuff in prime locations for accessibility.  Still, every once in a while, I stumble across something that's out of place, wonder how it got there, and then the gaming memories flood back.

Case in point, The Book of Lairs for AD&D.  We're given over 60 developed lairs... more then adventure seeds, less then full adventures, this was a go to book (along with the AD&D Encounter Cards) that I went to when prep time was short (or non-existant) and I needed something to run with.  For a DM that was good at improvising, this was an awesome tool.

Now, is anything all that memorable from it?  No, I'd have to start digging thru it again, and I doubt I would find it as useful now as I did 25 years ago, but for the time it was pretty good.  I know it was, cause I've got the pencil marks throughout it to show that I used it on more then one occasion.

Oh, did I mention that Christian is making a return to blogging after a short absence?  Times are good.  He wasn't hidden on my bookshelf tho, I swear!  ;)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Friday Nite Movie at the Tavern - The Hebrew Hammer

Friday's movie is getting mentioned late this weekend, as I was running around Saturday and today we went seal watching in New York harbor (I'll need to go thru the pictures before I can post any).  So, a bit late, we present to you, the Hebrew Hammer.

Sometimes a movie doesn't have to be good to be funny.  I suspect this over the top spoof of the 1970s blacksploitation movies hit closer to home for me then it may others, as I saw so much of NYC in it (and was even able to recognize some obscure locations) from landmarks to culture (alright, stereotyped culture, but still recognizable).

I laughed even tho I didn't want to.  Not sure if that is a ringing endorsement or not.

I could see putting together a one-shot using the Fate rules.  Everyone gets a racial / ethnic stereotype to play and get's to try to save the world from evil Santa - or was there already done in Spirit of the Century?

Awkward End to Campaign Leads to New Beginning - Next on Geraldo!

Last nite was supposed to be the last session in the Fantasy Grounds powered Castles & Crusades game I've been playing in for over 2 years now, at least for a while, as the game is being put on hiatus for the immediate future.  With only 2 players and the GM showing up, it became more of a 2 hr chat session.  That is, however, the nature of the beast, both with a VTT or at the dining room table.  Even with the best laid plans and intentions, real life tends to interfere and take precedence.

The shame of it is that we didn't get to a good point to pause the campaign.  The damn hobbit may have that mask stuck to his face for an extremely long time at this point ;)

All is not lost tho, as the plan is to keep the group together.  Cad, one of my fellow players and an occasional blogger, is considering taking up the GM reins for a bit.  I tossed my vote for a Labyrinth Lord Campaign and so far my vote is winning (as far as I know, it's the only vote cast so far... heh).

We really have been lucky with this group, as it was / is a really great bunch of folk.

Now, as for the Geraldo line in the title - I'm just feeling mischievous, so you'll need to forgive me.  Maybe Jerry Rivers can find some loot in Al Capone's Vault that I can use in a Gangbusters session ;)