Humble Bundle

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Mini Review - Solo Heroes (Free Rules for One on One OSR Gaming From Sine Nomine Publishing)



With a title like "Solo Heroes" you might think these rules are for solo play, much like the Tunnels & Trolls solo adventures, but you would be wrong. These are rules, stated as compatible with Labyrinth Lord but in truth usable with little effort with any of the OSR rules of your choice that enable "One on One" gaming using off the shelf adventures.

Almost sounds to good to be true. I haven't had a chance to playtest the rules yet, but I expect they work well, at least at lower and middle levels. I suspect after 5th or 6th level things break down a bit. That seem to be the big power jump for both spell casting PCs and the adversaries players face

The rules are a hack to the power curve built into OSR style rules and it allows PCs to last longer in combat while taking down their foes quick, all without changing numbers on the character sheets or the stats in your favorite adventure.

I do want to give Solo Heroes a run for it's money at some point and see how well it works in an actual playtest. I'm currently running an infrequent 2 player / 1 DM - Swords & Wizardry / Crypts & Things hack as I'm trying to find a solution for balanced play and extremely small parties. This might just be the thing I need.

Sine Nomine puts out quality stuff and Solo Heroes is no different. Lots of ideas in the 7 pages, including a small adventure. The price is definitely right at FREE. Hard to go wrong, even if all you do is mine it for the included adventure.

From the blurb:


Maybe you want to show a friend the fun of classic D&D, but you can't pull a group together on short notice. Maybe you have nights where only one friend can make it, and you're tired of breaking out the card games. Maybe you just want to run a side game for somebody, but don't feel like weighing them down with an entourage of henchmen just so they can survive their first combat. What do you need? You need Solo Heroes, a free Labyrinth Lord-compatible supplement for lone adventuring.

While written for the Red Tide Campaign Setting and Sandbox Toolkit, this supplement is compatible with a wide range of old-school games. Within, you'll find a simple set of rules for running classic adventures with just a single PC. There's no need to alter character sheets or rework modules to make them survivable for whatever class your player has chosen- Solo Heroes gives you a handful of simple rules for turning such solitary exploration from a death wish in the making to a daring tale of risk and potential glory.

In addition to these rules, the mini-adventure of The Yellow Toad God's Well is provided to give you a little something instant to run for your player's new hero. And if it turns out you've got a full group for that night's session? Just drop the optional rules and run it by the book. Solo Heroes lets you play the game without painful paperwork and adventure redesign, whether for one player or half a dozen.

Swamp Hag (A Swords & Wizardry Monster)



Hag, Swamp

Hit Dice: 4 (20 HP)
Armor Class: 5[14]
Attacks: 2 Claws (1d4), 1 Bite (1d6) or by weapon, 1 Bite (1d6)
Saving Throw: 12
Special: Poisonous Bite (a successful bite attack requires the victim to make a save or be paralyzed for 2d4 rounds)
Alignment: Chaos
Number Encountered: 1d6
Challenge Level/XP: 6 / 400

Swamp Hags, like most of the variations of hag, feast on flesh as often as they can find it. In the case of swamp Hags, they prefer their flesh be still living. If a victim succumbs to the bite of the hag and is paralyzed a feeding frenzy will commence. Each hag in the encounter will turn their attention on the poor, immobile victim, rending him with their claws and teeth until he is little more than bones. They will ignore other potential targets during this time  - if the party is willing to leave a comrade behind, they can usually escape without further casualties.

Thinking of a "Red Shirt" Funnel for the Stars Without Numbers "Drop In / Drop Out" Campaign...

One of my regular players ( +Keith J Davies I'm looking at you) brought up the idea of using the "red shirts" as 0-level characters and treating each session as a bit of a funnel - surviving "red shirts" get to level up and actually become identifiable crew members (they reach level 1). I simply love the idea. "The Funnel" is one of the best ideas the DCC RPG has added to the OSR and I think it makes a nice fit with "red shirts".

Which means I need a simple mechanic to let players design 0-level characters in Stars Without Number.

What I am thinking is that they get their background package but don't get their training package until level 1.

1d4 HP, the class max HP when they hit level 1.

That free 14 score in their chosen class's prime req? Not until first level.

Any other ideas? I like the idea of the first mission being a "Red Shirt Massacre" ;)


I Haven't Run a SciFi RPG Session in Nearly 20 Years...

The last time I ran a SciFi RPG it was SpaceMaster for my group when we were down to two regulars. All I remember is lots of charts and lots of blaster fights, usually with the PCs solidly behind cover and ambushing their opponents. Probably the only way to survive a combat using the SpaceMaster rules ;)

Stars Without Number is a much lighter system than SpaceMaster by far. That all being said, running a fantasy based OSR game is something I could almost do in my sleep. Not so sure I can say the same for a scifi based OSR game. I suspect I need to change tracks in my head, as I don't want this to just be "D&D in space".

Current premise is this (subject to change with player feedback and GM musings):

(SWN for the rules / Starships & Spacemen for the flavor)

The ship is about midway through it's 12 year mission - all of the original command crew have been killed over the years and have been replaced by junior officers. First session PCs are part of the original crew and are now the command crew, but others have been added over the years from planets that have been visited. Later drop ins will be "red shirts" but if they survive the session and return for a second, they will be promoted to ensign.

As the ship is far enough from federated space that communication with the fleet takes a week for messages to travel round trip, they are effectively on their own with minimal guidance. Explore, protect, investigate and make allies - that is the mission. Survival is it's own reward...

Looks Like Stars Without Number with Starships & Spacemen as a Sourcebook Will Be the Summer Episodic Campaign

So, after discussing the idea with my Saturday Night group, the majority is leaning towards Stars Without Number. There was also interest in Razor Coast, but that would be a trick and a half to make it low level and episodic. I could do it I'm sure if I avoided the major plots, but then that avoids most of what makes the Razor Coast what it is.

I figure we'll run SWN, which is a great choice as it's a strong rules system and is free in PDF, which allows us to expand the field for the "drop ins" part of this campaign.

I'll be throwing Starships & Spacemen in behind the scenes, as seems to be made for episodic play (it's inspiration is the original Star Trek series). I expect the players will be on a smaller, Federation type starship, answering distress calls, wandering into trouble and occasionally going on missions where "No man has gone before!" Que the music...

Away teams without "red shirts". Or is that too dangerous? ;)

Friday, May 24, 2013

'Lectric Lizard (Swords & Wizardry Monster)


Art By Matt Bulahao

'Lectric Lizard

Hit Dice: 4 (20 HP)
Armor Class: 3[16]
Attacks: Bite 1d6 plus 2d6 electrical damage (save for half) / Special
Saving Throw: 13
Special: Successful attacks against a 'Lectric Lizard with a metal weapon inflicts 1 point electrical damage on the attacker. Two or more "Lectric Lizards within a 10' distance of each other generate an electric field, charging the air. Save each round in the area or take 1d4 electrical damage (save means no damage - penalty of -2 to the save if wearing metal armor)
Move: 9
Alignment: Neutral
Number Encountered: 2-8
Challenge Level/XP: 6 / 400

'Lectric Lizards grow to an average size of 5' from head to tail. Generally only agressive when defending their territory, they are a social animal and almost always found in small groups.

The charged air generated by a group of 'Lectric Lizards allows them to hunt without much effort, as the charged air often stuns or kills small prey without effort by the lizards. As such, they are often reluctant to pursue fleeing targets (25% chance only) preferring to let their food come to them later.

Really WotC? WTF Are You Thinking Making a D&D Next 2013 Preview a Gen Con Exclusive for 30 Bucks?



thanks to +Jason Paul McCartan for this bit of news.

Lets see - Gen Con 2013 is like what, 2 or 3 months aways, right?

All the hotel rooms are booked.

I'd assume most of the game slots are already reserved.

D&D Next is supposed to be built on the feedback of playtesters in the Beta, correct?

How do you reward those playtesters?

You make a D&D Next Preview product a pre-order than can only be picked up at Gen Con. Yes, you need to pre-order (at least it appears that way - maybe u can go retail at Gen Con) AND pick it up at Gen Con in person.

So, you aren't driving extra traffic to Gen Con unless they are local to the con, because everyone lese is going to be blocked out.

Instead, you just alienated many of those playtesters that you want to buy your game in 2014.

Besides, why should you have to go to a con to get something that should be offered to the general public? Talk about strange business decisions. At least WotC is consistant in the inconsistency.

Here's the article and the link to the original:

Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle

In addition to the seminars, games, and events taking place at this year's Gen Con—we have a further announcement (also appearing at Forbes.com):

Pre-orders have now officially opened for Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle. This exclusive Gen Con 2013 D&D Next preview will only be available to Gen Con attendees—but don’t wait until the convention. When you pre-order your copy of Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle you will also receive a free collectible D&D miniature designed by Gale Force Nine.

All sales will be managed by Gale Force Nine. Simply pre-order here: gf9-dnd.com then stop by Gale Force Nine’s Gen Con booth and collect your book and free mini.

Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle

Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle is a D&D Next preview and mini-campaign comprised of four thrilling adventures designed to advance characters from 1st level to 10th level. The book also contains everything a Dungeon Master needs to run the adventures, including D&D Next game rules developed during the massive public playtest, monster statistics, spell descriptions, magic item descriptions, and background information on the coastal town of Daggerford, where the campaign is based.

Against the backdrop of the Sundering, brave adventurers must protect the town of Daggerford against an insidious foreign threat while forging alliances, exploring dungeons, and battling monsters. The action moves from the Lizard Marsh to the orc-infested hills, finally culminating in a deadly altercation amid the crumbling ruins of the legendary Dragonspear Castle.

Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle includes pre-generated D&D Next characters, as well as rules for advancing these characters up to level 10. The book also includes the winning character sheet from our recent contest.

Price: $29.95.

Remember: Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle will only be available at Gen Con. You can pre-order your copy as of May 24th, but you'll only be able to pick it up at the convention. You can also find out what else is taking place at the convention here.

Please note: Refunds will be provided to anyone who pre-orders a copy but is unable to attend the convention.

Delving Into Dwimmermount - A Look at Last Night's ACKS Session From a Player's Perspective

Yes, I actually got to PLAY in a session of Dwimmermount. If all goes as planed, I'll be playing in many sessions of Dwimermount with my ACKS Wonderworker (pretty much a M-U/Cleric hybrid class), which is a bit of a change for me as I tend to not go for the classes that have d4 for HD and no armor ;)

I was surprised to find out I wasn't the only Wonderworker and even more surprised when the other Wonderworker cast a Magic Missile spell with 4 missiles. At least 4th level, I suddenly felt like a one-trick pony, but that's later in the story.

Rathman and the other party members - a crazy cleric, a dwarven fighter, a halfling fighter / theif, a thief and the previously mentioned wonderworker comprised the party. I also brought along Grud, my protector and shield bearer. Grud was the only chance I'd actually get to roll some dice in combat ;)

My mission, if I chose to accept it, was to say a prayer in the room with all of the rats, which, come to think of it, we may have found.

You see, when we got to Dwimmermount, there were rats with a mission carrying coins clenched in their mouths heading up the stairs to Dwimmermount. Old coins of Ancient Dwimmermount in nature. I suspect we were watching the restocking of the dungeon. Still, right off the bat, we had rats with coins, so I felt right at home.

On the way up the mountain we encountered some dwarves that had a nicely secured base. They were there to observe comings and goings on the way to Dwimmermount. We knew we had found a good place to retreat to when the night was over.

After nearly deciding to open a glowing door in the mountain but deciding it was just too dangerous, we continued following the rat parade to an iron door that someone had propped open with a statue.

The first room inside was ankle high in rats, who seemed to stop here to get their bearings before moving on to later destinations. There was a soft glow of light coming from behind a closed door which some of the rats were able to pass beneath. Upon peeking, it was revealed there was the sheen of oil on the other side of the door, so out halfling rolled a lit flask of oil under the door to light the slick - hilarity ensued (and just reinforced my previous observation that players setting fires).

Behind the door was another group, so I summoned Berserkers (it's my one useful trick) and set the quartet to kill.Other players also attacked, as did my henchman, but it was the assortment of berserkers that stole the show in my humble opinion ;)

After the combat the party questioned a survivor and found out they were there to oil up a talking head and ask it questions about Dwimmermount. We then took turns buffing the head and asking questions before trekking back to the dwarves (and killing some kobolds along the way).

All in all, a great time with some excellent players and an amazing DM. +Tavis Allison , +Jason Paul McCartan , +Joe D , +Miguel Zapico and all the rest - great game! Looking forward to next week :)


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Three Eyed Land Sextopod - AKA - "The Green Nightmare" (A Swords & Wizardy Monster)

Art By Eric Quigley

Three Eyed Land Sextopod ("The Green Nightmare")


Hit Dice: 12 (58 HP)
Armor Class: 1[18]
Attacks: 4 Tentacles (1d8) plus bite (3d6)
Saving Throw: 8
Special: If 2 or more tentacles successfully hit their target, the bite attack is made at +4 to hit
Move: 12
Alignment: Chaotic
Number Encountered: 1
Challenge Level/XP: 12 / 2000

The Three Eyed Land Sextopod, colloquially known as "The Green Nightmare", is obviously a mad mage's experiment gone wrong. We say "obviously", as all specimens encountered (with actual survivors on the "encountering side") have been sexless, therefore the conclusion that these are magical creatures. Well, that and the three aye / four tentacles dealie ;)

Green Nightmares do not retreat from combat, but if they have secured food (otherwise known as a victim) they are happy enough to leave other creatures be so long as they are left to feed unmolested.




Trying to Decide on the "Summer Drop-in / Drop-Out Campaign"

I can see the signs already, and I suspect we'll have a hard time getting the full Saturday Night group together over the next few months with vacations and family visits and everything lese that the summer entails in regards to "real life".

So, i want to put together a "drop-in / drop out" styled campaign for the gaming nites that the regular group is going to be running short. It's easier to drop folks into a campaign that is designed with that in mind as opposed to say, I don't know, maybe a party 5 levels deep into Rappan Athuk ;)

I'm toying with the following ideas:

Stars Without Number - not sure what exactly I would run with it, but it's a nice system, and I never seem to run Sci-Fi these days.

Starships & Spacement 2e - players would be officers on the ship, and whoever was playing that session would be the "Away Team" - this would probably be loose plots and very sandboxie in nature. Oh, and Sci-Fi.

Razor Coast / S&W - it would be more the setting and less the underlying plots I suspect, although that would depend on the players' actions I suspect.

Any other thoughts on systems / settings to use? Any feedback on the above?

I'm not recruiting yet, but I will when this get's closer.

Henchmen: Do You Use Them, Abuse Them, Ignore Them or Avoid Them?

Henchmen seem to live in this weird alternate universe from the rest of the party in the campaigns I've played in or run. Even when they are there, they are often forgotten, which admittedly is probably the most effective way to keep them alive.

As a player, I've been in few campaigns that have actively used them. I'm not saying the players didn't have henchmen, it's just that they rarely came into play unless half the players failed to show up for the session in question.

As a DM, I've noticed that those looking for henchmen are the arcane caster types - the squishies in need of a meat shield. Even then, both myself and the player in question constantly forget he has henchmen - maybe I should give the party a portable hole so they can store their henchmen in there.

I can't imagine a party of 8 PCs with 16 henchmen and an unknown number of torchbearers, porters and the like. Actually, I can imagine it, but it swings the game more towards it's wargaming roots then I'm personally comfortable with. Ever notice that Indiana Jones' supply train and guides tend to abandon him and his friends when they get to and enter the ruins? ;)

So, how do you see henchmen? Do you use them? Are they an integral part of your campaigns or something you avoid?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Mini Review - Return of the Rat Cult (Labyrinth Lord Adventure)


Return of the Rat Cult is a Labyrinth Lord Adventure for a party composed 2nd to 3rd level adventurers. Let's take a look at it, shall we? ;)

First thing that strikes me is the cover. I love that rat image - it's a fine piece of stock art but now I've see it on the cover of at least two OSR products. There goes my idea of using it for the cover of Copper Droppings, the S&W fanzine I want to put together. Grrr. I really do like this piece of art and obviously others do too.

As for the adventure itself? It starts with a bit of an investigation that the PCs must do in town before they find access to the dungeon part of the adventure.

The dungeon isn't huge, but it has options for the PCs, which is often lacking in smaller dungeons (they tend to be more linear with less actual choices of direction). It is also potentially lethal. The encounters and cultists don't play around, but that's the way it should be in an OSR styled adventure ;)

I would make one small change in the spells memorized by some of the cultists, because as written it's a TPK x 3 at such an early point in the PCs careers. You'll know it when you see it.

This makes a nice evening's entertainment as is easy enough to drop into most campaigns. It might even challenge a part of 3 to 4th level, but in that case you could probably leave the spells as written.

The Venusian Trapper (Swords & Wizardry Monster)

Art By Matt Bulahao
Venusian Trapper


Hit Dice: 10 (50 HP)
Armor Class: 2[17]
Attacks: 10 Tendrils (1d4) plus special
Saving Throw: 8
Special: Must save for each successful hit at + 2 or be paralyzed for 2d6 rounds. If successfully struck by 3 or more tendrils AND paralyzed, target will be placed in mouth for 3d6 acid damage per round until removed (no save)
Move: 12
Alignment: Chaotic
Number Encountered: 1
Challenge Level/XP: 12 / 2000

Venusian Trappers a gigantic, magically mutated version of a carnivorous plant. It likes to surprise it's prey, and will often use surrounding plant growth to camouflage itself.

It aims to grab it's prey, paralyze it and shove it's prey into it's ever open mouth. The mouth is full of a strong acid that is used to break down it's prey into more digestible nutrients. Metal and gems are immune to this acid and will normally be excreted in 1d6 days.

Here Are the Winners of the "Best Character Death" Contest



It took some time to sort through all of the "Character Death Entries". Much like the S&W Appreciation Day Blogfest, there were just so many great entries to choose from.

I think +Rafael Chandler puts it best:

"Choosing three winners was an impossible task. I was astonished by the creativity, brutality, and hilarity of these entries, and I was also delighted by the sheer number of participants. Thanks to everyone who contributed, and if you didn't get your complimentary PDF copy of Roll XX or Roll XX: Double Damage, please let me know! And many thanks, Erik, for hosting!"

So, Rafael whittled the list down to a "10 Best" and then we whittled that down to the top 3. In no particular over, our top three are:


+Edgar Johnson 

I've got a pretty good one. This happened in the Mysterious Temple of the Serpent God. The characters had defeated a nasty electrical trap, and opened the door to the Vault of the Frosthammer. After winding their way down a long and winding series of staircases (with absolutely no traps whatsoever), they had been lulled into a false sense of complacency. The final set of stairs let out on a longish corridor leading up to a door.

Here's the thing. Right in front of that door was a 30 foot deep pit trap, with iron spikes at the bottom. The trap extended for 30 feet along the corridor, nearly to the door at it end. As if that's not enough, the ceiling above the trap was false, rigged to release an avalanche of boulders. I'd set this up to be at least somewhat obvious to anyone who took the time to look. Unfortunately, we were accompanied by Vane Barbute, the chaotic warrior, who charged ahead, ready to examine the door. That was par for the course. He does this sort of thing all the time. This time, though, two other characters followed right behind him, both clerics. In fact, the party's only clerics.

I gave them all a chance to make a reflex save. Guess who made it? Right. The guy who caused the trouble in the first place. The clerics fell in the pit as the ceiling also collapsed right on top them. They took something like 6d6 damage (and they were first level guys at the time). Vane, though, was virtually untouched.

In the end, though, DCC's "turn over the body" rule was invoked. They dug out their companions who both, miraculously, made a Luck check to be not-dead. By all rights, they should have been DEAD, as +Harley Stroh can attest, but I'd already agreed to the rule. Live and learn (to kill better).

That has to be one of my favorite traps of all time. Misdirection and a whole lot of brutality. I was sort of sad that nobody noticed the pit trap, because the boulders would also be triggered by a plate in front of the door, which was separate from the pit trap itself, and would have (most likely) taken out the whole party.


ANDREW

Caves of Chaos. First time player, first character, a wizard. They avoided the pit trap going in, but... the kobolds have a paper mache boulder full of hornets.

So as they flee the boulder, the wizard fails the jump. She falls through the pit lid, rolling 4 damage from a 10 foot fall--which kills her.

But...

She also landed on spikes. And was carrying the torch. So when the massive paper mache boulder cracked on her and swarmed her corpse with stinging hornets, then the paper mache caught fire and merrily burned her corpse.

The player erased the name on the top of the sheet and wrote a new one in. Welcome to D&D.


STELLOS PERDIOS

The following happened in a Middle-Earth Role Playing session way back in the 1990s:

Our group stumbled upon an agent of Sauron speaking to a large group of villagers who was turning them against us. I looked down at my character sheet and saw, for whatever reason, that my character had "Public Speaking" as a skill, so I foolishly tried to persuade the audience to our side. I critically failed my roll.

The villagers swarmed me with a motley arrawy of weapons before moving on to the rest of the group. I vividly remember my character getting...
...his jaw broken and stunned
...struck to thigh causing a broken hip
...one eye destroyed, and stunned
...struck on the head, more bleeding, more getting stunned
...a blow to my arm, breaking it

A few more of the villagers still needed to attack me, but the GM stopped rolling at that point. My character was as good as dead. None of those criticals outright killed my character or knocked him unconscious, so he was very much alive and awake as the villagers bludgeoned him to death.

Besides, combat in MERP can take quite a bit of time with all of those combat charts--especially when mulitple characters do multiple criticals. And there were other characters who needed to die.

Somebody else got cut down and pretty much dismembered by the villagers--once again, multiple criticals.

The agent of Sauron severed another character's lower leg. The character was trying to run away.

I remember that there were two survivors. One was a hobbit. Hobbits are seemingly invulnerable in MERP, but I think he even he took a hit. The other was a human or an elf who feel unconscious from blood loss.

The game, and the campaign as I recall, ended with trying to figure out how the hobbit could carrying the wounded character to safety.

So, not only did I get my character brutally killed, but more than half the group as well, pretty much ending the campaign.

Oops...



So, the above 3 need to follow Rafael's directions below. There are still 3 random posters to pick, which should get done either tonight or tomorrow. I'll post them when we have them.


The three winners will get free books -- just pick a book from the list below and I'll mail you a copy. (I'll also email you the PDF.)

* Teratic Tome
* Roll XX
* Roll XX: Double Damage
* Spite
* ViewScream

Hit me up at rafaelchandler (I use gmail).

Here's the random winners:


 +Ed Hackett 
 +Adam Thornton 
 +Brett Slocum 




Pick a Class, Any Class

Tomorrow will be my first time playing ACKS as a player, not a DM.

I tend to go with clerics or multi classed fighter / clerics the few times I get to play. Generally speaking, I like to get my hands dirty and have the option to cast spells too.

This time around, I'm playing a Nobiran Wonderworker, which is pretty much a Magic-User / Cleric hybrid class that can't turn undead but can lay hands.

Very squishy, no armor and 1d4 hit points per level.

I'm going to need to change my mindset a bit it think ;)

Hmmm... I may need to bring along a meatshield / torchbearer to keep me alive... heh

So, what class do you tend to default to, if any?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Winner of the Razor Coast PDF For Swords & Wizardry Is...

The votes are in. I'm glad the final decision wasn't in my hands, as it wasn't an easy vote by far.

(the winners need to contact me at tenkarsDOTtavernATgmailDOTcom so i can get their gifts to them)

The random winner voter of a $5 RPGNow Gift Certificate is:

+Timothy Brannan 


Coming in at third place in the voting, qualifying for a $5 RPGNow Gift Certificate is:


Capheind for his entry The Mad Priest of Shebaba, and his vessel, the sepulcher of Shebaba.


Coming in at second place in the voting, qualifying for a $10 RPGNow Gift Certificate is:


+Tim Shorts for his entry The Ghost and it's Captain Cleaver Blackshaw.


Coming in at first place, winning a free PDF copt of the Razor Coast for Swords & Wizardry is:


+David Brawley 

Along the shipwrecked shores of the Razor Coast
Sails the Bloody Haar and her dread captain
Under red-dark skies and Pele’s eyes
Sails the Bloody Haar and her dread captain

For he’s faced the worst the waves can bring
Wreck and ruin and hurricane
Pitch black flag and scarlet sails
Sink their hearts and lips a’ wail

With orkish blood and a pirates ire
Sails the Bloody Haar and her dread captain
Cults and Curse of ancient times
Sails the Bloody Haar and her dread captain

He’ll take your silver, gold, n’ magic things
If you get in his way, you’ll be a blood stain
from the isle of Haht to the great Port Shaw
Ruthless Jack’s will plunder them all

Rum and gold and a wind steady
Sails the Bloody Haar and her dread captain
Treasure or tempest upon the sea
Sails the Bloody Haar and her dread captain

The Bloody Haar is a two masted schooner, with a red stripe running the length of her black hull. Her sails are a sun and salt faded scarlet, and she flies a pitch black pennant. While a relatively small ship, she’s one of the nimblest and fastest that prowls the Razor Coast.

(listen to the above here)

The Bloody Haar’s crew consists of the following:
SkarJak “Ruthless Jack” Urzok (Captain, Black Orc male fighter)
Lady d’Rath (1st Officer, blond human female fighter)
Masked Mage (quartermaster, ??)
Reed & Finnan (riggers and knifers, halfling brothers)
4-8 other pirates (Crew, varies - orcs and humans)

Prior to a raid, the Masked Mage will wreath the area in fog, allowing the Blood Haar to close upon her prey unseen. The rest of the crew will then board their target, eliminating any resistance with extreme prejudice, but not needlessly slaughtering anyone who doesn't get in their way. Their goal is always the loot.

“Ruthless Jack” is a large, broad shouldered bald orc with sun darkened olive green skin and a wiry black beard. He is covered with bright tattoos across his chest and down his arms, and fights with a magical harpoon in one hand, and a hand ax in the other. He’s been a pirate nearly his whole life, sailed the length and breadth of the Razor Coast, and when the Masked Mage offered him command of the Bloody Haar, he lept at the chance. The last 5 years have proven the wisdom of the Masked Mage’s choice.

The Lady d’Rath was the 1st officer under the Bloody Haar’s previous captain, and was initially pissed that the Masked Mage passed her up for the position. SkarJak’s success only infuriated her more. Eventually she challenged him to a duel, and lost, though it was a close thing. SkarJak asked her to remain on the ship as his first officer. Their relationship remains tense.

The Masked Mage is an unknown to all. Clad from head to toe in flowing embroidered robes, with an elaborate facemask that lacks any holes, his voice is low and raspy. Over his robes he wears The Medallion of the 9 Winds, the item which allows him to both call forth the fog, but also to influence the wind, further assisting the Bloody Haar in being one of the fastest vessels upon the sea.



Rathman's Immediate Intoxication Remediation (Swords & Wizardry Spell)

Rathman's Immediate Intoxication Remediation 

Spell Level: Magic User, 1st Level
Range: 30'
Duration: Permanent (Reversal lasts 1 Turn / Level)

This spell sobers up 1 target per level of the caster, removing all effects of alcohol from their system. Drinking alcohol after the spell has been cast on the target has it's usual effects.

The reverse of this spell affects one target. When cast in reverse, if the target fails their save they suffer a -1 to their to hit rolls and saves due to mild intoxication for the duration of the spell.

(Rathman learned early in his adventuring career that his companions enjoyed their beer and wine just a tad too much to be healthy in a dungeon environment. He researched a spell that would sober them up literally at a moments notice. Although they appreciated their newfound clarity, they have found the occasional soiling of their garments (1 in 6 chance) as the alcohol is purged from their systems to be an undesirable side effect. Rathman has steadfastly claimed that he has been unable to tweak the spell to remove said side effect).



Sometimes I Surprise Myself - 21 Swords & Wizardry Content Posts in 20 Days

When I stated that I was going to make a Swords & Wizardry related content post every day for the month of May, I really had no idea if I was going to be able to pull it off. Two thirds of the way through the month and still going strong, I think it may happen.

Funny thing is, content posts are not my traffic leaders. Kickstarters, news, rants, questions for my readers - they all blow away gaming related content posts as far as traffic goes.

The content posts are the most fun for me though ;)

Not every gaming content post this month was a homerun, but that's okay. Overall, I'm happy with what I've put out this month thus far. I've reassured myself that when the time comes to put out the S&W flavored fanzine I'm itching to do, I'll be able to produce the content on a fairly regular basis, as each of the posts this month were written on a daily basis.

Just think, the 31st of this month will make 4 years of active blogging for me. I'm still learning. Hopefully I'm still improving.

What's Your Favorite AD&D 2e Setting?



2e was the edition best known for pumping out settings as if they were going out of style.

Greyhawk / From the Ashes
Forgotten Realms
Plansescape
Birthright
Dark Sun
Mystara
Ravenloft
Spelljammer
Council of Wyrms

I'm sure there are others, but these are the ones I recall owning.

I think besides the core / usual suspects (Greyhawk / Forgotten Realms) the setting I got the most use out of was Dark Sun, even if the adventures were a railroad and a half.

Plansescape I could never get my players into. It was "too different". ah well.

Birthright we all wanted to play but couldnt really grasp the political layer of play and how it meshed with adventuring.

Mystara seemed like reworking of Basic D&D's Known World, which was a turn off back then, but much more appreciated these days.

So, I'd have to vote for Planscape as the setting I most wanted to run but didn't and The Forgotten Realms as the setting I ran the most and wish I hadn't.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Cadaver Hound - (Swords & Wizardry Monster)

Art by Matt Bulahao

Cadaver Hound

Hit Dice: 2 (10 HP)
Armor Class: 4 [15]
Attacks: 1 Bite (2d4)
Saving Throw: 16
Special: For every Cadaver Hound beyond 1 attacking it's target, all hounds get +1 to hit (pack animals)
Move: 15
Alignment: Chaotic
Number Encountered: 3-12
Challenge Level/XP: 3 / 60

Cadaver Hounds are undead pack animals. When attacking as a pack, they attempt to surround their prey. By doing so, they increase their chances to hit. For each Cadaver Hound attacking a target beyond the first, give a + 1 bonus to each hound as far as it's to hit roll.

For example:

Tenkar the Drunken Dwarf Fighter suddenly finds himself surroundeds by 5 Cadaver Hounds, nipping and biting at him. Each of the 5 hounds gets a + 4 bonus to hit this round. Next round there are only 4 Cadaver Dogs attacking Tenkar, as he downed one the previous round. For the 2nd round, they are only + 3 to hit the poor drunk bastard.

I Played More AD&D 2e Than Any Other Version of D&D - So Why Do I Detest it So Much?

Actually, the answer to that is fairly simple, at least at its core:

Bloat.

Sure, 3e probably had more bloat, but it wasn't all coming from the same company, despite the best efforts of FFE.

2e just seemed to collapse under it's own weight - and I'm not just talking about it's infinite number of settings. No, I'm referring to the series of Complete Handbooks. Talk about ways to unbalance and kill a campaign. I guess it was good that there was always a new setting to move on to after the pervious campaign imploded under the new and better unbalanced rules (not even going to touch Skills & Powers or whatever it was called).

Heck, I didn't even know of the EGG drama going on behind the scenes, as this was before the internet for me.

I started gaming with AD&D 1e and ended my first tour of gaming with 2e. When I returned, I wanted a game that felt like 1e. C&C was close but not quite. 3e seemed like 2e on steroids. 4e didn't even seem like D&D to me anymore.

So now I run AD&D 1e / OSRIC and S&W Complete / C&T. I still can't run without houseruling either, but that's a whole 'nother post.

I have fond memories of playing 2e, but that seems to be more in spite of the rules, not because of them, at least as we allowed the bloat to take over the game.

What are your memories / feelings about AD&D 2e?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Beginning in the Razor Coast - Looking at "Mysteries of the Razor" (Swords & Wizardry)



The deeper I look into the Razor Coast PDF for Swords & Wizardry (in all of it's 426 pages of glory) the more hidden gems I find.

I was under the impression there weren't any adventures or hooks included for beginning adventurers, and lo and behold I find "Mysteries of the Razor" tucked in starting at page 325.

I think it does a fine job of setting the tone for the Razor Coast setting (repetitious writing on my part, I know). The players start at sea and encounter, for lack of a better phrase, a ghost ship. If they had any doubt that they would be spending a significant amount of time on the sea, this should open their eyes.

There's a bit of plot heavy handedness to it as written, but there is also some well presented options to lessen the weight of it. It is a good adventure as written (as a one shot I'd even say excellent) but following the advice given it should work out as a great campaign starter.

One thing I would suggest, and I think I will plan to do in all games I run, is to ask for 10 "saving throws" thrown in advance for each PC. Record them in order, then roll a D10 to determine the starting point when needed. Cross them out as used. It prevents the need for the DM to roll saves for the PCs in secret, which I never liked as a player and try to avoid as a DM.

There is also a Frank Mentzer adventure included in the mix - "Dark Waters" - which is for 3rd or higher level characters. Although it doesn't take place directly in the Razor Coast area but it's outer boundaries, I'd like to see if it's suitable for use when I kick off the Razor Coast campaign sometime this summer. I still need to work on a follow up to "Mysteries of the Razor", but that shouldn't be too hard so long as I make it more "plot" and less "structure", so the payers have a decent amount of wiggle room.

See, it's a good thing I finally allowed myself to bounce around the Razor Coast PDF for a bit ;)

I Think I'm About to Reach My (Weekly) Gaming Limit ;)

I went through a slump for a number of years where I just didn't have time for gaming. 

Now, it looks like I'll be reaching my gaming capacity. Who would have thought?

I run a mostly weekly Saturday Nights AD&D 1e / OSRIC game and an irregular Sunday Morning Swords & Wizardry game.

Now it looks like I'll be in a weekly ACKS game as a player. Have I mentioned how few opportunities I get to be a player? I think I'm a stronger DM than I am as a player (and I have some really skilled players in my sat Night group and I know my players skills don't compare). Still, I enjoy being a player very much, and not needing to do the "DM Prep" for a session is pretty awesome too ;)

Now  I need to think of the class or classes I'd like to play. In one shot's I'll fill in whatever holes the party has, but for a campaign I like to consider my options a bit more carefully.

Help Pick the Winner of the "Detail a Pirate Captain For Use in the Razor Coast"!


There were some amazing entries. I found myself severely aggravated that I limited my selection of finalists to only three choices, as it could have easily surpassed a half dozen. Lads and ladies, y'all fucking rock! You know what it takes to make a great pirate :)

In any case, I was limited to three choices and these are them. It certainly wasn't an easy task to whittle down the list to three, and now, my dear readers, I'm putting the task on you to chose "The One".

The first place vote getter receives a copy of the Swords & Wizardry version of the Razor Coast in PDF thanks to the generosity of the fine folks over at Frog God Games.

The two runner ups get gift certificates to RPGNow, curtesy of the fine blog readers that use my affiliate links and put cash in the kitty for events like this. 2nd place gets a $10 GC and third place gets a $5 credit.

One random voter will also get a $5 RPGNow gift certificate, as my way of thanking you for participating in this difficult but rewarding endeavor.

You may pick up to two of the finalists to vote for, a first place vote (3 points) and a second place vote (1 point). I'll tally up the points at the end of the voting and award the prizes.

Voting commences immediately and will end on Tuesday, May 21st at 7pm NYC time.

You cast you vote by commenting on this post.

Here are the finalists:

Finalist "A" +David Brawley 

Along the shipwrecked shores of the Razor Coast
Sails the Bloody Haar and her dread captain
Under red-dark skies and Pele’s eyes
Sails the Bloody Haar and her dread captain

For he’s faced the worst the waves can bring
Wreck and ruin and hurricane
Pitch black flag and scarlet sails
Sink their hearts and lips a’ wail

With orkish blood and a pirates ire
Sails the Bloody Haar and her dread captain
Cults and Curse of ancient times
Sails the Bloody Haar and her dread captain

He’ll take your silver, gold, n’ magic things
If you get in his way, you’ll be a blood stain
from the isle of Haht to the great Port Shaw
Ruthless Jack’s will plunder them all

Rum and gold and a wind steady
Sails the Bloody Haar and her dread captain
Treasure or tempest upon the sea
Sails the Bloody Haar and her dread captain

The Bloody Haar is a two masted schooner, with a red stripe running the length of her black hull. Her sails are a sun and salt faded scarlet, and she flies a pitch black pennant. While a relatively small ship, she’s one of the nimblest and fastest that prowls the Razor Coast.

(listen to the above here)

The Bloody Haar’s crew consists of the following:
SkarJak “Ruthless Jack” Urzok (Captain, Black Orc male fighter)
Lady d’Rath (1st Officer, blond human female fighter)
Masked Mage (quartermaster, ??)
Reed & Finnan (riggers and knifers, halfling brothers)
4-8 other pirates (Crew, varies - orcs and humans)

Prior to a raid, the Masked Mage will wreath the area in fog, allowing the Blood Haar to close upon her prey unseen. The rest of the crew will then board their target, eliminating any resistance with extreme prejudice, but not needlessly slaughtering anyone who doesn't get in their way. Their goal is always the loot.

“Ruthless Jack” is a large, broad shouldered bald orc with sun darkened olive green skin and a wiry black beard. He is covered with bright tattoos across his chest and down his arms, and fights with a magical harpoon in one hand, and a hand ax in the other. He’s been a pirate nearly his whole life, sailed the length and breadth of the Razor Coast, and when the Masked Mage offered him command of the Bloody Haar, he lept at the chance. The last 5 years have proven the wisdom of the Masked Mage’s choice.

The Lady d’Rath was the 1st officer under the Bloody Haar’s previous captain, and was initially pissed that the Masked Mage passed her up for the position. SkarJak’s success only infuriated her more. Eventually she challenged him to a duel, and lost, though it was a close thing. SkarJak asked her to remain on the ship as his first officer. Their relationship remains tense.

The Masked Mage is an unknown to all. Clad from head to toe in flowing embroidered robes, with an elaborate facemask that lacks any holes, his voice is low and raspy. Over his robes he wears The Medallion of the 9 Winds, the item which allows him to both call forth the fog, but also to influence the wind, further assisting the Bloody Haar in being one of the fastest vessels upon the sea.

Finalist "B" Capheind

The Mad Priest of Shebaba, and his vessel, the sepulcher of Shebaba. 

The mad priest was once a totally sane priest of another religion entirely, until Shebaba washed ashore, a sea monster of sorts which happened to look an awful lot like the creature of his most recent nightmares. The priest (once named Ulful, now simply known as the mad priest) became obsessed with the rotting mass he'd dubbed a she. 

As his mental illness took hold, and he was being held in his quarters, the subjects of his abandoned parish made plans to cast Shebaba into the sea. Driven mad with what he calls "The essential cleansing of soul and sanity" Ulful had the strength of a hundred men, and earned his new name slaying the majority of his former flock. Enslaved by The Mad Priest the people of the small port city built a craft of strong wood and stronger sea monster bones and ichor and took to the sea with their subjugator/church father, riding the very mausoleum of their goddess. 

The Sepulchre of Shebaba sets to port often, she is given wide berth by other vessels, and the port villages and cities seal their doors so as not to be taken to crew the vessel. The vessel is crewed by the enslaved, the mad, or the half demon spawn of those creatures the Priest summons to breed with the insane and the slaves. 

The Mad Priest is a 8th level chaotic cleric, Shebaba is dead but her Ichor seems to have the stuff of sapience infused into its essence and her torment bleeds through into the psychic plane, leading to madness if a daily save against her forces isn't made successfully. 

Finalist "C" +Tim Shorts 


The Ghost is the ship. Captain Cleaver Blackshaw rules his ship with two black pistols gifted to him from the Siren, Suleela. He'd captured her family during a raid upon the fey lands and she swore to be with him if he released her family. He was given the black pistols on their wedding night and to consummate their marriage he killed four of his crewmen who dared to speak against the union. The pistols are linked with the ship, each death is captured within the the soul of the ship and a strange rune appears on its boards. When attacked these captured spirits defend the ship and assist it in defense and healing itself. When the spirit is depleted of energy the run fades.

Cleaver Blackshaw was always the leader of men. He was raised on the streets within the largest city. He led a gang of boys that soon gained the attention of guards and guilds alike. They were able to capture and disrupt, spend and kill because of the uncanny ability of Cleaver. It wasn't until he encounter an upstart noble, son of the Overlord, did he question his luck. Killing the boy had been a simple matter. He'd been trained by the best, but had never been in a real fight. It was the backlash that wiped out his entire gang. He stowed away on a ship. Was found. Before the crewman could wrangle him and present him before the captain, Cleaver strangle then man then sliced off his head with a dull knife and presented it before the captain himself and said "I'll take his job".

It was on this ship that he learned of the spirit world and of magic. Cleaver found it fascinating and imagined what a weapon it would be if he could ever harness both.

With The Ghost and his black pistols he has ruled the seas for over two decades. Taking as he pleased. Most ships would dump their cargo overboard than battle him. But it is Suleela, who stands at the bow and sings to the ships that draws them to their inevitable doom.


Bludkumph - Undead Gnomes - (Swords & Wizardry Monster)

Art by Bruno Balixa

Bludkumph - Undead Gnomes


Hit Dice: 4 (18 HP)
Armor Class: 5 [14]
Attacks: 2 claw (1d4) or by weapon type
Saving Throw: 14
Special: Two successful claw attacks means the target is held. Make a bite attack immediately for 2d4 damage and save or target is paralyzed for 2d6 rounds.
Move: 9 (can move at 18 for 1 round every 1 turn {10 rounds})
Alignment: Chaotic
Number Encountered: 2-8 (rarely 2d20)
Challenge Level/XP: 5 / 240

Bludkumph are the product of raids on Gnomish habitations by ghouls and ghasts. Gnomes have a touch of the "fey" to them, and when feasted upon by the undead, they do not go quietly to their graves. Instead, they rise as relatively intelligent undead, seeking revenge for their state of restlessness among the living. Bludkumph eat their prey, preferably alive and paralyzed.

Gnomes bitten by a Bludkumph have a 25% change of rising as one of the same upon their death, even if said death is months or even years later. Only a Remove Curse spell cast before the gnome's death can fully remove the chance of them rising as one of the undead.



The Minimalist Roll20 DM - A Mechanical Look at Our Weekly AD&D 1e / OSRIC Campaign


We didn't get a game in last night, as half the group was either sick, on a date or MIA, but we did get a chance to get most of our usual pregame BSing in for nearly 2 hours, which isn't bad ;) Afterwards, I started thinking about our use of the Roll20 interface within G+ Hangouts and it became pretty obvious that we are "minimalists" when it comes to using the many feature of Roll20.

Tokens - we don't use them. Back when we used TableTop Forge, we would occasionally use tokens, but we never worried about facing, attacks of opportunity and the like. Then again, we were playing ACKS and later AD&D 1e, where the tactical grid takes second place to "theatre of the mind". We are playing AD&D 1e / OSRIC (exploring Rappan Athuk) on most Saturday Nights these days, and TotM has been out bread and butter.

Fog of War - the best thing about FoW is that I no longer have to sketch out the dungeon by hand for my players in real time. Instead, we go with "reveal and repeat". What can the party see and state your move if you want to see more. Sure, it makes some issues with traps and secret doors, but by carefully using the "reveal" feature you can compensate for that about 80% of the time.

The Grid - I turn it off by default. If we're not using tokens it just interferes with the grid present on the map already. If there is any part of Roll20 that I've not been able to get to work to my satisfaction, it's matching the in app grid with the grid on the uploaded maps, so I stopped trying. I read the tutorial on how to do so, didn't help. If I could get it to work to my satisfaction, would I use the grid and tokens? Perhaps. The great thing about tokens is you were always able to catch the player that was otherwise distracted, as his token would always be 100' or more from the rest of the party ;)

Handouts - I use them sparingly, and more for "roleplay enhancement" than as actual clues for the party to study and such. That might change as the campaign goes on. Actually, it has changed, as in the beginning of the campaign I never used them.

Dice - Roleplaying characters live or die based on their die rolls. I have a few basic die rolls added to the macro, but anything complicated comes up so rarely I'd have to parse it out in real time anyway. I still roll wandering monster checks using real dice on my real desk top - there is nothing like the random sound of dice rolling to get players on their toes.

Character Sheets - my players use them for as much or as little information as they want. I suspect most of them keep accurate paper copies and much less accurate or detailed "in app" copies, which is fine.

We know there are a crapload of other features that are neat and fun in Roll20 (line of sight, I'm looking squarely at you) but we've consciously limited ourselves to what we actually need to run a game. The OSR is pretty solidly in the realm of "Theatre of the Mind" and if we were to stray from that path, we might just as well run Pathfinder, which is a fine game but WAY to heavy for our tastes ;)