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Saturday, August 10, 2013

Majus By Michael Curtis - In Hand and PDF

I think these bookmarks will be Minor Contest Prizes
I was a backer of the Majus Kickstarter by Goblinoid Games. It's a modern magic RPG written by Michael Curtis and powered by the classic Pacesetter System (Chill, Timemaster, Sandman and others). I had lots of fun running Pacesetter games in my college days and having Michael Curtis writing one was icing on the cake.

I woke up to my RPGNow code in my email this morning and returned from visiting my mother in law to find my printed copy in my actual mailbox. It's a good day.

Of course, yet more for me to read and review ;)

Did I mention the non-watermarked layout layout?


Free Stuff Today Only From Purple Duck Games

Today is +Mark Gedak 's birthday, the man behind Purple Duck, and he has put some stuff out there for Free TODAY ONLY:
Following Daniel Bishop example of giving things away on his birthday. I've put the following things written by me up for free today. Get them if you haven't yet. 
Purple Mountain I 
A Score of Trapped Chests
Legendary II: Legendary Weapons  
I wish I could offer something newer but most of my time now is spent in layout and not writing. 
Feel free to share the link so that nobody misses out. 

Review - Lich Dungeon Level II - Old Vs New "Non System Specific" Stat Block

My first introduction to the "Non System Specific" stat block employed by Eldritch Ent was in Lich Dungeon Level I. I found it needlessly confusing for something aimed at OSR gamers and the straight forward stat blocks that are employed in the vast majority of adventures aimed at such systems.

Here is a sample of a stat block from Lich Dungeon Level I which I reviewed in May of 2012:

Painfully annoying to convert, and really, if it's aimed at old school or OSR rulesets, why should one have to convert at all?

Here's an example from the recent release of Lich Dungeon Level II:


The conversion from percentile to straight up plusses based on a D20 are included for you, which is a big step up. Still, it's not easy to read and is repeated in total in the back of the PDF for each monster encountered. That results in on heck of a needless page bloat. The above works well for a bestiary in the back of an adventure, but not when it's used to fluff out an encounters "page space".

Now here's an example from a recent release, The Last Candle:


The above is about the most I want when I'm running an adventure and looking at an encounter or dungeon room or whatever. It also aligns fairly closely to classic stat blocks in adventures.

So, to recap. Lich Dungeon II has an improved stat block compared to Lich Dungeon I, but it's still needlessly bloated. The adventure itself has some charm to it. More on that later.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Random Winners From the Latest Poll

I promised to award $5 RPGNow Gift Certificates to two random commenters on the Unofficial Poll - Artwork Behind Your Text in RPG Purchases or "Plain Vanilla"?

And the winners are:

+matt jackson and rachel ghoul

send me your emails so i can send out those gift certificates :)

edit: send to tenkarsDOTtavern at that gmail thing

Review - Lich Dungeon Level II - Prelude (Some Things Never Change)



Remember that "Non System Specific System" or as I prefer to call it "The Stat Block Fluffer and Obscurer" is back in Lich Dungeon Level II 

It's easy to convert from one OSR game to another. Hell, there is little conversion needed at all.

Here's an example of the definitions of the stats used with the "Non System Specific System" or whatever it is called now:


And this is better than the usual OSR stat block because...

Welcome to "needless conversion for every encounter". Sigh.

The above get's presented in full with the encounter and again at the end. My biggest gripes with Lich Dungeon I seem to still be present.

Ah well, at least the stat block issue is out of the way. I mean, it's a hell of an issue for me, but at least I can put it to the side for now.

Time to read this sucker...

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Lich Dungeon Level 2 is Out - It Has to be Better Than Level 1, Right?


In case you missed my coverage of the 1st Level of Lich Dungeon back in April of 2012, I'll link it here (it's actually a 3 part review)

In summary, it wasn't as bad as I had actually expected and pulled off the "1970's Nostalgia" fairly decently, but didnt compare well to more modern dungeon releases. Well, that and the "Non System Specific System" stat blocks were annoying as all hell. Reminded me a bit of Mayfair Games products, and not in a good way.

So, 15 months later Lich Dungeon Level 2 is out from Frank Metzner.

Is there an interest in having this reviewed?

Level 2 is about 50% larger in page count than level 1, but there was lots of bloat in the page count of level 1. So, there's lots of room for improvement or just repeating last year's annoyances.

If you are interested in a review, let me know and if there is enough interest I'll grab it in PDF.

Since We Are Talking About Iridia - How About that "Freecity of Haldane"?


I've been a reader of +Christian Walker 's musings on RPGs since the very beginning, and through it all, The Freecity of Haldane has always stuck out as something special to me.

Detailed enough to seem real, but not so detailed that the details get in the way of running it. Probably my favorite presentation of an urban environment I've come across in my years of gaming.

Thanks to +matt jackson for making me think of such things today and to mwschmeer for keeping the archives ;)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Some Thoughts on the Book "Playing at the World"

Let me preface the following by mentioning that my BA is in History. In the late 80's and early 90's, I read a shit ton of dry, historical writing.

We are now in 2013, and Gaming at the World is "dry, historical writing".

It's not bad at all. Actually, it's very informative. I just find that I can only stomach reading it using the Kindle app on my phone when I'm in the crapper, waiting for the bus or something else that is of a limited yet random time frame.

I tried reading it in bed on my iPad and it put me to sleep. Apparently getting that History BA in my 40's would have required much more discipline than it did 20 some odd years ago.

If you want an interesting history of RPGs that can actually be engaging to read, try Designers & Dragons (currently out of print - soon to be a multi-volume release from Evil Hat). If you want a textbook approach to many of the background events leading up to D&D, Playing at the World could very well be your cup of tea.

Ambition & Avarice - Print Copy in Hand


I came home today to find my print copy of Ambition & Avarice waiting for me. Good stuff, especially as I've been involved in playtesting the system pretty much since it's earliest version.

Even better, the layout is nice and clean. Sure, I knew that from the PDF version, but it's still nice to see it in print ;)


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Unofficial Poll - Artwork Behind Your Text in RPG Purchases or "Plain Vanilla"?

Simple poll.

Simple answers, unless you want to explain your choice.

Do you like artwork behind your text in the RPG products you buy, or "plain vanilla"?

One random commenter will get an as yet undecided prize from The Tavern's prize closet.

Mini Review - CE 4 - The Seven Deadly Skills of Sir Amoral the Misbegotten (DCC RPG Campaign Element)


I got to run a playtest session of CE 4 - The Seven Deadly Skills of Sir Amoral the Misbegotten a week ago Saturday with my group. The timing was perfect, as we were short a few players and that is something the Campaign Elements series by +Daniel Bishop specializes in - handling parties of all sizes.

It was just the right length for the time we had to game and had a built in hook to move on the next adventure. Roll play and combat all rolled into one. All that and one of the PCs gets a nice, small boost. This is a location I expect the players will wish to return to at some point.

So yeah, the CE series works as billed - suitable for parties of almost any number and level and are easy to slip in where needed in your campaign.

From the blurb:

In years long past, Gryffon Keep was a border fortification guarding a somewhat well-used roadway. In that day, the keep was placed in the trust of Sir Harold Amoral, one of the greatest warriors available to the then Lord Duke. Time has changed the land, and brought the keep low, and Sir Amoral has become little more than a figure of fable and children’s story. That the ruins in the forest were those of fabled Gryffon Keep have been forgotten by most, and the area is now known to locals as the Forest Ruin.

Although history has faded to legend, the ghost of Sir Amoral still haunts the ruined keep. During his lifetime, he sought to hoard his martial knowledge so that it might never be used against him by a mortal foe. Now, after death, he regrets this parsimony, and seeks above all to pass on his skills to those who are worthy.

The catch, of course, is that the ghost believes that only he can determine who is (or is not) worthy – and, of course, his methods for doing this are deadly.

The Campaign Elements series is designed to help judges create persistent campaign worlds, as well as deal with patron quests, divine requests, and the sudden need to “Quest For It”.  Whether it is because you are short on players one evening, or the wizard needs to locate a new spell, the Campaign Elements series has you covered.

Each of these areas is short enough to be played through by most groups in only a single session.  That doesn't mean that the value of the area is limited to a single session – each adventure includes notes on “squeezing it dry”…effectively getting the maximum re-use from your investment.

An adventure for Dungeon Crawl Classics characters across multiple levels.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Numenera - No Longer an F'n Eyesore (thanks to a friend)

This is the crap I was bitching about last night:


and this is the corrected version:


which version would you rather read?

(why I had to jump through fucking hoops to get an actual, readable, usable version of Numenera that I paid good money for is beyond me)

13th Age Arrives in Print - A Fine Example of Using Art and Print on the Same Page

Hard to focus with a cat tail in the upper right corner ;)
I need another vacation just to read gaming material ;)

I had a lot of goodies arrive today (including my Google Chromecast, but that's a whole 'nother story) but the main item was 13th Age.

I can't vouch for the rules in 13th Age any more then I can for Numenera at this point, but I can say I'll be reading the rules for 13th Age before Numenera. The layout is is quite simply much more pleasing to my eyes, and that's half the battle ;)

The right way to integrate text and art on the same page



Sunday, August 4, 2013

Rant: What the Hell Is It With PDFs and the "Artistic Watermarking" (or whatever the f' it's called)?



I hate, with a passion that burns, PDF gaming releases that have artwork behind the text. WTF do you call it? Watermarking? Layering? An eyesore? A waste of my printer's ink? All this and more?

I hated it when WotC did it and I hate it even more now. It does NOT make your product more useful. It does NOT make your product easier to read. It does NOT make you product a piece of art (real piece of work is more likely). It does NOT make it easier for me to print a handful of pages out at home for my own legal use without killing my printer.

The above example is from Numenera, but it could have been from any number of RPGs that have come down the pike over the last few years.

Really makes a PDF much less useful than it should be.

Save the wicked annoying art shit behind the text for the printed version. In truth, I hate it there too, but at least I expect it there.

Maybe there are ways to turn off the layers, but I dont see it.

Whatever happened to KISS?


Drinking Some "Ginger Beard" English Beer


I don't do many beer posts, but when I do, I hope to make them count ;)

The label on Ginger Beard is of a red headed dwarf complete with braided beard. You don't get more "fantasy dwarf" than that.

It's a sweet beer with a ginger burn on the tail end. I'm currently sipping it out of a scotch glass. If I'm going to cut back on beer due to calorie intake, beers like Ginger Beard that are made for sipping are the way I'm going to go.

Four tankards and a half pint out of five for this one (the extra half is for the awesome label).

Mini Review - The Last Candle (OSR Adventure / Micro-Setting for levels 1-3)


I've been falling behind on my reviews, so I'm starting the "catch up" phase with The Last Candle by +Greg Christopher of Chubby Funster Games. You know Greg - he wrote the recent OSR release Ambition & Avarice (recently went POD too).

So, what makes The Last Candle special? Quite simply, it is written to give you and your players many game nights of play.

First, its a micro-setting of sorts. It includes a map and descriptions of the Satrebonne River Vally (immediate setting).

Secondly, it includes a base of operation for the players - The Priory of Chaurillon (alright, it's really spelled the French way, but I don't grok French) It is detailed with locations of importance and NPCS. So now we have both general setting and urban location for the group.

Last we have the Eagle's Eyrie, which is an excellent dungeon. You really do get a complete campaign starter with this.

I playtested the Eagle's Eyrie and ran it for my weekly group. It proved to be a suitable challenge with some fun role playing opportunities within. No PCs died during the playtest, but that was due to some very smart playing on the part of my players ;)

Really, for 4 bucks it's hard to go wrong.

Here's a bit of advice from the adventure:
...it must be noted that you have enormous freedom to customize the challenges in this module. There is plenty of extra space on the campaign map for you to add your own content, content from other modules, or just random wilderness encounters. You are encouraged to give the NPCs their own agendas and have them work independently toward those agendas while the players are busy with other tasks. For example, the players might return to the Prieuré after exploring the Eagle’s Eyrie to find that xxxx xxxxx has been lynched for practicing foul magics. This occurred because the players told xxxx xxxx how they saw xxx healing an injured man. Actions should have consequences and every NPC has their own agenda. 
You are also encouraged to give the players significant freedom as they investigate the region and the dungeon at their own pace. This is intended to be a mini-sandbox where the players can explore in the manner they desire.
From the blurb:

The Prieuré de Chaurillon lies isolated in the upper valley of the Satrebonne river. The empire that once protected it has fallen. Barbarian hordes now roam the land. Once tamed borderlands have become infested with monsters and foul beasts. The monks of the Prieuré are all that remain of their ancient order. They stand alone against the darkness of the age; The Last Candle of their faith.

This module provides the Dungeon Master with everything they need to build an entire campaign in the Satrebonne valley; a full-color campaign map of the entire region, wilderness encounters, struggling towns that could benefit from player protection, locations of interest to explore, a fully-detailed priory compound protected by a palisade, descriptions of prominent NPCs, plot hooks to draw the players into the world, unique items to add to your game, a complete dungeon complex to explore, and guidance on how to weave it all together.

Against the Slave Lords - Good Fit for the DCC RPG?


It's been ages since I read any of the A series of modules, even though A1 (along with G 1-3) were the first actual (A)D&D adventures I even owned.

I received Against the Slave Lords for my recent birthday and was wondering if it would make a good for for the DCC RPG.

A1 should fit well if I recall correctly.

Damn, more goodies to read :)

Any ideas on how well the rest of the series would fit the DCC RPG?

Which Comes First: Game or Story?

Yeah, it may be a weird question, but with some of the recently released high profile RPGs (Monsters & Magic, FATE Core, Numenera) there are many an OSR gamer that will be looking under the hood of other game systems with different assumptions than "classic" play.

What do I mean? Generally, in an OSR game, the two general assumptions are "let the dice roll what they will" and "Rule Zero" - the DM will make decisions for situations that aren't explicitly spelled out by the rules.

Basically, the dice rule and the DM rules and the game proceeds, often in unexpected directions, and randomness can be an awesome thing. The game leads to the story.

My general gut feeling (and it is very general) is that the recent releases listed above put the story before the game. Even Numenera has aspects that, upon a quick perusal, remind me of what is generally referred to as "storytelling games".

Eh, I'm getting crotchety in my old age. Change means new learning, and new learning aint as easy at 46 as it was at 16 or even 26.

Still, the new games are sure purty to look at ;)