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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Each Adventurer is an Adventurer, But Not Every Adventurer is an Adventurer - First Impressions of Torchbearer

I'm really enjoying the layout and the presentation of Torchbearer. It really encourages you to read it as one long piece - I haven't found myself skipping blindly ahead as I do with most RPG products. I do have some quibbles.

Well, one large quibble.

All PCs are Adventurers. Which is fine. We're not breaking any new ground with this label, but it's comfortable for a game that is drawing upon "old school" gaming as it's inspiration.

Why then, is there a character class called "adventurer"?

Right on page 10, we have the same word being given essential two different definitions. Couldn't they have done a google search for synonyms?

Here, I did it for them:

Don't like the alternatives? The "adventurer" as a class is the sole Dwarven class. Maybe "clan warrior" or "tunnel guardian" or even "delver" (used liberally in T&T).

There really is no excuse for this. Sloppy editing in IMHO.

That being said, this is the only thing that has stuck in my craw so far.

More reading tomorrow...

Another Completed Kickstarter - Torchbearer


Torchbearer arrived earlier today, and let me say I am surprised. For some reason I wasn't expecting a full sized hardcover, let alone one with a Peter Mullen cover. Damn pretty!

No game tonight, which works well as I'm being brought low by a cold from hell. That does leave me some free time to flip through Torchbearer. At first glance, I like the layout and the font used -old school in feel and very readable.

Not sure I'll ever run this, but I'll be more than happy to play in a session or two.

Coming to Your Town - Nystul's Castle Traveling Road Show


Maybe you are like me, holding out hope that at some point, Axes & Anvils will not just see a completed manuscript, but may also see print. I mean, the cover is pretty, but ain't worth squat without the words that go behind it.

Don't hold your breath on the print version, as Mike is not going to have a traditional place to call his home -

You know the Kickstarter success stories that go bad? The ones that succeed beyond initial dreams and that very success leads to unfulfilled Kickstarters and folks have lost their homes over such (or so it's been said). Mike went one better and lost (well, i think "left" is more accurate) his employment with the successful Kickstarters, and is now going nomadic, leaving his residence behind.

Without a place to live, there is no place to store physical rewards from the Kickstarter - not that I expected to see any at this point, as Mike no longer has steady employment and the Kickstarter funds have all been spent on non-Kickstarter expenses.

The upside is - Mike may very well be looking for a couch to crash on in your town (at least if you are in the Texas area I guess).

It looks like Mike is going through a soul searching stage in his life - hopefully he finds everyone's Kickstarter rewards during the search.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Looking for an OSR Chassis With some Fate-Like Trappings...

From what I've read (both in response to yesterday's blogpost and the corresponding thread on G+), Fate is too far from my comfort zone to ever run for more than a one shot. Without character development like a more traditional RPG, I don't see how you could hope to run an extended campaign of any sorts. Without the real risk of death of your character, there really isn't any risk at all.

This does not preclude me from playing in a game of Fate, I just don't see myself ever running it. As I GM 95+% of the time, I doubt I'll get much Fate in.

Now, I remember FUDGE, which Fate is built upon, but that's like saying Monsters & Magic was built upon OD&D - it's not, even if some of the superficial trappings are there. It is very much it's own game.

Is there a game / hack that combines "Old School" sensibilities (levels, expo, live or die combat) with some of the elements of Fate? Dungeon World doesn't seem to be it and I haven't read Torchbearer enough to see if it fits the mold. Monsters & Magic is a great game to convert old school to new school, but the play is most certainly new school.

Fate intrigues me and I love the settings - but the mechanics or lack there of leave me cold.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Review - City-State of the Sea Kings - Part the Second - Late (me), Layout and the Look

Yeah, this part of the review is late. Really late. I've been fending off a cold for the past 2 weeks, and if the 3 weeks my wife has been fighting her's for is any indication, it aint nearly over yet. Sitting down with a book is an easy way to summon the Sandman, and I can't seem to get enough sleep.

I am finding the boxed grey highlighting for GM related material to be distractingly annoying. even the abbreviation of the City-State of the Overlord is boxed and highlighted - why? What purpose does it serve but putting a horrible break in the middle of the text I'm reading.

Here's two quick examples:

 I'm finding this to be at least as annoying as the artwork used as the page background / watermark in Numenura. In this case, I'm fine with it for the really large sections of boxed text, but it's a huge distraction in the middle of a paragraph. It breaks up the reading rhythm needlessly. Oh, and it's just way to dark. Less is more.

I've also run across examples of the final line of a paragraph having three words, and auto-justification has those three words filling up the line. That's just sloppy editing.

The artwork, however, is certainly top notch. Much of it is fairly simple in nature, but it's clean, sharp and abundant.

Oh yeah, I was supposed to talk about the population centers - towns, cities and the like. If any one thing sticks out to me, its the number of locations that are pretty close to be "racially specific": Ring-Tail (Gnomes), D'alfang (98% Human), Entenwold (99% Shadow Elf), Foundation (94% Half-Elf) and Paetor (Mixed Eleven). These are great. These places are excellent tools to make the average PC feel like an outsider (admittedly, there are locations they would never willingly walk around in the open anyway).

Each of the towns included have enough info to make the visit real and different for the PCs then the previous town they've visited. There really isnt a generic town at all.

Thus far, the strength of the City-State of the Sea Kings is in it's content (although I will readily admit the content given for the City of Rallu is a bit overwhelming - more on that with the next post. I'll take content over presentation any day - at least presentation can always be fixed in a later printing.

Sell Me on the FATE System (Which I Already Own, But Don't Grok)



I supported the FATE Kickstarter, and I know there is lots of good stuff in the system - I just can't seem to grok it.

It not like my problem with Savage Worlds - I think I have that covered for the most part, less magic and powers and the like. That shit is confusing as all hell.

No, with FATE my problem is more - central. Maybe that's not the correct term. My problem is the Core, and I mean that whether we are talking FATE Core or FAE. I almost feel it's within my grasp, and then it all goes all to shit.

I'm at the point that I'm thinking of getting one of those new fangled Kindle Paperwhites, so I can read FATE Core every night before bed and then sleep with it under my pillow, in the hopes that I will absorb this shit through osmosis.

Not that I think my gaming group is all that geared towards FATE, but one never knows I'll never know until I have a firm grasp of the system myself, and right now I'm grasping at straws.

Are you a FATEr? Pros? Cons?

Better then sliced bread or worse than a loaf hugged by a 3 year old for 35 minutes while sitting in a shopping cart and you still feel obliged to buy it?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Are You Fluent With Multiple Systems or Just One?

Do Cats Dream of Polyhedron Dice?
Back in my high school and college days, I could pick up a new system and run with it later that day. Sure, I cut my teeth on AD&D, but I'd run just about anything: Paranoia, RuneQuest, MERP, RoleMaster, SpaceMaster, WFRP, Chill, GURPS, CoC, Traveller, WEG Star Wars, Champions, Top Secret, Star Frontiers, Gamma World, Boot Hill, Palladium Fantasy Roleplay, Star Trek, Sandman, Torg - I'm sure I'm missing a few. And these are just the ones I's run, there were others I'd play in others.

One of the few games that tripped me up was Swordbearer. By far, it was the exception to the rule.

These days, as a grumpy grognard of 46, I find that the further a ruleset strays from the OSR / D&D, the harder it gets for me to grok it.

I've owned Savage Worlds over many editions, and I still don't feel comfortable enough to run a session. Not even sure I'd be okay as a player in a session.

Loved Spirit of the Century when I first found it for the setting and the feel, but I still don't understand the FATE system. Heck, I supported the FATE Kickstarter, have my dice and my hardcover book - I may need some hand holding at some point. (Also have Dresden - gave up on that as reading the book caused eye strain - ah well).

I CAN run Tunnels & Trolls tho'. I proved that last Saturday Night when I ran it for the few regulars we had. But that game has old school sensibilities, and I've been running solos for years.

So, how well do you pick up new systems and rules? Easy? Hard? Not at all? Certain types easier than others?

Mini Review - Cess-Pit of the Bog Monster (Generic OSR Adventure by Jeff Dee)


Wow. I've never seen so much easily carted off loot in a low level dungeon. Over 60,000 GP, mostly in gems and jewelry. Hell, 1/10 of this would be an excellent find for a low level party.

Shit, yeah, I got distracted. Cess-Pit of the Bog Monster is an OSR / Old School adventure by none other than Jeff Dee himself.

Cool looking cover. Decent, one level map with multiple ways to gain access to the dungeon (this in and of itself is awesome). New monsters that can easily be ported into other situations / adventures.

It's a pretty cool offering - except for the Monte Haul amount of treasure for the rookie adventurers. All that bling is distracting me from the actual adventure. Damn it!

From the blurb:

What strange being has taken up residence in the long-ruined swamp-circled castle, and what is its connection to the increase of Orc raids in the region?

JD1: Cess-Pit of the Bog Mother is a dungeon on a swamp & muck theme for characters of level 1-3 for all advanced fantasy role-playing games by classic TSR artist Jeff Dee!

The adventure includes a full-page color map and a black & white cover painting by the author. Also included are three alternate scenario introductions and five unique creatures specially designed for this adventure.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Pay What You Want - The Tomb of Rakoss the Undying (OSR Adventure)



Yep, a new PWYW release for the OSR - The Tomb of Rakoss the Undying (for levels 4-6). Actually, the publisher, Mischief Inc say they want you to grab it for free, but they will gladly take a donation.

It's interesting to note that PWYW releases hit the New Release Page on RPGNow while free releases don't. Kind of makes sense to release as PWYW in that case.

From the blurb:

Rakoss was a great wizard of ages past who served the Emperor of Maere. Tales tell of his prowess as a military strategist, but they also tell of his fall. It is said that although he won campaign after campaign for his emperor, just one failure earned the wrath of his master. The Emperor had Rakoss, his generals, strategists and personal guard sealed in a tomb somewhere in the Ganlaw Mountains, and cursed them.

Who knows what treasure was buried with Rakoss and his retinue, or what horrors remain to test any who might enter the tomb. Certainly only a brave few would dare seek out the final resting place of Rakoss, and even fewer can survive the terrors of The Tomb of Rakoss the Undying!

"The Tomb of Rakoss the Undying" is a challenging adventure for 3-6 characters of level 4 to 6.

Note: This product is intended to be FREE!  Please do not pay for it if you do not want to.

That said, if you wish to "donate" to our future development, you can pay any amount you want when you "purchase" this adventure. Those who pay for this adventure will be granted a "Founder" rank on our Mischief, Inc. member forums.

Best / Worst Use of a Spell You've Seen in Game

Seriously, if you've seen the use of a spell in real life, that's something for a whole 'nother topic.

The best use - or worst, if you were the DM running the adventure, was by a 14th level druid in an AD&D adventure run at some con at Columbia University back in 85 or 86.

The adventure was some sort of death trap. I don't remember much of it, except that at the moment in question, the party was taking a beating with more harm incoming.

The player of the druid: "This is a tightly packed dungeon. What ate the walls and floors and stuff made out of?"

DM: "Er, stone I guess"

Druid: "I cast Transmute Rock to Mud"

DM: "K, so what are you taking out? A wall?"

Druid: "Uhm, its a 2" cube per level, which gives me 14 x 2" cubes - 2" is 20' in real life, so that's 14 20x20 cubes of rock to mud - I'll take the room out in front of us, to the sides and behind that room. Oh, and i center it mid height in the room, to me sure to take out the ceiling and floor. Next round I'll dispel magic on the mud."

DM: "Fucckk!" Throws notes and maps onto the table. "Well, we're done now."

Yes, I was that druid ;)

Thanks to Sa Roe for the topic :)

So, what the best, most creative, disruptive but BTB use of a spell you've seen in your years of gaming?

Monday, September 23, 2013

A Kickstarter Priced Beyond My Good Sense - Beyonder RPG


Yep, I'm still on the Kickstarter kick, which is good. I'm fighting off one hell of a cold (thanks Rach for sharing) so it's a bit hard to maintain any sort of coherent concentration for proper review reading the past week or so. Kickstarters however, just require my reaction ;)

The Beyonder RPG is an interesting project. It's written by a gamer that got his start in the hobby back in 75 or 76 and quickly decided he wanted to write and play his own RPG. So Beyonder is the genesis of the game played with his wife, kids and friends in one form or another for over 35 years. At least, that's what I take from the video. Pretty cool. It also looks like they were smart enough to hire a number cruncher to make sure the system works.

Also cool is the artwork. I really like what I see with the art. Evocative without going over the deep end, if you will. What I don't like is the pricing.

I want to stat this creature out for DCC, S&W and T&T ;)
Lets see, a PDF of the rulebook OR the bestiary will set you back $25. $40 if you want both, or $50 for both if the limited slots for the discounted price are gone. How many pages are the books? 300 or so for the rulebook, 200 or so for the bestiary.

You want a printed version? $125 gets you EITHER the rulebook or the bestiary (and PDFs of both - a $50 value - not). Hardbound versions of both? $140. So, $15 extra scores 2 books instead of one. I don't get the pricing at all. Maybe this is that "new math" shit they've been talking about.

I'm intrigued by the setting and really digging the art and totally turned off by the pricing. Looks like I get to save some money this time.


Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Kickstarter That Rolled a "Natural 1" - The D20 Dice Bowl


I can think of many ways to blow my money - bills, booze, broads (oops - I'm married now), electronics, games, RPGs, dice - the list is nearly endless. Somehow, a D20 Bowl (It doesn't roll, it holds stuff) never would have made that list.

Or is it 2 bowls, because bowls aren't usually covered by a matching half. So maybe it's 2 1/2 d20 bowls.

Maybe it's just shit. One of those ideas that seem really cool when you are flying really high.

There is no way my non-gamer wife would ever use the bowl(s) in question. I don't see me ever using it, and for the price I could buy some actual gaming material that would possible get read, maybe even used.

This seems like something for the gaming geek that has everything, and if he already has everything, he probably doesn't want this either.

I must say, the guy behind the project really believes in it. He looks damn excited and earnest in his video.

This closes in less than 3 hrs of this posting. $3,192 pledged of a $15,000 goal.

The D20 Dice Bowl appears to be a critical failure. At least Kickstarter lets the idea die as one of the unfunded unborn projects, with little investment lost.

Goodbye, D20 Dice Bowl...

As If I Didn't Have Enough to Read - The Bundle of Holding "Gumshoe System" Collection


I'm not sure if following the "Bundles of Holding" is a good thing or a bad thing for me. I love getting really cool RPGs at an amazing price. It's just that I have so much to read before I can get time to properly dig into this latest bundle.

The "Ken Writes About Stuff" looks to be a series of articles - I think I can squeeze that in as time allows.

You can currently get this bundle with the bonus games for less than 12 bucks in PDF (and some ePub versions).

There's about 5 days left on this bundle...

Kick Yourself in the Head - A Kickstarter to Make a Miniature of YOU (or just your head) - Mimic Miniatures

I'm back to scoping out Kickstarters, as you can see. This time, I'm looking at Mimic Miniatures. These folks have found a way to use 3d printing to make miniatures of their supporters (and future customers).

This is fucking cool. Even cooler then finally getting your portrait into the Kickstarter edition of Far West (BTW, shouldn't we at least have a PDF of this at this point?).

Regretfully, 100% of my gaming is done via VTTs and the interwebs - and while a miniature with my head on it looking bad ass would look cool, it would probably be just me that would appreciate it.

Oh, and I sill have the Reaper Bones Kickstarter to paint.

Still, minis depicting gamers as their characters? It's a win.

A Kickstarter I Very Nearly Missed - Tabletop Connect: 3D Virtual Tabletop for Windows and Mac


I've been playing around with Virtual Table Tops since I found Klooge back in the day. I've played with many, and the first one that has come close to what I want in ease of use and features is Roll20.

Tabletop Connect: 3D Virtual Tabletop for Windows and Mac is damn close to what I've been looking for all of these years. It seems to be what WotC was promising a few years back that never came to pass.

3-D dungeons. 3-D minis. The promise of voice and even video chat.

I literally found this in my G+ feed 2 hrs before the Kickstarter ended and kicked in at the lowest GM level from my phone. I've never supported a Kickstarter from my phone before.

I'll be downloading the Alpha software later today. It's compatible with Windows, OSX and Linux. Three cheers for cross platform compatibility.

Apparently I've spent too long away from Kickstarter - I'll need to dig in deeper. Today, however, is reserved for football and beer ;)