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Saturday, March 15, 2014

When a Gaming Group Hits Critical Mass

When our G+ gaming group formed, it was started with the intention of playtesting D&D 5e / Next. That part lasted a few months before leading to DM burnout, which was due in part to both the changing nature of the rules (it was a playtest) and the various expectations of the players in the group that was formed. We were Old School, Pathfinder, 3x and 4e all thrown together. Our expectations were as varied as out gaming backgrounds. There were growing pains.

When our DM asked to take a break from behind the screen, we played a session of 3.5. It ended in a TPK and nearly the end of the group, which is when I offered to run ACKS and DM for the first time in 15 years.

The core of that ACKS group moved on to OSRIC / 1E, and some playtesting of Ambition & Avarice, with the creator ( +Greg Christopher ) playing as a player in his own system. Then some DCC RPG and now Swords & Wizardry - but I'm no longer the sole DM. +Keith J Davies ran some one offs earlier and +Joe D runs his houseruled version of LotFP Weird Fantasy and +David Przybyla just finished putting us through a few sessions of S&W to playtest an adventure he has written.

Yep, we've hit critical mass as a gaming group, where no one person keeps it moving forward, but we all do. It truly is a thing of wonder and I'm so glad to be a part of it. The fact that EVERYONE I game with either is an artist or a writer is amazing, as it simply pushes me to be the best DM or player I can be.

I am finding I really do enjoy being a player, almost as much as being a DM - and I get to drink as a player too! No drinking and DMing for me - my players would run circles around me ;)


New Bundle of Holding - "Fantastic Valor"


Let's see. I have Jaws of the Six Serpents and would love to run it some day. Very evocative and some excellent Swords & Sorcery.

Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies and Hellas are two games I've been looking to snag for a while. Beast Hunters looks good. The rest will get looked at at some point.

$6.95 for Jaws of the Six Serpents and two other games? Currently about $15 to throw in Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies, Hellas and something called Honor + Intrigue? Count me in on yet another Bundle of Holding (still waiting on OSR Bundle #2 - hint!)


AD&D and Gender Based Stat Limits - What's Up With That?

I cut my RPG teeth on AD&D 1e, so for my first years of gaming I knew nothing but gender based stat limits, especially for strength. Human females couldn't exceed 18/50 in their exceptional strength score (so why even bother rolling the percentiles) and for non-human females, the numbers were worse - they couldn't even hit an 18 (or for halflings, even hit a 15). It's not like the penalty was balanced by an equivalent benefit.

It's too early on a Saturday morning for me to actually break out the books and research it all, but I'm going to guess this first cropped up in the OD&D Greyhawk supplement.

I understand "why" it's there in the AD&D rules - women are the "fairer" sex, but in a fantasy game, does one really need to include such limits?

Were such limits a reaction to the blooming "Women's Liberation Movement" at the time (my mother was an active member until her local chapter started spouting communist ideals)? Was it an reflection that the wargaming and budding RPG hobbies were male domains?

Do any of the OSR clones include gender limits on stats? I don't recall off hand, and again, before breakfast my ability (and drive) to research is minimal ;)

Blame these thoughts on 11 hours of sleep last night - a well rested mind goes off on all sorts of tangents.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Breachworld (most certainly NOT a Rifts Clone) Kickstarter Preview (Free)



I've talked about Breachworld previously. It's based off of MiniSix, which in and of itself is based on OpenD6 which is an open version of the core system behind old West End Games Star Wars RPG. So, in a way, it's coming full circle.

I'm really excited with the Breachworld Kickstarter, as it should be easy to import many of the trappings of Rifts into the Breachworld setting and system. That being said, Breachworld is it's own creature, and now you can peek at that yourself.

The Breachworld RPG Kickstarter Preview doesn't just show there is an actual product that has been written up for the Kickstarter, but it actually gives you enough to start playing. It includes a lot in it's 75 pages along with some decent art.

Grab the free Breachworld preview if you liked Rifts, hate Rifts, like OpenD6, are interested in a D6 powered setting - hell, grab it because it's free. The cost is nothing, and you might find enough there to decide to support the Kickstarter ;)

Gonzo, Themed or Organic - How Do You Like Your Dungeons?

The Saga of the Splintered Realms Kickstarter funded in less than a day, so I am on the hook for a mini-level of the associated mega-dungeon.

As it is a mini-level / side bar, I expect I'll have some free rein in how to design my little corner, so I'm looking for some early input.

How do you like your dungeons and / or dungeon levels?

Are you into Gonzo styles dungeons, where anything goes?

Do you prefer it to stick to a specific theme or style of trappings?

Do you like dungeons that seem to have grown organically and have a history?

There choices are not exclusive of each other, nor are they inclusive of all the options out there.

I'd appreciate your thoughts on the matter, as your thoughts will make me think...

Thursday, March 13, 2014

I Have Some Minor Involvement in This Kickstarter - Saga of the Splintered Realms



If you follow this blog, you know the relationship I have with Kickstarters - it's a real love / hate type of relationship. So, for me to actually allow myself to get involved with one (Saga of the Splintered Realms) on the creative side, you know I've either just gone crazy or truly believe in the creator. 

Shit, it's probably a lot of both.

Seriously, for me to associate my name with a Kickstarter of any type has only potential downside for me. If it winds up being awesome and on time (as I expect it will) no one is going to be saying "Erik Tenkar did some amazing work!". If it goes to shit, I'm sure all folks will remember is "isn't that the Kickstarter Erik Tenkar worked on?"

That all being said, I believe in +Michael Desing . Enough to add my name to the project and carve out a small piece for myself. There are a handful of folks in our community that I would gladly help under similar circumstances. They probably know who they are, or should ;)

In any case, my piece of the puzzle is a small level of the megadungeon part of this project. If I fuck that up, it's mine and mine alone. If it comes out great, I'll owe it to +Michael Desing ;)

In any case, this isn't about me. It's about The Saga of the Splintered Realms:
It started with a simple enough proposition. Imagine for a moment that you were tasked with acting as lead designer for the NEXT edition of the world’s greatest RPG system. What would you do? Where would you start? 
For me ( +Michael Desing ) it’s the 1981 BX rules. For me, it’s by beginning with what the game’s grandfathers started with – a simple set of rules, a world to explore, and a mighty dungeon to delve. The game grew out of those three things, and if I was to develop the next edition, that’s where we’d have to go back to.  
However, this game would also need stellar art – not only on the cover, but throughout the book – by some fantastic artists. It would need to be carefully tested and edited. It would need to be clear, easy to learn, and intuitive. It would need to be polished. And, finally, it would need to belong to the community from which it came.  
The result of that is the project I present to you: Saga of the Splintered Realm. This funded project would create three books:  
Book 1: Core Rules. All of the fundamental rules needed to play the game. This is not a retro-clone. It is a modern re-imagining of classic rules. The goal is to retain the spirit of the original rules and key ‘classic’ game concepts, simplifying and re-organizing these for quicker play and unified mechanics.  
 Book 2: Campaign Setting. An overview of the Splintered Realm, the default game setting. This includes the campaign world, its major locales, unique creatures and spells, and unique game rules, including a fate game mechanic, and subclass options for each class.  
Book 3: Vault of the Goblin. The megadungeon that acts as the hub of much activity in the Splintered Realm. This is composed of three primary levels with dozens of sub-levels that interconnect. This book would also include an overview of the keep and surrounding countryside near the Vault. 

Rafael Chandler has a Kickstarter - Lusus Naturae: A Gruesome Old-School Bestiary


There aren't many Kickstarters I'd be willing to go into just based on the name of the creator alone, especially when it is their first Kickstarter. +Rafael Chandler is a proven OSR commodity. Well, if not commodity, then a proven OSR creator of some amazingly kick-ass shit. It's not that I think the man is sane, I happen to think he's insane in an awesomely creative manner.

I happen to love the Teratic Tome (available as Pay What You Want, if you desire a peek at +Rafael Chandler 's work). It is, quite simply, the best old school bestiary I've seen come out of the OSR, and we've had some good ones. I'm willing to bet that Lusus Naturae will blow the Terratic Tome away.

In a mere 7 hrs Lucus Naturae has nearly reached half of it's funding goal of $6,660. Yes, +Rafael Chandler has some fucked up sense of humor. Who cares, as he does some amazing work ;)

From the Kickstarter page:
Lusus Naturae ("Freaks of Nature") is a collection of grotesqueries that will break the bodies and hearts of your player characters. If you like horror in your old-school gaming, then you'll enjoy this bestiary. 
It uses the Lamentations of the Flame Princess system. LotFP is a dark and violent tabletop role-playing game of horror/fantasy, and it's part of the "Old School Renaissance" family of games; download the free PDF here: http://goo.gl/bXn7vW 
Each entry In Lusus Naturae is accompanied by a black-and-white illustration by Gennifer Bone. She's executing all the artwork, because I love her style, and because she gets where I'm coming from. I enjoy things that are broken, hideous, and upsetting; she's good at illustrating these notions. We're a great team. 
The 100 viscera-chewing monsters in this book include:  
Pain-fueled Algionauts, bestowing power upon those who mutilate themselves  
The pitiless and insectile Blight, which hungers for the agony of tormented newlyweds  
The self-birthing Porphyrogene, eternally seeking the origin of feminine power  
Vitiators, which methodically disembowel those who ignore entreaties to abandon sobriety, virginity, and abstention of all kinds  
The thin and lonesome Wending Skirl, howling its soul-deadening grief in frozen woods
Methodical and elegant Monstructs, which build their Citadel of Perpetuated Joys from the bodies of children

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Wine Made with Murder Hobos in Mind - The Grimy Wyvern Wine-Hall


Alright, between the wife and I we just finished one of the four bottles from our order. Let me start right out and say this is better then that D&D soda that came out a year or two ago ;)

If you follow me, I'm a beer person. Love my micro brews. That being said, I also like red wines and they do seem to help me sleep. I expect to sleep well tonight...

If you can find it:

Toothsteinn the Red: The Grimy Wyvern Wine-Hall - Woot Cellars 2009 Cabernet Franc

It's a damn good wine.

I do detect the black pepper, cherry and cedar. Not so sure about the vanilla. It might be there, but so subtle it's hard to tell. It is good though, and I find myself wishing I had ordered more...

Just How Did That Dungeon get Built?

As I write this I have a nail gun, an electric saw, hammering and banging going on in the room next to me as my contractor is working fairly late tonight. And it got me thinking - all this work to close up a doorway and build some shelves - how much work is there to building a dungeon (let alone a mega-dungeon).

Sure, magic helps - I'm sure rock to mud is awesome at clearing out hallways and rooms, but all that mud had to go somewhere. Not to mention the doors.

Actually, I was listening to +Vincent Florio on his Roll for Initiative podcast the other night talking about doors, and that had also got me thinking - dungeon doors are not like the doors we have in our homes or apartments. Dungeon doors keep shit in or keep shit out - it truly is an amazing thing that is often overlooked when we describe or think of dungeon trappings.

Ack, I'm all over the pace with this post. I'm going to blame the allergies and the amazing wine I have sitting next to me that I have yet to drink. Well, I hope it's amazing.

I'll try and be a bit more coherent later on tonight, but for now, I'm thinking of doors, or in this case, the removal of a door and the conversion of the space.

OSR Superstar Round 1 Results This Weekend (Fingers Crossed)

I've communicated with the judges, and the expectation is that I should have each judge's list this weekend. I'll collate and score the entries and then release the list of the top 16 (and I'll post the winners to the blogside as well).

So, if all goes well, round 2 of the OSR Superstar Competition should kick off next week ;)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Picking Up Where We Left Off - Returning to a Campaign Left 8 Weeks Ago Mid Adventure

Yeah, mid January was a bit hellish on my end, and I gladly passed the DM reins over for a few weeks, followed by a few weeks playtesting as a player (and some non-gaming G+ Hangouts thrown in for good measure.) Needless to say, I'm am pretty much off kilter as far as the campaign I was running

Do I?

- try and pick up the adventure where we left off, knowing that the momentum is gone along with player memory.

- forget the last adventure and hand-wave the party to a new situation / adventure / etc.

- move to the S&W Thieve's World as a sandbox for a session or two, either with new characters or moving the current ones over (with minor adjustments)

- something completely different?

Looking for some inspiration :)

Playing with the Blogger App - How Light can I Travel to a Con?

It's a no brainer that I plan to post from NO RPG Con, the only question is how feasible is it to use my phone to do so.

So, out at Friday's with the wife and kid giving the Blogger App a try - and trying hard not to smack the ass in the next booth that is vapping or whatever they call those electronic cigarettes.

Yeah, that would be a real life adventure ;)

When at a Con - Scheduled Games or Open Gaming?

I expect I'll do a bit of both at NTRPG Con, but I'm wondering if folks organize last minute games via social media.

My last con was GenCon in 93, and I don't recall any open gaming. Then again, that might be because I had stuff scheduled from 8 am to 12 am the first 3 days ;)

In any case, when you go to a con, how much gaming do you plan for in advance?

Monday, March 10, 2014

Testing Tables - Embedding Tables in a Blogpost and Playing With Coppers


Last Gasp Grimoire has a way to imbed tables into a blog post. Mo idea if the link above is going to work, but I'd love to see the tables others come up with.

Of course, I may have buggered the above to shit for all I know. The test is in the posting.

Whether I can make it work or not, thanks go out to +Logan Knight and +Paolo Greco .

Any failures to execute are mine alone ;)


Mini Review - The Sunken City Adventure Omnibus & Guide (DCC RPG)


I wanted to get a review of The Sunken City Adventure Omnibus & Guide posted while it was still one sale for GMs Day at 30% off, but why repeat some of my earlier posts ;)

I've reviewed some of the individual titles of the Sunken City series previously:

A Gathering of the Marked

The Ooze Pits of Jonas Gralk

Perils of the Sunken City

The adventures read well and play well and now come wrapped in a fine bow. The complete package also includes Lair of the Mist Men, adventure hooks, new magic items, new creatures, a new patron and more.

I really had blast running The Ooze Pits of Jonas Gralk - can't believe that was nearly two years ago.

Listen, it's well done and fun to play and really does DCC well and would probably convert well to other OSR games too.

But hey, let me quote from the books RPGNow page so you know what you are getting, which is a lot if you ask me:

The Sunken City Adventure Omnibus & Guide contains four complete beginning adventures and a host of new material to enhance your Dungeon Crawl Classics campaign. Features include:

Every best-selling Sunken City Adventure (Perils of the Sunken City, The Ooze Pits of Jonas Gralk, A Gathering of the Marked, Lair of the Mist Men) combined and refined into a single full-color volume.

Both a 96-page desktop/print version and a 200-page mobile version built from scratch for viewing on your tablet!

A massive 84-page master appendix containing extra content, pre-gen characters, player maps, 1-inch scale battle maps, and over 150 paper miniatures. 

A patron write-up of Malloc, the devious master of secrets.

At long last... Opossuman player characters! 

Adventure seeds, new monsters, 24 new magic items, judging tips, and more!

Print Version: Special Offer
Both hardcover and softcover version of the Sunken City Adventure Omnibus & Guide are coming! Everyone who purchases the PDF version in the interim will receive a special offer to purchase the print version at the lowest price when available!

If you've previously purchased one or more of the Sunken City Adventures from RPGNow, you should have received an email with a code to purchase it at a reduced price. If you haven't, or have purchased the adventures from both RPGNow and other locations, contact us at info@purplesorcerer.com with a list of the adventures you own, and we'll get you set up!

That's a crap load for your $12.59 (at least through March 15th.)

Wherein My Wife Decides to Join Me at NTRPG Con - Need to Get Her Up to Speed

In truth, my wife Rachel has been very supportive of my RPG hobby. She was actually instrumental in getting me back into active gaming, which I can't thank her enough.

She asked to join me at NTRPG Con, with the initial idea of me gaming while she went shopping and exploring. It has now evolved into "this sounds like fun! I want to get involved too!"

Time to get ready to run some one on one sessions with Scarlet Heroes and some OSR adventures.

Any suggestions on adventures that would work well for a first time player?

Sunday, March 9, 2014

It's Official - Registered for NTRPG Con and Have My Room - When Do We Sign up for Games?

Tonight, after making sure the wife (she that rules with a velvet open palm ;) could take off from work for the days in question, I officially registered for NTRPG Con.

Holy shit - my first con in 21 years.

We will arrive Wednesday and leave on Monday. I see +Zach Glazar is running a LL session and +Matt Finch is running some S&W and there's just a crap load of other stuff I want to do. I really need to plan my battle plan out before registration opens for the individual games.

My wife is interested in hitting the Con for at least one day, so I might register her for all 4 days too. She's enjoy the board games and maybe even the Tunnels & Trolls slot I saw on the board, as her one and only RPG session was T&T 7e.

Yep, the shit just became real. I just need to find Rach some Karaoke and all will be sweet as pie ;)

In any case, I look forward to hooking up in June with the friends I've made online that I've yet to meet face to face.


Review - Adventure Fantasy Game - Part the Second - Tasks and The Old One



I should be tackling Task Rankings and such and breaking it down into my own words for the 2nd part of the Adventure Fantasy Game review, but I really can't explain it better than the rules themselves do:
Practice makes perfect. A character can become an EXPERT in a Task by spelling out the word EXPERT next to it. This means that the character gains a permanent +1 on all 5MORE checks for that particular Task. 
Practice must be meaningful: doing the same action over and over again, like picking the same lock, does not provide additional letters unless in novel and stressful circumstances. For example, picking a lock while being shot at by the city night watch. The Referee is encouraged to put a limit on how often EXPERT letters are gained; a letter per encounter or scene is a safe limit. Beyond EXPERT, further bonuses may not be gained in this manner for a particular Task, except by achieving the proficiency of a MASTER. 
Once a character has become EXPERT in six Tasks, he or she can claim the title of MASTER and add "Master" before their name. At that time, the player shall select one, and only one Task the character is already EXPERT in and shall receive a further bonus of +1 on all 5MORE rolls in that Task. The word "EXPERT" next to the Task will be erased, to be substituted by the word "MASTER". 
For example, it is possible for an EXPERT Climber (who is also an EXPERT in five other Tasks) to choose to become a MASTER in Climbing for a +2 bonus. If the MASTER Climber has a high PHY, the total bonus of Climbing rolls will be +3.
Basically, you get better by doing, in much the same was RuneQuest (at least in 2nd and 3rd editions handled it). Want to get better at picking locks? Pick some locks WHEN IT MATTERS. Working on a practice lock in your room doesn't have the same potential.

Now, on to Divinity. In the Adventure Fantasy Game, worship makes a difference. The powers that be, whether that is a god, demon, spirit or the like are powerful and spiteful. You want them on your side. There is a lot of open ground here, as AFG "does not provide hard and fast rules to simulate this interaction" between the divine and the mortals looking for their help, blessing, intersession and the like. It does, however, provide the GM and his players with an ample sample of divine beings and the type of people that worship them - their cults, if you will (again making me think a bit of RuneQuest)

Here's a piece from the section on Cthulhu (any fantasy game that includes Cthulhu in it's mythos is starting off strong in my book ;)
Cthulhu worshippers are of two kinds: those venerating the endless cycle of life and death and those trying to awaken their master, so that everything will be eaten and born again. This last bunch is seen as problematic by a lot of people, so both kinds of worshippers organise as mystery cults. The fi rst one hides behind a layer of pagan, nature-worshipping practices, while the latter is simply reclusive. 
It's unclear whether Cthulhu rewards worship: occasionally some cult of the second kind starts kidnapping and sacri ficing a lot of people. While this is known to have a benefi cial eff ect, it's unclear whether the benefits come from Cthulhu or another Venerable. 
What's certain is that this kind of behavior is frowned upon by authorities and common people alike, and many cults have met their end at the hands of guards and angry mobs. It's not necessarily true that these cults engaged in this kind of behavior (or worshipped Cthulhu), but a few disappearances can easily be blamed on any suspect cult.
There is a lot going on in those three paragraphs, and there is more going on than the sample I grabbed. Good stuff, and easily used with the system of your choice, as the divine section is systemless. Actually, the whole of the divine section / sample cults is inspirational (figure that) and could easily be transferred to a different ruleset.

Next part I expect to touch upon magic and spells.

The Fear of Death - or - Why I Like "Old School Gaming"

I already wrote a bit about last night's play session, so I won't harp on it too much more, but there is something I want to address.

My character, Calishun the Dwarven Cleric, was ready to run when our bruisers were webbed by our misfiring flying magic-user. The thing is, he isn't a long term character of mine (the magic-user and ranger are characters from my campaign, running under the "if it happens here, it happened there" rule). Calishun was created as a 4th level cleric specifically to playtest the adventure in question. Last night was his third session in play and yet the thought of running at that moment came quickly to me mind.

In truth, I'm not even sure if my decision not to run was influenced by the fact that Calishun will probably never see use again or out of loyalty to my fellow party members. Perhaps a bit of both. Still, the fear and the initial thought were real and that was damn cool.

There can be no gain of worth if there is no risk of loss. Which is why 3rd Edition and beyond of D&D ceased to appeal to me - if you can plot out your character's advancement with a computer app from levels 1 to 20, what is the point to playing levels 1 to 20? Actually, in old school gaming, who plays to level 20? (sure, some do, but I'm making a general statement)

If I'm going to play an RPG, I need there to be some real risk, some real threat to my character, or there is little if any true potential for growth. Sure, the numbers increase, but the numbers don't truly define the character - game play history does.

Wherein the Party Nearly Suffers a Self Inflicted TPK

Last night was the 3rd and final session of the playtest of +David Przybyla upcoming Swords & Wizardry adventure, and the group had a blast with the playtest. An action and thinking styled adventure for the win.

The funny thing is, we almost killed ourselves right at the end.

We were engaged with adversaries to out north. The ranger and monk were doing a decent job taking them down, and my cleric was doing the "accent" work. The magic-user had previously quaffed a flying potion and was hovering near the ceiling.

Suddenly, we had adversaries coming from the south. Creatures that had previously set our monk's clothing on fire (he was thankful that he was under the protection of fire resistance midway through.

Not wanting the party to be trapped between two forces, the magic-user cast a Web spell. Regretfully, it was slightly misplaced - it caught the incoming from the south, but it also caught the party on the ground. Only the cleric saved. Our bruisers were webbed and the two (soon to be one) adversary to the north were not.

I spent much of the remaining combat bleeding out my Cure Light Wounds wand to keep from dropping as the ranger fought to free himself from the webs. I think if I had dropped, the magic-user would have been forced to flee, and the remainder of the party would have been lost.

Actually, in truth, my first instinct was to run when the web was down and I was the last man standing on the ground. Thankfully, we pulled our collective asses out of the fire and achieved our mission's goal.

Fun times. I really enjoyed getting some time in as a player in some S&W session :)

A Kickstarter That Takes Rifts, Rubs Off the Serial Numbers, Uses Open D6 and Has Kevin's Blessing - Breachworld


I saw this at the RPG Corner blog. Breachworld is a Kickstarter by Jason Richards that sounds a lot like Rifts without the clunk of the SDC / MDC Palladium system. Actually, it uses Mini Six, which is a striped down version of Open 6, and happens to be OGL.

Heck, it even has an endorsement by Kevin Siembieda:

I'm in at $30 for the Hardcover version of the book.

I was interested in reworking Rifts to strip the system away from the setting, and it appears that Breachworld might have done so without the fear of a lawsuit from Palladium Books ;)

From the project's blurb:
Welcome to the Breachworld RPG, a post-apocalyptic anything-goes sandbox world in desperate need of exploration or exploitation by you, the intrepid tabletop gamer. By backing this Kickstarter, you will help bring this world to life. In appreciation for your help, you'll have the opportunity to join in the adventure, and at a bargain.