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Saturday, October 11, 2014

The OSR for the Lapsed Gamer - The Free PDFs - Delving Deeper

I apologize for the gap between entries in the series of posts for the OSR for the Lapsed Gamer. It has been a busy week.

This time around, we are looking at Delving Deeper, which is a reimagining of the Dungeons & Dragons White Box, with the addition of thieves - but not the thieves you have grown to know. Thieves are, however, and optional class, and you can leave them out to go purely White Box if desired.

Delving Deeper makes the claim that "there was no faithful emulation of the original 1974 edition. Until now." I'm not going to dig out my D&D White Box to verify that, but it certainly hews closer than the S&W White Box or LL OEC.

The thief is the big change. Instead of percentage chances to their skills that increase with level, they roll a D6. On a 3 or higher, they succeed. They can attempt to decipher treasure maps at 3rd level with the same chances and magic-user scrolls at 9th level. A roll of 3 the spell goes off but is reversed.

There were comments on an earlier post I made about Delving Deeper that imply that the original, fan created pre-Greyhawk thief class originally used d6s for skill resolution.

Two years after that first post, I'm very tempted to houserule the thieves in my S&W games to use the DD skill roles for their abilities. It simply makes them more relevant.

In any case, Delving Deeper is an excellent choice of rulesets if one wants a more authentic OD&D experience than the other clones offer (and easier to make heads or tails of than the originals it is based upon.) DD does not have the following of the other clones that have been mentioned thus far in this series of posts, but the price is right (free) and it certainly is a nice presentation of the rules.

Kickstarter - Dragonwars of Trayth - Tabletop RPG (Pathfinder / OSRIC) - Revised with new Pics and Awesome Legal Threat!


It is hard to review a Kickstarter based on initial impressions, but we all do it. Kickstarters succeed or fail based upon their hook, and Dragonwars of Trayth - Tabletop RPG is no exception.

The latest hook is available here, at http://www.dragonwarsoftrayth.com/gauntlet%20osric.pdf

It's a single encounter of a larger adventure. There is some kind of
contest where, if you run the encounter with your gaming group and submit a video recording, you would be entered to win the first six adventures in the series in print. That is, assuming the Kickstarter even succeeds, which is far from a given at this point. You have until the 17th of October to submit your entry.

If this encounter is the best example they have to show, it's a very sad thing. Sure, its a death trap, but not a very exciting one. The way it is set up pretty much requires the use of a battle map. Now, not that I have ever played Lazer Tag, but it was pointed out to me that the map is very reminiscent of a Lazer Tag Arena.

The maps, by the way, are reminiscent of old MS-DOS RPG games and the maps and graphics you would encounter. This isnt a good thing. I can't sample how bad the world maps look, as they are only shown in the video, but you can see a sample of a dungeon map below (yes, this is a matter of taste - some may love the retroDOS look of the maps - I see it as an eyesore, especially when compared to the amount and relative quality of the art.)


Oh, before I forget - needless add ons. T-shirts, lanyards, water bottles, mugs - even messenger bags.
These have fucked up far more Kickstarter projects than they have ever helped. Not a good sign that they are so prominent.

I should also point out that, at least as far as I can tell, Dragonwars of Trayth - Tabletop RPG is NOT an actual RPG, but a setting and series of adventures. It is not a self contained ruleset and you'll need either Pathfinder or OSRIC (or some other OSR / D&D clone ruleset) to use it.



edit: I've been blogging for over 5 years and NO ONE even threatened me with a lawsuit (although a few might have offered to meet me in a dark alley.)

here it is folks - the first, the only, threatening to sue you for things I can't but fuck it, let me send it as a private message on G+ anyway:

well, I've saved this little ditty too :)

Friday, October 10, 2014

Jim Gives us the Brain Dead Undead Dwarf


Did I mention that I really love +Jim Magnusson 's work? It was really good when I first found Jim's stuff, but recently he's been hitting the ball out of the park. It looks like there's an undead dwarf in The Tavern's cellar!

You can grab Jim's blog at Aenglum and sample other pieces of his art.

And if you want to go the extra step, you can support his Paetron project!


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Looking for the Definitive "OSR" Definition? Old Shit Rules!

It seems like today is the day to define what "OSR" truly means.

Who am I to fail to play the latest round of the game?

OSR - Old Shit Rules!

If it it looks like, feels like, plays like and smells like old shit, it's OSR.

"Shit" in this context is defined as: When something is really cool, awesome, or in someways really interesting.

Sure, you could go here or here for other definitions of the day, but by tomorrow, they'll be obsolete. Old shit will always rule ;)


Do You Use Local Superstitions in Your Campaigns?

For the Halloween episode of The Brainstorm Podcast, the plan is to cover the topic of
"Superstitions" in campaign use. This means we are probably recording this episode next Tuesday night.

Now, I could rack my brain thinking up a handful of superstitions that would be handy to drop in game, but I figure it's more fun to have my readers help. So, hear's what I'm going to do with you:

- Add a superstition or three to the comment section below this blog post before midnight, Saturday, October 11th, 2014

- Listen to the Halloween episode of The Brainstorm Podcast soon after it goes live to the masses. If you hear your submitted superstition mentioned AND are one of the first two to comment that you heard your superstition mentioned (comment on this same here post) on the podcast, I'll send a $10 RPGNow gift certificate your way.

Pretty simple, right?

In any case, I'll put all submitted superstitions into a numbered table for random superstition generation (to be posted both here on the blog and downloadable at the Brainstorm Podcast website) and will also suggest it as a source of inspiration for the Tenkar's Landing Crowdsourced Sandbox Project

Those That Came Before - Previous Civilizations on Tenkar's Landing



The island referred to as "Tenkar's Landing", named for it's main commerce and shipping center, was colonized about 200 years ago by the unnamed (and now fallen) empire to the north. There were few indigenous humans, demihumans or humanoids on the island at the time of colonization, and those that were there hadn't established any types of civilization larger than the occasional hamlet or forts built by adventuring types.

There were, however, civilizations that had existed hundreds of years prior.

The first of these was more advanced than the current technology level - think renaissance or possibly even steam punk. They used constructs to dig deep underground and occasionally built above ground, and the remains of the above ground towers and such can be seen in The Ruins of Azagath. What brought an end to them is unknown, but Azagath is a cursed place with craters, leaning towers and mutated creatures roaming the ruins.

The second race would be very similar to Picts, a tribe that came from the far west. They settled the island, mostly avoiding the north, and their burial cairns dot the island. Some conceal the entrance to a single chamber, others are many rooms and many levels deep. Only a handful have been fully explored and many of these cairns are rumored to be trapped or cursed. In some places, the stones no longer mark the entrance to the burial chambers below.

(that should be a decent enough background seed for others to work off of)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

"Tenkar's Landing Crowdsourced Sandbox Project" G+ Community Goes Live (ish)!



I've had a few requests to open up the G+ Community for the Tenkar's Landing Crowdsourced Sandbox Project for those that can't wait for the weekend when I hope to have all my ducks in a row.

So, it's open. Use the link above and ask to join. I'll approve you as quickly as I can.

For now we are going to use Swords & Wizardry as the base ruleset, if for no other reason than it uses both ascending and descending AC in it's stat block which gives us basic compatibility with all of the core clones. Whitebox, Core or Complete - use what you want. That being said, the less crunch used, the better. This is, of course, subject to change at the will of the community.

I'll need to work on the other core deity, quick write up of the native population, 30 second history and a bit more on the Town of Tenkar's Landing itself. Then the true creativity, that of the community, begins.

Oh, and start assigning hexes. That won't happen until this weekend. (those that made requests in mid September will have until the 15th of October to confirm)

Of Gods and Men - Religion in "Tenkar's Landing" - Part 1


I'm thinking of using two established churches in the setting of Tenkar's Landing (and of course there are other religions in Tenkar's Landing, just not established.)

Probably the most influential, especially on the north side of the island, will be the Church of Bazadan, "The Just One". Initially brought to the island when it was a colony of "The Empire", it is now a separate church with it's own hierarchy from that of it's "parent" church. In the remains of the empire, the Church of Bazadan is referred to as "The Hand of Justice."

Clergy are known as "The Just Ones" or "The Hands", mostly by the average peasant and town folk, and nothing is quite as exciting as watching a "Hand" disembark from a merchant ship in Tenkar's Landing coming to blows with the local "Just Ones." "Hands" and "Just Ones" see the other as heretics.

The "Just Ones" are invariably armed with long sword and shield, and their shields are usually painted with a fist holding a sword upright. The "Hands" usually wield maces, but have been known to wield other weapons that have been bloodied in previous battle but now deceased heroes of the faith.

On the island and in the remains of the empire, Bazadan is worshiped, or at least prayed to on occasion, by members of the military, mercenaries, town guard and watch and the nobility. His name is invoked prior to any trial to ensure that justice is the final result.

From a rule perspective, "Just Ones" are required to wield long swords. They also find it difficult to lie, preferring silence to intentional deception.

Next up will be a nature god of sorts...




Tim Shorts Wants You to Show Your Maps - Why Aren't You?



+Tim Shorts , he of Gothridge Manor (All Hail his Lord and Master!) has put out a call to the mappers of our blogosphere:
Hear ye! 
Hear ye! 
Will all the map makers of the realm gather round.  Sheath your quills, we will not have another ink fight like last time. 
+Dyson Logos  please refrain from crosshatching +Simon Forster 's forehead.  And that Jackson fellow, +matt jackson +matt jackson drawing contour lines on the Most Wanted posters while amusing it is illegal.

Where was I?  To all maps makers out there, if you would, please share your most favoritous map.  It may be difficult, but chose only one and show the world.
+MonkeyBlood Design  ,  you can stop drawing fill in dirt in the dirt.  It's dirt.  

Please pass this along and see if we can get back to yapping about the important things in gaming and in life.  Fluffy trees or bare trees.  Contour lines or boobie hills.  Filled in squares or detailed roofs.  
+Michael Prescott  yes, that does look like its a 3D map of a horse and yes it is ironic you drew it on a horse. 
If you think you suck at maps, share one anyway.  The only way you can suck is if you don't share.
Shit. I may have to dig out one of my own. It will suck. Guaranteed ;)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Brainstorm Podcast Episode 7 - Fleshing Out the "Big Bad"



Yesterday episode #7 of the Brainstorm Podcast hit the interwebs, and there was much rejoicing.

I must say, I think with each episode +Vincent Florio , +Glen Hallstrom and myself are hitting higher and higher notes. Maybe not in quality of content (that's for you to judge) but in the interpersonal chemistry department. Episode #7, Fleshing Out the Big Bad was simply a blast to record. We're having fun recording the podcasts, and I suspect you'll enjoy listening to them.

We recorded two more episodes tonight, one designing deities and one about reskinning monsters. they'll be out in a few weeks. At least one of my blog readers was mentioned and quoted during the recording of the second episode tonight.

I've been talking with the others about some cross promotions between The Tavern and The Brainstorm. The deities episode has an open call / challenge to the listeners, and when it releases, I'll be supporting it with a giveaway here at The Tavern. Expect more cross promotions / giveaways as we get further along.

Good times!

Hawk & Moor - Initial Impressions (D&D History)

I'm not far enough into Hawk & Moor to give a review (10% into the Trilogy according to the Kindle app), but I can give me initial impressions.

- It's approachable and an easy read. In some ways, it reminds me like a Time-Life book, but with abundant footnotes.

- The author admits to connecting the dots and filling in gaps. Not necessarily in a bad way, but with sometimes conflicting source material there are times one needs to make a best guess. There are a number of direct quotes, which is very helpful.

- It succeeds at "paining a picture", as I find myself visualizing certain scenes in my head.

Is it as true to it's source material as Playing at the World? I don't, but Hawk & Moor seems to give more opinions or rather, interpretations, whereas Playing at the World is a drier read with an impartial author's voice.

In any case, I'm thoroughly enjoying Hawk & Moor. At this rate, I'll probably have a review ready (and the trilogy finished) in another week to ten days.

How Do You Know When Your Campaign is Over?

Sometimes as DMs we plot out the direction of our campaigns. Players being players, if you give them any sort of freedom it is doubtful they will follow the path of least resistance.

How do you know when your campaign is over?

Player apathy? DM apathy? Player goals reached? Just feels like it? The itch for something new?

I will freely admit as a DM I probably have about 6 months before the next great campaign idea hits me - usually for my players, the desire for change lags behind my own.

When is the right time to bring your campaign to an end, and is it necessary to have everything tied up neat in a bow, or can it end like the second book in a trilogy, with more stories to be told, but in this case no one to tell them?


Monday, October 6, 2014

Roll20 Usage Report for the 3rd Quarter of 2014 - We're #20!

First, I need to point out that only 15k players of the 600k registered users of Roll20 participated in this survey. I know myself and my group didn't participate, but then again, none of us follow the Roll20 forums with any regularity.

I suspect FATE will see a bump in the next survey due to it's ENnies, as will the OSR (as I'll ensure my groups and readers of The Tavern that use Roll20) have their votes counted.

In any case, even getting 15k responses from players (and 25k for games - meaning GMs I suspect) is still pretty impressive. 4.1% of games run on Roll20 identify as AD&D, OD&D or OSR. Nearly 27% identify as Pathfinder, 3.5 at nearly 18% (so 45% are effectively playing 3x), 4e is around 11% and the new baby in the D&D era of games, D&D 5e comes in at a hair over 12%.

Over 70% (give or take, as more than one choice could have been chosen) of the games being run on Roll20 are D&D in heritage. Interesting numbers.




Do You Re-Skin Monsters in Your Campaigns?

You know the feeling. Orcs, goblins, ghouls and the rest of the Monster Manual - they are all known by the players the moment you start to describe them. Heck, you probably can't finish the ghoul description before the cleric in the party yells out "I turn them!"

In one of the episodes of The Brainstorm Podcast that we are recording tomorrow night, +Vincent Florio , +Glen Hallstrom and myself are going to be discussing "re-skinning" monsters in a campaign - methods to keep your players guessing. Sometimes it's as simple as making the ghouls cursed instead of undead - watch the surprise on your players' faces when the swarm of ghouls ignores that guaranteed "Turned" result ;)

Here's you chance to get your ideas mentioned on the podcast. Do you re-skin monsters in your campaigns and do you have any special methods or techniques for doing so?

How Important are The Gods in your Campaigns?

I remember the games I ran back in the early 80's - low on details, high on dungeons. Cleric's worshiped some unnamed force until I bought the Greyhawk folio, and even then it just was a name filling a caption on the character sheet.

After seeing the detail given in Dragon Magazine to the racial and Greyhawk deities, I tried my hand at designing my own deities (notice I don't mention Deities & Demigods, as it always seemed more like a high level monster book it my eyes.) Although I want to say they were well designed, I can't find the notebook that contained them, and I suspect they were pretty crappy. Still, I used them in my own home grown campaigns, which always seemed to take up more time preparing the background for than was ever used in game.

Now, I've swung back the other way, where deity details are glossed over in my campaigns. One of the nice things about the limited sandbox of Tenkar's Landing is I can probably get away with detailing just 2 or 3 deities to begin with without worrying about whole pantheons.

How important are deities in the campaigns you run and / or play in?


Sunday, October 5, 2014

And Now a Different Version of the "Tenkar's Landing" Area Map

I had totally forgotten that +Michael Garcia had this map done for an uncompleted project we had been working on. The artist goes by the name "Diamond". Literally, that is all we know besides his statement "I release it to the public domain."

I guess this was the first donation to the crowdsourced project ;)

So, we have two versions of the map to work from.

I still need to settle on a scale...



Latest on "Tenkar's Landing" Crowdsourced Sandbox Project



My goal is to open up the "Tenkar's Landing" Crowdsourced Sandbox Project next weekend to those that wish to participate. I know some folks have already stated an interest in certain hexes, and my plan is to grant the wishes of those that have shown such an interest in advance.

The idea is that the island that the project takes place on can be dropped into most campaign settings with little issues, so I'm avoiding things like pantheons and I am describing the off map areas as declining empires / smaller kingdoms to explain why the island is "mostly" left along by outside political forces.

No, I haven't named the island, but that's okay, as I suspect it will be known under a few names in any case.

There will be a G+ Community for the project for those that want to participate in it and share ideas. You do not have to participate in the community to participate in the project - it will be there for those that want it, nothing more or less.

At this point I'm trying to decide if we should go systemless or use one of the OSR Rulesets as a base. Heh, maybe that should be a discussion for the G+ Community when it goes live ;)


Checking Out "Hawk & Moor" (D&D History)

I have my BA in History (which I am sure uniquely qualified me for my career in law enforcement) and I love reading up on the history of RPGs in general and Dungeons & Dragons in particular. We are talking the history of my hobby, and finding out new bits and pieces I hadn't know prior is like opening a Christmas present early on Christmas morning when you are 8 years old. Simply magic.

Regretfully, Jon Peterson's Playing at the World is a bit to scholarly for me to read with any consistency. I always return to it, but I've been doing that for 6 months and I'm not even halfway thru it. His appearances on the Save or Die Podcast are some of their best episodes, but I can only digest Jon's writing in small doses.

Designer's & Dragons was a very informative and entertaining read the first time thru, and I'm thoroughly enjoying the expanded, four volume set that is being released on Kickstarter. I'm currently plowing my way through the second volume of that series on my Kindle app.

Last night I found Hawk & Moor on Amazon in the Kindle store. I'm not even sure how I found the series. Probably during my search for RPGs that Amazon sells at a discount with Prime shipping. In any case, I found Hawk & Moor, obviously a play on "Greyhawk" and "Blackmoor".

THE CREATION of the world’s preeminent Fantasy Role-Playing Game (FRPG), Dungeons & Dragons, is one of the most fascinating tales to be told in all the shared histories of entertainment, play and game design. Two very different men, David Lance Arneson and Ernest Gary Gygax, undertook an unprecedented collaboration which gifted us — as their shared legacy — with one of the most intriguing games the world has yet experienced. Their game did not just simulate one isolate corner of reality; it dared to encompass the entirety of all realms of adventure, the consensual playground of the human imagination.  
HAWK & MOOR tells the story of Dave and Gary, and the many other people whose efforts gave first life to the game we know and love today. Arneson had spectacular ideas, but Gygax knew how to refine them. Collaboration soon turned to conflict as Arneson believed his game was being taken from him, and Gygax crystallized systems where incomprehensible riddles had stood before. Both men were creative geniuses, but the game they created from Gygax’s Chainmail (1971) was the end result not only of their teamwork, but also of their clashes and disagreements.  
The HAWK & MOOR series chronicles that first legendary game to arise from the Golden Age of Fantasy Role-Playing. This is a special trilogy edition, featuring the full texts of Books One, Two and Three in a single comprehensive volume.  
The tale begins with HAWK & MOOR Book One, The Dragon Rises. Herein you will find Gary’s life story, the history of Gen Con and the Castle & Crusade Society, and details concerning the conception of Castle Greyhawk. This first book also includes new revelations pertaining to Arneson’s Blackmoor and its influences; tales from the Blackmoor Dungeons and Loch Gloomen; details on Gary’s first dungeon adventure; an exploration of the links between H. P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and the earliest underworld adventures; the secrets of the asylum which inspired Castle Greyhawk; and much more.  
HAWK & MOOR Book Two: The Dungeons Deep tells the tale of all that came after Blackmoor in the World of Greyhawk. Herein you will find the adventures of Robilar, Tenser, Terik, Murlynd, Lessnard, Quij, Otto, and Zagyg the Mad himself. Mysteries such as the Old Guard Kobolds, the orc hordes, the Thouls, the Black Dragon Labyrinth, the Great Stone Face, the demon lord Fraz-urb’luu, the Jeweled Man, the Nine Demigods, the Isle of the Ape, and the slide to Cathay are all explored as well.  
HAWK & MOOR Book III: Lands and Worlds Afar spans the years 1973 through 1975, when TSR surged forth to conquer the wargaming industry and to spread the hobby of fantasy role-playing far and wide. A tragedy in January 1975 forced the reformation of TSR, planting the seeds which would cause E. Gary Gygax to lose control of the company in the even wilder years to come. This devastating loss was worsened by aggressive legal challenges brought forth by the estate of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Nevertheless and through it all, TSR soldiered on. This book is not just a compendium of business maneuvers, however; it is a chronicle of adventure. The dread domains of the Tomb of Horrors, Castle Greyhawk, the Temple of Elemental Evil, Dungeonland and the Temple of the Frog are all unveiled herein through the eyes of Ayelerach, Bigby, Burne, Erac, Erac’s Cousin, Jaroo, Mordenkainen, Robilar, Rufus, Tenser, Terik, Yrag and many other heroes of the Greyhawk campaign.  
Together, these volumes comprise 202,300 words on over 500 pages, supported by over 1,300 footnotes and annotations. 
From what I can see it is only available in Kindle format. $3.99 a volume or $9.99 for the trilogy. Free if you have the Kindle Unlimited package for $9.99 a month.

I was surprised to see that Hawk & Moor: The Steam Tunnel Incident is free for everyone in the Kindle store. Maybe I should have started with this one, as I could have gotten a feel for the author's writing style without having to lay out cash and find out the history of this infamous incident in the early years of the hobby.

I'll follow up with a review as I get deeper into the series, as I just scratched the surface last night. It does look promising.