Sunday, June 28, 2009

Doomsday Book - Issue #4 - Capsule Review

Another post reviewing yet another PDF magazine - What's up with that? Its real simple. Once you know how a certain issue of a magazine looks on the DX you have a reasonable expectation of how other issues of the same magazine will look. It helps the reader make an informed decision with his gaming dollars. Well, that and the Doomsday Book is available free from the Dragonsfoot website. I'll be aiming to review at least one piece of free gaming material each weekend. Today its the Doomsday Book.

The Doomsday Book was initially conceived as a Castles and Crusades Society fanzine, but it has also embraced system agnostic articles. The latest issue includes reviews, creating secret languages, weather for the world builder, a C&C character generator, some new C&C classes, new monsters, a full miniature sci-fi game with counters... its very full of gaming goodness and its free.

For C&C gamers I'd give it a 5, for other retro-clone players I'd rate it a 4.

DX-ability is a solid 5. It looks really sweet on the Kindle DX

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Dragon Roots Issue #3 - Capsule Review

Dragon Roots is an independent RPG magazine that is published quarterly in both print and PDF format.

I'd like to take some credit for the subscription option for the PDF version - Rocco, the CEO, Publisher, Editor and all around decent chap wanted a print magazine format. He saw the PDF version as a way for people to sample, but wanted folks to go with a physical copy they could hold, smell, touch and do all sorts of sundries to it. I communicated the desire of some folks (like myself) that prefer PDFs in most circumstances as over 25 years of gaming has really cramped my ability to store more stuff. He listened and has offered PDF subs ever since.

The magazine itself has articles that are for 3.5e, 4e and game system agnostic. Heck, most of the articles in the 4 issues out so far could be plugged into any fantasy system if desired with little to moderate tweaking.

Rocco has finally started sharing the load (although he still carries most it) of putting together the magazine and it shows. The first 2 issues were labors of love that were infested with typos (that comes with editing one's own work) but filled with mostly good gaming articles. The latest issue, issue #3, is the 4th issue (counting started with 0) is a much tighter production, and the effort shows. I esitate to say issue #3 is a professional production, because all the issues have been, but i think it hits its stride with the third issue. I give it a high 4 for quality and gaming goodness.

DX-ability is a 3 - typset is a bit small on the kindle and there is some minor shadowing that looks great in print but less so on the DX.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Magpie Quick Play Rules. Capsule Review

Magpie is a 3e variant rules set under the OGL. The quick play rules for Magpie are more like a sampler of the full rules system, one that seems to stray fairly far from the 3e rules they are based on.

Skills and feats are replaced by 5 Feats that are linked to the 6 base stats. These 6 feats are bonuses to saving throw. There are a total of 8 saving throws - 5 feats, attack, defense and magic. Need to pick a lock? Cast a spell? Smack the gobbie with your mace? Roll the appropriate save. The target number you need to roll runs from 5 to 30, but the degrees of difficulty run from 0 to 5, with a difficulty of 0 needing a 5 or better and a difficulty of 5 needing a 30 or better. Wouldn't it have been been easier to name the degrees of difficulty after the target number you need to roll?

Combat requires one to roll a 10 or better to hit, adjusted my your target's defensive bonus. Armor class is subtracted from your weapons damage, it does not effect your chance to hit.

Character power advancement appears to be slower then core 3e as a level gain allows the player to add +1 to a single save. Hit points are higher, with fighters having a d12 and barbarians having a d12 +4 for HP per level (as examples). Almost every class gets some sort of spell list and class balance may be an issue to some (the core 4 classes are to be used by beginners, the subclasses are more specialized and more powerful).

I appreciate the authors releasing the quick play rules so that prospective players can see if the rules are for them or not. They are not for me. The attempt to simplify game play by the removal of 3e's feats is admirable, but a think the "Siege Engine" mechanic used in Castles & Crusades is a smoother solution over all. Then again, it did take me a while to really understand just how flexible the "Siege Engine" is thru weekly game play. No play test of the Magpie rules, just a read thru and my impressions.

I'm going to give the Magpie system, as much as I've seen in the Quick Play rules, a 3 out of 5. They aren't my choice of rules, and I don't quite agree with the direction they went in, but I'd be surprised if there aren't others that will like what they see. For free it's harmless to check it out

DX-ability rating - The typeset is fairly small and there is an annoying shading to the pages that really makes this difficult to read on the kindle without turning it sideways - 2

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Problem With RPG Reviews - Where's the Gameplay?

Most reviews of RPG material are based upon read-thru only. What looks good on paper (or e-paper) might not play well at the game table. The inherit problem is that to review a game in actual play you need a group of players to participte.

Movies. One person to watch
Books. One person to read.
Music. One person to listen.
Video games. One person to play.
RPGs. One GM and a group of players.

I'll be doing some short game reviews based upon read-thru only. If I have play experience with the game in question I'll state as such.

Kindle DX suitabilty reviews generally don't adress the quality of the product in question, just how it reads on the DX. The game may be a dog but look beautful on the DX. Go figure.

-- Post From My iPhone

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Free RPG Day Everyday!

So, yesterday was Free RPG Day. If you had a decent brick-and-mortar store near you that was participating you could get a free module or quick-start rules set to one of about a dozen games from just as many publishers. Free is always better then not-free, and I am sure lots of these goodies will show up as free PDFs down the line. But what if you missed out on FREE and are sitting in a dark room stewing about how the universe hates you? Have no fear, 'cause FREE RPG DAY is EVERYDAY!

Really. No BS. All you need to do is look. Is it all good? Hell no! But if its free and the cost to download was nothing but your time, the delete key is just a finger tap away.

1 - RPGNow - Lots of free games to be found here, from quick start rules to 400 page monstrosities of sci-fi rules and more. Just hit the FREE button on the left side of the home page. I did, and must have downloaded two dozen as I thought about how I wasn't getting my free swag yesterday from a nearby store.

2 The Free RPG Blog - Run, don't walk to this blog! My god man, do you have any free time? Rob Lang reviews one free RPG a week. Lots of goodies. I spent some time there last nite after recovering from my RPGNow hunting expedition. I have about 3 dozen PDFs sitting on my netbook just waiting to migrate to my DX.

3 The Free RPG Compendium - A HUGE list of links to free RPGs, some great and most not so great. Time to pick thru the coal to find some diamonds.

Enjoy. I may do some capsule reviews on some of these free finds in addition to the usual feedback on their Kindle DX suitability.

Friday, June 19, 2009

RPG Books on the DX: How well does it handle PDFs? Part 3

This is going to be quick and fairly short. I was asked how WotC products look on the kindle DX. As WotC pulled their PDF products from the market place, and as they were priced fairly high compared to other PDF products, I never got to make a purchase.

Recently WotC posted the D&D Quick Start Rules and H1: Keep on the Shadowfell for free on their website. I've grabbed them and here's my impressions.

D&D 4e Quick Start Rules - Coming in at 27 pages and minimal artwork these pages refresh quickly. The formating and the font are very DX friendly, and are easily read without resorting to the horizonatal orientation. This rates a 5 for readabily and ease of use.

H1: Keep on Shadowfell - The formatting and the font are the same as the Quick Start Rules (as best I can tell). Text is clear and very readable. The problem comes with the maps: they appear mostly murky and suffer from the greyscale conversion (as does the cover, but who cares about covers?). Text alone would rate a 5, but with the maps suffering as they do I give it a 4 over all.

More when I can get to them. I think I need to stray from the DX for a post or two ;)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

RPG Books on the DX: How well does it handle PDFs? Part 2

K, time to see how some other titles look on the DX:

Spirit of the Century - I thought the landscape would look great on the DX in landscape mode. It looks good, but a page is just slightly too big for the screen, so you start getting part of page 6 heading up most of page 7 (as an example). Overall I give it a 3

Basic Fantasy - Another PDF that looks like it was designed for the DX. Sharp, clean and easily read pages without even resorting to landscape mode. 5

Knockspell Magazine - Uncluttered pages that are easy to read on the DX. Simply a 5

The Barbarians of Lemuria - Wow. I mean really, WOW. I've decided that a 5 would not be high enough. The font is just a tad larger then most, the pages are clean and well laid out. 5+

DDI - Dungeon Magazine 156 - Not very impressive. Can't be read in the vertical orientation as the print becomes way to small. Horizontally the print is servicable in size, but background colors are shades of gray and make reading less then pleasant. 2

Going away for a few days after work tomorrow, but I've tried to load the DX up with RPG PDFs to read and rate. Think I'll be reading The Barbarians of Lemuria for pure pleasure shortly.

Monday, June 15, 2009

RPG Books on the DX: How well does it handle PDFs?

I've dumped a bazzilion PDFs on my Kindle DX at this point. Ok, maybe closer to 2 dozen, but have a bazzilion on my hard drive that have yet to make the transition. So, how do they look so far? Here's my totally nonscientific opinions on a scale of 1 to 5.

Elric - Runequest/Mongoose Edition - While readable, the font is small (even horizontally)and and the background clutter isn't helpful. 2

OSRIC 2.0 - Clear, uncluttered pages. This is what a PDF should look like on the Kindle DX. I can read it without turning it horizontally. Could have been made for the DX. 5

HARP Lite - Clear pages with no distracting background behind the letters. Artwork in the margins converts well. This and its sibling Rolemaster are table intensive and they look perfect. 5

True20 Quick Start Rules - Clean and uncluttered. Font seems a bit smaller then others, but looks very nice when viewed horizontally. 4

Kobold Quarterly #8 - This PDF converts exceptionally well. I may no longer need to subscribe to both print and PDF anymore ;) 5

Points of Light Campaign Setting - Goodman Games - I'm not sure if its the light watermark art behind each page or if the font is smaller or both, but it isnt as easy to read as it could be. Held horizontal it looks much nicer. 3

I'll add to this list later. Remember, I'm just rating these PDFs on their suitability to be read on the Kindle DX. I'm not rating their value or worth as gaming products. That being said OSRIC is an amazing value and available for the unheard of price of FREE! Kobold Quarterly is what Dragon was back in the day with modern typsetting, making it a valauble addition to any gamers library.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Quick Kindle DX Pic

Here's a quick pic of the Kindle DX displaying the letters page from Kobold Quarterly #8. Of course the pic was taken with my iPhone under bad lighting, but the formatting is perfect and size of the print is doable, but many would probably prefer to rotate it to a landscape display for larger print.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Kindle DX - First Impressions

Wow. I'm actually holding the Kindle DX. It is significantly larger then the kindle but about 1 1/2 inches shorter and 2 1/2 inches narrower then the Castles & Crusades leatherette Players Handbook. It's about as thick as the C&C Players Handbook without the case. With the standard black leather kindle case it is a bit thicker then the C&C Players Handbook but not by much.

First thing I did after plugging it into my PC to charge was to copy over the Labyrinth Lord and OSRIC PDFs. Both look very clear and very readable although the print is relatively small. However, if you turn the Kindle DX in a horizontal orientation, the DX recognizes the change and the PDF displays in landscape, making the print even more readable (it does split the page into top and bottom tho.)

I'm not sure how portable the DX is over all... as in will I use it to go to work with me on a daily basis or will it be used mostly for an at home, in the yard or on vacation method to read PDFs in their native format.

Overall, I am VERY impressed and VERY happy with my purchase.

We have delivery!

The package arrived at 1258. First impressions of the Amazon Kindle DX after I get home and have a chance to play with it.

-- Post From My iPhone

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Kindle DX Countdown - shipping today

Amazon still indicated a June 11th delivery date, but I have yet to receive notification that it shipped. Hopefully I'll be posting first impressions tomorrow nite.

edit: just was notified it shipped, delivery date is 6/11. woot!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Free Sci-Fi and Fantasy Ebooks

I wanted to post this before I forgot. Baen Publishing has released a large number of ebooks from their library for free.

I'll add this to the links when I get a chance. Enjoy the free reads (except bri, he needs to pay). Heh.

-- Post From My iPhone

Who is Tenkar?

Tenkar is my alternate identity, my game face if you will. In the D&D campaign I ran during college he was the party's main henchman - a kick ass dwarven fighter with attitude and an abundence of party loyalty.

Flash forward to the early years of Everquest and he becomes a dwarven paladin. Stubby little legs pumping away on my computer screen after one too many corpse runs.

These days he is a dwarven cleric in a weekly Castles & Crusades game I play in. He has a tendency to fight on the front lines as often as the fighters in the party. He swings a pretty nasty mace. He just hit 3rd level before the game's summer break took effect.

So who is Tenkar? He's a dwarf that kicks Ass! You've been warned ;)

-- Post From My iPhone

Monday, June 8, 2009

A Plethora of PDFs

I truly have a plethora of PDFs. If I printed all of them out, not only would I kill multiple printers I'd probably get fined for being a fire hazard. I have them on my hard drive, my back up external drive, a portable external drive, on flash drives, on SD cards, on my Sony 505 e-book reader, my Nokia 810 internet device, my iPhone... I'm sure I'm missing a thing or two on that list.

What does all that mean? It means I can rarely find the PDF I want when I want it.

Why? Because 9 out of 10 publishers of PDFs don't give it a descriptive title (something that Windows from XP on handles very well). Nope, instead of calling the file "Killer Dungeon for 3e ver a" they use "kd010" if you are lucky. Many times it seems its just a random selection of letters and numbers that leave you scratching your head as you open multiple PDFs in the hopes of finding the one that you've been hankering to read for the last 2 nites.

I know, I should be downloading in an orderly fashion to sorted folders just for that reason. It is not in human nature to do so... the vast majority of us dump our downloaded documents in the "Document Folder" and then curse our inability to navigate the sea of seemingly randomly named files.

I think I'll need to spend some time on my vacation sorting this mess out.

Then again, I'm the same guy who has hardly sorted out his bookmarks in Firefox. That's my own mess tho'. The PDF mess is not mine alone.

Kindle DX Countdown - 2 days to shipping

The plan is to have some pics and a review up by mid day Saturday, tho I might have first impressions posted Thursday evening.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Dice - Why do we find them so much fun?

Seriously, why do we? As gamers they are a tool to determine success or failure. You really only need one set. So why do I have hundreds of dice of all shapes, sizes, colors and makings? Heck, I haven't played a face to face game of D&D, or any other RPG in over a decade, yet every year or so I buy more dice? Why?

All the major VTTs have random number generators. Fantasy Grounds wrapped theirs in a nifty visual virtual dice rolling feature. Maybe that is part of the key to their success. Heck, last year when WotC was showing off their pre-alpha of their 3d VTT they borrowed their dice pic from Fantasy Grounds.

There you have it, I have more dice then I can ever use (and I'm not currently using) and the dice I do use regularly are virtual dice in Fantasy Grounds. Heck, I even have a couple of dice apps on my iPhone.

Guess I'm some form of a "dice" addict. ;)

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Gathering of Fools - Update

A grand time was had by all. Much food and drink was consumed and lots of goofing around. We never found time to get down and roll dice, but I did hand out some copies of Swords & Wizardry to wet the appetite. I also got to show them the iTabletop and Fantasy Grounds websites. Time will tell :)

Gathering of Fools

Today at noon I will be attending my old gaming group's annual Gathering of Fools. We hold it once a year in the memory of the friend we lost on 9-11. We have been doing this for years, and it entails food, snacks, drinks, YouTube, video conferencing, logging into the latest MMORPG, stupidity, laughter, Dave's hairy ass, movies, more drinking... you get the idea.

This year I am hoping to run a small Labyrinth Lord adventure: The Tomb of Sigyfel. Its free. The adventure, less the cover and the OGL statement, is about a page and a half. I'm hoping it entices one or two to want to do some pen and paper RPGing more often, possibly using Fantasy Grounds 2. This would be the first time DMing for me in over 10 years (and probably just as long since any of them gamed in the classic manner)

Wish me luck ;)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

iTabletop - The waiting is the hardest part

iTabletop looks to be an amazing piece of gaming software when it is completed. What? Its not completed? But they have software to download and a monthly subscription fee. How can it not be completed?

The old iTabletop software is downloadable and usable. It integrates webcams and voip and a VTT that seems more tacked on then a part of the main application. Why is that? Because the developers had a really well designed Virtual Meeting software package they had already designed and added the VTT features to the original package. In my opinion, it had alot of potential, but it wasn't worth a monthly fee.

The NEW version of iTabletop is being worked on now. It will be based on Silvertable, a cross platform developers system. More importantly, it will be based on large part on the input of the lifetime subscribers (18 so far, 12 to go) that invest in this as yet unfinished product. It is an investment, and not a small one. $200 gets you a lifetime membership and 10 floating licenses... up to 10 players can log into your game session and not have to pay.

Yes, I gambled my $200 bucks... I was one of the first five to do so. It isn't much of a gamble if this new version of iTabletop can do even half of the things I want in a VTT (and it looks like it is coming close to 100% of what I need).

Integrated webcam and VOIP are what I will need to convert my old gaming / current Warhammer Online group to old style pen and paper via VTT gaming. I can'y wait until the finished product gets released. In the meantime, I might try to warm them up with Fantasy Grounds 2.

Random Thought of the Day

So, I was listening to the Opie and Anthony show today on XM-Sirius Satellite radio and they were discussing Kiss Meet the Phantom of the Park. Oh My God! This has to be one of the greatest cheesiest movies ever. I'm watching it on YouTube and visualizing this as over the edge RPG session. Go to YouTube and give it a watching. It hurts to watch, but its like rubbernecking while driving... everyone needs to see the wreck.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Kindle DX - Countdown

The Kindle DX ships in a week. Yes, I pre-ordered. I'm enjoying having disposable income at the moment... something tells me it won't last forever, but toys purchased previously get grandfathered in ;)

9.7" Diagonal Screen should allow me to get the most use out of my extremely large RPG PDF library. I can hope, can't I? The Jetbook and the Sony 505 both read PDFs natively, but the small size of the screen makes it a chore to read any RPG book that has more then one column of text on the screen (zooming to enlarge the text requires one to go back and forth on the now split page in order to read it). And as I've said before, don't even think of reading an RPG PDF on the Kindle or Kindle 2. Read every other book, blog, newspaper or magazine... but not PDFs.

Then there's the bigger problem... do I get the girlfriend a Kindle 2 or a DX for her birthday? ;)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Castles & Crusades Ruleset for Fantasy Grounds 2: Review

Fantasy Grounds 2 is one of the Big Boys in the Virtual Table Top arena these days. Its a fairly easy to use program with a relatively low learning curve for GMs that use prepackaged rule sets and adventure modules.

Castles & Crusades (C&C) is a licensed rule set for use with the Fantasy Grounds 2 VTT. If you've played D&D 3.X or earlier you should be fairly comfortable with the rules, which realy heavily on AD&D 1st edition for their feel and nostalgia. The original game rules are by the Troll Lords and are currently on my list of favorite games.

How well done is the conversion to an FG2 rule set? Very well done indeed. The VTT background artwork comes from the C&C Player's Handbook and fits the game well.

Pretty much every rule (if not every single rule) from the C&C Player's Handbook and Monsters and Treasures can be found clicking links under the book headings in the program. The character sheet plays well and I've yet to find a glitch in it after over six months of using it from the player's end (I'm playing in a weekly game).

Probably the best praise I can give for it is this: I tend to even forget it is there. It plays fluidly, both the rules and the rule set.

You can find the rules in PDF format as well as the rule set and modules at

Castles and Crusades for FG2

Looks like there will be some more C&C adventures for sale at I'll review then after I get to check them out.

Another plus for the Kindle

The ability to get constant AP News updates throughout the day. Who needs a newspaper?

-- Post From My iPhone

Monday, June 1, 2009

Amazon Kindle 2

Why is the first gadget I post one that has little to do with RPGs? Because it is quite possibly the best e-book reader out there. Yes, there are many choices, and Sony has a nice contender, but no other reader offers instant gratification. Download the latest novel in the never ending fantasy series you've been following - you can buy it wirelessly from your Kindle. Go to the Baen website and download free (and legal) SciFi and Fantasy novels in Kindle (and other formats). Its truly an amazing device.

What doesn't it do? It doesn't do cheap. $359 (no cover - add 40 bucks or so for one of those)

It doesn't do PDFs - at least not in a manner that serves the purpose of gamers. To use a PDF on the Kindle or Kindle 2 you need to have Amazon convert it. Tables don't survive the conversion process, making nearly every RPG PDF horribly crippled.

Still, the Kindle is an amazing device despite its short comings.

(The Kindle DX promises to do PDFs natively and has a 9.7" screen, compared to the 6" on the earlier Kindles - approximately 2 1/2 times the viewing surface - not cheap at $489 plus the cover)


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