Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I Was a Teenage Gamer

Hey, I made the big time! ;)

Anyhow, last nite my son (soon to be 17... oh those teenage years) was looking over my shoulder as I was blogging / reading blogs. He says to me "people are still playing those games?" and later asked "how many people play those games?". These questions are leaps and bounds past the usual "You call Fantasy Grounds graphical?"

That and he's looking to read novels based on the TV series The Unit. My kid HATES reading. I think I might turn him in to a gamer yet. At least, he's thinking about it... in that of so frustrating teenage way. Me, I was so taken in my Lord of the Rings I was ready to get my gaming feet wet in 8th grade.

In the meantime we still have Star Trek Online together... and he's outleveling my ass in that game.. god bless him ;) Oh, and its very graphical... heh

Monday, March 29, 2010

Mythmere’s Adventure Design Deskbook

This is gonna be a quick and dirty review of Mythmere’s Adventure Design Deskbook, Volume One: Principles and Starting Points. Damn, how's that for a long ass title?

Anyhow, to some extend the introduction reads like a college textbook about RPG adventure design. Don't let that fool you or deter you. The meat of this product is its charts... and yes the do deliver.

This is NOT The Dungeon Alphabet. That was a slick production with amazing art and themed charts. Some people even complained about the scarcity of charts and tables in the The Dungeon Alphabet - 26 letters in the alphabet should have given most of those interested in the product a general idea of the number charts and tables they could expect to find.

Mythmere’s Adventure Design Deskbook takes a more practical or workman like approach of its presentation of tables and charts. This 46 page long, sparsely illustrated book is packed with charts that will flesh out the who, what, where, when and why of the latest adventure you plan to subject you group to. Motivations, twists, hidden history.. its all there.

5 bucks for the PDF version is a steal! Well done... this is dying to be put in a small program that will kick all the chart results out to the DM in waiting. Already looking forward to the next volume.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

By the Letters...

There have been a good number of reviews of The Dungeon Alphabet since its release.  I even did one on the PDF version, which I liked alot.  I found the dead tree version on Amazon for 10 bucks, free shipping, so I had to bite.

As much as I enjoyed the PDF, the dead tree version is a killer with its artwork.  Any one of these pieces would look fine on my wall as a framed print.  They are that good, and that evocative of my gaming years when I was a teenage gamer.

If you can find yourself a copy in hardcover, do yourself a favor... grab it!

On a side note, this is day two of my country getaway.  Wheee!

Tomorrow I may give a short write up of Friday nite's C&C game I played in via Fantasy Grounds 2.  Or perhaps another review.

Friday, March 26, 2010

A Game I Regret I Wont be Attending

Quick repost of the game Joethelawyer will be running tomorrow in Manhattan (lifted from the TARGA site and The Mule Abides) .  This is the 2nd Annual Dave Arneson Memorial Gameday tomorrow, March 27, 2010.

Thanks to the generous support of the Compleat Strategist, we will be meeting in the gaming space of   their New York location:
11 East 33rd Street (between Madison and Fifth Avenue)
New York, NY 10016
Games will begin at noon and wrap up at 5, to allow time for cleanup before the store closes at 6.
I had planned to attend, but it appears that events (vacation) are going to preempt the attempt.

I need someone to roll some dice it my stead ;)

Thankfully I do get to play in my monthly FG2 Castles & Crusades  game tonight... small consolation, but still better then no gaming at all this weekend.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

One a Positive Note

It seems that the loss of quality bloggers has increased my blog's traffic immensely.  Damn fools ;)

Anyhow, I need to cheer myself up, so I think I'll do a review.  As the vast majority of my reviews are of products I actually like and enjoy, they make me feel good when I write them.  Come to think of it, my negative reviews are cathartic in their own way... so all the reviews I write make me feel good.   

I just loves me some OD&Dities.  OD&Dities Issue 14 to be exact.

Now, it is a thief themed issue, and I've never been all that keen on playing thieves let alone bring their Guilds into the campaign as anything more then a distant backdrop.  Suffice to say the articles on Thieves Guilds I could take or leave, but that is a personal prejudice.  The article on Thief Skills however, was an excellent read.  Some decent ideas I'll need to keep in mind when DM'ing.

Worth the price of admission alone is the article on the not so lowly Magic Missile spell.  Very nice, useful and probably not all that balanced variations of the basic spell.  Keeps the PCs off guard with one of these choices.  Very well done.

A new class, or sub-class of Magic-User is introduced:  The Puppeteer.  Just as Illusionists specialize in illusions, Puppeteers specialize in charms and mind control.  Having given the class a quick read thru, I expect it would play better as an NPC (nice reoccurring Bad Guy type) but proof is in the play.  I've already have ideas coming to me as to making a nice party nemesis with this at the template.  Mmmmm... brains!

Those are the highlights.  There are a few other articles for your enjoyment.  I've been thinking that the one page QUALITY article was the thing of the past (I'm looking at you Crusader) but the Unusual Enemies one pager is good.  A thinking man's article (or woman's).

2 bucks for 25 pages of Labyrinth Lord goodness.  Well worth the price.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Three Down

I have my count of lost, or soon to be lost, OSR blogs at three.

Chgowiz's Old Guy RPG Blog  was the first to tap out.
The Old School Ranter is wrapping up on Friday apparently.

The Rusty Battle Axe will be leaving at the end of the month, for reasons dissimilar to the first two, but a damn shame none the less.

Three damn good blogs, not because of the topics they posted, but because of the people that did the posting.  The damn 'net is a double edge blade. 

Shit's getting damn depressing.  Tomorrow I'll sneak in a review.  I need something to cheer myself up.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Was it a Full Moon last Weekend?

I only ask because of the lunacy that prevailed in the little corner of the web I like to relax in.

After all this is said and done, do we have to redefine what constitutes "Old School Gaming" and by its very nature, what is "Porn"?

Because the gaming in the video in question might have loosely hit upon old school gaming, but I certainly missed the porn  (really, as in "WTF!  Where is the T&A in this vid?)

Chgowiz  has left the building.  Dude, don't EVER leave in anger.  More importantly, don't let an ASSHOLE dictate your actions.  'Nuff said.

TARGA - leaner?  smaller? larger? unfocused?  more focused?  tastes great?  less filing?  Did you even know about it before The Old School Rant up and ranted the mother of all rants? 

More people probably knew about Zak and his weird as all shit Pornstar filled gaming group.  Weird as in "what kinda pornos do they star in" kinda weird.  As a gaming group goes... fairly normal composition... except that its full of girls.  That stuff NEVER happens in real life. (Well, according to one reviewer this was played by an all girl group - she also insinuated I lacked brains... which might be true, but the product still sucked)

Okay, I'm getting off topic it seems.

Then again, the whole weekend of Ranting was off topic.

Listen, if there is one thing I've learned having a 16 y/o son is that he will find the porn no matter the method I try to block it.  Kids are smarter then most give them credit for, and if they want to find it on the web odds are they will find it quicker then you ever could.

Besides, I'd expect he'd be very disappointed in Zak's little video ;)

It's a Classic Two-Fer Tuesday!

I'm always looking for adventures written for the Classic D&D / AD&D rulesets.  Sometimes I find two on the same search.  This time I found 2 in 1.  Yep, its a damn flipbook, which is annoying as a PDF, but cool in the "it's got 2 short low level AD&D adventures in 1" sort of way.

I'm talking about the Dungeon Crawl Classics Flip Book from Goodman Games.  Now, I'm sure the flipbook format works great in print, but as a PDF the presentation is less then ideal.  Get ready to use the rotate button in your PDF viewer.  Still, for less then 5 bucks you get two quality adventures that can be easily used with any Old School system without much work.

Figure 2 sessions of gaming for less then the price of a Subway's Footlong.  

Isn't that better the Classic Rock Two-Fer Tuesday on the local rock station?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Random Monday Madness


Spent the weekend going thru bouts of food poisoning.  Not fun. 

Still, I'm home and I'm finally able to appreciate Fight On! #8.  Is it just me or is the artwork getting better and better?  7 bucks for the PDF is a steal for the amount of material that is packed into this issue.  I do have one little quibble... hyperlinks... why are there no hyperlinks in the PDF?  Yeah, I can copy and paste the link, but a hyperlink makes it effortless.  No biggie.  More curious then anything.

Nice.  Thunder and Lightning here in NYC at the moment. 

Just got the complete Little Rascals DVD collection delivered earlier today.  Hmmm, that could make for the setting of a simple and silly RPG at some point.  Backburnering that ;)

Trying to track down my sources of free and cheap old school RPG material.  Might take a wee bit.

See, I told you it was going to be random.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Bits n' Pieces

My intention was to do a quick and dirty review of Fight On #8.  I made my purchase thursday nite of the PDF, promptly downloaded it to my desktop, took a peek and went to sleep.  Yesterday (Friday) the family headed to the country for the weekend.  I figured I'd download a second copy via my mini lappy and el cheapo DSL... but Lulu has thrown me a curve ball.  I can download anything in myvaccount with the singular exception of... you guessed it, Fight On #8.  So, that review will have to wait.

In the meantime, let me point you in the direction of The Outpost on the Edge of the Far Reaches, available as a free download at Lulu.  Its a Old School adventure for 1st to 3rd level adventurers of the OSR ruleset of your choice.  Ascending and descending ACs are included to make it easy on the DM no matter the system of choice.

Haven't done more then a quick read thru, but what I've seen looks very usable, and I can always use another low level dungeon to wear down and toughen up some new PCs.  The price is definitely right... Free.

I'll give this a further read tonight as I look forward to reading my Fight On #8 tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Half a Hobbit is Better then None

Over the past few days there have been a couple of blog posts here and there dealing with the level limits demihumans in particular suffer in the various "old school" editions of D&D / AD&D.  Most, if not all of the suggestions, included giving humans an expo boost if one were to remove the level caps from the other races.  I lean in a different direction in my "solution" to the issue (assuming there is even an issue at all, as except for halflings in D&D, most races can hit a level well in the range that the vast majority of the campaigns I've played in have ended at... but that's a whole 'nother post for another day).

My way of dealing with it, if it comes up in the next game I run, will be to treat the level caps as "soft caps".  Once a character hits a "soft cap" on their level, they suffer a 50% reduction on all future expo (if they have an expo bonus due to an exceptional stat it lowers the penalty by the amount of the bonus).

Demihumans under the "soft cap" method will keep pace with their human companions for the early levels, but the advanced levels will come slower to them.  That being said, they will still have the opportunity to increase in level and power... they will not need to be retired, nor will they be forced to adventure for no experience gain.

Hmmm, unless someone plays a halfling in my next campaign it will be a while before this plays out.... assuming it even gets that far.  Time will tell.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day!

Tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day.  Of all the Western European / American style holidays, I think St. Pats converts the easiest as a drop in even to a campaign.  Just get the locals drinking a strangely colored beer, a band playing some weird bladder powered instruments, a nice march through town square and lots of people wearing the same color clothes as the strangely colored beer and your set.

Heck, I left out any sort of religious significance, as for the most part there is very little, at least here in the states (there are special masses, and occasional dispensation when the holiday falls on a friday and the masses want to eat their corned beef).  St. Pat drove the snakes from Ireland... what kind of miracles would a D&D "St.Pat" have performed to achieve such a status?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Crit or Miss.. Why?

Critical hits and Dungeons & Dragons have a long, if largely unofficial history.  Most DMs have put together their own critical hit tables and fumble tables, or at least have borrowed from some of the many tables that have found their way into old issues of Dragon Magazine, Rolemaster or other games.

Most of those tables rely upon a to hit roll being a natural 20 (or a natural one for fumbles).  Which basically means a fighter that almost always can hit has a small percentage of crits, and a large number of his misses are fumbles.  Something about that just doesn't seem fair.

My solution, or at least, what I'll be experimenting with in my next Labyrinth Lord game, is the use of a control die.  I may us a d10, or even the lonely and rarely used d12.  Roll maximum on the control die when you score a hit with the d20 and you've scored a crit... miss when you roll a 1 on the control die and you've scored a fumble.

As for the effect of a critical hit or a fumble, choose you favorite tables or use the maximum damage for crit, attack lost next round for the fumble.  You can even make the control die open ended if you wish, adding damage or negative effects as warranted.

Any thoughts?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

I Was Lost, Now I'm Found

Well, not really lost... more like sleep deprived and stuck at work.  I went to work as usual around 715 Thursday morning and didn't leave until 1115 Friday morning.  No naps, no dozing.  28 hours, nearly 11 of which were cash over time.  It is, most definitely a beautiful thing, but it does take some time to recover to a normal sleep schedule afterward.

It did get me thinking about D&D, adventuring parties, and how far they could push themselves before succumbing to the need for sleep, the penalties for sleep deprivation and ways to combat those penalties.

I found that burning anger at a co-worker that wasn't around to unleash at was better then any caffeinated beverage ;)

I also paid close attention to the ebb and flow of my energies and alertness.  Once I rolled around to 6 am on Friday I found some renewed energy... probably because that is around the time I roll out of bed on workdays.

I'm going to be looking closer at sleep deprivation and the Adventuring Party later on.  I'm too tired to think about it now :)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

If its Free, Its For me...

"If its free, its for me" is a bit of an on going joke on my job.  Public servants seem, for the most part, to be frugal with their money...hell,  they're damn cheap.  We're  in it for the pension, not to make it rich.  So if you can pinch some pennies, so much the better.

RPGNow is running a Read an E-Book special for the next four days or so.  The vast majority of the 1000 plus free downloads were free before, and will be free afterward, but there are gems to be found.  One is White Wolf's World of Darkness Rulebook.  I might not play with the Storyteller system myself, but if it's free, it's for me ;)

I've yet to find an RPG product that can't be strip mined for another system.

As most of those that follow this blog know, I'm big into E-Books and E-Book Readers, so this promotion is pretty interesting to me.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Adventure Games Publishing has Ceased

Adventure Games Publishing, James Mishler's RPG Company, has ceased publishing.  This is truly a shame, as James' work on the Wilderlands of High Adventure for Castles & Crusades was top notch.  I would know, I was one of the early subscribers to his proposed line of products.  Regretfully, what James planned and what was finally produced never really worked as planned.

James' problem was neither talent nor work ethic.  It was a soured economy and his aiming at a niche within a niche within a niche within a niche (Wilderlands of High Adventure - Wilderlands from Judge's Guild - Castles & Crusades - OSR - Roleplaying).  His market was small, and if he didn't convert a large percentage of it, business was going to be tough.

His planned, extremely ambitious for a one man show, monthly releases, lasted two products (high quality products mind you, both in production and in usability).  Small releases followed.  Credit for those early subscribers, and how to convert the credit into the newer products was decided upon.

In the end James aimed extremely high.  He missed his target, which I'm not even sure was attainable.  If you have to ask your readers and customers to donate money so you can buy a paper cutter, that is a good point to probably re-evaluate your business model.

I have no words of wisdom via 20-20 vision to suggest what James could have done differently for a different outcome.

I mourn the failure of a endeavor by a talented man, who gave the OSR and roleplaying in general extremely useful and professional gaming material.  Maybe not so much failure, because I do own his early successes.  Potential unfulfilled instead.  A shame.

James, I wish you the best in whatever career move presents itself to you, now and in the future.  Maybe, when things sort out, you can again share your vision with us.  On a pace that best serves you... no AGP, not your readers... you.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Wasted Weekend Wrap Up

For the first time in... forever... I did a whole lot of nothing this weekend. When I say "nothing", I'm comparing it to the "two 4 hour shifts of driving lessons for my son, shopping, trip to my folks' place in the Poconos for even more driving lessons for my son, trips to the girlfriend's side of the family (aka: more driving lessons for my son)." This was a very nice, low key, snuggle up and watch TV and walk around the park kinda weekend.

Except for the dog / cat interaction that was worked upon. See, the girlfriend is a dog person, I'm a cat person, and trying to get the two pets to interact is full of trials and failures, but each time gets closer and closer to working it seems. My little girl Ashley does the avoidance method, but then can't help but checking things out as the day goes on. She is curious. Chloe (my g/f's little long haired Dachshund) likes to act all big and intimidating, but the truth is she is a pussy cat at heart.

Calls to mind the Old School / New School chest bumping that's been going on recently. I'd like to think it will resolve itself as a "can't we all get along" and "the differences is what makes us so special" as opposed to "typical dogs and cats". 'Cause dogs and cats aren't that typical.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

You Got Your Guns in My Fantasy

I remember 1st Edition AD&D having short conversion notes on using Boot Hill and Gamma World Characters in AD&D. Back in the day it struck me as strange. Who would want to mix guns with their fantasy? It seemed unrealistic to me (in retrospect how can that be any more unrealistic then fantasy itself, but that's a whole 'nother can of worms).

Then we were introduced to the Quasi Deities of the World of Greyhawk. Muryland (guessing at the spelling there) was a Paladin with a six shooter. Obviously guns were around in EGG's campaign. Yet if I recall correctly gunpowder was inert in Oerth... no gun powder, no guns. (copout way to handle it if you ask me)

Not that I would want guns to be a part of my fantasy gaming. For me they never felt right for the genre, but that doesn't mean it couldn't work. I did try to integrate them into a campaign years ago... the players to a man preferred the firearms they weren't proficient in over their usual weapons. I ended that experiment shortly there after by removing usuably ammo from circulation.

See what happens when I watch a special about marksmen and trick shooters on the History Channel? Of course my favorite segment was hitting an arrow with an arrow (if it had split the original arrow it would have been even cooler).

Friday, March 5, 2010

Flame Off!

Alas, the yesterday's short Flaming Troll incident over at LotFP was extinguished by James last nite (early morning his time). It kept me up a bit later then I had intended, but a good show can do that.

Anyone can be quoted out of context and shoehorned into supporting whatever arguement one wants to make.

New School, Old School... It's all Rock and Roll to me ;)

- Posted from my iPhone

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Two Years Ago...

Two years ago we lost a legend. I remember the day well. I was in my office, catching some posts of the Troll Lord Games Forums, and there was a thread that Gary Gygax has passed. I was floored. My eyes teared up. Not a pretty sight in a 40 year old hardened member of law enforcement.

2008 hasn't started out well at all. Mid January I was transferred from to a unit that was just starting up. An amazing conflict of personalities ensued.

On the last Thursday of the month, my ex (my son's mother) had a brain hemorrhage. She passed on the 3rd of February, never regaining consciousness from that Thursday. (Rest well Minnie)

My plan for that summer was to go to the Lake Geneva Con, and kindly accept and invitation Gary had extended to me (and I am sure many others), to roll some dice with him on his front porch. Alas, that was never to be.

Still, some good did come out of all these losses. My son and I are closer then we've ever been (he's counting the days until he's 17 and can take his road test for his driver's license). I got off my ass and started to actually game again, as opposed to just reading about it... thank God for Fantasy Grounds 2 and other VTTs... they are a great tool for the gaming single parent. I mean, if I couldn't game with Gary, the least I could do was game again.

This hobby of ours helped me realize a lot of the stress of 2008. Its a shame it took Gary's passing to make me realize just how important gaming and the friendships it helps start and old friendships it strengthens really is.

As long as people game, and long as they can bond across the dining room table, the Virtual table, any playing surface, the game lives on. I don't think Gary would really care which game it was, as long as you were playing with, or making new, friends,

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


My god but today is a day of distractions. Lets see, Battlefield: Bad Company 2 arrived... looks damn purty even if it has nuthin' to do with RPGs (well, except maybe rocket propelled grenades).

I also had my latest (and last for now) delivery of board games. Dominion (really a card game it seems), Nuclear War (er, also a card game) and Descent. Holy crap but that comes in a big and heavy box.

All those goodies and RPGNow is running a GM's sale. I'm thinking about picking up some 1e Dungeon Classics. It's just that there is so much to look at...

Gamer ADD. It's an awful disease. It attacks the wallet and your free time ;)

Quick edit: I didn't realize White Haired Man Games was part of the sale. If you use Fantasy Grounds 2 for your Virtual Table Top of choice they made some real nice products... on sale they are even nicer.

Edit to the Edit: Goblinoid Games (publishers of Labyrinth Lord) have their products on sale. That's it. No more shopping for me tonight. Sale lasts to March 8th anyway.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Back to Basic

So, I used to have my bedroom closet stacked with my gaming crap, floor to ceiling. It was never very orderly. When my son moved in full time, I gave him my bedroom. Shortly thereafter I moved everything out of the lower part of the closet to give him storage and basically pile the crap haphazardly into different closets and storage space... I wasn't paying attention to what went where, let alone what was what.

Tonight I started trying to go thru and organize my old rule books, magazines, modules and such. Lo and behold I find my copy of the D&D basic rulebook, 1st print Moldvay. Haven't seen it in years... heck, I never actually played it, as I started with AD&D. I picked up the boxed set at some general discount store back in the day. All the boxes for sale were beat to crap, but all were shrink wrapped and they were like $3 bucks a pop. Ah, memories.

Seems like my 1st edition, beat to hell, AD&D PH and DMG are still in the top of my son's closet. That will be for another day. Damn, and my old MERP stuff. Did get to flip thru my Warhammer Fantasy Role Play 1st Edition rulebook.

In any case, look like I'll be rereading Moldavy's Basic D&D tonight...

Monday, March 1, 2010

Ancient Odysseys: Treasure Awaits! Maybe...

Ancient Odysseys: Treasure Awaits! is billed as a beginners / introductory role playing game. How well does it accomplish its task?

Well, first things first: Ancient Odysseys - Treasure Awaits! can be played with or without a GM (referred to as a Director in the rules). Having read thru (yet to play) the game rules, I would say that it probably works okay without a GM, but if a group were to play more then once or twice a GM would be needed to add depth to the roleplaying experience.

Task resolution is resolved using a single d6 and adding and subtracting the appropriate modifiers.

The system is simple, as it should be for an introductory game. There are just three classes (Vocations): Warrior, Rogue and Wizard and four character races (gnome isn't one of them, so you can work that out on your own).

Character generation is simplified in that you roll randomly for one of 6 sets of predetermined ability stats based upon your class. So, random and not... kinda. Characters have 3 stats, ranging from a score of 1 to 5. Wizards will be higher ranked in Reasoning, Rogues will excel in Awareness, and Warriors will be the ones with the highest Fitness.

Choose four skills (Pursuits) for you character, roll for some armor, choose a weapon package, if a Wizard choose your spells and lastly pick your other gear (torch, rope, satchel or grimoire). They say you can be up and running in about 10 minutes... I suspect you can prepare a character in less.

Spells descriptions remind me a bit of OD&D. Short, simple and to the point.

So, overall the rules look workable. They are composed of three books: Basic Play is what is says it is, the game rules. The second book is The Dungeon. Here we find the introductory adventure, suitable for solo, group, or group with GM play. The third book, Further Adventures, give the GM information on running a game, some monster stats and a nice amount of simple but random tables too flesh out one's own dungeon designs.

The author states at the end of the book three that he was aiming for simplicity for beginners and nostalgia for veteran gamers. I definitely feel he found a decent introductory system for new players (but it would definitely work much better with an experience GM at the helm, but then, so do all RPGs. Does it hit the nostalgia mark? Maybe if RPGs weren't so rooted in wargames... there is a lot of abstractness in the system... you are either front line or in the back of the marking order for example. The Conflict Action Map has the positions of closest, farthest, sneaking or behind. You won't be measuring squares or flanking opponents. You will get to kill things and take their stuff - success is based upon killing things and taking their stuff. Wait, I guess that does make it a RPG that hearkens back to the early days of role playing ;)

I'm going to give Ancient Odysseys a 4 beer steins out a 5. Nice introductory RPG but long term re-playability may be lacking. AS for DX-ability, 5 steins out a 5. I've really enjoyed reading this on my DX in bed at night.

Oh, and it also includes a PDF suitable for printing in digest size, if you are into digest sized books in your collection ;)
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