Monday, February 28, 2011

The Trollish Taproom - The British Invasion

Over the weekend I received my first copy of the Tunnels & Trolls 1st UK Edition.  This took forever to ship from across the pond, but as it came with Buffalo Castle and Uncle Ugly's Underground, in beautiful condition, and from the same run as the T&T UK edition, so it makes a really nice set and was worth the wait.

Today I received my 2nd copy of the T&T 1st UK Edition rules - I was bidding on it as the price was right, and this made it to me in a week.  Woot!

Of course, this means my reprint copy of the T&T 1st UK Edition is now a bit obsolete.  I may have to run a contest to give it away.  I'm open to suggestions ;)

Back to the Grindstone

Today was "Back to Work Day" after my nice Staycation. It's also the first day of the work week, the last day of the month, and the day before a new month - so paperwork galore was awaiting my return. I really appreciated every single moment I could steal to read the latest posts on the gaming blogs I follow.

I also was hit with the realization that I still have a crap load of stuff I want to review, or at least pick over, as I didn't dig thru the pending review pile nearly as much as I would have like. Then again, OSR stuff goes right to the top of the pile when I get them, and it was a good week for OSR releases.

I'm also enjoying a MMORPG for the first time in 2 years or so... time to see if Rift has staying power. It is, most certainly, stealing time from me that would otherwise be spent reading blogs and forums ;)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

What the Heck is "Old School Hack"?

I stumbled across this when I read my latest email from the fine folks at Kobold Quarterly just a few minutes ago... what exactly is the Old School Hack RPG?

I downloaded it, skimmed thru it, and can't figure out if it's an RPG, a quasi-board game... I'm kinda  confused as you can tell.  You seem to roll characters, but no more then one player per class - which is heavy handed in an rpg, but fine in a board game.

You can check it out here for free.  I need to look at this more.  Presentation is nice, just not 100% sure what is being presented ;)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Watching the Real Life Ranger

I spent last nite and part of this afternoon watching Survivor Man.  Les Stroud is a modern day ranger.  Less of a showman then Bear Grylls, he spends a week in the wilderness each episode, with just a handful of equipment and no camera crew.

His knowledge of edible plants is amazing, and I enjoy watching him build shelters and fires, and watch him set snares and traps for game.

Just taking a few choice bits and pieces from watching the show should add some nice realism to any wilderness trek in your choice of RPG, and give real flavor to any ranger's skills.

Watching on Netflix on Demand.  God, I love my Netflix ;)

Coming Distractions

As my vacation runs towards its end, I am looking at my upcoming time sinks.

The most immediate time sink is going to be Rift, the latest MMORPG.  The main reason this is going to steal away a nice sized chunk of time is the pure joy in jawing with my circle of friends on a fairly regular basis.  Would that I could coral them for some real RPGing via a VTT, but it's hard to get everyone on a set schedule.  The easy of dropping into and out of a MMORPG session with Teamspeak running does an end run around most needs to set a time / day.

Of course, work is a damn time sink - I need to win lotto or something.  Then I could take over the world!  Heh, or buy an RPG Company for a real money sink ;)

As an aside, just received my set of Tunnel & Trolls UK 1e, Buffalo Castle (UK) and Uncle Ugly's Underground (UK).  I was surprised to see the layout of the T&T UK1e and it's reprint are slightly different, as is the size.  The whole set is in great condition.  Nice addition to the collection.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe... Pick a Clone By the Toe

The next RPG I plan to run is Tunnels & Trolls, but if I were to run one of the D&D clone / simulacrum that are available today, I'd probably opt for Swords & Wizardry (Complete).  It seems to cover all the bases that I want in a clone, and at the same time is very easy to house rule without breaking anything.

Besides, the S&W Complete book is a beauty to behold.  If I were to join a new group (via VTT or face to face), I'd be looking for a T&T or S&W game preferably.

Which reminds me, my next Castles & Crusades session is a week from Saturday.  I'm sure the pricing of the CKG PDF will come up.  Should be interesting.

Rift (the latest MMORPG) went live yesterday for pre-orders.  With Teamspeak  connecting us all, about the only thing missing from our old D&D sessions was the sound of the dice... oh, and a DM directing everything.  Still, we had a blast, even with the ungodly queues to log in.  I went and had dinner during my wait ;)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Mini Review - The Sun Fury Gazette: The Rising Dark Supplement I (Swords & Wizardry)

The Rising Dark was just released a few days ago, and we already have the first release in a line of supplements for it.  The Sun Fury Gazette is 8 pages of free (the price is right) additional information for use a Rising Dark campaign, but it's all ripe for stealing for use in your own campaign world.

The writing is good, but the use of classic (read old) clipart distracts a bit, at least for me.  There is a decent amount of clipart available at sources like RPGNow for fairly cheap that made for products like this.  Just my 2 cents on it.  Again, the price is right, the articles are good... the art distracts.

From the Blurb:

The Sun Fury Gazette: The Rising Dark Supplement I is the first issue of a series of resources for the Rising Dark campaign setting, written specifically for use with Swords & Wizardry and other old school game systems. This first issue is free, and features:

Three new spells presented for use with original edition mechanics

monster stat-block presentations of all the new player character races

additional data on the deities for the world of Agraphar as well as the god of vermin

an article on the kobolds of Agraphar

Future issues will feature more content as well as scenarios for use with The Rising Dark. Enjoy!

Staycation Update - With Norm McDonald

Alright, Norm McDonald is not doing the update - but it sounded good ;)

Anyhow, as the Staycation winds down, I'm looking at what I did, and did not, accomplish so far.

Cleaning?  Check, but much more is needed.  I accumulate way too much junk.

Gaming?  Check, but not as much as I would have liked (only ran one solo so far, but it was a blast).  Still, I have accomplished game related reading.

Adding new time waster to the mix?  Check - Rift (a new MMORPG, not to be confused with Rifts) opens with it's pre-release head start later today.  My old gaming group (and later MMORPG group) is going to see if this is the game that sticks.  My son and I will join them.

I'd rather corrupt my son with real gaming (tabletop RPGs), which may happen sooner then later, as he is definitely paying attention (and ribbing me) when I play my monthly C&C game via Fantasy Grounds.

Ah well, off to babysit my 2 month old niece today.  First time running solo.  Pray for me.  I'd like to avoid the really messy poops ;)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

New Zealand Red Cross Earthquake Relief - RPG Bundle (OneBookShelf)

OneBookShelf (aka RPGNow and DriveThruRPG) is offering a bundle of RPG products for $20 (current value $338.91) to raise money for the New Zealand Red Cross Earthquake Relief.

OBS has done this before, and the bundles have always been well worth the donation, and of course, the donation is for a good cause.

If $20 isn't within your range, you can make a $5 donation (no bundle).

Some of my picks from the bundle:

CthulhuTeck Core Book


RPGPundit's Gnome Murdered RPG

Tegal Manor - Revised and Expanded Edition

Tales From the Floating Vagabond

Supernatural Role Playing Game

(these are the ones that really stick out for me)

Mini Review - The Rising Dark: An Introduction to Agraphar (Swords & Wizardry)

I'm always a sucker for a new campaign setting.  Even if I never use it as written, there are always ideas for me to steal.  As far as resources go, they are more valuable and flexible then an adventure.

The Rising Dark: An Introduction to Agraphar is a campaign setting for Swords & Wizardry (but usable with you OSR ruleset of choice with little issue).  It is sandboxie in nature, which is always a plus in my book.

So, what do we get for our investment?  5 new races, 27 gods (some of which give their clerics special abilities - which is nice to keep things unique), magic use that can be detrimental depending on the roll (referred to in the rules as Corruption), maps, a breakdown of localities, an adventure, lots of adventure hooks.  All in all, theres a lot packed into 48 pages.  Not bad at all for $2.99.

From the blurb:

The world of Agraphar...a young land, center of an eternal conflict between chaos and order. Will you join with the forces of Ymaltar, the Sun Fury who stood strong against the darkness and created the world, or side with the darkness, trumpeting Dymachas and the lords of chaos in their quest to extinguish the creation of the Lord of Order?

A complete adventure setting compatible with the Swords & Wizardry rule system and sufficiently mechanics-lite to be easily adapted to other fantasy RPGs
Designed for the GM who is interested in a new setting that provides a sandbox setting for adventures, but doesn't overwhelm with detail.

Features:27 new gods
Corrupting magic
Aasimar, satyr, tiefling, gnome and faerie character races
A Gazetteer of northwestern Tariach
Hand-rendered maps
A detailed adventure location in "The Doom of Zeramath"
New monsters
Plot ideas and advice

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Trollish Taproom - A Closer Look at Spite Damage

Spite Damage as a concept is great.  Each 6 rolled on a d6 is damage that makes it thru, even against the side that wins.  In a Tunnels & Trolls game with a GM and a full party, it adds to the drama and the tactics of the party.  It also makes the Poor Baby spell even more valuable then it was before.

In Solo Play, spite sucks.  Big time.  Unless you are willing to declare it is a player ability only, and deny it to the monster side of things, it makes the solo adventures unplayable.

Look at it this way.  Each encounter a player survives, he carries over his spite damage to the next encounter.  The next adversary will be fresh.  Spite was added to prevent the endless combats of evenly matched and armor opponents, but instead it whittles the player down to nothing as the adventure goes on.

This problem goes is worse with the 7e rules of T&T - monsters no longer lose attack dice as their MR goes down, just Combat Adds.  So yes, even more potential spite damage.

Pretty much every T&T solo published by FBI is pre-T&T 5.5e - pre-spite in other words.  They are not balanced for spite, and they are not balanced for monster's not losing combat dice as their MR gets whittled down.

This was all pretty obvious as I sat down to game last nite.

So, if you are going to run any of your 7.5e characters thru an earlier solo, these are my recommendations:

- Only your PC's attacks generate spite.  It won't make much of a difference, but every little bit helps.

- Damage to a monster's MR results in a loss of CA and Combat Dice (if appropriate)

- As long as you CA are appropriate for the adventure, you wont need to worry about adjusting monster MRs - 7.5e characters tend to be more powerful then earlier editions, but solos are balance against CA, so it all works.

Taking a Look at Chivalry & Sorcery

I never had a copy of Chivalry & Sorcery.  I had heard about it when I picked up roleplaying back in the early 80's, but no one in my group owned a copy.  Heck, no one in my group had seen a copy outside of a game store.  I do remember the ads in Dragon Magazine.  The ads seemed to me to infer the game was damn complicated.  The ads were probably right.

So, here we are, nearly 30 years later, and I am the proud owner of a previously owned copy of Chivalry & Sorcery.  It's a beat up copy, that appears to be well used, but I question how well read it actually was.  It seems that a previous owner underlined and otherwise marked up the first 10 1/2 pages and then just stopped.  Which I can understand, as this looks like a textbook, and the font is damn tiny.

Unlike Tunnels & Trolls,  this is not a line I'll be looking to complete, but I did need to actually see what all the fuss was about.

I'm not sure if I'll ever read thru this whole thing myself, but if I do, it will be in very small chunks ;)

The Trollish Taproom - More Thoughts on the Frankentroll

I figure I'm on vacation for a week, a Staycation if you will, so besides cleaning and gaming, I need to think about how I want to run my upcoming Tunnels & Trolls campaign.

Definitely gonna run with the stable of 10 characters fro each player to choose from, using the keep 3 of 4d6 method, with TARO.  I want my players to be above average... they are heroes.  Death will still come easy... it is Tunnels & Trolls after all.

Thinking of using the total AP earned for level determination from 5.5e, but stat gain as per 7.5e - assuming it doesnt get too confusing.

Stats as per 7.5e

SR as per 7.5e

Missile combat as per... I don't friggn know.  It get's changed more often then my 8 week old niece's diapers.  There has to be a workable method.  This requires some thinking.

Classes and talents as per 7.5e

Actually, if in doubt, using 7.5e I think.

Warriors will gain CA as per my chart from an earlier post.  Paragons do not get the bonus, so it should be a decent boost to warriors.

See?  I'm thinking...

Heh ;)

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Trollish Taproom - I Survived The Dark Temple and All I Got Was This Pair of Ogre Gloves!

Well, not exactly.  I did get some other loot too, and some of it may be useful at a later point, but none of is was that overpowering type of loot the earlier solos were known for, like excessive combat dice weapons.

So, what did the Man With No Name (I forgot to name my new PC, so he will now be "Joe" from A Fist Full of Dollars) get for surviving these adventure?

A 4d6 Katar that can hit magical creatures as if it were magic

A pair of Ogre gloves that add +1d6 to unarmed combat

A potion of Curare

About 1700 gp, 487 sp and 11 gems of unknown (unrolled) quality

Oh, and about 2013 AP

This is how I ran the game:

PC creation was 4d6 (drop 1 die) with TARO (only the TARO get rolled over, not all 4), rolling up a stable of 10 PCs - Human Only - 7.5e Stats - I put the highest stat in CON - Figured longevity at its best.

With my 6th character I had 2 TAROs and all stats were 12 or over, so I went Paragon.  Woot!  Still, most adventures don't allow much, if any magic, but still fun to roll.

I used spite for the Player only - T&T solo combat is deadly enough without spite for the adversaries.

My single fudge was with the mental combat encounter - I don't think any non-pure caster could win as written, and no one would put a pure caster thru an adventure lacking a Spell Matrix.  So I made myself make a level 2 Saving Roll vs luck as per the T&T 5e rules to peel of 1 of the 3 mobs first.  Yeah, not quite within the rules of the solo, but something that may have worked with a GM.

The Dark Temple was a very entertaining solo to go thru.  Well written and fun.  Took me nearly 2 hrs from start to finish.

I did run it as a hodge-podge of 5e and 7.5e, but that worked okay.

I think I will treat level as total expo earned, but use the 7.5e method of spending AP to raise stats.  Need to pick an adventure for tomorrow now ;)

Mini Review - Kingmaker (An OSR Adventure)

Dungeon crawls are nice and all, but an adventure that is driven by roleplay and character interaction (along with some combat - can't forget that) is comparatively rare in fantasy roleplaying.

An adventure that can kick off a campaign for first level characters, that doesn't include a single map (although it does include generic tokens for combat if desired) is a wonder to behold.

Kingmaker is all this and more.  It has a plot full of intrigue and plot twists, but it is easy from the GM to follow.  As always, I look at these adventures in terms of both D&D and converting to Tunnels & Trolls - and this could probably be converted on the fly.

Nicely done with simple but evocative artwork.

From the blurb:

"Tragedy has fallen on the Kingdom of Ambarge-the King is dead; long live the King!  But the kingdom's woes have only just begun, for the crown prince, the King's sole heir, is nowhere to be found.  The fate of their kingdom rests on the deeds of a handful of wayward pilgrims that walk a solitary road in a remote land."

Kingmaker is a single session, first-level adventure, designed to drop into any campaign. But this is not your average kobold lair. Kingmaker is an intense standoff with high stakes and tremendous repercussions as it falls to a band of first level characters to decide the fate of thousands.

Mini Review - Battlemap - Dark Crypts (Chambers

I don't use battlemaps, but I do use maps for battles.  See, my gaming is over Virtual Table Tops.  So I need to either struggle to draw one on my own, using one of the many programs I own but don't fully understand - or I need to find one on the 'Net and make it work for me.

Today, I really envy those that can play on a regular table top.

Dark Crypts - Chambers is a collection of 4 battlemaps for use in your table top RPG settings.  They look damn good.  I'm sure there is a way to covert these to a format I an use with a VTT, but if I was running a face to face game I'd be building an adventure around these.  They are meant to be used.

Lord Zsezse Works also offers a free T-builder Lite, so you can work on building and printing out tiles of your own design.

PDFs and the Art of Art

Some folks love the art in their PDF game books, others just don't care.  For some publishers its a high priority, other's are happy to use clipart.

Here's where I fall in the scheme of things as a customer:

1 - The Cover is Where it's At - Since you can't flip thru a PDF like you might a book at the bookstore, your cover is the first impression.  Sometimes, its the only impression.  Make it count.

2 - Don't go Crazy on the Pages - Some publisher's like to make the page around, behind, below their text all supped up with background art and such- DON'T!  It can cause issues with certain e-readers (the Amazon Kindle / Kindle DX comes to mind, but it messes with others too).  It wastes my ink if I want to print out the pages.  Last, it can make some products a real pain to read.  This last part applies to print books too.

3 - Less is More - Remember, if I decide to print your product out, the art is going to kill my ink.  Black and white art is fine.  Less shading and filling is better.  Heck, if you can give me two versions (one for printing, one for on screen reading) so much the better.

4 - No Art is Better Then Crap - If you aren't an artist, don't know one, can't afford one, use some of the great clipart that is available.  Or avoid the art altogether.  Trust me, no one wants to see bad art in an otherwise good product.

5 - Don't Forget the Tablets - As iPads and other tablets take off, more and more RPG PDFs (and other e-reader formats) are going to be read on electronic devices.  White Haired Man and Greg (He of Boundless Creativity) are already taking that into account, and I expect others to soon follow suit.

Just some of my thoughts.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Trollish Taproom - From Yassa Massa! to Spirit Mastery

Troth asked earlier this week if 2nd level Spirit Mastery spell in the 7e Tunnels & Trolls rules had it's roots in the 2nd level Yassa-Massa! spell from earlier editions. So I opened up my copies of earlier editions to take a peek.

These are copied word for word, tense for tense, punctuation for punctuation, capital letter for capital letter, etc. So yes, earlier editions were a bit unclear...

T&T 1e: Yassa-Massa! To be used only on previously subdued monsters / foes. Total strengths I.Q. & Charisma. Will permanently enslave monsters with with ratings lower then the above total.

T&T 2e: Yassa-Massa! To be used only on previously subdued monsters / foes. Total strength, I.Q. & Charisma. Will permanently enslave monsters with with ratings lower then the above total.

T&T 3e (1st UK ed): Yassa-Massa! Previously subdued Monsters or foes are permanently enslaved if their Monster Ratings are lower then the combined Strength, I.Q. and Charisma of the caster. Monster must have surrendered or lost half his Constitution or M.R. for Spell to work.

T&T 4e: Yassa-Massa! To be used only on previously subdued monsters / foes. Total strength, I.Q. & Charisma. Will permanently enslave monsters with with ratings lower then the above total.

T&T 5e: Yassa-Massa To be cast on previously-subdued monsters / foes. Will permanently enslave if victim's ST, IQ and CHR are less then that of the wizard, or if the MR is less (and remains so).

T&T 7.5e: Spirit Mastery This spell enslaves its target to the caster"s will for as long as the total of the caster's INT, WIZ and CHR are greater than the combined total of those three attributes for the target. If the victim has a Monster Rating, it's MR must be less than the caster's total for INT, WIZ and CHR.

So, basically, in 1e the foe had to be subdued first. I'm no expert on the earlier T&T rules, so if there are subdual rules in in T&T 1e I can't find them. It's also poorly written and typo'ed, but it was a work in progress back then.

As for 2e, again with the subdued condition I can't find, but at least the spells power can be figured out now.

UK 1e makes sense, explains the condition the monster / foe must be in for the spell to work. I could use this spell

4e is the same as 2e - same problems.

5e is the same - how the heck do you do subdual damage in Tunnels and Trolls editions 1-5? Hey, found an answer dating back to 2001 from Tori Bergquist- I suspect this houserule was well in use, just never made it to the rules. 5.5e has info on "Pulling your punches", but it isn't what the Yassa-Massa spell needs to fulfill it's requirements.

7.5e changes the name and no longer needs the foe to be subdued, which is good, as I don't think 7e has the rules for it either (I'm too tired to check). Oh, and it replaces STR with WIZ in the spell power. Oh, and it may not be permanent - watch out if your WIZ drops during use.

So there you have it, the evolution of a Tunnels & Trolls spell from 1e to 7.5e.

QuickStart - Shadowrun

Shadowrun is one of those games that I picked up when it was first released, back in the Silver Age of RPGs.  I loved the ideas and setting, but was never able to ween my players off of AD&D at the time.  It's gone thru some changes and editions.  Now, Catalyst Games gives us the Shadowrun Quickstart rules for the 4th edition.

You get an adventure, pre-gens and a striped down version of the rules.  I haven't picked up Shadowrun since the first release, so I can't tell you how much they pare off from the latest edition, but they give you what you need to run a quick session.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Westerns Have a Good RPG Feel - An Afternoon of Watching Gunslingers

I started out by watching The Quick and the Dead, followed that with the original True Grit and wrapped it all with A Fist Full of Dollars. Very different movies but all had a similar theme of redemption.

Then again, westerns are American mythology, so I can understand the similarity in themes between westerns and RPG adventures: revenge, justice, gaining some gold, etc.

This could make for an interesting series of posts, if I ever get to all the other posts I want to get to ;)

Pricing the PDF Product Properly and Profitably - Answering My Own Questions

So, on Wednesday I asked a lot of questions about PDF pricing, but I never answered any of them myself. I figure I probably should give that a try - so here it goes:

Is there a ratio between PDF and Paper pricing of the same item?  I'd guesstimate a proper PDF price to be about 60-75% for items under $10 in print, and 35%-60% for items about $10 in print.  This is not written in stone.

What price point is too high, no matter the number of the pages (size)?  $31.99 is damn high.  Not sure if it is too high, but it certainly isnt customer friendly.

Is there a page to price ratio that you, as a consumer, use to evaluate PDF value?  10 cents a page for items under 50 pages, with the cents per page dropping as the product gets longer... there is no exact science

Do certain publishers deserve a premium price for their PDFs? If so, why?  I don't really have an answer for this, but some publishers certainly think their PDFs  deserve a premium price.

Is FREE a selling point for you, or something the consumer should avoid? Does a $1 price point imply more value then FREE? Why?  I enjoy free stuff, and the OSR has lot's of amazing stuff priced for free, so I think free works well.

Does top shelf art add value to a PDF the same way it adds value to a paper product?  Art adds to the impulse buy when flipping thru a printed product in a store... PDFs lack that ability, so I'd have to say art is less important for PDFs.

Are lower production values accepted for a PDF product then the same in paper?  Probably.  

Does finding a PDF product is also available as a Print on Demand product add value to the PDF? How about a PDF / POD Bundle?  If something is available in POD, and you get the PDF for free, I'll probably grab the bundle over just getting the PDF alone.

Those are my answers.  I have a blog, therefore, I am an expert.  NOT!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Stay at Home Vacation = Work + Play

I'm on vacation next week, and with the possible exception of the holiday weekend starting tomorrow, it will be an "at home" vacation - which means i have a lot to do around the house.

The non-fun part will include lots of cleaning, disposing, removing and reorganizing (assuming such things were actually organized in the first place).

Fun parts will hopefully include - a Solo a day, whether T&T, Bean!, MS&PE or whatever - an hour or so of gaming a day should rock. Besides, I still need to do the solo system comparison.

Working on my VTT powered Tunnels & Troll campaign - I really need to get this up an running.

Get thru my reviewer's pile of products to review. We will see how this goes.

All that and spend time with my son. He's off too. Which is, of course, the reason I chose this week to be off ;)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Mini Review - B1 Journey to Hell (for OSRIC)

So, as to keep a balance in PDF cost in the items I post about, I present B1 - Journey to Hell from Sacrosanct Games.  For a mere 4 quarters, 20 nickels (none wooden), 1 measly dollar, you get about a dozen and a half pages of adventure for your party that has reached legendary status in OSRIC (or any of the OSR family of RPGs).

As an aside, about 25 years ago I put my party on an adventure thru Hell - fudged stats, levels 16-22, DM PC, vorpal blades (the beheaded Asmodeus)- the best of Monty Hall from back in the day.  I've yet to run a PC of my own, or DM for a party in which any character made it past level 11 in the years since then.  So I'm not someone that can tell you if this new Journey to Hell is balanced or not for levels 18-20.  I certainly can't say how well it works for the Altus Adventum version that is also included in the package.

I can say that I've already found a section that I can steal and modify for use in another game, so I figure most should get their buck's worth, even if not used as written.

From the blurb:

In a desperate bid to bring his queen back to life, King Heltrhop made a foolish pact with the demon, Astaroth. Astaroth has possessed the king, trapping him in hell. Now the party must make a journey into hell itself to rescue the king and save the world from a demon invasion.

B1, Journey to Hell is an adventure for both the OSRIC (or other favorite old school version) and the Altus Adventum 2nd edition role-playing games.  Versions for both systems are included.  It is based off of Dante's Inferno, and takes the heroes into Hell itself in a bid to save the king.  This adventure is designed for characters level 18-20 (OSRIC version) or Legends (Altus version).

While not being directly linked to the A1-A4 series of  $1 adventures from Sacrosanct Games, there are a few references to those modules.  While none of those are required to play the game, having them would put a lot of things into better context if you had.

Pricing the PDF Product Properly and Profit - A Look at the Castle Keeper's Guide

I've seen some "loud" reactions to the pricing of the CKG in PDF on my blog, other blogs, forums... it isn't pretty. Amazingly enough, the feelings toward Troll Lord Games are still highly positive, but there is a bit of a disconnect in the PDF pricing of the Castle Keeper's Guide.

Lets look at how TLG has priced the 4 different releases of the CKG:

Hardcover - $39.99

Softcover - $29.99

Digest Size - $24.99

PDF - $31.99

In my opinion, the PDF version should never be priced more then a print version. TLG is selling the PDF at a 20% discount from the hardcover price, which still makes it roughly a 28% mark up from the digest size. Why buy it in PDF?

A better price would be a 20% discount from the digest size, putting it at $19.99. Of course, I'm just talking outa my ass, but that's what we bloggers do ;)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Castle Keeper's Guide for Castles & Crusades Released on RPGNow

Holy Crap, this thing is huge.  The PDF is 292 pages long.  It will take me a long time to get thru this to even attempt a review.  Most likely I'll have to review it in sections.

It's almost mythical in nature, as the Castle Keeper's Guide has been talked about pretty much since the release of the C&C Player's Handbook back in 2004.

At first glance (and only the first 40 pages or so) it reminds me a bit of Unearthed Arcana for AD&D, but that isn't accurate really.  It's more a feel then reality.  This seems like so much more.  Options.  Options.  Options.

Damn, sensory overload ;)

From the blurb:

The long awaited arrival of the CKG is finally here!
Rule Book, 280+ pages
Alea Iacta Est - The die is cast!

Upon Foundations of Stone
Beneath the walls and towers of adventure, beneath the ground upon which the adventurer treads, lies the foundation. It is that which holds the construct, which drives the challenges, which brings the flavor of a world’s imaginings to light. It is the maelstrom of creation through whose eye the game of heroic chance plays out.

What Lies Within
The Castle Keeper’s Guide includes a host of new material for the role playing enthusiast. From world creation, to dungeon designs, managing non-player characters, character attributes at high levels, spell use and cost, equipment its use and wastage, the tumult of storms, from warfare to combat, monsters, treasure, death and more. The Castle Keeper’s Guide provides the CK and the Player with a host of new tools for their use; tools designed to enhance play, not hinder it; designed to be malleable from gaming table to gaming table.

A sample of what you will find in the CKG:
  • Alternative methods of attribute generation
  • The featured classes expanded to the 24th level
  • Equipment: outfitting for a setting, saving throws, usage, costs
  • Expansion on the Magic with components, spell costs, holy symbols, water, and more
  • The NPC: how to run them, hire them, loyalty and more
  • Monsters and Magic as NPCs
  • The Crusade in the future: guns, canon and more
  • The World Above: over view of outdoor campaigns
  • The World Below: over view of underground campaigns
  • The Characters, gaining levels, land and more treasure
  • The Siege Engine, breaking it down for your table
  • Character death. The end should not be the end
And so very much more . . . .

The CKG is the perfect expansion to everyone’s table.

The Trollish Taproom - The Many Sizes of Tunnels & Trolls 5e

Tunnels & Trolls really hit it's stride with the release of the 5th edition rules.

On the left is a second printing (Jan '80) of the T&T rules.  Later printings (including 5.5e) blow up the cover art to encompass the whole cover.

The smaller book with the orange cover is a second printing (also Jan '80) of the Tunnels & Trolls 5th edition for the UK.  This edition is secured by two staples, the art is a line drawing on orange cardboardy paper (that dog ears nicely.  Other then that, it's pretty much a carbon copy of it's larger sibling the best I can tell.

The yet smaller book on the far right (with the nice flash glare - go me!) is the Corgi printing (1986) of the Tunnels & Trolls rules.  It's printed on mass paperback quality paper (which means poor).  It is however, probably the easiest size for normal reading habits.  Corgi publishing is the company that decided to excise many of the sillier T&T spell names, so if that is keeping you from jumping on the T&T train, you might want to track this down.  You could also pick up the T&T Double Solo's that Corgi put out - most are still available from Flying Buffalo Inc at very reasonable prices.  Each includes a shortened version of the T&T rules, but as the character advancement and spell lists allow for advancement to level 11, you have an additional added value.

I have UK versions of some of the earlier T&T Solos, which I may post to compare to their American siblings at a later time.

Pricing the PDF Product Properly and Profitably (Say it 5 Times Fast)

Anyhow, the topic comes up on the blogosphere fairly frequently... what is the proper pricing of a PDF?

To my mind, there are many questions that need to be answered before the first question can be addressed...

Is there a ratio between PDF and Paper pricing of the same item?

What price point is too high, no matter the number of the pages (size)?

Is there a page to price ratio that you, as a consumer, use to evaluate PDF value?

Do certain publishers deserve a premium price for their PDFs? If so, why?

Is FREE a selling point for you, or something the consumer should avoid? Does a $1 price point imply more value then FREE? Why?

Does top shelf art add value to a PDF the same way it adds value to a paper product?

Are lower production values accepted for a PDF product then the same in paper?

Does finding a PDF product is also available as a Print on Demand product add value to the PDF? How about a PDF / POD Bundle?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Valentine's Twofer

When your 17 year old son wants to double date, there can be only two possible reasons: your wallet or your car. Tonight was both ;)

A romantic dinner for 2 became a diner trip for 4. Still had a good time.

Back to game related posting tomorrow. Tonight it is time to sleep...

How Official is "Official"?

Back in my AD&D days, pretty much anything published by TSR was considered "official", with Dragon Magazine articles often being referred to as "semi-official". Third party supplements, what little there were, were "not official" - they could be used by the DM, but pretty much never by the PCs.

The D20 / OGL explosion blurred many of the lines of what was / was not official for 3e, for good or bad.

With the OSR and the birth of clones / retroclones / simulacrums - there really isn't a definition of official anymore. Each ruleset is by definition a set of house rules, no matter how close they cling to their original brethren.

Actually, the strength of the OSR in my opinion is how fully the community embraces house ruling of the various rulesets. Make it your own.

Which is another reason I think I turned my nose at Tunnels & Trolls the first time I was exposed to it back in High School... it was being house ruled even back then. I wanted structure, and T&T wasn't structured like AD&D. I bought into the EGG line of "official play", but even the father of RPGs didn't follow that rule.

I'm happy to be playing games that embrace house ruling these days.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Mini Review - A Traveler's Tale (A Tunnels & Trolls Solo)

Flying Buffalo Inc is slowly but surely adding to it's available collection of Tunnels & Trolls Solos, which is a damn good thing.  Much of the play that T&T gets its with solo adventures, and a limited well to dip into means limited gameplay in the end.  Besides, adding a new release every month or so keeps people like me actively talking about Tunnels & Trolls, so it's a win / win for everyone.  That being said, I wouldn't mind seeing a good introductory standard (read non-solo, but party and GM) adventure being released in the future.

A Traveler's Tale was originally written by Ken St. Andre for White Dwarf magazine back in the early 80's under a different title, but has been updated for the new 7.5 rules released by Fiery Dragon.

So, what do you get for your $2.99?  About 40 pages worth of solo adventure written for a character within the level range of 1-3.  It's been my experience if an adventure says "for characters with less then 100 combat adds" like this one does, you want to come fairly close to that number without going over.  It certainly helps with survivability.

As for the adventure itself, I only played thru a few paragraphs so far.  Possibly the most disturbing / entertaining piece I've seen so far it the drawing of the erotic dwarven dancing girls - I think I'm scarred for life ;)

From the blurb:
Would you rather fight dire wolves in a blizzard or spend the evening drinking with a one-eyed dwarf in a cozy tavern? That's a no-brainer, right? You might want to reconsider, because you'll actually be safer with the wolves. This is a solitaire adventure intended for 1st to 3rd level characters with fewer than 100 adds, using the Tunnels & Trolls 7.5 rules. 

How Important is Producing Product for a Game Line?

I ask this, because WotC is apparently planning to release less 4e products. At the same time, if you look at the Underdark Gazette blog, OSR products are being released more often then ever before. Heck, even Tunnels & Trolls has been hitting a release or so a month recently (I'll be doing a mini-review on the latest tonight).

Is there a sweet point? Is more always better? Is a line that is suffering cuts (4e) being trimmed to a healthy state, or is this the beginning of the end?

The hobby suffered from the D20 Implosion in the recent past. Can it prevent the same from happening again?

One plus that rarely gets mentioned about PDFs, and even Print on Demand (PoD) publishing, is that neither will fuel another D20 Implosion - there won't be a glut on gamestore shelves. Then again, with a switch to PDF and PoD publishing, there won't be many games at all on gamestore shelves.

Is the future of the RPG industry linked to the internet for good or ill?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Spartacus: Gods of the Arena - Round 2

Anyhow, I told my girl / woman / she who will soon control the discretionary spending - about my experience last week watching the first episode of Spartacus.  She decided she wanted to see what I was talking about.  Not wanting to re-watch the first episode, we started up the second episode (I filled her in on who pissed on who - etc).

Thankfully it wasn't AS graphic as the first episode.  I'm no prude, but throwing the sex scenes in for "historical accuracy" is a load of bull.

Thankfully, this episode was more story, less gory.  We may continue with the series.  As my girl said: "hey!  they put a penis in this episode - cool!  Finally some equality."  Me, I'm enjoying it for the combat scenes mostly.

At least it wasn't as painful to watch as the first episode of Conan which we had watched just prior to Spartacus.  The pain!  heh

Mini Review - Ironwood Gorge - (for OSR Clones)

Ironwood Gorge is a low level adventure for use with the various OSR clones / simulacrum / etc.  It's the second in a series of adventures (The Sanctuary Ruin is the first part in the series) but very easily works on it's own.

What you are given is about 3 (and a piece more) pages of maps.  Mostly caves, it should prove fun to fun as a DM (and be a biatch to map as a player) to run.  The adventure itself should play out over 2-3 sessions in my estimation (perhaps more depending on play style), and should be good for a level or two worth of expo for the players by the time they complete it.  There is no map of the outdoor area: this adventure is made to be dropped into a world, not define one for you.

You get four new monsters, three new magic items and four new spells in the appendix.  There are pregen characters included if the party needs quick replacements (the dwarf and halfling have "race as class", but that means "fighter" for those not in the know).

A nice addition to the stable of OSR adventures.

From the blurb:

"Orcs have returned to the once quiet border province of Blackmarch.  The Bleak Tower and its meager garrison are all that stand against the tide.  Their only hope lies in a ratag band of adventurers willing to venture into the perilous maw of Ironwood Gorge..."

Ironwood Gorge is a fantasy role-playing adventure for 4-8 characters of levels 2-5, designed for older editions of the world's most popular fantasy role-playing game and its clones such as Labyrinth Lord and OSRIC.  The material is also easily adaptable to any other class and level based fantasy role-playing game.  Ironwood Gorge serves as part two in the Blackmarch sequence of adventures, but is built to function just as well as a one-off adventure, a drop-in-a-hex location for sandbox games, or as a kick start to a new campaign.

The module includes keyed maps detailing both the Bleak Tower: a living, breathing refuge for adventurers; and Ironwood Gorge: a cave complex with over 100 keyed areas of traps, monsters and mayhem. The module is illustrated throughout with original artwork and includes appendices detailing new monsters, magic items, and spells.  Whether you are looking for an out-sized adventure to usher the hardiest characters to the intermediate levels, or a fully-realized location to plunder for maps and ideas, Ironwood Gorge is a treasure from the old-school of gaming...

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Time For Me to Avoid Ebay For a While...

Yep, I need to step away from online acquisitions of my gaming material for a bit. Not for anything stupid or horrid. Not because I over extended myself (but damn, I can see the possibility). I need to step away because I've found most of what I was looking for.

I actually found (and I'm awaiting delivery) of a copy of Tunnels & Trolls 3e (otherwise known as British 1e, tho i see 2 copies of a 3e that look just like my 2e... My head hurts) Not a reprint. An actual copy. With the exception of T&T 1e (100 hand assembled copies, so I'm not holding my breath on this one) I will have copies from 2e thru 7.5e. Saweet!

There are still some T&T items I'll be looking for, such as Sorcerer's Apprentice issues to fill the holes of my collection, but I find myself bidding on things for the thrill, and not so much for the need. Then again, a second print of Chivalry and Sorcery is pretty cool - but it doesn't address my desire for a fairly complete Tunnels & Trolls collection.

Well, maybe I won't go totally cold turkey, but I will be much more focused in what I am looking for. Besides, I need to complete renovations so I can display my goodies in my future Man Cave ;)

Mini Review - Fields of Battle (For Castles & Crusades)

I'm actually fairly surprised and impressed with the latest (at least in PDF format) release from Troll Lord Games for their Castles & Crusades RPG.  Fields of Battle is a package of mass combat rules, full color counters and outdoor battle mats.

My last attempt to try and do mass combat with any of the D&D/ AD&D type games was Battlesystem.  Not fun.  At first glance (which is all I've had tie for so far) Field of Battle looks much less painful.  Actually, it looks like it should work pretty well.

Perhaps my favorite thing in the whole package is the idea of using it with other OGL based RPGs:

Fields of Battle™ and Other Game Systems
While Fields of Battle™ is as a mass combat system designed for use with Castles & Crusades (C&C), the system is highly adaptable to your favorite fantasy role-playing game, especially those games (old or new) using a 20-sided die(d20) for game resolution. Converting for use with d20-basedgames, in fact, is easiest overall, as these games have similar game concepts to those presented within C&C and Fields of Battle™: armor class (AC), hit points (hp), hit dice (HD), attack bonuses (AB), movement rate, morale, and saving throws. Additionally, many of the monsters and player races will be familiar to d20 gamers. Still, Game Masters (calledCastle Keepers in C&C) unfamiliar with d20-based games can easily master these game concepts, making Fields of Battle™ a viable mass combat system for those games, as well—with a little translation work on the Game Master’s part.

Yep, with a little work, this could fit in your Labyrinth Lord or Swords & Wizardry DM's toolbox, which is always great to add to.

The rules include sample scenarios, which are good to read to get a feeling of how to balance a battle, but if I were to use these rules it would be as part of a campaign, not as a stand alone product (it can be used as either).  You do not need to buy the C&C rules to use Fields of Battle - the Quickstart rules should be enough to cover any terms you may not be familiar with.

It's a good, complete product that addresses a niche rarely covered in most RPG rules - mass combat.  Whether you need such rules for your game is up to you, and depends on the story you are telling as a GM.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Paper or PDF?

RPGs are an area where PDF publishing thrives. It lowers the barriers to publishing and can (in theory) result in lower consumer prices. Still, many folks prefer paper. Lets see how they stack up to each other.

Cost - PDF versions are generally the cheaper alternative, which is always a selling point.

Portability - Depends on what you read your PDFs on. An iPad, tablet or ebook reader can store hundreds of PDFs and are extremely portable. So can your desktop, but that isn't very portable.

Marking Up - While there are programs and applications that allow one to mark up PDFs, it's easier and quicker to mark up / make notes on a paper copy.

Bathroom Reading - Paper. It just doesn't seem right having my iPad in there. Besides, reading in the tub is definitely a paper situation. Less to risk with accidental immersion.

Ease of Flipping Thru - Unless the PDF is well bookmarked, it's way easier to flip thru a paper copy then a PDF copy.

Less Tangibles - You can throw a book across the room in disgust with generally less damage then you can an iPad or laptop. PDFs are much easier to make backup copies of. Some people just prefer the feeling of a book. PDFs take up much less storage space. PDFs can be corrected by the publisher, paper books may get an errata sheet.

I'm sure there's more to add to the list...

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Mini review - Knowledge Illuminates (For Swords & Wizardry)

Knowledge Illuminates is the first in a series of One Shot Adventures from Tim Shorts (of the blog Gothridge Manor).  Written for Swords & Wizardry, but usable with any of the Old School rulesets, we are presented with a semi-sandbox that serves as a very nice campaign starter.

I call it a semi-sandbox, as the area map includes only the area local to the main encounter location, and there are no population centers on that map.  So the GM will need to set the players upon the road to adventure.  Thankfully, Tim has provided the GM with an assortment of interesting hooks to get the players involved in the story.  It's a damn interesting story too.

Nice maps, great hooks, well written adventure.  It's damn close to a home run.  There's always a "but": but there's a handful of typos that spellchecking on the computer won't find, but are noticeable upon reading.  As this is a PDF release, correcting it shouldn't be too big a deal, and it doesn't detract from an otherwise excellent adventure.

Actually, it is almost "rules lite" in nature, as it requires role play and thinking as much as, if not more, then roll play.  Converting this to Tunnels & Trolls should be easy as pie ;)

From the blurb:

Grab your dice and hire some henchmen, you're going to need them.  Knowledge Illuminates is a campaign starter adventure full of possibilities.  Explore a dark fantasy world in search of an unending treasure.  But within this adventure lurks a horror that will haunt the players for years.  So buckle up that helmet, sharpen that sword, and bring an extra pair of iron spikes, this adventure is for the big boys.  
Knowledge Illuminates is the first in the One-Shot Adventure Series. 

VTTs Did a Job on Me... Now I Am a Real Sickie

(with apologies to the Ramones)

I'm aiming to get my Tunnels & Trolls game up and running next month via a Virtual Table Top. I've been heavily leaning towards Fantasy Grounds 2 even though it lacks a T&T specific character sheet. It's the VTT I know the best, at least from the player's side of the screen.

It is Windows only (although I have gotten it to run on my Mac Mini via Crossover),which may or may not be an issue for players.

Maptools is also an option, but I really don't know it well enough to be confident in running a game with it. It is PC / Mac friendly tho, which is allays a plus.

iTabletop has improved in leaps and bound recently, but again, I don't know it well. I'm going to have to spend some time tooling around with it to see if it will come close to what I need it to do (map masking / whiteboard / etc).

Time to check stuff out this weekend.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Spotlight - Sacrosanct Games $1 Old School Adventures

Sacrosanct Games has four adventures in it's $ 1adventure series written for OSRIC (and their own house system Altus Adventum).  As always, they are pretty easy to convert on the fly to any of the OSR Clones / Simulacrums / Etc.

They are as follows:

Lair of the Goblin King is the first in a series of adventures that takes the characters from the beginings of their career to eventual heroes.  It is also the first in the unique series of products that includes both an OSRIC compatible version and a version for the Altus Adventum 2nd edition game.

This Adventure is designed for 4-6 1st level characters who find themselves broke and stranded in the city of Piarth.  Just about out of food and ready to give up on an adventuring career, they hear word of a reward for anyone who can find out what is attacking caravans to the border towns.

You have stumbled upon an ancient map to a lost island. The script is like none you've ever seen, but hand written on the map is the word, "gold".

Lost Treasure of Actzimotal is an Adventure Module designed for 5-8 characters of level 3-5 or of Adventurer experience title level, depending on system used.  What make this product unique is that there are two versions included in this PDF.  One version is for OSRIC, AD&D, LL, etc, and the other version is designed for Altus Adventum 2nd edition.  Essentially you get two versions for the price of one!  So use your favorite system and enjoy the adventure.

Barely able to enjoy the spoils from your last adventure, you are soon called upon by the mysterious Inquisitors to investigate rumors of an ogre lord rallying a humaiond army on the western border of the kingdom. Promises of sacks of gold are followed by veiled threats; it seems you have little choice...

A3, Hunt for the Ogre Lord is the third in the A series of adventures, taking the characters on an epic adventure to save the kingdom from the horde forces that threaten.  This adventure is designed for 5-6 characters of level 4-6 or of Veteran status, depending on which system you are using.

The Adventure Finale! 

A4, Rise of the Bloodwolf is the final module in the A series of $1 adventures.  Treachery is revealed, and the party has the opportunity for revenge.  And oh, how sweet it will be.

So bring back that old school atmosphere and prepare to "kill them and take their stuff!"

I guess in New School talk, this would be a 4 part Adventure Path for $4 bucks.  Not bad at all.  Of course, I'm walking the Tunnels & Trolls addiction at this point, so my conversion will require just a bit more effort then the rest of the OSR movement.  That oaky... even if I just steal pieces its a decent investment.

The Trollish Taproom - Sprinkling Some AD&D in My T&T

I was thinking about the use of Talents in T&T 7.5e and a thought occurred to me: some abilities of AD&D classes could be replicated by the use of Talents in T&T.

The Ranger's Tracking skill is an obvious one. The Ranger's damage bonus vs. certain humanoids could be an SR vs INT for a combat bonus (need to think on that).

The Paladin's Healing could be turned into a talent (maybe 1d3 pts healed per use - limited uses per day).

This is pretty much thinking out loud so far. More later.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Winner of the WTF Were They Thinking Contest is...


This was right down to the wire.  The Book of Erotic Fantasy pulled it off in the end! ;)

So, mikemonaco needs to email me at tenkarsDOTtavernATgmailDOTcom to get his prize package listed here in the initial contest thread.

Jim's entry of Skulls and Scapfaggot Green had the lead until neatly the end.  So, guess what?  email me for your prize package.  I have 2 to give away, may as well ;)

Ze Bulette's entry of Starsilver Trek didn't win, but Ze should also email me.  Bean! the D2 RPG or InvaderZ is in his future... your pick lad.

Congrats to all!

WTF Were They Thinking Poll Closes in About 4 Hours

The poll at the top of this page is closing in a few hours. Vote and vote often ;)

I'll be awarding the prizes tonight.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Trollish Taproom - You Might Have Skill, But I Got Talent

Tunnels & Trolls 5.5e introduces skills as an optional system.  It's originally from a Sorcerer's Apprentice Issue #15 (which included the mention a yet to be published sci-fi rpg called WEB, but I digress).  In turn, the skill system itself has it's roots in Mercenaries, Spies and Private Eyes and apparently Monsters! Monsters!)

The list in 5.5e is fairly small, as it was initially meant to show what one could do with skill in T&T, and the GM and players were to flesh it out.  Skill level is added to the appropriate stat for saving rolls that relate to his / her skill.

Skills earn expo and increase by level independent of the character's level.  So you need to track a skill's expo and level.  Successful level with the same chart as the character's level, so it requires 20 uses of a skill to level it up.  I don't think PCs will be leveling many skills during most gameplay.  As most skills will remain at Level 1, they will be giving a boost to relevant SRs of 1... not worth the bookkeeping involved if you ask me.

Talent is found Tunnels & Trolls 7.xe, and is what skills morphed into.  Players start with one talent at 1st level, and gain one with each additional level.  Basically, the player defines the talent, and the talent adds 1d6 to the relevant stats SRs when the talent is called into play.

Personally, I don't like the randomness of the talent bonus.  I would probably set it at a set bonus of 4.  Additional levels in the same talent could be chosen, with diminishing returns (3 additional pts for the 2nd level chose, 2 pts for the 3rd level and 1 pt for the 4th and later levels).  New talents always start with a bonus of 4 pts.

The skills in 5.5e still make a good source for ideas for talents in 7xe.

Buyback of the Week - The Artifact RPG

There is a rich resource of free RPGs to be found in the wilds on the internet.  I'll try and identify one a week or so.  Preferably ones that haven't had much exposure.

The Artifact RPG is the sci-fi pick this week.  The Free RPG Blog did a very nice write up of it, much better then I can (and at over 200 pages I don't think I can read this thru for a while).  Suffice to say, and the price of free it's hard y pass up.

From the blurb:

The Artifact is an epic science fiction RPG. The full game is available for free as a download or for sale as a printed book. Get a feel for the story in the introduction page or download the book to get started! Check out the review of The Artifact from The Free RPG Blog

The Year is 2085 and long range teleportation technology has made faster than light travel possible, In an attempt to find habitable planets earth’s governments send out probes into deep space.
They found something. . .
Welcome to the Artifact, a world foreign to our own Earth in many ways. A world that was manufactured for some as yet unknown purpose. Here you will encounter hostile aliens like the Kelrath and the Chezbah, and those that will seek your aid, like the Scimrahn. Races that appear human but are different from us in many ways. Then there are those that hide in the shadows, like the giant Tanroc Fredar, and the thing called Loc, revered as a god by some, despised as a demon by others.
A small group of explorers from Earth are the first to venture into this vast world. Some looking for a better life, some for the adventure, and some looking to strike it rich in the amazing resources that are available.

Anyone Building a "Frankendragon"?

As I start putting together the rules I want to use in my upcoming Tunnels & Trolls campaign, I find I'm not using as many house rules as I expected. Instead, I'm grabbing rules from different editions of T&T. I'm starting with the 5.5e rules as a base, then adding from 6e, 7.5e and adjusting to taste. I've been referring to this as my Frankentroll Ruleset.

Anyone doing this with D&D? What are you building off of, and what are you adding? Are you going so far as to grab from outside one of the D&D iterations? What is your Frankendragon?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Free Issue of Kobold Quarterly Issue #11 (PDF)

I got this offer in an email from Open Design / Kobold Quarterly.  KQ is not an OSR style magazine, but it feels an awful lot like the Dragon Magazine of old.  I find a lot of the 3.5 / Pathfinder stuff good for mining ideas.  Offer is good thru February 9, 2011.

Is it possible that you have friends who still don't know how much fun Kobold Quarterly is, and what a valuable resource it can be for their games? Well, tell them that from now through February 9, they can go to the KQ Store and download a FREE pdf copy of issue #11 by entering the coupon code KQ11Gift at checkout after putting KQ 11 in their cart.

If you've been with us for a while, you'll definitely remember #11 --  it had the creepy Ecology of the Vampire, John Wick's amazing take on dwarves, DM Advice from a bunch of game industry all-stars, the Wish spell in 4th Edition, the Spell-less Ranger Pathfinder core class, 4E Paragon Paths for Minotaur, Kobold, Hobgoblin and Bugbear PCs,  and more. Your friends will love it, and love you for telling them. And if you're a newcomer to Kobold, you can add KQ 11 to your own collection. 

Spartacus: Gods of the Arena (Not Quite What I Expected)

I thought, perchance, I would be watching something other then soft porn.  It did have some nice fight scenes, sex, drugs, booze, full frontal nudity... sigh.

Kinda caught me off guard with my son in the next room.

Not what I expected.  Not saying it was bad, just not sure what it was supposed to be.

Ah well, killed time before the Super Bowl ;)

Trollish Fodder - The Bully Toad

My first entry in the Trollish Fodder tag, adding new monsters for use in Tunnels & Trolls.

Bully Toad
MR: 35 (usually found in groups of 1-3 or 3-18)
Special Damage: 3/ Hold That Pose (1st Level)
Special Abilities: DR=2 (leather skin)

Bully Toads are large, bipedal toads known to inhabit dungeons, forests and the occasional magical wasteland.  Usually found alone or with 1 to 2 others (1D3) underground or in tribes of 3-18 above ground, they have been known to spit a vile, phlegmy liquid at their prey (see Special Damage) that is used to distract, at which point it moves in for the killing blow.

The average Bully Toad stands approximately 4' tall when upright, although when charging or fleeing they use all 4 appendages to move.  They have their own language of grunts and gribbits that has yet to be learned by any other species.

Bully Toads tend to be more aggressive in dungeons then outdoors due to the lack of adequate foraging opportunities down below.

The artist for this piece is Rene Walk, used with permission.

The Trollish Taproom - Latest Auction Win - Sword For Hire (1st Edition)

It is very interesting to watch the increase in quality in the presentation of the Tunnels & Trolls solo as they were released.

Below is Deathtrap Equalizer - Solo #2 (1st Printing) released in January, 1977.  It should be noted that the module is stapled and single sided throughout.

And here is Sword For Hire - Solo #11(1st Printing) released in May, 1979.  Binding change and double sided pages.
Less then 2 1/2 years between the two and a huge difference in presentation.  Will have to check some dates on my collection and see if I can get a fuller timeline of changes in printing / presetnation of the T&T solos line.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Quick Peek - Skyward Steel: Naval Campaigns for Stars Without Number

No review here for Skyward Steel.  Heck, I've barely had a chance to look at the free peek on the rpgnow site.  Still, Sine Nomine puts out good stuff and I expect the same from this.

From the blurb:

Worlds Burn Beneath Your Guns.
The captain standing on the bridge, wreathed in smoke and the cries of the dying. The chief engineer, struggling to force that last precious burst of power from the fusion plant. The Marine sergeant holding fast in the hatchway, death to the alien boarders. The cold-eyed admiral, choosing the slain by the turn of a word and her orders to her bait.
Join the Thousand Lights of the Stellar Navy in this supplement to the FREE Stars Without Number roleplaying game. Take on the roles of the men and women of the Fleet, the sky-bourne protectors of the homeworld and its shield against the outer night. Whether a grizzled rating, dauntless officer, or elite Deep Black espionage operative, Skyward Steel offers both GMs and players the tools to embrace both the duties and the terrible freedom of these guardians among the stars.
Skyward Steel includes a host of useful tools and information for both GMs and players:
  • The history and roles of stellar navies in the Stars Without Number universe, including details on planetary invasions and military space stations.
  • Details on the ranks, pay, and organization of stellar navies.
  • Guidelines on running sandbox naval campaigns, and how to give the players freedom without compromising the military theme of the campaign.
  • Rules for recreating the climactic naval battles beloved of military sci-fi, with every PC involved in the desperate struggle to overcome the overwhelming foe.
  • Sixty adventure seeds, two for every world tag in the Stars Without Number core book.
  • Details on the workings of the Deep Black interstellar operations teams and their perilous covert ops missions.
  • New Background Packages for naval characters, and a selection of Training Packages available to every class.
  • New ship hulls, weapons, fittings, and personal equipment for naval and covert ops characters.
  • Details on building planetary navies for a world and determining naval budgets and operations costs.

The Trollish Taproom - Dungeons on the Quick

Sometimes you don't have a dungeon ready for your party of delvers.

Sometimes you don't have the ideas or the energy to design your dungeon of delver death.

What to do?  Where to go?  Go to The Tunnels & Trolls Random Dungeon Generator.

Using the 5e Rules?  No problem.  7e?  They got you covered.  Heck, wanna go old school and 4e?  No worries, it's all there.

It's a really nice way to quickly generate a usable dungeon, complete with multiple levels and connecting staircases.  It might not have a workable dungeon ecosystem, but do your delvers really care?

Heck, there is even a version available for Labyrinth Lord.  Go figure ;)

Mini Review - InvaderZ (Pocket Edition)

Let me preface this with stating I LOVED the first edition of the Paranoia RPG. I GM'ed it many a time, dragging my group through note passing slugfests, numerous clone deaths, general mayhem and lots of laughs. Even more then that, I enjoyed reading the material. Most of it was just damn fun to read.

InvaderZ reminds me of Paranoia in many ways, and not just the use of clones. It most certainly is made to be played for laughs, sorta a "beer & pretzels" RPG. Reading it has been a blast, and I expect running it would be too, but I have some quibbles.

I'm not going to complain that the PDF wasn't spruced up with hyper-texting or such, as it's only $1.99 for 118 pages. It would, however, been nice to have a table of contents. It's a pain to flip thru a PDF, especially when you don't know where you are trying to flip to. The character generation rules are tucked somewhere in the middle, and it took me a bit to find the task resolution bits and pieces. I like to jump around as a reader, even my first read thru, and this was made difficult without a table ot contents or an index.

All that aside, if it plays have as well as it read, this would be a blast to run at a convention or a Game Day (one off) type of real life setting. Fast paced and funny. Just isn't so fast to navigate the PDF.

Mini Review - Classes of the Far East (for Labyrinth Lord)

This isn't the first time the Far East has been slipped into the D&D / AD&D systems.  Oriental Adventures for AD&D did an admirable job of it.  Now we have a nice conversion for Labyrinth Lord which appears to take it's own path.

Classes of the Far East from Sacrosanct Games four classes and one racial class, so that really makes five classes.

Interestingly enough, three of those classes get the ability to cast clerical spells.  The Monk (who gets to cast clerical spells) is much simplified from previous versions I've seem.  None of the 5 attacks per 4 rounds BS.

The Ninja is a thief with some classic move ninja powers thrown in (and no trap finding / removing ability), Mahoutsukai are a cleric / magic-user multi-class sorta class, Yokai are anthropomorphic cat people (with cleric spells) and Samurai.

Not a bad collection of classes if you want to add some eastern flavor to your campaign, although I do have to wonder why 3 outa 5 get access to cleric spells.  Not saying I have a problem with that, just curious.

From the blurb:

Love the Labyrinth Lord, B/X, BECMI, or similar game system but always had the itch to play your favorite ninja class and couldn't find one anywhere?  Well, itch no further.  Sacrosanct Games is proud to present you will full color illustrated write-ups for Labyrinth Lord compatible samurai, ninja, mahoutsukai, monk, and demi-human yokai classes. 
So dive right in, and create characters born to be legends!

Friday, February 4, 2011

What is the Ideal Party Size?

I know this question is as much about circumstances as it is gameplay, but what is the ideal player party size?

When I was in college, it was the more the merrier, but gameplay bogged down when I went above 5 or 6 players. I used to run AD&D 2e sessions on Friday mornings back in those days, and I could have up to 10 players to juggle. As a DM I felt I was giving less then my best performance.

My old gaming group ranged from 3-6 players for the most part... although there were times that got huge too.

Or does it depend upon game system? D&D thru 3.5e has 4 core classes, and with multi-classing, more then one role could be fulfilled per PC. So, you didn't need 4 PCs, but it did help for balance.

Tunnels & Trolls has 3 core classes: Warrior, Rogue and Wizard. Rogue isn't a D&D Rogue, but more of a D&D Fighter / Magic-User with possibly some thief thrown in. I'm not sure what the ideal party size would be for a T&T game, but I suspect one of each core would fill the rolls nicely.

What is your ideal player party size when you GM a game?

Tech Tip Time - Blogging From Your iPad

Short and sweet. I've tried many different apps to find the perfect one for blogging with from my iPad. There isn't one apparently.

That being said, Glogr is actually pretty decent. I haven't tried to use it to insert pictures, but for hyperlinking and basic blogging it does the job well.

It also allows for labels or tagging of the blog post, which other blogging apps that I tried didn't (or didn't do it well).

All in all, a decent app for blogging from your iPad.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Last Nite - A Retrospective of Things That You Bump in the Nite

So, last nite I hit the mother of all potholes while approaching the Triboro Bridge (it will never be the JFK in my mind, but anyhow).  Blew out my front passenger side tire.  It took me and the Bridge Tow Truck Operator over 20 minutes to figure out how to get the spare out of my trunk - it was screwed in damn tight!

After we put on the donut, and all was right in the world, I went to pay my $6.50 cash for the privilege of driving from one part of the city to another, when the spare went flat.  Same worker inflated my spare and escorted me off the bridge (god bless him),

$200 bucks later (as I apparently also "bubbled" the driver side front tire - so 2 tires had to be replaced) my car is now back in working order - wheel alignment seems okay so far too... knock on wood.

What does this have to do with gaming?  It's Simple.  The use of unexpected but needed expenses keep your campaign's players looking to earn more cash, or removes the extra cash from their pockets.  I've had unexpected but necessary expenses at the same time this year and last - both coincided with my "holiday" check (we dont automatically get off holidays on my job - but we get paid for them in bulk twice a year).  At least this time the DM above didn't take the whole check from me this year ;)
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