Saturday, April 30, 2011

Does Game Mastering = Riding a Bike?

It recently occurred to me that it's been about 14 years since I last ran an RPG session.  Amazing and kinda depressing at the same time.  Two years ago was the first time I rode a bike in 11 years (and it had been 12 years before that singular bike ride).  Riding a bike took me a few minutes for my body to remember everything, but after that it was natural.

Digression: (not game related) That singular bike ride 13 years ago needs a special mention.  It was in the South Bronx during the tail end of the crack epidemic.  My unit had arrested a number of, for lack of a better name, crack heads.  Our van was full of bodies, and as my arrestee had been on a bike, it was my responsibility to get that bike back to the Station House.  It was a bit over a mile, so I figured I'd ride the bike back,  Bad idea.

I was about 3 blocks from the arrest scene, coasting down hill, when the unit's van pulled up along side me with their emergency lights on.  Over the loudspeaker I heard: "The bike has no breaks!"  I tried the hand breaks and sure enough, nothing.  No breaks, lots of intersections and downhill.

"He says you gotta use your feet!"  "When you slow down!"  Slow down?  I was accelerating!  Here's a cop in tactical boots, full uniform with awkward gun belt going downhill without breaks being chased by a marked police van.  The van began getting to the intersections before me to stop what little traffic there was.  I tried dragging my toes to slow down but it didn't seem to be working.

At the end of the downhill was a junkyard, it's entrance at the end of the street I was on.  Thankfully it was open, and I travelled about 30 or 40 yards over assorted garbage and mud before wiping out on the hood of a junker.  Surprisingly, I managed to escape with little injured but my pride.  Well, that and the front tire of the bike looked more like a "U" now.

As the van pulled into the junkyard, I dragged the bike with me as I approached it.  Needless to say, both cops and perps were having a good laugh at my expense.  The kicker?  My perp didn't want the bike.  Said it wasn't even his.  He found it the day before.  He never expected anyone would try to ride it when he got arrested... at least until he saw me thru the van window and started screaming to my fellow officers that the bike had no breaks.  I left it in the junkyard.

End digression.

So, what I  want to know, or at least get some ideas about, is will my GM'ing chops come back, or will I be relearning my skills all over again.

Oh, and how do I avoid the disaster of 13 years ago if I get myself back behind the DM screen?(preparation and system knowledge is obvious - if you don't know a systems holes, it's like riding a bike w/o breaks... downhill... both ways... in 2 feet of snow ;)

Enjoying the Park Despite the Weather

Its overcast with a chilly breeze, and yes, I'm in shorts and sandals, but me and the dog are enjoying ourselves in the City's latest "Green Park".

Lots of greenery and grass. Lots of peace. No baseball or soccer fields. Just a whole lot of nature within walking distance of the house.

I want to get back to writing more Tales of the Blue Knight and this is the background that should help spark the process. There is just something about these peaceful islands of green that make one want to create.

For once, the city machine done did good.

- Posted from my iPhone

Friday, April 29, 2011


If I tried to thank every blogger and publisher of free material whose writing I've enjoyed in the OSR, I'm sure I'd miss more folks then I should.

So, instead, here's a big Thank You to the great peeps in the blogosphere. I enjoy what you write and I appreciate it.

Okay, enough mushiness, time for a beer ;)

Dungeon Potty Tricks - Or - Where's All That Crap Go?

Earlier this morning as I answered nature's call, I got to thinking about the disposal of waste in dungeons. It's not like most published dungeons include privies or bathroom stalls.

It's bad enough that most dungeons have no ecology whatsoever. Where's the food source? The water source? The removal of waste material?

It does explain the need for Gelatinous Cubes as your not-so-friendly sanitation department. Get in the way of this refuse processor and you yourself may find yourself being disposed. Imagine the mad mage that created the first Gelatinous Cube - his finest creation's sole purpose is to clean up dungeon refuse. How depressing is that?

Beyond all that, how does an adventurer get to doing "his business" while in a dungeon? Do you spike the door shut to give yourself some uninterrupted time? It's bad enough as a cop when you need to use a public restroom for anything but the basics - that gun belt has to hang somewhere. How does the plate mail clad adventurer with sword, shield and bow accomplish this feat?

Inquiring minds want to know ;)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Aqualii Temple from Dark Horse Game Design is Live!

Actually, it's more like released on RPGNow, but since it isn't your usual adventure module, Going LIVE! seemed like more fun :)

Greg has been putting out some excellent stuff for a while and I'm glad that the Aqualii Temple should receive some decent visibility on RPGNow.

I will not be reviewing it, at least not initially.  Read page 2 to figure out why ;)

Nice work lad... now get back to work!  (maybe on a solo adventure - this format may work very well with solos too)

The Draconic Archeologist: Where All the Women At? (in The Dragon #3)

There are times I truly wonder how women ever entered this hobby.  Hell, I know they are a minority, but articles like Notes on Women & Magic - Bringing the Distaff Gamer into D&D weren't doing the hobby any favors.

Lets see, we'll make women roll Strength Scores on a d8 and a d6 - giving them a range of 2-14.  Why?  Why change the dice?  Oh, and females don't have a Charisma score, they get Beauty instead.  Roll that at 2d10.  Unless of course, they are lawful or neutral clerics - in which case they can't use Beauty.  Do they get a Charisma score instead?

So, wimin' get their own expo tables and HD tables that differ from the norm.  That's okay tho', because wimin' with high beauty scores get to cast special spells:  "Fighting Women (warriors) may incorporate the spells of Seduction, Charm Men or Charm Humanoid Monster depending on their level and beauty scores (see spells of seduction, et al)."  

Look at this ditty:  Horrid Beauty
This may be cast by any witches regardless of their beauty score but
beauty will affect how the spell will act. Direct sight of the witch within
16” is required to have an effect.
Grotesque witches — beauty score 2-5
Ugly Witches — beauty score 6-9
Ordinary witches — beauty score 10-12
Beautiful witches — 13-16
Gorgeous witches — 17+
Grotesque Witches will scare the victim! Those with 3 or fewer hit
dice will be scared to death! 3+1 or more hit dice will flee as from a fear
spell with morale lowered by 2 points for 4+(1-6) turns.
Ugly Witches will scare those with 2 or fewer hit dice to death.
Others will flee as from a fear spell with morale lowered by 1 point for 2-
(1-4) turns. Beautiful Witches will Seduce all with 4 or fewer hit dice as
with a 6th level seduction spell, no saving throw. 4+1 hit dice figures
may have a saving throw. Gorgeous Witches will seduce all with 5 or
fewer hit dice as with a 7th level seduction spell no saving throw. 5+1
may have a saving throw at -1.
Ordinary witches may have either effect on a 50/50 basis. Cast dice
for every figure individually. Duration — 6 turns (longer in the case of
seduction spells).

There's 4 pages of this crap.  From Len Lakofka no less.  I know it's a sign of the times it was written in but I still find it offensive.

Maybe the Birth Tables for D&D will have some redeeming features... hmmm, two pages of endless and convoluted tables.  I like tables.  I don't like these tables.  Ah well.

The Finieous Fingers strip holds up over time.  Thankfully.

The Healer class is interesting, but as a class that wears no armor and doesn't get it's first cure wounds spell until 3rd level (and has no damage wielding  spells) I see it's survivability to be near nil.

The Scribe is an interesting Specialist.  Not the least of which is because he has "the ability to read and copy magical writing from Scrolls and Books of Spells into the Spell Books of Magic-Users and Clerics. Only Scribes may do this, for there exists a curse upon all magical writing which causes any but Scribes, who know the counter-spell, to go permanently and incurably insane (Remove Curse not-withstanding). Scribes may belong to any of two vocations; either they transcribe magical spells or clerical spells." I never knew clerics had sell books.  Go figure.

Cool.  A Samurai class.  Eww, critical hits with their special weapons.  Dexterity increases at certain expo totals.  Why?  Why does every new class variant break the rules in bizarre ways?

A New View on Dwarves.  Hmm, this article actually works.  Cleric and Thief Dwarves.  Expanded abilities and penalties for the race.  Doesn't seem to break anything.

A New D&D Subclass:  The Berzerker.  Uhm, at higher level these berserkers change into Wererats or Werebears.  Why?  Really, why?

Hmm, now we get the Idiot Class and Jesters.  Maybe this was an April Fools issue.

In any case, I'm tapping out.  Some gems, lots of garbage, even for the time in question.

Exciting Times

Lets see. What am I excited about these days in our little corner of the hobby?

(you'll have to find the links either above or to the left, I'm posting from my iPad)

There will be a new module release from Greg Christopher for the Errant RPG - Greg has posted a demo of what it should entail - suffice to say, it is way beyond hyperlinking and should take the electronic adventure format in a whole new direction. Greg, burn that midnite oil and get 'er done!

James Raggi is mailing out the ordered copies for Weird Fantasy Grindhouse Edition and Vornheim - the Finnish Post Office tends to ship to NYC really quickly - hopefully it happens again.

I need to download a copy of Blackmarsh from Bat in the Attic Games. It screams Greyhawk nostalgia to me. That, and Rob always puts out good stuff.

Oh, and I still need to read my newly acquired issue of Sorcerer's Apprentice. This weekend would be a lot of fun if I didn't have to much work to accomplish at the house. ;)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Draconic Archeologist: Sidetracked By Some Sorcerer's Apprentices

Lookie what the Ebay Gods granted me!  I got my hands on Sorcerer's Apprentice Issues 1, 2, 5 (already had),  9/10 (ditto), 14 ('nother ditto) and 13 (needed that one).  At some point I'll be offering my duplicate issues as prizes for as an as yet undecided contest - no idea when.

Very very cool acquisitions.  Heck, issue #2 even has an article by author Poul Anderson - On Trolls and Others - which looks, you guessed it, pretty cool! ;)

I do love the way mini-solos were integrated into the magazine back then, squirreled away on each pages, so you really did have to flip around for the next part.

I may have to do a side by side comparison of The Dragon #1 and SA #1 at some point.  As covers go, SA #1 has The Dragon #1 beat by a mile and then some.  You probably can't tell from the pic, but the wizard is holding a record labeled: Cythulhu's Greatest Hits.  How awesome is that?

Alright, I need to read these babies - I did notice that Spite Damage made it's debut in issue #13 (you can either thank or curse Roy Cram for that 5.5e and later rule).

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Smell of AD&D

You know those certain smells that bring you back to a different time? I just had a whiff of early 80's AD&D after dropping the kid off at his training earlier... ocean air, just a tad ripe with low tide lifted on a cool breeze.

Back when I read the DMG and PH from front to back and side to side every breathing moment, these books were my constant beach companion. I didn't care about the water, the waves, swimming... a blanket and some AD&D was all I need to waste away an afternoon at the beach.

Man... more stuff I need to bring out of storage. Maybe they'll have some of that sea smell still...

Full Circle

So, I am back to the desk I had in September, sharing an office with my boss. He seems fairly happy about the whole thing. I wish I watched the Sopranos, as he likened me to one of the characters - apparently I have the talent of being unobtrusive during privileged conversations, then offering my (apparently valuable) opinions when asked. Ehh... All things considered I preferred my own office.

I did surprise myself with the amount of game related sticky notes I had accumulated at my old desk. Note so sure I can make the same accomplishment here. Sharing an office has more distractions then running solo. Besides, not much of my game related stickies look like anything vaguely work like ;)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Mini Review - Woodland Warriors RPG (Swords & Wizardry)

In case you missed it, Woodland Warriors was released last week on RPGNow.  If you can't guess by the creature on the cover, it's an RPG similar to Redwall (I have that game packed away somewhere) and Harvesters (based on the C&C ruleset).  You get to role play some woodland creatures in a game loosely based on Swords & Wizardry.

Why do I say loosely based?  It's strictly a D6 based game.  Yes, even combat uses a lowly D6.  Don't get me wrong, I'm a big Tunnels & Trolls fan... I like my D6s by the buckets.  Still, its a bit jarring to go into this with a preconceived notion of a D20 based game and come out holding D6s.

Does it work?  From what I can see it should.  You may need to get past measuring distance in "paws" instead of "feet", but it's a cut concession that the kids may enjoy.  Still, most of the mechanics and stats are easy enough to convert back and forth to the Core S&W rules.

Combat may take some getting used to (I had the combat section multiple times to understand the Hit Dice / Combat Dice resolution, and the ability to roll less dice for an "add" to the remaining dice.  I've got a feeling it would have been easier to grasp w/o all the D&D baggage I came in with.

Advancement is limited to 6 levels (limited advancement is also a feature of Harvesters), which is probably enough for younger gamers.  Sometimes, less is more.

Rounding it all out is a sandboxie setting and an adventure to get the party started.  All in all, a very complete package that should work well with younger gamers or an experienced group looking for a change of pace.  Just remember to leave the polyhedrons behind.  All you need are some D6.

From the blurb:

WOODLAND WARRIORS is a fantastic little role playing game suitable for kids and adults alike. It uses the popular Swords & Wizardry Core (with modifications to more closely suit the genre) which itself is based on the original role playing game of medieval fantasy adventure. Fans of any animal-based fiction, comics, fairy tales or cartoon movies will love this game.

Set in the Alder Vale, Stonewell Abbey is a place of learning for the Kind and Murkenhill Fort is a bastion against evil. Players take the role of Mice, Moles, Hedgehogs, Squirrels and Badgers, who must protect their homes against the Verminous Rats and Weasels that pour down from the Murkenhills, intent on pillage and plunder. Danger and adventure awaits - are you brave enough to put your sword to the defence of The Alder Vale?

The Draconic Archeologist: Just Have a Sip of The Dragon #2

Well, the PDF looks better then this blown up thumbnail.  It's actually a fairly cool Conan-esqe type cover.  I like it better then Hippie Dragon from issue 1.

Let use take a look at what issue 2 gives us, the D&D player.  Oooooo... Look, Monkish Combat in the Arena of Promotion.  Three pages of some combat system for monkish combat that I can't make heads or tales of.  Still, it just goes to show you can tack any system to D&D and someone will try and make it work.

More fiction, including fiction that continues from Dragon #1.  I assume somebody was reading it.

Moving on to one of the regular features - Hints for D&D Judges Part3: The Dungeons.  Here, we are given a nice random table for trapped chests.  Looking at the chart, half the chests in the author's campaigns are trapped.  Hmmm... spring loaded daggers... poisoned gas... poisoned daggers... acts as Mirror of Life Trapping... when opened and enraged spectre comes out?... all members within 5' lose one level of experience... WTF?... all members within 5' lose one magic item... you have got to be kiddin'.... chest is intelligent and acts as if a 2nd - 9th level magic user?... show me the somatic components it can do...wait... 60,000 chocolate centered gold pieces worth a copper each?  This DM is going DOWN!  Well, he does mention some less usual magic items too.  Leaving out the Stoner Stuff - Ring of Magic Missiles, Bag of Infinite wealth (that might be a Stoner Item) - ideas to change forms of magic items (a dagger that acts like a Wand of Fireballs and such) round out the article.

Fiction from Gardner F. Fox.  Might be great stuff.  Skip.

Interesting article on Quetzalcoatl.  Not sure how it fits the medieval fantasy setting of D&D, but interesting non the less.

Creature Features give us the Remorhaz and an awesome Erol Otus full color piece from 1976.  Pretty cool.

Holy crap but there is a lot of fiction in this issue.

Finally!  There we go, a new class for D&D.  The Alchemist.  The dude makes potions.  Making potions is really useful in the middle of a dungeon.  Why is his title for 2nd level "Cleric"?  They may use only one-handed weapons (except magic swords).  Do magic swords jump from their hands?  Interesting as a class for NPCs, maybe.

D&D Option: Weapon Damage - A  system of weapon specialization for fighters and thieves.  It increases the weapon damaged rolled (not a straight add).  This could work.  I may have to yolk this.

Alright, wrapping up so I can peek at Dragon #3 tomorrow.

The First One Back Always Blows...

The first day back after vacation is always rough. There's that five day pile of work you have to plow thru, five days worth of work gossip you have to catch up on, and in this case an office I have to vacate (I'm being bumped my a newly assigned member of the service of a high rank). I'm beginning to wonder why I bother unpacking boxes these days. At least I'm only moving about 15 feet this time.

Still, I found time for some blog reading during lunch, obviously some time to blog post and shortly I'll be squeezing some time to read The Dragon #2. Yeah, I could be packing my desk up, but I'll do that tomorrow ;)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Draconic Archeologist: The Birth of The Dragon - Issue #1

Sorry to say, but issue #1 of The Dragon isn't much better then it's cover, which is a tie-dye psychedelic trip of sorts... which for the time (June of 76) it may have resonated better then it does now.

Issue #1 stands in at 32 pages, which isn't bad (and I believe is longer then any of The Crusaders that have been published - Dragon certainly fits more words on the page, but I digress).  My first turn off?  The about of space devoted to short fiction.  In all my years of reading The Dragon, I don't think I EVER read any of the fiction.  It just never appealed to me.  So, in my eyes, a waste of space.  In your eye, it may have some value.

Getting back on track a bit, we get a D&D article on How to Use Non-Prime-Requisite Character Attributes.  I have no idea why it refers to the non-prime reqs.  In any case, this convoluted system requires you to roll percentile dice, then refer to a table that will tell you to roll a certain number sided die (4 sided, 6 sided, etc) then take the new number generated, multiply by the stat score in question, then roll below or equal to that number to determine success - thank god this never became official.  I would have left the hobby for sure.

Magic and Science - Are They Compatible in D&D? by James Ward.  Better then the previous article.  Better then his Crusaders.

Languages by Lee Gold (of Alarums & Excursions fame) - Interesting take on learning new languages in D&D and languages in general in D&D.  Common does not necessarily equal "native" language for humans.  This article is a small gem.

This issue's Creature Feature gives us the Bulette (pronounced boo-lay).  For 30 years I've been calling it a Bullet.  Ah well, live and learn.

Hints for D&D Judges in this issue deals with mapping the wilderness for your players.  The wilderness is a pretty lethal place.

Mighty Magic Miscellany expands leveling for Illusionists to level 14, with expo and spell charts.  Also, new spells at spell levels 1, 2, 3, 6 and 7.

Hobbits and Thieves for The Dungeon Board game - I guess the cease and desist from the Tolkein Estate was still in the mail.

So, a gem, some useful pieces and a scary piece of poo as the first D&D article in the magazine.  Hopefully, Issue 2 picks up just a wee bit of the slack.

Happy Holy Days to Those That Do!

Happy Easter (and Passover) to all that celebrate.  Hope everyone had a good weekend!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

What I Hope You Won't Find on This Blog

I assume that patrons of this fine establishment expect certain things when they walk thru the tavern door and pull up a barstool.  RPG talk, some personal thoughts, rarely comments about a current newsworthy event, maybe some updates in the personal life (adult beverages you must supply on your own - this is a BYOB tavern).  Going to the tavern is supposed to be a good time.  I try to leave my Rants that aren't game related off my bog.  (Yes, you will still suffer from my occasional Gaming Rants)

I don't think anyone really wants to hear my political views on my gaming blog.  I could be wrong:  Screw the Libs, F' the Conservatives, damn leftist Democrats, evil Right Wing Republicans - maybe if I could write a balanced article turning the above into OSR devils and demons it might be post worthy... otherwise, does anyone really want to hear that kinda shit from me?  Holiday dinners start going downhill the minute someone mentions politics in my family.  The last thing I want to do is bring that kinda crap into the tavern.

Same thing goes for religion.  For the most part, I'm going to try to avoid discussing anything resembling real life religion, unless its good wishes for a Holiday or something else in passing (oh, or if I can find some good gaming mileage out of it - gaming mileage = less offensive).  When I stumble across a post dealing with real life religion on the gaming blogs I read, it's never a positive post.  It's always lambasting one group or another.  You don't go to your neighborhood pub expecting or looking for such and my intention is you will never find it here.

I'm the last person that thinks a gaming blog needs to be 100% game related.  I do think there are certain topics that don't fit comfortably with the rest.  Each will do with their own as they see fit, which is the beauty of blogging.  I'm just voicing my opinion of what fits on my blog and what doesn't.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Back From the Vacation Within a Vacation - Still Stirring Up Muck

I never expected to get much of a response to my little rant last night.  Boy, was I mistaken.  Thanks to all you who let me blow off some steam at the (minor in the grand scheme of things) injustices I vented about last nite.  Those that follow this blog know I'm usually laid back.  Sometimes shit just needs to be said.

Anyhow, I'm still way behind with my reviews.  I'm going to need to stea... "borrow" some time at work next week to catch up.  Heck, I eat lunch at my desk.  I may as well use that  time for something useful.

Oh, my little girl found a new hiding place yet again (as she didn't want to leave the country living vacation).  At least when I find her she doesnt run and look for a new spot to hide.  She just waits patiently for me to pick her up.

Before I forget, A.C. Moore has a 40% sale on painted plastic figurines... I picked up some dragons earlier tonight.  I'll try and post some pics tomorrow.  The 2-Headed Gold Dragon Rowks!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

When Did Our Hobby Become Controlled By a Bunch of Elitist Pigs?

Alright, maybe "Controlled" is too strong a word.  Still, when did we decide that to be part of the "in crowd" we had to conform to a bunch of rules that aren't written in stone (or really, written anywhere), but are subject to the whims of whoever is enforcing said rules.

Case in point #1:  RPG Bloggers Network - If a blog from a company that writes adventures and Fantasy Grounds 2 modules isn't RPG enough, then what is?  What is with the elitism?  Besides, 95% of the blogs there I've never even heard off.  So, if you don't qualify to be a member of the network, is it really a strike against you or a point in your favor?

Case in point #2:  RPG.net - It's a place I never post at, and rarely visit.  The number of self designated authorities on any subject I find annoying, and in general they don't seem to be very receptive to new posters.  The permaban (nice word) of Greg Christopher is interesting, as it seems to be more of a reaction to his stated purpose of creating controversy to generate traffic for his blog then the actual post.  His blog generates no income, his games are released for free - where is the commercial aspect he was banned for?

Another day, another reviewer or moderator, either of these would have passed inspection, yet we allow people with their own biases and agendas one crapload of control over this hobby.

Or do we?  I never tried to join the RPG Bloggers Network.  I always figured I'd never make the cut, not because my blog isnt decent (I hope it is) but because I refuse to conform to some arbitrary and indistinct set of rules just to be part of the club.  Screw that shit!  I've got my own club - just look at my blogroll on the left.

As for RPG.net?  I never liked those forums for the reason I stated above.  I'd get myself permabanned too just to make a point, but I'd have to sign up for an account first and what's the point in that? ;)

Whereupon the Kitty Became a Tigress

This morning was the yearly vet visit for my kitty Ashley (who as graced this blog in the past).  I'm up here in the Poconos, where the vets are nicer (and cheaper) then the Big City.

The appointment was for 1050 - by 0950 Ashley was nowhere to be found.  My mother's 2 cats didn't have a care in the world, but mine somehow read it was vet day, and promptly found herself a new hiding spot.  It took me nearly half an hour to find her.

I knew it wasn't going to go well as Ashly tried to take a swipe (through her case) at a 200+ pound pony that the owner insisted was actually a breed of mastiff.  Yep, my kitty was primed.

She handled the vet tech well that weighed her - 9.7 pounds, and seemed to calm down as we awaited the vet.  In comes the vet to sweet talk her and her hiss was fairly impressive.  The vet tech went to get a towel to try to restrain her for the exam and shots and then quickly moved up to the leather gloves that went past her elbows.  I wasn't going to ask for the usual nail trim at that point.

Just what I look for in my mornings... feline stress.  Once we were home, my weretiger was back to normal, no stress and no grudges for her ordeal.

Just think, last year the vet was so impressed with Ashley's markings she must have brought it up three times during the exam.  This year, they couldn't finish the exam quickly enough.

This post alone will probably keep me off the the RPG Bloggers Network as being too little game related.  Trust me tho', this incident will find its way into a game session in some form or another ;)

The Draconic Archeologist - A Final Look at the Strategic Review

ChicagoWiz asked in my comments to my previous post for my opinion on the Strategic Review run, now that I've read them.  My feeling is this:  it makes for a very telling snapshot of TSR during the time period.

Over the course of 7 issues, it goes from 6 pages to 20 pages - and it about to be reborn as The Dragon.  Initially, it was little more then a newsletter.  In the end, it was a magazine.

It gave us first view of new classes, races and magic items.  At the same time, it shared space with war games.  As TSR saw that D&D was turning into it's cash cow, they needed a magazine that could be devoted to it (and have a name that was a bit more reflective of it's contents).  Strategic Review was a fine name for a war gaming magazine but not really appropriate for a magazine devoting more and more space to Dungeons & Dragons.

First and foremost, one must remember that EGG was the primary voice of the company, and when he felt vocal on a subject, he surely let himself be heard. As an example, here is a snippet from the editorial of issue 2:  Donald Featherstone once said in WARGAMER’S NEWSLETTER that he believed Arnold Hendrick’s chief talent and claim to fame lay in his “pinching” of Fletcher Pratt’s Naval Wargame — alluding in all likelihood to similarities between Mr. Pratt’s game and the set of rules for naval miniatures authored by Mr.
Hendrick. I concurred with what was said in WARGAMER’S NEWSLETTER, and when the good Mr. Hendrick “reviewed” CHAINMAIL in a highly uncomplimentary manner I ignored what was written, for surely most hobbyists could be assumed to be able to read this “review” for what it was worth and in light of Mr. Hendrick’s talents otherwise. As an example of the comments he made regarding CHAINMAIL, the most amusing was his assertion that heavy cavalry was rated too high, imagine! In a period where the armored horseman dominated the field of battle, heavy horse are too strong! Anyway, the learned Mr. Hendrick subsequently “reviewed” DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, again in a very uncomplimentary manner — after all, he had gone so far as to play a game of D&D as a Cleric, completely armed with such edged weapons as spear and arrows . . . Again, this so called “review” was so obviously inaccurate and biased that I ignored it completely, although numbers of letters and telephone calls from irate D&D fans who had read the comments and wished to let me know that the “review” outraged them assured me that Mr. Hendrick would not escape totally unscathed. Eventually the magazine which retains Mr. Hendrick as a “reviewer” did print a contrary opinion — how could they ignore a counter-article written by Mr. James Oden, President of Heritage Models, Inc.? This brings me to the point of this editorial. The axe that Mr. Hendrick has been grinding so loudly and long has been exposed.

I don't think you can get more Gary Gygax then the above piece.  Classic.  Simply classic.

I enjoyed my reading of the Strategic Review.  It was like reading a piece of history.  The fun kind of history ;)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Draconic Archeologist - Closing Up the Strategic Review With #7

Strategic Review #7 (or Vol. II, No.2) is the last issue of Strategic Review before morphing into The Dragon.  This last issue clocks in at 24 pages (including covers, so really 20) which makes it about 3 times the size of issue #1.

So, what does issue 7 offer us, the OSR or Old School gamer?

Well, EGG gives us an article on D&D magic, but really, its more then that.  It's a critique of the magic-user class and it's early players.  Heck, it could even be seen as a critique of power gamers and rules lawyers that try to distort the meaning of a rule.  That being said, EGG states that a Magic Mouth spell can cast spells that are solely verbal.  I think I missed that first go round.

Joe Fisher gives us Part 1 of a series of articles - Hints for D&D Judges:  Towns
In it he gives the starting Judge (when did Dungeon Master become the "in" title?) some pointers on providing a starting town for the new party of adventurers.  We would consider the hints very basic these days, but those were very basic days.

Mighty Magic Miscellany gives us some artifacts this time around:  The Cup and Talisman of Akbar, The Staff of the Priest Kings and The Brazen Bottle.

The Creature Features gives us a first look at the Catoblepas and the Denebian Slime Devil (of which the less said, the better).

EGG gives us a second article:  D&D is Only as Good as the DM - Let me quote from the opening paragraph: Successful play of D & D is a blend of desire, skill and luck. Desire is often
initiated by actually participating in a game. It is absolutely a reflection of the
referee’s ability to maintain an interesting and challenging game. Skill is a blend
of knowledge of the rules and game background as applied to the particular game
circumstances favored by the referee. Memory or recall is often a skill function.
Luck is the least important of the three, but it is a factor in successful play
nonetheless. Using the above criteria it would seem that players who have attained
a score or more of levels in their respective campaigns are successful indeed. This
is generally quite untrue. Usually such meteoric rise simply reflects an incompetent

To summarize - slow down the advancement if character level is going too fast.  Don't give away expo like its a xmass bonus.  Remember:  By requiring players to work for experience, to earn their treasure, means that the opportunity to retain interest will remain.  Words of wisdom.

And thus end our review of the Strategic Review.

A Short Vacation on My Vacation

Yep, I've actually gone away for a few days on my vacation.  Got to the Poconos a little after 2 pm (I left 2 hrs later then planned, as my kitty found herself a new hiding place).  Still, she was good on the ride and happy to be up here.

This is the first time I've brought absolutely no reading material except what is on my iPad or laptop.  Definitely made for lighter packing, and the laptop coming in at 11" doesnt hurt either.

I expect to get some decent reading in from my "to read list", but as I am heading back to the city in time to prep for Easter, its a short getaway.

God bless my father, he has my 2 birds and the kid's 2 cavies to take care of for the next few days ;)

Damn it!  I keep trying to touch my laptop's screen, and its not a touch screen.  Damn you Apple!  Damn you to heck!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Draconic Archeologist: Sing It To Me Baby! - Strategic Review #6

Strategic Review #6 (or if you are following at home, Volume 2 #1) gives us the first view of the Bard class for D&D.  If you have your AD&D Plater's Handbook, you might want to refresh your memory– or not.  The AD&D Bard broke more rules... lets just say it broke many rules and was a fairly broken class.

The D&D Bard was a jack of all trades.  He fought as well as a cleric (but without the weapon restrictions), he has the abilities of a thief half his level (rounded down), get's access to magic-user spells (but at a much slower pace), can charm, legend lore... he really is a jack of all trades.

We get some magic instruments for the ladies man too.  Not bad for his first showing.  Too bad it went down hill for the class with AD&D.

I barely remember the old Dungeon! board game.  One of my non-gaming friends had it in junior high, and the few times I played it was with him.  If you still have a copy, Dwarves and Clerics are added to the mix in this issue.

Sage Advice gives us  some corrections for the Greyhawk supplement.

Crap, almost forgot the Alignment map that I skipped over in my Bardic excitement.  Apparently Werewolves are almost (but not quite) Lawful Neutral.  Even better is Liches are on both the LG and LN side.  I could really dig being an all powerful undead Lawful Good Lich Paladin.  Hmmm, Paladins are REALLY REALLY Lawful Good, Liches are just Lawful Good.  Ah well, there goes that hole in the alignment chart I was hoping to drive a semi thru...

Tuesday Nite Netflix - From Paris With Love

I feel like I'm watching a runaway train and the wheels are about to come off.  I hope it gets better.  Maybe.

I can't stop watching.  I think the action scenes are blinding me to the general stupidity of the whole thing.

God help me.

Dungeon Crawl Classics Beta Coming on Free RPG Day

Goodman Games is releasing the Beta Rules for the DCC RPG in digital format for Free RPG Day.  They will also be releasing a free print Adventure Starter, which will include one low level and one high level adventure.

I'm actually excited about this year's Free RPG Day now (basically because I have no idea what anyone else is releasing).  All that and a look at the rules in Beta.

You can read more about it at Goodman's site here.

The Draconic Archeologist: Catching Up - Strategic Review #4 & #5

I'm a bit behind, so today we will start with a Double Feature – Issues 4 and 5 of Strategic Review are up for viewing with my OSR / D&D Goggles.  Let's see what useful stuff Gary gives us, shall we?

Hmmm... it looks like Greg Costikyan planned to publish a D&D fanzine.  I wonder if that ever got off the ground.  He even asked TSR's approval before starting and got a thumbs up.  Whoda' thunk it?

Gary's Castle & Crusade column features a few more pole arms.  It's a nice history lesson, but how many do you really need for the game?

Hey, look... over there!  See it?  No?  He must be invisible cause he's the first Illusionist.  Yes, the first view of the Illusionist class.  Remember: "Although severely limited in the number of magical items they can employ, Illusionists make up for this restriction by the power of their magic."  That's why it's always been such a popular class... so much more powerful then Magic-users.

For the fans of Empire of the Petal Throne, M.A.R. Barker has a three page article called Tsolyani Names Without Tears.  It so you can create authentic sounding Tsolyani names.  Oh, and a chart for the new alphabet.  If you are an EPT fan, this probably rocks.  If you are not...

The Creature Feature introduces the Clay Golem.

Might Magic Miscelleny (spell check says it should be Miscellany) gives us "Ioun" Stones.  Pretty cool background on these: "Seeing that we offer so many new monsters herein we thought it only fair to occasionally include unusual, extraordinary, and useful new magical goodies also. FLASHING SWORDS! #1 (Dell, 1973) contained four excellent swords & sorceryyarns, including “Morreion” by Jack Vance. In this tale there was a magical item of highly unusual value — IOUN stones. Mr. Vance was kind enough to allow us to enlarge somewhat upon his creations and list them as a D&D “Miscellaneous Magic” item."

Thus ends SR #4 for our purposes.  Let us move on to SR#5.

Ah, yes, Finally an issue with a proper cover.  It might be a wizard in a goofy hat, but its a cool looking wizard in a goofy hat.

We start with some short autobiographies of the major players at TSR: EGG, Brian Blume, Robert Kuntz, Theron Kuntz and Tim Kask.  Interesting stuff.

Sturmgeshutz and Sorcery is a mashup of WW2 wargaming and D&D.  This is set up where neither side initially  knew there was a cross-genre encounter going on.

Just to give a peek, I'm going to give you the background that the SS and D&D sides were given:

SS side: "There has been unusual resistance activity in this area, and in the last few days a squad of Security troops were wiped out in a battle with them. Only one old man, bearded, and with no weapons, was found at the scene of the battle. From his dress and general appearance it would seem that he was a Russian clergyman — probably there to incite the troops to greater bravery as the Communist commissars have failed in this respect."

D&D side: "Your able lieutenants Grustiven the Warlock and the Lama Goocz have failed to return from an exploration of an area of unusual nature — just west of your castle a thick fog sprang up and has been obscuring vision since then. Dispell Magic failed to affect the area, and your henchmen were ordered to investigate, for it is possible that some Lawful enemy is at work, using the mist to screen gathering troops. Unfortunately, your strongest fighters and 200 orcs are elsewhere warring with a Neutral Lord who insulted you, so you will have to make do with the forces on hand. An orc detailed to patrol the edge of the fog area has just reported that unusual sounds have been issuing from the area — he  described them as: “low growls, the clanking of chains, and a deep humming,” but who can trust a stupid orc?"

I could see this scenario as a blast to play out.  D&D didn't go far from it's war-gaming roots.

Mighty Magic Miscellany (they corrected it!) gives us the Robe of Scintillating Color and Prayer Beads.

The Creature Feature gives us first looks and future classics: Rakshasa, The Slithering Tracker and The Trapper.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Things to Do... Later

Let's see:  I wanted to talk about the Synapse and Errant RPGs - they'll have to wait.

Next installment of the Draconic Archeologist?  I'll do a double entry tomorrow.

Peeking at the Woodland Warriors?  They'll have to come out and play tomorrow.

Watch the latest Chicago Code at 9pm?  I'll catch it on Hulu+.

I'm almost done downloading Blood Bowl via Steam on my PC... time to relive the board game moments in computer gorefics...er, graphics!

Your Highness - Reviewing the Movie as a Gamer

I am reviewing it as a gamer because apparently the critics hated it.  Rotten Tomatoes was iffy on it, but Moviephone users gave it a 91% thumbs up.  Who to believe?

In this case, no one.  I do think it one of the better (if not the best) D&Dish movie we've been given in years.  It's just that it seems like it's not sure what it wants to be.  Is it a foul mouthed, sexually perverted comedy aimed at the folks that go see the Scary Movie series, or is it a well thought out fantasy movie with pretty nifty effects and sweet action scenes?  It's both, which makes it weaker then either a pure goofball comedy or a serious fantasy genre movie (after the LotR series, I think we can expect serious fantasy movies on occasion).  It does however, do a decent job of being both... it just would have been stronger picking one and sticking with it.

Is it better  then the 1st D&D movie? Hell yes.  Is it better then the 2nd D&D movie?  Without a doubt.  Better then Army of Darkness?  I think so.

On a scale of 1 to 5 pints, I'll give this a 4.  I'm grading a bit on the curve, because there were some moments where the movie just shines from a gamer's point of view (like the hired barbarian dying a gruesome death in the first and only trap in the maze).

I think I'm in love with Natalie Portman, but don't tell my lady ;)

Monday Morning Musings - April 18th, 2011

When is Tax Day not Tax Day?  When it falls on April 18th (and you've already filed an extension so that the refund arrives around the next stage of renovations).

Ashley, my cat, has two favorite places to be when I'm on my computer - my keyboard or in front of my monitor.  Why have I given her a padded perch when she would rather lay on top of papers?

Will Your Highness meet expectations?  I'll find out at 12:40.  You'll find out later this afternoon.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Where's the REAL Magic in Your Campaign?

As I was driving thru the streets of Manhattan earlier tonight I let myself soak in the wonders of a modern city.  Traffic lights, cars, trucks, public transportation, running water, sewers, phones, electricity, paved  streets - the list goes on.  It struck me.  Where are these conveniences in the fantasy campaigns we run?

I know that, for the most part, I've never had a chamber pot hap-hazardly dumped on a party member that just happened to be walking down a street, but it used to be fairy common before indoor plumbing.  So what takes care of the stuff that we take for granted in the real world in our fantasy worlds?

Magic.  The real stuff.  Not the stuff of adventuring.  The stuff that lets a city thrive.  It helps take care of the sewage and water supply, keeps disease under control, allows for the city's refuse to be dealt with... all the things we take for granted in a modern word we take for granted in our fantasy worlds.

When we game, we look at the world thru the eyes of our adventurers.  We look for adventurer supplies, and adventurer magic.

The magic that keeps the wealthy lord comfortable will not be the same as the magic that keeps him safe.

The question then becomes, are there spells that our PC casters never bother with, because they have little to no application in the adventuring professions, or is the magic that makes the world truly move belong to a whole other class or classes?

Amazing what comes to mind as you sit in traffic on a Sunday evening.

Sunday Afternoon Matinee - Four Lions

I've been waiting to catch this movie since I first heard about it.  It's a dark British comedy about a cell of incompetent home grown British Islamic terrorists.

It wasn't as funny as I thought it would be, but then again, how funny can a movie about terrorist be?  ;)

I enjoyed it tho'.  I cringed and laughed (guilty laugh, but laugh none the less).

Come to think of it, if there was an RPG about playing home grown terrorists, this movie is pretty close to how it would play out.  Not sure if that is funny or scary, but  its accurate.

Four Lions is available on Netflix on Demand

Not the Way to Start One's Vacation

I had a birthday party to go to in Connecticut yesterday and I would have done myself a huge favor by not going.  The party and family were great to be at and see, it's the drive that did me in.

I knew the rain was going to have picked up for the ride home, but I had no idea how much.  Between the rain, low lying fog, wind and the mist kicked up by other drivers I had near zero visibility at some points.  The hour and a half ride became nearly 2 1/2.  The real shame is that drives like this are usually great blog fodder, as part of my minds is freed from the normal distractions of life and works out some nice post seeds.  Didn't happen.

Last night I needed all my brain power just to avoid hydroplaning cars:  note to SUV drivers - yes, you too can hydroplane - size does NOT matter.

Time to prep the front rooms for painting.  Fun fun.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Draconic Archeologist: Rounding Up the Monsters - Strategic Review #3

Strategic Review Issue 3 clocks in at 8 pages, but it doesn't take us longer then page 2 to find some D&D goodies.  Here we get the first looks at:

   The Yeti - Ehhh
   The Shambling Mound - Iconic D&D baddie
   The Leprechaun - another ehhh
   The Shrieker - the wandering monster magnet
   The Ghost - time to grow old
   Naga - describes Guardian, Water and Spirit Nagas
   The Wind Walker - ethereal, immune to weapon weapon damage
   The Piercer - caverns were never the same again
   The Lurker Above - your living death from above trap

Next up is the Monster Reference Table Addition, Hostile and Benign Creatures - its a joke list including Weregamers (Wererommels, Weregandalfs and the such), Grifferees, Hippygriffs - you get the idea.  Pretty much filler, but was probably entraining to those with wargaming roots.

Bunch of wargaming articles, listing of small press publishers / fanzine (SASE and / or a few cents) and listing of DMs and Gaming Clubs.

James Ward has an article on Deserted Cities of Mars, drawing on the John Carter of Mars series.  It includes some charts for generating Martian architecture, but I  don't think they have much rip-able value for most OSR games.  Still, more value in this article then recent issues of Crusader.

Friday, April 15, 2011

What Happened to the Homebrewing...

In answer to Christian's question about my hobby of Home brewing beer, I haven't done ANYTHING this winter season.  It's a shame too, as I was hoping to try out a raspberry flavor brew this time around.

Short reason:  I've been busy.

Long reason:  I've had added responsibilities at work, changed offices (twice), was taking the kid to Auxiliary Police training in the evening fall to early winter, some positive life experiences (but major time sinks), do it yourself to hold down the cost renovations (talk about time sink) - and general lack of space for my beer to ferment in, as the closet I used last year is being deconstructed (nice word) so it can be replaced by a closet with modern sensibilities and depth.


Soon it will be too warm to brew in NYC, unless I can clear out a pat of the basement that may stay fairly cool until late June.  This may be a brewing season that passes me by.

As for the savings vs. buying commercial bottle beer... if you drink Bud or Coors by the case, home brewing will not save you money.  If you drink primarily Microbrews, home brewing will probably cost less.

Still, thinking about the whole process made me think about how similar home brewing beer is to home brewing an rpg setting, but that's for a whole 'nother post.

I'm Allergic to Work

Not really. Seasonal allergies are being one heck of a drag on me. I'm even more dopey then my usual lovable self.

Have no fear, vacation is here. Mostly a stay-cation / renovate-cation I'll still find time to get as few days away in the country with my sidekick - my kitty Ashley.

I have so much stuff I want to get done on my vacation I'd have to give up sleep in the hopes of accomplishing 75%. Still, I'll do what I can. I need to get some gaming in, even if it's just some Tunnels & Trolls solos.

I hope to paint the ceilings and moldings, and start dismantling the old closet. It will make me feel like I've accomplished something ;)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Mini Review: DA1 Dark Journey (Castles & Crusades)

Sometimes going back to the basics is fun.  With Dark Journey, the Troll Lords do what they do best - a classic dungeon crawl.

It is kinda classic:  3 levels, a maze, traps (no save vs die shit that I noticed), classic low level adversaries, level appropriate rewards - the stuff you want in a low level or introductory adventure.  In this case, for levels 1-4.  You'll need to supply your own hook,

I wonder how long before we get a Fantasy Grounds 2 conversion?  hint... nudge... poke!

There is enough adventure here to last 2 or 3 sessions worth of gameplay, which is pretty good value for your money IMO.

From the blurb:

Its a dungeon crawl in every sense of the word. There is little back story, allowing the CK to plunge into the dungeon almost immediately. Its filled with adventure, danger and glory.   
Dark Journey is a dungeon adventure cast in the classic mold. Here the CK is able to present the players a network of inter-connecting halls, rooms, chambers, cellars and more. A wizard's old hold, it offers libraries guarded by strange monsters, laboratories, cellars, trapped chambers and more; here lies the wizard's forgotten wealth, his magic, his money, his artifacts. But the adventurer must be wary for wizard's do not idly set treasures down but that they are trapped or protected by guards and wards and monsters summoned from dark places.

The Draconic Archeologist - Picking Apart Strategic Review #2

Strategic Review #2 clocks in at a whopping 8 pages. Still, there are some interesting things for D&D players (once we hit The Dragon, the amount of relevant gaming material should increase exponentially).

We are given an example of D&D combat, to help explain the system for players that don't have Chainmail in their gaming background. Heck, it confused things for me after reading it. I'm just glad the OSR has represented the rules in a user friendly fashion.

Later, we are presented the Ranger Class. My point of reference is AD&D 1e, the system I cut my gaming teeth on. So, from what I see, much is like the AD&D class: 2HD at 1st level, 10HD max, crap load of random followers at high levels, magic user and cleric (later druid) spells at higher levels... the one thing that stuck out was experience. Rangers don't get extra expo for a high prime stat, but they earn 4 points for every 3 earned thru 8th level. That's a 33% bonus! At level 8 that no longer get that bonus, but the damage is done. They get an extra HD from the start AND extra expo. Oh, and the article refers to them as a week class until level 8. They are a strong class with high survivability right out of the gate.

Can't forget the nicely illustrated article on pole arms, one of gaming's most misunderstood weapons in the early years, at least if you didn't have a wargaming background.

That's all for now. Next, some iconic D&D monsters see first light.

Thursday Morning Musings

If we all moved to e-books, there would be no more paper cuts.

How would you burn an e-book?

Will Goodman's upcoming 3x / OSR hybrid be playable without the odd sided dice? (compared to our hobby's usual odd sided dice)

I still have my original Gamma World 1e dice... the ones made out of a stale waxy substance. They were hardly in good shape when I first got them, and I think they've become rounder and more deformed as years have passed - without me even using them. I'm just amazed I still have them.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I Saw the Button, and It Was Good...

Yep, I've joined the ranks of the OSR Button Brigade, for easy printing or saving to PDF of various and sundry posts.

Now if I only had stuff worth printing or saving ;)

Giving Groo a New Look

My first issue of Groo was the second issue published by Pacific Comics back in the early days of Indie Comics (early 80s). I'm not sure if I made the connection to Mad Magazine, but Sergio's art is fairly distinctive. It was a sword bearing fantasy comic, and I wanted it. Of course, it was also at the same newsstand that would sell a 16 year old porno mags, and I wasn't quite sure I wouldn't flag as under age if I bought a High Society with a Groo. Separate trips on separate days solved that issue ;)

Anyhow, Groo was the one comic I stuck with even when I wasn't collecting comics. It was funny, fantasy, filled with hidden treasures in Sergio's artwork... it was a pleasure to read and collect. Somehow, I packed it all away. Now, I am unpacking it again.

Having reread the first 4 issues, I do have a question. I remember Groo having an INT score somewhere south of being feebleminded. In the early issues, he actually looks like he lacks wisdom more then intelligence. Did he get dumbed down as the series progressed, or has my memory dumbed him down?

In any case, 28 years later, its just as funny as when i first read them. Just like OD&D, AD&D, T&T and the like, it stands the test of time

The Draconic Archeologist: Sifting the Remains of The Strategic Review Issue 1

You have to start somewhere, and what better place then the beginning. The first issue The Strategic Review clocked in at a mere 6 pages. Despite the small size and the large amount of space allocated to war-gaming, there is a nice amount of stuff of high interest to players of Dungeons & Dragons.

Under the Creature Feature tag, we are introduced to the iconic D&D adversary: The Mind Flayer. Pretty cool, huh? Your Saving Throw is based upon distance and the defenders intelligence. Watch yourself, you may just get Mind Blasted ;)

Two and a half pages are devoted to EGG's Solo Dungeon Adventure Charts. These seem to be the same chart (or very similar) to the ones I enjoyed in the 1e DMG. They were a fun way to randomly design a dungeon and a less fun way to try to solo D&D. Of note is these charts are copyright EGG, not Tactical Studies Rules.

One of the items advertised by TSR on the last page is 3 sets of prints (5 prints per set) of art from the original boxed D&D set. I don't think I've heard of these before, let seen any for sale. Anyone have any further info on these?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Draconic Archeologist: Picking Through the Dragon's Bones - Prelude

Everyone offered some good ideas, and I think what I'm going with steals from your thoughts, which were then put in a blender and this is what I got.

The Draconic Archeologist, because I'll be exploring the old Dragons as they relate to our hobby (and the OSR corner).  I'll be picking through the Dragon's bones because the magazine is dead.  No, WotC's online version does not count.  They are good bones.  Valuable and and full of history.  Hopefully I'll be able to treat them right.

I'll be starting with The Strategic Review,  as it is definitely the prelude to The Dragon and it's a treasure trove of stuff that later made it into the OD&D Supplements.  If I have time after hitting the pub, I'll post tonight.  Otherwise, it will wait till tomorrow.

Tip Toeing Through the Tulips, At Least Until the Neighborhood Kids Pick 'em All

Why should Christian have all the fun? Heh

- Posted from my iPhone

edit: improved picture quality

Looking For Some Reader Input

For the soon to start series of posts about Dragon Magazine (and The Strategic Review) I'm trying to decide on a post title. So far I'm considering:

The Dragon Flagon

Delving With the Dragon

Picking Apart The Dragon's Carcass

If anyone would like to add their own ideas to the mix, or would like to cast their vote for one of the above, drop a note in the comments below.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Look at What the Cat Dragon

Yeah, the title is a piss poor play on words, but whatever ;)

In any case, I just realized I have a Dragon Magazine Archive that I recently found the missing CD for.  I was damn close to buying another Archive last summer on Ebay, as I was missing the first disc from my set, but cleaning prior to renovations revealed the missing disc.

I'm going to be dropping the PDFs onto my iPad and reading them in order.  I don't plan on doing a play by play review of the issues, but I will try to highlight the bits and pieces I think are of most value to those of us that enjoy OSR related gaming.

Yes, I'll still be reading stuff to review.  Yes, I still need to complete The Synapse challenge.  Yes, I'm still renovating the house.  No, I haven't logged into a MMORPG (Rift) in about 2 weeks.  No idea when I'll be getting my Fantasy Grounds Tunnels & Trolls game up and running.  Time will tell.

Beginning to Feel Like the Office Menicant

Let's see: I've moved my desk twice since October, and will probably being doing so again in 3 weeks. Oh, and another possible move in the late Spring. Joy of joys. I need to know my long term spot before I hang anything on the walls.

Which brings me to Groo: The Wanderer (it's where I learned of the word "Mendicant"). Somewhere packed away in boxes is a nearly complete collection of Groo. Damn but that was a classic series of goodness. I actually tried to role-play Groo back in the early days of AD&D 2e, but I could never hit the note of idiot and good deeds by luck.

Crap, now I want to dig them out of storage. I'm supposed to be putting stuff INTO storage at the moment.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Just Call Me... The Godfather

Yep, my niece was baptized today, and I officially became a Godfather.  Pretty cool stuff.

My brother in law was also a gamer throughout high school and college, although he stopped gaming with AD&D 1e and the original Traveller.  Still,  he has all of his old gaming books proudly displayed on his bookshelves and frequently rereads his Traveller collection.  Traveller:  The New Era is apparently an evil thing (I did a decent job escaping that myself back in the day).

Hey, maybe when my goddaughter gets a bit older, we can baptize her into the RPG gaming club ;)

Sunday Morning Musings

Why is it then whenever you misplace a D4, you always find it later when you step on it barefoot?

Why does the AD&D 2e series of "Complete Handbooks" seem gratuitous and incomplete at the same time?  Why the heck did Halflings and Gnomes have to share a book?  Short stature discrimination?  Seems like Gnomes have been getting the shaft for over 20 years...

Has anyone seen "Your Highness" yet?  Is it as bad as I fear?  Better then I could hope?  At the very least, better then the Dungeons & Dragons movie?

I have a local bodega that states on it's awning: "Open 25 HRS".  Did they actually find a way to squeeze an extra hour into the day?  Can I buy into that?

Okay, enough musing for this morning :)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Thank God For E-Books, or My Desk Would Runneth Over

If my slush pile of RPG related material waiting to be reviewed was physical and not virtual, I'd have one hell of a storage problem.  Let's peek at what's on the plate:

Weird Fantasy: Grindhouse Edition
Jungle Ruins of Madaro-Shanti (S&W)
Splinters of Faith 5: Eclipse of the hearth (S&W)
A Bunch of Stuff for Chronicles of Arax
Sword Noir: A RPG of Hardboiled Sword & Sorcery
Dark Ages Basic Rules (from White Wolf, and it's Free)
Beneath the Despairing Stone (C&C)
Shadow, Sword & Spell: Expert
Rapture: The End of Days (Theological SciFi Horror)

This list is off the top of my head.  I'm sure I missed others.  This weekend is already shot (my niece / god daughter is being christened tomorrow - woot!) but I'll be reading in my spare moments.  It's a good thing I love to read... heh

Damn, that's an exciting list of gaming to have to read :)

Friday Nite Movie - Up!

Cartoons are usually not my bag, but I had heard food things about Up! I was not disappointed.

This was a fun movie, extremely well animated with a decent story and believable characters (taken within the context of the movie.

Not sure how connected it is to roleplaying, but it's a nice on demand Netflix movie for the family.

- Posted from my iPhone

Friday, April 8, 2011

Mini Review - Vengence of the Long Serpent (Swords & Wizardry)

Alright, lets see if I can write this without Blogger crapping out on me ;)

The Northland Saga Part 1, Vengeance Of the Long Serpent, is an adventure that comes in two flavors: Pathfinder and Swords & Wizardry.  Today we are looking at the S&W version.  After removing the cover, credits, contents and OGL pages you are left with 16 pages of fairly dense text, which is a decent size for an adventure meant to be run in a session or two.

My first impression is that this adventure would make a decent mash-up with LotFP's Weird New World Campaign setting.  Yes, this is more Viking in flavor and WNW is more Finnish in flavor, but I think the two would mix well.  The majority of the adversaries / monsters in this adventure aren't over the top fantasy, which should help in fitting this with WNW.

I'm a little surprised that the first adventure in a planned 10 adventure series is written for levels 5-7, but I guess one could always move the party north as they gain some experience and survivability.

I like the fact that it isn't much of a dungeon crawl but is primarily story driven.  This does however, lead us to the one issue I have with this adventure.  To give the party the backstory, we have an NPC regaling everyone with his deeds.  I estimate his tale to be approximately 750 words or so... one side of a two column page... that the DM has to read to the players.  As a player, unless my DM is a thespian, this is gonna put me to sleep.  The rule of "show, don't tell" comes into play I think.  I'm not sure yet how I'd rework this if I were to run the adventure, but it's not the best way to start an otherwise well written adventure in my opinion.   Still, lots of pieces to steal even if not used whole for a Nordic campaign.

From the blurb:

This series of adventures takes place in the frozen north, where men are men, beer is ale and monsters are, well, scary. Who has not loved the setting of the 13th Warrior or wished to relive the Frost Giant's Daughter by R.E. Howard? Heroes will fight evil in the cold lands, sail the treacherous ice filled seas where sea monsters swallow ships and crews and feast in fire-lit halls with Vikings! Planned as a series of 10 modules, this series will begin in January (appropriately, due to the cold). More information will be added as it becomes available.  Written by Ken Spencer, this series is sure to send shivers up even the bravest adventurer's spine!

Vengeance of the Long Serpent

Pull on your hauberk, ready your shield, and take up your axe, the tide is moving
out and it is time to set sail on a voyage of adventure. In Vengeance of the Long
Serpent the heroes sail north into a land of murder, savagery, and madness to face a reawakened dark god and his deadly cult.

The World is a River - Riverworld

I just finished watching the first part of Riverworld on Netflix on Demand.  I really didn't know what to expect, as I never read the book (or is it books).  Still, I like what I see so far.

Sure, some of the acting is poor, but once I got past the confusing first 30 minutes, I actually started to enjoy the story and like the characters.  Except for the main character.  Matthew is annoying, but hey, can't have everything.

I have a feeling I'm enjoying this more because I never read the story.  I'm sure if I had, I'd be picking nits constantly.

I took today off from work to spackle cracks in the walls before painting and wall papering.  Damn distractions ;)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Mini Review - A Sworded Adventure (Tunnels & Trolls Solo Adventure)

I was wondering when my next Tunnels & Trolls fix would hit.  Look no further, cause it's here with A Sworded Adventure by Ken St. Andre.

It's funny, because when I saw the title I thought it looked familiar, and it is, sorta.  It is a rewrite and expansion of the original A Sworded Adventure that appeared in Sorcerer's Apprentice #6 (back in 1979).  Pretty cool, huh?  (Yes, I have this issue)  This version is written to be compatible with either the 5.5 or 7.5 editions of the rules (and probably works just fine with the 5.0 and 7.0 editions too).

It's for a warrior of 50 combat adds or less, and is integrated to some extent with the Naked Doom and Arena of Khazan solos, as certain events can drop your character into one or the other.  If you don't have them, there are alternatives, but really, you know you want them ;)

It's a short solo, about 23 pages when you remove the covers and credit pages, but it's well written and should be entertaining (at least I think so).  It could easily be run using the free version of the rules I have linked to the left... but as always, one should remember that survivability is greatly enhanced by going as close to the recommended combat adds without going over.  A complete newb without exceptional scores probably won't last long.  Then again, creating a new character is pretty quick in T&T, so death isnt much of an issue

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Mini Review - Surge of the Wine-Dark Sea (OSR Themed Artbook)

I've always enjoyed good artwork in my RPG books, but I never saw it as a "make or break" type of issue. Heck, I'd still rather have no art then bad art.  Just so you know right from the start, there is no bad art in Surge of the Wine-Dark Sea.

My first thought when I saw that Mythmere Games (well known for the Swords & Wizardry clone) had published a OSR artbook was "why"?  I didn't think it was needed.  I still don't think it is needed, but it sure is appreciated.

The cover art is probably my favorite piece (I can see why Rowena Aitken's piece was chosen for the cover).   I was less fond of the pages that had multiple pieces of art... I want my art in its full page / screen glory Damn it!  Still, I ooo'd and aweeee'd at the vast majority of the work.  I'm already picking out pieces I want prints of.  There better be prints!  heh

My favorite pieces so far:

The Contentious Tower by Paul Jaquays

Opium Seller by M Kultra Studio

Untitled by Peter Mullen (the one with the open door)

E. Gary Gygax Commemorative by Stefan Poag

Astragard by Dirk Remmecke (this is my Greyhawk Map Flashback pice)

I've Accepted the Synapse Challenge...

Yep, Greg threw down the gauntlet and I've decided to pick it up.

This will, however, take a wee bit more time then I expected.  There is more depth to a Synapse Character then your regular OSR game's PC, and I need to take my time with all this.  I mean, I'll be posting the sucker.

So, I expect to have this done over the next few days (using tonight and tomorrow nite to get myself up to speed on the Synapse RPG).

Now, I suspect if I was conversant with the system and was sitting at the gaming table with a gaming group, it could be done in less then an hour, but I'm needing to steal time from other (household) projects to get this done.

As an aside, I love the artwork in Synapse.  No where near as disturbing as Raggi's Weird Fantasy Grindhouse Edition, but just as evocative.  Being sized for a computer / tablet screen as far as the PDF goes is pretty cool too ;)

Runnin' Raggi

Does Jim Raggi (LotFP) sleep anymore these days? in addition to having to fix the PDF FUBAR, he's adding yet more stuff from other creators.

Before anyone asks: Yes, I bought the two preorders that Raggi put up for sale last friday. I waited for the PDF issues to be corrected (they were) before giving them a closer look.

It's hard to compare the Grind-house Edition to the original Deluxe Edition, especially while typing away on my iPad, so what follows is my first impressions of the LotFP Weird Fantasy Grind-house Edition.

Artwork: Top notch. Very evocative. At times disturbing. Can't wait to see it in print (this coming from someone who fully embraces electronic media).

Presentation: I suspect Jim took the criticism of the Weird Fantasy Deluxe Edition PDF presentation to heart, as the Grind-house release is much more visually pleasing. Nice use of new fonts and much better lay out from what i can see. Haven't done an in-depth look, but virtual flipping of the pages looked pretty good.

Rules: I need to give them a full read thru, then compare them to the Deluxe. Question? If elves are fighter / wizards, does their combat skills increase as a fighter? I would say yes, but Jim may say no.

I really need to sit down for a few hours and give this nice read. Anyone want to cover my desk until 4 pm? ;)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Memories - Hiding in the Corners of Your Mind

Today dragged up some bittersweet memories.  Ah, who am i kidding, they were the kind you leave mostly hidden, but ready to draw upon when you need the associated emotions.

It did get me thinking about my gaming days in High School and College and memories associated with those times.  We had some great games, amazing campaigns, but the most vivid memories are what happened outside the game but at the table.

My favorite is one from senior year of High School.  The school year was winding down and it was warm enough to game at the backyard picnic table.  There we are, six of us, rolling dice, cracking jokes, drinking iced tea... when suddenly Andrew D. sneezed.  Most sneezes are sudden (obviously), and this one was no different.  Everyone got hit from the shotgun spray but me (Go-Go AD&D DM's Screen!).

Everyone (but myself) was hit, but one of us was screaming like they were shot in the gut by a .38.  Which, of course, made it all the funnier to the rest of us.  But Lenny wouldn't stop screaming.  Heck, he started to hyperventilate, all while holding his left arm straight up in the air.

That's when I saw it.  It looked like a large green slug was leaving a slime trail as it traveled down Lenny's arm, but it was the single largest piece of mucous I've seen in my life to date.  After the gag reflex was under control, we grabbed the hose and used the green slime as an excuse to hose Lenny (and the rest of us) down.  Everyone shared a good laugh afterwards.

No idea what game system I was using, what module I was running... but everything else is picture perfect in my head.

Damn, I really need to stat out a Killer Booger one of these days :)

The Games I Own, But Have Never Played - Starsiege

This is another of the Troll Lord products that I wanted to love but really couldn't get into.  In theory, it builds upon the Siege Engine concept as used in Castles & Crusades.  The problem is it strays so far from it's roots, it's really a whole new system.  Alright, that's not the only problem, but it's a start.

Attributes are renamed and redefined from their C&C roots and d20 is rolled to "simplify" character creation instead of 3d6 (3d6 isn't simple enough?).  But hey, they simplify Hit Points to Wound and Stress Tracks.  Each Track is tracked by boxes, and there are also boxes to track critical damage.  You say this isn't simplifying things but making it needlessly more complicated?   You must be wrong:
StarSIEGE: Event Horizon's Wound and Stress tracks are merely simplified Hit Points, with each character getting 4 Hit Points and 3 "negative hit points".
Maybe its just me, but subtracting 5 point of damage from a lazer shot from a HP total of 11 is 6.  Much easier then the "simplified  Hit Points" if you ask me.

Did I mention the font used throughout is ugly as sin?  Well, now I did.

They do provide enough Field Manuals (Players' Booklets) to supply the average gaming group.  Which is nice, but I had to pay for that when I bought the box, even if I don't have a group.

The Trolls need to stick to C&C (Harvesters wasn't bad, I will admit).  Wait, there was that pricing issue with the CKG.  They can't win these days.

What I wanted was a SciFi RPG based upon C&C.  This is not it.

Thank God for Stars Without Number - an Old School rooted SciFi game that doesn't muck things up.  Oh, and it's free.  Woot!

Monday, April 4, 2011

God Damn Frickin Sunofa... !

Blogger blew up my review of Vengeance of the Long Serpent (for Swords & Wizardry) just as I was about to publish it, and of course the draft it saved was the post blow up version.


Maybe I'll work on it tomorrow nite, tho more likely it will be wednesday.


You're Fired!

Whether is Vince McMahon or Donald Trump saying it, "You're Fired" is a horrible thing to hear. When you are the one that has to "dismiss" people, as we call it on my job, it really sucks. I should be old hat at it, but I never enjoy it. I'm sure those on the receiving end like it even less.

I envy those that can make a living of any sort off of what I see as a hobby. No one is going to fire you (tho business may suck at times) and odds are you'll have little if no staff, so you won't have to sit someone down and tell them the 20+ year career they had planned on isn't going to be.

Maybe that is why i enjoy the optimism of the smaller publishers. It's hard to beat their enthusiasm. And if I fire them by no longer buying their products, they still have everyone else ;)

edited "at" to "hat"

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Saturday Nite Netflix at the Tavern - Repo, The Genetic Opera

My God, we lasted less then 10 minutes into this horror before we had to tap out.  It was... not sure how nicely I can say this... a flaming pile of putrid piss.  I don't even think a case of beer would have helped us find a redeeming funny in it.  When I need to do some penance for a really huge sin, I'll sentence myself to viewing this piece of crap.

So, of course I had to follow it up with Krod Mandoom.  The lady chuckled a bit before falling asleep.  I think Archer (from last week) might have been a better choice.

I was thinking LotR:  The Fellowship, but at 3 hrs I think she would have enjoyed one hell of a nap.  I love it, but I don't think she'll make it past the 10 minute set up in the beginning.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

What's With All the Negative Energy?

Think about the size of this hobby.  It ain't all that large anymore, and you can easily argue it's getting smaller.

Think about the size of the OSR within this hobby of ours.  While it may be larger then a pimple on the ass of the 40-something Cougar in the latest Non-Pathfinder supplement, it's still small as all shit.

We don't need negativity.  What we need is naivety.  Really.  No sane indie publisher of OSR related gaming material should even make the attempt to publish without a large dose of it.

To quote the great sage Baloo:  "You've got to accentuate the positive, Eliminate the negative, And latch on to the affirmative, Don't mess with Mister In-Between!"

Give it you all, lads and ladies.  If you bugger it, pick yourself up and try again.  Whether it's in this hobby, or life in general, the only failure is the lack of making the attempt.

Final word of advice:  Beer, Books and Felines don't mix ;)
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