Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Free Time... What Free Time?

As am sitting at my desk at work, digging myself out of paperwork, it suddenly full dawned on me - I don't have much in the way of free time until after my wedding. How the hell did that happen?

Two nights a week I shuttle my son back and forth to EMT class. In between the shuttling I also have to drop the fiancée at her apt in The Bronx. So, those two nights are shot. Weekends always revolve around renovations, so they are shot. Tuesday and Thursday nights. I think I have majority ownership of them ;)

After November my son's classes are over, renovations will be done, trips to The Bronx will no longer be needed - I think the New Year will bring some fairly regular gaming back into my life.

Oh, wait - football season starts soon. Okay, Sunday's will still be shot for a while... heh

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Those Damn AD&D 2e Complete Handbooks

Earlier today I posted a bit about the AD&D 2e Handbooks.  You know, the books that took AD&D into the never ending, unbalanced world of "splat books".  Moving stuff (like my bed) earlier tonight uncovered my collection of 2e Complete Handbooks.  (As an aside, the binding on my 2e Player's Handbook is shot to shit).

I'm not even sure if I have a complete collection of the "Completes" - I'll list what I have in no particular order:

Complete Psionics Handbook
The Complete Ranger's Handbook
The Complete Book of Humanoids
The Complete Book of Elves (an evil, unbalanced addition if any are)
The Complete Paladin's Handbook
Complete Thief's Handbook
Complete Fighter's Handbook
The Complete Book of Dwarves
The Complete Bard's Handbook
The Complete Barbarian's Handbook
The Complete Druid's Handbook

Somewhere the Halfling and Gnome book is hiding.  I know I have it, but those buggers are sneaky ;)

The Code of the Harpers kinda fits the overall definition of "kits" too.

Were they f'n insane?  I must have been insane, as I bought the suckers (tho' as I stated earlier, the Mail Order Hobby Shop was nice enough to fill in some gaps).

I played a lot of 2e back in the day, but my fondest memories are of 1e.  Without the bloat,  Without the kits.  Without the later Player's Option: Combat & Tactics.  Still, there's a years worth of posts in those books, I am sure... heh

The Red Headed Step-Child of TSR - The Mail Order Hobby Shop

You have to have been a gamer for a bit to remember the Mail Order Hobby Shop. Before you had stores with a virtual presence on the 'net, you had stores with a physical presence on a street. Such it was with the Mail Order Hobby Shop, TSR's storefront in Lake Geneva.

There were ads in Dragon magazine, which makes sense, as Dragon was mostly a house organ and the Mail Order Hobby Shop was part of that house. I don't know how many of you dealt with the MOHS to make your purchases, but I did - once. I ordered a poster and one of the Complete Handbooks for AD&D 2e.

What I received was nearly a dozen different Complete Handbooks and no poster. Apparently, they sorted their orders by first name and sent my book with some other "Erik's" books, and the poor guy got my poster. I set it all aside when I realized the mistake and called them. Someone answered, had no answer for me, took my name and number and promised I would be called back.

The did. I was told to ship it back at my expense. After they verified the books were all accounted for and not used, I would be issued a credit for my shipping. I told them I wanted them to pay the shipping up front or a check to refund the shipping cost, not store credit. It was their mistake, not mine, and I was willing to do the footwork to return it, but I wasn't settling on store credit. I was a college student with little cash on hand. Credit wasn't going to pay my bus fare to school.

They insisted on store credit. I refused to pay for their mistake. I was called a thief. I reminded them I was willing to fix their mistake, but I wasn't going to pay for their mistake. The call ended. They never contacted me again.

I wasn't surprised to see TSR have major financial problems a few years later. My one interaction with their retail end was full of numerous failures.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Frog God Freebies!

Frog God, the purveyor of many books for Swords & Wizardry, has released some things for free.  Foremost is the compilation of Lairs from the Tome of Horrors Complete: Swords & Wizardry version.

It's a great way to get a good peek at some of the work put into that awesome book.  I'm still waiting on my hard cover copy (love the PDF... so I'm not complaining TOO much ;)

Oh, and theres some other stuff for free too.  I'm just too busy looking at the Lair write ups, which is silly, as I have them in the ToHC: SW PDF.  It's just that they are such a nice neat package here.

Who Cares About 5e? I Want My 8e!

Having survived the weekend, I must say I'm disappointed that I didn't any real RPG reading in (let alone gaming in) although we did get to play a game of Ticket to Ride. Yes, I squashed my competition underfoot! (heh... my mother and my fiancee - yes, I show no mercy).

As I've stated before, I am WAY behind on reviews. It doesn't help that I'm easily distracted by the new shinnies ;) I'm going to try and get to 3 or 4 a week for the next few weeks - lets see if I come anywhere near the pace.

Did you see the announcement for Tunnels & Trolls 8e over the weekend? The Trollgod himself sent out an email that it wasn't happening anytime soon, if ever. Still, it got me thinking... What would I want to see "fixed" or "added" to the next version of T&T? For me, the answer is -

I want to see a unification of the 5x and 7x rules. I want something that fixes 5x level advancement (and the ability increases). I want something that fixes 5x ability increases (and level advancement attached to abilities). Is that too much to ask? Probably, but I'm asking anyway ;)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Irene, We Hardly Knew Ya!

Well, you cant have a Hurricane visit without spending some personal time with her, so the family and I headed out to Rockaway Beach to meet her.  She was still causing havoc at the water's edge as you can see below:

Additionally, you can go to the MTA's own Flicker Album to see the problems in store for those seeking to commute into and within NYC over the coming days.  Flooding is the word of the week.

About to play a game of Ticket to Ride with my lady and my mother.  Mom's been going thru withdrawals over the summer months it seems ;)

Hurricane Irene Wasn't the Biatch I Thought She Was ;)

I'm still here ;)

The rain was the worst of it.  The basement got damp but didn't flood.  I did get a leak in the roof which sucks, as it came thru the ceiling in one of the rooms I just renovated.  Still, we have power and the worst seems to be over.

Didn't get recalled for the weekend, so I guess I'll find out how bad things are at work when I return tomorrow morning.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow - Failing That, Maybe Monday

They are saying that the NYC subway system may not be back up for Monday morning. It should be a fun commute.

So far it's just been a lot of rain here in NYC and I'll probably sleep thru the worst of the winds overnight.

I haven't gotten the reading in that I had hoped for, as the family is glued to storm coverage on the TV, myself included. Every loves to watch natural disasters ;)

Then again, the weather is now causing havoc with the satellite signal - reading may be in my grasp ;)

Psst! You Wanna Buy Sum "Conspiracy"?

Well, I've probably spent most of my day so far watching paint dry - I mean, watching Hurricane Irene coverage on TV, which apparently happens at the same time frame as paint drying.  Waiting isnt the hardest part - so far its the only part.

I've seen FEMA mentioned a few times so far today for their role in digging us out of the aftermath of "Hurrigedon!" or whatever the news will wind up calling it, and I thought back to the conspiracy research I did in the years after 9-11.  I felt a need to know what the fringe believed, because it's much easier to make your point when you know where others are coming from.  So I delved into the world of Jesse Ventura and his ilk, a world of thermite paint, remote controlled airliners, contrails, FEMA death camps, UN world domination, shadow governments and the like (this was years before his TV show, which I've yet to see).

Does anyone know of a game or gaming supplement that starts from the baseline that ALL the recent conspiracies are true?  It would be a bit over the top, but would make an excellent alternative modern setting IMHO.

Waiting is the Hardest Part

It's 0120 in the morning and I'm still wide awake (if not wholly sober - 2 Blackberry beers from Sam Adams and I'm done -  damn lightweight) trying to track the storm.  It's not like I'll be able  to change it's course or anything.

I remember using weather tables from one of the Dragon Magazine issues (somewhere in the 80's or 90's issue wise) and rolling campaign ending weather on my players - something like a 4 day blizzard with 5 1/2 feet of snow.  Sorry, but that's once in a milleneium weather event.  That's the Ice Age.

Weather in a RPG should be adjusted to fit the story - need a blizzard or a hurricane?  Add it to the story.  It's really that simple.

I love random tables and hate them at the same time, as some GMs allow themselves to be ruled by "the random".  If the results don't fit, you must adjust.  Or change gloves- wait, that's O.J.

On that note, I think I'm no longer as wide awake ;)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Castles & Crusades on Sale!

The Trolls are running a sale on the C&C Core books.  You can get the C&C Player's Handbook, Monsters & Treasure and the module Shadows of the Halfling Hall for 20 bucks in print (plus shipping) or for 15 bucks in PDF.  It's a damn good deal.

The Player's Handbook is the new edition.  Well, both of the core books are the new edition with the green banded covers, but the PH has some updates fro the earlier editions.

I just got my 2 sets of the print copies in the mail today.  It's a good day ;)

I think I collect C&C editions like i do Tunnels & Trolls.

The City That Never Sleeps Prepares to Shut Down

Last year it was the Blizzard of the Century.

Earlier this week, we had the once in a lifetime earthquake on the East Coast.

Now NYC faces it's worst hurricane in nearly 125 years. Mass transit shuts down at noon tomorrow. Bridges in the city (which consists of The Bronx on the mainland and Manhattan and Staten Islands, and Brooklyn and Queens counties on Long Island) will be closing when sustained winds hit 60 MPH. Parts of the city are under mandatory evacuation orders. We are looking at 8"+ or rain and huge storm surges.

If this was a RPG scenario, we would be talking End of Days type of stuff. Actually, I'd love to use this in a RPG scenario - it's a great set up.

In any case, I may be posting a lot this weekend, or nothing at all. It certainly wont be boring. My sister, her husband and my little niece may be staying the weekend. They aren't in an evac zone, but they have lots of nearby water soaked trees that are liable to come down causing loss of power or damage to their house.

Two Is Better Then One

So, I'm using a Sony Bloggie Duo mini video camera for the short videos I've been putting up. The advantage to the Duo is that is a LCD screen on both sides of the camera, which makes it easier to see what the camera is seeing when I'm in front of the camera. I'm pretty happy with it so far.

I'm trying to keep the vids at around a minute in length each. If I find something strong enough to go significantly longer then a minute I'll make a note in the accompanying blog.

Now, if I could figure a way to do a PDF review via video. Hmmm, I need to actually do some real reviews via video, which may require me actually writing stuff down before blabbing.

Hey, maybe I can set up on my front porch and do some hurricane videos on sunday! Er, if I can do it safely ;)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Adventurer Conqueror King System - Shown in High Definition!

Yep, got my printed copy of the Adventurer Conqueror King System Gen Con Limited Edition in the mail today - simply awesome.

So I put a short together a short vid to show it.  Go figure ;)

Experimenting with the HD upload option, but if it makes viewing harder due to increased bandwidth I'll forgo that in the future.

Why Do Dwarves Get (S)hafted in AD&D?

Compared to other demihumans, Dwarves get the short end of the stick in AD&D.

Elves get +1 to hit with bows and swords, resist sleep and charm, move softly, etc

Halflings get a bonus with bows, or slings or thrown weapons depending on your source (Monster Manual or Player's Handbook).

Gnomes - no one plays them, so why bother.

Dwarves - +1 to hit some cheap and cheesy evil races and an AC adjustment when fighting giants and such and some good saves vs poison and magic. Oh, and stonework knowledge.

Why no weapon combat bonuses, such as with weapons that are often associated with them, like battle axes and war hammers? Heck, why would then even use an axe or a hammer, when a long sword works much better against large creature - d12 is much better the a d8 or less for the war hammer.

Aren't Dwarves a bit more militaristic then elves and halflings?

30 years later and questions like this can still keep me up at night ;)

Rock You Like a Hurricane!

Yep, shortly after the east coast of the US got shaken by what our west coast brethren would consider a "very mild quake" we are now bracing for a fairly major hurricane. The one blessing is that it is going to hit over the weekend, which means I'll be off the roads and at home, ready to deal with any flooding.

I figure if we lose power, I might actually be able to get my son to play a pen and paper rpg session. Not that I'm hoping for a blackout or anything, but I do have my hand cranked flashlight / radio all ready to go. My mother is actually talking about buying a generator, so yes, the fear mongers are doing a great job on TV.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Remembering The Twilight Mercs of The Price of Recon

Remember The Price of Freedom RPG? It was basically the movie Red Dawn with the numbers filed off. How about Twilight: 2000?

The 1980's were a great time for Cold War style RPGs. Heck, thats when Merc and Recon also hit the bookshelves, allowing you to be a mercenary in Cold War Hotspots like South America and Africa, or fight in the jungles of Vietnam.

I don't see similar games being produced these days. When I say similar, I mean working off the current events of the past decade. No "Let's play some Navy SEALS and take out Osama" and such. Maybe the lines are too blurred these days. Perhaps the Cold War, while always in the back of your mind, was more fantasy then terrorists using jetliners as bombs and the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

I do remember playing Twilight: 2000 back in my high school and college years. A squad of Americans left behind enemy lines, fighting for survival. Eh, it didn't play out all that well either. It's probably a good thing we don't have a Navy SEALS game. You can only kill Osama / Orcus so many times ;)

Successful Trial

Looking back on yesterday's video blog post, I think it went fairly well for a first time, getting one's feet wet, how the f' do I use this sort of thing.

I've got an idea for a dice related video blog post as I never posted my dice pics when it was all the rage earlier this month. I need to make up for that omission.

Christian mentioned having my cat Ashley pick an RPG from a selection of books that I place on the floor. The main problem with that is about 80-90% of the new stuff I have is in PDF only. Limiting to some extent, but I might have enough to start.

Tunnels & Trolls 7.5e is made for a video review, with its lay flat spiral binding. We all know I love me some T&T.

I'm also falling behind on some game reviews. The Secret Fire has been burning my britches for a while now. Time to pat out the flames for a bit and move on.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Time to Assail Your Senses

Here it is - the first "Beta VidBlog Post".

First, I breath like a dying horse.  Allergies don't help, but sheesh!  I need to control that.

Need to learn more about the camera itself, and the iMovie software, but I can only learn by doing.

At least Ashley smiled for the camera ;)

Things would probably work better outdoors as far as lighting goes.

You! Shook Me All Night Long!

I hope everyone is okay on the rest of the East Coast. I felt the quake up here in NYC. Pretty weird feeling.

I'm sure Christian is an old hat at this ;)

HP Touchpad Tablet Dump Pricing!

HP is dumping their WebOS Tablet device for dirt cheap prices. They are going in out out of stock at the HP Business Website.

16 gb was $499, now $99

32 gb was $599, now $149

you can hit the following website for status updates and other vendors where t may become available.


I don't know much about it, but the price is right for those that may have been on thew tablet fence.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Badges? Badges! We Don't Need No Steenkin' Badges!

Well, we don't.  But it is a good concept, and I'm all for it, even if they don't look like my usual badge -  (note: not my shield number - knowing it will NOT get you out of a ticket ;)

That being said, there are a few badges that Stuart was nice enough to share with us that would apply to games that I have run in the past (and by extension, game that I may yet run in the future).

 I will Mirror back player ideas I think are interesting in the game

 My games rely on a lot of Improvisation rather than pre scripted content 

 My games are more of the Social, Fun and "Beer & Pretzels" style

 The GM is In Charge in my games and "rule-zero" is in effect

 My games focuses on Exploration & Mystery

The Red Headed Step-Children of AD&D - Unearthed Arcana - Races

When I was a teenager, I thought the Unearthed Arcana was the best thing ever for AD&D. New classes, new spells, new races - new everything. Even better, everything now went up to "Eleven" (Alert! Spinal Tap reference).

It takes a little aging to realize the mistakes of my youth.

Lets look at the Drow. Innate spell ability? Check. Penalties in sunlight? Check. 90% of all adventures were underground at the time? Check!

Wild Elves always made me think of slightly taller dwarves without beards and with long hair.

Svirfnenlin - I still have no idea how to pronounce it. More innate spell abilities.

Duergar - evil dwarves that aren't so dwarfish.

Hmm, all these races are antisocial, xenophobic types. Perfect for the average party of AD&D adventurers.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

More Free Mapping Resources

Just added these to the links on the left:

Dungeonographer (Free) - Requires you to be online and a few other limitations, but the price is right and the maps it makes are nice.

Random Dungeon Generator - perfect when you are at a loss of ideas for a dungeon.  All u need to do is fill in the rooms ;)

Random City Generator - sometimes the players actually want to walk around the town you never bothered to map.

Random Village Generator - the villages it creates look so nice I want to stat one out right now.

A Step Closer to Assailing Your Senses

Yep, ordered a tripod from Amazon earlier tonight.  If I could come anywhere near the quality of the Freezer Burns (really good stuff BTW) guy I'd be ecstatic, but no worries, I intend to start small.

All of which means I really need to work on the "Man Cave Corner" so it's ready for filming.

As an aside, but certainly more important then my tripod purchase, White Haired Man has just released Seal The Rift for Fantasy Grounds 2 with PDF.  I play tested this via FG2 and had a great time!  It got me excited about the Savage Worlds System and it's the reason I picked up the latest version of the rules.  I'll need to review this at a later date, but as someone that played in it, I can say it's definitely good stuff.

If you just want the PDF, you can grab it here.

Out of the Frying Pan, Into The Secret Fire!

It's been DAYS since I've postured a horribly titled The Secret Fire RPG post, so here's the latest.

Today, I want to talk about the spell levels. In a typical D&D style OSR game, the spell lists advance every "Odd Level". This is a general statement as I know certain classes frequently buck that trend (clerics and druids are often the examples). In The Secret Fire, spell rank / levels advance along with character level through level 5. Which means at level 5 a spell caster has access to his / her most powerful magics.

Now, these powerful magics aren't necessarily being cast at their greatest strength - that still comes with level advancement. It does mean that by level 5, the spell casters have pretty much peaked.

Now, on my initial, haphazard, read-thru of the rules, I was still thinking about the traditional advancement in the back of my mind, even tho I read the new advancement and knew it was there. So it didn't full "click". Now that it is clicking, I need to go back and see if the casters (and classes that take a caster class as a talent) run away from the other classes in terms of power. Not that an absolute balance is required to enjoy a game, but you don't want your players feeling that they made a lame choice compared to others.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Coming Soon to the Tavern - Video Blog Posts (Ack!)

I really have enjoyed Christian's video blog posts when he puts them up. It's probably because it's Christian doing them that they are so entertaining and mine will stink worse then my cat's litter box (which truthfully, doesn't stink much at all thanks to Feline Pine litter, but I digress). In any case, I've been toying with the idea of the occasional video post for a while now. Never discussed it with anyone, not even the future Mrs. Tenkar.

So, who tells me today that I should be doing some video blog posts? The future Mrs. Tenkar. The mind reading is just a little scary, but I also think she wants to get some more use out of her Sony Bloggie mini-cam.

So, figure yourselves given "fair warning". It's probably still a while away. I promise to keep them short when they are done - Christian's are always nice and short. Not sure if I can review a RPG in under a minute, but if it can be done, I'll find a way ;)

The Red Headed Step-Children of AD&D - Races

There were certain races that few, if any, chose in the campaigns I ran or played in during my AD&D years.

Gnomes - these misunderstood little buggers were often seen as a cross between Dwarves and Halflings, but lacking in the redeeming qualities of either. Which is really a shame, because, if I recall correctly (my AD&D books are back home and AD&D 2e often clouds my memories) Gnomes could multi-class as Illusionists / Thieves. This is a combo that literally feeds both sides of the combination - the sum certainly is more then the total of the part. Never saw a player play one, myself included. I don't think we ever got past the issue of gnomes as being sissified dwarves.

Half-elves - what could trey do that their elven parent couldn't? Multi-class as a Cleric up to 5th level, not get the elven bonuses to swords and bow, only minimally resistant to sleep and charm - oh, and if memory serves, they could be a low level ranger. Ah, but they could be a Druid to level 15 (class max). So if you were going to be a Druid, maybe it was a no brainer.

Half-orc - unless you were going to be an Assassin (already a red headed step-child) there was no reason to be a half orc. Want 4 levels of cleric with a piss poor wisdom and half expo for the rest of the campaign? Play a Half-orc Fighter / Cleric! It offered very little, and if role-played correctly, even less.

Free OSR RPG - Spellcraft & Swordplay Basic Game

Spellcraft & Swordplay has been around for a few years.  It's an OSR style game that takes OD&D back to it's Chainmail roots - you resolve combat using 2D6, not a D20.  It's extremely familiar in feel, and yet foreign at the same time.  There are more changes then that, of course (spell casting for one), but that is the core.

Elf Lair Games has released Spellcraft & Swordplay Basic Game for free on RPGNow.  It covers the first 3 levels of character advancement, so it is less a quick start and more of a starter book for the full Spellcraft & Sorcery Rules.

If you ever wanted to check the Spellcraft & Swordplay system out before, or if you've never heard of it before, here's your chance to take it for a ride for free.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Red Headed Step-Children of AD&D - Unearthed Arcana Classes

I remember when Unearthed Arcana was released for AD&D. It was a huge expansion of the core rules. Weapon Specializations for the fighter class and sub classes, new spells (some of which added to the Illusionists repertoire as I recall - I think my fav was Phantom Armor), new races and new classes.

The Thief-Acrobat reminding me a bit of the original AD&D Bard class, as it was a class that broke the established rules just by it's very existence. It splits off the main Thief class in the middling levels and goes off on a branch of it's own - kinda like a "prestige class" for those in the 3x state of mind. A Thief-Acrobat had some amazing abilities to move around, but his thieving abilities were stalled. I don't recall anyone in any of the groups I played in choosing one.

Cavalier - The "knight" as one thinks of it in romantic literature, this class and the Cavalier-Paladin were pretty impossible to run as written from a "role playing" standpoint. The thing is, the role playing restrictions and hinderances were there to balance the gameplay bonuses and powers. That never happened in games I played in. Maybe because it was our High School years, these powerhouses were unbalanced as all heck.

The Barbarian - fun as all hell to play as a player - D12 HD, super DEX and Con bonuses, xp for destroying magic items (and a horrible XP chart, so you need all those XP) wont adventure with Arcane Casters - played properly one barbarian could destroy a party from within. Two? We killed a campaign the third session in.

Hmmm, next I'll have to hit upon the races.

There Be Dragons in Walmart!

I was in Walmart this afternoon, buying the usual non-necessities that one finds there when I stumbled across this incense burner -

$10 for the Tower with Dragon incense burner.  They also had a tower w/o dragon and a 5 headed hydra. (dog not included - but she insisted on being part of the picture).

Of course, that doesn't explain the rest of the money we spent, but this is just damn cool.  Gonna give it a try later tonight.

Gaming Memories

I spent many a summer in my High School years playing AD&D with my friends in the country. Actually, we spent many a weekend playing back then also. Twelve hours straight? Done that. Twenty four hours over a day and a half? Been there. When we could game revolved around my time at the family house in the Poconos - I don't think they gamed if I wasn't there, and I was the only DM in the group.

Playing at home in NYC was different. In many ways, I was the catalyst, as my folks were nice enough to allow us to use the basement, the backyard and even the dining room table at will, but I was not the only GM in the group, and the group played more then just AD&D. It was also larger. In the Poconos, it was usually a group of four. In NYC, we could hit ten easy during my high school and early college years.

The group in the Poconos didn't last long past High School - job opportunities were slim back then away from the city (and probably still are). Two in the group joined the military shortly after High School, and the other went away to college. But I still had my New York group for years afterwards. Colleges and jobs were in relative abundance in the metro area - no one left home.

I still see some of the parents of my childhood friends on occasion when I'm up in the Poconos, but I never see the old gaming friends. They've all moved on.

I really need to get the old gaming group from NYC up here to the Poconos for some gaming. That would be perfect. ;)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Start of a Mini-Cation

I've been breaking my vacation time into single days to get work done around the house on some long weekends.  This time, it's going to be a bit different.  This three day weekend the future Mrs. Tenkar, myself and her dachshund are heading to the Poconos.

This is a rarity for us, as my son is staying behind to do some of his auxiliary work.

Actually, we haven't had an opportunity like this since last August.  Date weekend!  Oh, and needless to say, but a great chance to catch up on some of my RPG reading ;)

The Red Headed Step-Children of AD&D - Classes

The original Player's Handbook had a handful of classes that did not fit in well with the default setting assumed by the rules.

Assassin - evil by nature, it really didn't work with parties that generally had at least one Paladin or Ranger. Every campaign I played in had at least one Paladin or Ranger in the party.

Bard - start as a Fighter, then dual class to Thief and finally dual class again to Bard, this broke just about every rule in the book. Over powered by some standards, it's probably the worst version of the Bard in the game. Then again, the Bard class from issue 56 of the Dragon was single classed and overpowered.

Monk - very weak to start, powerful at higher levels, the Eastern Style monk didn't really fit into the setting (I know they tried to fit it into the Scarlet Brotherhood but it still didn't feel right to me).

Illusionist - an underpowered Magic-User. It could work in a campaign that was heavy on role play, but since expo relied upon combat, an Illusionist made for a poor substitute.

Druid - many of a Druid's abilities and spells relied upon being outside. The default setting of the Dungeon negated much of his usefulness.

As a side note, except for the obvious LotR reference, why does the Ranger have access to Magic-User spells and ESP devices?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Beyond Politics and Political Affiliations

Yeah, I know I am against political posts on RPG blogs, but this post is neither right or left, republican or democrat, conservative or liberal - this is just a wee post about a disturbing trend.

Western society as a whole, and our governments in general, have been up in arms when Arab countries were shutting down cell phone service and access to social media sites during "The Arab Spring". Their whole line was "that is not how democracies would do things".

The recent shutting down of cellular service at certain BART stations in the San Francisco area due to protests at said stations was the same thing. Surprising for such a liberal, forward thinking city. Britain has been talking about controlling social media during future social unrest.

Governments fear social media. Probably for good reason. The thing is, once you give up a right, you rarely get it back.

You would think that with 15 years in law enforcement I would embrace tools that have the potential to make my job easier, but everyone I've spoken to in my profession about this incident is very disturbed by it. Thankfully, there wasn't a repeat of the shutdown during the most recent BART protests. Still, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

I'll get back to gaming with my next post. I promise ;)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Hardware Upgrade in Progress (and another week without gaming)

I've moved from a PC / MacMini shared peripherals setup to an iMac that I'll be dual booting with windows. Haven't gotten around to BootCamping windows just yet. Still trying to get Apple to give me my free upgrade to Lion. Sigh.

Enough tech talk. I noticed something over the weekend. My son's core group of friends at the age of 18 closely mirror my core group of friends from that age (and with whom I remain friends with to this day). For us, it was AD&D and other RPG's that helped forge the bond. For this generation, it seems to be the XBox 360. Still, I have hope for them yet. They enjoy games like Fable and Oblivion and Fallout on the 360 - surely they may one day graduate to "true" RPGs ;)

It looks like the sometimes weekly OD&D chat game is on indefinite hold. I may need to find a game to fill the gap. It's a noticeable gap, as its the only game I've been playing in recently. A well.

The Secret Fire - It's a Band, Baby!

I was just goofing around with some google searches and it appears that there is / was an indie rock band named The Secret Fire. They have a myspace page and everything. Of course, they haven't logged into it since June of 2010. It must be that "myspace thing". Everything goes to myspace to die.

Anyhow, I was thinking that I really like the way that The Secret Fire handles multi classing, or whatever you want to call it in TSF. That means it must not be balanced, because as we know, multi classing in AD&D was balanced to the point that the MC'ed character was generally underpowered once the rest of the party started hitting their stride... generally about 6th or 7th level for them. Reduced level with the permanent XP split for the MC was their burden for life.

Then again, even with TSF, certain MC options are better then others, and certain primary classes work better then others, for in truth, in TSF, it isn't so much multi classing as it is adding a secondary class. You don't get all the class abilities from the second class, and what you do get is watered down from the full version.

Rainy Couple of Days in NYC

It's been a rainy couple of days in NYC. I'm not complaining, as it has kept the temperatures cooler, but it's been disrupting my ability to watch the kittens in my yard. Yep, a momma cat had kittens recently and had been moving them from yard to yard before settling on mine. Those kittens are adorable. Old enough to run around and get in trouble, one of the four has already been adopted by a neighbor (the first to start eating dried food, but I think they all are now). One orange tabby and two calicos are the three that are left.

My son wants a german Shepard, but seems receptive to getting a kitten instead. At 18 and making rumbles of joining the military, I think I'd rather he pick a kitten ;)

The rain has also prevented me from enjoying the yard to read my recent gaming acquisitions, but then again, the heat prior to the rain was also preventing me from enjoying the yard.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Late Night Gaming Thoughts Are Like the Wind

As I lay in bed last nite, my mind was drifting back and forth between The Secret Fire and Adventurer Conqueror King. I am quite sure that my semi-conscious faculties were melding the the two into some sort of unholy conglomerate (then again, I've been consciously thinking of doing the same) when I thought of a dice resolution system for spell casting that must have also been stealing from the upcoming Dungeon Crawl Classics - as it's the only OSRish game I know that requires a dice roll for every casting of a spell.

With the exception of the knowledge that the outcome of the casting was decided by a roll of 2D6, all else is obscured by the mists of sleep. Seemed damn good and intuitive when I thought of it, that much I can remember. Details? Nope.

I used to keep a voice recorder next to my bed for such times. It appears I must do so again.

Do You Like Peanut Butter in Your Chocolate?

The Secret Fire is, from my POV, a game you will either like a lot or really dislike. It's an OSR game with pieces of FATE, BRP, possibly 4e (don't know 4e well enough to guess) and I'm sure concepts and ideas from other media / games mixed in. Maybe it's more Rocky Road ice cream then a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, but it's definitely a game that draws on more then one prior source or inspiration.

Some folks may like it. I do, I think it works pretty well - or at least reads pretty well. I've noticed comments from others on some of the gaming forums that TSF has activated folks gag reflex. The idea of mixing old with new is a non-starter, sight unseen.

It's not a perfect game by any means. I, for one, don't feel comfortable using descriptor's instead of numbers. I also don't like nuts in my Rocky Road, but it is one of my favorite ice cream flavors. The whole overpowers the individual parts. Besides, I tend to leave the the nuts in the bowl. ;)

How to you feel about mixing old and new?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sometimes It's Good to be King (Adventurer Conqueror King System)

The Adventurer Conqueror King System play test document was recently updated.  I've no idea what the particular changes were (it's probably in the forum), but I'm looking at this with fresh eyes (and eagerly awaiting my printed copy to arrive).

Things I've noticed this time (but but may or may not have noticed before):
- High Int is just as good for Wizards as High Wis is for Clerics.  I've been using that as a house rule for ages and I'm happy to see it here.
- I didn't miss this the first time, but I am happy to see a game that gives options to demi-humans as far as classes go without giving them human classes.  Dwarves can be Dwarven fighters or Dwarven Craftpriests and Elves can be Spellswords or Nightblades.
-Thief skills are rolled on a D20, not percentile based.  Apples and oranges for some, but I like the D20 roll high method.
-Bard class is included.  Yay!
-Character inheritance: for when your PC is dead and you planned ahead to replace him.  Leave him a good amount of starting cash.
-Domain Rules - I really need to read these through.  Damn interesting.

K, all for now.

Digging Out in Order to Dig In

I told my fiancee that the goal of this weekend was to throw out at least 4 mid size garbage bags of "stuff".  I have way too much stuff, and I find that when she's helping me I'm more apt to trash something that thin "I maybe able to find a use for this whatchamicallit".  She keeps me honest.  Three bags of trash and a bag or so of recycling so far.

I draw the line on RPGs.  They get boxed. Very few get trashed.  Some of my 3.x glut will probably get dumped, Mayfair Chill got trashed (Pacesetter version will be kept tho), lots of old computer games found their way into the recycling bin - like i said earlier, I have way too much stuff if I want to share space with the woman i love.

My PC / Mac Mini set up is moving up to an iMac which I will bootcamp with Win7 Ultimate.  Again, making the best use of the available space (she's getting the Mac Mini - the old PC will get recycled).  Oh, and I cut that last strip of molding I needed to buy.  I'll nail it in as my son and a few of his friends have a barbecue in the rain.  What can I say?  They're 18 ;)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

I Am a Servant of The Secret Fire

Well, maybe not a servant, but I'm certainly enjoying it so far ;)

I think I touched on 'Trademarks" briefly in another post, but I'm going to delve into them a bit deeper tonight.  They are a sorta like feats.

I'll let the author explain a bit better then me:
Trademarks are the unique elements of a character’s makeup that set him apart from others of his Calling. These abilities, or qualities, are powerful additions to the nature of the PC, so choose carefully. They can and should impact the course of your character’s life, making his path a unique one, especially when combined with his ranks on the Character Wheel.
Some Trademarks are combat oriented, some are non-comabt oriented and some are both.  As  you can guess, some are more powerful then others.  One of my favorites is Holy-Man Training.  It adds Holy-Man prayers (spells) to you character's abilities, tho' he only gains half as many as a true Holy-Man.  Instant Paladin if you add this to a fighter.

A Character starts with 2 trademarks and gains one every odd level.  Humans gain an extra one at creation, for 3 to start.

Characters in The Secret Fire aren't much more special then the average person.  Stats are rolled on 3D6.  The amount of damage a character can withstand is about the same as a normal person, so trademarks can be the difference between life and death.  It's the edge that the players get.

There Are Some Extra Copies of Tome of Horrors (S&W Version) Available

According to Mythmere, there should be an extra 100 or so copies of Tome of Horrors (S&W Version) available for purchase.  If you buy a book (which should be shipping in about a month) you get the PDF for free.  If you buy the PDF directly from Frog God, and follow the instructions laid out by Mythmere, you can decide later to purchase the hard cover and have the price you paid for the PDF applied to you payment.  Not technically saving you anything, but it does let you buy the PDF and see if you want the HC.

Personally, I'm trilled by the PDF myself and I'm eagerly awaiting the hardcover to go on my bookshelf.  I need to review this beast of a book in depth in the future.  It is worth every penny IMHO.  Not sure if I'll be using it with S&W Complete or with Adventurer Conqueror King, but it's definitely going to get use.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Sometimes it Helps to Hold It

The two copies I have of The Secret Fire paperback look awesome.  Hopefully I'll find some time to read this weekend (renovations never seem to end).  Soon I should have my pre-release copy of Adventurer Conqueror King.  I just found out earlier tonight that George Strayton plays in a White Box campaign run by one of the guys behind ACK.  The two games currently on my mind the most.  Go figure.

Think I may need to Frankendragon the two ;)

Or maybe not.  But stealing from one for the other is also fun.

Oh, and just to throw this out there, I don't think I could use descriptors in place of numerical modifiers as The Secret Fire relies upon.  That's one of those things that's been hard wired into my D&D brain.  I don't think it would suffer much from avoiding the descriptors.  Guess time will tell when I get to actually play it.

What Makes an RPG Old School?

What makes a RPG "Old School"?

Is it emulation of one of the older D&D rule sets? How far before the house rules in one of these emulations takes it too far to be Old School? Is The Secret Fire "Old School"?

Is it an older feel to the rules themselves (hard to explain - one of those sentences that either makes sense to you, or it doesn't).

Is it presentation?

Does OpenQuest count as Old School? Basic Roleplay? CoC? Any of the current editions of Traveller?

Is X-plorers Old School?

Edit: Is Old School Hack "Old School?"

Is Old School something you just know when you see it?

I ask because X-plorers and The Secret Fire both seem Old School to me, both were just released (or just re-released in the case of X-plorers) yet I don't hear much about them on the blogs I read. Both are selling well on RPGNow, which is generally the Old School friendly when it comes to sales (compared to DriveThruRPG - both are the same company, different audiences).

I've got thoughts on X-plorers (just got the new PDF) but I'm waiting on the boxed set. I've been rambling about The Secret Fire for about a week so far and I still have more in me. Just a friendly warning ;)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Free Quickstart - The Kerberos Club (FATE Edition)

Ever want to play a Victorian Era Superhero?  What, you never heard of one?  Well, here's your chance to get your feet wet for free with The Kerberos Club Quick-Start Guide (FATE Edition)

From the blurb:

The Kerberos Club (FATE Edition) is a superheroic roleplaying game in Victorian London using the FATE roleplaying game system. 

This 28-page Quick-Start Guide gives you a taste of it, with an introduction to the Club, a summary of the timeline, and four sample characters, ready for play, that each highlight different aspects of the setting and its culture: Lady Constance Davies, the Glaifsantes; Sgt. (ret.) William mac Donald, the One-Man Army; Pale Tom Teach, the Gutter Magus; and Jonus Earl Underbridge, Esq., Troll About Town.

I Have The Secret Fire in My Hand!

Feline approved.  Cover is reflective in direct sunlight.  The Secret Fire is flammable, do not place in open flames.  No felines were damaged in the shooting of this picture.  Ashley has no opinion on Role Playing Games, in general or otherwise, but enjoys RPG dice.  Opinions expressed are those of her owner.

Lulu sent my two printed copies of The Secret Fire damn fast.  Nice white paper, large pocket sized, perfect for me to throw in my bag for work or read in the private reading room.

If you purchased a PDF copy of The Secret Fire from Lulu that lacks bookmarking, go to this post on The Secret Fire Blog to find out how to get an updated copy.  The Secret Fire guys (George and the rest) have been very receptive to critiques and their customer service has been top notch.

Rule Correction / Clarification For The Secret Fire

George emailed me last nite to inform me that I was not wrong in thinking that the Luck Throw uses 2D6. Apparently there are 2 typos in the PDF where it states a Luck Throw uses a D12 - and I found one of those typos inadvertently using the new PDF with bookmarks.

So, until the PDF is updated, remember 2D6 for any Luck Throw you may need to make. Now if I can only convince him to use DARO (doubles are rolled over) from Tunnels & Trolls ;)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Secret Fire PDF - Now With Bookmarks!

George Strayton just sent me an updated file of The Secret Fire PDF. Not only is the cover full color now (and sweet looking) the sucker has bookmarks!

Yes, I'm happy as pig in poo! Dancing a jig! All that jazz!

I can wander the PDF as I have a horrible habit of doing and navigate my meandering path. Heck, I found a mistake of mine already that I made earlier thanks to the bookmarks - a Luck Throw is rolled on a D12, not 2D6 - target number is still 7. Hmm, the 2D6 might make for an interesting house rule tho.

George, thanks for listening. My sole complaint (not counting some art - but that is a matter of taste) thus far has been addressed. K, time for me to peruse my newly updated and bookmarked PDF.

No idea if the update is on Lulu yet or not, but I assume it will make its way there sooner then later.

Oh, and the latest Lulu 20% Off Coupon is SINK305

The Secret (Ring of) Fire

Just humming some Johnny Cash in my head right now...

(the rest of The Secret Fire posts)

Alright, enough of that.  Let's talk about wombats.  Or not.  Combat, let's talk about Combat.  None of that AC  or THACO shit in The Secret Fire.  Nope, you gotta roll again your opponents "dodge score".  Which is also how effects like poison, dragon's breath and the rest of them damage you - it's a D20 roll against your dodge score.  So, the to-hit resolution in cobalt is the same system that does away with saving throws as you an I know it - unless it calls for a Luck Roll, in which case its 7 or better on 2D6.
Higher Dodge is better btw.

"What about my armor?" you might say.  Well, ya see, armor (or other types of resistance, depending on the Attack Type,) subtracts from the damage you take (there's always a minimum of 1 point taken).  Feels a bit like Runequest or Tunnels & Trolls.

Armor absorbing damage is important in a game where the PCs can't take as many hits as in the usual OSR type games.  Interesting tweak.  I may need to run a mock combat to see how this works in play, not just theory.

Oh, and my kid passed his First Aid Certification test.  Inching closer to EMT certification.  It's a good day ;)

Ah, heck... enjoy some Johnny Cash :)

Reviews on the Back Burner

I think I've got a bad case of The Secret Fire and the over the counter remedies aren't going to cure it.  I need to let it run its course.  Which means there's still a few more bad blog post titles to come.  That being said, I still want to review the following over the next week or so:

The One Ring - simply because it's Middle Earth, and I dig that.

The Complete Tome of Horrors - because I need to spend more time with its awesomeness.

X-plorers - I just got the PDF and I'm waiting on the dead tree.  Old School Sci-fi

Other stuff that has been sitting and waiting for me to get to it, and the Free OSR Game mini-reviews must continue!

Never Scream (The Secret) Fire!

My Gamer's ADD is really strong, as it effects even the way I read The Secret Fire - I'm bouncing like one of those 10 cent power balls you used to get out of gum ball machines when I was a kid.

So, where's the gnomes? 4e turned the gnome into the unwanted stepchild of D&D, dropping them from the core races and their missing from the core here too. Not that it matters all that much to me as I don't recall ever actually playing a gnome in any edition of D&D / AD&D, but I felt it should be mentioned lest one of those gnome lovers get upset at the omission.

Hmm, for that matter, there are no "half races" either - unless I missed them during my power ball bouncing around the PDF. No half-elves or half-orcs (actually, not sure if I saw orcs at all in the monster section - I'll need to double check that.

initiative - Roll a D6, add your Agility modifier and count down from highest to lowest. Pretty standard. Except that PCs can swap initiative score with each other. That certainly isn't standard. It add a certain amount of tactics to combat that isn't there otherwise. It also means that just because you rolled a sucky roll, if your party needs you to react faster, they'll swap your score to get you there. Pretty neat. I don't believe I've seen that before.

Morale - As far as I can recall, this is missing from most OSR style games (James properly pointed out my error here - its there, same system - I'm going to lock myself in the privy for a 15 minute time out ;). It's nice to see, especially as this is a very lethal combat system. Much easier to chase your adversaries away then killing them all.
It's rolled on 2D6.

Notice that they have stayed away from a unified resolution system? 1D6, 2D6, variable D6, D20. Yes, one die size does not fit all rolls. Nice.

K, lunch time is over. Back to work.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

My Pants Are On (The Secret) Fire

I never promised the Blog Post Titles would be any good, or even funny... just part of the theme ;)

Now I'm going to talk about skills and skill tests.  Most D&D / D20 games use some sort of "roll a D20 and see if you made your target number".  Not so in The Secret Fire - here you roll D6s and the number of dice rolled is dependent on the difficulty of the task at hand.  You are attempting to equal or roll under the relevant ability.

It ranges from 3d6 for an Easy attempt to 7d6 for an Impossible attempt.  If you are trained in the skill in question, you roll one less die (in effect, shifting the difficulty down by one).  I'm surprised that I like this system, but I do.  It makes your actual ability scores important - score of 13 to 15 are a +1 adjustment to other rolls, but as far as skill go, a 15 is much better then a 13.  It also brings back the "bell curve".

Moving on to the random charts, I think they are pretty good in my opinion.  The personality quirks and random equipment help to define the characters.  It's similar in a way to what Scott from Huge Ruined Pile had us roll in his house ruled OD&D game.  Anything that helps to define a character is good.  Would I buy it for the charts alone?  No, but they should port to other games fairly well.

K, lack of bookmarking is really starting to annoy me and my desire to flip semi randomly throughout this PDF.  The hardcopy won't be so annoying, but flipping through a PDF without bookmarking can lead to major frustrations.

Odds & Ends

Lets see - over the past few days I've thrown out a crapload of odds & ends - mostly electronic and computer accessories that I can no longer recall the use for, or wires that I have more then I'll ever need.

I also came across some gaming stuff that I had forgotten, such as my limited edition C&C Player's Handbook with the faux leather cover. some Lejendary Adventures books that I had forgotten about and some other random stuff.  Oh, and I killed a storage box of DVDs by getting rid of the annoying plastic holders they come in. Space is getting to be at a premium.

I installed the two transition pieces for the new floors, finished the last corner of wallpaper, put in (with major help from my father) new molding in the second room (still need another 12' strip it seems), moved the Bowflex to it permanent spot (which the fiancee would rather was in the basement, but the ceiling isn't high enough), move the new desk to its spot, boxed up more games, still need to measure for and order the new closet... I seriously need more time ;)  

We Didn't Start "The Secret Fire"

At some point I'm going to run out of witty blog post titles for this never ending review of The Secret Fire RPG. ;)

Anyhow, back to the game - or rather, the reading of the game.

This definitely has an Old Ones / Cthuhlu feel to it, which helps it read as well as it does.  As I said earlier, it seems to out weird LotFP's Weird Fantasy without straying too far from the fantasy tropes we already know.  I still have an issue with the artwork as it attempts to draw upon satantic imagery when it can (with the exception of the cover art and a few other).  There are much more effective, and potentially less alienating ways to draw upon the Old School RPG style of art.  Not a huge issue to me, but I could have done with less of it.

Saving throws - replaced by a Luck Roll.  Luck Rolls do not change with level, what you need to roll at level 1 is the same as at level 10 (baring the choosing of certain trademarks/abilities or finding an item or such).  I believe you need to roll a 7 or better on 2D6 but I can't find the rule at the moment.  Bookmarking the PDF would have prevented this issue.  Yes, the lack of bookmarking is becoming a real PITA.

The Montage System - a random way to hand wave certain situations.  Well, really its more then that, but in other games, it would probably be a hand wave with maybe a die thrown to see in generally how well it goes for the PCs:

However, there may be times when the party (or the Master Creator, TSF speak for DM) may wish to speed up play and instead call for a quick resolution. Rather than simply handwaving the situation (which is, of course, a perfectly acceptable option), the MC can instead employ the simple universal method outlined below. Note that this system works for multi-aspect events (such as parley, wilderness travel, etc.) rather than single actions (such as picking a lock — use a Skill Check in that situation). You can even use it for combat, especially when wandering monsters appear, if you are trying to speed up play for one reason or another. But note that, depending on the roll, the outcome could prove extremely beneficial, wildly disastrous, or anywhere in between, for the player characters. Which, of course, is what makes it fun. 
The Montage is a way to “play” through events that would take a lot of real time, even though they may take anywhere from a few minutes to a few days of game time; yet everyone agrees these events should only take a short amount of real time. The system can be used for random engagements, and everyone rolls using their prime stat (Critical Failure means death, Complication means wounded, etc.).
Is it something I would use often?  I'm not sure.  Generally speaking, if something is worth resolving, it's worth playing out, either via combat or role play.  Still, this may fit well for certain groups.

More later, with another bad blog post title ;)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Monday Movie Nite - The Seven-Ups

Roy Schneider plays the lead role in this gritty NYPD cop drama.  This is one of those movies I've been told to watch for the last 15 years, so I finally picked it up at Amazon.  Not bad (not as good as Fort Apache: The Bronx IMHO) but it does have the best (and possibly longest) chase scene I've ever seen in a movie.  If you know any of the major streets and locations in the NYC area, its even that much better.

The Seven-Ups squad itself would work pretty well in any modern RPG - either as something for pliers to belong to, or as an adversary.

Back to reading The Secret Fire.  More on that in the morning.

I'm On "The Secret Fire"

Yeah, i could start numbering the posts, but what's the fun in that?  Yes, more of my thoughts and observations on The Secret Fire RPG.

Just so y'all know, I was not a Kickstarter supporter of this project.  Truth to tell, the webpage (and yes, the associated blog) did not excite me.  Lot's of advertising talk, light on what was actually going on.  The Gail Gygax endorsement didn't excite me (she killed Legendary Adventures before I ever got to enjoy my books), but Monte Cook having good things to say did.  So, I went into this kinda neutral.

I'm also one of those fine folk that has asked out loud if we really need more retro clones and the like... it hasn't stopped me from buying them, but are the really needed.

The Secret Fire isn't a retro clone.  It gladly borrows and steals from D20, FATE, possibly T&T and I'm sure others.  It is solidly D20, and if you've played D&D in any of its incarnations (even - GASP! 4e) you will probably be comfortable with the system fairly quickly.  

I've been reading this like I read most RPGs these days - I jump around like a Mexican Jumping Bean.  As was pointed out by a poster on RPG.Net, the PDF lacks bookmarks.  How the hell do you put out a 310 page PDF these days without bookmarks?  I fully expect that will change in the near future, and the file will be updated with bookmarks.  If it isn't, I'll be here to rant.

That being say, I'm enjoying this immensely, even without the ease of bookmarks to enable my haphazard jumping thru the virtual book.  

Did I mention I just ordered 2 dead tree copies from Lulu?  Love those 20% off coupons ;)

Dinner calls.  More rule observations later tonight if all goes well.

Does "The Secret Fire" Out Weird LotFP's "Weird Fantasy"?

I like Raggi's Weird Fantasy RPG and own the boxed versions of both the Deluxe and Grindhouse Editions.  While I may not agree with all of the changes Raggi made to the classes and races, I always figured I could house rule them to a state I was comfortable with.  Besides, the tone of the game did have a nice horror feel to it, especially in the Referee Book.

I think The Secret Fire may have outdone Raggi on the "Weird" axis.  Case in point.  TSF changes many of the D&D spells we know and  gives them a twist.  Sometimes they are easily recognizable, sometimes it takes a little work.  As an example, I'm going to show what all the CLW, CSW, CCW and Heal spells turned into - one simple, yet powerful and disturbing spell:

Mend (Life)
Circle: I                                   Casting Time: Move
Range: 5 feet (1 square)          Resistance: Willpower
Area of Effect: 1 Creature       Duration: Instant
Description: Your allies thought you mad when you asked if you could make small incisions on each of their limbs with the Brand of Mantheris. As you concentrate, holding the Brand gently in your grip a few inches from your ally’s wound, a tentacle of blood streams from the Brand toward his body, which spasms painfully as the blood forces its way into him. At first, there is only suffering; then his injuries begin to disappear and relief spreads across his face. You are grateful that you had properly attuned the Brand to your ally, as the use of this power on the un-attuned can lead to injury and even death. 
Mechanics: By briefly laying hands upon a living creature, the cleric channels positive energy that cures 1d4 + Wisdom adjustment Stamina. The amount of die increases by 1d4 for each level, up to level 4 (4d4). At level 5 the die increase by one size (4d6) thereafter continuing to add 1 die size each level, up to 4d20 at level 9.
-At level 10 the Holy-Man may use a mend prayer to perform a miracle once per day. A miracle fully heals the creature chosen, regardless of amount of healing done. Any other uses of Lay Hands on that day are rolled as normal for a Level-10 Holy-Man (4d20). If this ability is performed twice in one day for any reason, the gods consider it arrogance, and all life from the caster is transferred to the injured.
-This prayer will not affect creatures without corporeal bodies, or creatures that can only be harmed by iron, silver, or magical weapons.
-The reverse of the prayer, rend, inflicts the same amount of damage on a successful prayer attack against the target. Because the subject is less willing and the intention more severe it takes a full Action to complete a Rending prayer.
-A critical miss while performing rend results in inadvertently requesting your Deity strip the intended amount of life from your body, and transfer it into the target as healing.
That is a disturbing reworking of the healing spells from D&D.  It scales very well and is limited to one casting per day (unless you want the gods to kill you).  Screwing it up can have deadly consequences.  Definitely a "Weird Fantasy" vibe if you ask me.  This is just one spell of many that have been reworked into a similar vibe.

Did I mention that spells that have limited durations count down in "real time"?  If a spell lasts 10 min/per level, that's 10x minutes at the gaming table, not game time.  Certainly makes bookkeeping easier and encourages the players to keep the pace of the game moving,

I haven't even touched on the races or classes yet, have I?

Count this as the beginning of the review process.  This is going to take some time, as this isn't the usual clone or house rule revision that we often see.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Closing in on a Review of The Secret Fire RPG

Of the GenCon timed RPG releases, The Secret Fire is the one I find the most interesting thus far.  That may change once I get thru the whole thing, but for now it is an accurate statement.  The most anticipated, by me, was The One Ring, and I'm sure if it wasn't for TSF, I'd be immersing myself in Hobbits and such right now.  No worries, I'll be returning to The One Ring shortly.

Now, back to some more perusing of The Secret Fire (which was originally billed as Legends & Labyrinths - not a bad choice ether).

Stamina Points (which apply to each Wound level) do not increase as you gain levels.  So, no Hit Point issues of the 9th level fighter surviving a 100' fall because of his Hit Points (he may now survive it for other reasons).  Oh, and high level combat is no longer a war of attrition.  Well, at least not of HP.

As Padre pointed out, do we really need Man-Boob Satan on the second page?  It doesn't add anything (unless you are going for Raggi Shock Value, in which case this is a "fail") and may give a wrong opinion of the rules.  Not a real issue, just a question.  I mean, is this what one needs to include to prove Old School Cred these days?

About Energy Points (this is the "hook" in my opinion, and something I really like so far):

In THE SECRET FIRE™, Energy Points (EP) represent a character’s daily energy level ,which can be spent in a variety of ways (called Special Effects), as a free Action, both within combat and without.The heart of the roleplaying system of TSF lies in the use and acquisition of Energy Points.

It's a way to make feats and feat like abilities and the like flexible as well as a resource to manage.  You can regain your spent points quicker through actual role playing your character.  A role playing game that actually rewards role play.  I'm having one of those "duh!" moments.  So obvious.  So overlooked.

Digging Deeper Into The Secret Fire

So, The Secret Fire is D20 based, but it strays far and afield while still feeling vaguely familiar. Here's some quick observations:

6 stats, rolled on 3d6 - assigned as the player wants.

Four basic classes and the ability to multi class.

No HP as we know it, but wound levels and wounds.

Five spell levels, gained in the first 5 character levels.

Combat and non-combat abilities that seem like a cross between skills and feats.

A pool of points that can be used for special abilities, and the pool is refilled via role playing situations that fit the character but may not be directly beneficial to the party.

Just some stuff that came to mind as I sit at my in-laws ;)

Saturday Nite Movie - Fort Apache: The Bronx

My first time watching this was shortly after being assigned to the 42 Precinct in the Bronx as a rookie.  It was pointed out to me that many of the scenes, including the scenes taking place with outside shots of the station house, were filmed in the 42 Precinct.  My VHS tape made the rounds of my fellow rookies and never made it back to me.  I finally bought DVD copy.  It arrived this morning and me and the lady watched it tonight.

It was just as good as I remembered.  This is how a cop movie should be, characters instead of bullets, story instead of mindless action.

Of course, I was told numerous times by my son, who was not watching the movie with us, to stop pointing out the locations that I knew... sorry, couldn't help myself ;)

Paul Newman was awesome BTW ;)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

First Look - The Secret Fire (RPG)

I'm experiencing a bit of a sensory overload with all of the RPG products that have been released in the last week.  I'll get to the reviews of these games later, I need time to digest them them.  In the meantime I'm giving my first looks and initial impressions.

The Secret Fire is the latest game I've gotten to look at.  I'm really at a loss for words so far as to how to explain it.  It harkens back to the original Dungeons & Dragons White Box.  It quotes from Supplement III - Eldritch Wizardry and Chainmail 3rd Edition.  It seeks to carry on the mantle of EGG himself.  The question then becomes, does it succeed?

To that I don't have an answer just yet.  Mr Strayton, the author of The Secret Fire, has been granted access to all of EGG's notes and files by Gail Gygax.  It is quite possible that many of test ideas were tweaked and trimmed form ideas of Gary's himself.  It's just that at over 300 pages in length, so it's way to large for me to absorb at this point in time.  That being said, from what I've read in the beginning of the book, and what I've skimmed form the rest of it, there is certainly an early D&D feel to it.

If you have the time or the inclination, the PDF can be found on Lulu for 10 bucks - google search for a 20% off coupon and you can get it for 8 - a bargain for a game this size.

Give me time and I'll let you know if it succeeds at it's aims of uniting the fractured D&D gaming landscape.

From the blurb:

From SECRET FIRE GAMES™ comes THE SECRET FIRE™ (formerly known as George Strayton’s LEGENDS & LABYRINTHS™), a new, original game system with mechanics that emphasize exploration, roleplaying, and the constant threat of danger as adventurers set forth on perilous quests, engage in lethal battles, and win precious treasures. The design philosophy focuses strongly on imbuing the game world with a specific tone through elements of flavor, simpler rules, faster play, constant roleplaying (with associated mechanics that make it necessary to roleplay in order to win the day) and unlimited flexibility using innovative “literary” mechanics alongside traditional tropes of the fantasy game genre. The overall “feel” of this combination is what sets THE SECRET FIRE™ apart from all other games. It’s been 11 years in the making and now finally comes to a tabletop near you this August!
The foundation for TSF lies with the unknown, the dark and dangerous subworld which we all fear and yet desire to inhabit, if only for a brief time (so that we may survive and return to the world above and repeat). With that, we begin our journey….


“With THE SECRET FIRE, George Strayton is following in the footsteps of the inventor and master of roleplaying games, Gary Gygax, expanding on Gary’s original vision of fantasy roleplaying by taking it back to its roots while simultaneously bringing it into the future.”
— Gail Gygax
“A flavor-filled approach to fantasy gaming that puts the mystery and magic back into the dark recesses of the dungeon.”
— Monte Cook, co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition

Friday, August 5, 2011

The "I'm Not at GenCon" Update

My lord but I have a crapload of new releases to read and review, some of which I've already discussed.

The Tome of Horrors Complete isn't technically a GenCon release, but the timing couldn't be better.

Adventurer Conqueror King hit GenCon with a prerelease / beta copy.

The One Ring, the new LotR RPG also released at the con.

The Secret Fire, which kinda bills itself as a game EGG would have written was also just released. I snagged a PDF copy for 8 bucks on Lulu after a 20% off coupon. I'm not quite sure what to make of it yet, but it does quote from some OD&D pieces, so that earns it points right out of the box.

Heck, I might be suffering from rpg overload at this point ;)

- Posted from my iPhone

PDFs on Tablets - How Do They Look To You?

I do most of my PDF reading on tablets these days - both my gen1 iPad and my 7" Samsung Galaxy Tab. I've yet to experience an issue with either. The PDFs look vibrant and the ability to zoom in on parts of the page is priceless.

I bring this up because I've noticed that some e-publishers of roleplaying material are also putting their stuff out in epub format. One reason I've seen them use is that PDFs don't present well on tablets. In my experience, PDFs present extremely well on tablets, and piss poor at best on most dedicated e-readers. E-readers generally don't display PDFs in their native format but use "reflow", which is fine for fiction but plays havoc with RPGs that have charts and stat blocks.

Maybe they don't know the right terminology to differentiate between a tablet (which is basically a small PC) and an e-book reader (a device dedicated to presenting the different digital publishing formats). I don't know.

I do know I'd rather have a PDF displayed on my iPad for RPG reading then the same presented in epub or .azw or whatnot.

Eh, this was annoying me throughout the nite. I feel better now ;)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

First Look - The One Ring (LotR): Adventures over the Edge of the Wild

Cubicle 7 just released The One Ring:  Adventures Over the Edge of the Wild in PDF on RPGNow.  I suspect it has released at GenCon in print, but one of my fellow bloggers that is in attendance will need to verify that.

It includes an Adventurer's Book, a Loremaster's Book and maps for each.

The game uses specialized D6 and D12 dice, but it's easy enough to substitute your own (standard) dice.

One thing of note is that gameplay is divided into two phases: The Adventure Phase and the Fellowship Phase.  The Adventure Phase is what we generally do doing our RPG sessions - kill things, take their stuff, overcome problems, etc.  The Fellowship phase seems to be what most gamers would do between sessions, kinda off the grid.  I need to read further to see how these would work in play.

I've barely scratched the surface, and I still need to spend more time with The Tome of Horrors Complete for S&W ;)

From the blurb:

Smaug has been defeated, the Battle of Five Armies has been won, and Bilbo has returned to the Shire. The War of the Ring is several generations away. In the relative peace, the Free Peoples of Wilderland look beyond their borders for the first time, establishing trade routes, renewing bonds between their cultures, and bringing prosperity to the region of northern Mirkwood, the Lonely Mountain, and the eastern slopes of the Misty Mountains.
But much danger still remains, and from the Orc-holds of the mountains to the dark and corrupt depths of Mirkwood a darkness waits, recovering its strength, laying its plans, and slowly extending its shadow . . . .
The One Ring: Adventures over the Edge of the Wild is the newest fantasy roleplaying game set in the world of The HobbitTM and The Lord of the RingsTM. It provides you with everything you need to begin your adventures in Middle-earth, including:
  • 192 page Adventurer's Book
  • 144 page Loremaster's Book
  • Two 22"x17" maps
Adventures over the Edge of the Wild is the first core set for The One Ring roleplaying game. Set five years after the events narrated in The Hobbit, it introduces players to the world of Middle-earth focusing on Wilderland, the region visited by Bilbo in his journey to the Lonely Mountain. Future core and supplemental publications will advance the timeline and explore other areas of Middle-earth.

Flipping the Virtual Pages of the Tome of Horrors Complete PDF (Swords & Wizardry)

I spent some more time with the Tome of Horrors Complete PDF (S&W) last nite, this time on my 28" computer screen instead of my iPad. Some of my new thoughts on it:

The artwork really is damn nice overall. I've always been partial to B&W illustrations over color, and this book just reinforces that. I'm going to repeat myself - I want the opportunity to purchase some original pieces of some prints ;)

Bookmarking - very nicely done. A PDF of this size needs bookmarks and I'm glad to see it was done. Certainly makes flipping thru the virtual pages easier.

Pricing - I got my PDF for free as I paid for (and I'm waiting on) the print version, which if I recall correctly was around 90 bucks. The PDF just showed up on RPGNow for $30. A steep price to be sure, but right around the price that the C&C Castle Keeper's Guide sold for, and that was less then half the size. Or, to put it another way, the PDF is being sold at a 67% discount or so from the limited edition printed book price, which isn't a bad discount - it's just a high starting point.

I believe Paizo is taking orders of the Pathfinder version of ToHC and is including the PDF copy with their orders.

It's going to take me a long time to plow thru this book ;)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Loviatar Contest! Win a 6 Month Sub to Christian's New Zine!

Matt over at Lapsus Calumni is running a contest to win a 6 month sub to Christian's (unknown destination blog and others) IN PRINT zine: Loviatar.  How awesome is that?

All you have to do is flesh out a small dungeon map he's posted on is blog.  You can use stats for your favorite game or go stat-less.  You have until August 15th.

I've been reading Christian's stuff for about 10 years now.  It's always top notch.

While you are at it, check out Matt's blog for an amazing assortment of dungeon maps.  I might have to add his blog to the "Free Resources" links on he left side of this page ;)

First Look at The Tome of Horrors Complete for Swords & Wizardry

Tomb of Horrors Complete is the new monster book from Frog God. The physical copy is going to be huge - I just got my PDF copy of the Swords & Wizardry version (it also comes in a Pathfinder flavor).

First, this is a huge PDF - solidly over 200 MB, so don't download this if you are using a hotspot / mobile device with a monthly cap - grab it when you are home.

The main thing that got my attention is that every page (at least the ones I've looked at so far - it is close to 700 pages in length) has one or two creatures and a short plot hook in which to use them. The plot hooks are pure awesome even if you don't use as written, as they are a great tool to get one's creative juices flowing.

The art is quality so far. I would't mind the option of buying some original pieces (or signed prints) to frame and hang on the wall. Maybe the Frog God can pass the word on to the artists.

Really like what I see so far.

Adventurer Conqueror King Hit Another Goal

Adventurer Conqueror King has now hit it's second bonus goal via Kickstarter. If it hits the third bonus goal, the creators will run some game sessions for the supporters via Google+. Google+ is really becoming more of a hit then I ever expected. Well, that and ACK is getting more support then I expected, but really, I should have expected it. The OSR corner is small but strong, and ACK really is bringing new stuff to the OSR corner of the gaming table.

I wonder if iTabletop/Pandoren is getting any of the G+ overflow on the gaming side. It does video, voice, game table, dice and all the rest. For me, if G+ had a whiteboard and a dice rolling macro it would probably be all I need, but at this point I think I would need more.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

My First Time Was Magical

My first time playing AD&D was magical. There was something about the dice, the crude map on graph paper, killing skeletons and the like that just can't be recreated. Heck, my first time was a one-on-one session with just the DMG - my friend Kenny had to call another friend with the Player's Handbook just to find out when my fighter Cyrus leveled up.

I believe that was early in the summer of 81. For my birthday my mother got me copies of the DMG, the PH and a set of dice that I still have to this day. There was magic in having the world of RPGs opened up to me. Holy crap, I've been a gamer for 30 years!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Mini Review - The Age of Shadow (D100 / OpenQuest)

This is a quick Two-fer.

First, we have The Age of Shadow, a fantasy RPG drawing upon the OpenQuest rules, which drew upon the Mongoose RuneQuest, has it's roots deeply in the previous versions of RuneQuest.  Got that?  Good.

So, it's OpenQuest with a few twists, like less modifiers but higher mods when you do have one.  Oh, and its free, which is always nice when looking for new options for a current game engine.

From the blurb:

The Age of Shadow is an easy to learn fantasy role-playing game based upon the OpenQuest system. As such, the game utilises a simple percentile rules mechanic to resolve most actions, and is set in a fantasy world of elves, men, and fearsome monsters.
Within these pages you will find:
• character generation rules.
• a comprehensive skill list and combat chapter.
• rules for two different types of magic.
• a complete monster section.
• a two page character sheet.

Then we have The Age of Shadow: Campaign Guide.  This 28 page PDF goes into further detail of the default world referred to in The Age of Shadows RPG.  This comes in at $2.99.  Definitely grab the free RPG first before deciding if you need more.

From the blurb:

This campaign guide is intended for use with The Age of Shadow: Role-playing Game, and is presented in such a way as to quickly familiarise both players and GMs with the specifics of the setting, as well as providing a starting point from which many tales and adventures may arise.
Within these pages you will find:
• a brief history of the land and its people.
• a full colour map of the land itself.
• short descriptions of all of the major settlements.
• a number of alternate rules and items of interest.
• statistics for several NPC archetypes.
Note that this booklet is not intended to be a complete campaign setting, but rather an easily digestible primer than can be read in a single sitting. In addition, to make full use of the information contained within you will require the Age Of Shadow: Role-playing Game (which is available as a free download).
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