Friday, September 30, 2011

Win a $10 Gift Certificate to OneBookShelf - Just Name My Dragon to Enter

Just a reminder that yesterday's contest is going on through Sunday evening, at which point entries will be closed and then poll will be posted.  The winner of the poll gets the $10 gift certificate, and the name they entered for the dragon in the video attaches to him permanently.  I might add another prize or two for the runner ups.

Isn't he just cute?  :)

Tweaking the Tunnels & Trolls Kindreds - The Elf

What can I say about the elf? If you've seen the LotR movie trilogy, you have an idea what they look like. In Tunnels and Trolls, I'm surprised that they don't get a positive modifier to Dexterity. They are just as agile, and a bit less hardy then humans. They do make up for it with positive modifiers to Int, Luck, Wiz and Cha.

Hmmmm.... I would say they make an excellent choice for a Wizzie or a Rogue. Go figure. A spell casting elf.

What kind of tweaks do the elves get? Well, lets give them cat's eyes. Not only do their eyes resemble those of cats, but they also work like those of cats, enabling elves to see nearly as well by starlight as they do by daylight. Additionally, elves are skilled at moving silently and stealthily through forests and the like. Allow them to get within 20 yards of others who aren't actively looking for them in a forest setting without requiring any SRs. Closer then 20 yards, or against foes that are actively looking for them, require the elf to make a SR against Luck. The standard SR is level 2, but depending on the counter measures and type of forest (lots of dead leaves on the forest floors, few trees to hide behind, etc) the GM should increase the SR to the appropriate level.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Dragons and Cats Oh My!

Alright, technically one dragon hand puppet and one cat.  My intention was to do a short review of The Tome of Horrors Complete for Swords & Wizardry, but my cat was hogging up the stage.  So, I improvised.

In any case, the dragon needs a name (the cat already has one).

Add your thoughts in the comments below.  I'll then take the suggestions and put them in a poll at the end of the weekend.  The name that wins the poll at the end of next week is the dragon's new name AND the original poster gets a $10 gift certificate to OneBookShelf / RPGNow / DriveThruRPG.  How's that for fun?

You can enter more then one suggestion, but only one will make the poll (my choice).

Mini Review - ST1: Temple of the Horned Goddess (Labyrinth Lord)

Sometimes you want to eat gourmet.  Sometimes you want fast food.  Temple of the Horned Goddess is decent fast food at an excellent price.

What does one get for their 2 bucks?  24 pages (plus front and back covers) of adventure for a Labyrinth Lord party around 4th or 5th level.  You get a town map, a surrounding area map and 2 small dungeon locations.  You also get some pre-rolled PCs, making this a decent choice for a Game Day or Con game, or just use them to add to your stable of NPCs.  Oh, and 2 new monsters for your Monster Catalogue, or whatever the youngsters are calling it these days.  Not a bad deal for an evening's entertainment.

From the blurb:

The mining village of Hardin's Point is in desperate need of some help. They have been constantly harassed by strange creatures from the jungle. Several adventure and mercenary parties have journeyed into the jungle to take on the threats but have yet to return. Mining operations and trade have almost come to a standstill. Do you have what it takes to find the source of the attacks and end the threat.?
Temple of the Horned Goddess is a Labyrinth Lord/AEC adventure. Designed for 4-5th level characters, the adventure can be placed in any generic fantasy setting. Created by Knightvision Games

This Module includes:
  • Over 25 pages spanning overland and dungeon encounters 
  • Map for the Village of Hardin's Point 
  • Overland maps of the surrounding jungle and the Skinks lair. 
  • Detailed maps of the Temple of the Horned Goddess
  • New monsters to challenge the PCs
  • New magical items and weapons

It's All in the Way You Say It

As a GM, do you use accents and unique voices for your NPCs?

Back in the days of weekly (or more often) gaming, I would try to instill certain NPCs with unique voices. I felt it made them more memorable, and judging from my player's reactions, it did.

I used it mostly with shopkeepers and such that I knew they would deal with repeatedly. Yeah, the stereotypical Scottish brogue for the Dwarven Armorer, a kid's voice for the Halfling Thieves Guildmaster, a German accent for the Bartender of their favorite tavern... stuff like that.

Needless to say, there were times I got my voices crossed, and they would always call me out on it when it happened ;)

Still, it was fun and effective. Then again, I have a bad habit of talking in accents ;)

Scheduling the Re-scheduled Renovations

Renovations should be back on track shortly. We rescheduled the contractor to come in and give us an estimate for this coming Monday (the future Mrs. Tenkar has increased her mobility, but is far from fully mobile). Which means I need to get back to cleaning and throwing stuff out. Fun ;)

I need to start cleaning out my son's old room (previously mine, and still lots of RPG stuff in the top of the closet). There still might be a few gems to re-find this weekend.

If all goes well, I'll have my X-plorers Boxed Set waiting for me when I get home from work on Tuesday. Fun stuff.

Oh, and Monday MAY be my first day in my new office at work. Or it may not. I find personnel moves take their own sweet time at my job, with little rhyme or reason as to their timeliness. When it happens, it will be a good move. I'll be inheriting a very competent staff, which solves 90% of any possible issues right off the bat. ;)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Gaming With Hand Puppets - Is It a Sign of the Coming Apocalypse?

I had a conversation with a coworker yesterday and the subject of hand puppets came up.  Alright, it came up because we were discussing video blog posts, so it didn't just "pop up".  The thing is, as interesting as I find the use of hand puppets in a video blog post (you have been warned) it got me thinking about the use of them in a standard table top RPG session.  Mostly by the DM for the occasional NPC.

I found knights and dragons, and with an average price less then 20 bucks a pop it's actually affordable.  The question is, has anyone tried this before?  Is anyone willing to admit that they tried this before? ;)

It's may be kinda silly, but I think it could work with the right group (and correct game system)

The Power of Words

Ever since the NYPD's Police Commissioner made his statement on 60 Minutes about the NYPD's ability to take down an aircraft, the news media has been abuzz.

What weapons will they use? Does the NYPD have surface to air missiles? Armed aircraft? Who gave them the authority to shoot down aircraft?

Commissioner Kelly never stated the NYPD could shoot down an airliner, just that the department has the means to take down an aircraft. A lucky shot from a .50 caliber rifle could do it. Maybe you could force down a 2 seater prop plane with a helicopter, but there is no way the NYPD is taking down a highjacked jetliner. That's a simple fact.

Still, the media filled in the blanks, even if they filled them in wrong. I'm sure your gaming group would do the same.

Rarely, if ever, give them a defined threat to work against. Leave it vague enough that they can make their own assumptions. Most of those assumptions will be wrong. Many of them will make the threat seem more fearsome them it really is.

Isn't that the whole point anyway? If the players are to believe the "cardboard tiger" it's always best to let them construct it themselves. They know it is real, as they built it ;)

It Ain't Heavy, It's My Tome of Horrors

I'm still in awe of the hardcover version of the Tome of Horrors. The sucker is huge and heavy. It compares very favorably to a nice sized single volume encyclopedia is size and weight.

According to an email I received last night, my X-plorers boxed set should be shipping shortly. Sweet!

The fiancee was nice enough to ask me where I'll be storing all the new goodies I've ordered. I reminded her I already bought the shelving ;)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Defining the Kindreds in Tunnels and Trolls - The Basics - Dwarves

Our next Kin to take a look at is Dwarves.  When we get to the Dwarves, we get a race that is decent at a combat role, but little else about them is defined at all.  Lets remedy that just a bit.

Our Dwarves our going to conform the the fantasy standard.  Grim and dour, loyal companions and dangerous enemies.  Dwarves have taught them self a sense of sonar detection for traveling in the dark underworld.  By clicking their tongues or tapping their hammers to stone, they can get a fairly accurate 3D image of their surroundings.  Tongue clicks are good for about 20' in distance, hammer tapping is good for about 40 yards, but the noise can attract unwanted attention.

Dwarves have mortal enemies in most, if not all, of the Trollish races.  They often share the same habitat and have little use for the other.  Dwarves are no match for trolls one on one, so the dwarves have taken on the tactic of swarming their foe.  For the stout folk, numbers make all the difference.  When fighting trolls, for every dwarf that outnumbers the trollish enemy, add 1D6 to the dwarf side's combat adds.

For example - 10 dwarves are fighting 2 trolls - the dwarves get to add 8 dice to their combat adds for their side (not each).  Dwarves are not above luring lone trolls to a quick death under the weight of their numbers.

Elves are the next to be tweaked...

I Got My Tome of Horrors Complete Today!

Yep, The Tome of Horrors Complete (Swords & Wizardry) was waiting for me when I arrived home today.  About the only gaming book I can attempt to compare it to is Ptolus.

It is a massive book.  I am eager to start thumbing thru it.  Expect a video blog starring the ToHC in the next day or two.

Tweaking the Tunnels & Trolls Kindreds - The Methods to My Madness

Captain Obvious made a good point in the comments section of the previous post. Why not ditch the multiplier to the Kindred stats and just increase the dice rolled and take the best three?

I did think of doing something similar, but at the core of this exercise is a desire to minimize change. The tweaks I'll be suggesting can be overlaid on the existing rules. If you don't like my suggestions, or just like some and not others, use what you want and ditch the rest. It won't break anything, or at least it shouldn't.

I'm not looking to rewrite the Kindreds. Well, actually, I couldn't, as except for the ability modifiers there is little if anything to rewrite. So I'm keeping the modifiers as is and working from there.

I hope that makes sense.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Defining the Kindreds in Tunnels and Trolls - The Basics - Humans

Why would anyone want to be a human in Tunnels & Trolls?  Every other kindred will average higher attributes due to multipliers.  Now, I know it isn't all about "min-maxing", but the inequality is pretty ridiculous if you ask me.  It's even more noticeable with the 7.5e rules, where level is based on highest attribute divided by 10.

My house rule for Humans?  Roll 2 dice before you start rolling your attributes and put them aside.  These  2 dice can be used to replace any 2 individual dice you may roll generating your stats.  Once they are used they are disposed off.  In the 7.5e rules, they can be used to create a TARO result (Triples Are Rolled Over and added).

The extra dice are due to the inherent adaptability of humans.  Humans can be found in the coldest steppes, the hottest jungles and nearly every climate in-between.  From city dwellers to farmers, soldiers to  wizards, if there is a role to fill, a job to be done, a human has probably done it.

Tomorrow, we tweak the Dwarves...

Victim of Real Life Thieving Skills

I didn't sleep well last nite. The dog was having some bathroom issues, and i had to let her out three times over nite so she could take care of business. And she still had a small problem in the room which I found when I woke up. So, needless to say, I wasn't in an awesome mood when I left the house to go to work.

My mood got worse when I reached my car. Some low life piece of sh!t broke into my car! Now, they didn't break a window or damage a lock. They had skills (or a master key). They apparently didn't let the car alarm phase them (as I had the AC on last nite, I never heard it). Well, "they" is a probably a singular "he" and safe bet they are a habitual drug user. He moved quickly, emptying the glove compartment, center console, passenger side door map storage area and the damn change holder on the driver's side.

Net loss? A three year old GPS and maybe 10 bucks in change.

Still leaves me pissed off.

I will take my blessings as I can. No damage to the car or locks. He was professional, as only a thief can be.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Defining the Kindreds in Tunnels & Trolls - Finding the Start Button

I've been talking a lot of crap this past weekend about the need for a setting for the Tunnels & Trolls RPG.  The thing is, before you can even get to the world at large, you need to know what actually resides there.  In the T&T rules, no matter the edition, the different kindreds (or races) are no more then a list of attribute modifiers.  It is assumed that you know enough about the different kindreds to make the proper choice for your roleplaying and gaming needs.  That doesn't work for me.  

Grabbing from the list in the 7.5e rules the following is the list of "Common" Kindreds:

Human - easy enough to identify with, it could still use a grounding in the fictional setting it will be used in.  Aren't even listed in the chart

Dwarf - again, easy enough to get a handle of, but could use tweaks beyond just attribute adjustments.  We do know he stands about 4' tall

Elf - there are many kinds of elves.  we could assume a "standard" High Elf from D&D type

Fairy - about 7" tall and can fly... or so the drawing shows

Hobb - think Hobbit or Halfling.  3' tall

Leprechauns - uhm, I think we would have to pass on the classic green outfit and hat.  They do get access to a Wink-Wing spell that they can do w/o magical training, but it also says they are all Wizards.  Go figure.

So, of the above, the Leprechauns have 2 sentences devoted to them.  The rest?  Nada.  And those are just the common kindred.

I need to define the kindreds before I can even think of designing any part the world.  I think I just stepped into a project...

The Free OSR List Mini Review - Mazes & Minotaurs

Do you member the classic Marvel Comic's series What If?  What If Spiderman had joined the X-Men type of story.  Well, Mazes & Minotaurs is an RPG What If.

What if the first RPG didn't dray it's mythology from Tolkien, King Arthur and other fantasy sources but instead drew upon Greek mythology.  The result is Mazes & Minotaurs.

It helps if buy into the "alternate timeline" when you go to the website ;)

It is a well done, alternative style RPG.  I can see bits of D&D, Tunnels & Trolls and Runequest in the rules we are given.  (Not to mention the cover to the M&M Companions is ripped from Avalon Hill RQ... but it's a fun rip).

From the blurb:

As most of you probably remember, the year 1972 saw the release of MAZES & MINOTAURS, the first ever-published fantasy roleplaying game, opening a new era of heroic adventure and mythic odysseys…

Fifteen years later, in 1987Legendary Games Studio published a fully revised, streamlined and expanded version of M&M (which became known as Revised Mazes & Minotaurs or RM&M for short) in the form of three core books (the Players Manual, the Maze Masters Guide and the massive Creature Compendium) and a fourth optional book (the M&M Companion), all with full-color covers and quality B&W interior art.

In 2007, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of this mythic event, the resurrected Legendary Games Studio is happy to bring you Revised Mazes & Minotaurs in PDF format (yes, the whole four books !)… FOR FREE. 

Football or Blogging - What is a Man to Do?

The Jets - Raiders game has been pretty exciting so far.  I'm hoping the Jets can pull this one off but time will tell.

I'm having way too many Tunnels & Trolls thoughts at the moment.  Crap is distracting me from football damn it!  Good thoughts tho'.  I'll see if they lead anywhere.

Maybe What Tunnels & Trolls Needs Is a Setting

You need to forgive me, but Tunnels & Trolls is burning it's way through my blood these past few days and I'm still on the T&T kick.

So, here's the latest thought:  Would T&T be best served if there was an actual "setting" for the game?  By this, I'm looking at The World of Greyhawk and The Forgotten Realms over on the D&D side of the equation.  During the course of most of D&D's history, one setting or the other has been the default setting for the vast majority of RPG campaigns that have been in existance.  What does Tunnels & Trolls have to offer?


There isn't really much you can do with TrollWorld as written to place a campaign in that setting, as there is very little there.  The Fragmentary History of TrollWorld isn't much of a help either.  So there really isn't a default setting to use with T&T, unless one wishes to port one over from D&D.  Which is fine, except that you would need to cut out a majority of the available races for T&T.  Not much of a loss, as most of them just exist on the Racial Adjustment Chart for Stat Multipliers - there is no write up for most of them.

Which leads to yet another thought.  Do we need all of the racial options for character generation that Tunnels & Trolls gives us or can we pare the list?  Or should we flesh out the list with actual descriptions, habitat and the likes for the creatures listed?

If we design a setting for Tunnels & Trolls, how far should one step away from the old default of the standard D&D type world?  Or should it be like Glorantha, very much it's unique self?

T&T adventures tend to have more "silly" elements then other types of fantasy RPGs do.  Is that because of the setting that is inferred, or the system?  Or "just because"?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Step Closer to the Rest of My Life

Last night and today was Pre Cana, the ritual Catholic test of stamina / prior to marriage class.  The future Mrs. Tenkar and I survived (which wasn't easy, as Rachel's broken foot and sprained opposite ankle really hampered mobility, but I digress).

Last night's history lesson was fairly convoluted... I'm sure the priest knew where he was going but I didn't (and I was a history major).

Today, the couple that gave the class were very nice, although the wife's accent was heavy enough that I drifted off to gaming thoughts when she read or spoke.  Probably not what the big guy upstairs wanted from me, but the other option was breaking out the iPad, and we were told that was verboten right from the start... sigh.

In any case, I was wondering if an Illusionist class could be built for the Swords and Wizardry rules within the OGL.  I know there were reasons the class was kept out, which boiled down to not being able to stay true to the original D&D class within the bounds of the OGL, but just like the Bard class, there has to be a viable and acceptable variant out there, even if I have to write it myself.

Then I bounced to the question of "what exactly would make Tunnels & Trolls more acceptable as a traditional group RPG?"  Would it be a setting?  Sandbox or detailed local setting?  Maybe an adventure path.

I got my certificate AND I did some gaming brainstorming.  Not too bad a day ;)

Further Thoughts on the Viability of the Tunnels & Trolls System For Group Play

I got some really thoughtful responses to yesterday's post, and now I'm here with a need to elaborate on my previous thoughts (and possibly repeat myself).

Tunnels & Trolls, as written, assumes that the rules will be used in "Group Play".  Most of the rulebook is geared to group play.

The saving roll mechanism introduced in later editions needs a GM's interpretation as to is applicability and use.  It's only useful in group play.

Most of the spells in T&T assume group play.  Heck, the vast majority of solos don't allow for spell casting - generally speaking, they need to have a spell matrix to refer to allow for most spell use.

Solo play is a warrior's game.  Which means you can chuck about half of the rulebook if you're going solo.  Actually, solo play needs nothing more then the T&T Free Quickstart rules.  Ever.  Seriously, who's going to make it past 5th level playing HONESTLY through T&T solos?

It's not that it doesn't work well as a solo game.  T&T EXCELS as a solo game.  It's just as viable as a group play rpg, but that part often gets overlooked by the solo aspect.

Flying Buffalo is the major culprit here, as it took square aim at the solo market years ago and pretty much defined T&T as a solo game to the RPG masses.  It may have good business decision at the time, but the long term repercussion is that a game written for group play was never truly supported for group play.

Players are generally introduced to the RPG hobby by other players.  T&T as a solo game does not lend itself to introducing others to the hobby.  The 5e rules are pretty poorly organized, and probably wouldn't make for a great game to introduce new players without some experienced handholding, but the 7.5e rules are much clearer to understand (even if T&T enthusiasts like to argue the pros and cons between editions, in the end the gameplay is nearly identical) and would make for a nice introduction to the hobby.

Tunnels & Trolls could be a tool to add players to the RPG fold in general.  I'm glad to see that there will be a steady release of GM adventures for T&T in the near future.  Most of the currently available ones are on the "tho shalt not patronize list".  I hope Peryton and some other publishers can bring some fresh life to an enjoyable game system.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Will Solo Play Be the Slow Death of Tunnels & Trolls?

Tunnels & Trolls has always had a pretty secure hold of the "solo play" corner of the RPG hobby.  It really is what T&T is known for.  The thing is, treating it as a solo only system, or a solo first system, really shrinks your pool of potential players (and customers).

It isn't just perception that T&T is aimed at solo play even though the rules are written with group play in mind.  Look at the adventures published by Flying Buffalo.  Dungeon of the Bear and Isle of Darksmoke are the only GM adventures I can think of off the top that FBI put out.  The list of FBI solos is huge.

Mike Hill pretty much wrote about the same in the editorial of The Hobbit Hole issue #12: "... if T&T is to grow, writers should turn their attention from the potentially self-indulgent solo arena and back to the group."  (thanks to the Trollgod for mailing it out so quickly)

Just think... if you want to play solo, computer games and console games are king, even for RPGs.  Group play excels on the table top, whether it is real or virtual.  Solo play with T&T is going to be targeting a smaller and smaller audience.

Fans of Tunnels & Trolls will be best served if writers would move from solos to GM / group play adventures.  With many gamers dissatisfied with D&D 4e, now is a good time to present an alternative that is easier to learn and play.  

The Walking Dead - Season 1 - Revisted

So, last nite I introduced the future Mrs Tenkar to The Walking Dead TV Series. We watched the first episode and holy crap she got into it ;)

It was my second time watching and I found myself catching things this time around that I missed the first time - such as the fact that the bodies piled around the hospital had all been shot in the head.

In the midst of the all the excitement, her dog and my cat were getting to know each other, with the dachshund sniffing my girl from less then a foot away. My cat just laid there. I guess the good thing about Rachel breaking her foot was forcing the pets to spend more time together. The Lord works in mysterious ways sometimes ;)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Free - OSRIC Player's Reference (OSRIC)

You know how OSRIC is basically all 3 of the core 1E rule books packed into one book?  Sometimes you don't want your players having access to more then the rules that apply to them.  No monster lists, no magic item charts.  Just classes, spells and the like.

Well, here you go.  Player's Stuff only!

From the blurb:

People have asked for it, and now its out. The OSRIC Players Reference book! This book has all the player information ONLY in this book. So its safe for players to have at the table to read! Approved by Stuart Marshall!

Bits & Pieces

Tim Shorts - I have a PDF copy of Knockspell #6 waiting for you.

I need to train my fiancee's miniature dachshund to stop pooping in the house. She'll pee on a pad, but poop where ever. As the lady can't walk the dog these days, I need the pooch to poop when I walk her before and after I work.

Tonight is The Walking Dead Season 1 on DVD Nite. Saweet! Rachel has yet to see an episode.

The TrollGod himself sent me some past issues of the Hobbit Hole fanzine / magazine for Tunnels & Trolls. Good stuff in there. Hopefully I can talk about them in the next few days without the negativity attached to the later issues.

Did I mention I am anxiously awaiting my my preorders?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Looking For an RPG That is Fun to Read and Fun to Play

Well, the future Mrs. Tenkar is grounded for at least the next two weeks.  Which means I need to find an RPG that is entertaining to read, easy to comprehend and works well in a small group (or even one on one).

Sure, I put her thru a Tunnels & Trolls solo last year (I ran it like a one on one type adventure) and she had fun, but didn't have a grasp of the rules.  I figure now is a perfect time to find an RPG that she can check out in her abundant free time.  PDF format is a bonus, as she enjoys using her iPad to read.

Open for suggestions.

Heck, I might even own some of the ones you might suggest.

Mix and Match - Building the Perfect System, or Not

As I await the arrival of some of my pre-orders (most notably the X-Plorers Boxed Set on the Tome of Horrors Complete) I'm set to do a more through read of the Adventurer Conqueror King System, specifically the campaign rules.

The way I see most of the Old School / D20ish rules that have been released, they are fairly modular in nature. You can pick and choose subsystems fairly liberally between them, mix and match, and with a little tweaking you can have a mish mash of rules that do your bidding.

I really like S&W Complete. It feels closer to the AD&D rules that we used to play with then even OSRIC does.

I also like LotFP's Weird Fantasy. Not so much the rules (I understand what Raggi was going for, but it does not fit my style of play) but the GM advice and such.

The Secret Fire has a few things I want to lift, 'tho I'm not sure it would be the core I would build off of. TSF is something I'd have to run as is to run it well.

ACKS feels fairly close to S&W Complete to my eyes, and I think I could bounce back and forth between the two fairly seamlessly.

Why the hell can't I think of running a game without mixing or houseruling? Heh

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

And the Winners Are... (Tell Me About Your Favorite Bard Contest)

I lost track of which day of the week today was.  It's actually Tuesday.  Which means I have to pick the winners of Tell Me About Your Favorite Bard Contest.

Hmmm... I get to pick one and roll for the other.

My pick is... ::drumroll:: Tim Shorts - I loved the write up.  Thomas the Mad Minstrel did the Bard Class proud.

The random pick is  ::Rachel Rolls a d10 (divided by 2):: the result is 3 - kelvingreen is the second winner.

Tim and kelvin - email me at erik AT trublunite DOT net and let me know what email address you use at DriveThruRPG / RPGNow so I can gift you both with Knockspell #6.

Thanks to all who entered.

Brokefoot Pothole

So, my wife to be broke bones in her foot AND sprained her opposite ankle when she stepped into a pothole on Sunday morning.  Not fun.  I actually wish it were me - I get unlimited sick time off from work subject to my job's doctor's approval.  I also wish it were me because I hate seeing the people I love and care for in pain.

It has put renovations on hold, as we were to bring the contractor in tomorrow to explain what we wanted done.  As the kitchen is Rachel's vision, we need her a wee bit more mobile then she currently is.  Hopefully the ankle heals significantly by this weekend and we can get an estimate done next week.

We have Pre-Canaan this weekend, the wonderful Catholic ritual that couples must go thru before marriage.  We get to have a married couple who probably have a f'd up relationship tell us how to succeed in ours.  I could get that advice at work ;)

Good news is I just picked up the DVD of The Walking Dead.  I watched it on iTunes, but this way i can watch it on the big screen TV and have Rachel watch it for the first time.  Thursday nite should be fun :)

Hindsight Is Best With a Time Machine

Its funny. When I first started branching out beyond my core AD&D books, I didn't want to buy anything that looked old and cheap. So, in the early to mid 80's, TSR modules were in, Judges Guild and the like were out.

My God but I want to kick myself these days! I'm not saying most of the old non-TSR stuff was good, but I truly can't say most of the TSR stuff was all that good either.

I missed out on the Judges Guild stuff back then, although I did grab some Mayfair and Chaosium pieces that have stood the test of time.

Ygrs? Yggrsss? Some such nonsense with a yellow cover printed 4x6 laid out by typewriter is what killed me to the smaller publishers back then. I haven't stumbled across it during my renovations yet... I probably dumped it a while back.

If I only had a time machine. I'd be buying a ton of stuff that I passed on the first time around.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Mini Review - RPG Creatures: Bestiary 1 (Generic)

Generic used to mean something resembling "lowest common denominator".  That's certainly not true RPG Creatures - Bestiary 1.  Yeah, the title of the product is fairly lame, but the contents are second to none.  I love good artwork, and this PDF is somewhere between great and amazing in art quality.  This is a PDF full of framable fantasy art pieces - there is a market for these as prints.  Or just do this as a print on demand and I'll cut out my own prints ;)

The stats for the creatures that are illustrated are generic and will need a little conversion to stat it out for your system of choice.  That shouldn't be too hard, as many of "us old schoolers" are used to converting current RPG products for our sensibilities.

Bestiary 1 isn't bookmarked - it's full of hyperlinks instead, which works wonders.  Like the pog sized portrait the Nordjarimm?  Click it and go right to the page.  Greg Christopher himself would be proud ;)

I'm really stuck at what to say.  This should really speak for itself.  The artwork is extremely strong, the writing is good and the generic stats are very useful to tweaking the monsters to your own needs.

If nothing else, check out the free preview on the RPGNow page.  It will show you better then I can what it's all about.

Mini Review - Hex Crawls 3: Beyond the Black Water (Swords & Wizardry)

Hex Crawls can lead to a wonderful campaign, if the GM is up to the task.  They are never as simple as running a prewritten adventure, but in the right hands it can lead to many sessions of gaming.  This is why I find people either loved the old Judges Guild products or they hated them - they were ingredients to create your own masterpiece, with no two campaigns ever looking the same.  Some folks want more of a a detailed list of situations.

I find myself these days really appreciating the "Hex Crawl" type of products.  They are pretty much direct opposites of what WotC puts out for their settings.  Lean, mean and lots of green (outdoors) is what I like these days.

Beyond the Black Water fits the bill of what I look for in a Hex Crawl type products - lots of adventure seeds with hexes that aren't so large as to defeat the purpose of a hex crawl.  6 miles wide is just about perfect in my opinion.  It makes for a nice, localized campaign setting

The PDF is bookmarked (as well it should be) and we get a handful of new creatures at the end, but I do have one complaint.  The map takes up about half a page.  If they had changed it's orientation to sideways, it would have been a full page and much easier to use, never mind the increased usability.  As this is a PDF product I'm looking at, they could always tack on a full page map to an update of the file.  Just an idea.

Otherwise, it's a nice setting.  Dangerous as all hell, but still nice ;)

From the blurb:

When the game was invented and sold in a little woodgrain box, the author told us a required supplement was an Avalon Hill game called Outdoor Survival. This was a wilderness survival game that consisted of a hexagonal map system that players would travel around, trying to find their way back to civilization, all the while trying not to die of thirst or get eaten by bears. This game map was used as the first wilderness "hex-crawl" for what eventually became D&D. Later, Judges Guild took this to a whole new level with the Wilderlands series. For many years, hex crawling was just the way the game was played. This series brings that back, or supplements existing games that use that system of travel.

What a hex crawl is, literally, is a wilderness sandbox of areas, encounters and villages that players travel around in. It provides no story line, just hundreds of story hooks and possibilities. An example of what this looks like that I published a few years ago can be found at:

3--Beyond Black Water
These books provide a sub-setting in your own campaign world. They populate the world, and allow you to let your players explore that world, rather than just "travel 20 days" to the dungeon. Written by John Stater of NOD fame, each of these supplements details an area with a specific theme. Monster and NPC statistics are provided for each encounter area detailed.

Among the reasons many adventurers choose to end their day in the cannibal-ridden, hurricane-savaged isles of the south is the immense distance it puts between them and the terrible land beyond the Black Water. The Black Water is a great inland sea filled with black, viscous water that sits as still as death. Nobody but a fool would willingly cross the Black Water, save for the strange men who sail the black arks, but many fools have crossed those waters in search of a lost love or a secret taken to the grave, for beyond the Black Water and its grey shores lies the icy Land of the Dead.

Doc In a Box

I took off from work today. My fiancee twisted her ankle and wrenched the opposite foot when she was walking the dog yesterday and she can barely walk. Thankfully a new walk-in emergency care facility opened nearby that takes her health insurance. If we are lucky, nothing is broken.

Still, it's giving me a chance to try out Blogger's new app as I sit and wait. It seems decent so far. For free it seems even better.

I have a feeling Rachel is going to be housebound for the rest of the week. Thank god she'll have Hulu and Netflix, as I haven't set the DishNet up in the new bedroom yet.

Ah well, I'll try squeeze in more RPG reading when I get home from here.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Mini Review - Knockspell Issue #6 (S&W / OSRIC) Part 2

Where were we in the review?  Oh, yeah, The Body in the Street.  It's a piece of fiction by Al Krombach. I was never one for short pieces of fiction, but then I started reading Solomon Kane and found I enjoy the medium.  I haven't read this piece yet, but it's on my list to read.

Ouch, My Brain Hurts! is a psionics article for S&W by Robert Lionheart.  I think Robert's first line sums my thoughts up pretty well: "Are psionics an unholy heresy or a valuable aspect of old School fantasy roleplaying?"  I'm on the fence on it myself, having experimented with it in AD&D 1E and I never found it very satisfying.  Robert's system requires PCs to sacrifice XP earned to acquire psychic powers.  It's a decent trade off for the additional power the PCs may attain.  Being that the powers are limited in the amount of uses per day, they may or not be worth the XP cost, but it may be a viable option depending on the type of campaign you plan on running.  It's a long article, and would have been a viable PDF in it's own right.

John M. Stater (best known for NOD magazine, and the man I borrowed some OGL content for my Bard class design) presents us with Catacombs of Ophir.  It's a nice little dungeon under the city-state of Ophir (itself detailed in part in NOD 2).  I don't recall a level range for it, but I'm going to guess 2-4.  Looks good, and it marks the second adventure for this issue of Knockspell.

Next up is A Duet if Bards.  The first part of this section is by Doyle Taverner.  Here he presents us with an adaptation of the original Bard class presented in The Best of the Dragon, Volume 1.  He cleans up the fuddilly bits, such as using thief abilities with heavier armor (aint happening) and spell casting in armor (also aint happening).  For me, the highlight is the page on magical instruments for bards.  Leaves me wishing I had included some, but I think Doyle gives a nice assortment to choose from.

The next part of A Duet of Bards is Tenkar's Bard.  It's short and sweet.  I like it, but then, I should ;)

Locks and Traps as a "Mini-Game" by Jim Pacek follows.  Not what I expected.  Holy Crap but I really like the system he uses.  Color me surprised, and I generally detest "mini-games in a game", but this isn't so much mini-game as a task resolution system.  It gets my "Kick Ass!" Award.  First time I've ever given one out.

Wow.  I need 3 parts for this review ;)

Pick a Card, Any card - Looking at the AD&D 2E Deck of Encounters

Probably the most useful thing ever to come out of AD&D 2E was NOT the endless collection of Complete Player Handbooks (hard to believe, I know).  Nope, the most useful accessory I found in my nearly complete collection of 2e books and assorted crap is my Deck of Encounters Sets One and Two Boxed sets.

These little treasure chests offer nearly limitless opportunities to challenge your players and work very well in a sandbox style campaign.

Generally, I'd grab a dozen or so cards before the party would head out to their adventuring destination (if they had one) and randomly pick a card when circumstances dictated.  Most were level appropriate, one or two would be weaker, one or two would be on the more dangerous end.

It was a great tool to lower prep time and still keep things exciting and different for the players.  They have been a great rediscovery as I've been doing renovations.  I'm sure to have more to say about them as I spend time perusing them again ;)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Free Adventure For X-plorers - Cleopatra Station

Brave Halfling has released a free adventure for the X-plorers RPG.  Cleopatra Station is a short adventure / mission to get your X-plorers campaign rolling.

You can get the game in a free (no art) version if you haven;t checked it out yet (link is on the page for the free mission)

From the blurb:

Owned and operated by RA-Industries, Cleopatra Station is a small, wheel space station that orbits around Mars's fast moving Phobos moon. This is a long-term lab that conducts experiments in the genetic mutation of Crain, a corn-like grain substance that grows very well on the dust plains of Mars. It is the home of several scientists and their families. Howver, all communications with Cleopatra Station have simply ceased. RA-Industries needs to find out if there is a problem, and your X-plorers team is just right for the job.
Cleopatra Station is a short sample mission. This mission is designed for 3-5 player characters of first level, and will take about 2-4 hours to complete.

It's Time For a Contest - Tell Me About Your Favorite Bard

Woot!  150 fine patrons of this tavern!  So let me tell you what I'm a gonna do.

I want YOU to tell me about your favorite Bard.  Fiction, movie, tv, comic book, player character, NPC, homeless guy you see near work - whoever it is that you think makes for an awesome Bard, I want to hear about.  Just add your comment to this post and you'll be entered.

What do you get in return?  I'm giving away 2 PDF copies of Knockspell #6 - one to my favorite entry and one to a random entry.  Winners will need to supply me with the email address they use with RPGNow / DriveThruRPG as the PDFs will be gifted to their accounts.

Contest ends at 1159 PM NYC Time on Monday, September 19, 2011.

Things to Do

We have a contractor coming Wednesday evening to give an estimate on the kitchen renovations we want done.  As I've been using the kitchen to store stuff during the rest of the renovations, I need to pack stuff into boxes and move stuff yet again.  It's almost like playing one of those old NYC street corner "shell games" - find the pea and win a prize.  Don't expect many hidden RPG finds to reveal themselves in the kitchen.  heh

I should get to the second part of the Knockspell #6 mini review later (at this rate it's becoming a full size review) later on today or tonight.  I really need some more time to catch up on reviews.  Got a crapload I'd like to get done and lack the time to do so.

The Tavern is a hair under 150 followers at the moment - I need to think of something to do when we hit the mark.  No idea yet.  Surprise surprise ;)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Mini Review - Loviatar Issue #3 (OGL)

Christian continues to do what he does best, which is write zines.  I've been enjoying his zones (and blogs and vidblogs) for years.  Today I received issue #3 of Loviatar in the mail.  Nicely done as always.

The cover is striking, as it has a nosferatu like creature on orange card stock.  Its the October issue and works well as an October / Halloween.

This issue we get a gang of thugs stated out for Pathfinder, some well fleshed out NPCs for your World of Darkness campaign, genetically engineered wolves for GURPS and an NPC for Planescape.  All of these articles have fiction that fleshes out stuff way beyond anything mere stats could ever do.

Christian is an excellent writer and it shows.  Well done lad.

I Have My HP Touchpad

My HP Touchpad arrived yesterday. It seems well worth the $99 it cost. It was worth the headache to track down.

I need to learn to stop procrastinating. The has to be 350 or more waiting to qualify on the last day the Outdoor Range is open this year. Normal days are about 100. It would be funny if it wasn't so annoying :(

- Posted from my iPhone

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Mini Review - Knockspell #6 (S&W / OSRIC) - Part 1

Full disclosure - I do have a short article in this issue.  That being said, Knockspell #6 still a damn good issue ;)

As I mentioned yesterday, I love the cover.  Yes, it's a bit modern comic bookish, but it pulls it off.  It would look fine on the wall of a man cave.

The layout of this issue is top notch.  I really shouldn't have to say it looks extremely professional, but it does, and it is.  Even more importantly for those that will be reading this in PDF, it has bookmarks.  Nice work by Matt and his team.

First up we have the next installment of Allen Grohe's From Kuroth's Quill.  This time he offers us a new class for OSRIC - the Shadow Master.  It's a nice addition to the spell caster stable, and adds some new spells into the mix.  Part 1 of 2, the follow up will include the higher level spells, new poisons and some new monsters.

We follow this up with the Random Orc Generator by Robert Lionheart.  Orcs are boring, but a staple of low level campaigns - Robert gives us some random charts to make them exciting again.  If nothing else, there are some very good adventure seeds here.

Gabor Lux must be one of the most prolific and skilled "Old School" adventure writers out there.  This time he gives us Isles on an Emerald Sea IV.  I don't think I've ever come across a "normal" adventure from Gabor.  Short but sweet.

Random Perks and Flaws by Stefan Poag.  For me, I think the flaws outweigh the perks on this table, but the right perk can be a real advantage.  Roll if you dare!

Mr. Finch himself gives us Fire and Other Eldritch Energies.  It's kind of a game science article (initially) dealing with the energy types found in D&D, ranging from the aforementioned fire to necromantic nastiness and then some.  Add some delivery system and effects random tables and you'll be able to keep you players guessing the pain they are going to be for campaigns to come.  It's a good method to help find some unique powers for your unique badies.

Wow... not even halfway thru the issue yet... more to come tomorrow.

A Bit More About My Swords & Wizardry Bard

When I wrote my version of a Bard class for Swords & Wizardry (it's in Knockspell #6), I went with the "Tastes Great, Less Filling" method. By that, I mean I didn't want to try and reinvent the wheel. If there mechanics or charts I could use that already existed in an OGL source that fit what I needed, I used it.

Some of the Bardic abilities from the class write up in one of the issues of NOD were very useful as were the attack and saving throw charts in the S&W rulebook. Why reprint a chart if I can say "Save as X"? or "Fights as Y". Even the experience chart can usually fit that of a previous class when you decide where it falls in the power structure of the classes.

Spell progression was my own write up, as I saw the spells being limited to 4 levels and that had to be spread out a bit. The spells on the spell list were all from the S&W rules, taken from different classes (and with the spell level change in some circumstances).

I do have some ideas for additional spells and some bard specific items, but whether I'll submit them as an article to Knockspell or publish them on the blog is anyones guess. I sure don't know yet. Heh.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Knockspell Issue 6 is Out... and I'm in It :)

Well, not me literally, but my bard class made the cut.  It's actually one of two bard write ups in Knockspell #6.  Mine is the version that takes up less then 2 pages.  I'm not listed in the table of contents, but flip ahead to the article A Duet of Bards and my version is there: Tenkar's Bard.  Woot!

I really like the cover but haven't done more then look at my little piece and a bit of Tavener's version of the Bard (which stays much closer to the original then mine does).

I'll have more to write when I've read more of the issue but it looks good so far.

Microlite74 - Tastes Great! Less Filling!

When it comes to the OSR style games, I think Microlite74 frequently gets overlooked. It isn't a direct port of any of the original D&D rulesets - instead, it's roots are in 3e, condensed down to their most basic rules into the original Microlite rules, then flavored and mixed with some Old School sensibilities. Oh, and you won't be finding it at RPGNow. They are free (donations appreciated).

The latest edition and its various versions are available here: http://blog.retroroleplaying.com/

They are going thru final proofreading, which you, the good reader, can help with. I'm currently looking at Microlite74 Extended. Clocking in at just 381kb and 28 pages, it's amazing how they have squeezed a complete reworking of the original boxed set and the supplements into 28 pages. It's not OD&D, but it has much of the feel of OD&D.

I don't think it would work well as an introductory RPG, but in the hands of experienced gamers looking for a smaller ruleset to get their game on, this should work remarkably well.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Card For Each PC - DM'ing Prior to the Home Computer Age

Yep, before we had computers, laptops, iPads and the rest of the computer age helping us run our games, index cards were the shit!

I wish I remember where I got the idea from.  If I had to guess, some issue of Dragon magazine, but I read all the gaming mags back then, so it could have been from nearly anywhere.

I used the 4x6 cards, as the 3x5 were just a tad to small to be useful.  I would write in the basic captions and the players would fill in the details.  I would then refer to these cards during the game, so I would know the stats, saves, weapons, items, etc of the players without needed to ask them.  The back of the card lists items and the thieving abilities.

I was a generous and benevolent DM during the campaign in question.  At the time we had 3, maybe 4 players, and not one was a healer if I recall correctly.  I'm going to say this was a AD&D 2e campaign, as I'm pretty sure those were the rules we were running with mostly.  None of us knew the politics behind EGG leaving TSR, and there was no internet to float the stories and rumors in.

So yes, the stats were inflated, and Paul dual-classed, which probably wasn't too hard to level, as we gamed every Sunday and during the summers we even snuck some extra sessions in.  Still, we had a blast, and at least these characters weren't using my "% increase" house rule that I ripped from UA's Cavalier class.  I quickly learned that was a path to madness.

Paul is the friend that we had dinner this past Sunday in memory of.  I actually found his index card (and Dave's and Brian's - they were at the dinner too) Sunday afternoon as I was moving and boxing even more gaming stuff.  Good looking out lad.  You brought back some fond memories on a day that had the potential to be truly depressing :)

Fear Me! I May Kill Your PCs... In a Month

Have you noticed how hard it is to instill actual fear in players? Sure, you can magically "fear" the PC, but how do you get the player emotionally invested into his character's danger?

As a rule of thumb, it's time sensitive, and the longer the time, the more fear (or suspense) it generates.

Here's how it works. PCs risk death constantly. The threats are immediate, and success or failure is determined fairly quickly. There is little, if any, fear or suspense, generated.

You need a long term threat with a due date of sorts. A curse or disease that will run it's course in a certain time frame before ending in the PC's death unless a cure is found works pretty well for this. Even a word of potential execution by a political heavy or a guild leader if the PC's can't accomplish a certain goal in the allotted time frame can do wonders.

The secret is giving the PCs (and in turn, their players) the time to think about the price of failure. The suspense itself adds to fear, or the illusion of it.

How do you generate fear in your games?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Pick a Table, Any Table...

Thanks to James at the Underdark Gazette I picked up the Ready Ref Sheets and some other Judges Guild goodies from Different Worlds Publications.  Holy crap but I forgot how chart heavy most Judges Guild products are ;)

If you don't already know, Ready Ref Sheets is over 50 pages of charts and random tables for D&D or any OSR game.  Dry as hell to ready, useful a swiss army knife in a survival situation.  This is the real deal and a bargain at the price.  You can find them in PDF on RPGNow, but this is one of those cases I'm gonna say get the dead tree version, never used, over 30 years old at cover price.

The Book of Treasure Maps III is 10 adventures for 8 bucks.  Came still in the original shrink wrap.  Grrrr!

Castle Book II is a handful of charts and lots of outdoor maps of castles on a hex grid.  I'll find a use for this, trust me.  Not sure WHAT the exact use will be, but I'll figure something ;)

Fun times.

Good Food, Good Friends - Now Where's the Game?

Last night I had dinner with some old friends in memory of one that we lost on 9-11. It appears that all the OSR games I've distributed at the multiple Gathering of Fools over the past few years have finally paid off. It looks like folks are itching to start playing using Fantasy Grounds or some other Virtual Table Top. Not sure what my game of choice will be - C&C, S&W Complete and ACKS are all contenders. C&C has the advantage that I've given out copies of the Player's Handbook to to everyone on the group over the years and there is a very complete FG2 add on for the system.

It was good to see my friends and their wives at a time when we really needed each other to recharge our emotional batteries. We communicate multiple times each day via mail and the occasional G+ video huddle, but nothing compares to hugs and ass grabbing at an upscale restaurant in Manhattan - it even better when you can embarrass the women folk with your actions ;)

Oh, and Holy Crap! The Jets won!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9-11

9-11 is always a hard day for me.  I carry a lot of emotional baggage from that day as well as the knowledge that under stress, I'll do the job that I signed up for.  That's actually scary when I sit back and think of it - crap like that can get someone killed.  My Department, the NYPD, lost 23 members that day and another 49 members have succumbed to illnesses related to their 9-11 duties over the past 10 years.  At least, 49 members that the Department and the City government recognize as related - I'm sure there are others that we have lost that are missing from the list.

The story I want to relate today is one I was told by a NYPD Detective that afternoon, hours after the towers fell.

He pulled up to my post in an unmarked police car.  The front of the car was melted.  The headlights looked like slag from a glass factory.  When he put the car in park, his partner exited from the passenger side and started to slowly shuffle in random directions, constantly picking up random pieces of paper that were all over the place from the fall of the towers.  I noticed that his partner was wearing a fighter fire's helmet, which certainly seemed out of place even in the chaos of that day.

The first detective, the one that had been driving, told me that the two of them had been assigned to the crime scene at the foot of the towers.  They were told to catalogue and tag the debris that had fallen when the two towers were hit.  He'd never seen a crime scene like it, and didn't even know where to start.  It was then that he heard the bodies falling.

There were people stuck in the towers, above the points of impact, that leapt to their deaths rather then burn alive or die from the smoke, and they were landing (and dying) around the two detectives.  Before that day, I could never have pictured the image, but on that day I could imagine it to well.

When the towers fell, they felt it before they heard it.  The ground shook, they looked up and saw the world crashing down towards them.  The detective that was relating the story said he grabbed his partner's arm and ran with him, but they got separated in the chaos.  At some point he threw himself and some random woman he was near under a fire truck, just as parts of the towers were impacting.

At some time after, he crawled out and tried to find his partner, but he couldn't.  He did manage to find his now partially melted car, and started to canvass the area, looking for his missing partner.  He found him about an hour and a half later, sitting on the back of a fire engine.

Some firefighters had found the partner wandering around aimlessly, picking up random papers, studying them and putting them in his pockets.  His detective's shield was still clipped to his belt.  They decided he was in shock, put him on their truck (where he happily borrowed one of their helmets) and kept an eye on him until his partner found him.

I tried talking to the partner, but he wouldn't respond.  Truthfully, I don't think he heard me.  Not from loss of hearing, but because his mind was escaping within... he just couldn't handle what he had witnessed.  He did respond to his partner telling him to get back in the car.  Not with words, he just got back in the passenger's side seat in the front.  Even reached down and put the red bubble light on the dash, out of habit more then anything else I suspect.

I'll carry 9-11-01 with me for the rest of my life.  We lost a lot that day, both as individuals and as a country.  We didn't just lose friends, family, coworkers, countrymen - we also lost our innocence.

Paul - My friend, fellow gamer, classmate, extended family - you will never be forgotten.  Rest well lad, you deserve it.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Mini Review - Seal the Rift! (Savage Worlds / Fantasy Grounds 2)

Alright, I guess I need to give full disclosure on this review - I play test part of this.  Heck, this is the adventure I played in via Fantasy Grounds 2 that let me to seriously consider running a game with the Savage Worlds rules.  To me, that says a lot about the adventure itself, as it sold me on a set of rules I truly had very lithe knowledge of (and no actual play experience).  So, I may be a bit biased.  Sue me ;)

First things first.  Seal the Rift! comes in two flavors - Savage Worlds and 3.5e.  Each flavor comes in 2 different packages - a PDF with the Fantasy Grounds files, or without.  I'm very glad to see White Haired Man releasing their products in a PDF only format in addition to their FG2 combo - it gives them a larger base to sell their products.

Okie, on the the review.  As I played in (and currently have) a PDF copy of the SW version, that's the one I'm going with.

Bookmarks - if you read this blog on a regular basis, you know that publishers that omit bookmarks from their PDFs tend to hear me bitching about it.  Not this time.  Nicely done guys!  We have bookmarks!

Artwork - I want a print of the cover art.  Really.  I'm serious.  Hook a lad up.  Oh, the rest of the art is pretty decent too, but this is the highlight to me.

The Adventure - The PDF itself is very well laid out and easy to follow.  Did I mention it has hyper links in addition to the bookmarks?  Now I need to bitch about publishers that don't hyperlink ;)

It includes a regional map and a map of the Town of Kith'takharos.  Both are pleasing to look at without being overly detailed, so if you like maps that spell out everything you may need to flesh things out yourself.  For my needs they are fine as is.

The adventure itself is designed for a party of Heroic Level Savage Worlds characters.  It should present a decent challenge (I should know - I was the only PC to die in my play test session).  I'm going to hazard a guess that it should take 2 to 3 sessions to complete, as we completed about a third or so in our play test (with lots of hand holding for the Savage Worlds Rookie - you guys were great...heh).

Seal the Rift! Savage Worlds PDF Version

Seal the Rift! Savage Worlds PDF with Fantasy Grounds 2 Module 

Seal the Rift! 3.5e PDF Version

Seal the Rift! 3.5e PDF with Fantasy Grounds 2 Module

From the blurb:

He waited, standing like a statue just inside the entrance of the Administration Wing. He had not moved in a thousand years, having no need of food or rest, and never suffering from fatigue. He existed to serve his master, which gave him pleasure. And every moment of those thousand years was pleasing, for his Master had bid him to wait.

Then a whisper of thought brushed his mind. His eyes regained focus and he turned his head, recognizing the pyramid of mummified Harlass Orn corpses he had carefully assembled so long ago. He sensed his Master's voice, faint yet unmistakable. The rift had opened again, and Agurth-Plaga called to him.

Months have passed since the Harlass Orn were freed from the Veilwalker Dreamseeker in The Dreamers Awaken adventure. One of the survivors, the scholar-mage Zzhastor Brune, learns that the people of Kith'takharos have begun using the ancient Harlass Orn Teleportation Towers. These towers precipitated the Harlass Orn downfall, for the magic employed in tower teleportation opened a rift that allowed the extra-dimensional Veilwalkers to enter normal space and destroy the Harlass Orn.

Seal the Rift! is an OGL 3.5 adventure for 4-6 characters of Ninth and Tenth Levels, with an estimated 15 hours of playing time. Zzhastor Brune teleports the characters into Nhamah, where they will navigate the automated defenses before confronting a powerful Veilwalker construct determined to prevent the Aether Bind from being activated.

This 42 page PDF contains all the information necessary to run the adventure.
The basic Kith'takharos Setting is available for free in a rules agnostic format at www.whitehairedman.com

I Think The HP Leprechaun Has Been Spotted!

Yep, the F'er seems to be in Mobile Alabama.

I want my Touchpad yo!

The HP Leprechaun is Gonna Get an Ass Kickin'!

I've been on the hunt for an HP Touchpad for a while now, "a while" being defined as "since HP pulled the plug and dropped the price from $499 to $99.  It's like trying to find a Leprechaun in Central Park -  you might (if you drink enough) think you see one, but when the time comes, it's just not there.

When the price drops were announced, I hit all the usual places, including HP's site itself, no luck.  Then, suddenly, it appeared to be in stock at HP's Business website.  So, I ordered 3 (me, the soon to be wife, and the kid).  Order accepted.  Wheeee!

Then, later that day, HP notified me that they did not, in fact, have any Touchpads in stock. Order cancelled.  Damn it!  But wait, the next morning, I get an order number and a confirmation.  Uhm, WTF? Happy WTF, but still, WTF?

Looking closer, I couldn't initially log in to get further order info.  Weird.  Two days later, all the info is there.  Five days later, when I click on my order details, I get a website error.  I feel like my ever elusive Leprechaun is playing mind games with me at this point,

Yesterday, Tigerdirect sent an email stating they had a Touchpad Bundle for sale.  $200 for the Touchpad and some accessories I'd probably buy anyway, so I ordered a bundle immediately.  Order in 4 minutes after the email landed.  Success!  Order confirmation and everything.

Until this morning, when I noticed they sent an email last night that my order was not filled, they were out of stock... yadda yadda!  Foiled again!

But wait, then I got a shipping notification... for the accessories only.  Now my mood is really WTF!?!  Maybe checking email at 525 AM while walking to the bathroom isn't such a good idea.  After logging into my account, the HP Touchpad IS ordered, but on Backorder.  Actually, the note says they are ALL on backorder.

I'm gonna kill the f'n Leprechaun when I get my hands on him...

Friday, September 9, 2011

Dungeon Crawl Classic RPG is Delayed to February 2012

Yep, DCC RPG is delayed until early winter of next year (Feb '12).  I'm neither surprised nor disappointed.  When it comes to computer RPGs / MMORPGs, they are never released on time.  Well, at least not the successful ones.  Why?  Because they go through many layers of beta testing, which leads to rewrites and more beta testing, but even more importantly, a more solid game.

So, I applaud Joseph Goodman for taking the play test / beta test feedback to heart and tweaking the game to make it better.  I'd rather wait 3 extra months for a tighter product then get something that isn't quite ready for prime time.

Besides, I'm still waiting on lots of RPG goodies I preordered to ship - Xplorers Boxed Set, Delving Deeper, Tome of Horrors Complete... not including the Kickstarter Projects I joined.

I'm much better at waiting now that I'm older ;)

Want Your PC to be Abducted By Aliens?

"PCs begin the adventure waking up alone in an unfamiliar setting, stripped of all of their possessions".

Do you really want to play in the above session? A session that starts with the decision making process totally removed from you? Where you have lost everything you have gained, not through your own actions or failures, but through DM fiat?

Me? I will not play in the above adventure in campaign play. Sorry.

Would the above be a decent way to start a campaign? Sure. There is no prehistory being erased, no PC actions being invalidated. A one shot? No problem. Hey, it's perfect for a convention. It sucks when placed in the middle of an on going story.

There are Railroads and there are RAILROADS. Starting an adventure with the PCs abducted and stripped of belongings is a railroad of the worst sorts.

That, and it's just poor adventure design.

End of short rant...

Begin non-rant...

Great start to the Football season here in the States last nite. Wish I had caught the game. Not going to see much football this sunday, as I have a memorial dinner to attend that day for the 10th anniversary of 9-11.

Freebie Friday - Casefile: Evil Acts (Dresden Files RPG)

I've only read the first book in the Dresden Files, but it hooked me for wanting to read more and buying the RPG.  The two core books are HUGE but extremely atmospheric and well written.  When and if I finally get to play in a FATE system RPG, I hope it's Dresden.

In any case, the guys at Evil Hat have put out a free adventure... er, Casefile for the Dresden RPG.  Evil Acts is a one-shot adventure.  You'll need the core book to run it, but it should be a good way to introduce it to a group, run at a game night or even a con.

From the blurb:

The play's the thing... or is it? Something fishy is going on at the local playhouse. A production of the Tempest has a bigger budget than makes sense -- and some surprising special effects. Could it be that there's something more to this than the grand final retirement performance of a talented actor? Lord, what fools these mortals be!

Evil Acts is a Dresden Files RPG casefile, a one-shot mystery-adventure intended for 3-6 characters at the "Chest-Deep" power level. Customizable, pregenerated characters, a mix of mortals, practitioners, and more, are provided with sheets and power details.

Whether as performers, audience members, or something else, the characters are drawn into a complicated web of theatrical sleight-of-hand and supernatural power politics. Will they unravel the mystery of Prospero's performance before the final curtain? Or will it be curtains for everyone?

Together with a copy of The Dresden Files RPG: Your StoryEvil Acts is perfect for a "test drive" at home, or for a convention GM looking for a print-and-play scenario.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Mini Review: All Stars Take on the Mega Dungeon (Pathfinder)

I generally don't review much of the stuff released for Pathfinder.  The system is fine, just too rules heavy for my current taste.  It doesn't stop me from grabbing adventures and sourcebooks for the system, as most of the stuff, even the licensed stuff, is top notch and easily convertible for my needs.

Tonight I'm looking at All Stars Take on the Mega Dungeon.  Now, everyone has their own opinions on who's a star adventure writer and who isn't, but I recognized 3 of the 4 names right off the bat, and 2 (if not all 3) are certainly starters on any adventure writers team I might assemble.

Now, the adventures within all use geomorphs that can be found in Gamin Paper's Mega Dungeon 1 release, but it's not required for play, as the dungeons are all mapped out in each adventure (and labeled if you did want to use the sheets with it).

Lets get to the meat of the matter:  How do the 4 adventures stack up?

The first one we get is The Temple of the Half-Born by Monte Cook.  Certainly the headliner.  He's pulling this from his Ptolus setting and redesigning it.  I have no idea how close in remains true to the original, and I'm not dragging the monster out to check.  It's for 7th and 8th level characters.  Monte seems very comfortable with the Pathfinder system (as well he should) and there are DC checks throughout the text.  Undead heavy, but what do you expect for a dungeon under a temple?  Four Tankards out of Five

Arena of Souls is the next in line.  It's written by Brian Cortijo and is for characters of levels 3 and 4.  The author's name doesn't ring a bell for me.  Here's where it lost me:  "PCs begin the adventure waking up alone in an unfamiliar setting, stripped of all of their possessions".  Sorry, tapped out and moved on to the next adventure, as this screams "railroad" to me.  No rating, as I stopped reading at the above point.

Alright, Ed Greenwood is the next author.  He gives us Lost Coins and Flying Bones for 4th and 5th level characters.  I happen to like Ed's work.  He gives a rumor list and nice background material.  Ed also gives very detailed encounter descriptions.  It gave me an old school feel, but then any adventure that includes a Gibbering Mouther tends to do so for me.  I'll give Ed Four Tankards out of Five.

Last but certainly not least, we get Keep Away From the Borderlands! by Steven Schend for beginning characters.  Now, I'm going to quote Steven's opening paragraph, just to give you a feel for what follows:

As much as I’d love to make this a full homage to the early days of roleplaying, I won’t bother you with a “Welcome to the land of imaginations!” and all that. If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve played in or run a roleplaying game before using one set of rules or another. You probably don’t need hand-holding to walk you through a dungeon or tell you how to prepare or use this material1. What you do need is a good old-fashioned starter adventure to get a new campaign rolling—and I hope this module !ts the bill for you.

How's that for getting you in the Old School mood?  There is an implied, sandboxie setting that could be fit easily into nearly any larger setting.  There's a rumor list, there's a Generic Dungeon Details list (I'm yoking this) and even a Generic Corpse Detail list.  Some of the NPCs even have pre, current and post adventure status's written up for them and well as some post adventure hooks.  It's an excellent starter adventure for new or experienced DMs.  Five out of Five tankards.  Heck, I'd even give Steve a "buyback" if he patronized the Tavern ;)

Overall, a very strong product.  Even if you just used the 3 adventures I read, the cost to you would be 2.50 a piece.  Consider the railroad a freebie thrown in with purchase ;)

Tenkar's Treasure Trove: Sometimes You Gotta Get MAD!

Yep, another post of a rediscovery. I'm adding the label Tenkar's Treasure Trove to these posts now, as it been tossed around already, and it is fairly accurate. Rediscovered treasures are like Christmas Mornings as a kid when you get something you really wanted, but figured you wouldn't get.

The MAD Magazine DVD is one of those things that I bought, apparently lost behind my huge desk, and recently refound.

The first thing I did after popping it in (and thanking God that the scratches on the disc didn't damage it) was look up an issue from 1997 when I was a rookie cop. It had the Bad Cop's Guide to Good Police work. It was so on the money it was scary.

MAD Magazine is one of the few forms of entertainment that still holds up to the test of time. I need to explore the rest of the DVD, as it has every issue up to a few years ago. Good stuff. Major time killer.

What's Your Class?

Most people have a default template / character class that they default to.

When I first started playing, it was usually a Paladin. What can I say? I was a teenager and I saw it as the power class. Besides, we usually had inflated stats back then.

When AD&D 2e was released, I gravitated to the Bard. It was a versatile class and a jack of all trades. Not all that powerful, but it filled in holes when the party needed it.

When I started playing Castles & Crusades, I settled on the Cleric. Dwarven, if you need to know. He made a decent warrior and a decent healer... again, filling more then one role. In a way, it was a natural progression from the old bard class.

What's your default class?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Counting Time on a Tombstone - Part 2 of 2

I sounds a bit like Bob Ross in this video: "Maybe over here, by the trees, we have some goblins living. We can add some ghosts by the tombstones using some 'magic white' paint".

In any case, I'm really psyched about using a graveyard as a hook in my next campaign.

Hoping to Rediscover Some Paranoia (West End Games) Tonight

Tonight if all goes well (and really, how often does that happen?) I'll be able to access the top part of a closet I haven't been able to access for years. Buried somewhere in there are the original Pavis and Big Rubble boxed sets (thanks to Grognardia for making me think of them today), but more importantly, my copy of the first Paranoia boxed set.

Paranoia is a game that played very well in small doses with a large group, less well as anything that resembled a campaign and read better then just about any game related novel I can think of. Many of those original modules were simply laugh out loud funny to read.

I think I also have my copy of the City-State of the Invincible Overlord up there as well as some other gems.

After this I don't think there will be any treasures left for me to rediscover ;)

The Loose Definition of What Constitutes a RPG, According to Me ;)

I posted this in response to a thread started by Greg Christopher (Errant RPG Blog) on Google+ in which he explains how the OSR helped him define what constitutes an RPG game. I'd link it directly, but then I'd actually have to know what I'm doing ;)

Greg, thanks for the mention :)

I played in a Tunnels & Trolls game run by Scott from the Huge Ruined Pile blog via Google chat. We had sessions that no dice were rolled - every challenge / encounter / puzzle was role played. We also had sessions where dice were being tossed for hours.

So, here's my take on the current argument: If every challenge / encounter / puzzle / whatnot can be solved by a character's die roll, it is no more a roleplaying game then WoW or EQ or Rifts. You are playing a game with social interaction, but you have little if any chance to actually get into a "role".

This is my problem with 4e - pretty much every "challenge" is made to be resolved by "roll play", not "role play", and is worked out on a game board (or encounter map or whatnot). That seems more like Decent then a roleplaying game to ME.

If you started gaming with 3.5e or later, what I see mostly as a social board game you may perceive as a RPG game. From my experience, your perception is wrong. It doesn't mean the definition of what constitutes an RPG can't (and hasn't) changed. Massive Multiplayer Role Playing Games is a very profitable corner of the gaming industry, but MMRPGs don't resemble RPGs that I grew up on. I've rarely if ever seen actual roleplaying in these game by ANY definition of the word, even on "Roleplay" servers. Yet I've still had fun.

"Fun" is the key word here I think. Definitions don't matter much as long as you are enjoying the game you are playing.

That being said, I agree with Greg - some of you are doing it wrong ;)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Holy Carp!

I came home today and my son surprised me by moving most of his stuff into his new room.  That also meant moving my old desk.  It's old in more ways then one, and it weighs a ton.  Needless to say, there was a large accumulation of stuff between the desk and the wall.

Found and waiting for me were:

Mad Magazine DVD Collection.  I'll be popping this in shortly.

Campaign Cartographer 3 and Dungeon Cartographer 3 - I need to bootcamp Win7 so I can play around with these again.

RPG Explorer with Pathfinder datasets.  Need to peek at this too.

Now if he only found my Claddagh Ring that's been missing for over a year...

Castles & Crusades - Rosetta Stone of the OSR

Castles & Crusades is one of those games that is "old school" in flavor without trying to reimage any of the specific classic D&D rulesets. It certainly follows AD&D most closely, but even with that, many of the classes are rewritten in a way that they don't mirror the source material too closely. The secret, I think, is the "flavor".

C&C feels and tastes and even looks very much like AD&D without being AD&D. I've played in a long lasting C&C campaign online, and it felt very much like AD&D despite all the changes. My biggest gripe, and the toughest nut for me to crack, is the Siege Engine.

The Siege Engine is pretty much a universal skill check system for C&C and it's also the one piece that takes me out of my AD&D feel. I just don't like it. I feel like it was thrown in to give the system something that wasn't part of the OGL for marketing and copy write reasons.

Still, it is probably the best supported of the Old School rulesets, with a large assortment of modules and adventures for use with the Fantasy Grounds 2 VTT. Actually, with the exception of the LL rules, C&C is the only Old School ruleset available for FG2.

The best thing about the rules? From OD&D to 3.5e, I can run a module on the fly. Probably could with all the OSR rulesets for everything up to 2e, but 3e and 3.5e get a bit shaky ;)

Monday, September 5, 2011

I've Migrated, Cleaned and Ordered

Yep, I've migrated.  I finally transferred my account info, programs and applications from my Mac Mini to my iMac.  I no longer feel like I am missing some of my go to resources.

Today we also finished clearing out my old room.  Holy crap but I had a lot of crap in there.  Threw more stuff out and boxed other stuff, but now I really need to go through the clothes.

Oh, and we ordered the 1/2 pint presonalized glasses for the wedding favors.  Hey, some folks might actually get a use out of them ;)

I've been looking over one of the new releases on RPGNow, a fantasy rpg named Azamar.  Maybe it's just me, but on the quick bouncing read through, I get a huge LotR feel with the serial numbers scratched off.  I need to give it a closer look, time permitting.

Tombstones: A Random Table

My time spent walking through a local cemetery over the weekend got me thinking about a random table to describe what adventurers find when they start poking around the graveyard.  This table just deals with the tombstones themselves, not the mysteries that may be attached.
It doesn't include what may or may not be inscribed on the tombstones.  That may follow in a later, more detailed, random table.  For a good hook, that should be worked out by the GM in advance.

        A               B                                  C
1   a pristine         grey tombstone covered in lichen
2   a weathered white "         with some lichen
3   a worn black "         covered in moss
4   a broken*         green "         with some moss
5   a cracked         brown "         covered with loose spider webs
6   a missing** pink         "               clear of growth
*  broken tombstones may be complete, with the broken piece(s) on the ground, or a piece may be missing
** missing tombstones just have a nub remaining in the earth
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