Saturday, January 22, 2011

The (Virtual) Dice Shall Roll High Tonight!

At least I hope they will.  I've been rolling like crap the last few sessions of the Fantasy Grounds / Castles & Crusades game I play in and Tenkar has taken a beating.  It's all good tho, we always have a blast playing.

ENWorld has a thread going about VTTs.  Some folks are just dead said against them.  Me, I love 'em.  How else would I get to game on a Saturday nite and still get quality time in with the fiancee?  Win / Win if you ask me.

Wish me luck.  I got my ass handed to me last session by giant slugs ;)

The Trollish Taproom - The Changes From 4e to 5e in T&T

In the history of Tunnels & Trolls, the biggest evolution in the game was the jump from 4e to 5e.  I'm sure if I sat down with my copies of both editions in front of me, I could turn out a fairly comprehensive list of the changes, I'm also sure I'd miss quite a bit.  Instead, I'll turn to my recently acquired copy of issue #5 of the Sorcerer's Apprentice, which has a fine article by Liz Danforth that describes, in detail, the changes.  I'll be foregoing most of the fine details ;)

1 - Rogues no longer have to choose between Warrior or Wizard at 7th level.  They do stop progressing in magic at 7th level in 5e.  No use of magic tools, no lowering the cost of casting and no inventing new spells.

2 - Warriors now get 2x the listed armor and shield protection.  Finally a reason to play a warrior.

3 - Wizards limited to 2 dice or less weapons but gets combat adds from str, luck and dex

4 - Kindreds - changes to rolling elves, dwarves and leprechauns

5 - Experience is now Adventure Points.  Gold no longer gives expo / AP.

6 - Magic - Only wizards can buy spells directly out of the book, others need to be taught them.  Bunch of new spells.

7 - Charts - New weapon, equipment, leveling, poison, armor charts.

8 - Monsters can now have a negative charisma

9 - Missile Weapons - new system

10 - Speed as an attribute is introduced.

I forgot to mention the Warrior-Wizard class, but who can actually qualify for that rolling 3d6 for their stats?  heh

I'll do up the 5e to 5.5e changes relatively soonish.

Friday, January 21, 2011

What's Up With the iTabletop Virtual Table Top?

As many of you know, I have a large interest in Virtual Table Tops. I find them to be an acceptable substitute for Face to Face gaming. Each VTT has it's own set of strength and weaknesses... I should know, as I've spent money on a large share of them.

I was interested in the iTabletop V2 / Pandoren VTT from the moment it was announced. It promised voice, video and all the usual VTT bells and whistles. This spring will be 2 years since the announcement if my memory serves me correct, and I was one of the first to drop $200 to me a lifetime founding member. Yes, I knew then my investment was more of a gamble then anything else, but I felt the bet was worth the promise.

Since then, the software has been improved in spurts, both large and small. For me, it still isn't where I would want to use it for a regular game with the other options I have access to... it still isn't "there" for me.

Funding and pricing of memberships has been an issue from the beginning, as iTT was initially planned to be a monthly sub, then a bunch of discounted lifetime memberships were sold, at one point MLM was discussed (and thankfully discarded) and now there is talk of going to micro transactions (popular with certain MMORPGs like DDO).

Forum activity (or lack thereof) has been an issue from the beginning. When you don't hear from the devs for weeks or months, there is a feeling that little is going on with the platform. At one point, I attempted to be a volunteer mod, but I want knowledgeable enough to actually conduct any sort of customer service. There was another volunteer mod after me, but I think he faded too.

I wish I knew where iTT was heading, how soon and even if it will fill my gaming needs, but I don't have these answers. Truthfully, I'm not all that concerned, as I have other options available that do what I need now (with the addition of Skype or Ventrilo I even have the feature that is iTT's biggest selling point - voice communication). I would like to see it succeed, as the guys behind it are decent folks that really want to get things right. The VTT market is hot now, with the WotC VTT Beta grabbing attention, but its getting crowded. iTT's time to strike is getting short if they want to grab enough market size to be profitable. I hope they can do it. I hope I get to play with it. I had been holding off starting an online campaign with the hopes of using iTT to run it, but now I'll probably use Fantasy Grounds / Skype and consider the switch to iTT later. If and when it gets there.

End of the Week Tavern Round-Up

Another weather non-event for NYC, although if they fail to clean up the 3 inches of slush by tonight, the 12 degree night time temp may cause some real icing issues.

Tomorrow nite I get to play some Castles & Crusades via Fantasy Grounds and I get to see how my 11" gaming net book handles it all. Most net books don't have the right resolution for FG and you lose the chat bar at the bottom.

Jets, Jets, JETS on Sunday evening. I managed to escape the game / game conflict I thought was going to happen, thank god ;)

I'll try to get some Tunnels & Trolls info up tomorrow concerning the changes from 5e to 5.5e. I'd do it tonight, but I'll be at a retirement party (not my own, sadly enough).

BTW, I now have a copy of every edition of T&T (1st and 3rd are reprints) from 1e thru 7.5e. I'm need to sit down and work on my FrankenTroll house ruled version if I ever want to get a game up and running ;)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Trollish Taproom - Let's Pick an Edition

Earlier today I was posting about yet another D&D clone.  It's not really a bad thing, and I'm extremely glad to see the OSR movement is maintaining a lively growth, but there comes a time when too much choice can be detrimental.

Tunnels & Trolls is a bit more cut and dry.  While T&T has gone thru six (or seven) full editions and two "half" editions, in reality editions 1 thru 4 didn't experience much change.  5e was a big jump ahead (and Sorcerer's Apprentice #5 gives a very nice write up of said changes -  that's the Winter 1979 issue for those asking).  Thus it was, unchanged until 2005, when 5.5 updated and added options (and Fiery Dragon released 7e that same year, in honor of T&T's 30 years).

There is the unofficial 6e, which has a few pieces that are worth stealing... borrowing may be a better choice of words... but being unofficial, it will never receive the support of 5 / 5.5e or 7 / 7.5e.

So, which to play?  It's almost like choosing between two different flavors of the OSR... but the Tunnels & Trolls variations are even closer in compatibility.

For me, I think I prefer the 5.5e rules, but I like the 7.5e presentation better.  Spiral binding actually works for me, I never expected that.  In truth, I'd probably wind up with a set of houserules drawing from both current editions if I were to run a campaign.  For solos, I'd probably stick with 7.5e, as its easier to reference when running with a rulebook and a solo adventure at the same time.

Damn, guess I didn't really pick, did i? ;)

Send in the Clones. Where Are the Clones? There's Too Many Damn Clones!

While we watch the possible implosion of WotC and the tattering of the Dungeons & Dragons Brand as we know it, we are treated to yet another Dungeons & Dragons clone. Brave Halfling will be developing its own 0e clone, not to be confused with Swords & Wizardry (a 0e clone) nor the Swords & Wizardry White Box Edition (0e clone of just the original White Box). Delving Deeper steps out of the shadows, and into the shadow of the D&D Clone World (it has the right initials tho)

Do we really need another D&D clone, let alone another 0e clone? Damned if I know. Hell, I'm getting to the point where I really don't care. WotC is doing an admirable job in destroying their own market, and the OSR has so many flavors that we may need to recruit the Highlander to see if there "can be only one clone." Maybe a "Last Clone Standing" competition is in order.

Imitation is often referred to as the greatest compliment, but there comes a point where it gets a bit ridiculous. This isn't a new take on something old... this is a newer take on a recent take of something old. Where is the value here? Don't get me wrong, Brave Halfling puts out good stuff. In support of clones. Making their own clone to piss on another clone? Why?

Oh, and the title of this post draws upon an old Paranoia module. That was a game that knew had to use "clones" ;)

Dungeons & Disfunctions - What is Up With WotC?

The blogosphere and assorted forums are swarming with talk of WotC's decision to drop their randomized collectible miniatures line and the cancelation of some of the D&D Essentials line that was scheduled for later this year. Then again, there is the talk of the new but trying to look old Red Box that they released last year.

If one didn't know any better, you would think their budget had been slashed by Hasbro. Maybe it has, maybe it hasn't, but one thing is for sure, some is worried about WotC's bottom line right at this moment. Not the future, but now.

Amazingly enough, I haven't logged into the D&D Virtual Table Top since the one time I did right after I was notified I had landed a spot in the Beta. It just doesn't compare to the flexibility of what is already out there. Fantasy Grounds, Map Tools, Battlegrounds RPG - those are your big boys, with another half dozen or so right behind them. The D&D VTT is playing catch-up with all of them.

As others have already said, what is 4e these days? Is it the core books that were released previously, the Red Box, the new trade paperbacks... does WotC even know? They seem to want to get away from physical products and take their toys to the electronic media side, but they don't want their material distributed in PDF format. Every Pathfinder product that I buy direct from Paizo includes a PDF copy. It doesn't seem to be hurting their sales any.

WotC no longer sees their customers as gamers first, but as consumers of a product that they want to turn into a self generating cash cow. Some folks say they are trying to follow thew World Of Warcraft method of making money, but only WoW is making that kind of money in the sphere of MMORPGs... no one else comes close. The same used to be said of the Dungeons & Dragons brand... sadly, that's no longer true.

I hope that WotC can find their way before the D&D brand is fully drained of value and relevance.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Free Stuff - Dresden Files RPG Casefile: Neutral Grounds

This wasn't the post I initially planned on making tonight.  I actually intended to highlight a recently released Quickstart, but this is cooler.

Evil Hat has just released a free one-shot adventure for their FATE based Dresden Files RPG.  Twenty-five high quality pages for the cost of your bandwidth.  Not a bad deal at all.

Admittedly, the adventure is pretty short, as 14 of those 25 pages are used for the 7 partially pre-generated character sheets, 1 page for the cover and 1 for the OGL.  Still, it should give a group a nice session or two of gaming, and the partial pre-gens are a nice way to help players that may be stumped with their character concept.  Can't beat the price either ;)

From the blurb:

          Neutral Grounds: Come for the hot, fresh coffee. Stay for the cold-blooded murder. 

Two dead barristas ... a missing proprietor ... ghoul attacks ... poser vampires ... boy trouble. And it's your case, whether you like it or not. 
Better make that a double espresso.
The Neutral Grounds casefile is a one-shot mystery-adventure for the Dresden Files Role-Playing Game, intended for 3-7 characters at the "Up To Your Waist" power level. Customizable, pregenerated characters with sheets and power details are provided.

The Trollish Taproom - Sorcerer's Apprentice

Yesterday I received a package containing 4 near mint issues of The Sorcerer's Apprentice from the mid 80's. I haven't done much more then glance at them, but a few things quickly stood out (I'll probably go a bit more in depth at a later point).

There was a mini-solo in one called Hot Pursuit by Mike Stackpole. It was inserted throughout the issue, not squashed into consecutive pages. I was confused at first, but then I saw it as a great was to get rid of all that unused "white space" that some mags have. Kinda cool. Haven't tried the solo yet.

One issue had a cleric / priest class for Tunnels & Trolls, complete with new spells and a 7th stat. DIV was apparently introduced before WIZ (unless there is an article introducing WIZ in an earlier issue). If I were to introduce the class now, I would use WIZ/DIV as the same stat block, name depending on class.
I need to give it a close look and a good read thru.

Damn, I really wish I had them in front of me. Guess there will be a Part 2 tonight when I get home ;)

Still, I'm real excited to have these pieces of T&T history.

The Games I Own, But Have Never Played - The Morrow Project

I remember my friend Paul handing me a small stack of gaming books and telling me: "I want you to run this". It was The Morrow Project and an adventure or two. He told me something to the effect that it was an awesome setting but he wasn't up to running the system (to tell the truth, I don't think Paul ever ran a game in any system - he was a player thru and thru).

Being the good egg I was, I took the books with every intention of running a campaign. Never happened. The system was why too complicated for me to absorb in a sitting (or 10), and I was awesome at picking up new systems when I was younger.

I thought of using the source material with another system, but the only other post apocalypse system I owned (let alone knew of) was Gamma World, which was not a good fit.

So, for the last 20+ years it has sat in a closet, never seeing the light of day. Sorry Paul.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sometimes a Small Backyard is the Best

Somehow, someway, my Twitter feed was hijacked this afternoon.  The joke is on the hijacker - I've only got 32 followers on Twitter! Hah!  Foolish spammer.

Anyhow, I've reset the password so many times now I think even I don't recall it anymore.  For the most part, my Twitter feed just announces my blog posts.  I may get more use of it at a later point, but I haven't hit that point yet.

But for those that are asking... no, Apple did not give me a free iPhone or iPad.  I got those the old fashioned way... I used a Credit Card.

Okay, time to read more of Greg C's postings from his various blogs today - I think he's on a caffein fit ;)

Game Flashback - Wabbit Wampage

Wabbit Wampage was a fun filled board game from Pacesetter Games released in 1985. I think I snagged my copy in 86 or 87.

What other game includes just about every classic cartoon method player destruction? I mean, a rabbit with a chainsaw rocks ;)

This wasn't a quick game, and at times it could get confusing, but it was certainly oneof the go to games along with Chaos Maruaders and Warlock of Firetop Mountain to fill in time when we lacked a full group for our RPG session.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Slip Sliding Away

NYC was hit with a small ice storm over nite. My car (complete with new battery) had a nice coating of ice I had to clear away. Surprisingly enough, or maybe not, my street was neither salted nor plowed over nite. It always fun driving downhill on ice hoping the car will stop at the red light at the bottom.

I'll have another Quickstart to add to the list. The first since early November or so. If it doesn't get posted tonight I'll get it up tomorrow.

I'm thinking of doing some quick T&T monster write ups, to show how quick it can be done and the flexibility of the system. Killer vorpal bunnies anyone?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Mini Review - Mutants & Masterminds Hero's Handbook

Mutants & Masterminds is the big brother of the OGL / D20 era of superhero games, and it has to be the most popular of the bunch.  The Mutants & Masterminds Hero's Handbook is the 3rd Edition of M&M.  Somewhere in the recesses of my closet there resides a hardcover copy of M&M 1e.

It appears to me that the work on DC Adventures had a lot to do with the evolution of Mutants & Masterminds, which is to be expected, as DCA was built upon the bones of M&M 2e.  Which means I really should read the 2 books side by side and make comparisons and notes and highlights - ain't happening.  The new M&M is over 230 pages and DCU is 280 pages.  I can tell you that the abilities and the stat scores match up, so they should be fairly compatible, but going thru all with a fine tooth comb is a chore for a hard core supers guy.  I'm just here for the game.

The art is top notch and the layout is eye pleasing, which is par for the course with Green Ronin.

I see this latest edition as a move toward using more of GR's True20 system, which isn't bad at all.  It's a nice spin off from the OGL that never seemed to have gotten the attention it deserved.  Hey, maybe we'll get a Swords & Sorcery sourcebook for the new Mutants & Masterminds.  Hey, one can hope ;)

I'm not sure you would need a copy of the new M&M if you already have a copy of DCU, but you should want a copy.  It's damn purty.

From the blurb:

The Mutants & Masterminds Hero's Handbook is the core rulebook of the game's third edition and it gives you everything you need to have your own superheroic adventures. The detailed character creation system lets you create the hero you want to play, choosing from a wide range of skills, advantages, and power effects. Customize your hero's powers with modifiers to create an almost endless range of superhuman abilities. Choose the complications your hero must overcome, earning you the hero points to achieve victory. You can also choose from one of more than a dozen heroic archetypes, customize as you like, and be ready to play in just minutes!
The streamlined system of game play requires only a single die roll and features easy to use rules. Play out an entire heroic adventure in a few short hours without long, drawn-out encounters. Plus the hero point system allows players to influence the flow of the story and pull off superheroic stunts in the best comic book tradition! Become a hero of legend with the Mutants & Masterminds Hero's Handbook!

The Trollish Taproom - It's Fiendishly Simple

When I first came across Tunnels and Trolls back in the early 80s (probably 83 or 84) it felt incomplete to me. Where where the monsters? Was there another book for the monsters, like AD&D? What are my players supposed to fight?

I cut my teeth on AD&D, and the simplicity of T&T didn't gel well with me in my teenage years. That's a damn shame. I just couldn't understand that monsters could be defined with a single number, representing both attack strength (dice plus adds) and hit points. One number to work with, multiple purposes.

As an aside, this is the same teenager that spent a summer DMing for his friends in the Poconos, with just the Player's Handbook and the Dungeon Master's Guide - no Monster Manual. I didn't understand that an Ogre's HD of 4+1 was actually 4d8+1... I thought 4+1=5 HP. Yeah, my players were tearing thru stuff that summer.

So, it T&T, it's very easy to create a monster. All you need to do is give it an MR and a description. The addition of "spite damage" and special "procing damage" allows one to truly make unique adversaries for their party.

This is something that Raggi seems to be striving for with his LotFP Weird Fantasy rules. Where monsters are unique and scary, something that D&D and it's clones have a hard time accomplishing with their books of monsters.

Still, that is one of the many things T&T 7.5e did right - it gives us a monster book or two. In my mind, they are more for use as examples then anything else, to show what one can quickly build with the T&T rules. Then again, Claudio's Poza's art helps anyone's imagination ;)

It a Lethargic Monday

The Jets win over the Patriots sapped me last nite... in a good way. Still, I am exhausted this morning. It doesn't help that i had to drop my car off at the mechanic yesterday... it didn't want to start. After many attempts and frequent prayers we got it going, but I suspect the starter is the problem. I guess i'll know later today.

My review slush pile is getting a bit too large, so I need to plow thru it a bit in the next week or two. Thank God its 100% virtual, or I'd be buried under it all ;)

I actually saw a commercial for the new DC Comics MMORPG during the Jets / Pats game. It looked cool, I just hate super hero based MMORPGs. I can only run around the same block so many times before I'm bored outa my skull.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Trollish Taproom - Free GM Adventures for Tunnels & Trolls

Tunnels & Trolls is the only game system I can think of that you have to be specific about the TYPE of adventures you are referring to.  There is a real dearth of available adventure for a GM to run a party thru, which is probably why many (including myself for the longest time) think of Tunnels & Trolls as a SOLO play system - either in total or nearly so.

There are party driven adventures out there for T&T, you just need to look for them a bit harder then you might for a D&D clone.

Where might you find those elusive GM Adventures for Tunnels & Trolls?  At the Hobgoblin's Tavern, AR Holmes Proprietor (no relationship to Tenkar's Tavern - just sayin').  There are about 20 free to download GM adventures on the site (and a number of not free but very well done solos).  So you have a campaign or two worth of adventures on just this one site (I am actively searching for more).

Enjoy :)

Mini Review - The Malady of Kings for Castles & Crusades

Some of you may remember The Malady of Kings from the D20/OGL era of the RPG timeline.  Originally it was written for D&D 3e and has just recently been converted to Troll Lord's Castles & Crusades ruleset.  If you don't know about Castles & Crusades, think of a highly house-ruled AD&D 1e - at least, that's how I think about it.

Anyhow, back to The Malady of Kings.  I've been noticing a slight uptick in higher level adventures in the OSR corner and this is no exception - it's rated for levels 10-12. (as a side note, at the rate my current C&C group is leveling, we might be ready for this when I am retired ;)

Regretfully, it's about 15 years since I've run or played in an adventure higher then the mid levels (say about 8th level) in any of the D&D variants.  My instincts tell me some of the magic item rewards may be a bit overpowering, but as some of that comes from having to kill an adult dragon, it might be balanced by risk / reward ratio.

I love the artwork, but I'm a huge Peter Bradley fan, so that's to be expected.

Overall, I think it's a fairly strong adventure.  It fills a needed niche for C&C, it that it's a nice challenge for higher level characters.

From the blurb:

But she lingered still, in the world of the living, a haunt barred from the Stone Fields, where the noble dead lie, for a desire so deep death cannot claim her; now, upon the edge of the Wretched Plains her ghost is fearful and restless.
Gods are moved by greater things than mortal man. Lonely upon his gilded chair St. Luther, god of Aihrde, Lord of Dreams, King Palatine of Kayomar, father, and husband sits in restless slumber. He dreams of times long forgotten and people long passed from the world. He knows not that he slumbers, nor that he dreams. He sits, dreaming forgotten dreams, stalking the corridors of his memory, reliving the moments of his life. For ever is it the Malady of Kings that they forget. 
After his long wars, Saint Luther, Lord of Dreams, retired to the Sea of Dreams where he took up residence in the great Castle Pendegrantz. Here he ruled over the Dreams of mortals, forgetting those thoughts of his own. His one true love, Queen Vivienne had died, this he knew; but unbeknownst to him her spirit did not pass to the Stone Fields where the good rest forever. Instead it lingered in the world, awaiting his return. She haunts her crypt, looking for him and the ring she gave him, and that he promised to return. Her haunting has left the Lord of Dreams troubled, though he does not know why. His mind is ever wandering, attempting to grasp that troubled thought that lies just beyond his vision. 
The crypt, the Friden Anhohe is haunted by her ghost; it is up to the characters to find it, discover who or what she is and to free her from her haunted curse. But they are not alone, for an ancient and vile wizard, who wishes to gain access to the Sea of Dreams and to Saint Luther has learned of her fate and wishes to keep her in her role for it troubles the Lord of Dreams and makes him vulnerable to the wizard’s attack. 
The characters, if they dare take up the mantle of adventure, must take the perilous road that crosses the wilds of the Eldwood, flings them upon the face of the turbulent Sea of Dreams and must at last bring them to the shores of the Isle of Blight where evil has taken root. Here they must solve the riddles of the wizard’s sorcery, encounter monsters of epic proportion before ever they come into the presence of Saint Luther, Lord of Dreams. Even then danger awaits them for the Lord’s slumber is a perilous thing to disturb. 

A Note from the Author: "The original d20 version of this adventure was a fun adventure, but it tended to place the emphasis of the story on the demi-gods that peopled the adventure and shift it away from the characters and their actions. This approach does not work in Castles & Crusades and I have modified the adventure accordingly. A new introductory encounter has been added to the advent as well as a drastic alteration in the way the plot unfolds. In all about 15-20000 words have been added, that about 15-20 pages. Malady of Kings was one of our best selling d20 adventures, I hope you enjoy this revisiting as much!" 

BTW, its also available in a bundle with Dragonshire: Windmill & Cottage from Fat Dragon Games.

Ashley Underfoot

My little girl plans to keep me from my keyboard today. More football watching it seems ;)

- Posted from my iPhone

The Trollish Taproom - Deathtrap Equalizer 1st Printing on its Way

For those that don't know, Ken St Andre, aka The Trollgod, run's weekly auctions for the members of Trollhalla.  Ken gets to clear out space and make some extra cash, and the rest of us get to pick up some priceless additions to our gaming collection.

This is how I picked up Tunnels & Trolls 2e.  It's also how I just picked up a first printing of the second Tunnels & Trolls solo.  I'm having a blast collecting T&T stuff.

In the last auction, the cool stuff I didn't win, was an original Liz Danforth piece of art and the Japanese printing of the Tunnels & Trolls 7.5 boxed set.

In any case, I am eagerly awaiting my First Printing of Deathtrap Equalizer to arrive ;)
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