Saturday, April 30, 2011

Does Game Mastering = Riding a Bike?

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

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

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

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

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

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

End digression.

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

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

Enjoying the Park Despite the Weather

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

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

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

For once, the city machine done did good.

- Posted from my iPhone

Friday, April 29, 2011


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

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

Okay, enough mushiness, time for a beer ;)

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

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

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

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

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

Inquiring minds want to know ;)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Aqualii Temple from Dark Horse Game Design is Live!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Finieous Fingers strip holds up over time.  Thankfully.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exciting Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Draconic Archeologist: Sidetracked By Some Sorcerer's Apprentices

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Smell of AD&D

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

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

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

Full Circle

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

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

Monday, April 25, 2011

Mini Review - Woodland Warriors RPG (Swords & Wizardry)

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the blurb:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The First One Back Always Blows...

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

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

Sunday, April 24, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Holy Days to Those That Do!

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