Saturday, May 7, 2011

Mini Review - Chthonian Stars Core Setting (Traveller)

You enjoy your sci-fi, but you also have a hankering for horror.  Maybe your Delta Green campaign just didn't have heavy enough weapons for your taste.  Well, someone put your Cthulhu in my Traveller, and the combo is awesome!

I really enjoying working my way thru the Chthonian Stars Core Setting for Traveller.  It's not a mash-up I would have thought up on my own, but its a very good match. The books is full of short fiction, which normally I can't stand, but in this case it is very evocative of the setting and a good tool to engage the reader.

It scales down the default Traveller setting to just our (now fully colonized) solar system, and I think the change in scale works very well in making the horror more immediate.

Character generation is changed a bit from regular (Mongoose) Traveller, as many careers have been adjusted to the new setting.  New space ships, which makes sense, as they are made for traversing the solar system.

We are given three short adventures, which is nice, but I would have appreciated a page or two of adventure seeds.  Maybe I missed them, as flipping thru a PDF does have disadvantages over print.

Overall, I'm very excited by the Chthonian Stars Core Setting.  I might find a use for my Traveller core rulebook now.  If nothing else, the setting book deserves a second read thru.

From the Blurb:

2159 AD. It is a good time to be alive. The nations of the world still exist, but they have become more civilized, and we have expanded into the rest of our solar system. But, alas, it is not to be our time. Something approaches, a thing on an orbit from far away. Seemingly a large shard of dark matter, this object is known in obscure prophecy as the Chthonian Star. It is awakening things long thought lost or dead, things that have slumbered awaiting its return. The Unified World Council sends out special teams of sanctioned Wardens, whose job it is to ascertain the new threats to human life, to learn everything they can about them, and fight them wherever they are found.

Chthonian Stars is an original Lovecraftian horror setting for Traveller.

This Core Setting Book:
  • Provides a detailed exploration of our fully colonized solar system, only a few hundred years in the future.
  • Introduces exciting new optional character design rules, including advantages and disadvantages, as well as career half-terms.
  • Introduces new rules for fear and madness, as well as optional rules for character survivability.
  • Brings to life many familiar Lovecraftian horrors for Traveller, as well as a host of new and original ones.
  • Details more than a dozen new spaceships.
  • Includes three ready-to-run adventures, to get groups running quickly.
  • From the award-winning team that brought you CthulhuTech.

Building a Better Bard - Part II (Swords & Wizardry)

Geordieracer cost me about 90 minutes of sleep this morning.  I was foolish enough to check my phone for emails as I stumbled to the bathroom, and I caught his comments on the Bard I'm looking to write up.  Using a variation of the Cleric's turning table to affect the Bard's reaction from others is a nice twist.

S&W doesn't have a Morale Rating for monsters and NPCs, but I'd suggest a successful check against the table will encourage hirelings / henchmen to hold out just a little bit longer.  A "D" result may make them even stronger in their resolve, but you would still have to roll, and a "1" would still be a failure.

Same chart could be used to swing the natives more in your favor IF they can understand the Bard.  It could also be used to see if the Bard makes a little coin as the party stays at the local inn.

See what you did to me Geordiracer?  My precious sleep was stolen from me so I could think about THIS! heh...

Thanks GR, it was a great seed to get me thinking.  Keep 'em coming.

(BTW, that's Roman Numerals in the title - its a "two", not an "eleven" ;)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Free Adventure From Expeditious Retreat

Advanced Adventures #10:  The Lost Keys of Solitude is free thanks to Joe Browning thru this monday.  Normally 7 bucks, the man is just giving it away.  Do him a favor and grab yourself a copy.

See, if you followed his blog, you wouldn't need me to tell you ;)

Building a Better Bard (Swords & Wizardry)

Well, actually, it's more like building "A" bard for S&W in the first place. NOD #1 has a Bardish class (closer to a Skald in my vision of things) built upon the fighter class as a base.

For my vision of the Bard, I'd build it upon the thief. Thief HD, weapons, combat chart, armor restrictions (I'd add chain mail to the mix). I need to go thru the S&W spell lists to figure which are appropriate for my vision of the class. Pick Pockets is the only thief skill I see it keeping.

Then I need to define a charming ability, lore, inspire bonus... the little things that make a "bard" a "Bard".

I've been hooked on bards since issue 56 of the Dragon (that version is a little too powerful for my taste these days).

Free Comic Book Day is Tomorrow

I know we are all looking forward to Free RPG Day, but tomorrow is Free Comic Book Day. It's a good day to remind your local comic book shop that you also play and buy RPGs.

I have a feeling Thor is going to be heavily pushed in any comic book store you walk into this weekend. Ack, I need to find some time to catch that movie myself.

Yes, I like comic book hero movies, I just don't have much of an affinity for comic book RPGs (or MMORPGs either - City of Heroes was way too much Running-Around-the-Block for my taste).

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Taking a Peek at Some Free Mags

The great thing about RPGs in general is that they thrive on ideas.  As a GM, I can find ideas from almost any source, but it's pretty cool when I can find them for free.  Now, the magazine I'll be highlighting are in PDF form and are NOT OSR - but two are for Pathfinder (so much of it is easy enough to mine) and the other is from Mongoose (which means it is simply full of stuff).  Besides, just because you dig the OSR doesn't mean it's an exclusive relationship.  You are allowed to see other games.  really.  I won't tell.

So, let's move on to the mags:

Highlight of Pathways issue #3?  The article that list the items from #30 Intelligent Magic Items - All I need is a one or two sentence description to drop these into S&W or T&T, and that's what we are given. Perfect.  Worth the price of admission Rite there (bad pun).

Game Geek issue #17 - Not up to the standards of Pathways (much closer to fanzine then magazine), the article on mounts and warhorses should be pretty portable.  The rest?  Ehh

Signs & Portents #91- the grandaddy of the 3, it also has the most to offer.  How about a 13 page adventure for RuneQuest II?  Suitable for use with OpenQuest or conversion to the OSR rules of your choice.  Saweet!  Or some hooks for Traveller (about as old school as you can go) and even an adventure.  Maybe some enchanted tree offerings for your game?  It's here and more.  Heck, there's even some EarthDawn stuff inside.  Talk about flashbacks.

There ya go.  Some free loot.  Go forth and read...

Looking For My Stray Thoughts...

As I was lying in bed last nite, in that weird not-quite-asleep state (I was waiting for my son to come home from his 4 hr Auxiliary Police shift) when the thought for a damn good blog post occurred to me. I really liked it. I know I did, because working it out in my head helped keep me awake.

Of course, it has totally escaped me now. I can remember thinking about it, but I can no longer remember what "it" is. Or was. Whatever. Sigh.

Better luck next time I guess...

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Draconic Archeologist: What the Heck is an Anhkheg? - AKA The Dragon #5

When I started this series of posts, I optimistically thought I would be doing something on the order of 5 posts a week on The Dragon.  Reality, I think, will put it at 3 a week or so.  So be it.  Focusing on the D&D stuff contained within.   Now, on to The Dragon Issue #5.

First things first - this is a cool cover.  More like fan art than professional, but very Swords & Sorcery-ish.  No hippy dragon either.

Lets see, what do we start with?  A seven page article / thesis on Witches in D&D titled:  Witchcraft Supplement for D&D.  Unknown author as apparently he (we know from previous issues women don't play D&D) failed to attach his name to his submission.  Like many of the early D&D articles, they don't follow a standard format.  What?  You say you want an example?  Okay:

Witchcraft, including those spells which resemble Clerical or wizard spells,
will not effect Djinn, Efreet, or Clerics of any alignment. These 3 character types
are immune to witchcraft.
All witches (except for a Priestess) have saving throws equal to warlocks.
For your saving throws against witchcraft, treat all witch magic as a “spell” on
the Saving Throw Matrix.
A good witch may normally perform 7 spells per day from the following
table. There is, however, a 4% chance that any good (Lawful) witch encountered
is ancient, thereby qualifying her as a Priestess. A Priestess may use the ten ordinary
spells daily, and once each week may employ one of her own, more powerful
spells. (Be sure to check every good witch encountered for category.)

Yep, I think I'll pass too.

Hey, look at that.  Two short Metamorphosis Alpha articles from James Ward.  I forgot the man could write quality (sorry, I'm still bitter about Crusader Magazine).

Featured Creature - The Anhkheng:  I don't know who named the silly thing, but the art is by Erol Otis, and it still resonates 35 years later.  Amazing stuff.  Oh, there's some stats and a paragraph of fluff.  Sorry, I'm still looking at the art.

Yes, the abundance of fiction is still annoying me.

Wizard Research Rules - it includes a nice random magic weapon table.  Look at that - True Ring Making - I think I'll make one for my Hobbit... I mean my "Halfling".

Which of course leads us to the famous article - Gandalf Was Only a Fifth Level Magic-User.  I've seen this discussed on the 'net since I first found out about the 'net.  Interesting read.

Damn it!  Thrity-two pages isn't so long when u take out the ads and fiction and non-D&D stuff...

Games I Own But Have Played - The World of Darkness Trilogy

Vampire the Masquerade

Werewolf the Apocalypse

Mage the Ascension

The above were my introduction to the World of Darkness.

My first purchase was Werewolf. I picked it up at the Complete Strategist in NYC while killing time for the bus to the Poconos. My God, but I read that thing cover to cover on the 3 hr ride. I was hooked by the fluff. It was that good.

My next purchase was Vampire. It was good, but not great. I tried to get my gaming group into the ideas of playing in the World of Darkness, but there were no bites.

Then I found Mage. This spoke to me. I could see the stories playing out in my head. Pure awesome. I bought some sourcebooks. The group had no interest. In the end, I lost my interest.

I do have a decent sized collection of 1st edition Storyteller System game books. Haven't looked at them in over 15 years. There they sit. Gathering dust. Like some sort of undead creature, just waiting for the moment someone breathes life back into them. They've waited all this time, they can wait longer. Time has passed them by, at least from my perspective. If I wanted to play a modern day mage, I'll be pulling out the Dresden Files...

Singing of Swords and Wizardry and Gold...

I know Matt is looking for submissions for the next Knock Spell. I'm toying with the idea of building a Swords & Wizardry Complete Bard class. I'm still bouncing between a skald or minstrel base for it. I've been partial in the past to the Bard from issue 56 of the Dragon, but I think that it would have to be toned down a bit to even use as a base.

If I start to build it, I'll post the process as it goes. It's quite possible even if I do complete it, I'll still miss the deadline. Life, both personal and work, has recently gotten very busy.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Mage: The Awakening Demo Part 3

If anyone is willing to give you a 3 part demo of their game - grab it!  Heck, that's 3-6 gaming sessions for free - if it doesn't hook you by then, it ain't for your group!  Alright, maybe you need a rule book to go with it, but I'm sure a good GM will find some steal-able ideas for the system of their choice.

Part 1

Part 2

From the Blurb:

A Nest of Vipers
Welcome to the third installment of Gloria Mundi, the demo chronicle for Mage: The Awakening. The players might well have been wondering about the other mages in
the Boston area and what response they might have to the power that Adam has unleashed. How do mages govern themselves? Do the characters have to fear repercussions for their roles in this drama? The characters are about to find the answers to these questions, and they might well wish they had remained ignorant.

Mini Review - The Wizard's Test (A Tunnels & Trolls Solo)

In case you've missed it, I'm a huge Tunnels & Trolls fan.  You can never have enough T&T, and I'm happy to say the Trollgod agrees with that statement.  The Wizard's Test is the fifth solo to come from the hands of the Trollgod this year.

When it comes to solo adventures, they are really hard to review.  Solos, more then any other type of adventure, are very easy to spoil by revealing too much of the plot or story.  They are programed, there is no GM to add new twists if the player already knows what is in store.  Therefore, less from me is more.

Still, I can safely report the following:  It's an adventure for use with the 7.5 edition of the rules.  The artwork is well done.  We are offered two sample characters to use: the first is a 3rd level Warrior with 63 adds, the other is a 1st level Rogue with 13 adds and no spells.  I strongly suspect the warrior will have a greater chance to survive, but as always, it depends on the decisions you make.

I've yet to run thru it... just read the intro and flipped the pages to read some random pieces.  Ken's voice is great as always and paints an entertaining picture.

32 pages for $2.95

From the blurb:

So, you think of yourself as a warrior and a proven adventurer? But do you have what it takes to serve as an agent of the Death Goddess?  Find out as The Wizard's Test challenges your wit and prowess in some very sticky situations indeed. This is a solitaire Tunnels & Trolls adventure for a human or humanoid warrior or rogue of level 3 or lower.

The Future is Now

I'm a huge advocate of PDFs and electronic books in general (as long time readers of this blog should remember). I love me some PDFs. Read great, less filling (of my storage space).

PDFs have been a slowly evolving method of publishing, as it's strength (the ability to replicate a printed book) has also been it's weakness (in general, it does little to do more then replicate a printed book).

Greg from Dark Horse Publishing has been pushing the envelope with his latest - The Aqualii Temple. It's not remarkable because of it's content, it remarkable because of the way that content is presented. The illusion of the "click and pop up" feature is the first I've seen of it, and its a novel approach at adventure presentation. As I've said in the past, this method seems ideally suited for solo adventures.

I'm waiting on the print copy of Zak's Vornheim to arrive, as I find the PDF difficult to read. My interest in punk rock was limited to the Ramones, this seems more like the Sex Pistols. I'm hoping the print version brings it all together. There does seem to be some really good ideas about running city adventures buried in all the noise. Damn you Fins! Move my mail!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Waiting is the Hardest Part

I'm waiting on my package to arrive from Finland so I can finally review Weird Fantasy Grind House Edition and Vorheim, The Complete City Kit.

Yes, I have them in PDF from when I ordered them in early April, but I figure the fairest review would cover the print and PDF versions side by side.  I will say this much - Weird Fantasy's PDF is much better laid out then the earlier Deluxe edition.

Someone needs to speed up the postal service ;)

Nine Years Eight Months is a Long Campaign

Nine years and eight months to take down Osama is way longer then any of my AD&D campaigns ever lasted...

For those that don't know, I was a First Responder here in NYC on 9-11. I lost a good friend and fellow gamer when the towers came down. I saw the destruction of that act of war first hand and understand very well that but for the Grace of God I would be counted among those lost that day.

I find Osama's death isn't as satisfying as I expected it to be. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad we got him, it just doesn't close anything. The reality is we just kicked the hornet's nest.

I'm already getting text messages from other members of the service expecting this to be a wake up call for American Sleeper Cells. Joy o' joys!

Be safe. Be alert. Above all, remember America... I mean "Team America" and the song America - Fuck Yeah! (you'll have to google it - still haven't figured an easy way to link on the ipad)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Draconic Archeologist: Someone Put Empire of the Petal Throne in My Dragon #4!

It's all Empire of the Petal Throne, all issue!

Alright, not quite but close to it.  There is a joke D&D article with literally nothing worth mentioning.

Finieous Finers does drop the S-Bomb (split between 2 panels, but still).

Oh, and some really bad pictures of miniatures.  Not sure if they washed out when scanned to PDF, or if they were just crap from the start.

Great issue if you are a EPT fan.  Not so great otherwise.

I'm Not Much Into Supers, But I'm Gonna Miss The Cape

In case you missed it (and it isn't all that hard), The Cape was a mid-season replacement series that was about, you guessed it, a superhero known as The Cape.

I liked Vince, a former cop that was framed for "bad stuff" that he didn't do, who faked his death and became The Cape with the help of a circus based criminal organization.  I enjoyed the cheese.  The over the top bad guys.  River from Firefly as Orwell (I have a crush on here damnit!) was awesome.

This series crashed so hard in the ratings that the 10th and final episode is only available online.  How's that for a kick in the ballistic armor?

I never got into Superboy, Smallville, the series that stars the Commish with a family of supers... I never found a live action TV series that did a superhero well IMHO - until I found The Cape.  It was almost plausible, or to put it another way, the need for me to suspend disbelief was minimal compared to other series in the genre.

Now it's gone.  Much like Firefly.  Well, actually, Firefly was much better.  The Cape was more like a beer n pretzels type of series whereas Firefly required some investment of time and brains to fully enjoy.  Still, I miss them both.

I'm half tempted to dig out my copy of Icons and design myself a Cape character myself, but I always swore I'd never do "supers" again ;)
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