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

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Video Blog - Counting Time on a Tombstone - Part 1 of 2

This is part 1 of 2 of my time walking around one of the cemeteries in Bethany Pennsylvania over the past weekend.  My narrator's voiceover may be a bit low, but I'm still a little self conscious about blabbing in public while filming. ;)

Part 2 should be up in a day or so.

Next time I get up to the Poconos I want to hit the Catholic Cemetery in Honesdale.  There is a section that has a Civil War Officer buried with some of his men in a circle.  There is an RPG scenario somewhere in that scene.

Oh, and working on the random table I mentioned earlier.  If I like it when it's done, I'll post it.

Sunday Movie Matinee: The Expendables

I just watch The Expendables on Netflix on Demand.  It's pretty much the usual action hero shoot 'em up, but with the Save The Princess angle added to it, just to make the mercenaries a bit less mercenary in nature and appearance.

What surprised me, but really shouldn't have, is that the movie played out damn close to a D&D session (pretty much any edition).  The good guys (player characters) disposed of the "mooks" with single blows, took multiple blows to kill the minor henchmen, took an encounter to take out the major henchmen and took out the main baddie after a huge battle with many bullet wounds and a knife through the back.

Heck, they even stormed a castle and had to go through the dungeon.  Stallone was even wearing body armor.  Change the clothes and the weapons and it was D&D.


Rumbling Through the Mountains

I'd forgotten how localized weather can get in the mountains. You'll hear thunder rumbling for hours and never get a drop of rain. Two towns 5 miles apart, one suffering from a flash flood thunderstorm, the other bathed in sunlight.

I generally don't get weather like that back home in NYC, but it isn't uncommon in the Pocono Mountains. This is something I'd like to integrate into my next campaign along with some other atmospheric highlights (such as the effects of time as I discussed yesterday).

I'm sitting on the front porch here in the mountains, waiting for the rain to come and pass so we can head back to the city. We already sat through one thunderstorm a few miles away while having breakfast and returned to sun, a dry patio and the distant rumble of thunder.
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