Saturday, September 17, 2011

Free Adventure For X-plorers - Cleopatra Station

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

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

From the blurb:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things to Do

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

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

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

Friday, September 16, 2011

Mini Review - Loviatar Issue #3 (OGL)

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

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

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

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

I Have My HP Touchpad

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

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

- Posted from my iPhone

Thursday, September 15, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Bit More About My Swords & Wizardry Bard

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

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

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

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

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

Microlite74 - Tastes Great! Less Filling!

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you generate fear in your games?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Pick a Table, Any Table...

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

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

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

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

Fun times.

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

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

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

Oh, and Holy Crap! The Jets won!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9-11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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