Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Step Closer to the Rest of My Life

Last night and today was Pre Cana, the ritual Catholic test of stamina / prior to marriage class.  The future Mrs. Tenkar and I survived (which wasn't easy, as Rachel's broken foot and sprained opposite ankle really hampered mobility, but I digress).

Last night's history lesson was fairly convoluted... I'm sure the priest knew where he was going but I didn't (and I was a history major).

Today, the couple that gave the class were very nice, although the wife's accent was heavy enough that I drifted off to gaming thoughts when she read or spoke.  Probably not what the big guy upstairs wanted from me, but the other option was breaking out the iPad, and we were told that was verboten right from the start... sigh.

In any case, I was wondering if an Illusionist class could be built for the Swords and Wizardry rules within the OGL.  I know there were reasons the class was kept out, which boiled down to not being able to stay true to the original D&D class within the bounds of the OGL, but just like the Bard class, there has to be a viable and acceptable variant out there, even if I have to write it myself.

Then I bounced to the question of "what exactly would make Tunnels & Trolls more acceptable as a traditional group RPG?"  Would it be a setting?  Sandbox or detailed local setting?  Maybe an adventure path.

I got my certificate AND I did some gaming brainstorming.  Not too bad a day ;)

Further Thoughts on the Viability of the Tunnels & Trolls System For Group Play

I got some really thoughtful responses to yesterday's post, and now I'm here with a need to elaborate on my previous thoughts (and possibly repeat myself).

Tunnels & Trolls, as written, assumes that the rules will be used in "Group Play".  Most of the rulebook is geared to group play.

The saving roll mechanism introduced in later editions needs a GM's interpretation as to is applicability and use.  It's only useful in group play.

Most of the spells in T&T assume group play.  Heck, the vast majority of solos don't allow for spell casting - generally speaking, they need to have a spell matrix to refer to allow for most spell use.

Solo play is a warrior's game.  Which means you can chuck about half of the rulebook if you're going solo.  Actually, solo play needs nothing more then the T&T Free Quickstart rules.  Ever.  Seriously, who's going to make it past 5th level playing HONESTLY through T&T solos?

It's not that it doesn't work well as a solo game.  T&T EXCELS as a solo game.  It's just as viable as a group play rpg, but that part often gets overlooked by the solo aspect.

Flying Buffalo is the major culprit here, as it took square aim at the solo market years ago and pretty much defined T&T as a solo game to the RPG masses.  It may have good business decision at the time, but the long term repercussion is that a game written for group play was never truly supported for group play.

Players are generally introduced to the RPG hobby by other players.  T&T as a solo game does not lend itself to introducing others to the hobby.  The 5e rules are pretty poorly organized, and probably wouldn't make for a great game to introduce new players without some experienced handholding, but the 7.5e rules are much clearer to understand (even if T&T enthusiasts like to argue the pros and cons between editions, in the end the gameplay is nearly identical) and would make for a nice introduction to the hobby.

Tunnels & Trolls could be a tool to add players to the RPG fold in general.  I'm glad to see that there will be a steady release of GM adventures for T&T in the near future.  Most of the currently available ones are on the "tho shalt not patronize list".  I hope Peryton and some other publishers can bring some fresh life to an enjoyable game system.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Will Solo Play Be the Slow Death of Tunnels & Trolls?

Tunnels & Trolls has always had a pretty secure hold of the "solo play" corner of the RPG hobby.  It really is what T&T is known for.  The thing is, treating it as a solo only system, or a solo first system, really shrinks your pool of potential players (and customers).

It isn't just perception that T&T is aimed at solo play even though the rules are written with group play in mind.  Look at the adventures published by Flying Buffalo.  Dungeon of the Bear and Isle of Darksmoke are the only GM adventures I can think of off the top that FBI put out.  The list of FBI solos is huge.

Mike Hill pretty much wrote about the same in the editorial of The Hobbit Hole issue #12: "... if T&T is to grow, writers should turn their attention from the potentially self-indulgent solo arena and back to the group."  (thanks to the Trollgod for mailing it out so quickly)

Just think... if you want to play solo, computer games and console games are king, even for RPGs.  Group play excels on the table top, whether it is real or virtual.  Solo play with T&T is going to be targeting a smaller and smaller audience.

Fans of Tunnels & Trolls will be best served if writers would move from solos to GM / group play adventures.  With many gamers dissatisfied with D&D 4e, now is a good time to present an alternative that is easier to learn and play.  

The Walking Dead - Season 1 - Revisted

So, last nite I introduced the future Mrs Tenkar to The Walking Dead TV Series. We watched the first episode and holy crap she got into it ;)

It was my second time watching and I found myself catching things this time around that I missed the first time - such as the fact that the bodies piled around the hospital had all been shot in the head.

In the midst of the all the excitement, her dog and my cat were getting to know each other, with the dachshund sniffing my girl from less then a foot away. My cat just laid there. I guess the good thing about Rachel breaking her foot was forcing the pets to spend more time together. The Lord works in mysterious ways sometimes ;)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Free - OSRIC Player's Reference (OSRIC)

You know how OSRIC is basically all 3 of the core 1E rule books packed into one book?  Sometimes you don't want your players having access to more then the rules that apply to them.  No monster lists, no magic item charts.  Just classes, spells and the like.

Well, here you go.  Player's Stuff only!

From the blurb:

People have asked for it, and now its out. The OSRIC Players Reference book! This book has all the player information ONLY in this book. So its safe for players to have at the table to read! Approved by Stuart Marshall!

Bits & Pieces

Tim Shorts - I have a PDF copy of Knockspell #6 waiting for you.

I need to train my fiancee's miniature dachshund to stop pooping in the house. She'll pee on a pad, but poop where ever. As the lady can't walk the dog these days, I need the pooch to poop when I walk her before and after I work.

Tonight is The Walking Dead Season 1 on DVD Nite. Saweet! Rachel has yet to see an episode.

The TrollGod himself sent me some past issues of the Hobbit Hole fanzine / magazine for Tunnels & Trolls. Good stuff in there. Hopefully I can talk about them in the next few days without the negativity attached to the later issues.

Did I mention I am anxiously awaiting my my preorders?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Looking For an RPG That is Fun to Read and Fun to Play

Well, the future Mrs. Tenkar is grounded for at least the next two weeks.  Which means I need to find an RPG that is entertaining to read, easy to comprehend and works well in a small group (or even one on one).

Sure, I put her thru a Tunnels & Trolls solo last year (I ran it like a one on one type adventure) and she had fun, but didn't have a grasp of the rules.  I figure now is a perfect time to find an RPG that she can check out in her abundant free time.  PDF format is a bonus, as she enjoys using her iPad to read.

Open for suggestions.

Heck, I might even own some of the ones you might suggest.

Mix and Match - Building the Perfect System, or Not

As I await the arrival of some of my pre-orders (most notably the X-Plorers Boxed Set on the Tome of Horrors Complete) I'm set to do a more through read of the Adventurer Conqueror King System, specifically the campaign rules.

The way I see most of the Old School / D20ish rules that have been released, they are fairly modular in nature. You can pick and choose subsystems fairly liberally between them, mix and match, and with a little tweaking you can have a mish mash of rules that do your bidding.

I really like S&W Complete. It feels closer to the AD&D rules that we used to play with then even OSRIC does.

I also like LotFP's Weird Fantasy. Not so much the rules (I understand what Raggi was going for, but it does not fit my style of play) but the GM advice and such.

The Secret Fire has a few things I want to lift, 'tho I'm not sure it would be the core I would build off of. TSF is something I'd have to run as is to run it well.

ACKS feels fairly close to S&W Complete to my eyes, and I think I could bounce back and forth between the two fairly seamlessly.

Why the hell can't I think of running a game without mixing or houseruling? Heh

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

And the Winners Are... (Tell Me About Your Favorite Bard Contest)

I lost track of which day of the week today was.  It's actually Tuesday.  Which means I have to pick the winners of Tell Me About Your Favorite Bard Contest.

Hmmm... I get to pick one and roll for the other.

My pick is... ::drumroll:: Tim Shorts - I loved the write up.  Thomas the Mad Minstrel did the Bard Class proud.

The random pick is  ::Rachel Rolls a d10 (divided by 2):: the result is 3 - kelvingreen is the second winner.

Tim and kelvin - email me at erik AT trublunite DOT net and let me know what email address you use at DriveThruRPG / RPGNow so I can gift you both with Knockspell #6.

Thanks to all who entered.

Brokefoot Pothole

So, my wife to be broke bones in her foot AND sprained her opposite ankle when she stepped into a pothole on Sunday morning.  Not fun.  I actually wish it were me - I get unlimited sick time off from work subject to my job's doctor's approval.  I also wish it were me because I hate seeing the people I love and care for in pain.

It has put renovations on hold, as we were to bring the contractor in tomorrow to explain what we wanted done.  As the kitchen is Rachel's vision, we need her a wee bit more mobile then she currently is.  Hopefully the ankle heals significantly by this weekend and we can get an estimate done next week.

We have Pre-Canaan this weekend, the wonderful Catholic ritual that couples must go thru before marriage.  We get to have a married couple who probably have a f'd up relationship tell us how to succeed in ours.  I could get that advice at work ;)

Good news is I just picked up the DVD of The Walking Dead.  I watched it on iTunes, but this way i can watch it on the big screen TV and have Rachel watch it for the first time.  Thursday nite should be fun :)

Hindsight Is Best With a Time Machine

Its funny. When I first started branching out beyond my core AD&D books, I didn't want to buy anything that looked old and cheap. So, in the early to mid 80's, TSR modules were in, Judges Guild and the like were out.

My God but I want to kick myself these days! I'm not saying most of the old non-TSR stuff was good, but I truly can't say most of the TSR stuff was all that good either.

I missed out on the Judges Guild stuff back then, although I did grab some Mayfair and Chaosium pieces that have stood the test of time.

Ygrs? Yggrsss? Some such nonsense with a yellow cover printed 4x6 laid out by typewriter is what killed me to the smaller publishers back then. I haven't stumbled across it during my renovations yet... I probably dumped it a while back.

If I only had a time machine. I'd be buying a ton of stuff that I passed on the first time around.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Mini Review - RPG Creatures: Bestiary 1 (Generic)

Generic used to mean something resembling "lowest common denominator".  That's certainly not true RPG Creatures - Bestiary 1.  Yeah, the title of the product is fairly lame, but the contents are second to none.  I love good artwork, and this PDF is somewhere between great and amazing in art quality.  This is a PDF full of framable fantasy art pieces - there is a market for these as prints.  Or just do this as a print on demand and I'll cut out my own prints ;)

The stats for the creatures that are illustrated are generic and will need a little conversion to stat it out for your system of choice.  That shouldn't be too hard, as many of "us old schoolers" are used to converting current RPG products for our sensibilities.

Bestiary 1 isn't bookmarked - it's full of hyperlinks instead, which works wonders.  Like the pog sized portrait the Nordjarimm?  Click it and go right to the page.  Greg Christopher himself would be proud ;)

I'm really stuck at what to say.  This should really speak for itself.  The artwork is extremely strong, the writing is good and the generic stats are very useful to tweaking the monsters to your own needs.

If nothing else, check out the free preview on the RPGNow page.  It will show you better then I can what it's all about.

Mini Review - Hex Crawls 3: Beyond the Black Water (Swords & Wizardry)

Hex Crawls can lead to a wonderful campaign, if the GM is up to the task.  They are never as simple as running a prewritten adventure, but in the right hands it can lead to many sessions of gaming.  This is why I find people either loved the old Judges Guild products or they hated them - they were ingredients to create your own masterpiece, with no two campaigns ever looking the same.  Some folks want more of a a detailed list of situations.

I find myself these days really appreciating the "Hex Crawl" type of products.  They are pretty much direct opposites of what WotC puts out for their settings.  Lean, mean and lots of green (outdoors) is what I like these days.

Beyond the Black Water fits the bill of what I look for in a Hex Crawl type products - lots of adventure seeds with hexes that aren't so large as to defeat the purpose of a hex crawl.  6 miles wide is just about perfect in my opinion.  It makes for a nice, localized campaign setting

The PDF is bookmarked (as well it should be) and we get a handful of new creatures at the end, but I do have one complaint.  The map takes up about half a page.  If they had changed it's orientation to sideways, it would have been a full page and much easier to use, never mind the increased usability.  As this is a PDF product I'm looking at, they could always tack on a full page map to an update of the file.  Just an idea.

Otherwise, it's a nice setting.  Dangerous as all hell, but still nice ;)

From the blurb:

When the game was invented and sold in a little woodgrain box, the author told us a required supplement was an Avalon Hill game called Outdoor Survival. This was a wilderness survival game that consisted of a hexagonal map system that players would travel around, trying to find their way back to civilization, all the while trying not to die of thirst or get eaten by bears. This game map was used as the first wilderness "hex-crawl" for what eventually became D&D. Later, Judges Guild took this to a whole new level with the Wilderlands series. For many years, hex crawling was just the way the game was played. This series brings that back, or supplements existing games that use that system of travel.

What a hex crawl is, literally, is a wilderness sandbox of areas, encounters and villages that players travel around in. It provides no story line, just hundreds of story hooks and possibilities. An example of what this looks like that I published a few years ago can be found at:

3--Beyond Black Water
These books provide a sub-setting in your own campaign world. They populate the world, and allow you to let your players explore that world, rather than just "travel 20 days" to the dungeon. Written by John Stater of NOD fame, each of these supplements details an area with a specific theme. Monster and NPC statistics are provided for each encounter area detailed.

Among the reasons many adventurers choose to end their day in the cannibal-ridden, hurricane-savaged isles of the south is the immense distance it puts between them and the terrible land beyond the Black Water. The Black Water is a great inland sea filled with black, viscous water that sits as still as death. Nobody but a fool would willingly cross the Black Water, save for the strange men who sail the black arks, but many fools have crossed those waters in search of a lost love or a secret taken to the grave, for beyond the Black Water and its grey shores lies the icy Land of the Dead.

Doc In a Box

I took off from work today. My fiancee twisted her ankle and wrenched the opposite foot when she was walking the dog yesterday and she can barely walk. Thankfully a new walk-in emergency care facility opened nearby that takes her health insurance. If we are lucky, nothing is broken.

Still, it's giving me a chance to try out Blogger's new app as I sit and wait. It seems decent so far. For free it seems even better.

I have a feeling Rachel is going to be housebound for the rest of the week. Thank god she'll have Hulu and Netflix, as I haven't set the DishNet up in the new bedroom yet.

Ah well, I'll try squeeze in more RPG reading when I get home from here.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Mini Review - Knockspell Issue #6 (S&W / OSRIC) Part 2

Where were we in the review?  Oh, yeah, The Body in the Street.  It's a piece of fiction by Al Krombach. I was never one for short pieces of fiction, but then I started reading Solomon Kane and found I enjoy the medium.  I haven't read this piece yet, but it's on my list to read.

Ouch, My Brain Hurts! is a psionics article for S&W by Robert Lionheart.  I think Robert's first line sums my thoughts up pretty well: "Are psionics an unholy heresy or a valuable aspect of old School fantasy roleplaying?"  I'm on the fence on it myself, having experimented with it in AD&D 1E and I never found it very satisfying.  Robert's system requires PCs to sacrifice XP earned to acquire psychic powers.  It's a decent trade off for the additional power the PCs may attain.  Being that the powers are limited in the amount of uses per day, they may or not be worth the XP cost, but it may be a viable option depending on the type of campaign you plan on running.  It's a long article, and would have been a viable PDF in it's own right.

John M. Stater (best known for NOD magazine, and the man I borrowed some OGL content for my Bard class design) presents us with Catacombs of Ophir.  It's a nice little dungeon under the city-state of Ophir (itself detailed in part in NOD 2).  I don't recall a level range for it, but I'm going to guess 2-4.  Looks good, and it marks the second adventure for this issue of Knockspell.

Next up is A Duet if Bards.  The first part of this section is by Doyle Taverner.  Here he presents us with an adaptation of the original Bard class presented in The Best of the Dragon, Volume 1.  He cleans up the fuddilly bits, such as using thief abilities with heavier armor (aint happening) and spell casting in armor (also aint happening).  For me, the highlight is the page on magical instruments for bards.  Leaves me wishing I had included some, but I think Doyle gives a nice assortment to choose from.

The next part of A Duet of Bards is Tenkar's Bard.  It's short and sweet.  I like it, but then, I should ;)

Locks and Traps as a "Mini-Game" by Jim Pacek follows.  Not what I expected.  Holy Crap but I really like the system he uses.  Color me surprised, and I generally detest "mini-games in a game", but this isn't so much mini-game as a task resolution system.  It gets my "Kick Ass!" Award.  First time I've ever given one out.

Wow.  I need 3 parts for this review ;)

Pick a Card, Any card - Looking at the AD&D 2E Deck of Encounters

Probably the most useful thing ever to come out of AD&D 2E was NOT the endless collection of Complete Player Handbooks (hard to believe, I know).  Nope, the most useful accessory I found in my nearly complete collection of 2e books and assorted crap is my Deck of Encounters Sets One and Two Boxed sets.

These little treasure chests offer nearly limitless opportunities to challenge your players and work very well in a sandbox style campaign.

Generally, I'd grab a dozen or so cards before the party would head out to their adventuring destination (if they had one) and randomly pick a card when circumstances dictated.  Most were level appropriate, one or two would be weaker, one or two would be on the more dangerous end.

It was a great tool to lower prep time and still keep things exciting and different for the players.  They have been a great rediscovery as I've been doing renovations.  I'm sure to have more to say about them as I spend time perusing them again ;)
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