Saturday, October 15, 2011

Mini Review - Dark Times in Brighton - (Labyrinth Lord Adventure)

I'm very happy I found Dark Times in Brighton.  After yesterday's fiasco I needed something to brighten my mood, and this was it.  Dark Times in Brighton is an adventure / local setting / possible sandbox for 1st and 2nd level characters using the Labyrinth Lord rules (but easily used with most of not all of the various retro clones).  The publisher, DWD Studios, was apparently started by two of the guys involved with the StarFrontiersman magazine.  If you've ever red the mag, you know they do good stuff.  Dark Times in Brighton is no different.

Bookmarked PDF?  Check

Author's notes to give insights to the read inter spread though out the adventure?  Check

Professional looking layout and artwork?  Yep

Interesting adventure and surrounding lands?  Present

Top quality maps?  Score!

This really is a complete package to start a new campaign, either dropped in your own campaign world or building out from the area described within.  I fully expect (or at least hope) that DWD Studios plans to continue building around this particular neck in the woods.  It would make for a nice campaign.

From the blurb:
Dark Times in Brighton is an adventure for four to six characters of 1st - 2nd level.  Although designed as a Labyrinth LordTM compatible product, It is easily compatible with most fantasy RPG systems.  In addition to the adventure itself, contained within these pages are details of Brighton and its people, a town that could easily become an important part of your character's careers as adventurers. 
The town of Brighton exists in the north, at the source of the Daakencraags where the Darkenwolde Forest shades the winding Brother’s River. The legendary adventurer, Richan Thatcher (along with his party of adventurers) carved the place away from a once mighty goblin kingdom. It has prospered for many long decades, until now. 
Townsfolk are disappearing from the surrounding countryside. Goblins are on the march once more. If that wasn’t enough, a terrible blighting disease has infected the waters and not even the curative magics of the Temple of the Winds can thwart it. This is indeed a very dark time for Brighton. 
Too old to do anything about it himself, Thatcher has sent out a call to any adventurers who will swear their swords to his mighty town and its innocent people. 
Are your players hero enough to face down a growing goblin horde? Are they brave enough to fell the mighty goblin shaman, Vir-Kayik? Are they clever enough to find the source of the blight and cleanse the town’s water source? Are they the light to end these dark times in Brighton?

Fool Me Once, Shame On You. Fool Me Twice,

... and you're an azzhole.  It's really that simple.

Mazes & Perils, the "retro RPG clone" that hit OneBookShelf yesterday is written by the same idjit that put out the short lived OSRIC Player's Reference.  You remember, the one that had stolen artwork on it's cover.

That was a stealth release, without fanfare in the blogoshere as was this.  I linked it because, generally speaking, more is better when it comes to our gaming options.  I did wonder about the use of both "hobbit" and "halfling" on the same pages, as that was a sign of either bad editing or copy / pasting from original sources, but I really don't know the classic D&D books enough to recognize if the tables were being reused from the sources.  Thanks to the research last nite (sorry, I was sleeping.. heh) by ADD Grognard, James from the Underdark Gazette and austrodavicus Mazes & Perils has been revealed as the cut-n-paste job and copyright violation it is.

Vincent Florio - This F-U is for you!  Your first time not understanding the OGL and copyright laws were annoying yet forgivable, but you second time reveals you as the ass you are.  Even if your defense is that you are a clueless ass, you are still an ass.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Mini Review - Mazes & Perils Core Rules (OSR Clone)

From my (admittedly) quick glance of the rules, Mazes & Perils appears to be a retro clone of the Original Collector's Box and the First Basic Set.  Which is all fine and dandy, until I find it referring to "hobbits" on page 3 and referring to them as "halflings" on the same page.  That's keeping to the original just a tad TOO much if you ask me.

No class as race stuff, thieves are included, exceptional strength on a roll of 18,  adjusted d6 for HP, no cleric spells at 1st level, 5 alignments and only fighting men advance in combat ability (damn you Raggi!).

I couldn't find weapon damage.  It's probably 1d6 no matter the weapon, but my quick perusal couldn't find it.  If you find it, please point it out to me ;)

The price is free. 62 pages for a complete game. Which means I'll need to link this on the left AND include it on the difficulty scale I'm working on.

From the blurb:

Welcome to fantasy gaming, welcome to when things were simple, where you had man with a sword and magic user with spells. No powers here, no special abilities, no roll checks to see if you find something. Everything here is just guidelines for playing your favorite fantasy game that everyone talks about. This game is based off of rules created in the late '70s of the very popular fantasy roleplaying game!

Occupy Greyhawk!

I so very much want to post about the Occupy Wall Street protest movement, but as I detest political (all talk about the protest seems to draw political comments from both / all / infinite sides) blog posts on gaming blogs, I'm leaving that my Google+ account (Erik Tenkar).

Still, it makes one (or at least me) think about such a movement in our standard fantasy worlds. I could see such a movement being quickly crushed in The City of Greyhawk if it got too large, but a small protest might be tolerated. It would probably be backed by the Scarlet Brotherhood, as they seemed to have their fingers in about every source of discontent in that area of the world.

In Ank-Morpok, I suspect the Patrician would allow the protest to run it's course, perceiving it as useful manner to let the populace let off some steam. Heck, he might even be the one pulling the strings behind it all, as causing the Guilds trouble would strengthen his already strong hand. You'd never be able to prove it tho'.

In the Forgotten Realms, a city the size of Waterdeep could have a movement like this going on and 90% of the populace would never know. It's just to large a city. Would the Lords try to put a lid on it? Maybe once it started hurting the city coffers.

The PCs could always be recruited to infiltrate such a movement or even used as muscle to shut it down. Perhaps they could be recruited by the movement leaders themselves (such as there are) to provide security against goons hired by various merchant and trading guilds looking to put an end to protests that are hurting their business.

Maybe the PCs get involved when the movement is just starting and they find it's direction is being usurped as it grows in size by unknown interests. Maybe they get recruited by one faction of the movement to spy on another faction.

Even better would be if their own actions inadvertently started the movement. They see the protesters with painted signs depicting members of the party. Maybe their actions were a positive influence, or maybe the protest sprouted in reaction to the party itself.

and Now for Something Completely Different

Hopefully tonight I'll have some free time and me able to get the next Feltothraxis episode filmed and uploaded. If not, I'll make sure I get some more Felty practice in with my 10 month old niece - she'll be visiting tomorrow and she certainly likes the dragon.

I'm still hurting from yesterday - long and stressful. I just need to sleep in tomorrow and all will be right with the world. Lesson learned - do not keep a half filled water glass anywhere near the edge of my desk - the cat will surely knock it down and soak some choice RPG books - sigh.

Just over 3 weeks to the big day. Holy carp! heh

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Where Does Your Comfort Zone Fall Regarding the Complexity of the RPGs You Like to Play?

(I'm purposefully avoiding the word "Crunch" regarding rules complexity in RPGs, as some have voiced an opinion in the past that they find it offensive.)

How much complexity, or lack there of, do you (generally) like in the RPGs that you play?

Does your preference change if you are GM'ing instead of playing? If so, why?

Does the genre (fantasy / sci-fi / horror / etc) have an effect on the amount of rules complexity you can tolerate? Again, if so, why?

Just some questions that occurred to me as I've been thinking about the gaming complexity chart I'm working on.

Pinning Down the Middle

If Weird West anchors the "Simple" side of the list and one of the Hackmasters anchor the "Complex" side of the list, I need to pin something for the "Average" middle of the list.

I'm thinking Swords & Wizardry Core to mark the middle, although there is a lot of subjectivity to it all, it seems to fit there fairly well. S&W Whitebox would then sit at "Fairly Simple" and S&W Complete would sit at "Fairly Complex".

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

And So It Grows...

The List is growing.  I'm actually very excited to see how everything falls into place.  I suspect Weird West will be the marker for the "Simple" side of things and Hackmaster will settle in to mark the "Complex" side of things, but where it all falls in between the extremes should be fun to see.

Feel free to continue to add to the list.  I still have a few suggestions I need to look over before adding.  Once the D&D inspired OSR list is completed (and I'll be adding the original D&D / AD&D editions to the list) I'll add in other classics, like Traveller, Rolemaster, Dragonquest, Tunnels & Trols and a bunch of others.

I just need to start with a controlled list before greatly expanding it ;)

I'm Making a List, I'm Checking It Twice!

So, with the entirely subjective list of D&D influenced OSR games ordered by complexity of rules, I find myself trying define the parameters of the list.

I'm inclined NOT to include sci-fi games, but there are 2 outstanding choices that practically beg to be included: Stars Without Numbers and X-plorers. So maybe they should be included for completeness if nothing else.

I've decided that the rules must be available in English. If I can't read the rules, I'll be unable to evaluate how complex the rules are.

They don't have to be free (although most seem to have a free PDF version available). If something that isn't on my initial list is available at RPGNow, point that out to me. Or point me to where it can be found - my google-fu is decent but by no means perfect.

I'm figuring to use the following "Bands" to indicate complexity:


Fairly Simple


Fairly Complex


The labels may change, but those are the groupings I'm looking at.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Help Me Complete My List of OSR Style D&D Derivatives

Well, if I'm going to group the OSR games by complexity, I need to ensure I have a complete list. Here's what I have so far, add away please!

LotFP Weird Fantasy - Deluxe
LotFP Weird Fantasy - Grindhouse
Labyrinth Lord
Labyrinth Lord - AEC
Swords & Wizardry - Whitebox
Swords & Wizardry - Core
Swords & Wizardry - Complete
Basic Fantasy RPG
Dark Dungeons
Microlite 74 Basic
Microlite 74 Standard
Microlite 74 Extended
Adventures Dark & Deep
Castles & Crusades
Hackmaster 4e
Hackmaster 5e
Dungeon Crawl Classics
Adventurer Conqueror King Sytem
The Secret Fire
Spellcraft & Swordplay*
Weird West (not standard fantasy, but still fantastic)*
For Gold and Glory (i missed this from my own list on the left)*
Myth & Magic (you need to register for the forums to DL the rules)
Beacon (nice free suggested RPG)*

I need to hyperlink all this at some point ;)

*edit added based on suggestions

Because This One Goes to Eleven!

Has anyone put together a list of the D&D retroclones / derivatives and the like in order of relative rules complexity? I'm avoiding the "crunch" label so as not to offend sensitive readers.

I'm talking everything from Swords & Wizardry (all 3 flavors) to Hackmaster (2 flavors) and everything in between and beyond. Besides being a useful list of clones in general, a nice chart would help the prospective GM find a game that is right for his gaming style while still being familiar to those that grew up on Gygax D&D up though Pathfinder.

I realize that much of this would be subjective, and the complexity label might work better as a general banding system.

If it hasn't been done yet, would there be an interest in seeing one get completed?

Of Felt and Men

I'm going to be collecting some of the best bits n' pieces of the Name the Nameless Dragon Campaign and putting them in a single blog post. There is some killer stuff that was posted for it and I still laugh thinking about it.

I don't call the Feltothraxis vids "reviews", as he doesn't so much review as remark. Unless, of course, I have a real dog for him to talk about. I'm sure that would count as a review by the time he is finished ;)

Now, on to Hackmaster. I never realized how loyal (if small) a following the game had until I reviewed The Dusk of the Dead. Apparently, I should have used my trained investigator skills to track down the missing rules for characters above fifth level. I stopped after checking the Kenzerco website and finding the Hackmaster Basic Rules as the only rules listed under Hackmaster Core section. Next time I'll make sure to cast ESP on my Crystal Ball and read Kenzerco's collective mindset.

In all seriousness, the least they could do is make a reference as to where you can find and BUY the relevant rules, either on the web page with the Core Rules or in the Dusk of the Dead adventure itself.

Heck, it's not like the rules are needed to run the adventure, but since Mr. Kenzer made reference to them by including them in the suggested PC level range, it would have been a nice gesture (and probably a good business decision) to point the reader in the right direction.

I mean, reading the adventure got me thinking about possibly using the HM Basic rules (which is a damn good job, as they are a bit more convoluted then I normally look to use these days).

Monday, October 10, 2011

Feltothraxis Looks at OD&D (vidblog)

The Newly Named Dragon - Feltothraxis - takes a look at the oldest gem in his horde of RPGs - Original Dungeons & Dragons.

We actually had a camera man for this one - my son was behind the lens.  In the background you can hear the Dachshund walking around on the wood floor - I think we need to trim her nails ;)

Oh, outtakes are on the end :)

Latest Peek at the iTabletop VTT

I have a special place in my gaming heart for the iTabletop/Pandoren Virtual Table Top. It's come far from it's early start as a web-camera / chat interface and is now nearly a full service VTT that has build in video and voice chat.

It is still missing a Whiteboard, which from my point of view is more important then the video or voice features (especially now with G+ available for free and its video / voice feature).

ITT is free these days. It wasn't always, and it may not be for much longer, as the "Free to Play" experiment isn't bringing in the Ad revenue that was expected it seems. The cost for the servers alone is about $600 a month apparently. That's a huge amount for the small company to have to put up front each month.

I'm one of the "lifers", having purchased not one, but two lifetime accounts when they were trying to raise the initial funds for the upgrade. I give the guys credit, they're still plugging away at it, but at some point their dream of making this their full time paying gig is going to give way to the need to support themselves (if it hasn't already).

I've always seen the potential of iTabletop and I check in every few months to see if it's where I need it to be to work for me. It isn't, at least not for my needs.

I suspect when my campaign finally gets of the ground, I'll be using a combination of Fantasy Grounds 2 and Google+. It's not the cleanest solution to meet my needs and desires, but it's the closest I think I can come to my ideal VTT... at least until iTabletop reaches it's true potential.

Defining the Kindreds in Tunnels & Trolls - The Basics - Hobbs

Hobbs, Hobbits, Halflings - if you've read or watched the Lord of the Rings, you know what they entail. Big feet, small height, paunchy, like to smoke pipe-weed... the whole package. Still, what does that mean in Tunnels & Trolls?

Starting attributes are adjusted as follows: Str is halved, Dex and Lk are increased by 50%, Con is doubled height is halved. A weak yet tough race. Well suited for the Roguish life, they can make effective Warriors if they can survive the early adventures in T&T 7.5e.

So, what can we do to add some flavor to Hobbs in our T&T games? All Hobbs get the Thievery Talent for free, above and beyond any others they might choose. Not all use it for thievery, as slight of hand and the like has many uses, but all have knowledge of it. This is known by the other kindreds, and Hobbs are often viewed with some suspicion when they are new to an area and have yet to prove themselves.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

I'm a Mac - and - I'm a PC

I finally BootCamped my iMac with Win7 Ultimate.  Which also means I've been installing Fantasy Grounds 2 and all the rulesets I own.  I'd like to get something up and running in December, either thru FG2, G+ or a combination of the 2.  More when I know.  In the meantime, reinstalling many games via Steam.

Never got the chance to do new video with "Felty" today.  Hopefully tomorrow.

Sunday Thoughts

Well, it's a football afternoon here in NYC, as both the Giants and the Jets have games today.  The Giants are playing some horribly sloppy football, so I'm only half watching, and half surfing the web.

I see that Green Ronin has released a Tablet Enhanced Edition of the Song of Fire and ICE rpg PDF.  I'll be peeking at this over the next few days.  I haven't taken a close look at this before, so I'll be checking both the system and the presentation.

Another on my "must review soon" list is Ashen Stars from Pelgrane Press.  It uses the GUMSHOE engine, which I'm not very familiar with, but I love space opera type settings and RPGs, so I need to to give this one a close look.

There's some fiction I want to look at too, but my current ability to stay focused on a single work of fiction has been strained recently - I'll see how well I can do.

If I can get the cat off my desk I'll try and put up another web episode of the Dragon  ;)

Mini Review - Dusk of the Dead (Hackmaster)

I'm a bit undecided about the relatively new Hackmaster Basic.  The system as presented is certainly viable, but with only the first 5 levels of character advancement covered, the scope of the game is fairly limited.  Then there is the problem of limited adventures and such for the system.

The latest adventure for Hackmaster is Dusk of the Dead, for characters of levels 5-7.  As Hackmaster Basic only covers up to level 5, does this mean that Hackmaster Advanced is just around the corner?  I don't know.

Dusk of the Dead is made to work as a followup to Frandor's Keep, so it can easily be dropped into the setting presented there or used on it's own.  Still, it works best with Frandor's Keep.

DotD doesn't have bookmarks, which probably aren't too useful in a short piece like this, but it does have hyperlinks.  Some, admittedly, are links back to the Kenzerco website, but most of them are aids to navigate the adventure.  I love me some hyperlinks, and I think they are well done for the most part.  Heck, even the maps have hyperlinks back to the room descriptions.

The maps are excellent BTW.  Nice use of B&W line drawings.

As for the adventure itself, it looks like a fun adventure for a Halloween themed nite of gaming.  Still, I suspect it might be a tough for a party on the low end of the 5-7 level range.  As Hackmaster Basic only goes to level 5, the whole party will be on the low end at this point.  Any news on when Hackmaster Advanced is coming out?

From the blurb:

"The long hours on the road have left you yearning for a good night’s rest at your favorite way station. Decent food, a clean bed and live entertainment have never sounded so good – especially so with those storm clouds looming on the horizon, mounting winds and periodic raindrops heralding some fouler weather to come. The warm glow of a fire and a hot meal will be welcome, but where is the wait staff?”

Dusk of the Dead is a new HackMaster adventure featuring a variety of challenges designed for four to six 5th to 7th level player characters.

Detailing a haunted location off the beaten path, Dusk of the Dead may be used by itself as a stand-alone one-shot adventure or easily placed anywhere in the wilderness of an ongoing campaign. Located in the wilderness near Frandor’s Keep, just off the Borderland Road, Dusk of the Dead may also be employed as a follow-on for characters completing the Frandor’s Keep mini-campaign and/or as an add-on or segue into the Mines of Chaos series of adventures. The adventure contains a myriad of hooks and ideas for introducing players to the scenario as well as follow-on integration for on-going play with Frandor’s Keep, the local towns of Vew and Sabden, as well as direct connections to the City-State of P’Bapar.

Like all Kenzer and Company products, Dusk of the Dead was designed with you in mind. The PDF is designed both for traditional use on a PC or to print out on your own as well as being optimized for tablet use with internal hyperlinks that allow you to tap on a map and jump right to the description or to follow other internal references direct to the relevant page! We prepare all the details so you can spend less time flipping pages (real or virtually) and more time gaming. Gamemastering has never been so easy or so much fun!

Dusk of the Dead also features maps and illustrations by Knights of the Dinner Table's favorite cartographer Craig Zipse!

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