Saturday, January 21, 2012

Feltothraxis The Dragon Looks at Carocoa (and Dungeonmorph Dice)

Yep, Feltothraxis is back and he's got some help this time.  Ashley the Cat and Boo Boo the Psychic Police Bear are there for the assist.  Together, they take a look at Carcosa and some Dungeonmorph Dice.


Mini Review - The Ruined Hamlet / Terror in the Glooming (OSR Adventure)

From the guy that brought us the Companion Expansion, we get the free adventure / starter area called The Ruined Hamlet / Terror in the Glooming for levels 1-3.

From what I can gather, the products being released for free at RPGNow have been sitting on the author's website for a bit previously.  So if you are someone that trolls the web looking for gaming goodies, you might have already come across this.  For the rest of us, this is new stuff.

If I have one complaint, and this applies to many of the adventures one gets in PDF format, is that the keyed maps are stuck in the back.  So I'm reading keyed descriptions without any idea where the corresponding map is.  Not a killer issue, but it is an annoyance.  I'd suggest if you are going to read this with an idea to run it, print the maps our for reference.

The maps themselves are serviceable, and there is even a blank map for use by the players, which is a nice touch (it's basically graph paper, but still, a nice touch).

The adventure assumes a silver standard (so something that would cost 10 GP in the rulebook will instead cost 10SP).  It does state, however, that expo is based on GOLD, not silver.  This may cause some leveling issues.

From the blurb:

Into the Unknown! The wilderness around the cave stronghold called Gold Hill Trading Post is dangerous and scattered with ruins of large and small settlements. Will your party find fame and fortune, solve ancient mysteries, or just disappear into the Borderlands like so many that came before? This module contains underground and wilderness maps that form a detailed adventure and mini-campaign for beginning characters, including an abandoned village, haunted graveyard, ruined church, traders’ camp, wilderness encounters, and monster lairs. It also includes a ruined keep and dungeon as well as a mapped and detailed “base camp” stronghold. 

The module is designed for use with all “classic” fantasy roleplaying game rulebooks or sets for Basic- and Expert-level players and gamemasters. It can be converted for use with “Advanced” fantasy game rules and compatible systems with a minimum of effort. Cover art by William McAusland! Print version available at www.barrataria.com

Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday Night Movie at the Tavern - Cowboys & Aliens

The wife and I snuggled in for a movie via Amazon Direct earlier tonight.  The movie of choice was Cowboys & Aliens.  We had intended to see in in the theatre, but somehow it slipped us by in the rush of wedding preparations and such.  Diet coke, goldfish crackers and a dachshund that wouldn't settle in were our move accessories.

How was it?  Surprisingly, my wife enjoyed it more then me.  See didn't much like action movies until we started dating, and now she takes more enjoyment from the ride then I do.  Part of my problem is I do the "Gamer Overthink".  What would a gamer do if this was a RPG session.  Rarely does it match the plot of the movie ;)

In this case, my initial (and main) issue was Harrison Ford's overacting in his first few scenes.  I'm a mad mother fucker and I'll prove it!  Yeah yeah.  Go draw and quarter some other schmuck.

Still, I enjoyed the plot device / arm cannon that Daniel Craig had.  Definitely something that had to be roomed at the end of the adventure. or else it would just ruin a campaign.  Or maybe this would work best as a one-shot, as one of the characters has to sacrifice themselves for the PCs... I mean, the story's main characters, to survive (of, and for the survival of earth).

Still, I don't understand Olivia Wilde's character.  How the hell did she get to earth?  If she can travel the stars, how did the scary aliens destroy her race?  Shapechanging?  How did the indians know to burn her body to resurrect her?  How did she know how to destroy the bad aliens?  Why the fuck is she so hot?  Must be the eyes.  Don't tell my wife ;)

Not a bad movie.  Lot's of fun, and certainly some ideas that can be stolen for an RPG session, it just leaves me with questions that I have no answers for.

Making An OSR "Stew"

I was thinking of the feasibility of running a game using / allowing the use of ALL of the OSR rules available.

I know Zak has the Flailsnail Concord or some such, allowing the use of characters from different rule sets and campaigns in Constacon sessions with some conversion if necessary, but I'm thinking more like a regular, coherent campaign that allows for the use of multiple OSR RPG rules by the players.

For example, John wants to play a fighter from Labyrinth Lord, Advanced Edition Characters, Tom wants to play a magic-user from Basic Fantasy RPG, Cindy wants to grab a cleric from Swords & Wizardry Complete and Adam isn't sure what class he wants to play, but he knows he wants to use the Adventurer Conqueror King Systems for his.

I'm figuring except for AC, everything should work fairly well. AC would need to be converted to one of the systems in use.

As long as no one becomes a rules lawyer over minor hiccups, the DM should be able to hand wave any inconsistencies.

Your thoughts?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Monster Stand Ins - A Kickstarter Project

Do you remember the pictures of those funny looking yet extremely cool Dungeonmorph Dice I posted a few weeks back?

Well, the same man (Joe Wetzel) behind those dice has a new project:

Monster Stand-Ins.  Think plastic, lay flat when not in use, color miniatures that you can tote around to your game while taking up very little space.  Heck, you can even mark them up and erase them.  Cool stuff.

Joe has some excellent artwork line up for this project, as you can see below:

Thats some pretty hot art.  Not all is to scale, but I'm already thinking of uses for it.

And here's a picture of the prototypes in action:

Monster Stand-Ins are a set of plastic card (same thickness as most credit cards) miniatures of creatures for role-playing games or war games or board games. Use them when you don't have enough miniatures or don't have the right miniature. The front of each will have a full-color picture of a creature and the back will have a matching silhouette.

Ever Buy a Gaming Product and Go: "What the F' Did I Waste My Money On?!?"

Don't you just hate that?

For me the worst was Monster Coliseum for Runequest 3 (Avalon Hill Runequest).  This pile of poo was so bad I actually went back to my game store and demanded my money back.  I don't remember much about it except that it was fairly expensive and totally useless, and that as a college student with a part time job I couldn't afford to squander away my hard earned gaming dollars.

Now I have a quandary.  I get access to reviewer copies of games (mostly in PDF) and for the most part, I only take reviewer copies of stuff I feel I'll actually enjoy.  I've gotten pretty good at this.  Once in a while I fail, and fail bad.

I failed bad the other night.  Bad as in "What the Fuck did I Get?"

Not even bad as in funny bad.  Not bad as in stupid bad.  Bad as in the publisher is pretty clueless as to the minimum qualities expected from a game publisher of any sort of amateur status.  Bad as in if I had downloaded this free, I'd still be upset with the quality.  Bad as in "they have HOW MANY products to their credit and they still can't get it right?" bad.  There might be something worthwhile behind the abysmal presentation, but I'm not wasting my time or patience to find it.

No, I won't mention the name of the product, or the publisher.  The saying you can't judge a book by it's cover certainly applies here.

If you track me down via email, I may tell you if your guess is right.

WotC to Reprint Core AD&D 1E Rulebooks

You can read the article here: http://www.icv2.com/articles/news/21954.html

Figure about $115 for the DMG, PH and MM. Sales will benefit the Gygax Memorial Fund.

Some see this as a way for WotC to test the waters, to tell if there is money to be scraped out of the old editions. I'd rather take this at face value, a way to remember the man that got this hobby started.

No OSR games will be harmed when I purchase my copies of the AD&D reprints - I promise ;)

Im All In the Google+ Swimming Pool

It took me a while, but I'm now fully embracing G+ after being not quite sure what to make of it initially. Well, that, and I remember the fate of Google Wave. Ouch!

It's more certainly not Facebook. G+ actually seems to encourage conversations (Facebook seems to be much less effective at that) and by mirroring my Blogger posts on G+, I find that I have rewarding conversations on both sides of the posts.

I also find myself with WAY more distractions, as Google+ alerts are constantly hitting my phone, but I embrace it like a mad man. I love to talk gaming, even if it does happen during work hours (shhhhh! don't tell anyone).

You can find me at +Erik Tenkar on Google+

Oh, and you can find me at the Tavern every day too ;)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Look at Jaws of the Six Serpents (PDQ System)

This isn't going to be a true review, some I'm not titling it as such (but will tag it as one, 'cause it's close enough).  I just got my softcover copy of Jaws of the Six Serpents - Silver Branch Games was offering a discount to those that had purchased the PDF copy of the game, and that certainly included me.

The PDQ System (which I first came across in Questers of the Middle Realms) one of those, dare I say it, Indie Game Systems.  PDQ - Prose Descriptive Qualities.  In this case it's almost like a structure red freeform type system - you define your characters standout traits and qualities (good and bad) using the included rules and distributing points and "Wallah!" you have a character.  It's pretty open and flexible.  Which means I'm sure it can be gamed by Munchkins, but then again, so can most systems out there.  All you need are a handful of D6, so it should be an easy enough system to grass if you can get past your D&D roots.  That shit always holds me back ;)

Anyhow, I really like the Swords & Sorcery feel of Jaws of the Six Serpents.  It does a great job in a relatively small amount of space (the entire book is about 130 pages).  I suspect it runs pretty quickly and painlessly with a GM that is conversant with the rules, which would make it a decent choice to run via a Virtual Table Top or Google+ Hangouts, as I've noticed, at least with VTTs, the games tend to run slower.  With voice or without, the pace slows from a face to face game.  With a system that runs fairly fast in the first place, that might be less of an issue.

You can check out the Core PDQ Rules for free here.

I Get To Play In a Sandbox!

I'll be playing in a new campaign starting this coming Saturday. We'll be using Google+ Hangout.

Our GM has given us a quick overview of the starting area, and we even get to chose our starting location out of a handful that are detailed. Which means we are in a sandbox right from the start. Should be fun and an Old School feel.

Of course, the actual rules system has yet to be nailed down. As long as it includes dice rolls, some numerical stats and a spell list, I should be able to adapt ;)

Eh, who am I kidding. It's going to be a D&D game, we just need the DM to nail down the system. I'd vote for Crypts & Things, but I think the setting is more standard fantasy, so it probably wouldn't be a good fit.

No SOPA For You!

Today is the day of action for those concerned about the pending SOPA legislation. I signed my online petition, I sent a letter to my congressman and I'm mentioning it on my blog.

What more can one man do? Not much. What more can many men (and women) do? Much more. There is strength in numbers. Let your voice be heard.

Remember those shaky OSR products (and I use the term loosely) that violated copyright? The ones that got quickly pulled from RPGNow when the violations were brought to their attention? Theoretically, SOPA could have taken down RPGNow for the violations (at least, that's how I read it).

One dick and everyone pays.

SOPA is like a cure for cancer that kills the host in order to save him.The cure is worse then the disease. As a cancer survivor, I'm rather pleased that the cure didn't kill me. ;)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Mini Review - Hackmaster 5e Quickstart Guide (Kenzer Co)

I am far from the Hackmaster expert.  I remember reading about the fictitious game in the early Knights of the Diner Table (probably back in Shadis Magazine).  It was very obviously a take on Advanced Dungeons & Dragons ramped up to 11.  Then one day, Hackmaster actually appeared in gaming stores across the nation.  Fake game became real game, and it really was AD&D turned up to 11.

Flash forward to now.  Hackmaster reached it's 5th edition with it's release of Hackmaster Basic in 2010.  Kenzer is hard at work on releasing the full HM 4e rules (and I got some flack last year for not knowing rules for levels beyond 5 were available from Kenzer Co's website - ah well).  See, you CAN play 5e now!

Hackmaster's old edition could be considered fairly rules heavy.  From my reading of the Hackmaster Basic Book, I'd say the 4e rules are even heavier, at least at character generation.  What's a new Hackmaster player to do?

May we present to you the Hackmaster Quickstart Guide (for HM 5e).  It's an attempt to bring some sanity and order to the confusion that may just slam a new player in the gut.  Does it succeed in doing so?

Yes and no.

I'll explain the no first.  Hackmaster character generation is a convoluted, confusing system.  That's not a design flaw, it's actually a feature and it was designed that way.  You would probably need 40 pages alone to walk someone thru character generation, and replicating the charts would take up even more space.  So no, The Quickstart Guide doesn't show one haw to create a Hackmaster Character, but it does give you an assortment of fully stated and generated PCs with quirks and all, so you have an idea what to expect in the full game.  Character generation is beyond the scope of this Quickstart.

Now for the success.  It gives a very nice overview of how to actually play (and possibly run) a Hackmaster session.  41 pages on everything from how to read your character sheet, combat rules, spells in combat, spells... screw it, here's the table of contents:

1.1 Introduction Page 03
1.2 Basic Character Classes Page 04
The Basic Fighter Page 04
The Basic Thief Page 06
The Basic Mage Page 08
The Basic Cleric Page 10
1.3 QuickStart Mage Spells Page 13
1.4 QuickStart Clerical Spells Page 14
1.5 QuicksStart Skills Page 15
2.1 Learning the QuickStart Rules Page 23
2.2 Misc. Rules Page 23
2.3 Skill Checks Page 24
2.4 Combat Rules Page 25
2.4.1 Roll for Initiative Page 25
2.4.2 The Count Up Page 25
2.4.3 Movement in Combat Page 26
2.4.4 Rules of Engagement Page 26
2.4.5 Rolling for Attack & Defense in Melee Page 26
2.4.6 Ranged Attack Page 27
2.4.7 Spells in Combat Page 28
2.4.8 Taking Wounds Page 28
2.4.9 Using Luck and Honor Page 28
2.5 Advanced Option Rules Page 28
Knock-backs Page 28
Threhold of Pain Page 29
Alignment rules Page 29
2.6 Running Encounters in HackMaster Page 29
3.1 Appendix Page 30
How to fill out a character sheet Page 30
Glossary Page 32
Hacklopedia entry on Kobolds Page 35
PC Record Sheet Page 39

Pretty full Quickstart.  Doesn't even include an adventure and still hits 41 pages.  Did I mention it's free?  Hell, add it to your Quickstart PDF Collection ;)

If you want to give Hackmaster a peek and aren't sure if you want to pay the buy in, give the Hackmaster Quickstart a check.  It's free. and you might find something you'll enjoy playing as you await 5e (Hackmaster Advanced, D&D, Runequest - or some other RPG hitting high edition numbers - Tunnels & Trolls is already at 7.5 ;)

Interesting Note on My Reviews...

They actually get less traffic then just about anything else I post.  That being said, last night's quick peek at the free Companion Expansion did get a lot of views.

Can't say it's the subject matter, because most of my reviews are OSR related.

Ah well, another review is probably coming later tonight ;)

D&D 5E? Theres an App for That! (maybe)

Alright, so the authorities won't let me fill my Tavern's basement scrying pool with privy runoff. What do health inspectors know anyway? I'll just fill it in a more... direct manner.

We all know how gun shy WotC is with releasing their IP in PDF format. I was part of the mad rush to make sure I had downloaded copies of my legacy purchases at RPGNow when they pulled the plug. The thing is, digital IS the wave of the future.

Comic Book stores are facing many of the same problems that Hobby and Game stores are. What has DC Comics recently done? They are now releasing their titles simultaneously in print and digital. They've embraced the future (and I hope it works for them).

I expect WotC to do something similar, allowing their latest D&D edition and it's supplements to be accessed via Apps (PC/OSX/iOS/Android). Whether thye go to per product purchasing or subscription based like the DDI, they need to have their products available on tablets / smartphones / laptops /; etc. It might not be their main market, but it is a sizable chunk of change and one that should not be ignored.

Hmm, maybe those guys from the health department are on to something. I think I might have an infection in my hand from having to stir the waters.

I better go to a "Cleric in a Box" and have this looked at. Good thing my "Adventurer's Health Plan" covers this with a small copay ;)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Mini Review - Companion Expansion - (For B/X - OSR)

Want to add Druids, Illusionists or Bards to your B/X game (or most any OSR that doesn't already include them)?  Gnomes as Class, as well as Half-Elves, Half-Orcs and Half-Ogres?  Well, the Companion Expansion is here to help you do so.

Oh, did I mention it also includes levels through 36 for the base B/X classes?  Yep, it does.  As well as the spell lists to fill in any gaps through level 9 you might have.

New monsters and treasures too.  Oh my!

Did I mention the price of this PDF?  Free.

No bookmarks in this PDF, but at the price of "free" I can't really be all that picky.

Looks good at first glance with a definite B/X look to the typeface.

From the blurb:

Presenting additional creatures and magical items for fantasy roleplaying games for basic- and expert-level players and gamemasters, including 7 additional character classes (bard, druid, gnome, half-elf/half-orc, half-ogre, illusionist, scout), expanded experience tables, two additional types of magic (druid and illusion) and additional magic-user and cleric spells (90 in all), over 130 new or additional creatures, dozens of new or additional magic items, and a complete treasure generation system!

Also includes expanded spell lists for three free "retro-clone" rulebooks and expanded combat, saving throw, and other tables. Use these rules to expand your campaign in the WORLD OF STRONGHOLD or wherever your games are set! Note: this free download version does not contain art. Print version available at www.barrataria.com.

Someone Took a Dump in the Taverns D&D 5E Scrying Pool

Joe the Lawyer (and occasional shite stirrer - he says so himself) brought to my attention Monte Cook's latest column over at the WotC website. No links, as the iPad sucks for linking, but they are easy enough to find on your own.

In summary, D&D 5E is going to be modular, so you can add or subtract to it, and even players in the same campaign don't need to be playing with the same rules. My 0e fighter, your 3e cleric and her 4e wizzie can all play in my 5e game. Or something to that effect.

I can see players using less modules (or an earlier edition) then the GM, but I suspect whatever the default system the GM is using / emulating / has modules for is the maximum generation the PCs can use.

Still, all that's not the point. The point is this. In my 5e campaign, you could bring your Pathfinder character intact.

Well played WotC. Well played.

One game to rule them all, and in the basement bind them ;)

(the actual article from the WotC website)

Looking at the Past and the Future
Legends and Lore
Monte Cook

If you haven't already done so, please read this announcement from Mike Mearls.
So, now you have a little better idea what I've been working on. For many of you, what you already suspected has simply been confirmed. In any event, I can't tell you how exciting and challenging it’s been getting this project off the ground—and how thrilling it will continue to be as we move forward.

Of course, I'm not doing this alone. While I am working with a lot of great people at Wizards of the Coast in this endeavor, at this point in the process, I spend most of my time with two excellent designers, Bruce Cordell and Rob Schwalb. It's a team effort to be sure, and we’ll be including more talented designers, developers, and editors as things progress.
In the weeks and months ahead, I want to elaborate on some of the goals that Mike put forth in his announcement. This week, however, I just want to hit the highlights of what I think is particularly exciting about the development of the next iteration of the game.

First and foremost, as Mike said, this isn't another salvo in the so-called edition wars. This isn't an attempt to get you to playDungeons & Dragons in a new way. This is the game you've already been playing, no matter what edition or version you prefer. The goal here is to embrace all forms of the D&D experience and to not exclude anyone. Imagine a game where the core essence of D&D has been distilled down to a very simple but entirely playable-in-its-right game. Now imagine that the game offered you modular, optional add-ons that allow you to create the character you want to play while letting the Dungeon Master create the game he or she wants to run. Like simple rules for your story-driven game? You're good to go. Like tactical combats and complex encounters? You can have that too. Like ultra-customized character creation? It's all there.

In this game, you play what you want to play. It’s our goal to give you the tools to do so.
This new approach comes out of a single idea. At its heart, D&D isn't about rules. It's about participating in an exciting fantasy adventure. The rules are just the means to enable that to happen. They're not an end unto themselves. The reason most of us play is for the story that arises out of our games. We talk about the green devil mouth in the Tomb of Horrors. The diabolical plans of Strahd in Ravenloft. The cowardly kobold Meepo in Sunless Citadel. These stories bring us together. As D&D players, we shouldn't allow rule preferences to separate us. In the end, we have a lot more in common than we have differences, even if some of us prefer the simple-yet-wahoo style of old school Basic D&D and others the carefully balanced elegance of 4th Edition—or anything in between.

So if this new endeavor is just like your favorite prior version of the game, why play this one? First, we hope you're going to enjoy the distillation of the things that make D&D the game we all love into a single, unified package, with the ability to pick and choose other options as you desire.

Second—and this sounds so crazy that you probably won't believe it right now—we're designing the game so that not every player has to choose from the same set of options. Again, imagine a game where one player has a simple character sheet that has just a few things noted on it, and the player next to him has all sorts of skills, feats, and special abilities. And yet they can still play the game together and everything remains relatively balanced. Your 1E-loving friend can play in your 3E-style game and not have to deal with all the options he or she doesn't want or need. Or vice versa. It's all up to you to decide.

Finally, we're seeking your feedback to help guide us as we move ahead. You can play a part in shaping the direction of D&D. I can't stress this enough. We're going to be doing extensive playtesting and engaging in open discussion about our ideas for this iteration of D&D. We want real feedback from our players, because if the goal is to make a game that all D&D players want to play, it's not going to work unless we actually hear from a wide variety of D&D players. So tell your friends. Tell the guy down the street who still plays OD&D. Tell the girl at the game store who left D&D to play other systems. We want to hear from them too. Spread the word!

Time For Some Paranoid Reading

Allen Varney was kind enough to give me three of his novels (in Kindle format) set in the Paranoia game setting to review. It's nice and slow at work today, so I expect I'll actually take a meal away from my desk and get some reading in.

I have high hopes for the novels. If they can hit anywhere near the humor and lunacy of the 1st Edition Paranoia Boxed Set, the man will have a winning set of novels.

Hopefully the Computer won't notice this post...

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Getting My Game On

I'm pretty psyched as I'll be back to regular gaming this coming Saturday via Google+ Hangout.  I've never actually gamed via G+ yet (and only used the Hangout feature once), so thankfully I'm a player and not a GM.

At the same time, I'm getting the itch to run a game myself.  I guess that kinda explains my afternoon of Virtual Table Top experimentation.  I've noticed that "simple" and "full featured" tend not to be in the same product despite the designers' best intentions.

I am most familiar with Fantasy Grounds, but as a player, not a GM.  You can hand hold a player, but you can't hand hold the guy running the show.  BattleGroundsRPG is something I purchased a while ago, and it's come long way.  I think I need to watch the training videos for both of these, as I always learn better watching over reading.

And yes, I'll check out MapTools again, although I was never all that found of it's set up.  And Epic Table.  And D20Pro.  Klooge is so ugly even with the floating licenses I have I'll probably never use it.  Oh, and iTableTop (did they drop the Pandoren label now?)

I'm still juggling systems in my head.  So much coolness to choose from I probably can't go wrong ;)

Best Laid Plans (and all that crap)

So, the wife was out with her friends this afternoon, and my intent was to get a Feltothraxis video done, maybe some reading, write the next post from Saturday Knight Special... you know.  Be productive.

Instead I spent some time online with Star Wars - The Old Republic (because my son is out-leveling my ass) and a heck of a lot of time tooling around with various Virtual Table Tops.  Now that I have my iMac botcamped, I can use Windows and OSX programs.

I was never able to get Fantasy Grounds to work via Crossover, nor was I able to get Battlegrounds RPG running on OSX, so having access to two of the big guys is very helpful (and distracting).  And others.  So many others

Well, that and I was checking out all the new blogs that were brought to my attention.  I need to redo my Blog Roll in sections to make it a bit more manageable.

Mini Review - Toys For the Sandbox: Apothecary (Generic / Sandbox)

Toys For the Sandbox: Apothecary is another, short, sandbox scenario from Occult Moon.  Like Fairy Glade, it comes in at 4 pages for 99 cents.

As in Fairy Glade, it packs a lot into 3 pages (remove one for the cover).  Background and keyed map of the shop is one page, six different hooks each with three different ways to play them is another and the NPC write ups and encounter and rumor tables are the last page.

What I really like about this series so far is that most of the hooks and twists can be reused, or rather, used later.  If you're a GM that likes to work of the cuff, a sentence or two may be all you need to get your creative juices flowing in the right direction.  So yes, it's one adventure, but in reality it's at least 18 seeds for your imagination.  Well worth your 99 cents.

From the Blurb:

It is Game Night, you have spent the week developing an adventure for that will blow the party’s mind. Then it happens, they zig when you thought they would zag, and wind up traveling away from the dungeon you spent all week making.

Toys for the Sandbox is here to help. Each one contains a map, named NPCs, rumors, encounters and plot hooks all centered on a different location. With Toys for the Sandbox you can look prepared even when you are not. 
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