Saturday, October 20, 2012

Another Cancelled Kickstarter - Old School RPG, uhr - I Mean SHAKER

How can you pretty much guarantee to fail at Kickstarter?

Have a placeholder for for your project's name: this not only guarantees confusion among potential backers ("wasn't this called something else just yesterday?") but it also shows your concept wasn't even ready.

Say a whole lot about nothing: I got caught up in the hype of an honest to goodness Old School RPG like Wizardry or Bard's Tale, but the reality is that the initial Kickstarter page just made general yet nicely fluffed statements about Old School Computer RPGs - it could have been using Might & Magic, Ultima or any of the many games from the past as it's inspirations, but it never really said "what" it was.

Show a fantasy piece of art as your main image, but decide to make the game (some point after putting the Kickstarter up) a Sci-Fi with fantasy trappings maybe game: Seriously, what the fuck?

Here's the update on SHAKER / Old School RPG which was cancelled with 16 days to go (and just short of 25% to it's 1 million dollar goal). But in reality, it isn't cancelled, it's still live as I post this - 24 hours after they announced cancellation. But they say it's cancelled. So in reality, they have no idea what the fuck they are doing - still:

Update #10 · Oct. 19, 2012 · 93 comments
Uncharted Isles, Mineshaft, Contraption...

In the industry, games are pitched every day. Some make it to the next stage, but many don't, like those named above. We regret to announce that we're adding Shaker: An Old-School RPG (it's SHAKER and Shaker depending on where i read it. Not that it matters anymore, but which one is it) to the latter list.

We are profoundly grateful to our fans. You were as excited about this game as we were, and from the very beginning, you encouraged us to post more details about it (because there were NO details about it initially!) and even sent in fan art! We have received backing from over 7,000 of you and raised a quarter million dollars in just a few days (!). That's humbling and wonderful.

We are profoundly grateful to the press. You covered our Kickstarter's launch and story update and gave it as much attention as you possibly could (with the limited information we could provide). It was through your efforts that many heard about our game.

We are grateful to our friends in the game industry who gave us suggestions, support and critique (probably along the lines of: uhm, what is this game actually about? do you have any idea where its going?). We are a wonderfully tight-knit community, and we owe you for all your feedback and friendship.

Ultimately, our pitch just wasn't strong enough to get the traction we felt it needed to thrive (there was no real pitch - just some marketing mumbo jumbo and an attempt to fund a game before the game was even conceived). Sure, it may have made it (not at this rate of funding). We could have fought our way to a possibly successful end (about the only wise thing they have done is pull the plug). In reading your feedback and talking it over internally, however, we decided that it made more sense to kill it and come back with something stronger (maybe even come back with a concept before asking for your money - now that's a fucking concept!).

In game design, mercy killing is the law.

So, please accept our thanks and apologies in equal order. Expect something more soon.

'Nuff said!

The Challenge of High Level Campaigns - Surviving to High Levels or Having the Campaign Survive?

I've been thinking of high level play and the thought occurred to me. It's been my experience that few campaigns ever hit the "high level play" mark.

It's probably why lower level adventures seem to sell best on places like RPGNow - more folks are just naturally playing at lower levels.

I'm sure part of it is player attrition and the struggle to keep a group together and gaming regularly to hit those levels. I'm sure part of it is GM (and even player) burnout - playing the same system, setting and characters can get old after a while.

There is also the challenge of balancing adventures to a higher level party. Things get pretty swingy in the higher levels compared to balancing challenges at lower levels. The power of the spells, magic, monsters is much more variable. The extremes of cakewalk and TPK are more common than at lower levels.

Then there is the definition of what actually constitutes "high level play". Is it hitting name level of 9 through 11, or is the 14-18 levels of play?

I have found my campaigns tend to die to a combination of DM / Player apathy after a certain point more than TPKs, but that might be because I'm an OSR system whore and love them all.

This question does not apply to 4e, which we know handles all levels equally well, and you are already designing you 20th level Wizard when you are just a 1st level apprentice ;)

Mini Review - Take on Magic Items (Dungeon World / Generic)

I'm going to sum up my take on Apocalypse World, which I've stated many times in the past. It's the best playing poorly written set of game rules I've ever tried to read.

The system is aces, but it is presented with such obnoxious fake attitude, useless vileness and utterly confusing rules presentation that it really turned me off. Thank God there are other games out there to riff off the system and can leave the poor presentation behind (yes, I know some folks LOVE how AW is presented. I'm happy for you. I'd rate the rules a 9.5 and the presentation a 1, both on a scale of 1-10. I wouldn't line my birdcage with the the AW rulebook unless I was looking to improve the presentation).

Which brings us to Dungeon World, an RPG that riffs off of AW and Old School RPGs. I'm an actual supporter of the Dungeon World Kickstarter. Not what you would expect from someone that threw his AW book across the room in frustration when I first (and last) tried to read it. The folks behind DW know how to present rules. User friendly rules.

Heck, Dungeon World isn't even officially released yet and supplements are trickling out for it (thanks to it being released under a Creative Commons License). Today I'm looking at Take on Magic Items.

Take on Magic Items is a collection of magic goodies for use in a Dungeon World campaign. They are well written and nicely presented, and I remember enough from the few sessions of AW that I did play (under great GM who understood my frustration with the AW rules as written) to make sense of the mechanics with ease.

The strange thing is, as I was reading them, I was also instinctively translating them into OSR items in my head. They literally convert that easily. Some need no conversion at all. The following example is one of my favorites (as I have a player that would LOVE this item) and it requires no conversion whatsoever for D&D/ OSR, Savage Worlds, RQ/Legends, Rolemaster/HARP, etc:

Miser’s Amulet 
This simple silver amulet is of seemingly
shoddy craftsmanship, yet never requires
When you are wearing the Miser’s Amulet
and you give someone one or more coins, a
few minutes later one of those coins reappears
in a coin pouch on your person. 
When a coin reappears in your coin pouch,
the amulet grows cold and slowly warms
over the next few minutes. 
If you have a Miser’s amulet you probably
should have a coin pouch.

It's an awesome item that has the potential of bring forth endless roleplay possibilities. Great bit of atmosphere it conjures up too. There are 23 other items in Take on Magic Items of similar quality and atmosphere. Well done!

I'll be using them in my A&A game for now ;)

A Kickstarter Full of Art - Monster Stock Art & Minis II

Inkwell Ideas is not new to Kickstarter funded projects. I love my Dungeonmorph Dice. I'm very happy with the stock art I acquired with the first Monster Stock Art project. Heck, the only reason I didn't jump into the successful Cityographer Mapping project is that my players spend very little time in urban environments.

So, if I already have a bunch of stock art from the first Monster Stock Art project, why am I about to jump into a Second Monster Stock Art project. Because not only is the art in the second project at least as good as the first project (and it was very good), but now the pieces also come in line art and background versions.

Here's some samples art pieces from the Monster Stock Art & Minis II Kickstarter page:

You can support for different dollar amounts, which converts to points that allows you to cherry pick different sizes of art pieces that you want.

Or you can do what I'm doing. Support at $200, and get at least 100 art pieces, with background, without background and line art (so really 300 pieces). Everything the project produces is yours.

If you just want laminated stand up minis, you can do that too: 25 bucks gives you 8 laminated sheets of miniatures, 16 stands and an organizer box.

Damn it, but there's a story behind Simon Buckyord's Mite. I just need to figure out what it is and write it up ;)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Fighting the Common Cold - OSR Style

I'm currently fighting some version of "The Common Cold", otherwise know as the "Coughing, Sneezing, Stuffy Head Fever and I Can't Rest" Illness. So, I've decided I want to kick it's ass, and for that I'll need to make it an OSR Styled monster.

Common Cold
Hit Dice: 1 to 4
AC: 4 [15]
Attacks: 1 attack per round / damage as HD 1HD 1-3 dam, 2HD 1-4 dam,
3HD 1-6 dam, 4HD 1-8 damage
Saving Throw: As HD
Special: Heat does double damage, Cure Disease is Save or Die, Successful
hit causes disorientation for 2-12 days (-1 Hit, -1 / 5% skill checks) unless save
Move: 6 Fly 12
Alignment: Chaotic Annoying

There's the common cold, and then there is The Common Cold. No one remembers which long dead wizard created The Common Cold while trying to find a cure for the common cold, but it no longer matters. His creations have been unleashed upon the world, and as they need host to breed they will be found everywhere from dungeons to rooftops and in between.

Smaller Common Colds (1 and 2 HD) barely reach a foot in height and are fairly translucent. As such, they have a 50% chance to surprise unwary prey. Larger Common Colds stand 2'+ and lack that ability, but have been known to split themselves into smaller HD creatures to achieve such an effect. A 3 HD Common Cold can split into 3 1HD Common Colds or 1 1HD Common Cold and 1 2 HD Common Cold.

Common Colds reproduce by "infecting" a host. A character struck by a Common Cold in combat must make a save vs. disease at the end of the combat (one save no matter how many hits). Failure means he is now incubating 2d6 Common Cold "babies". Over the course of the next 2d6 days, these babies will leave his system as droplets sneezed or coughed out. They can't be seen or harvested.. In approximately 2 weeks, these babies will become 1 HD Common colds

The Resurrection of The Razor Coast

Nicholas' Logue's Razor Coast Setting is something you whisper about in dark corners when someone starts talking about "pre-orders" in this hobby of ours. It just goes to show that anyone, even a name with clout like Nick had back in 2007 and 2008, can royally screw the pooch. I bitch about Kickstarters that are months overdue - there are folks that were waiting over 4 years for the Razor Coast Setting for Pathfinder.

Written and done apparently for years, it was waiting on layout and art. And waiting. And waiting some more. I know I was very interested in it, but I don't recall if I ever preordered it. I may have to search my different email accounts just to make sure.

In any case, it's going to be brought into the light shortly by none other than Frog God. I'm not sure if that's good or bad, as there is a huge amount of baggage attached to it at this point. Still, Frog God will be launching a Kickstarter for it on December 25th.

The word from Frog God:

FROG GOD GAMES Announce Availability of Nicolas Logue’s Razor Coast as a Kickstarter Project

About Razor Coast

Razor Coast is the long anticipated Caribe-Polynesian flavored, Age of Sail swashbuckling RPG campaign envisioned and designed by Nicolas Logue.  It is applauded for its ambitious and original design, its epic flavor and its lurid, full-color art  – including a cover by the award winning Wayne Reynolds. Logue tapped a team of veteran designers to help develop and write Razor Coast, including Lou Agresta, Adam Daigle, Tim Hitchcock, and John Ling.

“Razor Coast isn’t just an adventure,” according to Agresta, Razor Coast Project Manager, “it’s part setting, part adventure path, and part toolkit to build your own unique campaign. It’s non-linear. It’ll never play the same way twice.”

“We filled it with corrupt municipal Dragoons, dastardly smuggling rings, weresharks – lots of weresharks, desperate naval battles, oppressed tribes craving heroes, witches, cursed islands, legendary treasure troves, an impending apocalypse or two, demon pirates, retired assassins, undead worms, gator men, failed heroes waiting to be redeemed, dark conspiracies brewing in the oceans depths, vengeful ghosts…oh – and mutating cannibal pygmies. Who doesn’t like those?”

Razor Coast Availability

“Frog God Games has committed to doing more than just putting out another pirate campaign,” said Rachel Ventura, Frog God Games VP of Sales and Marketing, “This is going to be a hardcover, full color extravaganza, complete with Player’s Guide and enough swag to sink any pirate ship!”

“We decided to take what we learned from Kickstarting Rappan Athuk and crowdsource Razor Coast, because it allows us to unleash a complete experience for both Pathfinder and Swords and Wizardry fans,” said Bill Webb, Frog God Games CEO.

“We plan to compile the campaign articles into their own book, create a player’s guide, develop and include an independent system for ship-to-ship combat, have treasure chests of unique pirate items, and offer a Tallship Cruise with the creator, Logue,” stated Ventura. “We’re also planning stretch goals that include expanded art and cartography from the same artists the fans have already approved, as well as from new artists of similar style and talent, poster-sized printed maps, custom character sheets, and more.”

Frog God Games Razor Coast Kickstarter starts December 25th 2012 at midnight and will run for 30 days.

“After the Kickstarter gets funded, Frog God Games has pledged to fulfill not only the pledges from the backers but all remaining pre-orders, national and international” said Agresta, speaking on behalf of Logue. “As of October 18th, I finished honoring every refund request Nick received. Making good on Nick’s past obligations cleared the way for Frog God Games to step in and finally bring this to print.”

An Very Interesting Kickstarter - Magicians: A Language Learning RPG

Foreign languages are, for me at least, literally foreign. I crapped out in High School Spanish and German. I then proceeded to crap out in college Spanish and German. It doesn't come easy to me, if it even comes at all.

Which is probably why I find Magicians: A Language Learning RPG so damn interesting. To get more powerful in game, you literally need to be able to say the actual words to invoke higher level spells - that just happen to be in Korean.

Depending on the player, that can be one hell of a carrot.

Apparently I'm not the only one that sees it like this either: it has more than doubled it's 3k goal and has 30 days left to fund. Not too shabby at all (and a very pleasant change to some of the Kickstarters I've highlighted recently).

A small piece from the site, just to explain what Magicians is:

Magicians is about having unlimited creativity without complexity. The only thing that restrains you and your character is your own knowledge of the language because the magic system in the game is a language. Doing away with the necessity of a teacher or even dice, all you need is your smartphone and a few hours a week to game with friends to have fun telling a great story and to learn a language along the way. 
Magicians will connect you to your character, motivate and push you to do more, learn more and make you feel like you're living out one of your favorite fantasy novels. People who love books like the Harry Potter series, the Earthsea books or The Magicians will have a great time using Magicians to tell coming of age stories about students of magic learning about power and responsibility, pride and humility, trying to grow up with the ability to remake the world at their fingertips. 

Some Further Thoughts on the One Hour Adventure For AetherCon

I received some good advice from my readers out there in "Internet Land".

It was stressed that I should use pre-gens. That was already the idea. Heck, my idea is to go with a 100% Halfling party using the classes I wrote up for Demi-Options. Should be fun. :)

I'm also going to go with first level characters. There needs to be some kind of risk to the PCs, and higher levels probably won't see any in a 1 hr play slot.

I need to get the players involved right away and drop them into the adventure with them already on the move. In this case, a newborn in town has gone missing, and all evidence points to goblins as the kidnappers. A short narration should get them in the immediate vicinity of the cave the goblins are holed up in and then the game is afoot ;)

My intentions were to write this up over the last week, but work has been mostly hell and much of my creativity is drained before I even walk in the door to my home. Hopefully this weekend I can recharge my batteries...

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Expeditious Retreat is Running a 50% Off Sale on PDFs For 48Hrs - Save Joseph From the Dreaded Space Pirates!

Joseph Browning, he of Expeditious Retreat Press, purveyors of Old School Goodness, are running a 50% off PDFs sale over at RPGNow. Best I can tell, it applies to everything that isn't free (free stuff is half of fee, which remarkably is still free!)

Save him from the Space Pirates in his dream, that gave him a choice of torture of a PDF sale. My players would have opted to have Joseph tortured, but at the DM I'd be going for the PDFs myself.

(somehow i grabbed a buggered link - fixed now)

An Extraordinary Failed Kickstarter: Dark Realms RPG 1 Million Book Give-Away

It's official. The Dark Realms RPG 1 Million Book Give-Away has been canceled. Damn shame too. They were just $44, 610 from their $45,000 goal. There are 11 disappointed (or possibly relieved) backers.

So, what was the story?

An RPG that's been around for years but no one knew about it wanted to be the break out RPG story it never was. So, singlehandedly, it decided it would give a 1 million copies of it's RPG rules on newsprint, to get it into the hands of the masses that had been deprived of the knowledge of it's existence. The fact that it had an awkward game system behind it that was certainly NOT introductory was not going to hold Guild of Blades and it's flagship game Dark Realms back from taking the mantel of leadership from D&D and Pathfinder.

Alright, that was never going to happen, but they had dared to hope.

I didn't. See here and here.

Here's the update from yesterday (it as officially cancelled earlier today):

Hi Everyone. I would like to thank those of you that backed this project (all 11 people). At this stage, it seems extraordinarily unlikely that the project can succeed (there was a better chance of hitting the Powerball and Mega Millions while getting hit by multiple lightning strikes, all on your birthday) . As such, I will let this message sit for a couple days, then I plan to terminate the Kickstarter campaign. (wisely, they killed the Kickstarter the following day) We still firmly believe in the goals of the project, but in discussions on various forums, we found far too many existing role-players would only back such a project if it were for their existent favorite game (see, there is a reason certain games are favorites - they have a following, are well supported and play well). Sadly, the owners of games like Dungeons and Dragons and Pathfinder (the two current market leaders) risk too much to give-away their core rules en mass when they are currently the market leading sellers (no, they risk too much supporting a poor substitute), so a project like this necessitates a new entrant to the field to give it a try. (but it's not new. Dark Realms is old. And not that good, sorry to say. Try something REALLY new and maybe you'll get a spark. maybe)

When the opportunity presents itself for the Guild of Blades to be able to self fund this project, I expect we'll take up the challenge once more (if they had anywhere near $45k to piss away on something like this, they probably would at that). Until then, it will have to sit on the back-burner.

The Dark Realms game books remain currently available on our website at guildofblades.com (grab it, and if someone is willing to run it, I'll gladly sit in on a G+ session. I couldn't make it through the rules myself, but if someone is willing to give it a try, I'll find the time) and we have begun releasing PDF versions of the same books RPGNow.com:


We will continue to release additional support material for the Dark Realms. The Magic sourcebook is nearing completion and the Undead compendium is in the works. I have made significant progress on the World of Chaos campaign box set, but a fair amount remains to be done. The failure of this kickstarter simply means that the 1 million give-away project can't proceed at this time (again, 11 supporters means something else entirely - folks that have already bought your game weren't interested in the kickstarter), but continued development on the Dark Realms game itself absolutely continues. The Technology, Space Pirates and World of Chaos Campaign settings should all be available late winter. More to come.

If you would like to keep up with developments for the Dark Realms, you can drop by our website and create an account to access our forums at:


Happy Gaming,
Ryan Johnson
Guild of Blades Publishing

I'm sorry, but the idea here was to give away cheap, disposable copies of the game to build business for Guild of Blades. It wasn't to grow the hobby.

It's not a good game in my opinion. It's certainly not a good game for beginners, which is how this Kickstarter was selling it as. 

Magic Items - Unique or Products of the Magi-Industrial Revolution?

Mike Mearls' article on Magic Items for D&D Next (which I commented on yesterday) brings up a whole other question, at least on the OSR side of things.

Are magic items in your campaign unique, by the book, or a combination of the two?

I know I like unique magic, both as a player and as a DM. They add flavor and mystery to the game. Back in my AD&D days, my group had the magic items tables and entries memorized - they could often figure out the item's name and powers by description alone.

Was it 2e or 3e that put "magic item shops" into the players' dictionary?

Magic weapons and armor were mostly there for the combat bonuses they gave. Intelligent swords had additional powers, but even that could seem old after a while. Besides, you can't really swap out intelligent weapons in combat, as they want to be used. (then there was that whole "ego" thing with intelligent swords taking over their masters - not good).

It is easier to run a game with generic magic items, but flavor, even in small doses, goes far. It why I do my weekly magic item posts. Unique items are certainly more time consuming than picking something out of a book or off a random table.

Do any of the clones encourage designing unique magic items for campaigns? I can't think of any at the moment.

It's interesting that making magic swords potentially unique was part of the early D&D game rules, but it seems as time and editions went on, it became more about the "numbers" and less about the "abilities and powers".

I think if WotC put out a supplement focused solely on creating unique magic items, it could sell across the different editions. In the meantime, I'll go back to doing a unique item a week here on the blog ;)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Grumpy Looks at Mearls' Piece on Magic Items in D&D Next

Grumpy the Dwarf here. I've been lax in checking out Mage Mearls' latest magic tricks regarding D&D next. Last week he was discussing Magic Items. Let's look, shall we?

Our next playtest packet is ready to download. Head on over to download the pack and add a fleet of magic items to your game. This packet represents a more incremental approach that we'll use at times, where we add a specific element to the game rather than build out more character options. (Did I mention I'd given up on the playtest material for D&D Next? Come to think of it, I see less and less blog posts and G+ posts about D&D Next these days? Has the new car smell worn off while it's still in Beta?)

We've shown a few magic items in prior packets, such as the treasures available in The Caves of Chaos. Those items were placeholders (if I recall correctly, they were pretty much your usual D&D type "+ whatever types). This magic item packet represents our first attempt at creating a complete system for magic items. (sounds exciting. no, really.) It gives you an overview of how items work, our new rules that are specific to magic items, and a small catalog of sample items.

Our overall goal for magic items is to make finding them interesting and exciting (what, you mean make them unique and special? something that's been posted once a week, heck - earlier today even-  at this very blog since the summer. and other blogs. and other products, and so on). Magic tems—aside from simple items like potions—should make everyone at the table sit up and take notice. We do not want magic items to feel mundane or dull (that's good). So, what are we doing to make them exciting?

To make magic items more interesting, we've done a few things. To start with, we've removed any assumptions that the system math makes about magic items. In other words, we have created a system where magic items simply make you more powerful. A 9th-level fighter doesn't "need" a suit of +1 armor, a +2 weapon, and an item that grants +2 to Strength in order to match that class's expected power. (alright, lets stop right there. once magic items have "plusses", they become part of the power curve. It's inevitable. To claim otherwise is simple bullshit. You may strive to keep the bonuses smaller, but once you start increasing the "to hit", you wind up having to balance the "AC".  It's a  fucking viscouscycle, and to pretend your doing away with the cycle is a disservice to the players) 

That change means we can avoid items that simply give you a power-up to match the system's pace. Even better, we don't need to give nonplayer characters (NPCs) magic items (you don't, which is great. but then why will players have stuff that NPCs won't have?). All of our items can therefore afford to be a little more complex and nuanced, since we don't need to worry about adding a lot of complexity to every NPC or character in the game. Items that simply give +1 to attack rolls or Armor Class can fall by the wayside. (but wait for the examples that follow - they still have "plusses")

Even more importantly, we can afford to design more items that give flavorful benefits or interesting uses, comfortable in knowing that the DM isn't keeping the characters from hitting their expected power level. (flavorful magic items are great - I'm all for it. Keeping the power levels in check means more than just the plusses) The characters don't need to march through a proscribed arsenal to keep up with monsters and NPCs. Again, that introduces a world of flexibility in design.

Beyond those shifts in our approach to items, we've also introduced a new concept to the game that seeks to help DMs rein in items while also making items more flavorful: attunement.


The D&D Next magic item rules introduce the concept of attunement to the game. Attunement represents a magic item entangling its power with its wielder's essence, bonding to the wielder and allowing him or her to unlock the item's true potential (this has been done before). Until you attune to an item, you might get the sense that it has a secret lurking within it. It might flash with arcane power, or perhaps you hear a vague whispering in your mind each time you handle it.

Of course, attunement carries some risk. Perhaps the item is cursed to grant a terrible bloodlust to whoever wields it, which is a legacy of the berserk warrior who died wielding it. Maybe the item was crafted for an order of paladins, and straying from the path of justice causes it to compel you to undertake a quest of atonement. Perhaps the item has a slumbering purpose. It might allow you to call down gouts of flame to blast your enemies, but when you next battle a white dragon, the item roars to life with new powers and an insatiable desire to destroy the wyrm. Not every item that requires attunement has such wrinkles and hazards, but the chance that it might makes using any item a risk. (it sounds a bit like artifacts in AD&D)

If an item is well designed, it brings with it a sense of history and purpose combined with a unique identity.

On top of that, a character can attune only three items at once (holy crap - this is like binding items in an MMO). Although many items do not require attunement, the most powerful ones will need it to unlock their greatest benefits. With the limit on attunement, we can provide some limit on how much more powerful a character can grow through magic items.

Items as Treasure

As I mentioned above, we want to make items more interesting to discover. The following items are from a playtest adventure that we are slated to release in a few weeks. They do not use the rules for attunement—these items represent a mid-point step in our development of the rules. In other words, they show you the kinds of items you can expect to see in published adventures. Whenever possible, we'll err on the side of taking the time to design new, unique items for adventures, rather than give out treasure that you could simply pluck from another source.


This ornate short sword's blade appears to be made of solidified water.

Sea elves forged several blades like this, which were given as gifts to certain land-dwelling kings in return for various concessions long ago.

Effect: Pontus is a +1 short sword.

This blade grants the wielder the ability to breathe underwater, and moreover, descend to any depth without coming to harm.

Whenever an aquatic creature takes damage from an attack using Pontus, the creature takes an additional 1d8 damage. (so, this is a +1 sword with a snazzy description, a short history and a few rolls on the Sword Abilities and Powers Tables on page 167 of the AD&D DMG)


Although this longsword's blade is metallic, it is veined like marble. Dwarven runes lightly etched into the blade spell out the sword's name, Fimbric. It was forged for a prospector named Alrika of Stonehill, who made a minor name for herself a hundred years ago by locating several mines rich in gold, silver, and gems.

Effect: Fimbric is a +1 longsword.

If commanded to find precious raw mineral ore, the blade makes a sound like ringing steel if such ore is within 100 feet.

The wielder gains the benefit of the feather fall spell up to three times per day. If the wielder falls from a height of 10 feet or more without commanding the sword to suppress this effect, the sword automatically activates the spell. (yep, revise the tables in the old DMG with a few more spell like abilities, and you too can design D&D Next magic items. What's old is new again. But why does this feel like something I've already been doing?)

Watch for these items and more to hit your playtest packet soon! We're looking forward to hearing what you have to say about them.

A Look at a Failed Kickstarter - AfterEarth: The Fall

I wrote about AfterEarth: The fall when I first found it on Kickstarter. I basically said it was a cool Kickstarter that was set up to fail, and it did. The reasons are many, the solutions are few. Apparently it will be relaunched shortly, but I'd like to look at the latest update and comment on pieces of it, and see if it's going to play out better the next time around.

We didn't make it! Sniff...sniff...Ok that is enough of that. What does this mean for AfterEarth: The Fall as an RPG?...nothing! 
We will revisit KickStarter in 1 month at a lower goal and a couple things removed.
The good news.
In 3-4 days we will unleash the AfterEarth Apocalyptica card deck on Kickstarter (I assume the reason for this is to recoup money spent / owed on the art resources. The thing is, a card deck is like a set of dice - in a pinch, any set will do. If I had to budget my money for the cards or the game as a supporter, I'd be budgeting for the game. Also, pledging for cards before knowing if the game itself is going to be successful strikes me as foolish. Sure, I can use them as standard playing cards, but there are cheaper options). Get in early and you can get the cards at about 1/3 retail price. We will do the poker cards first and then use that time to get the RPG into a form that is workable at a lower goal. Our website will be the location for the the card information as well as the RPG relaunch.  
What went wrong?
Well 3 things-
1. We added poker cards to our game (again, in a pinch, any deck would do). As anyone can see looking at the card decks on KickStarter that was a huge cause of our larger than normal goal. Some of the cards have 20,000 budgets alone. So you can probably guess how low our new goal for the RPG will be :) (but does that mean the goal for the cards with be $20k? again, putting the OPTIONAL accessory our for crowd funding before the game itself seems to be counter intuitive.)
2. We wanted to offer everything we had right up front. That is not normal for most KickStarters and we knew going in that it was a risk. We didn't care. If was the way we would have liked KickStarters to run so we ran it that way. Whoops! (Whoops! is a nice way to say it. Major FUBAR is another nice way. For a Kickstarter that bragged about the years of crowd funding experience on stuff, it's nearly mind boggling.)
3. A huge impact was offering the PDF at $1.00. (this was a major bullet to the foot) We were warned but really wanted to give people everything for the cheapest price possible. We even heard some down right angry complaints about it. ($1 for the PDF allowed folks, like me, to get in the game with no real risk. It should have been $10 minimum in my opinion) So that will be removed as well.We thank you all. It has been enlightening, engaging, and actually very positive. Not a single thing negative can be said about our experience with our backers.
Some Q-A about AfterEarth the Fall as it will appear later.
Q: Will contributions be possible on the new relaunched RPG KickStarter?
A: Yep! And at overall cheaper reward levels. (too many cooks spoil the pot and all that crap associated with it. I'm not saying it's not an interesting way to run things, I'm just not sure how successful it will be)
Q: Will the card decks be available through the relaunched RPG KickStarter?
A: Most likely no or very limited if we have any left.
Q: How will you handle rewards with the RPG relaunched KickStarter?
A: There will be less to read, more to receive, and more to see. (Thank the gods! There was way too much to digest on the original Kickstarter site, to the point it was intimidating to get through)
Thank you all. We will update you with the Card Deck link when KickStarter authorizes us for the go ahead. It is the same quality art you can expect from our people (which is why I suspect the cards are an attempt to pay for the art, which I must say the samples are extremely good and can't be cheap) and will still interact with the RPG in particular ways to make them valuable to card players and fans of AfterEarth. 
The only thing we do ask, and we do it humbly as you guys have been insanely positive towards us. Keep us alive. Keep checking Facebook, keep excited, keep following us on twitter, keep telling friends and family about us. The game is great but with your contributions it will be something no one has ever seen before!
Thank you, 
Ignite LLC

I think the core of AfterEarth may be really damn cool, and I'd like to see a version come out. For me, the cards are a novelty, nothing more, as I do 100% of my gaming online these days. I wish the folks at Ignite luck with the new direction, and will be following closely, but I don't know how successful putting the cart before the horse or the cards before the game will be.

Tenkar's Minor Magical Tidbits - Dead Man's Coppers

Dead Man's Coppers - These are ancient copper coins with strange and mysterious markings on them. Always found in pairs, they are nearly 2" in diameter. Their magic becomes apparent when placed over the eyes of a recently deceased human, demi-human or humanoid. If the subject has passed in the previous 72 hours, they will be brought back to life as per the Raise Dead spell.

Note: There is a 1 in 2 chance that something evil will hitch a ride back to the body when the character's soul returns. If this happens, DON'T pull the player aside. The imp will spend the next 2 to 3 sessions observing. Catch the player in between sessions and tell them "your character has been having some evil thoughts pop into his head on occasions. Next time you kill an enemy, do something that will disturb the other players, but act like it's normal". They should enjoy themselves. At this point, the imp is exerting influence. If the player character get's reduced to 1/4 HP or less, it will suddenly be healed for 2d8 HP, as the imp does not wish to lose it's host body. The imp can do this once per day.

All is not a bloody bed of roses though, as the imp's influence affects the players abilities - 1 on to hit rolls, AC is 1 point worse and all spells cast by the PC are saved against with a +1 bonus - the imp is a distraction.

This will continue for 5-8 gaming sessions, until either the imp gets bored and departs on its own or a Remove Curse spell is cast on the PC in question.

Dead Man's Coppers can be used once every 6 years.

Let Shorty Monster Hook You up With a Free NPC :)

Paul Thornton, proprietor of the Shorty Monster blog has surpassed 10k views on his site, and wants to share some love. Paul has offered to do a free NPC write up for anyone that comments on the blog post linked above.

The more info you give him of what you want, the more he will tailor it for you.

I might ask for a fleshed out one armed halfling bandit lord. Just because ;)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Can Dungeons & Dragons Make You A Confident & Successful Person? Damn Straight Skippy!

I have found myself using the skills I've learned and refined playing RPGs on a nearly daily basis on my job in Law Enforcement.

Heck, I consider it the best roleplaying I've ever done ;)

Extremely good video up above, and even mentioned a few D&D players I hadn't expected.

How Many Coins Fit in a Coffer? (From Dragon Issue #80)

I've never been all that good with math, at least not the math in the following article. Reading this article (and another article on using a "Silver Standard", which I need to dig up next) always stuck in my head. It's just the sheer implausibility of the standard coinage in D&D.

Ah well, Geraldo Tasistro should enjoy this piece ;)

Just think, this issue of the Dragon was from December of 1983. Similar thoughts and questions about how much space standard D&D coinage takes up.

My favorite part of the whole article?

If a 20-by-20-foot room is filled with copper pieces to an average
depth of one foot, how many cp are there? (A similar problem
cropped up in a module published in DRAGON Magazine last
year.) If loose, as they almost certainly will be, there will be
2,764,800 cp, the monetary equivalent of 13,824 gp, almost enough
to cover the living expenses of ten 7th-level characters for two whole
months, and it only weighs a little over 138 tons.

138 tons.


Looking at Copper Pieces in the OSR - or - It Weights How Much?!?

It seems to me that copper pieces are much like pennies - pretty worthless except in exceptional numbers, at which point weight becomes an issue. Actually, weight is a serious issue for coinage of all types in most OSR games.

Lets see - 10 coins of any metal type make a pound in most OSR systems. The 2,000 cp that were making the rounds on G+ and blogs last week would have weighed 200 pounds for 20 gp worth of spending power. I think in most campaigns I've played in, unless the party had a portable hole or a bag of holding, copper and often silver pieces were being left behind. It just wasn't worth the effort to carry it.

When you think of it, 10 coins making a pound results in some heavy coins. These coins would weigh twice as much Eisenhower Dollar Coins, which have about 20 to a pound. US Quarters are approximately 90 to a pound.

Or, to put it another way, 9 US Quarters weight the same as 1 D&D Coin.

I don't think the issue is so much 2000 coppers, but the 200 pounds of copper they represent in D&D derived games.

If we went with 100 coins a pound, those 2,000 coppers would weight just 20 pounds. Still a significant weight, but more realistic than PCs stacking 200 pounds of any type of coin.

That will be my new house rule - 100 coins to the pound, so folks can actually pick up some of the copper they come across.

Maybe, just maybe, players wont have to drop 8 pounds of gold (or 800 pounds of copper) for a suit of chainmail ;)

Monday, October 15, 2012

It's a Good Day For Kickstarters - Ruins of Ramat (DCC RPG Appendix N) and tremulous PDFs in Hand

Alright, its kind of hard to actually call PDFs as being something "in hand", but I got my links to both the DCC RPG Adventure Ruins of Ramut (the first of the DCC RPG Adventures in the Appendix N line) and tremulous (notice the lack of a capital "T" in the title), the storytelling game of Lovecraftian horror today and I'm happy as a cultist in a pile of poop. Good, sacrificial poop. Heh

Ruins of Ramut is a Zero level funnel for DCC. I have yet to read it through, but I like the art and I love the map. Just like the pieces from Goodman Games, the map could be sold as an art print. Nicely done.

Tremulous comes in at nearly 250 pages. This is going to take some reading. It's based on Apocalypse World, but the writing isn't the faux "I'm so fucking cool and so fucking insane" bullshit that turned me off to AW, so hopefully I can read through this and just lose whatever sanity I would lose to the Mythos anyway. I can't throw tremulous against  the wall in frustration like I did my paperback copy of Apocalypse World - at least not without likely destroying my Google Nexus Tablet ;)

Barrowmaze II In Hand! (With Goodies)

Greg Gillespie has outdone himself with Barrowmaze II, which was waiting for me as I arrived home today. I've had the PDF of BMII (and the PDFs for the Illustration Booklets and the Hi-Rs maps) for a little bit, but the Hard Cover really out does it all. Excellent gaming is held within.

The illustration booklets? Holy shit but these are awesome. I'll give a peek of an illustration up here on the blog, probably tomorrow. I so want to use these in game.

The dice rock. These will be fun to use at the table.

Damn, now I kinda wish I had opted to get BMI in Hardcover too.

Remember My Rant on the One Hour Game Session?

How much time is left in the session?
Remember my Rant on Mike Mearls' One Hour D&D session? I now find myself in the position of writing and running a one hour demo for AetherCon using the Swords & Wizardry rules (probably core, but may go as low as White Box in complexity).

This isn't a 1 hour session as part of a series of sessions constituting a campaign, but a 1 hour session including setup, encounters and hopefully a satisfactory conclusion.

Oh, and I have to ensure I can scale it for variable party numbers.

I should have known my words would come back to haunt me ;)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

How Simple Do You Like the Rules When You GM?

Crap! I used to have this!
As a player I had a blast playing Dark Heresy, but I sincerely doubt I could even attempt to run it or any of the Warhammer 40k line - I knew enough to play my little corner of the game universe and that was all.

Now when I start looking at the game I own and would like to run, I realize that my tolerance for complexity isn't what it was during my High School and College years. Learning the ins and outs of a new system, even one relatively similar to what I already know, is beyond my available time and interest. Work, family, gaming, reading and other responsibilities and interests chip away at that thing called "time". It a limited and precious resource.

For me, the highest amount of complexity I'd be looking for these days is LL AEC or S&W Complete or Blood & Treasure. I've been running ACKS for a few months now, but I've been running it by defaulting to my AD&D knowledge (which is in and of itself inherently faulty after the passage of time) when possible to avoid looking up rules. I've run 3 sessions of Avarice and Ambition with extremely minimal rules stoppage, but that's probably due to the fact that the game designer is in my gaming group, and I ask him the rules questions on the occasions that they pop up ;)

Nothing kills the momentum of a gaming session like pausing to look up rules. That was the great thing about the DM Shields / Screens back in the day - not so much to keep the players from seeing your notes, but to lower the incidence of game stoppage due to rules lookup.

My lowest complexity level for gaming on a regular basis? Probably S&W White Box. Yeah, these are all D&D variations, but it's where I am grounded and the types of games I can play with minimal rules interuptus. I'm sure there are viable rules that are as simple or simpler that S&W WB, but that would require be to rebuild a base of knowledge. That being said, I'm all ears to new games and rules that might fit the bill.

Just understand that Savage Worlds appears to my eyes to be needlessly complex and impossible for me to run as a GM, but it's seen that way by me because of the direction I am coming to it from. I've heard it's a simple game, and even played a session on Fantasy Grounds a few years back and I had fun, but I have no confidence in learning the rules to the point I'd be comfortable running a game. When it comes to running an RPG, if you aren't working from your comfort zone, it's already starting out rough for you and your players ;)

I've Been Reading AS&SH - And I'll Play It, But I Won't Run It

Yep, I spent some time lounging in bed and reading Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. It reads well, and it looks like the classes would be a blast to play, but I don't see myself ever running it.


Over the years I've found that my tolerance for rules heavy games has waned. I'm not saying AS&SH is anywhere near Pathfinder crunchiness, but the classes have way more crunch than I'd want in a game I'd run, especially when you get past the core four. As a DM, you need a working knowledge of every class in play, and there's just too much for this poor DM to want to learn to run the game effectively.

Would i play it? In a heartbeat. I'd only have to really know my chosen class. The background material and setting for AS&SH is golden. Hell, I'm very tempted to mine it for for a future campaign. I think it would work very nicely to flavor a Labyrinth Lord or Weird Fantasy Campaign.

The monster section alone is probably worth the $10 cost for the rules in PDF, not because of all the new monsters (there aren't many) but the re-skinning and re-imagining of many classic D&D monsters. If you were to run a LotFP campaign closer to a classic style OSR game, but you wanted to flavor much with the weird, AS&SH would be the go to source.

I'm kind of disappointed in my personal lack of tolerance for extra crunch when I'm behind the DM Screen, but I know where it comes from. As a DM, I want to runa game with minimal referring to the rules. It needs to maintain it's flow. I can't see myself getting fluent enough with AS&SH to get to that point. I'll just have to extract the piece that I want for a less crunchy system.

Machinations of the Space Princess - Indiegogo Funded RPG

Alright, what do you get when you mix James Raggi's LotFP Weird Fantasy with James Desborough's failed adventure funding during the LotFP's Summer Adventure flop? You might just get gamer's gold.

James D is giving us Machinations of the Space Princess, built on the LotFP Weird Fantasy rules. Yep, this ins't just an adventure anymore, but a full, stand alone game. $10 bucks locks in the PDF. Just so you know, with 33 days left it's already surpassed it's modest goal of $1000.

So, what are some of the details?

MotSP will set its sights on the world of sleazy, sensual pulp Science Fiction from the likes of Metal Hurlant, creating a universe of heavy metal space opera (rather than rock n' roll).
Rather than a single adventure and some ideas, MotSP will be a FULL GAME. 
MotSP will give you ALL THE RULES you need to play.
MotSP will BULGE AT THE SEAMS with adventure ideas and toolkits to help you create and maintain your game and produce ideas.
MotSP will include fantastic art by Satine Phoenix.
MotSP will take your gang of wandering space-reprobates from the strip clubs of Proxima to the feudal planets of the Black Cluster. The glass spires of Imperial Space to the wastelands of scrap-worlds.
MotSP will take you from confronting elemental evil to delving the crypts of long-dead civilisations across the known galaxy.
MotSP is planned to include:
          Expert, Psion, Scholar and Warrior classes.
Extensive rules for creating humanoid and inhumanoid aliens or robots as PCs or monsters.
Expanded skill & combat rules.
Cannon fodder rules.
SF gear.
Starship combat.
Hints, tips and toolkits for the GM and players alike.
Basic rules for creating stars, planets, cities and adventures.
A full game background.
A sample adventure.

Into the Eagle's Den - Putting My Players Thru Their Paces in Another Dungeon

Last night was my group's third session using the Anarchy & Ambitions Ambition & Avarice playtest rule set. For this session, the players began that exploration of The Eagle's Den, part of a future OSR release by Greg Christopher.

There is an issue with using pre-release material that is still in flux (as I previously learned) - some things are still in flux and I really need to make sure I have the latest release in front of me. Apparently I downloaded the latest release to my laptop, but my desktop had the one prior. No earth shattering changes, but things could have played out a bit easier (potentially) for the PCs. Not necessarily a bad thing, but I'm happy with how things played out.

The hot topic last week was loot, which took on a life of it's own. This time around, the loot was mostly merchant supplies and historical scrolls - which means the PCs are going to have to work on getting some of this stuff back to town. 125 pound crates do not walk themselves, nor can the PCs carry them for any significant length of distance. Interesting problem for them to think on between sessions.

Early on they got themselves into a situation where they had to negotiate with a summoned demon (not their own, but bound in a circle and wanting release). The negotiations themselves were priceless, as was the party split on dealing with the demon or not. In the end, they released a powerful demon into the world in exchange for a magic item and dealing with the party's immediate threat. It played out in a way I hadn't foreseen, but it certainly made the event memorable.

Part of the reason things played out as well as they did is that I wasn't constrained by running things "By the Book". Not that I didn't run things by the book, I actually did, but there were enough encounters that required interaction and roleplay by the party that I was able to expand on things a bit. It didn't hurt that the encounters had a snippet of background and / or tactics included with each to give me a seed to work with as I improvised.

The party took a beating, but no one was lost - we came close more than a few times. Amazingly, we only had 2 natural 1's rolled, so Attacking the Darkness had a minimal effect on expo and had no opportunity to have an effect on in game dice rolls.

After running back to town at the end of the session to lick their wounds and rest, the party will pick things back up next week. We'll see how things work for them, as the first session in a dungeon has historically gone well - and the second session has a recent history of derailing ;)

Updated: Kickstarter - Old School RPG (Now "SHAKER")

It's about a week later, and the Old School RPG Kickstarter is, to be very honest, a huge distance from reaching it's 1 million dollar funding goal. I'm not surprised, as folks pointed out earlier that there was a lot of flash but little substance accompanying the initial Kickstarter page.

Ah well, my initial view was through rose colored glasses and the distance of time.

That's changed now as they've added some game details, but I do believe they are suffering from the "Too little, too late" syndrome. It's hard to get folks interested in a project if you fail to connect coming out of the box, and I'd mark this one as a failure to execute.

Even the name change - SHAKER - doesn't instil confidence in me, nor does the game's change to a sci-fi type setting (which you wouldn't know by the main imagery).

Ah well, I'm only in for $15, and it doesn't look like that will go through.

Guess I get to save $15 bucks ;)
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