Saturday, November 24, 2012

Every Dungeons Needs _____ and No Dungeon Should Have _____

Is there one thing that the failure to include it in a dungeon adventure will lead to a less fun experience for all?

Is there something that should never be in a dungen adventure, but often is?

These don't need to be physical items, but they could be themes or whatever.

Rats and coppers are invalid answers ;)

For me, most every dungeon should have a treasure room. It might not get found by the players, it may be found but overlooked, it may have a false analog to fool the players, but generally speaking, there should be a treasure room. Heck, it might not be usable treasure. It may have been valuable at the time the dungeon was built / created but now has little to no value due to deterioration, change of valued metal types or the like.

No dungeon should have unavoidable deathtraps. There should be warnings, hints, signs or the like so that the players have the opportunity to make an educated guess, even if wrong. It shouldn't be there to screw the players but to challenge them.

What are your thoughts?

Some Questions / Observations on B1 - In Search of the Unknown

I'm away for the weekend, and the only things I brought in print with me that were gaming related were OSRIC and B1 - In Search of the Unknown. My intention is to start writing the introductory adventure for my AD&D campaign, and what better inspiration than Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Module B1? (Okay, one could argue B2, but it is what it is).

So, here's some observations from B1:

1 - Right on the cover it states "With only minor modifications, this module is also eminently suitable for use with ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS". Strangely enough, it seems with only minor modifications it is suitable for use with Dungeons & Dragons. More on that below.

2 - Non-player character clerics include Tassit, Servantjü of St. Cuthbert. The World of Greyhawk was casting a wide web back then.

3 - Fighting Men NPCs include Krago of the Mountains (Dwarf) with Str 18/54. Exceptional Strength was purely an AD&D concept as far as I can recall.

4 - I'm pretty sure thieves were restricted to Humans only in Basic Dungeons & Dragons, but there is at least one of each of the player races in the NPC list.

5 - I had forgotten that B1 was a "stock the monsters and treasures from list A and list B" type of adventure. Hardly easy on a beginning DM, but amazingly awesome for reusability of the adventure among the same group / intertwined groups. The room descriptions themselves dont change, but the contents do.

6 - It makes a point of introducing tricks and traps to the players and the DM - it's not a funhouse dungeon, but it has its moments.

7 - There is a list of potential hirelings and henchmen for the PCs to hire, but no town to actually find them within. We know they aren't hanging around outside the dungeon waiting for a job. I guess that's why they swapped this out for B2 in the later Basic D&D Sets.

Found in a Thrift Shop - Albedo The Role-Playing Game

I've been hitting garage sales and thrift shops for years in the Poconos, hoping to stumble across and RPG gem and always coming up short - until this morning.

Albedo, The Role-Playing Game was found in a stack of games in a thrift shop in Honesdale PA. Holy crap!

I remember the game (and the comic) but never owned either. I was friends with a few gamers that were also into anthropomorphic comics - although their tastes went a bit off the scale. What they read couldn't be left around for third parties to stumble upon.

The box is in surprisingly good shape, everything is included and the 25 year old game was only a buck and a half. I've already started reading the background info during a bathroom reading session, and although I'm not all that impressed so far I'm still happy with my find.

The system itself seems to love charts. I tend to not like charts so much ;)

Goodman Games Holiday Sales - PDFs, Grab Bags and More!

Goodman Games is running a few sales for the Holidays.

As far as I can tell, they've put their entire listing at RPGNow at 25% off. If you've been on the fence about picking up the DCC RPG or the like, now is your chance. Not sure how long the sale is going on for at RPGNow.

Goodman also has some goodies on sale in print at their website:

The Big Grab Bag

By popular demand! For those of you who didn't have a chance to partake in the Mystery Mail Sale before it sold out, we've added the Big Grab Bag option. We have a stack of ding-and-dent merchandise in the corner of the warehouse. Much of it is from toting books back and forth to cons, which creates shelf wear and bent corners, and some is from retailer returns. For a measly $15.00 + $11.35 priority mail shipping, we will take a flat-rate priority mail envelope, stuff it FULL of randomly selected products (as many as will fit!), and send it off to you! The exact contents will vary, and may include anything we've ever published, from 3.5 to 4E to DCC RPG to card games, miniatures, and everything in between. Cost of shipping via Priority Mail included.

The Swag Bag

Over the years we have printed a variety of promotional products, such as $2 modules, Free RPG Day giveaways, and Level Up magazine. We have some of these products from prior years lying around the warehouse gathering dust. We’d rather get them into the hands of gamers! For a measly $5.00 + $5.15 priority mail shipping, we will take a flat-rate priority mail envelope, stuff it full of promotional modules (as many as will fit – typically 4-6 books), and send it off to you! The exact contents will vary according to available supply but will consist of some of the books shown in the photograph. Cost of shipping via Priority Mail included.

Foreign Language Translations 

We recently posted examples of some rare modules to our forums. A number of gamers asked how they could purchase copies of the rare items shown in that thread. We have a very limited number of foreign language translations of Goodman Games products which we are making available while supplies last!

Friday, November 23, 2012

What Would You Allow From Unearthed Arcana in Your 1e Campaign?

As I start to plan out my AD&D 1e game, the latest post at Dispatches From Kickassistan got me thinking - there's a whole lot of unbalanced shit in Unearthed Arcana.

I already knew I wasn't going to allow "power gamer character generation method V" into the campaign. Even as a bunch of Monte Haulin' teens we saw the insanity within.

Cavalier, Cavalier-Paladin, Barbarian - fuck no, they gotta go!

I'll keep weapon specialization, but I'll tweak it.

I'll keep the new spells, but reserve the right to nuke any that I feel are unbalancing.

So, what would use from Unearthed Arcana? What would you never use? What would you modify?

Some Assorted Holiday Gaming Deals For Black Friday (+)

There are some gaming deals out there this weekend for those that are willing to look for them.

KenzerCo has a few specials, but the one I just grabbed is the Knights of the Dinner Table special - the last 25 issues in stock for 25 bucks. As I stopped reading about 2 years ago, this is a cheap way for me to catch up

Palladium Books is running it's year X-Mas grab bag special. It's a great way to get signed books and art prints, which is what I usually ask for.

Is Open Design now Kobold Press? Looks like it. I've only heard good things about their Midgard setting. Everything is 25% off, so I might grab something from here.

The Kiltedyaksman (Greg G) is discounting all of his Barrowmaze line by 10% for the Thanksgiving Weekend - print AND PDF. If you've been on the fence until now, it's a good time to buy.

Crooked Staff is offering a bunch of map products and bundles for $1.99 each. This is top notch stuff, and a bargain at full price. I'll be grabbing the ones I still need later on today. There is also a look to a freebie on their blog - the link is good for today (Black Friday) only. Grab it at the very least. It's like an early Christmas gift ;)

Matt Jackson has discounted his Moleskin Maps releases by 50% - $1.50 each. Again, high quality stuff at a nice discount.

Lulu is Running a 30% Off Sale!

I know Lulu is constantly running a sale of some sort, and anyone that pays full price at Lulu is probably a fool. I know I paid full price with my first few purchases at Lulu before finding their coupons.

For the Black Friday Holiday weekend they are running a 30% off sale. Now is the time to pick up some of those RPG products that you might have been putting off. The code is: DELIRITAS

Me? I'll be grabbing OSRIC in Hard cover, the latest Anomalous Subsurface Environment and probably some issues of NOD. If you haven't picked up Blood & Treasure, this is the perfect opportunity. There is quite simply a huge amount of OSR goodness at Lulu.

Heres a bit of extra savings on Blood & Treasure, NOD and John Stater's other stuff in print:
As a way to show my appreciation, I'm put all of my books at Lulu are now 10% off between now and the end of the year (not the PDF's though - they're cheap enough already). At the moment, Lulu is doing a 30% sale as well (code is DELIRITAS), so if you've been waiting to buy NOD or Blood & Treasure or anything else, now's the time! Remember, with Blood & Treasure, I'll send you a link for a free download of a PDF when you buy a hard cover book - just email me the receipt.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

My Thanksgiving, in Pictures

Sometimes pictures capture more then words ever will.

Rockaways, NY

November 2012

(gaming posts will return tomorrow - prayers and good wishes can be sent to those that suffered loses due to Hurricane Sandy)

Six Days After Hurricane Sand

After Nearly Two Weeks of Recovery

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I'll Be Missing Some Holiday Weekend Gaming - Hopefully I'm Productive Instead ;)

I'll also be missing out on turkey and the rest of the goodies, as I'm working about 17 hrs tomorrow. Since that was an offering to the Gods of "The Job" to get the 4 days off afterwards, I won't complain. Much ;)

Still, I've seen the call go out for some pick up games on G+ for the extended weekend here in the states, and I'll be away from serious enough bandwidth to support any gaming. I'm sure that makes my wife happy on some level.

In any case, last year at this time I was not gaming at all, so I am extremely grateful for all the excellent gaming I've shared with my regular group and the DCC sessions I ran earlier. Once work settles out, I'll be running some Labyrinth Lord and Blod & Treasure for those that were interested.

I'm hoping this weekend will be semi-productive, as I work on the opening scenario for the new AD&D 1e campaign I'll be running. As it is set in the BareBones Fantasy Keranak setting, I'm hoping to convert it to BBF afterwards. I owe it to Larry :)

My intention is to work on a few other projects as time allows. I don't recall when I last had a four day stretch, let alone a stretch away from most distractions (blog and G+ will still distract I'm sure).

Additionally, my plan is to get the next DCC contest up and running. I have an idea for it - Santa Klaus as a DCC Patron, and he's looking for suggestions for "gifts" for some DCC characters - one for the "good list" and one for the "bad list" from each entry. The more imaginative the better. I'll corral some judges for this. Prizes will be print copies of DCC modules that have already been donated. I may add a  Tenkar's Tavern Tankard to the prize list - need to work that out. Oh, and I'll be ordering sample Tenkar's Tavern T-Shirts too this weekend. That may make it to this prize pool or the next.

Runequest II (Chaosium) - Plunder (RQ Book of Treasure)

There is So Much Wrong / Right With This Cover - I Love It!

Of all of the RuneQuest editions out there, RQ II - The Chaosium Edition, is by far my favorite. I found it after discover RQ III, the Avalon Hill edition of the game. I've always felt that the second edition had more "soul" than it's later sibling.

Occasionally I go on Ebay hunting sprees, and during my latest I stumbled across Plunder, subtitled RuneQuest Book of Treasure. I'd never run across it before, so i snagged it.

The first 25 pages are a series of very forgetful charts and random tables, but the last half of the book has new magic items for RQ II. The great thing is, most of these will convert to OSR play will little work on my side. It's a nice little resource for some unique and new magic items to slowly to my new campaign.

If nothing else, it will be a nice source for inspiration.

It does remind me of how much fun I used to have running RQ II using Pavis and Big Rubble. Is was the first true sandbox I had ever run, even if I didn't know that's what it was called at the time.

I'm sure I was fairly clueless about running the system back in the day, but as I was the only one with the rules my group probably never knew ;)

When Kickstarters Believe Their Own Hype - or - Who the F' is "Legendary"?

Marketing is pretty much half of a successful Kickstarter. Notice, I didn't say half of a "good" Kickstarter. Many good Kickstarters fail, and those that fail probably left off some of the usual hype.

One of the danger words is "Legrendary". If they have to use the word "Legendary", it probably isn't.

Case in point:

THORVALLA a (Computer) RPG by Guido Henkel

"Legendary computer game designer Guido Henkel is ready to bring you a re-imagined approach to fantasy computer RPGs" - Okay, just who the fuck is Guido Henkel that I should help him raise a $1,000,000?

Lets see, they give him a resume such as:

"Legendary computer RPG designer Guido Henkel is the driving force behind Thorvalla. With almost 30 years of experience in the computer games industry, he has designed and worked on landmark titles, such as Planescape: Torment, Realms of Arkania: Blade of Destiny,  Realms of Arkania: Star Trail, Realms of Arkania: Shadows over Riva, Fallout 2, Neverwinter Nights and many others. Virtually all of these games have been decorated with awards across the globe as some of the best computer role-playing games, cementing his reputation as one of the industry’s premier computer RPG designers."

Great, but what did he actually do on these games? Was he the lead, or just one of a room full of code monkeys? (not trying to dis code monkeys, just asking). When the fuck did he become "Legendary?"

Remember SHAKER, to be designed by other "legendary" computer game designers? They nuked their project with nearly 2 weeks left in the funding when it became obvious it wasn't going to happen. Guido should probably hit the button now. He's at $31,000 of his $1,000,000 goal. That's 3%. He's doing $10k a day or so over his first 3 days, and funding almost always slows down as the project goes on (unless you are Reaper).

On a totally different side of the "not walking in the same frame of reality of the rest of the world" we have:

The Saga of Dragon Star & N.R.G. Core Rulebook RPG

Unlike Thorvalla, this one will probably fund, as its sitting at $8,694 with a goal of $15,000 and 23 days to go. Good for them.

Catch this piece though:


If we reach $65,000 or more in pledges by the end of day Friday, November 23rd (by 12 a.m. Saturday, November 24th, Pacific Standard Time), then Wayne Reynolds will illustrate the 9 class iconics for the N.R.G. Core Rulebook! But that's not all--each backer who, by this point, has pledged $50 or more, will receive a 28mm metal miniature of this iconic, plus a metal mini of the Cthondra, the fierce, multi-headed beast featured on the cover! And all of this will be packaged in a gorgeous boxed set!

Let me get this straight. Your goal is $15k. You set a time limited stretch goal of $65k for 2 weeks into the funding - over 4x your goal (and about 7x your current funding). I'm not sure when this goal went up, over the last few days or right from the beginning, but there are no other stretch goals and this carrot was never attainable.

Cheap and easy way to get Wayne Reynolds name attached to your project? Perhaps. Or just a cruel joke. No idea. I'm not going to call it deceptive, but it could be misleading for those that just look at the art and not the actual text (and pipe dream) attached to it.

What Level Do You Start Your OSR Campaigns At?

Maybe This Should Be the Opening Scene of the New Campaign ;)

This is a tough one for me. Generally speaking, as a DM I prefer to start my campaigns at level 1. It always seems more authentic to me that way. However, my new AD&D 1e campaign, is to some extent, a reboot of my ACKS campaign, as we've lost and gained players in the group since the start of that. PC levels there are around 4 / 5.

I'm thinking of starting the new AD&D 1e campaign at level 2. PCs are less squishy than level 1, but no one has level 2 spells yet. I want them to have some of the feeling of accomplishment for leveling in the ACKS game while still starting the new game at a lower level. Imperfect solution, but most solutions are imperfect.

I'm also thinking of passing on one magic item to each player from the previous campaign. Different world, different setting, but something passed down from distant ancestor who may or may not have crossed over to a different world.

What level do your start your campaigns? Does it make a difference if you are ending one ongoing campaign to start a new one? Does your preference change if you are a player and not the DM?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

OSRIC, AD&D 1e or Both - Thoughts on the New Campaign

I've already told my players that if they don't have ready access to the AD&D 1e books, they can go with OSRIC. Me, I've started the reread of AD&D 1e's Player's Handbook to get my mind in the right gear, but I'm starting to wonder if I still have the reader's ear for Gygaxian prose.

I'm actually afraid I may have lost my taste for Gygax's words. Not his thoughts, rules, games and so one, but the actual presentation.

This pains me not a little. I would read and reread the holy trilogy of AD&D night after night in bed when I was younger. Amazingly, even with that, I was able to pointedly ignore things like weapon speed, as it made no sense to my teenage mind as presented - even then I couldn't wrap my head around Gary's presentation of it, but I grocked the rest and had it pretty well memorized.

Now? It's still in my gaming genes. It feels like riding a bike, but the Gygaxian prose is making the bike path all bumpy and windy and, to tell the truth, not user friendly. Ah, to be a teen again.

So, my intention was to reread the original, EGG rules, but I think instead I'm going for the unofficial rewrite - OSRIC 2.2. I'm sure I'll flip through the original trilogy, especially the DMG, as there is some awesome Gygaxian advice that I'd be a fool not to reread after all these years. Otherwise, I'm going to be reading OSRIC.

It saddens me to realize my limitations.

TSR is Dead. Long Live TSR!

TSR as we knew it became part of WotC when Wizards bought TSR back in 1997. That bought the games but apparently left the TSR trademark to rot. Abandoned, it has now been scooped up by a company owned in part, by Gary Gygax's heirs.

I had heard earlier this year that someone had grabbed, or was about to grab, the abandoned TSR trademark. Stuff that was mentioned under the cloak of secrecy or whatnot, never to be repeated until the appointed time. When summer came and went, I pretty much forgot about the whole thing and chalked it up to the usual hobby type rumors.

Then we have today's EN World thread and various G+ threads and blog posts about it.

This is from EN World:

          Hi guys, this is Jayson. I'm the editor for Gygax Magazine.
Gygax Magazine is myself, Ernie Gygax, Luke Gygax, Tim Kask, James Carpio, and Jim Wampler. Our first issue is out in December; since it's not finished yet, we've been pretty quiet about things until it's ready. 
Just to address some of the questions, I thought it was best that I leave a reply. We do own the trademark for TSR, and have since December of 2011. We are a new company, not the old TSR, as they were purchased by Wizards in the '90s. The trademark was abandoned about nine years ago, and we registered it in 2011. 
We decided the best thing to release first as TSR was a gaming magazine, because we wanted a way to bridge the traditions of the old guard with the awesome new games that are out today.  
Feel free to ask me anything you like, I'll do my best to answer!
Interesting times. A new gaming magazine as Kobold Quarterly wraps up (gaming conspiracists can draw what conclusions they want, but a true Old School gaming magazine with the Gygax clout behind it would be the big dog in the room). No idea what else the new TSR may have in store, but if I'm allowed to hope, I'll throw some the way of Lejendary Adventures ;)

Butt Kicking For Goodness! Blood in the Water

There is some nastiness afoot and I'm not talking about that infamous Con Crud I keep hearing of. We'll  start with the nasty:

Magicians: A Language Learning RPG


Update #26 · Nov. 19, 2012 · 42 comments  

Hello everyone! First off, I want to apologize for another update again so close to the last but a big issue came up right after the Magicians kickstarter closed that lead to Ryan Macklin quitting Magicians and I've been asked for clarification by multiple backers.

As of last night, Ryan was late for the first development pass on Magicians, after this deadline passed Ryan became unreachable until last night, 10 days passed due, when I was finally able to reach him via other methods. When he finally did respond, he told me that he still did not have anything to turn in after having the draft for Magicians for 10 weeks. Now, I was warned about working with Ryan but, unfortunately, the warnings came after I'd already paid him so I resolved to work through any issues. When I brought up said warnings and told him I hoped they no longer held any weight, Ryan told me my tone was unacceptable and fired me, despite my apologizing for any passive aggression on my part.

This left me with very few options - I needed an editor for Magicians and I've already pushed Magicians 10 weeks specifically so Ryan could work on the project. Unfortunately, as you all know, I spent all the money I had getting Ryan on board so I was left in a bit of a pickle. Thankfully, I have a great family willing to support me so I'm pleased to announce that Magicians has a new editor.

John Adamus, whose worked on amazing projects like Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, the upcoming Project Ninja Panda Taco RPGand the Paranet Files for the Dresden Files RPG, has already begun editing and we're confidant that this set back will actually enable us to get Magicians to you sooner or, at the very least, cut down on that 10 week extension. I'm really happy to be working with John and we've already got a schedule lined up as I managed to catch him at a time where he'll be able to devote his full attention to Magicians.

Kickstarter has been a learning experience for me and there have been a few hiccups but I'm glad this happened in the beginning of the project and not further along down the road, I'm confidant that our new team will not only get a better game out to you but also get it to you sooner.

Thank you all,


Which was followed by a response here by the editor in question. Wow. I feel unclean just having posted this.

Artisan Dice

The Much Belated Update

Update #46 · Nov. 20, 2012 · 14 comments

First, I owe yall an apology. One of our Kickstarter backers we met at BBGCon last week pointed out that we had not made an update to our project page in entirely too long. I've been updating our facebook page several times a day since I can do that from my phone without ever leaving the shop and I kept forgetting about our project page. I won't let that happen again. From now on we'll be posting updates every Monday evening. Also as is apparent by the 349 unanswered emails in my inbox over the past 2 weeks, I have not been able to keep up with the influx of emails we are getting, while trying to stay on top of filling orders and shipping. I've taken steps to remedy that, and will fill you guys in on that a bit later. For now, the updated shipping list. (huge list of names)

Currently we have roughly 100 sets of dice to make. (Honestly, I thought it all had shipped) We still have a bunch to ship though. To that end we are cranking out boxes as fast as we can, since that's what most orders are waiting on. As soon as we get all the standard d6 orders shipped, we will start in on the collector's sets. We should be able to knock those out pretty quickly, since I've already laid out the box design, and it is laser cut. We're waiting to do them all at once since bog woods do NOT like to be left in dice blanks for very long as they will warp in a heart beat. So until we make the collector's set the bog woods are left in their raw form.

Now for the bad news. The petrified dice have officially kicked my ass. The last round came out of the vibratory polisher with chunks missing out of the dice edges, and whole flakes chipped off in places. So what I'm going to do is to send every one who backed for petrified dice a code to use on our website that is worth twice what they backed for petrified dice. You can apply this code to anything we make including polyhedral dice and collector's sets. This is not ideal but it's the best I can do for yall. I know everyone really wanted the petrified dice to work, myself included, but as of now yall have been waiting patiently for far to long, and I've invested to much time and money in this part of our project. The petrified dice are the only thing I did not have a proof of concept for before we created a backer level. That is not a mistake I will make again. I intend to revisit the petrified dice again in the future, but it will be on my own time and my own dime. You will all be receiving a code for 200% of your petrified dice value in your email over the next few days.

As you can see in the photo above, we are still having issues with the Kauri dice boxes. They are still orange pealing like a sob even with the sanding between coats, and I can't keep the dust out of the final coat of polyurethane. Well a giant hat tip to Brian Gilkison for point me in the right direction for a fix. He doesn't know it yet but he'll be getting a free set of dice for his help. Turns out all our problems with the Kauri boxes started when we changed over to the polyurethane from shellac. We had absolutely no issues with the first sets of Kauri since we were using shellac at the time. So I've just had a set of Beall Buffing Weels shipped in overnight, and will be French Polishing all of the remaining Kauri boxes on Wednesday and Thursday. French Polish is a labor intensive process that cures and hardens the shellac in to a protective coat. THESE DICE WILL BE SHIPPING FRIDAY IF IT KILLS ME!!!!!

I was just reminded on our facebook page that I have been neglecting the Old Growth Timber Backers. They are totally right. I made yalls dice ages ago back when we were having issues with the laser cutter. So I set them aside until we got the laser cutter fully operational, and I just completely forgot about them. I have placed them in the laser cutter's be so I will remember to engrave them in the morning. They will be shipping tomorrow afternoon as they already have boxes since we made these dice a bit over sized to go with the rustic theme and then need a deeper box.

I had to cut it off at some point ;)

Spears of the Dawn RPG


Spears of the Dawn progress update

Hello all. This is just a brief update on the project status and current state of art completion.

For Spears of the Dawn, out of 62 pieces of art, 18 slots are pending, 7 have sketches complete, and 37 are done. Once those last 25 pieces are complete, I drop them in, submit the book to OneBookshelf's POD process and if the proofs check out the book orders will start getting placed approximately two weeks later. I'll be sending out a backer survey to get mailing addresses once the print files are ready.

For The House of Bone and Amber, the rewrite is approximately half done, and I'd like to get the rest of it done and provisionally laid out by month's end, so I can start commissioning color art for the slots. I have gone ahead and commissioned at least one piece from the Cameroonian artist Pamela Ngouoghe, am attempting to contact two more, and will be looking for other African artists as opportunity allows.

I'll be sending along another update within the next two weeks with a status report on the state of completion. Things are going very smoothly thus far, which, in my experience, means that disaster will strike any time now. Fortunately, the March 2013 completion date was chosen with this inevitability in mind, so you should all be getting your pledge rewards as promised, regardless. (the man plans for problems - awesome!)

With regards,

             Kevin Crawford

Far West: Western/Wuxia Mashup adventure game

Plugging Away...
Hey folks--

An update, and a question for you.

Still plugging away -- things are going way slower than I'd like (and not just on FAR WEST -- other stuff as well), which, to be completely honest, has me wrestling with some fairly severe stress and resultant depression issues (which I'm unfortunately prone to).   I don't really like talking about that stuff -- but there you go.  You guys deserve candor.   Ironically, stress and depression make things go even more slowly, which of course, only makes it worse -- so it becomes a vicious circle.  I'm doing what I can to get help for that.

One of the things I've been working on is the remaining backer portraits that I'm doing (if you want to see an example of my art, now that I've taken over art duties, check out the two images below, which come from the most recent updates on the website) -- those of you whose portraits were not done by Rick will see yours within the next week or so.

It's pretty much a guarantee at this point that final PDF and delivery to the printer will occur in December -- but thankfully, we're no longer handling production ourselves, and will instead be partnering with our regular print partners at Cubicle 7 Entertainment for help with printing the books, which gives us access to their slate of printers, offering much more flexibility with printers and schedules than we were able to have on our own.

There has been a suggestion made on the FAR WEST forums that folks might like a bare-bones, text-only version of the game as soon as final edits are complete, while waiting for the final laid-out version.   We could deliver that as a PDF, EPUB or MOBI file.    If that's something of interest, let us know -- if enough people are interested, we'll certainly do it.

Thanks as always for your support, and your incredible patience with this process.   It really means a lot.

Gareth-Michael Skarka

How Did You Find Your Gaming Group?

This question arises from a G+ thread I participated in about the dynamics of certain gaming groups, but the question then became (to me at least) "How do you find a gaming group?"

The way I see it, a successful gaming group has a sort of "social contract". There are similar expectations in game style and system used. More importantly, whether playing via a virtual table top or face to face, the ideal situation should be that this is a group you would want to socialize with outside the limited parameters of gaming.

When I was a teen, finding a group was as simple as getting a handful of like minded friends or classmates together and simply playing. There was already a social connection amongst the players, and the natural teenage weeding out process brought the group down to a manageable core of close friends - friends I am still close to today, even if the gaming has moved to the latest MMO for most.

Finding a group as an adult is much more difficult. G+ certainly made it easier, and Greg's gathering of folks for a D&D Next playtest brought together a group of 8. Which dropped to 7, then 6. Moving to ACKS with me as DM put us at 5, so we added 1 to get to 6. Since then, we've added 2 and lost 1, so we've hit 7 (4 left from the original group). It's almost been organic in nature, and we've been pretty good at inviting those into the group that we felt would mesh pretty well. There isn't a person in the group that I wouldn't enjoy grabbing a beer with and just shooting the shit. I consider myself blessed.

So, how did you find your current gaming group?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Free Game of the Week - The World Between For Fictive Hack

Yeah, I know I just put up a Free Game of the Week the other day, but that one is long out of print and I assume that anyone that might have been interested in Powers & Perils grabbed it over the weekend.

This one is a keeper. This one will make you lose sleep, as you try to read it in as few sessions as possible. This one is a hack of a hack.

What do you get when you mix Old School Hack with the Gothic setting of The World Between? You get the blessings of Kirin Robinson (OSH) and Jack Shear (TWB) and make something that's even greater than it's already pretty damn good parts - The World Between for Fictive Hack by Andrew Shields.

It's a big book. I've got it on my Nexus for reading in bed and it's fighting my reread of AD&D for my spare time at the moment. I am very much enjoying my trip through it, to the point that I'm considering getting the softcover through Lulu.

I'll review it when I reach the end and I see if it accomplishes the melding of Old School Hack with the Gothic setting of The World Between as well as it expects to. I'll be very surprised if it doesn't. I'd read the originals, but then I'd never finish reading. ;)

OSR Kickstarter - Adventures Dark & Deep - (and it's already written!)

If you follow my blog at all these days, you know I have a thing about Kickstarters and folks panhandling or passing the hat before they have anything truly prepared. This, of course, results in missed shipping dates and disappointed backers. Actually, backers might be the proper term, but customers are what we truly are, because none of us are intentionally supporting stuff that we think will fail - those thoughts come later, after months (years in some cases) of waiting for overdue Kickstarters to complete. It a viscous fucking cycle.

Where am I going with this?

Look at what Joe Block has already done with his Adventures Dark & Deep Kickstarter:

The Players Manual is the first of three rule books to be published under the Open Game License. It will be approximately 270 pages and will be lavishly adorned with interior b&w art and a full-color cover. The Players Manual will be followed by the Game Masters Toolkit and Bestiary. 
Adventures Dark and Deep™ is designed to be played as a stand-alone game, but can also be used as a source of inspiration and new ideas for your existing game. 
The rules for Adventures Dark and Deep™ are completely written and have undergone an extensive 18 month open playtest. Feedback from that platest has been incorporated into the rules, ensuring that they are complete, workable, and above all, fun. The proceeds from this Kickstarter campaign will be used to pay for the artwork and professional editing.  
The game is done. We just need to make it beautiful.
I'm in!

Fuck that, I'm in at $250. Joe, my weekly group is six plus the DM. You may have to make some extra room at your virtual table for the session ;) 

More info on Adventures Dark &Deep:

- Complete information on the various character races
- Complete information on the various character classes and sub-classes, including the   bard, jester, mystic, savant, and mountebank
- The complete combat system
- Hundreds and hundreds of spells, including tons of new spells for both the new and old character classes
- Sections on equipment, experience, hit points and healing, and lots more!

When Running Your Favorite RPG, What Rules Do You Ignore?

I'd Like to Know the Spell Being Casted by the Magic-User ;)

Pretty much everyone houserules to some extent, but when we think of houserules we usually think of "what we are adding". Sometime, we add to the RPG experience by leaving out, ignoring or tweaking the shit out of some rules.

The next campaign I run will be using the AD&D 1e rules, and there is an assortment of rules, big and small, that I'll be leaving out or horribly tweaking:

Weapon Speed is out - never used it back in the day, not going to even attempt it now.

Demi-Human Level Limits - odds are, unless someone chooses a halfing fighter of a half-elf cleric, we wouldn't bounce up against them anyway. If we reach that level, I won't be holding my PCs back.

Weapon Proficiencies - if it's on your list, you know how to use it. Simple enough. Fighters know them all unless they are truly exotic.

Spell Components Tracking - buy the cheap ones and you have them for life, barring your belongings burning up or getting stripped naked. The more expensive ones will still be tracked.

Helms - what was it, 1 in 6 attacks are made against the un-helmeted head? too much trouble for too little return

Combat Initiative - Spell, Missile, Combat order - if it's your turn based on initiative roll, you go. Counting spell segments to the next boom? Not worth the investment.

Strength Limits Based on Gender - don't expect it to come up, but if it does, I'll be ignoring it

Assassins - Not really a class made for group play. Gone

The might be some more that escape me at the moment, but this is the main list.

What rules to you ignore or remove from the RPGs you run, and why?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Which (if any) RPG System Is In Your Gaming DNA?

Weird question, huh? Not really when you think about it. There is usually one (sometimes more) RPG system that you can run / play without opening a book. Alright, almost without opening a rulebook ;)

For me, that system is AD&D 1e. Even if I am removed from it by about 25 years (as we moved on to AD&D 2e when it came out - the shame!) it's still my default baseline when I run OSR / D20 games.
(Given time, I could probably retrain myself to come close with WFRP 1e)

Running a DCC game and want to keep the pace flowing and forgot the rules for initiative? I'll default to AD&D 1e.

Spell charts for NPCs that I'm writing up in my spare time, away from books and PDFs? I'll use the AD&D 1e rules still burned into my head.

Spell effects and I don't want to waste time looking it up in ACKS and slowing down the game? AD&D 1e.

If nothing else, running my next campaign using AD&D 1e should speed play up even more - which is good, as my group is so fucking prone to distractions and tangents that herding 5 cats with my arms handcuffed behind my back and one leg in a cast would probably be more effective. Shame that the cats would be no where near as entertaining as my group is ;)

ReReading the AD&D 1e Player's Handbook - Exceptional Strength and Con

After last night's game session, we started tossing thoughts and ideas back and forth about the new AD&D 1e campaign I'll be running. Somehow, Rangers became part of the conversation, and I mentioned that potentially, they could have 24 Hit Points at 1st level - (2) 8 sided hit dice and +4 per hit die if they had an 18 Constitution.

It was pointed out to me that Constitution bonuses above +2 are reserved for Fighters only. I never had played it as such, as we had always assumed it included the Fighter Subclasses, but I could see how the interpretation could go either way. Everyone insisted that Fighters and the Fighter Subclasses were eligible for Exceptional Strength for score of 18- "Note that only fighters are permitted to roll on the exceptional strength section of STRENGTH TABLE II: ABILITY ADJUSTMENTS."

Interestingly enough, it pretty much reads the same as Constitution. It mentions Fighters, but not the sub classes.

(edit: Con Bonus is for Fighters and Fighter Subclasses p12 - 

Hit Point Adjustment indicates the subtraction from or addition to each hit die for a character (Hit dice are explained fully under the appropriate heading.) Note that subtraction can never reduce any hit die below 1, i.e. if a die is rolled and a 1 comes up, or if a 2 is rolled and the penalty due to constitution is -2, the die is read as 1 (hit point) regardless of subtractions.

Note also that the only class of characters which is entitled to bonuses
above +2 per hit die is fighters (including the fighter sub-classes paladins
and rangers ). Thus, even though o cleric, magic-user, or thief has a
constitution of 17 or 18, the additional hit points for each hit die due to
superior constitution is +2.)

Unearthed Arcana infers that Rangers at the very least get exceptional strength, as it's part of the Racial Limits Chart for Rangers (Elven Rangers with exceptional strength - 18/76+ - can reach as far as 10th level).

Barbarians are inferred to get a Con Bonus up to 18 and beyond - "barbarians gain + 2 hit points per point of constitution over 14, as opposed to the normal constitution bonus for other classes."

Moving on to G1, we have a 9th level Ranger with a Con of 18 and 10 HD - 93 HP out of a Max 100 if he were capped at +2 for Con - more likely he was getting plus 4 for Con, giving a max of 120 possible, which seems believable.

I'm fairly confident that Exceptional Strength and Constitution apply to Fighters and their sub-classes in AD&D 1e, but how do you / did you play it?

Are Creators Responsible to Complete Their Kickstarters? (and Other Kickstarter Questions)

The surprising answer is Yes AND No. Sure, they are supposed to make a good faith effort to attempt to complete their project in a timely fashion, but if it's all for naught there really isn't much you can do as a supporter. Kickstarter can't even force a refund. It really is a gamble of a sort.

What does Kickstarter say about it in their FAQ? A whole lot of stuff about how they are not responsible and you are shit outa luck if the project creator craps out along the way.

All this frustrates the living shit out of me, especially as our hobby has turned Kickstarter into it's premiere pre-order system

Who is responsible for completing a project as promised?

It's the project creator's responsibility to complete their project (emphasis mine) Kickstarter is not involved in the development of the projects themselves.

Kickstarter does not guarantee projects or investigate a creator's ability to complete their project. (read this again) On Kickstarter, backers (you!) ultimately decide the validity and worthiness of a project by whether they decide to fund it.

How do backers know if a project will follow through?
Launching a Kickstarter is a very public act, and creators put their reputations at risk when they do. (yes they do. our hobby is small. I think we are learning that a popular name behind a project does not mean they have any idea on how to complete a project)

Backers should look for creators who share a clear plan for how their project will be completed and who have a history of doing so. Creators are encouraged to share links and as much background information as possible so backers can make informed decisions about the projects they support.

If a creator has no demonstrable experience in doing something like their project (this is most of those looking to do kickstarters in our hobby - just because I am an active blogger does not mean I can put together a kickstarter project. at least I'm honest) or doesn't share key information, backers should take that into consideration. Does the creator include links to any websites that show work related to the project, or past projects? Does the creator appear in the video? Have they connected via Facebook?

Don't hesitate to request information from a creator. (I'll be doing this religiously to find out just how far along the actual creation process is. I can no longer support projects that are scratch note on index cards and a shit load of marketing) You can always reach out before pledging via the "Contact me" button on the project page.

How do I know a project creator is who they claim they are?
Perhaps you know the project creator, or you heard about the project from a trusted source.

Maybe they have a first-person video. That would be hard to fake. "Is it really U2?!" Well, it is if Bono's talking about the project. (very few of us in the hobby of gaming are known by face - this doesn't help much)

Still not sure? Look for the creator bio section on the project page. Are they Facebook Connected? (fuck Facebook) Do they provide links for further verification? The web is an invaluable resource for learning more about a person.

At the end of the day, use your internet street smarts. (regretfully, you have to get screwed at least once before they usually start to kick in)

What should creators do if they're having problems completing their project?

If problems come up, creators are expected to post a project update (which is emailed to all backers) explaining the situation. Sharing the story, speed bumps and all, is crucial. Most backers support projects because they want to see something happen and they'd like to be a part of it. Creators who are honest and transparent will usually find backers to be understanding. (yep, and hiding under a rock has the reverse effect. this becomes less and less effective as time goes on)

It's not uncommon for things to take longer than expected. (it is unlikely the project you are supporting will be ready remotely on time) Sometimes the execution of the project proves more difficult than the creator had anticipated. If a creator is making a good faith effort to complete their project and is transparent about it, backers should do their best to be patient and understanding while demanding continued accountability from the creator.

If the problems are severe enough that the creator can't fulfill their project (will never happen - you'll just get strung along forever), creators need to find a resolution. Steps could include offering refunds, detailing exactly how funds were used, and other actions to satisfy backers. (refunds will rarely happen - after kickstarter and amazon fees, refunds will result in the loss of hundreds or thousands of dollars for the project creator)

Is a creator legally obligated to fulfill the promises of their project?
Yes. Kickstarter's Terms of Use require creators to fulfill all rewards of their project or refund any backer whose reward they do not or cannot fulfill. (This is what creators see before they launch.) We crafted these terms to create a legal requirement for creators to follow through on their projects, and to give backers a recourse if they don't. We hope that backers will consider using this provision only in cases where they feel that a creator has not made a good faith effort to complete the project and fulfill. (read the next part and scratch your head)

Can Kickstarter refund the money if a project is unable to fulfill?
No. Kickstarter doesn't issue refunds as transactions are between backers and creators, and creators receive all funds (after fees) soon after their campaign ends. Creators have the ability to refund backers through Amazon Payments (for US projects) and Kickstarter (for UK projects). (so, kickstarter can't force a creator to refund for a failed project)

Why can't Kickstarter guarantee projects?
We started Kickstarter as a new way for creators and audiences to work together to make things. The traditional funding systems are risk-averse and profit-focused, and tons of great ideas never get a chance. We thought Kickstarter could open the door to a much wider variety of ideas and allow everyone to decide what they wanted to see exist in the world.

Kickstarter is full of ambitious, innovative, and imaginative ideas. Many of the projects you see on Kickstarter are in earlier stages of development (I'm done supporting RPG projects in the early stages of development) and are looking for a community to bring them to life. The fact that Kickstarter allows creators to take risks and attempt to create something new is a feature, not a bug. (there SHOULD be very little risk in completing an RPG project in a timely maner. This isn't rocket science)

What is Kickstarter doing about fulfillment?
As Kickstarter has grown, we've made changes to improve accountability and fulfillment. In August 2011 we began requiring creators to list an "Estimated Delivery Date" for all rewards. This was done to make creators think hard about when they could deliver, and to underline that Kickstarter is not a traditional shopping experience. (no, kickstarter has turned into an RPG pre-order system)

In May 2012 we added additional guidelines and requirements for Product Design and Technology projects. These include requiring creators to provide information about their background and experience, a manufacturing plan (for hardware projects), and a functional prototype. We made this change to ensure that creators have done their research before launching and backers have sufficient information when deciding whether to back these projects.

We've also allocated more staff to trust and safety. We look into projects reported by our community for guidelines violations and suspicious activity, and we take action when necessary. These efforts are focused on fraud and acceptable uses of Kickstarter, not a creator's ability to complete a project and fulfill. On Kickstarter, backers ultimately decide the validity and worthiness of a project by whether they decide to fund it.

AD&D 1e is the System - Keranak Kingdoms Will be the Setting.

With my new campaign taking off right around the Christmas Holidays (give or take) I needed to find a campaign setting to use with the chosen ruleset of AD&D 1e.

I thought of using the Majestic Wilderlands (and the excellent Scourge of the Demon Wolf adventure / sourcebook) but I'm looking to go just a hair less sandbox this time around. I may steal or borrow bits and pieces though.

Greyhawk and The Forgotten Realms have too much baggage and expectations from those that know the settings.

Solution? The Keranak Kingdoms Fantasy Setting. Is it written with the Barebones Fantasy RPG in mind? Sure, but the book itself in generic and very well done. That and it has both a town called Tenkar and Tenkar's Tavern as part of the default setting. Can you guess where I'll be starting out my players?

Besides, I already told Larry Moore I'd be working on an adventure for the area around Tenkar. At the moment, the working title is The Cult of the Auburn Rattus. I had a general outline for something I would have run at Aethercon if work hadn't gone insane earlier this month. The outline was for something to be run in a hour or so, but this should flesh out to a full session or two.

I'll probably write it for AD&D 1e, and then either go generic or BBF RPG when I tighten it up and give it to Larry.

One Hell of a Rant About Aethercon (or Lack of Con) at Skimisher Website

Wow. Simply wow.

You want to read a good rant? Read this by Robert G. Gruver over at Skirmisher LLC.

Want to read about "how not to run a con"? Yep, read it.

It would be amusing if it wasn't so on the money.

Here's a sample:

After tinkering with the “booth” through the day on Thursday, and Friday, ignoring a number of other responsibilities I had, I was still unhappy with the entire experience of using Roll20 as a device to sell product. At 1pm on Friday, I opened our booth to the public, and spent the next 8 hours manning our “booth”, speaking to only five potential customers. I chatted them up, and we talked about games, and life. These were good conversations, and exactly the thing I was expecting for AetherCon, there were just too few. By Friday evening, I was livid at having wasted many hours not only in the booth itself, but in creating something that would only be seen by a handful of people. This was not an uncommon problem however, as games on Friday were being canceled all day for lack of players, and in some cases lack of Gamemasters.

“I'll be honest. It is looking like while we are getting a goodly number of sign ups for Saturday and [S]unday[.] Friday is going to be pretty much a washout for gamers." Holodinksy had this to say in the “Traffic Control” IRC channel during the convention. That was not to be the case. Through the day on Saturday, I was seeing numerous complaints about the lack of players, and GM's for the various events.

Butt Kicking For Goodness! Assorted Kickstarter Updates

This Will be My Favorite Mini of All Time! :)

More of the latest, if not the greatest:

FANTASTIQA -- A Game of Adventure

Your games are shipping out on 11/14 and 11/15!
Update #12 · Nov. 14, 2012 ·  (I am not going to complain about the game shipping one month late. In the world of Kickstarters, that is like shipping one month early ;)

Virtually all games for Kickstarter Backers are shipping out today (11/14) and tomorrow (11/15)!  They are mostly going out in US Postal Service Medium Flat Rate boxes.  The USPS tells us to tell you to allow 5 to 7 business days for shipping.  So that's what we are telling you.  As to international shipping,  these are going out as well, but clearly we have no control over shipping time for these parcels and we are at the mercy of the various postal services involved, but what we can tell you is that they will go out by the end of the day tomorrow.

Once again, we thank you all very much for your support of Fantastiqa on Kickstarter!

Enjoy the game--Rick, for Gryphon Games

Swords & Wizardry: The Actual 1st Edition Roleplaying Rules

Further Delays

Update #35 · Nov. 17, 2012

As many of you have noticed, we have not shared the cover art yet and that is because we don't have it yet. (this after giving the cover artist the wrong due date - guess the due date didnt really matter) This latest delay has caused us to miss an important window of time for our printing schedule. In the meantime with the Holidays fast around the corner, we are delaying the invoices until we have a more concrete date of delivery. We hope to have another update soon with where we stand on shipping dates and invoice dates. We apologize for any inconveniences.

In better news, Bill's module and Matt's Intro Module went to the printers along with the coloring book. So the last book in layout is the Monstrosities. We expect all the art to be in by December 1st and layout to be completed shortly after that.

Backers Only - Project and Identifiers Redacted

Actually, I'm just going to summarize, because if I just redacted it wouldn't obscure enough.

A long awaited project is going to be even longer awaited, as the creator is under doctor's orders not to create until better. Or something of that sort. Please continue to wait. 

Did I mention that I will no longer fund projects in their "embryonic" or "one step beyond my notes" stage anymore because of projects like this? Can't do it, no matter the coolness factor. My heart can't take the stress. Maybe I need a doctor's note...

Axes and Anvils 


A few things -

I just heard from Stonehaven. We are going to start getting your minis ready to ship. Huzzah!

So, time to share the thing I have been working on. During playtesting it turned out that Axes and Anvils may be uniquely suited to something I have wanted to find a way to do for years - a real rpg with no game master. Because of the whole Clan / all for one feel sitting down with your friends and telling the tale of your dwarves really works. I'm thinking it may be an option rather than a default but there you go. (I am so looking forward to this game. Hopefully it will match at least half of my expectations ;)

The Cairn Kickstarter is up. Please check it out if you haven't. This is something we added to the schedule to help keep the engines running here at the Castle. Starting a new company, developing several product lines and running a Convention is pricey. It's a fun little game that is already finding it's own audience.

Playtest packs are the top of my to do list. Thanks so much for your patience! You guys are the best!

Dwarven Adventurers Box Set

Wednesday Update - 11.14.12

Short update today but all good things!

- We've begun to assemble the boxes, we're still waiting on a few things from our casters but it looks like everything is on schedule. So far we have about half of the dwarves, the bases, and the character cards ready and we're waiting for the rest of the dwarves to show up later this week and for the Troll to arrive just before Thanksgiving. We know how we'll be spending our holidays! :) (I am so looking forward to this set of minis)

- I've sent out all of the address surveys. Please respond to them. If you move in the next two weeks let us know.

- Those of you who have painted minis, look for a message this week regarding painting and conversion requests.

That's it for now!

Stonehaven Miniatures

Player's Companion for the Adventurer Conqueror King RPG 

Technically a Backer's Only, so I'll summarize - The ACKS Player's Companion has gone to print! Woot! Just think, yesterday I decided to axe my ACKS Campaign and move on to AD&D 1e. Such are the ways of the Gods of Gaming and the Fickleness of Fate...

The Future is Going Back to the Past - My New Campaign Will Be AD&D 1e

I let my group do an informal vote on the future of our Saturday Night gaming sessions. We had started with ACKS, moved on to A&A to do some playtesting (and caused the whole 2000 cp / rats ruckus) and now we are going back to the past: AD&D 1e with some house rules and Unearthed Arcana (no UA classes though). Players can reference AD&D 1e or OSRIC as they choose

I'll also be running my AD&D 1e sessions in 3 to 4 week arcs, then playing in Keith's Echelon campaign playtest for 3 to 4 weeks, and so on. It gives the DM's time to prep some rocking sessions and get to play too.

This should be a blast! No matter the rule set, if I don't know the rule I default to my AD&D genetic memory. It serves me well. I suspect I'll be able to run this with minimal page flipping after a session or two.

A for the house rules, this is what I have so far:

1 - Fighters and fighter subclasses are proficient in all weapons.

2 - Fighters start with 2 specialized weapons, subclasses 1. No others are gained later. No double specialization.

3 - Cleave rule as per ACKS. Fighters and subclasses do not gain 1 attack per level when fighter creatures under 1 HD

4 - Magic-User and Illusionist gain bonus spells as per their Intelligence Score, using the Wisdom Bonus spell chart for Clerics

5 - Clerics may gain use of certain non-cleric weapons depending on the god they follow.

6 - Bard Class as per Dragon Issue #56

7 - Monster and NPC saves will be converted into Spell Attack Rolls as per my earlier post on the subject

8 - 100 coins per pounds, not 10 coins per pound

9 - % Chance to learn spell for Magic Users is gone

10 - after determining initial spells randomly, Magic-Users can pick one further spell of their choice

11 - No Assassins, No evil PCs (I know my group way too well to allow this)

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