Friday, May 31, 2013

About 24 hrs Left in the "Top Ten Picks From the Name a Crazy Magic Item Contest - Help Us Choose 3 Winners!" (one random voters gets a $5 RPGNow GC)

Voting ends tomorrow nite!

Cast your vote here!

Croaker - Druid of the Swamp (Swords & Wizardry NPC)

Thirty-one days of Swords & Wizardry posting. Holy crap!

Well, thirty-one days after this post ;)

"Croaker", Druid of the Swamp

"Croaker" wasn't always "Croaker". He was a she, and human at that. That was all before stepping  onto a floor that wasn't there. Her party recovered her body but weren't able to find a cleric willing to cast a raise dead spell, so the party settled on reincarnate cast by a druid who looked favorably on their situation.

Human female dies, and "Croaker", the male Bullywug arrises. Hey, at least "Croaker" was still a druid, still looked upon favorably by her  his goddess.This is what nature meant to happen, and "Croaker" has embraced it, to the point of forgetting (or so he says) his previous name and life.

"Croaker"'s friends overlook the fact that their froglike friend likes to carry the skulls of those that he feels have defiled his swamp. What do they know of the ways of the swamp?

"Croaker", Druid, Level 7

Str 11
Dex 14
Con 14
Int 10
Wis 15
Cha 8

Leather / Bone Armor (treat as Ring)
+ 1 Staff

No other valuables, as he does not value material possessions anymore.

My Barrowmaze T-Shirt Acquisition ;)

Simply awesome!

I bought 2 of the same and I'm glad I did, because they are going to be worn - a lot ;)

Greg Gillespie done did good ;)

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Thieves - The Backstabbing Little Bastards That Hardly Ever Backstab! (Swords & Wizardry Houserules)

The one thing I've generally disliked about playing thieves is that their backstabbing ability rarely comes into play when playing without a grid. It's a shame, too, as it is a cool ability and the whole idea of putting a thief in the thick of combat is just plain fun. Well, dangerous too, but danger is fun. :)

With the grid you can show placement and facing and the thief can move into a backstabbing position right in the middle of combat. When playing gridles, or Theatre of the Mind, those opportunities are pretty much lost. Let's try to work them back in.

Surprise. When the thief gets the drop on an opponent you probably should allow the thief to make a backstab attack. He's going for vitals, the opponent has his guard down, it should have the potential to be very painful.

Initiative on the first round of combat. This depends on how combat heavy a campaign is that you are running. If you want to make the thieves more than trap monkeys in your campaign, give them the opportunity for a reduced backstab if the thief beats their opponent's initiative in the first round of combat in an encounter: + 2 hit instead of + 4, and one multiple less on the damage bonus (so the damage bonus wouldn't kick into level 5, where it would be at x2 and move up from there). Of course, this also puts the lightly armored thief in the party's front lines.

Pick Pockets Skill - if you treat picking pockets as more of a distraction type skill, one thief could set up a target for another thief in the midst of combat. Would work very well in a dark alley ;)

Remember, what's good for the goose is also good for the gander. If you put any of these houserules in play for the PC thieves you've also made the NPC thieves more dangerous. That can only be a good thing, right?

Top Ten Picks From the Name a Crazy Magic Item Contest - Help Us Choose 3 Winners!

There are too many awesome choices for the "Name a Crazy Magic Item" contest for me to pick just three - so I'm picking ten favorites and letting y'all vote over the next two days to choose the top three (voting will end sometime Saturday night). You vote by indicating up to three favorites as a comment on this post.

I'm not including names of the entrants on this post to make the voting more for the item name and not the name of the entrant, but if you feel a need to know, you can always search the comments for the original post.

Top Ten Crazy Magic Items, in no particular order:

1 - The-cloak-that-weeps

2 - Olisbos of Venca (name changed to protect the non-OGL proper name)

3 - Oscillating Protuberance Magnifier

4 - Marshmallow of Desire

5 - Ogre Boots of Foul Smelling Fungal Excretion

6 - Abelard's Magnificent Traveling Pants

7 - Burgulcut's Belt of Basic Badassery

8 - The Stone of Dentistry

9 - Erik's Tankard of Backwash

10 - Portable Beach

I'll award a random voted a $5 RPGNow GC just for playing ;)

Wherein I Become an Emotional Sap ;)

I am overwhelmed by the offers of support, both public and private, for the Copper Droppings fanzine. I really don't know what to say but "thank you!" and "I'll get right on it".

As I stated in the last post on the topic, I see this as an ongoing community project that belongs to everyone is this niche of ours. I'm thrilled to see so many others view it the same way. Any success it has will be because of y'all.

Seriously, y'all rock.

Much appreciated.

Now I'm getting all teary-eyed ;)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Pouch of Useless Items (Swords & Wizardry Magic Item)

Pouch of Useless Items

The Pouch of Useless Items appears to be a normal belt pouch of rather largish size until one reaches inside. No matter what one intends to find, a random item from the following list is what is found. The extra dimensional space in the pouch can hold up to 25 pounds that it's owner places within (the pouch always weighs 1 pound) - it's removing what one wants that is the question.

1 - spool of thread, white

2 - bent copper piece

3 - fishing pole without a line or hook

4 - large padlock (no key)

5 - glass gem (value 1sp)

6 - half eaten trail biscuit

7 - leaky waterskin (1 qt)

8 - dead rat, slightly putrid

9 - deck of 49 playing cards (random missing cards from the full 52)

10 - 5' of rope

11 - small knife, bronze, dull (Damage 1-2)

12 - random item placed in pouch previously - otherwise slice of apple pie, crushed and w/o plate or utensils (messy but still tasty)

Mini Review - The Revelation of Mulmo (DCC RPG)

Learn from me - print out the maps to The Revelation of Mulmo before you start reading the meat of the adventure. With smaller adventures, the visual of the map isn't always necessary, but in this case you'll got from scratching your head to "holy shit! now I see how it works!" in one fell swoop. As I said, learn from me ;)

The Revelation of Mulmo is a bit of a switch from the usual DCC RPG adventures that one normally finds.

Firstly, it is for level 4 adventurers, which is generally at the higher end of what one finds for DCC. Then again, DCC seems to have a fairly high attrition rate among characters, so the preponderance of lower level adventures makes sense.

Secondly, it has a Patron woven very directly into the story - one of the PCs will be hearing voices in his head. Actually, this adventure is very Patron driven. Patrons are one of the more unique parts of the DCC system, and I enjoy seeing it get some good mileage. +Daniel Bishop gets some very good mileage from it. Well done :)

Thirdly, it's a long adventure, both page-wise (about 50 of the 76 pages are dedicated to the adventure itself - the rest are maps and Patrons) and I expect play-wise. I'm guessing there are a good 2-3 sessions in here easily.

It has a nice balance between roleplay, DC checks, combat and thinking. the DCC RPG is a very lethal game, and The Revelation of Mulmo is no exception. Well, except that there are events that may remove a character from play, but may not actually kill him and he may spend years someplace but still be waiting for the party when the survivors finish. Wait, I didn't mention the time thing, did I? Well, forget I even mentioned it - or that I didn't.

Be forewarned - The Revelation of Mulmo is not something you are going to read two hours before game time and be able to run it with any sort of authority. It's not a complicated adventure but it is far from simple and it will play much better with a ref that is well prepared. For the review I did a skim and then a read through. I'd need a second read through at least before saying I had the knowledge to run it.

+Daniel Bishop has been challenging his readers of late by keeping off the beaten path (Stars in the Darkness is a recent example) and The Revelation of Mulmo is no different. Well no, that's not quite right - it is very different (and extremely good) in a different way.

From the blurb:

Death comes to us all… but what price are you willing to pay to bring back one you have lost?

In The Revelation of Mulmo, brave adventures risk magic, monsters, and the passage of time itself to bring a fallen comrade back from the dead.

This module describes a fallen elf hill, with descriptions of 60 locations, additional patron information, and a new spell. It makes use of patron information from the DCC rulebook and Angels, Daemons, & Beings Between by Dragon's Hoard Press. If you are wondering how to make patrons more active in your campaign, this is the adventure for you!

My Thoughts About the Upcoming Copper Droppings S&W Fanzine

Why Copper Droppings?

Why indeed?

Sometimes things play out on their own, in ways no one involved expects. You either embrace it and ride the wave or try to avoid it and hope to not get rolled over in the process.

I never expected the amazing response to the Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day Blogfest that manifested. It was glorious and amazing and dumbfounding. Most of all, for me at least, it was inspiring. There was so much love, so much excitement and so much “stuff”. It appears there are a lot of creative folks that are fans of Swords & Wizardry. There is also a lack of opportunities for them to share their work.

One of the great results of the S&W App Day was the announcement of the return of Knockspell. I loved it and missed it and I’m thrilled it’s returning. I expect to submit an article or two when Matt announces his call for submissions.

Still, I think there is room for a (mostly) monthly fanzine that targets the Swords & Wizardry Community. The first issue will be mostly content written by me, but I want to make it a community project. While we can’t pay much, I’d like to think we can pay something for the rights to publish work that you, a member of the S&W Community, submit to Copper Droppings (you keep all copyright to your work). I’ll be referring to this as “paying with beer money”- 5 bucks for your accepted article or artwork. Just about enough cash to buy yourself a decent pint of tap beer at your local pub - or a really crappy six-pack of beer at your local grocery. It aint much, but as the line most folks us in this corner of creative activity often say: “I work for beer money!” we want to be honest - you will be basically working for beer money (or a weird sounding Starbuck’s coffee if that’s how you swing).

It’s your community. It’s your fanzine. We thank your for joining us on this ride :)


Will Copper Droppings be 100% Swords & Wizardry all of the time?

Probably not - the OSR is large and my interest spans many systems, but the focus will certainly be S&W. That being said, if someone submits an awesome OSRIC article or some such, they'll probably get their beer money ;)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

When The Troll God Speaks, He Desires Marshmallows ;)

Fun times when Ken St. Andre joins in on the festivities ;)

I'll stat the winning entries for Swords & Wizardry AND Tunnels & Trolls now :)

Contest Time: Name a Crazy Magic Item and You May Win a Copy of Minor Magiks & Miscellaneous Arcana Volume 1

We got ourselves a little contest here, with 3 copies of Minor Magiks & Miscellaneous Arcana Volume 1 in PDF up for grabs (there are also be 3 copies of Minor Magiks & Miscellaneous Arcana Volume 2 up for grabs at the contest over at TheCrazyGM Blog - Volume 2 released earlier today).

What you have to do is simple:

Name a magic item.

No description, no powers - simply a name.

The crazier the name the better.

I'll pick the top 3 entries (the ones that speak to my creative juices) to get a free copy of MM&MA Vol 1 and I'll stat the winning entries here on the blog and probably put them into one of the early issues of the Copper Droppings Fanzine (working on it as we speak - sorta).

The contest will run till about 8 PM Thursday night (May 30th).

If the writer of a winning entry is also a 2000 Coppers Community Member of the G+ side, I'll credit their RPGNow account with sufficient funds to grab a copy of Volume 2, too ;)

Legendary Traveller Shadowruns to Pendragon - and They Are On Sale!

DriveThruRPG has a nice assortment of RPG core books on sale for some extremely nice prices:

Legend of the Five Rings 4th Edition -The ultimate adventure of fantasy samurai, locked in perpetual battles of honor and glory within the bonds of the Code of Bushido. (I've heard some really good stuff abut LotFR RPG, but I'm not sure if my group would ever go for the setting itself)

Regular PDF Prince: $34.99 Sale Price: $8.75 Savings of $26.24!!

Traveller Main Rulebook - Traveller is back, and it is better than ever! Based on the Classic Traveller rules set, this book has been streamlined for modern roleplaying, and yet still retains that unmistakable Traveller aura. (a bargain and a half. much harder to die during character gen with this edition than the classic Traveller rules)

Regular PDF Price: $19.18 Sale Price: $4.80 Savings of $14.39!!

Shadowrun 20th Anniversary Edition - The year is 2072. Magic has returned and creatures of myth and legend walk among us as megacorps bleed the world dry. Shadowrun, Fourth Edition offers a completely new rules system that is simple, integrated, and accessible. (I only have the 1st edition rules of Shadowrun. For $3.75 I'm sold)

Regular PDF Price: $15.00 Sale Price: $3.75 Savings of $11.25!!

King Arthur Pendragon 5.1 - Relive the grandeur and romance of the greatest of all legends - the story of King Arthur. Assume the role of a knight starting his career in the time of Uther Pendragon, undertaking quests and perilous adventures for your lord, for your lady-love, for the Church, or for your own glory. (I have this in print. even if I never play it, it's worth the read)

Regular PDF Price: $19.99 Sale Price: $5.00 Savings of $14.99!!

Minor Magiks & Miscellaneous Arcana Volume II is On Sale at RPGNow

I'm happy to say that Minor Magiks & Miscellaneous Arcana Volume II is currently on sale at RPGNow.

I'm not going to say much about the writing - as I wrote it, so it succeeds or fails on that aspect based upon my work.

What I am going to talk about is the art by Teo Commons, which is pretty awesome. Teo does some of the most amazing black and white artwork that I've come across, and it's especially well suited for the magic items presented in this volume and it's predecessor. I look forward to working with Teo on Volume 3 (which should be done around the beginning of July)

I'm going to see if we can get a few copies to give away. Teo's art deserves the exposure.

Will the Real "Tenkar's Tavern" Please Stand Up?

Last fall this blog got hit by a stealth attack. A third party app was embedded in the site by me (dumb, I know) but it worked fine over over a year, before the app's owner let the domain expire. Someone grabbed the domain, redirected the app and turned the blog into an adware home for a few hours.

As I had purchased the domain tenkarstavern.com from google, google's buggy interface didn't allow me to edit the original tenkarstavern.blogspot.com. So, my work around was to create a new blog at tenkarstavern2.blogspot.com and allow tenkarstavern.com to redirect to the new blog.

All was well - until today.

It appears a "blog resurrectionist" has grabbed about a dozen abandoned blogs today, and tenkarstavern.blogspot.com is on that list. There can be only one reason for the blog land grab - adware or worse.

So, if a "Welcome" message popped up in your blogroll today from a blog claiming to be Tenkar's Tavern, it's not me.

It probably only effects those that have been following this blog for 3 years or so or longer, but I figured I'd throw it out there.

Big thanks to +Tim Shorts for the exceptional looking out ;)

Monday, May 27, 2013

Games From the Basement - Dragonstar (D20)

Dragonstar - Starfarer's Handbook initially seemed like a quasi-science version of Spelljammer, but my God this book spoke to me. I so badly wanted to play it or run it or do anything with it. Hell, I bought every accessory I could find and even joined it's Yahoo Group.

It was just that cool.

Yes, I had a gamer's crush on Dragonstar during the early days of 3e, when I had no group and even less time to find one.

From what I recall, the advent of 3.5e killed Dragonstar, which is a shame, as it has a nice, dark side to everything.

As I put together the Stars Without Number / Spacement & Spaceships hack for the drop in / drop out campaign this summer, I can't help thinking about hacking some Dragonstar into it at some point.

Who the hell am I kidding? I'd love to see this hacked into Swords & Wizardry. Not sure if I have the time or the skill, but it would be damn sweet to see :)

Flying Stuffed Monkey - (Swords & Wizardry Magic Item)

Art By Teo Commons
Note - This monkey does NOT fly out of one's ass ;)

Flying Stuffed Monkey

The Flying Stuffed Monkey is a sort of quasi-golem. It can fly, walk, fight and even die for it’s master, but so long as it’s master retrieves the majority of it’s remains from the field of battle, it will be ready to fight the following day.

Hit Dice: 2 (13 HP)
Armor Class: 6 (15)
Attacks: 2 Claws (1d4), 1 Bite (1d4)
Saving Throw: 12
Special: Reforms 24 hrs after being defeated. 23 Points of magical fire will destroy the Flying Stuffed Monkey for good
Alignment: Neutral
Number Encountered: 1
Challenge Level/XP: 2 / 30

(The Flying Stuffed Monkey will be in Minor Magiks & Miscellaneous Arcana Vol 2)

Checking Interest in a Swords & Wizardry Online Convention / Gathering

I tried running this poll or survey about a month or so ago, and Blogger's plug in for it was so frigging buggy I had to stop it, so here we go again ;)

The poll is on the right side of the page. I think it maxes out at 200 votes, but if we reach that we should have a pretty good idea if there is enough interest in this or not.

We'd probably be looking at a weekend in September, sometime after Labor Day here in the States. If it does have legs, I expect this to be mostly community driven, much like the Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day was.

I would assume that most of the gaming would revolve around G+ Hangouts / Roll20, but it does't need to. There are other viable Virtual Table Tops out there: Maptools, Fantasy Grounds, EpicTableTop, ScreenMonkey and other. Add in Skype (or not) and you are good to go.

Heck, we could even get a panel or two going, interviews, maybe even a workshop - like Quick Adventure Design Hints or 10 minute Dungeon Maps.

So, what are you waiting for? Vote!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Purple Duck Games Sale - 25% Off Everything Until June 1st!

I really like Purple Duck Games. Not only do they have some nice DCC RPG adventures, but Mark is very open to feedback. When I mentioned in one of the reviews on this very blog that having an unkeyed version of the adventure map is almost a necessity for online gaming, the suggestion was addressed and the adventure in question was updated with an unkeyed map. Mark has been pretty good at adding unkeyed maps to later DCC RPG releases too.

Talk about customer service. :)

Anyhow, everything they sell is 25% off until the end of the month.

Oh, and they sell stock are too, so if you are looking to self publish, now is a good time to stock up on some stock art (I may do so myself ;)

Building a Better Bard - A Re-Imagining IV - We Can Make You Better

The AD&D 1e version of the bard needs 2 rounds to warm up with his poetry before it takes effect, and it gives a 10% moral bonus and + 1 to the to hit roll of friendly characters.

I like that built in 2 round delay, and I would rule that those two rounds must be combat rounds, not waiting for 2 rounds as the fighter gets ready to burst through the door to the next room.

The bard can fight, but can't use any of his songs or spells while inspiring courage and ferocity for those 2 rounds, and then it lasts for one round per level (AD&D 1e calls for a full turn, but that's for a character that already has at least 10 prior levels of fighter and thief behind him - one round per level should work fine).

I would give the bonus to saves too I think.

I'm getting closer to fleshing all of this out, and I really like the idea of using the Cleric's Turning Tables for the other abilities, but we'll see how everything fits together as I start to finalize things. I don't think the finalized class write up will be done by the end of the month but it is getting closer ;)

What is Your Preferred RPG Genre?

I find I'm pretty well grounded in fantasy when it comes to my PG playing, which is why this summer's "drop in / drop out" Stars Without Number campaign is going to be a huge change for me and probably a decent challenge.

It's not that I haven't run scifi in the past. Original Traveller, Star Ace and SpaceMaster were all games I ran back in high school and my college years, but they never held my attention as much as fantasy games like AD&D, Runequest, MERP, Rolemaster, WFRP and the like.

I did dabble in some horror with CoC and Chill, but my players really weren't into it.

We did get some good play out of 1st edition Paranoia, which is more slapstick than scifi.

I did play in a short Twilight 2000 campaign and thought of running a RECON game, but the last never happened. I've always found it interesting that RPGs, which built upon wargaming, don't seem to do "modern war" roleplaying all that well.

I'm looking forward to stretching my GMing chops with a return to scifi.

So, what's you preferred genre to run or play in? Is it different if you are running the game or playing in it?

The Voyages of the Starship Icarus May Kick Off Next Weekend

I guess I need a name for the "Stars Without Number / Starships & Spacemen, Star Trek meets Aliens meets Warhammer 40k" drop in / drop out campaign.

"The Voyages of the Starship Icarus. It's 8 year mission: To explore strange, new worlds. To seek out adventure wherever it may be. To return. Yes, to simply survive and return after it's mission is complete."

The Icarus is halfway through its 8 year mission. All of the original command staff have met their end on one world or starship battle or from food poisoning or the like. Ensigns have been assigned to act in the ranks of the different command staff, but in truth they are all still ensigns.

Communications with the nearest Federated star base takes weeks to travel through hyperspace, and even if the Icarus turned back now, it would still take six months through occasionally hostile space to return home.

Over half the crew has been added from local populations over the years to replace crew members that have been lost. The new generation, or "New Gens" are inevitably "Red Shirts" until they prove themselves to the original generation of crew members. With experience comes added responsibilities, if not survivability.

(All PCs being ensigns and red shirts removes the constrictions of a rank based structure while still filling the requisite "rank" roles.)

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Mini Review - Solo Heroes (Free Rules for One on One OSR Gaming From Sine Nomine Publishing)

With a title like "Solo Heroes" you might think these rules are for solo play, much like the Tunnels & Trolls solo adventures, but you would be wrong. These are rules, stated as compatible with Labyrinth Lord but in truth usable with little effort with any of the OSR rules of your choice that enable "One on One" gaming using off the shelf adventures.

Almost sounds to good to be true. I haven't had a chance to playtest the rules yet, but I expect they work well, at least at lower and middle levels. I suspect after 5th or 6th level things break down a bit. That seem to be the big power jump for both spell casting PCs and the adversaries players face

The rules are a hack to the power curve built into OSR style rules and it allows PCs to last longer in combat while taking down their foes quick, all without changing numbers on the character sheets or the stats in your favorite adventure.

I do want to give Solo Heroes a run for it's money at some point and see how well it works in an actual playtest. I'm currently running an infrequent 2 player / 1 DM - Swords & Wizardry / Crypts & Things hack as I'm trying to find a solution for balanced play and extremely small parties. This might just be the thing I need.

Sine Nomine puts out quality stuff and Solo Heroes is no different. Lots of ideas in the 7 pages, including a small adventure. The price is definitely right at FREE. Hard to go wrong, even if all you do is mine it for the included adventure.

From the blurb:

Maybe you want to show a friend the fun of classic D&D, but you can't pull a group together on short notice. Maybe you have nights where only one friend can make it, and you're tired of breaking out the card games. Maybe you just want to run a side game for somebody, but don't feel like weighing them down with an entourage of henchmen just so they can survive their first combat. What do you need? You need Solo Heroes, a free Labyrinth Lord-compatible supplement for lone adventuring.

While written for the Red Tide Campaign Setting and Sandbox Toolkit, this supplement is compatible with a wide range of old-school games. Within, you'll find a simple set of rules for running classic adventures with just a single PC. There's no need to alter character sheets or rework modules to make them survivable for whatever class your player has chosen- Solo Heroes gives you a handful of simple rules for turning such solitary exploration from a death wish in the making to a daring tale of risk and potential glory.

In addition to these rules, the mini-adventure of The Yellow Toad God's Well is provided to give you a little something instant to run for your player's new hero. And if it turns out you've got a full group for that night's session? Just drop the optional rules and run it by the book. Solo Heroes lets you play the game without painful paperwork and adventure redesign, whether for one player or half a dozen.

Swamp Hag (A Swords & Wizardry Monster)

Hag, Swamp

Hit Dice: 4 (20 HP)
Armor Class: 5[14]
Attacks: 2 Claws (1d4), 1 Bite (1d6) or by weapon, 1 Bite (1d6)
Saving Throw: 12
Special: Poisonous Bite (a successful bite attack requires the victim to make a save or be paralyzed for 2d4 rounds)
Alignment: Chaos
Number Encountered: 1d6
Challenge Level/XP: 6 / 400

Swamp Hags, like most of the variations of hag, feast on flesh as often as they can find it. In the case of swamp Hags, they prefer their flesh be still living. If a victim succumbs to the bite of the hag and is paralyzed a feeding frenzy will commence. Each hag in the encounter will turn their attention on the poor, immobile victim, rending him with their claws and teeth until he is little more than bones. They will ignore other potential targets during this time  - if the party is willing to leave a comrade behind, they can usually escape without further casualties.

Thinking of a "Red Shirt" Funnel for the Stars Without Numbers "Drop In / Drop Out" Campaign...

One of my regular players ( +Keith J Davies I'm looking at you) brought up the idea of using the "red shirts" as 0-level characters and treating each session as a bit of a funnel - surviving "red shirts" get to level up and actually become identifiable crew members (they reach level 1). I simply love the idea. "The Funnel" is one of the best ideas the DCC RPG has added to the OSR and I think it makes a nice fit with "red shirts".

Which means I need a simple mechanic to let players design 0-level characters in Stars Without Number.

What I am thinking is that they get their background package but don't get their training package until level 1.

1d4 HP, the class max HP when they hit level 1.

That free 14 score in their chosen class's prime req? Not until first level.

Any other ideas? I like the idea of the first mission being a "Red Shirt Massacre" ;)

I Haven't Run a SciFi RPG Session in Nearly 20 Years...

The last time I ran a SciFi RPG it was SpaceMaster for my group when we were down to two regulars. All I remember is lots of charts and lots of blaster fights, usually with the PCs solidly behind cover and ambushing their opponents. Probably the only way to survive a combat using the SpaceMaster rules ;)

Stars Without Number is a much lighter system than SpaceMaster by far. That all being said, running a fantasy based OSR game is something I could almost do in my sleep. Not so sure I can say the same for a scifi based OSR game. I suspect I need to change tracks in my head, as I don't want this to just be "D&D in space".

Current premise is this (subject to change with player feedback and GM musings):

(SWN for the rules / Starships & Spacemen for the flavor)

The ship is about midway through it's 12 year mission - all of the original command crew have been killed over the years and have been replaced by junior officers. First session PCs are part of the original crew and are now the command crew, but others have been added over the years from planets that have been visited. Later drop ins will be "red shirts" but if they survive the session and return for a second, they will be promoted to ensign.

As the ship is far enough from federated space that communication with the fleet takes a week for messages to travel round trip, they are effectively on their own with minimal guidance. Explore, protect, investigate and make allies - that is the mission. Survival is it's own reward...

Looks Like Stars Without Number with Starships & Spacemen as a Sourcebook Will Be the Summer Episodic Campaign

So, after discussing the idea with my Saturday Night group, the majority is leaning towards Stars Without Number. There was also interest in Razor Coast, but that would be a trick and a half to make it low level and episodic. I could do it I'm sure if I avoided the major plots, but then that avoids most of what makes the Razor Coast what it is.

I figure we'll run SWN, which is a great choice as it's a strong rules system and is free in PDF, which allows us to expand the field for the "drop ins" part of this campaign.

I'll be throwing Starships & Spacemen in behind the scenes, as seems to be made for episodic play (it's inspiration is the original Star Trek series). I expect the players will be on a smaller, Federation type starship, answering distress calls, wandering into trouble and occasionally going on missions where "No man has gone before!" Que the music...

Away teams without "red shirts". Or is that too dangerous? ;)

Friday, May 24, 2013

'Lectric Lizard (Swords & Wizardry Monster)

Art By Matt Bulahao

'Lectric Lizard

Hit Dice: 4 (20 HP)
Armor Class: 3[16]
Attacks: Bite 1d6 plus 2d6 electrical damage (save for half) / Special
Saving Throw: 13
Special: Successful attacks against a 'Lectric Lizard with a metal weapon inflicts 1 point electrical damage on the attacker. Two or more "Lectric Lizards within a 10' distance of each other generate an electric field, charging the air. Save each round in the area or take 1d4 electrical damage (save means no damage - penalty of -2 to the save if wearing metal armor)
Move: 9
Alignment: Neutral
Number Encountered: 2-8
Challenge Level/XP: 6 / 400

'Lectric Lizards grow to an average size of 5' from head to tail. Generally only agressive when defending their territory, they are a social animal and almost always found in small groups.

The charged air generated by a group of 'Lectric Lizards allows them to hunt without much effort, as the charged air often stuns or kills small prey without effort by the lizards. As such, they are often reluctant to pursue fleeing targets (25% chance only) preferring to let their food come to them later.

Really WotC? WTF Are You Thinking Making a D&D Next 2013 Preview a Gen Con Exclusive for 30 Bucks?

thanks to +Jason Paul McCartan for this bit of news.

Lets see - Gen Con 2013 is like what, 2 or 3 months aways, right?

All the hotel rooms are booked.

I'd assume most of the game slots are already reserved.

D&D Next is supposed to be built on the feedback of playtesters in the Beta, correct?

How do you reward those playtesters?

You make a D&D Next Preview product a pre-order than can only be picked up at Gen Con. Yes, you need to pre-order (at least it appears that way - maybe u can go retail at Gen Con) AND pick it up at Gen Con in person.

So, you aren't driving extra traffic to Gen Con unless they are local to the con, because everyone lese is going to be blocked out.

Instead, you just alienated many of those playtesters that you want to buy your game in 2014.

Besides, why should you have to go to a con to get something that should be offered to the general public? Talk about strange business decisions. At least WotC is consistant in the inconsistency.

Here's the article and the link to the original:

Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle

In addition to the seminars, games, and events taking place at this year's Gen Con—we have a further announcement (also appearing at Forbes.com):

Pre-orders have now officially opened for Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle. This exclusive Gen Con 2013 D&D Next preview will only be available to Gen Con attendees—but don’t wait until the convention. When you pre-order your copy of Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle you will also receive a free collectible D&D miniature designed by Gale Force Nine.

All sales will be managed by Gale Force Nine. Simply pre-order here: gf9-dnd.com then stop by Gale Force Nine’s Gen Con booth and collect your book and free mini.

Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle

Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle is a D&D Next preview and mini-campaign comprised of four thrilling adventures designed to advance characters from 1st level to 10th level. The book also contains everything a Dungeon Master needs to run the adventures, including D&D Next game rules developed during the massive public playtest, monster statistics, spell descriptions, magic item descriptions, and background information on the coastal town of Daggerford, where the campaign is based.

Against the backdrop of the Sundering, brave adventurers must protect the town of Daggerford against an insidious foreign threat while forging alliances, exploring dungeons, and battling monsters. The action moves from the Lizard Marsh to the orc-infested hills, finally culminating in a deadly altercation amid the crumbling ruins of the legendary Dragonspear Castle.

Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle includes pre-generated D&D Next characters, as well as rules for advancing these characters up to level 10. The book also includes the winning character sheet from our recent contest.

Price: $29.95.

Remember: Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle will only be available at Gen Con. You can pre-order your copy as of May 24th, but you'll only be able to pick it up at the convention. You can also find out what else is taking place at the convention here.

Please note: Refunds will be provided to anyone who pre-orders a copy but is unable to attend the convention.

Delving Into Dwimmermount - A Look at Last Night's ACKS Session From a Player's Perspective

Yes, I actually got to PLAY in a session of Dwimmermount. If all goes as planed, I'll be playing in many sessions of Dwimermount with my ACKS Wonderworker (pretty much a M-U/Cleric hybrid class), which is a bit of a change for me as I tend to not go for the classes that have d4 for HD and no armor ;)

I was surprised to find out I wasn't the only Wonderworker and even more surprised when the other Wonderworker cast a Magic Missile spell with 4 missiles. At least 4th level, I suddenly felt like a one-trick pony, but that's later in the story.

Rathman and the other party members - a crazy cleric, a dwarven fighter, a halfling fighter / theif, a thief and the previously mentioned wonderworker comprised the party. I also brought along Grud, my protector and shield bearer. Grud was the only chance I'd actually get to roll some dice in combat ;)

My mission, if I chose to accept it, was to say a prayer in the room with all of the rats, which, come to think of it, we may have found.

You see, when we got to Dwimmermount, there were rats with a mission carrying coins clenched in their mouths heading up the stairs to Dwimmermount. Old coins of Ancient Dwimmermount in nature. I suspect we were watching the restocking of the dungeon. Still, right off the bat, we had rats with coins, so I felt right at home.

On the way up the mountain we encountered some dwarves that had a nicely secured base. They were there to observe comings and goings on the way to Dwimmermount. We knew we had found a good place to retreat to when the night was over.

After nearly deciding to open a glowing door in the mountain but deciding it was just too dangerous, we continued following the rat parade to an iron door that someone had propped open with a statue.

The first room inside was ankle high in rats, who seemed to stop here to get their bearings before moving on to later destinations. There was a soft glow of light coming from behind a closed door which some of the rats were able to pass beneath. Upon peeking, it was revealed there was the sheen of oil on the other side of the door, so out halfling rolled a lit flask of oil under the door to light the slick - hilarity ensued (and just reinforced my previous observation that players setting fires).

Behind the door was another group, so I summoned Berserkers (it's my one useful trick) and set the quartet to kill.Other players also attacked, as did my henchman, but it was the assortment of berserkers that stole the show in my humble opinion ;)

After the combat the party questioned a survivor and found out they were there to oil up a talking head and ask it questions about Dwimmermount. We then took turns buffing the head and asking questions before trekking back to the dwarves (and killing some kobolds along the way).

All in all, a great time with some excellent players and an amazing DM. +Tavis Allison , +Jason Paul McCartan , +Joe D , +Miguel Zapico and all the rest - great game! Looking forward to next week :)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Three Eyed Land Sextopod - AKA - "The Green Nightmare" (A Swords & Wizardy Monster)

Art By Eric Quigley

Three Eyed Land Sextopod ("The Green Nightmare")

Hit Dice: 12 (58 HP)
Armor Class: 1[18]
Attacks: 4 Tentacles (1d8) plus bite (3d6)
Saving Throw: 8
Special: If 2 or more tentacles successfully hit their target, the bite attack is made at +4 to hit
Move: 12
Alignment: Chaotic
Number Encountered: 1
Challenge Level/XP: 12 / 2000

The Three Eyed Land Sextopod, colloquially known as "The Green Nightmare", is obviously a mad mage's experiment gone wrong. We say "obviously", as all specimens encountered (with actual survivors on the "encountering side") have been sexless, therefore the conclusion that these are magical creatures. Well, that and the three aye / four tentacles dealie ;)

Green Nightmares do not retreat from combat, but if they have secured food (otherwise known as a victim) they are happy enough to leave other creatures be so long as they are left to feed unmolested.

Trying to Decide on the "Summer Drop-in / Drop-Out Campaign"

I can see the signs already, and I suspect we'll have a hard time getting the full Saturday Night group together over the next few months with vacations and family visits and everything lese that the summer entails in regards to "real life".

So, i want to put together a "drop-in / drop out" styled campaign for the gaming nites that the regular group is going to be running short. It's easier to drop folks into a campaign that is designed with that in mind as opposed to say, I don't know, maybe a party 5 levels deep into Rappan Athuk ;)

I'm toying with the following ideas:

Stars Without Number - not sure what exactly I would run with it, but it's a nice system, and I never seem to run Sci-Fi these days.

Starships & Spacement 2e - players would be officers on the ship, and whoever was playing that session would be the "Away Team" - this would probably be loose plots and very sandboxie in nature. Oh, and Sci-Fi.

Razor Coast / S&W - it would be more the setting and less the underlying plots I suspect, although that would depend on the players' actions I suspect.

Any other thoughts on systems / settings to use? Any feedback on the above?

I'm not recruiting yet, but I will when this get's closer.

Henchmen: Do You Use Them, Abuse Them, Ignore Them or Avoid Them?

Henchmen seem to live in this weird alternate universe from the rest of the party in the campaigns I've played in or run. Even when they are there, they are often forgotten, which admittedly is probably the most effective way to keep them alive.

As a player, I've been in few campaigns that have actively used them. I'm not saying the players didn't have henchmen, it's just that they rarely came into play unless half the players failed to show up for the session in question.

As a DM, I've noticed that those looking for henchmen are the arcane caster types - the squishies in need of a meat shield. Even then, both myself and the player in question constantly forget he has henchmen - maybe I should give the party a portable hole so they can store their henchmen in there.

I can't imagine a party of 8 PCs with 16 henchmen and an unknown number of torchbearers, porters and the like. Actually, I can imagine it, but it swings the game more towards it's wargaming roots then I'm personally comfortable with. Ever notice that Indiana Jones' supply train and guides tend to abandon him and his friends when they get to and enter the ruins? ;)

So, how do you see henchmen? Do you use them? Are they an integral part of your campaigns or something you avoid?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Mini Review - Return of the Rat Cult (Labyrinth Lord Adventure)

Return of the Rat Cult is a Labyrinth Lord Adventure for a party composed 2nd to 3rd level adventurers. Let's take a look at it, shall we? ;)

First thing that strikes me is the cover. I love that rat image - it's a fine piece of stock art but now I've see it on the cover of at least two OSR products. There goes my idea of using it for the cover of Copper Droppings, the S&W fanzine I want to put together. Grrr. I really do like this piece of art and obviously others do too.

As for the adventure itself? It starts with a bit of an investigation that the PCs must do in town before they find access to the dungeon part of the adventure.

The dungeon isn't huge, but it has options for the PCs, which is often lacking in smaller dungeons (they tend to be more linear with less actual choices of direction). It is also potentially lethal. The encounters and cultists don't play around, but that's the way it should be in an OSR styled adventure ;)

I would make one small change in the spells memorized by some of the cultists, because as written it's a TPK x 3 at such an early point in the PCs careers. You'll know it when you see it.

This makes a nice evening's entertainment as is easy enough to drop into most campaigns. It might even challenge a part of 3 to 4th level, but in that case you could probably leave the spells as written.

The Venusian Trapper (Swords & Wizardry Monster)

Art By Matt Bulahao
Venusian Trapper

Hit Dice: 10 (50 HP)
Armor Class: 2[17]
Attacks: 10 Tendrils (1d4) plus special
Saving Throw: 8
Special: Must save for each successful hit at + 2 or be paralyzed for 2d6 rounds. If successfully struck by 3 or more tendrils AND paralyzed, target will be placed in mouth for 3d6 acid damage per round until removed (no save)
Move: 12
Alignment: Chaotic
Number Encountered: 1
Challenge Level/XP: 12 / 2000

Venusian Trappers a gigantic, magically mutated version of a carnivorous plant. It likes to surprise it's prey, and will often use surrounding plant growth to camouflage itself.

It aims to grab it's prey, paralyze it and shove it's prey into it's ever open mouth. The mouth is full of a strong acid that is used to break down it's prey into more digestible nutrients. Metal and gems are immune to this acid and will normally be excreted in 1d6 days.

Here Are the Winners of the "Best Character Death" Contest

It took some time to sort through all of the "Character Death Entries". Much like the S&W Appreciation Day Blogfest, there were just so many great entries to choose from.

I think +Rafael Chandler puts it best:

"Choosing three winners was an impossible task. I was astonished by the creativity, brutality, and hilarity of these entries, and I was also delighted by the sheer number of participants. Thanks to everyone who contributed, and if you didn't get your complimentary PDF copy of Roll XX or Roll XX: Double Damage, please let me know! And many thanks, Erik, for hosting!"

So, Rafael whittled the list down to a "10 Best" and then we whittled that down to the top 3. In no particular over, our top three are:

+Edgar Johnson 

I've got a pretty good one. This happened in the Mysterious Temple of the Serpent God. The characters had defeated a nasty electrical trap, and opened the door to the Vault of the Frosthammer. After winding their way down a long and winding series of staircases (with absolutely no traps whatsoever), they had been lulled into a false sense of complacency. The final set of stairs let out on a longish corridor leading up to a door.

Here's the thing. Right in front of that door was a 30 foot deep pit trap, with iron spikes at the bottom. The trap extended for 30 feet along the corridor, nearly to the door at it end. As if that's not enough, the ceiling above the trap was false, rigged to release an avalanche of boulders. I'd set this up to be at least somewhat obvious to anyone who took the time to look. Unfortunately, we were accompanied by Vane Barbute, the chaotic warrior, who charged ahead, ready to examine the door. That was par for the course. He does this sort of thing all the time. This time, though, two other characters followed right behind him, both clerics. In fact, the party's only clerics.

I gave them all a chance to make a reflex save. Guess who made it? Right. The guy who caused the trouble in the first place. The clerics fell in the pit as the ceiling also collapsed right on top them. They took something like 6d6 damage (and they were first level guys at the time). Vane, though, was virtually untouched.

In the end, though, DCC's "turn over the body" rule was invoked. They dug out their companions who both, miraculously, made a Luck check to be not-dead. By all rights, they should have been DEAD, as +Harley Stroh can attest, but I'd already agreed to the rule. Live and learn (to kill better).

That has to be one of my favorite traps of all time. Misdirection and a whole lot of brutality. I was sort of sad that nobody noticed the pit trap, because the boulders would also be triggered by a plate in front of the door, which was separate from the pit trap itself, and would have (most likely) taken out the whole party.


Caves of Chaos. First time player, first character, a wizard. They avoided the pit trap going in, but... the kobolds have a paper mache boulder full of hornets.

So as they flee the boulder, the wizard fails the jump. She falls through the pit lid, rolling 4 damage from a 10 foot fall--which kills her.


She also landed on spikes. And was carrying the torch. So when the massive paper mache boulder cracked on her and swarmed her corpse with stinging hornets, then the paper mache caught fire and merrily burned her corpse.

The player erased the name on the top of the sheet and wrote a new one in. Welcome to D&D.


The following happened in a Middle-Earth Role Playing session way back in the 1990s:

Our group stumbled upon an agent of Sauron speaking to a large group of villagers who was turning them against us. I looked down at my character sheet and saw, for whatever reason, that my character had "Public Speaking" as a skill, so I foolishly tried to persuade the audience to our side. I critically failed my roll.

The villagers swarmed me with a motley arrawy of weapons before moving on to the rest of the group. I vividly remember my character getting...
...his jaw broken and stunned
...struck to thigh causing a broken hip
...one eye destroyed, and stunned
...struck on the head, more bleeding, more getting stunned
...a blow to my arm, breaking it

A few more of the villagers still needed to attack me, but the GM stopped rolling at that point. My character was as good as dead. None of those criticals outright killed my character or knocked him unconscious, so he was very much alive and awake as the villagers bludgeoned him to death.

Besides, combat in MERP can take quite a bit of time with all of those combat charts--especially when mulitple characters do multiple criticals. And there were other characters who needed to die.

Somebody else got cut down and pretty much dismembered by the villagers--once again, multiple criticals.

The agent of Sauron severed another character's lower leg. The character was trying to run away.

I remember that there were two survivors. One was a hobbit. Hobbits are seemingly invulnerable in MERP, but I think he even he took a hit. The other was a human or an elf who feel unconscious from blood loss.

The game, and the campaign as I recall, ended with trying to figure out how the hobbit could carrying the wounded character to safety.

So, not only did I get my character brutally killed, but more than half the group as well, pretty much ending the campaign.


So, the above 3 need to follow Rafael's directions below. There are still 3 random posters to pick, which should get done either tonight or tomorrow. I'll post them when we have them.

The three winners will get free books -- just pick a book from the list below and I'll mail you a copy. (I'll also email you the PDF.)

* Teratic Tome
* Roll XX
* Roll XX: Double Damage
* Spite
* ViewScream

Hit me up at rafaelchandler (I use gmail).

Here's the random winners:

 +Ed Hackett 
 +Adam Thornton 
 +Brett Slocum 

Pick a Class, Any Class

Tomorrow will be my first time playing ACKS as a player, not a DM.

I tend to go with clerics or multi classed fighter / clerics the few times I get to play. Generally speaking, I like to get my hands dirty and have the option to cast spells too.

This time around, I'm playing a Nobiran Wonderworker, which is pretty much a Magic-User / Cleric hybrid class that can't turn undead but can lay hands.

Very squishy, no armor and 1d4 hit points per level.

I'm going to need to change my mindset a bit it think ;)

Hmmm... I may need to bring along a meatshield / torchbearer to keep me alive... heh

So, what class do you tend to default to, if any?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Winner of the Razor Coast PDF For Swords & Wizardry Is...

The votes are in. I'm glad the final decision wasn't in my hands, as it wasn't an easy vote by far.

(the winners need to contact me at tenkarsDOTtavernATgmailDOTcom so i can get their gifts to them)

The random winner voter of a $5 RPGNow Gift Certificate is:

+Timothy Brannan 

Coming in at third place in the voting, qualifying for a $5 RPGNow Gift Certificate is:

Capheind for his entry The Mad Priest of Shebaba, and his vessel, the sepulcher of Shebaba.

Coming in at second place in the voting, qualifying for a $10 RPGNow Gift Certificate is:

+Tim Shorts for his entry The Ghost and it's Captain Cleaver Blackshaw.

Coming in at first place, winning a free PDF copt of the Razor Coast for Swords & Wizardry is:

+David Brawley 

Along the shipwrecked shores of the Razor Coast
Sails the Bloody Haar and her dread captain
Under red-dark skies and Pele’s eyes
Sails the Bloody Haar and her dread captain

For he’s faced the worst the waves can bring
Wreck and ruin and hurricane
Pitch black flag and scarlet sails
Sink their hearts and lips a’ wail

With orkish blood and a pirates ire
Sails the Bloody Haar and her dread captain
Cults and Curse of ancient times
Sails the Bloody Haar and her dread captain

He’ll take your silver, gold, n’ magic things
If you get in his way, you’ll be a blood stain
from the isle of Haht to the great Port Shaw
Ruthless Jack’s will plunder them all

Rum and gold and a wind steady
Sails the Bloody Haar and her dread captain
Treasure or tempest upon the sea
Sails the Bloody Haar and her dread captain

The Bloody Haar is a two masted schooner, with a red stripe running the length of her black hull. Her sails are a sun and salt faded scarlet, and she flies a pitch black pennant. While a relatively small ship, she’s one of the nimblest and fastest that prowls the Razor Coast.

(listen to the above here)

The Bloody Haar’s crew consists of the following:
SkarJak “Ruthless Jack” Urzok (Captain, Black Orc male fighter)
Lady d’Rath (1st Officer, blond human female fighter)
Masked Mage (quartermaster, ??)
Reed & Finnan (riggers and knifers, halfling brothers)
4-8 other pirates (Crew, varies - orcs and humans)

Prior to a raid, the Masked Mage will wreath the area in fog, allowing the Blood Haar to close upon her prey unseen. The rest of the crew will then board their target, eliminating any resistance with extreme prejudice, but not needlessly slaughtering anyone who doesn't get in their way. Their goal is always the loot.

“Ruthless Jack” is a large, broad shouldered bald orc with sun darkened olive green skin and a wiry black beard. He is covered with bright tattoos across his chest and down his arms, and fights with a magical harpoon in one hand, and a hand ax in the other. He’s been a pirate nearly his whole life, sailed the length and breadth of the Razor Coast, and when the Masked Mage offered him command of the Bloody Haar, he lept at the chance. The last 5 years have proven the wisdom of the Masked Mage’s choice.

The Lady d’Rath was the 1st officer under the Bloody Haar’s previous captain, and was initially pissed that the Masked Mage passed her up for the position. SkarJak’s success only infuriated her more. Eventually she challenged him to a duel, and lost, though it was a close thing. SkarJak asked her to remain on the ship as his first officer. Their relationship remains tense.

The Masked Mage is an unknown to all. Clad from head to toe in flowing embroidered robes, with an elaborate facemask that lacks any holes, his voice is low and raspy. Over his robes he wears The Medallion of the 9 Winds, the item which allows him to both call forth the fog, but also to influence the wind, further assisting the Bloody Haar in being one of the fastest vessels upon the sea.

Rathman's Immediate Intoxication Remediation (Swords & Wizardry Spell)

Rathman's Immediate Intoxication Remediation 

Spell Level: Magic User, 1st Level
Range: 30'
Duration: Permanent (Reversal lasts 1 Turn / Level)

This spell sobers up 1 target per level of the caster, removing all effects of alcohol from their system. Drinking alcohol after the spell has been cast on the target has it's usual effects.

The reverse of this spell affects one target. When cast in reverse, if the target fails their save they suffer a -1 to their to hit rolls and saves due to mild intoxication for the duration of the spell.

(Rathman learned early in his adventuring career that his companions enjoyed their beer and wine just a tad too much to be healthy in a dungeon environment. He researched a spell that would sober them up literally at a moments notice. Although they appreciated their newfound clarity, they have found the occasional soiling of their garments (1 in 6 chance) as the alcohol is purged from their systems to be an undesirable side effect. Rathman has steadfastly claimed that he has been unable to tweak the spell to remove said side effect).

Sometimes I Surprise Myself - 21 Swords & Wizardry Content Posts in 20 Days

When I stated that I was going to make a Swords & Wizardry related content post every day for the month of May, I really had no idea if I was going to be able to pull it off. Two thirds of the way through the month and still going strong, I think it may happen.

Funny thing is, content posts are not my traffic leaders. Kickstarters, news, rants, questions for my readers - they all blow away gaming related content posts as far as traffic goes.

The content posts are the most fun for me though ;)

Not every gaming content post this month was a homerun, but that's okay. Overall, I'm happy with what I've put out this month thus far. I've reassured myself that when the time comes to put out the S&W flavored fanzine I'm itching to do, I'll be able to produce the content on a fairly regular basis, as each of the posts this month were written on a daily basis.

Just think, the 31st of this month will make 4 years of active blogging for me. I'm still learning. Hopefully I'm still improving.

What's Your Favorite AD&D 2e Setting?

2e was the edition best known for pumping out settings as if they were going out of style.

Greyhawk / From the Ashes
Forgotten Realms
Dark Sun
Council of Wyrms

I'm sure there are others, but these are the ones I recall owning.

I think besides the core / usual suspects (Greyhawk / Forgotten Realms) the setting I got the most use out of was Dark Sun, even if the adventures were a railroad and a half.

Plansescape I could never get my players into. It was "too different". ah well.

Birthright we all wanted to play but couldnt really grasp the political layer of play and how it meshed with adventuring.

Mystara seemed like reworking of Basic D&D's Known World, which was a turn off back then, but much more appreciated these days.

So, I'd have to vote for Planscape as the setting I most wanted to run but didn't and The Forgotten Realms as the setting I ran the most and wish I hadn't.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Cadaver Hound - (Swords & Wizardry Monster)

Art by Matt Bulahao

Cadaver Hound

Hit Dice: 2 (10 HP)
Armor Class: 4 [15]
Attacks: 1 Bite (2d4)
Saving Throw: 16
Special: For every Cadaver Hound beyond 1 attacking it's target, all hounds get +1 to hit (pack animals)
Move: 15
Alignment: Chaotic
Number Encountered: 3-12
Challenge Level/XP: 3 / 60

Cadaver Hounds are undead pack animals. When attacking as a pack, they attempt to surround their prey. By doing so, they increase their chances to hit. For each Cadaver Hound attacking a target beyond the first, give a + 1 bonus to each hound as far as it's to hit roll.

For example:

Tenkar the Drunken Dwarf Fighter suddenly finds himself surroundeds by 5 Cadaver Hounds, nipping and biting at him. Each of the 5 hounds gets a + 4 bonus to hit this round. Next round there are only 4 Cadaver Dogs attacking Tenkar, as he downed one the previous round. For the 2nd round, they are only + 3 to hit the poor drunk bastard.

I Played More AD&D 2e Than Any Other Version of D&D - So Why Do I Detest it So Much?

Actually, the answer to that is fairly simple, at least at its core:


Sure, 3e probably had more bloat, but it wasn't all coming from the same company, despite the best efforts of FFE.

2e just seemed to collapse under it's own weight - and I'm not just talking about it's infinite number of settings. No, I'm referring to the series of Complete Handbooks. Talk about ways to unbalance and kill a campaign. I guess it was good that there was always a new setting to move on to after the pervious campaign imploded under the new and better unbalanced rules (not even going to touch Skills & Powers or whatever it was called).

Heck, I didn't even know of the EGG drama going on behind the scenes, as this was before the internet for me.

I started gaming with AD&D 1e and ended my first tour of gaming with 2e. When I returned, I wanted a game that felt like 1e. C&C was close but not quite. 3e seemed like 2e on steroids. 4e didn't even seem like D&D to me anymore.

So now I run AD&D 1e / OSRIC and S&W Complete / C&T. I still can't run without houseruling either, but that's a whole 'nother post.

I have fond memories of playing 2e, but that seems to be more in spite of the rules, not because of them, at least as we allowed the bloat to take over the game.

What are your memories / feelings about AD&D 2e?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Beginning in the Razor Coast - Looking at "Mysteries of the Razor" (Swords & Wizardry)

The deeper I look into the Razor Coast PDF for Swords & Wizardry (in all of it's 426 pages of glory) the more hidden gems I find.

I was under the impression there weren't any adventures or hooks included for beginning adventurers, and lo and behold I find "Mysteries of the Razor" tucked in starting at page 325.

I think it does a fine job of setting the tone for the Razor Coast setting (repetitious writing on my part, I know). The players start at sea and encounter, for lack of a better phrase, a ghost ship. If they had any doubt that they would be spending a significant amount of time on the sea, this should open their eyes.

There's a bit of plot heavy handedness to it as written, but there is also some well presented options to lessen the weight of it. It is a good adventure as written (as a one shot I'd even say excellent) but following the advice given it should work out as a great campaign starter.

One thing I would suggest, and I think I will plan to do in all games I run, is to ask for 10 "saving throws" thrown in advance for each PC. Record them in order, then roll a D10 to determine the starting point when needed. Cross them out as used. It prevents the need for the DM to roll saves for the PCs in secret, which I never liked as a player and try to avoid as a DM.

There is also a Frank Mentzer adventure included in the mix - "Dark Waters" - which is for 3rd or higher level characters. Although it doesn't take place directly in the Razor Coast area but it's outer boundaries, I'd like to see if it's suitable for use when I kick off the Razor Coast campaign sometime this summer. I still need to work on a follow up to "Mysteries of the Razor", but that shouldn't be too hard so long as I make it more "plot" and less "structure", so the payers have a decent amount of wiggle room.

See, it's a good thing I finally allowed myself to bounce around the Razor Coast PDF for a bit ;)

I Think I'm About to Reach My (Weekly) Gaming Limit ;)

I went through a slump for a number of years where I just didn't have time for gaming. 

Now, it looks like I'll be reaching my gaming capacity. Who would have thought?

I run a mostly weekly Saturday Nights AD&D 1e / OSRIC game and an irregular Sunday Morning Swords & Wizardry game.

Now it looks like I'll be in a weekly ACKS game as a player. Have I mentioned how few opportunities I get to be a player? I think I'm a stronger DM than I am as a player (and I have some really skilled players in my sat Night group and I know my players skills don't compare). Still, I enjoy being a player very much, and not needing to do the "DM Prep" for a session is pretty awesome too ;)

Now  I need to think of the class or classes I'd like to play. In one shot's I'll fill in whatever holes the party has, but for a campaign I like to consider my options a bit more carefully.

Help Pick the Winner of the "Detail a Pirate Captain For Use in the Razor Coast"!

There were some amazing entries. I found myself severely aggravated that I limited my selection of finalists to only three choices, as it could have easily surpassed a half dozen. Lads and ladies, y'all fucking rock! You know what it takes to make a great pirate :)

In any case, I was limited to three choices and these are them. It certainly wasn't an easy task to whittle down the list to three, and now, my dear readers, I'm putting the task on you to chose "The One".

The first place vote getter receives a copy of the Swords & Wizardry version of the Razor Coast in PDF thanks to the generosity of the fine folks over at Frog God Games.

The two runner ups get gift certificates to RPGNow, curtesy of the fine blog readers that use my affiliate links and put cash in the kitty for events like this. 2nd place gets a $10 GC and third place gets a $5 credit.

One random voter will also get a $5 RPGNow gift certificate, as my way of thanking you for participating in this difficult but rewarding endeavor.

You may pick up to two of the finalists to vote for, a first place vote (3 points) and a second place vote (1 point). I'll tally up the points at the end of the voting and award the prizes.

Voting commences immediately and will end on Tuesday, May 21st at 7pm NYC time.

You cast you vote by commenting on this post.

Here are the finalists:

Finalist "A" +David Brawley 

Along the shipwrecked shores of the Razor Coast
Sails the Bloody Haar and her dread captain
Under red-dark skies and Pele’s eyes
Sails the Bloody Haar and her dread captain

For he’s faced the worst the waves can bring
Wreck and ruin and hurricane
Pitch black flag and scarlet sails
Sink their hearts and lips a’ wail

With orkish blood and a pirates ire
Sails the Bloody Haar and her dread captain
Cults and Curse of ancient times
Sails the Bloody Haar and her dread captain

He’ll take your silver, gold, n’ magic things
If you get in his way, you’ll be a blood stain
from the isle of Haht to the great Port Shaw
Ruthless Jack’s will plunder them all

Rum and gold and a wind steady
Sails the Bloody Haar and her dread captain
Treasure or tempest upon the sea
Sails the Bloody Haar and her dread captain

The Bloody Haar is a two masted schooner, with a red stripe running the length of her black hull. Her sails are a sun and salt faded scarlet, and she flies a pitch black pennant. While a relatively small ship, she’s one of the nimblest and fastest that prowls the Razor Coast.

(listen to the above here)

The Bloody Haar’s crew consists of the following:
SkarJak “Ruthless Jack” Urzok (Captain, Black Orc male fighter)
Lady d’Rath (1st Officer, blond human female fighter)
Masked Mage (quartermaster, ??)
Reed & Finnan (riggers and knifers, halfling brothers)
4-8 other pirates (Crew, varies - orcs and humans)

Prior to a raid, the Masked Mage will wreath the area in fog, allowing the Blood Haar to close upon her prey unseen. The rest of the crew will then board their target, eliminating any resistance with extreme prejudice, but not needlessly slaughtering anyone who doesn't get in their way. Their goal is always the loot.

“Ruthless Jack” is a large, broad shouldered bald orc with sun darkened olive green skin and a wiry black beard. He is covered with bright tattoos across his chest and down his arms, and fights with a magical harpoon in one hand, and a hand ax in the other. He’s been a pirate nearly his whole life, sailed the length and breadth of the Razor Coast, and when the Masked Mage offered him command of the Bloody Haar, he lept at the chance. The last 5 years have proven the wisdom of the Masked Mage’s choice.

The Lady d’Rath was the 1st officer under the Bloody Haar’s previous captain, and was initially pissed that the Masked Mage passed her up for the position. SkarJak’s success only infuriated her more. Eventually she challenged him to a duel, and lost, though it was a close thing. SkarJak asked her to remain on the ship as his first officer. Their relationship remains tense.

The Masked Mage is an unknown to all. Clad from head to toe in flowing embroidered robes, with an elaborate facemask that lacks any holes, his voice is low and raspy. Over his robes he wears The Medallion of the 9 Winds, the item which allows him to both call forth the fog, but also to influence the wind, further assisting the Bloody Haar in being one of the fastest vessels upon the sea.

Finalist "B" Capheind

The Mad Priest of Shebaba, and his vessel, the sepulcher of Shebaba. 

The mad priest was once a totally sane priest of another religion entirely, until Shebaba washed ashore, a sea monster of sorts which happened to look an awful lot like the creature of his most recent nightmares. The priest (once named Ulful, now simply known as the mad priest) became obsessed with the rotting mass he'd dubbed a she. 

As his mental illness took hold, and he was being held in his quarters, the subjects of his abandoned parish made plans to cast Shebaba into the sea. Driven mad with what he calls "The essential cleansing of soul and sanity" Ulful had the strength of a hundred men, and earned his new name slaying the majority of his former flock. Enslaved by The Mad Priest the people of the small port city built a craft of strong wood and stronger sea monster bones and ichor and took to the sea with their subjugator/church father, riding the very mausoleum of their goddess. 

The Sepulchre of Shebaba sets to port often, she is given wide berth by other vessels, and the port villages and cities seal their doors so as not to be taken to crew the vessel. The vessel is crewed by the enslaved, the mad, or the half demon spawn of those creatures the Priest summons to breed with the insane and the slaves. 

The Mad Priest is a 8th level chaotic cleric, Shebaba is dead but her Ichor seems to have the stuff of sapience infused into its essence and her torment bleeds through into the psychic plane, leading to madness if a daily save against her forces isn't made successfully. 

Finalist "C" +Tim Shorts 

The Ghost is the ship. Captain Cleaver Blackshaw rules his ship with two black pistols gifted to him from the Siren, Suleela. He'd captured her family during a raid upon the fey lands and she swore to be with him if he released her family. He was given the black pistols on their wedding night and to consummate their marriage he killed four of his crewmen who dared to speak against the union. The pistols are linked with the ship, each death is captured within the the soul of the ship and a strange rune appears on its boards. When attacked these captured spirits defend the ship and assist it in defense and healing itself. When the spirit is depleted of energy the run fades.

Cleaver Blackshaw was always the leader of men. He was raised on the streets within the largest city. He led a gang of boys that soon gained the attention of guards and guilds alike. They were able to capture and disrupt, spend and kill because of the uncanny ability of Cleaver. It wasn't until he encounter an upstart noble, son of the Overlord, did he question his luck. Killing the boy had been a simple matter. He'd been trained by the best, but had never been in a real fight. It was the backlash that wiped out his entire gang. He stowed away on a ship. Was found. Before the crewman could wrangle him and present him before the captain, Cleaver strangle then man then sliced off his head with a dull knife and presented it before the captain himself and said "I'll take his job".

It was on this ship that he learned of the spirit world and of magic. Cleaver found it fascinating and imagined what a weapon it would be if he could ever harness both.

With The Ghost and his black pistols he has ruled the seas for over two decades. Taking as he pleased. Most ships would dump their cargo overboard than battle him. But it is Suleela, who stands at the bow and sings to the ships that draws them to their inevitable doom.

Bludkumph - Undead Gnomes - (Swords & Wizardry Monster)

Art by Bruno Balixa

Bludkumph - Undead Gnomes

Hit Dice: 4 (18 HP)
Armor Class: 5 [14]
Attacks: 2 claw (1d4) or by weapon type
Saving Throw: 14
Special: Two successful claw attacks means the target is held. Make a bite attack immediately for 2d4 damage and save or target is paralyzed for 2d6 rounds.
Move: 9 (can move at 18 for 1 round every 1 turn {10 rounds})
Alignment: Chaotic
Number Encountered: 2-8 (rarely 2d20)
Challenge Level/XP: 5 / 240

Bludkumph are the product of raids on Gnomish habitations by ghouls and ghasts. Gnomes have a touch of the "fey" to them, and when feasted upon by the undead, they do not go quietly to their graves. Instead, they rise as relatively intelligent undead, seeking revenge for their state of restlessness among the living. Bludkumph eat their prey, preferably alive and paralyzed.

Gnomes bitten by a Bludkumph have a 25% change of rising as one of the same upon their death, even if said death is months or even years later. Only a Remove Curse spell cast before the gnome's death can fully remove the chance of them rising as one of the undead.

The Minimalist Roll20 DM - A Mechanical Look at Our Weekly AD&D 1e / OSRIC Campaign

We didn't get a game in last night, as half the group was either sick, on a date or MIA, but we did get a chance to get most of our usual pregame BSing in for nearly 2 hours, which isn't bad ;) Afterwards, I started thinking about our use of the Roll20 interface within G+ Hangouts and it became pretty obvious that we are "minimalists" when it comes to using the many feature of Roll20.

Tokens - we don't use them. Back when we used TableTop Forge, we would occasionally use tokens, but we never worried about facing, attacks of opportunity and the like. Then again, we were playing ACKS and later AD&D 1e, where the tactical grid takes second place to "theatre of the mind". We are playing AD&D 1e / OSRIC (exploring Rappan Athuk) on most Saturday Nights these days, and TotM has been out bread and butter.

Fog of War - the best thing about FoW is that I no longer have to sketch out the dungeon by hand for my players in real time. Instead, we go with "reveal and repeat". What can the party see and state your move if you want to see more. Sure, it makes some issues with traps and secret doors, but by carefully using the "reveal" feature you can compensate for that about 80% of the time.

The Grid - I turn it off by default. If we're not using tokens it just interferes with the grid present on the map already. If there is any part of Roll20 that I've not been able to get to work to my satisfaction, it's matching the in app grid with the grid on the uploaded maps, so I stopped trying. I read the tutorial on how to do so, didn't help. If I could get it to work to my satisfaction, would I use the grid and tokens? Perhaps. The great thing about tokens is you were always able to catch the player that was otherwise distracted, as his token would always be 100' or more from the rest of the party ;)

Handouts - I use them sparingly, and more for "roleplay enhancement" than as actual clues for the party to study and such. That might change as the campaign goes on. Actually, it has changed, as in the beginning of the campaign I never used them.

Dice - Roleplaying characters live or die based on their die rolls. I have a few basic die rolls added to the macro, but anything complicated comes up so rarely I'd have to parse it out in real time anyway. I still roll wandering monster checks using real dice on my real desk top - there is nothing like the random sound of dice rolling to get players on their toes.

Character Sheets - my players use them for as much or as little information as they want. I suspect most of them keep accurate paper copies and much less accurate or detailed "in app" copies, which is fine.

We know there are a crapload of other features that are neat and fun in Roll20 (line of sight, I'm looking squarely at you) but we've consciously limited ourselves to what we actually need to run a game. The OSR is pretty solidly in the realm of "Theatre of the Mind" and if we were to stray from that path, we might just as well run Pathfinder, which is a fine game but WAY to heavy for our tastes ;)

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Thunder! Thunder! Thunderbird! (Swords & Wizardry Monster)

Art By Matt Bulahao
Thunder Bird

Hit Dice: 10 (45HP)
Armor Class: 2 [17]
Attacks: (3) 2 claw (1d8) and 1 Bite (2d6) or Special
Saving Throw: 9
Special: Can breath Lightning 1/day for 8d6 damage (save for half) as per Lighting Bolt spell. Immune to electrical damage.
Move: 6 / 24 (in air)
Alignment: Neutral
Number Encountered: 1-2
Challenge Level/XP: 11 / 1700

A large (8' from tail to beak) carnivorous bird, Thunder Birds hunt either solo or in pairs. They hunt for food, not for thrill, and will often seek out lone (scouting) individuals. If they are brought down to 1/3 of their starting hit points or less, they will seek to flee, in the hopes of hunting another day.

Tactics wise, they will attempt to swoop down on their target from up high, in the hopes of surprising and killing out right with their Lighting Breath. They often hunt during thunderstorms, using the weather as cover for their attack.

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